From Antoine Court de Gébelin
ALS: American Philosophical Society
Rue Poupée 21e. Juin 1782
J’ai l’honneur de vous envoier une lettre que j’ai recue pour vous, de la part d’un jeune homme nommé Saussine, Ministre Protestant dans le bas Languedoc;6 j’y joins une qui l’accompagnoit et qui etoit pour moi Signée St Etienne autre jeune Ministre de la meme Province, correspondant du Musèe de Paris & fils du celebre Paul Pasteur de Nimes.7
Ces lettres sont relatives à un autre jeune homme dont je connois fort les Parens & qui est actuellement dans les Etats Réunis de l’Amerique, dont on voudroit fort le faire revenir.
Ayez donc la complaisance de lire ces lettres & si vous pouvez contribuer en quelque chose à nous faire decouvrir ce jeune homme, nous vous en aurons tous la plus vive obligation.
Je suis avec un respectueux devouement Monsieur Votre très humble & très ob. Servitr.
Court DE Gebelin
Notation: Court de Geblin 21 Juin 1782.
6. Pierre Saussine, a young minister writing from Nîmes on May 28, begs BF’s help in discovering the whereabouts of an orphaned relative named Boudon, now somewhere in America. Boudon, who had a sizable inheritance, had formed a strong attachment to his tutor, but unscrupulous relations eager to secure his money had separated them. Boudon was sent first to Paris and, after a series of misfortunes, ended up in Philadelphia without friends or resources. If Mr. Wharton, who met Boudon in Paris, has not taken charge of him, Saussine fears the worst. The tutor, whom Court de Gébelin knows well, is also desperate with worry and is willing to do whatever BF might deem advisable. APS.
7. Jean-Paul Rabaut Saint-Etienne (1743–1793), a pastor at Nîmes who was a former student and close friend of Court de Gébelin’s at Lausanne, enclosed Saussine’s letter to BF in his June 3 letter to Court de Gébelin. Rabaut Saint-Etienne corroborated Saussine’s story and praised him as a man of talent and genius. He revealed that the tutor, Renouard de Calvisson, was Boudon’s uncle and was prepared to pay the young man’s return passage to France. Rabaut Saint-Etienne asked also if Court de Gébelin could secure for Saussine a secretarial position “chez un franklin ou un Buffon,” where the young minister might pursue his true calling, the study of physics, which had led him to conceive a system to explain all natural phenomena, including magnetism. APS.
In the years before the Revolution, Rabaut Saint-Etienne worked tirelessly, with Malesherbes, Lafayette, and others, to improve the civil status of Protestants, and during the Revolution, to restore to Protestants religious rights as well. He became a prominent member of the Girondins: Raymond Birn, “Religious Toleration and Freedom of Expression” in The French Idea of Freedom: the Old Regime and the Declaration of Rights of 1789, ed. Dale Van Kley (Stanford, Calif., 1994), pp. 267–8, 270–2, 294–7; Jean-René Surrateau and François Gendron, eds., Dictionnaire historique de la Révolution française (Paris, 1989), pp. 879–81.
Paul Rabaut (1718–1794), his father, studied at the Lausanne seminary founded by Court de Gébelin’s father. Named pastor at Nîmes, Rabaut continued the efforts of Antoine Court to reorganize French Protestantism, in disarray since the revocation of the edict of Nantes in 1685: Larousse under Court and Rabaut.