Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from the National Institute of France, 26 December 1801

From the National Institute of France

à Paris le 5 Nivose an 10 de la République.
[i.e. 26 Dec. 1801]


L’Institut national des Sciences et des arts, dans Sa Séance générale de ce Jour, vient de vous élire associé-étranger, pour la classe des Sciences morales et politiques.

Persuadés que vous apprendrez avec plaisir votre nomination, nous nous hâtons de vous l’annoncer.

Veuillez, Monsieur, agréer le sincére hommage de notre estime la plus haute.

Vincent Président
Villar, Secrétaire
La Porte du Theil

Editors’ translation

Paris, 5 Nivose Year 10 of the Republic


The National Institute of Sciences and Arts, in its general meeting of this day, proceeded to elect you a foreign associate, for the Class of Moral and Political Sciences.

Persuaded that you will learn of your nomination with pleasure, we make haste to announce it to you.

Please accept, Sir, the sincere respect of our highest esteem.

Vincent President
Villar, Secretary
La Porte du Theil

RC (DLC); on printed letterhead of Institut National des Sciences et des Arts; English date supplied; in a clerk’s hand, signed by the officers; below dateline: “Le Président et les Secrétaires de l’Institut national des Sciences et des arts, à Monsieur Jefferson, Président du Congrés des Etats-unis” (“the president and secretaries of the National Institute of Sciences and Arts, to Monsieur Jefferson, president of the Congress of the United States”); endorsed by TJ as received 31 July 1802 and so recorded in SJL. RC (MHi); also on the institute’s letterhead stationery, in a clerk’s hand, signed by the three officers, with La Porte du Theil also identified as a secretary; endorsed by TJ. RC (same); letterhead stationery, clerk’s hand, signed by the three officers. RC (same); letterhead stationery, clerk’s hand, signed by the three officers.

François André Vincent (1747–1816), a painter and academic; Noël Gabriel Luc de Villar (1748–1826), who had held several offices, including a seat in the Council of Five Hundred, and had been a bishop in the government-controlled religious establishment of revolutionary France; and scholar, translator, and archivist François Jean Gabriel de La Porte du Theil (1742–1815) had all been members of the National Institute since its beginnings in 1795. Authorized by the French constitution of that year and soon thereafter established by law, the institute was intended to consolidate the activities of separate learned academies that had originated in the seventeenth century. The institute originally had three classes, for physical sciences and mathematics, moral and political sciences, and literature and fine arts, with subdivisions in each class. Volney, Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours, and Talleyrand were among the original members of the moral and political sciences category, which had not had an academy prior to the revolution (Amable Charles, Comte de Franqueville, Le Premier Siècle de l’Institut de France, 25 Octobre 1795–25 Octobre 1895, 2 vols. [Paris, 1895–96], 1:102, 103, 105–6, 450–1; Joseph C. Kiger, ed., International Encyclopedia of Learned Societies and Academies [Westport, Conn., 1993], 123–4, 139; Biographie universelle, ancienne et moderne, new ed., 45 vols. [Paris, 1843–65], 34:146–7; 43:557–8; Tulard, Dictionnaire Napoléon description begins Jean Tulard, Dictionnaire Napoléon, Paris, 1987 description ends , 29, 932, 1724–5).

Associé-étranger: beginning in 1796, the institute began to elect nonresident associates, including Crèvecoeur and André Michaux, but the people selected for that category were natives of France or French colonies. The meeting of 26 Dec. 1801 marked the first elections to the category associé étranger, and TJ was the first American chosen for the honor. Elected on that day as the institute’s first foreign associates were Sir Joseph Banks, to the class of physical sciences and mathematics; TJ, to the class of moral and political sciences; and Franz Joseph Haydn, for the class of literature and fine arts. According to a rule adopted the previous month, upon his election a foreign associate was to receive an institute medal engraved with his name. As the organization of the National Institute changed, TJ was placed in the class of history and littérature ancienne in 1803 and in the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in 1816 (Franqueville, Premier Siècle, 2:55–6, 127–8, 141–2; Léon Aucoc, comp., L’Institut de France. Lois, statuts et règlements concernant les anciennes académies et l’Institut, de 1635 à 1889. Tableau des fondations [Paris, 1889], 61–2; Bedini, Statesman of Science description begins Silvio A. Bedini, Thomas Jefferson: Statesman of Science, New York, 1990 description ends , 495).

TJ wrote replies to the above letter on 3 and 14 Nov. 1802.

Index Entries