Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, 8 February 1800

From Charles Cotesworth Pinckney

Harpers Ferry [Virginia] February 8, 1800. Introduces “Mr. Du Pont de Nemours1 … a gentleman of considerable talents, extensive knowledge, & unblemished integrity,” whom Pinckney had met in France. States: “He … intends to purchase Land2 for himself, Family & friends. I am apprehensive of his being taken in by some Land Jobbers, and if in your power, I would be obliged to you to give him advice, if you understand he is about to make an imprudent Contract.”

ALS, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.

1Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours was a French statesman, economist, and exponent of physiocratic theories about which he wrote several books. Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes, employed him in negotiating a commercial treaty between France and England in 1786. Du Pont served as secretary general of the Assembly of Notables in 1787 and 1788, but opposition from the Catholic church to his programs of financial reform forced him from office. In 1789 he represented Nemours in the States General, and in the following year he was elected President of the Constituent Assembly. After the Assembly was dissolved in 1791, he established a printing plant in Paris. Although he escaped from the Jacobins at the Tuileries in August, 1792, he was arrested in June, 1794, but secured his release in August after Robespierre was executed. Du Pont was a member of the Council of Ancients from 1795 until 1797, when it was forcibly dissolved by the Jacobins. He was imprisoned again and was saved from deportation by the intercession of his friends. In September, 1799, he sailed for the United States with his sons, Victor Marie and Eleuthère-Irénée, and arrived at Newport, Rhode Island, on January 1, 1800. Du Pont settled in New York City and established the commission house of Du Pont de Nemours, Fils, & Cie. In 1802 he returned to France, where he lived until he joined his sons in Delaware in 1815.

Victor Marie Du Pont de Nemours first came to the United States in 1787 as attaché to the first French legation in the United States. He returned to France in 1789 and became an aide-de-camp to Lafayette. From 1791 to 1792 he was second secretary to the French legation in the United States, and from 1795 to 1796 he was first secretary. In 1796 he became the acting French consul in Charleston, South Carolina, and a year later, he was named consul. Because of the Quasi-War with France, John Adams refused to issue Du Pont’s exequatur as consul general in 1798, and Du Pont returned to France. He made his fourth voyage to the United States in 1799 with his family.

Victor’s brother, Eleuthère-Irénée Du Pont de Nemours, studied gunpowder manufacturing in France. In 1791 he managed his father’s printing company in Paris. He was imprisoned three times before coming to the United States in 1799. In 1802 he purchased land on the Brandywine River near Wilmington, where he began the manufacture of gunpowder.

2On September 11, 1798, Timothy Pickering wrote to Adams: “Dupont de Nemours and some other French Philosophers ‘a delegation from the National Institute,’ had applied thro’ Sir Joseph Banks, for passports from the English Government; the Directory having given them passports to go to the U States, with the view to improve & extend the sciences. Mr. King understands the intention of the mission is to form an establishment high up the Mississippi, out of the limits of the U. States, & within the boundaries of Spain. Mr. King supposes that neither the American nor English Government will be disposed to give any encouragement to this mission of the Directory” (ALS, Adams Family Papers, deposited in the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston). Banks was the president of the Royal Society of London. See also Rufus King to Pickering, August 3, 1798 (ALS, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston), which enclosed Pierre Samuel Du Pont to Banks, June 11, 1798 (copy, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston); Adams to Pickering, September 16, 1798 (LC, Adams Family Papers, deposited in the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston).

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