Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours, [27 August 1798]

From Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours

Paris 10 Fructidor de l’an 6. [27 Aug. 1798]


Le Docteur Logan vous dira qu’il a trouvé en France de bons et zëlés amis de l’Amérique; et vous ne serez pas Surpris que j’aie êté du nombre, ainsi que mon fils. Vous m’avez vu pendant votre Ambassade lutter en faveur de votre Patrie et pour les principes de liberalité, d’amitié Sincere entre les deux Nations, contre tous les préjugés fiscaux et mercantiles qu’avait alors notre gouvernement.

Vous avez vu ma joie quand nos efforts n’ont pas êté vains.

Ce Sentiment d’un profond interêt pour votre pays ne peut pas être diminué chez moi. Je Suis chargé par l’Institut national d’y faire un voyage qui a pour objet une communication et des recherches utiles aux Sciences; et c’est mon intention de prolonger ce voyage autant que ma vie.

Je veux mourir dans un Pays où la liberté ne Soit pas Seulement dans les loix, toujours plus ou moins bien, plus ou moins mal exécutées; mais principalement dans les constantes habitudes de la nation.

Je compte me fixer dans la haute Virginie, en ses comtés de l’ouest.

Je me flatte d’y retrouver votre durable amitié et le secours de vos lumieres.

Je vous envoie ceux de mes discours dont le conseil des anciens a ordonné l’impression, et ma philosophie qui, je l’espere, ne déplaira point à la vôtre.

Salut et respectueux attachement.

Du Pont (de nemours)

Editors’ Translation

Paris 10 Fructidor of Year 6.


Doctor Logan will tell you that he found in France good and zealous friends of America; and you will not be surprised that I was among that number, as well as my son. You saw me during your embassy struggle in favor of your homeland and for the principles of liberality, of sincere friendship between the two nations, against all the fiscal and mercantile prejudices held at that time by our government.

You saw my joy when our efforts were not in vain.

This feeling of a strong interest for your country could not wane in me. I have been charged by the National Institute to make a voyage there with the object of a communication and research useful for the sciences; and it is my intention to prolong this voyage for as long as my life.

I want to die in a country where liberty is not only in the laws, always more or less well, more or less poorly executed; but is principally in the constant habits of the nation.

I expect to settle in upper Virginia, in its western counties.

I am convinced that I shall find there once again your lasting friendship and the help of your learning.

I am sending you those of my speeches that the Council of Elders ordered to be printed, and my Philosophie, which I hope will not displease yours.

Greetings and respectful affection.

Du Pont (de nemours)

RC (DLC); Gregorian date supplied; at head of text below dateline: “DuPont (de Nemours) a Thomas Jefferson President du Senat des Etats unis”; endorsed by TJ as received 20 Jan. 1799 and so recorded in SJL; in pencil below dateline, probably in TJ’s hand: “27 August 1798.” Enclosures: (1) “Extrait du discours de Mr. Dupont de Nemours sur les droits a imposer à l’entrée des Tabacs étrangers,” extracting Du Pont’s comments before the Council of Elders, 23 Nov. 1796, arguing against an intended two hundred percent customs duty on tobacco that would catch by surprise a number of American and other vessels already at sea; Du Pont declaring that since the United States depends on selling only rice, cod, and tobacco in exchange for French wine, silk, and other products, this Carthaginian ruse (“ruse Carthaginoise”) will have bad consequences at a time when the United States is choosing a successor to Washington and its politics is increasingly defined as a contest between parties favoring Britain and France (MS in same; in French in an unidentified hand; titled as an extract from a speech published in its entirety in L’Historien [a serial published by Du Pont], 9:315–28). (2) Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours, Philosophie de L’Univers, 2d ed. (Paris, 1796), which the author inscribed in French to TJ as president of the U.S. Senate (see Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 1264).

Entre les deux nations: in 1786 the French government had appointed Du Pont to a committee examining trade relations between France and the United States. While TJ was minister to France he and Du Pont corresponded on commercial matters, including French importation of American products, and also on political philosophy (Vol. 9:338n; Vol. 12:211–12, 325–9, 595–6; Vol. 13:53–4n, 61; Vol. 15:446n). Regarding L’institut national of Arts and Sciences established in 1795, see Alexandre Lerebours to TJ, 17 May 1796.

Fifty-eight years of age when he penned the above letter, Du Pont embarked on his voyage in September 1799 with his sons, Victor and Éleuthère Irénée du Pont de Nemours, and their families, intending to remain in the United States. Buffeted by shifts in political power in France through the Revolution, Pierre Samuel and Irénée had been briefly jailed, and their Paris publishing establishment ransacked, as recently as September 1797. Originally expecting to establish an agricultural colony in America, the family determined instead to concentrate on manufacturing, especially gunpowder, and other endeavors. In 1802 Pierre Samuel went back to France to attend to business matters, returning to the United States in 1815, two years before his death (Dictionnaire, 12:472–5; Gilbert Chinard, The Correspondence of Jefferson and Du Pont de Nemours [Baltimore, 1931], xxiii–xxv, 215; ANB, description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends 7:115–17).

The elder Du Pont capitalized the article in his surname even though his sons favored the form “du Pont.” The father also often wrote the name as one word, as in the signature above. Pierre Samuel had appended “de Nemours” to his name to distinguish himself from other Du Ponts in France, and members of his family did not always use the expanded form. Victor, for example, generally omitted “de Nemours” from his own signature but included it in the name of a company he formed in the nineteenth century (John K. Winkler, The Du Pont Dynasty [New York, 1935], 34, 42; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends , 5:533; Victor du Pont to TJ, 7 May 1803, and enclosure).

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