From André Thoüin
Paris le 18. Xbre 1815.
Monsieur et Vénérable Collègue,
Permettez-moi de vous présenter un de nos Savans confrères, Mr Lakanal, membre dela classe d’histoire et de Littérature Ancienne de notre institut; homme recommandable par Sa moralité autant que par ses connaissances et aux quels nos institutions Scientifiques ont de grandes obligations. Il quitte notre vieille Europe, dans laquelle la civilisation va en retrogradant, pour Se fixer lui et plusieurs de ses amis dans la jeune Amérique, appellée à de si hautes destinées et où déjà l’organisation sociale offre à Ses heureux habitans la liberté, la tranquillité et le bonheur. Il emporte avec lui des capitaux asséz considérables pour établir Sa fortune et la rendre indépendante; mais ce qui vaut mieux pour Ses nouveaux concitoyens, Sont le grand nombre de connaissances et le fonds de philosophie dont il est en possession.
Veuillez, je vous prie, accueillir Mr Lakanal, lui donner les conseils dont il a besoin dans Sa nouvelle carrière et lui rendre les Services dont il pourra avoir besoin. Vous obligerez un galant homme qui vous en aura ainsi que moi la plus Sincère et la plus durable obligation.
Paris 18. December 1815.
Sir and Venerable Colleague,
Allow me to introduce to you one of our learned fellow members, Mr. Lakanal, a member of the class of history and ancient literature at our institute; this man is recommended for his morality as well as for his knowledge, and our scientific institutions owe much to him. He is leaving our old Europe, where civilization is regressing, to settle with several of his friends in young America, which is destined for great things, and where the organization of society offers its fortunate inhabitants liberty, tranquility, and happiness. He is taking with him a rather considerable capital, enough to establish his fortune and become financially independent, but what will be most valuable to his new fellow citizens is the great variety of knowledge and understanding of philosophy he has mastered.
Please be so kind as to welcome Mr. Lakanal, give him the advice he will need in his new career, and help him in whatever way he might need. You will thereby oblige a gentleman who will join me in most sincere and lasting gratitude.
RC (DLC); on printed letterhead of the “Administration du Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle, au Jardin du Roi”; endorsed by TJ as received 1 July 1816, but probably received with its covering letter on 10 July. Translation by Dr. Genevieve Moene. Enclosed in Joseph Lakanal to TJ, 1 June 1816.
Joseph Lakanal (1762–1845) was a native of southern France who changed his name from Lacanal to distinguish himself from his royalist relatives. He trained for the Catholic priesthood and served as a teacher of rhetoric and philosophy at various schools before he became involved in revolutionary politics. Elected to the National Convention in 1792, Lakanal voted for the execution of Louis XVI the following year. He worked for educational reform in France and was elected president of the Committee of Public Instruction in 1794. After Napoleon came to power, Lakanal held a series of minor teaching and administrative positions. As inspector of weights and measures, 1809–15, he was charged with implementing the metric system. Lakanal immigrated to America in 1816 following the restoration of Louis XVIII and lived in Kentucky for six years. In 1817 he was involved in a plot to free Napoleon from exile. Lakanal moved to New Orleans in 1822 and served as president of Orleans College for about a year before moving to Mobile, Alabama. In 1837 he returned to France, where he died. Lakanal was a member of both the Institut de France and the Légion d’honneur (John Charles Dawson, Lakanal the Regicide: A Biographical and Historical Study of the Career of Joseph Lakanal ; Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale description begins J. C. F. Hoefer, Nouvelle biographie générale depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu’a nos jours, 1852–83, 46 vols. description ends , 27:931–5; ASP, Public Lands, 4:149–50; Lakanal, Exposé Sommaire des Travaux de Joseph Lakanal ; gravestone inscription in Cimetière du Père Lachaise, Paris).
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