life and family
Pierre du Pont was born December 14, 1739, the son of Samuel Dupont
and Anne Alexandrine de Montchanin. His father was a watchmaker
and French Protestant or Huguenot and his mother was a member of
an impoverished noble family from Burgundy. He married Nicole Charlotte
Marie Louise le Dée de Rencourt in 1766, also of a minor
noble family. They had two grown children, including Eleuthère
Irénée du Pont, the founder of E.I. duPont de Nemours
and Company in the United States.
With a lively intelligence and high ambition, du Pont became estranged
from his father, who wanted him to be a watchmaker, and developed
a wide range of acquaintances with access to the French court.
Eventually he became the protege of Dr. François Quesnay,
the personal physician of Louis XV's mistress, Madame de Pompadour.
Quesnay was the leader of a faction known as the économistes,
a group of liberals at the court dedicated to economic and agricultural
He was initially a supporter of the French Revolution and served
as president of the National Constituent Assembly. At this time,
he added the name of the Nemours district south of Paris to his
name to distinguish himself from other du Ponts in the Assembly.
He and his son Eleuthère Irénée du Pont were
among those who physically defended Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette
from a mob besieging the Tuileries Palace in Paris during the
insurrection of August 10, 1792. He was condemned to the guillotine
during the Reign of Terror, but his execution was still pending
when Robespierre fell on 9 Thermidor and he was spared. He married
Françoise Robin 5 Vendémiaire an IV (27 September
1795). After his house was sacked by a mob in 1797 during the
events of 18 Fructidor, he and his entire family left for the
United States in 1799. They hoped (but failed) to found a model
community of French exiles.
the United States, he developed strong ties with industry and
government, in particular with Thomas
Jefferson. Pierre engaged
in informal diplomacy between the United States and France during
the reign of Napoleon. He was the originator of an idea that eventually
became the Louisiana Purchase, as a way to avoid French troops
landing in New Orleans, and possibly sparking armed conflict with
Eventually, he would settle in the U.S. permanently; he died there
in 1817. His
son, Eleuthère Irénée, founded what would
become one of the largest and most successful American corporations:
E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company.