Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (December 14, 1739 – August 7, 1817), was a French noblemen, writer, economist, and government official, who was the father of Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, the founder of E.I. duPont de Nemours and Company, patriarch and progenitor of one of America's richest business dynasties of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Early 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. 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. Noblesse de lettres: Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours made noble by "lettres patentes" (letters patent) from the king Louis XVI 1784. 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 reforms. By the early 1760s Pierre Samuel’s writings on the national economy had drawn the attention of intellectuals like Voltaire and Turgot. His book Physiocracy, which advocated low tariffs and free trade among nations, deeply influenced Adam Smith.
In 1774 he was invited by King Stanislas Augustus of Poland to organize that country’s educational system.
He served as Inspector General of Commerce under Louis XVI, helped negotiate the treaty of 1783, by which Great Britain formally recognized the independence of the United Sates, and arranged the terms of a commercial signed by France and England in 1786.
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). (Robin was the daughter of Antoine Robin de Livet, a French aristocrat who lived in Lyon, and the widow of Pierre Poivre, the noted French administrator.) 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.
In 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 U.S. forces. 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.