François Barbé-Marbois

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François Barbé-Marbois
Barbe de Marbois.jpg
Born31 January 1745  Blue pencil.svg
Metz   Blue pencil.svg
Died12 January 1837  Blue pencil.svg (aged 91)
Paris   Blue pencil.svg
Occupation Politician, diplomat   Blue pencil.svg

François Barbé-Marbois, marquis de Barbé-Marbois (31 January 1745 – 12 February 1837) was a French politician.

A marquess is a nobleman of high hereditary rank in various European peerages and in those of some of their former colonies. The term is also used to translate equivalent Asian styles, as in Imperial China and Imperial Japan.


Early career

Born in Metz, where his father was director of the local mint, Barbé-Marbois tutored the children of the Marquis de Castries. In 1779 he was made secretary of the French legation to the United States. In 1780, Barbé-Marbois sent a questionnaire to the governors of all thirteen former American colonies, seeking information about each state's geography, natural resources, history, and government. Thomas Jefferson, who was then finishing his final term as Virginia's governor, responded to this query with a manuscript that later became his famous Notes on the State of Virginia . [1]

Metz Prefecture and commune in Grand Est, France

Metz is a city in northeast France located at the confluence of the Moselle and the Seille rivers. Metz is the prefecture of the Moselle department and the seat of the parliament of the Grand Est region. Located near the tripoint along the junction of France, Germany, and Luxembourg, the city forms a central place of the European Greater Region and the SaarLorLux euroregion.

Thomas Jefferson 3rd president of the United States

Thomas Jefferson was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, and Founding Father who served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. Previously, he had served as the second vice president of the United States from 1797 to 1801. The principal author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was a proponent of democracy, republicanism, and individual rights motivating American colonists to break from the Kingdom of Great Britain and form a new nation; he produced formative documents and decisions at both the state and national level.

<i>Notes on the State of Virginia</i> Book by Thomas Jefferson

Notes on the State of Virginia (1785) is a book written by Thomas Jefferson. He completed the first version in 1781, and updated and enlarged the book in 1782 and 1783. Notes on the State of Virginia originated in Jefferson's responding to questions about Virginia, posed to him in 1780 by François Barbé-Marbois, then Secretary of the French delegation in Philadelphia, the temporary capital of the United Colonies.

Barbé-Marbois was elected a Foreign Honorary Member to both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences [2] and the American Philosophical Society [3] in 1781. When the minister Chevalier de la Luzerne returned to France in 1783, Barbé-Marbois remained in America as chargé d'affaires in 1784. That year he married Elizabeth Moore (1765-1834), the daughter of William Moore, former governor of Pennsylvania.

American Academy of Arts and Sciences United States honorary society and center for independent policy research

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is one of the oldest learned societies in the United States. It is devoted to the advancement and study of the key societal, scientific, and intellectual issues of the day.

American Philosophical Society United States scholarly organization that promotes knowledge in the sciences and humanities

The American Philosophical Society (APS), founded in 1743 and located in Philadelphia, is an eminent scholarly organization of international reputation that promotes useful knowledge in the sciences and humanities through excellence in scholarly research, professional meetings, publications, library resources, and community outreach. Considered the first learned society in the United States, it has played an important role in American cultural and intellectual life for over 270 years.

William Moore was a Pennsylvania statesman and politician of the Revolutionary era. He served as Vice-President of Pennsylvania from 1779 to 1781, and then as President from 1781 to 1782.. Moore was the only man formally elected to both offices. He was also a judge, state legislator, director of the Bank of Pennsylvania and trustee of the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1785 he became intendant of the colony of Saint-Domingue under the Ancien Régime .

Saint-Domingue French colony on the isle of Hispaniola

Saint-Domingue was a French colony on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola from 1659 to 1804, in what is now Haiti.

Ancien Régime monarchic, aristocratic, social and political system established in the Kingdom of France from approximately the 15th century until the later 18th century

The Ancien Régime was the political and social system of the Kingdom of France from the Late Middle Ages until 1789, when hereditary monarchy and the feudal system of French nobility were abolished by the French Revolution. The Ancien Régime was ruled by the late Valois and Bourbon dynasties. The term is occasionally used to refer to the similar feudal systems of the time elsewhere in Europe. The administrative and social structures of the Ancien Régime were the result of years of state-building, legislative acts, internal conflicts, and civil wars, but they remained and the Valois Dynasty's attempts at re-establishing control over the scattered political centres of the country were hindered by the Huguenot Wars. Much of the reigns of Henry IV and Louis XIII and the early years of Louis XIV were focused on administrative centralization. Despite, however, the notion of "absolute monarchy" and the efforts by the kings to create a centralized state, the Kingdom of France retained its irregularities: authority regularly overlapped and nobles struggled to retain autonomy.

In the Revolution

At the close of 1789, he returned to France, and then placed his services at the disposal of the French Revolutionary government. In 1791 he was sent to Regensburg to help the Marquis de Noailles, the French ambassador. Suspected of treason, he was arrested on his return but soon freed.

French Revolution social and political revolution in France and its colonies occurring from 1789 to 1798

The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.

Regensburg Place in Bavaria, Germany

Regensburg is a city in south-east Germany, at the confluence of the Danube, Naab and Regen rivers. With more than 150,000 inhabitants, Regensburg is the fourth-largest city in the State of Bavaria after Munich, Nuremberg and Augsburg. The city is the political, economic and cultural centre and capital of the Upper Palatinate.

Treason Crime against ones sovereign or nation

In law, treason is criminal disloyalty to the state. It is a crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's nation or sovereign. This usually includes things such as participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplomats, or its secret services for a hostile and foreign power, or attempting to kill its head of state. A person who commits treason is known in law as a traitor.

In 1795 he was elected to the Council of the Ancients, where the general moderation of his attitude, especially in his opposition to the exclusion of nobles and the relations of émigrés from public life, brought him under suspicion of being a royalist, though he pronounced a eulogy on Napoleon Bonaparte for his success in Italy.

A political moderate is a person in the center category of the left–right political spectrum.

French nobility privileged social class in France during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period to the revolution in 1790

The French nobility was a privileged social class in France during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period to the revolution in 1790. The nobility was revived in 1805 with limited rights as a titled elite class from the First Empire to the fall of the July Monarchy in 1848, when all privileges were abolished for good. Hereditary titles, without privileges, continued to be granted until the Second Empire fell in 1870. They survive among their descendants as a social convention and as part of the legal name of the corresponding individuals.

An émigré is a person who has emigrated, often with a connotation of political or social self-exile. The word is the past participle of the French émigrer, "to emigrate".

During the anti-Royalist coup d'état of the 18th Fructidor (4 September) 1797), he was arrested and transported to French Guiana. Transferred to the island of Oléron in 1799, he was set free by Napoleon Bonaparte after the 18 Brumaire Coup. In 1801, under the Consulate, he became councillor of state and director of the Trésor public (Treasury), and in 1802 a senator.

U.S. postage stamp (c. 1953) commemorating the Louisiana Purchase; Barbe-Marbois is pictured alongside James Monroe and Robert Livingston Louisiana Purchase 150th anniversary 3c 1953 issue.jpg
U.S. postage stamp (c. 1953) commemorating the Louisiana Purchase; Barbé-Marbois is pictured alongside James Monroe and Robert Livingston

In 1803 he negotiated the Louisiana Purchase treaty by which Louisiana was ceded to the United States, and was rewarded by the First Consul with a gift of 152,000 francs.

Empire, Restoration, and July Monarchy

Loyal to the First Empire, he was made grand officer of the Legion of Honour and a count in 1805, and in 1808 he became president of the Cour des Comptes . His career as Head of the Treasury ended in 1806. In return for these favours, he heaped praise upon Napoleon; yet, in 1814, he helped to draw up the act of abdication of the emperor, and declared to the Cour des Comptes, with reference to the invasion of France by the Sixth Coalition:

"...united for the most beautiful of causes, it is long since we have been as free as we are now, in the presence of the foreigner in arms."

In June of that year, under the First Restoration, Barbé-Marbois was made Peer of France by King Louis XVIII, and confirmed in his office as president of the Cour des Comptes. Deprived of his positions by Napoleon during the Hundred Days, he was appointed Minister of Justice under the Duc de Richelieu (August 1815), tried unsuccessfully to gain the confidence of the Ultra-Royalists, and withdrew at the end of nine months (10 May 1816).

In 1830, when the July Revolution brought Louis Philippe and the Orléans Monarchy, Barbé-Marbois went, as president of the Cour des Comptes, to compliment the new king, and was confirmed in his position. He held his office until April 1834.


In 1829 he wrote the book Histoire de la Louisiane et la cession de cette colonie par la France aux Etats-Unis de l'Amérique septentrionale ; précédée d'un discours sur la constitution et le gouvernement des Etats-Unis ("History of Louisiana and of Its Cession to the United States of Northern America; Preceded by a Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States").

He published various texts, including:

Written in 1780, while secretary to the French Legation to the US Army: "D'Complot du Benedict Arnold & Sir Henri Clinton contre Eunas` States du America General George Washington" One of the first accounts of Arnold's treason, was not published until 1816.


  1. R.E. Bernstein, Thomas Jefferson, p. 50.
  2. "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 17 May 2011.
  3. J. G. Rosengarten (1907). "The Early French Members of the American Philosophical Society". Transactions of the American Philosophical Society . Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 46 (185): 87. JSTOR   983442.

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