Du Ponceau, Peter Stephen, 1760-1844

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1760-06-03
Death 1844-04-02
US
English, Russian, French

Biographical notes:

Du Ponceau was a Philadelphia lawyer who arrived in Portsmouth, N.H., from France in 1777, achieved early prominence as an aide to von Steuben, and as secretary to Robert Livingston, Secretary of Foreign Affairs for the Congress in 1781. Du Ponceau was admitted to the Philadelphia Bar in 1785 where his familiarity with both American and European law brought him an important practice. His intellectual interests included both history and linguistics and he published extensively in both fields. He was a member and officer of both the American Philosophical Society and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

From the description of Papers, 1663-1844 (inclusive), 1781-1844 (bulk). (Historical Society of Pennsylvania). WorldCat record id: 122380254

A noted linguist, Peter Stephen Du Ponceau was born in St Martin de Ré, France, on June 3, 1760. In 1777 he came to the American colonies as secretary to Prussian military officer Friedrich Wilhelm Augustus, Baron von Steuben, during the American Revolution. Du Ponceau served as a captain in the American army until 1781 when illness forced him to resign; afterward, he remained in America, eventually settling in Philadelphia and becoming a lawyer. He was an active member of Philadelphia's cultural organizations, serving as president of the American Philosophical Society (elected to membership in 1791), the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. He was a founding member of the French Benevolent Society of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Bar Association.

From the description of Peter S. Du Ponceau Papers. 1787-1844 (inclusive). (Library Company of Philadelphia). WorldCat record id: 124558471

Lawyer and author.

From the description of Peter Stephen Du Ponceau correspondence, 1783-1804. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 71009873

Italian economist whose studies in value theory anticipated much later work.

From the guide to the Laws of neutrality, 1775, (American Philosophical Society)

Peter Stephen Du Ponceau worked as a lawyer, author, and philologist.

From the guide to the Sea terms in different languages, [n.d.], n.d., (American Philosophical Society)

Born and raised in France; came to the U.S. with Baron von Steuben in late 1777 to serve with the Continental Army; became an officer Feb. 1778 and served as Steuben's aide-de-camp; resigned late 1779 because of ill health but served later again briefly. After the war Du Ponceau settled in Philadelphia and became a lawyer, specializing in international law and practicing before the U.S. Supreme Court; also interested in literature, linguistics, and history.

From the description of Peter S. DuPonceau diary, 1777-1778. (Historical Society of Delaware). WorldCat record id: 71014818

American lawyer and writer.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Philadelphia, to L.H. Girardin, 1821 Nov. 14. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270744862

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Philadelphia, to an unidentified correspondent, 1831 Apr. 7. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270744840

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Philadelphia, to I.K. Tefft, 1833 Dec. 16. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270744353

Joseph-Mathias Gérard de Rayneval was a French author.

From the guide to the On the freedom of the seas, [n.d.], n.d., (American Philosophical Society)

Du Ponceau was a leading authority on international law and practice.

From the description of Letters and autograph, 1791-1844. (Harvard Law School Library). WorldCat record id: 235086015

Peter Stephen Du Ponceau was a Philadelphia lawyer, author, and philologist.

From the description of Letters, 1816-1822, to John Gottlieb Ernestus Heckewelder. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122589417

From the description of Letters, 1801-1843, to Albert Gallatin. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122540879

Jared Sparks was a clergyman, editor, historian, and president of Harvard College; he became an American Philosophical Society member in 1837.

From the guide to the Jared Sparks selected papers, 1819-1863 Franklin Bache S. D. Bradford William Duane Peter S. Du Ponceau J. Francis Fisher George Gibbs Henry D. Gilpin Edward D. Ingraham James Mease William B. Reed Henry Stevens, Sr. Henry Stevens, Jr. Benjamin Vaughan Petty Vaughan William Vaughan There are also extracts from Sparks's journal, 1831-1841, relating to his Franklin researches. Table of contents (11 pp.). (Film 570), 1819-1863, (American Philosophical Society)

Peter Stephen Du Ponceau was a lawyer, author, and philologist.

From the description of Sea terms in different languages, [n.d.]. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122539947

From the description of Commonplace book, 1820. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122584302

From the description of Essai de solution du problème philologique proposé en l'année 1823 par la commission de l'Institut de France, 1823. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122439918

From the description of Notebooks on philology, [n.d.]. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122624239

From the description of Papers, 1786-1842. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 86165470

From the description of Indian vocabularies, 1820-1844. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122540867

From the guide to the Essai de solution du problème philologique proposé en l'année 1823 par la commission de l'Institut de France, 1823, 1823, (American Philosophical Society)

From the guide to the Indian vocabularies, 1820-1844, 1820-1844, (American Philosophical Society)

Philadelphia lawyer and philologist.

From the description of ALS : Philadelphia, to Alexander James Dallas, 1815 Feb. 17. (Rosenbach Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 86165793

From the description of ALS : Philadelphia, to Alexander James Dallas, 1815 Jan. 24. (Rosenbach Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122365139

From the description of ALS : Philadelphia, to Alexander James Dallas, 1815 May 30. (Rosenbach Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122617125

Lawyer and author.

Coming to America in 1777 as personal secretary to Baron Steuben, Du Ponceau served in the Revolutionary War as the general's aide-de-camp. He settled in Philadelphia and entered the legal profession, becoming an expert in international law. Also a linguistic scholar and historian, Du Ponceau was particularly interested in the languages of the North American Indian.

From the description of Letter : Philadelphia, [Pa.], to Lewis [i.e. Louis] Le Couteulx, 1803 Feb. 27. (Newberry Library). WorldCat record id: 36966220

Born at St-Martin de Ré, France, on June, 1760, Du Ponceau received his education at a Benedictine college, where he demonstrated a facility for languages. His uncommon knowledge of English led to ridicule by his schoolmates, who nicknamed him L'Anglois for his habit of carrying around an English Classic in his pocket. A bit of jealousy may have been at play as Du Ponceau, though he rarely studied, received all of the premiums at the end of each year. The disdain was mutual: Du Ponceau scorned his fellow students for their tendency to merely memorize and repeat their lessons.

Dissatisfied with the scholastic philosophy taught at the college, Du Ponceau left the school after eighteen months. Du Ponceau's mother wanted him to enter the priesthood. In an effort to persuade him, the priest reportedly evoked feelings of guilt and remorse by reminding DuPonceau of his failure to cry at his father's death. Under the combined pressure of his mother and the unnamed priest, Du Ponceau agreed to enter the seminary under the condition that they would not require him to enter the priesthood after he completed his studies. He completed his studies, but did not enter the priesthood. Instead, at the age of 17, he set out for America with Baron von Steuben and served as Steuben's secretary in the Revolutionary army, with rank of captain, until illness forced his resignation in 1781. He settled in Philadelphia, where he studied law, was admitted to the bar, and established a law practice.

Elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1791, he served as secretary for and primary force behind the Society's Historical and Literary Committee. One of the most active committees in the Society's history, the Historical and Literary Committee provided much of the impetus for the early growth of the Society's Native American Indian linguistic collections. During Du Ponceau's tenure as secretary, the Committee laid the foundation for the Society's development into one of the premier centers for the study of Native American Indian languages.

A member of the Society during the era in which Thomas Jefferson served as president of the American Philosophical Society as well as president of the United States, Du Ponceau collaborated with Albert Gallatin on a volume of Indian vocabularies commissioned by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson wished to demonstrate the relationships between Indian tribes based on the similarities or differences of their languages. Du Ponceau and Gallatin found that a correlation did exist between similarity of language and the length of time since the tribes had migrated to other regions.

His memoir on the grammatical system of the Indian languages (Mémoire sur le systeme grammatical des langues de quelques nations Indiennes de l'Amérique du Nord) won the Volney prize of the French Institute in 1835 and his writings continue to inspire scholars to this day. In addition to his works on Indian languages, Du Ponceau wrote on the Chinese system of writing, then largely a puzzle to most Europeans.

An active and influential scholar, Du Ponceau served, simultaneously at one point, as president of not only the American Philosophical Society, but also of the Athenaeum and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. During his years as president of the Society, from 1827 until his death in 1844, the Society expanded its linguistics collection to a degree not seen again until the 20th century.

From the guide to the Peter Stephen Du Ponceau letters, 1801-1843, to Albert Gallatin., 1801-1843, (American Philosophical Society)

Born at St-Martin de Ré, France, on June, 1760, Du Ponceau received his education at a Benedictine college, where he demonstrated a facility for languages. His uncommon knowledge of English led to ridicule by his schoolmates, who nicknamed him L'Anglois for his habit of carrying around an English Classic in his pocket. A bit of jealousy may have been at play as Du Ponceau, though he rarely studied, received all of the premiums at the end of each year. The disdain was mutual: Du Ponceau scorned his fellow students for their tendency to merely memorize and repeat their lessons.

Dissatisfied with the scholastic philosophy taught at the college, Du Ponceau left the school after eighteen months. Du Ponceau's mother wanted him to enter the priesthood. In an effort to persuade him, the priest reportedly evoked feelings of guilt and remorse by reminding Du Ponceau of his failure to cry at his father's death. Under the combined pressure of his mother and the unnamed priest, Du Ponceau agreed to enter the seminary under the condition that they would not require him to enter the priesthood after he completed his studies. He completed his studies, but did not enter the priesthood. Instead, at the age of 17, he set out for America with Baron von Steuben and served as Steuben's secretary in the Revolutionary army, with rank of captain, until illness forced his resignation in 1781. He settled in Philadelphia, where he studied law, was admitted to the bar, and established a law practice.

Elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1791, he served as secretary for and primary force behind the Society's Historical and Literary Committee. One of the most active committees in the Society's history, the Historical and Literary Committee provided much of the impetus for the early growth of the Society's Native American Indian linguistic collections. During Du Ponceau's tenure as secretary, the Committee laid the foundation for the Society's development into one of the premier centers for the study of Native American Indian languages.

A member of the Society during the era in which Thomas Jefferson served as president of the American Philosophical Society as well as president of the United States, Du Ponceau collaborated with Albert Gallatin on a volume of Indian vocabularies commissioned by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson wished to demonstrate the relationships between Indian tribes based on the similarities or differences of their languages. Du Ponceau and Gallatin found that a correlation did exist between similarity of language and the length of time since the tribes had migrated to other regions.

His memoir on the grammatical system of the Indian languages (Mémoire sur le systeme grammatical des langues de quelques nations Indiennes de l'Amérique du Nord) won the Volney prize of the French Institute in 1835 and his writings continue to inspire scholars to this day. In addition to his works on Indian languages, Du Ponceau wrote on the Chinese system of writing, then largely a puzzle to most Europeans.

An active and influential scholar, Du Ponceau served, simultaneously at one point, as president of not only the American Philosophical Society, but also of the Athenaeum and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. During his years as president of the Society, from 1827 until his death in 1844, the Society expanded its linguistics collection to a degree not seen again until the 20th century.

From the guide to the Peter Stephen Du Ponceau letters, 1816-1822, to John Gottlieb Ernestus Heckewelder, 1816-1822, (American Philosophical Society)

José Francisco Correia da Serra (1750–1823, APS 1812) was an abbot, diplomat, scholar and botanist. In his work as a botanist he was particularly concerned with the systematic classification of vegetable species. Thomas Jefferson described him as “profoundly learned in several branches of science he was so above all others in that of Botany; in which he preferred an amalgamation of the methods of Linnaeus [1707-1778, APS 1769] and of Jussieu [1686-1758] to either of them exclusively.” Correia spent many years of his life in France, England and the United States where he made the acquaintance of leading European and American intellectual leaders of the time.

Correia was born in Serpa, Portugal, to the physician and lawyer Luis Dias Correia and Francisca Luisa da Serra. In 1756 the family was forced to leave Portugal because the elder Correia’s scientific work had incurred the displeasure of the Holy Office. They settled in Naples, Italy, where the boy came under the tutelage of the abbé and university professor of “Commerce and mechanics” Antonio Genovesi (1712-1769), a major force in the Neapolitan Enlightenment. During this time Correia was also taught in natural history by the botanist Luis Antonio Verney (1713-1792). In 1772 Correia moved to Rome where he studied at the University and other institutions. By that time he was already corresponding with Carl Linnaeus, in Latin. He also made the acquaintance of Don John Carlos of Braganza, second Duke of Lafoens, a member of the Portuguese royal family. The Duke became Correia’s friend and patron.

In 1775 Correia was ordained a Presbyterian abbot; two years later he received the degree of Doctor of Laws. However, it was clear that Correia’s real interest was natural history, especially botany, and that he did not plan to pursue a life in the church. In fact, some of his biographers have suggested that he focused on ecclesiastical studies mainly in order to protect himself in his scientific work from potential suspicions by the Inquisition. Whatever the case, in early 1778 the young abbé, with encouragement from the duke, who hoped to encourage scientific research in Portugal, moved to Lisbon. There he turned his attention to scholarly pursuits and diplomacy.

Correia and the duke set out right away to organize the Royal Academy of Sciences of Lisbon, a learned institution that was dedicated to the advancement of science. Correia also conducted botanical research. He spent the period from 1786 to about 1788 outside of Portugal, and while his activities during this period remain unclear, there is evidence that he visited Rome. In the mid-1790s, after his return to his native country, he began the task of editing what would be the first three of five volumes of Colleccao de livros ineditos da historia Portugueza, an extensive collection of documents.

In 1795 political difficulties compelled Correia to leave Portugal. The Royal Academy and many of its members were viewed with suspicion by certain ecclesiastical groups, especially after Correia befriended the French naturalist and Girondist Peter Marie Auguste Broussonet (1761-1807), who had taken refuge in Portugal. Armed with letters of introduction to several British scientists, Correia traveled to London. He soon became the protégé of Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820, APS 1787), president of the Royal Society, who facilitated Correia’s election to the Society. He also was welcomed by James Edward Smith (1759-1828, APS 1796), president of the Linnean Society. By then, Correia was already publishing on various natural science topics, especially botany, which contributed to his growing reputation as a naturalist.

For about one year during his residence in London, Correia also served as Secretary to the Portuguese embassy. However, tensions with the conservative Minister compelled him to depart from England in 1802. In the summer of that year, Correia moved to Paris. There he made the acquaintance of leading scientists and other public figures. The list includes Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours (1739–1817, APS 1800), the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834, APS 1781), Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859, APS 1804), the French naturalist Georges Cuvier (1769-1832), Augustin Pyrame de Candolle (1778-1841, APS 1841), and André Thouin (1746-1824), superintendent of the Jardin du Roi, now known as Jardin des Plantes, in Paris. Correia also met Esther Delavigne, who eventually became his lover.

Of particular importance to Correia was his extensive correspondence with friends in Portugal that he maintained throughout his time in London, Paris and then the United States. Through his contact with them he hoped to bring the latest scientific ideas and discoveries to his mother country. His letters are filled with news of new vaccines, maritime maps, instruments, and anything else that he thought might serve to aid the progress of Portugal. Correia’s wide-ranging contacts with fellow botanists made him an important intermediary in the exchanges between naturalists in different parts of the world. In 1807 his own government recognized his contributions by making him a Knight of the Order of Christ.

Overall, Correia’s time in Paris was happy and fruitful. However, life as a liberal under Napoleon was not easy, and Correia soon began to explore the possibility of relocating once again, this time to the United States. Finally, in the winter of 1811, the abbé was aboard the U.S.S. Constitution, on his way to what would become a particularly interesting period in his life.

Correia arrived in Washington, D. C., in early 1812, and he did not lose time in making the acquaintance of leading Americans, including President James Madison. He was anxious to visit Thomas Jefferson but owing to the fact that Philadelphia was the intellectual center of the new nation, he decided to establish himself there first. His European friends had already announced Correia’s imminent arrival to several prominent Philadelphians, including the physicians Benjamin Rush (1745-1813, APS 1768) and Caspar Wistar (1761-1818, APS 1787), and John Vaughan (1756–1841, APS 1784), the treasurer and librarian of the American Philosophical Society. The abbé was elected a member of the Society in January of 1812, before his arrival in the city. He became close friends with Vaughan who soon handled his business affairs and advised him in all kinds of matters. Correia also got to know the botanist Henry Muhlenberg (1753-1815, APS 1785), who introduced him to the physician and botanist Jacob Bigelow (1787-1879, APS 1818). And he reconnected with several Philadelphians he knew from his time in Paris, including the lawyer and financier Nicholas Biddle (1786-1844, APS 1813), and William Short (1759-1849, APS 1804), Jefferson’s private secretary in Paris. Life in Philadelphia was clearly enjoyable for the Portuguese exile but he remained anxious to visit “the great the truly great Mr. Jefferson.” In July of 1813 he left for Virginia for the first of what would eventually be seven visits over a period of about eight years.

Jefferson had been introduced to Correia in glowing letters from Lafayette, Du Pont, Thouin, and Humboldt. It is not surprising, then, that Jefferson received the visitor with warmth and great expectations. They were not disappointed. Jefferson described his guest as “the best digest of science in books, men, and things that I have ever met with; and with these the most amiable and engaging character.” The room in which Correia stayed during his visits to Monticello, the North Square Room, is still known as the Abbé’s room. Correia spent much of his time in Virginia on rambles through the country, often in the company of Thomas Mann Randolph (1768-1828, APS 1794). His interest in natural history eventually also took him to Kentucky, Georgia and north to the Canadian border.

Through Jefferson, Correia made the acquaintance of Francis Walker Gilmer (1790-1826), a promising young man who readily accepted the abbé’s invitation to accompany him on his excursions. In 1816 President Madison asked the two men to deliver a letter from him to the agent of the Cherokee, in the southeastern United States. In the course of their journey through South Carolina and Georgia, they made extensive botanical notations, and Gilmer also recorded several pages of Cherokee vocabulary.

In 1816 Correia received news of his appointment as Portuguese minister-plenipotentiary at Washington, D. C. His expectation that this post would not interfere with his scientific pursuits turned out to be mistaken, even though he never spent more than half a year in the nation’s capital. From the start he was forced to deal with complaints about privateers flying foreign flags who were threatening the Portuguese colonies in South America. The fear was that these privateers, many of whom were American, could encourage and aid a rebellion in Brazil. Correia successfully lobbied the U. S. government for a Neutrality Act that was designed to curb these actions.

In the late 1810s, increasing worries about the turn of Portuguese-American affairs and serious health problems gradually made the abbé’s temper shorter and his spirits lower. He also ultimately became a severe critic of America and Americans, an attitude that contributed to his estrangement from some of his older American friends. However, he also found comfort in new relationships with, for example, the English-born chemist and lawyer Thomas Cooper (1759-1839, APS 1802). Most significantly, Edward Joseph, his fifteen-year old son with his lover Esther Delavigne arrived in the United States from Paris in 1818. Edward, who stayed with his father until their return to Europe, got to know many of his Philadelphia friends quite well. In 1820 father and son sailed from the United States for Portugal via London, a year after Correia had learned of his appointment as Counselor of State for Brazil. Correia spent the last three years of his life in Lisbon, “covered with honors,” as his son Edward wrote in a letter to John Vaughan. He died in Lisbon in 1823.

Correia published many essays and reports on botany in the leading European and American scientific journals of his time. His research centered on the systematic classification of vegetable species. In his work he attempted to apply the methods of compared anatomy of zoology to botany; he sought to group plants into families based on their similarities. His concept of symmetry was later adopted and developed by Candolle. While Correia was not “a member of every philosophical society in the world,” as his young protégé Gilmer wrote enthusiastically in a letter to his brother, he did belong to numerous learned societies. They included the Royal Society, the Linnean Society, the Academy of Science of Paris, and the Société Philomatique. He also offered several courses in botany at the American Philosophical Society.

From the guide to the José Francisco Correia da Serra papers, 1772-1827, 1772-1827, (American Philosophical Society)

Born at St-Martin de Ré, France, on June, 1760, Du Ponceau received his education at a Benedictine college, where he demonstrated a facility for languages. His uncommon knowledge of English led to ridicule by his schoolmates, who nicknamed him L'Anglois for his habit of carrying around an English Classic in his pocket. A bit of jealousy may have been at play as Du Ponceau, though he rarely studied, received all of the premiums at the end of each year. The disdain was mutual: Du Ponceau scorned his fellow students for their tendency to merely memorize and repeat their lessons.

Dissatisfied with the scholastic philosophy taught at the college, Du Ponceau left the school after eighteen months. Du Ponceau's mother wanted him to enter the priesthood. In an effort to persuade him, the priest reportedly evoked feelings of guilt and remorse by reminding Du Ponceau of his failure to cry at his father's death. Under the combined pressure of his mother and the unnamed priest, Du Ponceau agreed to enter the seminary under the condition that they would not require him to enter the priesthood after he completed his studies. He completed his studies, but did not enter the priesthood. Instead, at the age of 17, he set out for America with Baron von Steuben and served as Steuben's secretary in the Revolutionary army, with rank of captain, until illness forced his resignation in 1781. He settled in Philadelphia, where he studied law, was admitted to the bar, and established a law practice.

Elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1791, he served as secretary for and primary force behind the Society's Historical and Literary Committee. One of the most active committees in the Society's history, the Historical and Literary Committee provided much of the impetus for the early growth of the Society's Native American Indian linguistic collections. During Du Ponceau's tenure as secretary, the Committee laid the foundation for the Society's development into one of the premier centers for the study of Native American Indian languages.

A member of the Society during the era in which Thomas Jefferson served as president of the American Philosophical Society as well as president of the United States, Du Ponceau collaborated with Albert Gallatin on a volume of Indian vocabularies commissioned by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson wished to demonstrate the relationships between Indian tribes based on the similarities or differences of their languages. DuPonceau and Gallatin found that a correlation did exist between similarity of language and the length of time since the tribes had migrated to other regions.

His memoir on the grammatical system of the Indian languages (Mémoire sur le systeme grammatical des langues de quelques nations Indiennes de l'Amérique du Nord) won the Volney prize of the French Institute in 1835 and his writings continue to inspire scholars to this day. In addition to his works on Indian languages, Du Ponceau wrote on the Chinese system of writing, then largely a puzzle to most Europeans.

An active and influential scholar, Du Ponceau served, simultaneously at one point, as president of not only the American Philosophical Society, but also of the Athenaeum and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. During his years as president of the Society, from 1827 until his death in 1844, the Society expanded its linguistics collection to a degree not seen again until the 20th century.

From the guide to the Peter Stephen Du Ponceau Collection, 1781-1844, (American Philosophical Society)

Born at St-Martin de Ré, France, on June, 1760, Du Ponceau received his education at a Benedictine college, where he demonstrated a facility for languages. His uncommon knowledge of English led to ridicule by his schoolmates, who nicknamed him L'Anglois for his habit of carrying around an English Classic in his pocket. A bit of jealousy may have been at play as Du Ponceau, though he rarely studied, received all of the premiums at the end of each year. The disdain was mutual: Du Ponceau scorned his fellow students for their tendency to merely memorize and repeat their lessons.

Dissatisfied with the scholastic philosophy taught at the college, Du Ponceau left the school after eighteen months. Du Ponceau's mother wanted him to enter the priesthood. In an effort to persuade him, the priest reportedly evoked feelings of guilt and remorse by reminding Du Ponceau of his failure to cry at his father's death. Under the combined pressure of his mother and the unnamed priest, DuPonceau agreed to enter the seminary under the condition that they would not require him to enter the priesthood after he completed his studies. He completed his studies, but did not enter the priesthood. Instead, at the age of 17, he set out for America with Baron von Steuben and served as Steuben's secretary in the Revolutionary army, with rank of captain, until illness forced his resignation in 1781. He settled in Philadelphia, where he studied law, was admitted to the bar, and established a law practice.

Elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1791, he served as secretary for and primary force behind the Society's Historical and Literary Committee. One of the most active committees in the Society's history, the Historical and Literary Committee provided much of the impetus for the early growth of the Society's Native American Indian linguistic collections. During DuPonceau's tenure as secretary, the Committee laid the foundation for the Society's development into one of the premier centers for the study of Native American Indian languages.

A member of the Society during the era in which Thomas Jefferson served as president of the American Philosophical Society as well as president of the United States, Du Ponceau collaborated with Albert Gallatin on a volume of Indian vocabularies commissioned by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson wished to demonstrate the relationships between Indian tribes based on the similarities or differences of their languages. DuPonceau and Gallatin found that a correlation did exist between similarity of language and the length of time since the tribes had migrated to other regions.

His memoir on the grammatical system of the Indian languages (Mémoire sur le systeme grammatical des langues de quelques nations Indiennes de l'Amérique du Nord) won the Volney prize of the French Institute in 1835 and his writings continue to inspire scholars to this day. In addition to his works on Indian languages, DuPonceau wrote on the Chinese system of writing, then largely a puzzle to most Europeans.

An active and influential scholar, Du Ponceau served, simultaneously at one point, as president of not only the American Philosophical Society, but also of the Athenaeum and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. During his years as president of the Society, from 1827 until his death in 1844, the Society expanded its linguistics collection to a degree not seen again until the 20th century.

From the guide to the Peter Stephen Du Ponceau commonplace book, 1820, 1820, (American Philosophical Society)

Born at St-Martin de Ré, France, on June, 1760, Du Ponceau received his education at a Benedictine college, where he demonstrated a facility for languages. His uncommon knowledge of English led to ridicule by his schoolmates, who nicknamed him L'Anglois for his habit of carrying around an English Classic in his pocket. A bit of jealousy may have been at play as Du Ponceau, though he rarely studied, received all of the premiums at the end of each year. The disdain was mutual: Du Ponceau scorned his fellow students for their tendency to merely memorize and repeat their lessons.

Dissatisfied with the scholastic philosophy taught at the college, Du Ponceau left the school after eighteen months. Du Ponceau's mother wanted him to enter the priesthood. In an effort to persuade him, the priest reportedly evoked feelings of guilt and remorse by reminding Du Ponceau of his failure to cry at his father's death. Under the combined pressure of his mother and the unnamed priest, Du Ponceau agreed to enter the seminary under the condition that they would not require him to enter the priesthood after he completed his studies. He completed his studies, but did not enter the priesthood. Instead, at the age of 17, he set out for America with Baron von Steuben and served as Steuben's secretary in the Revolutionary army, with rank of captain, until illness forced his resignation in 1781. He settled in Philadelphia, where he studied law, was admitted to the bar, and established a law practice.

Elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1791, he served as secretary for and primary force behind the Society's Historical and Literary Committee. One of the most active committees in the Society's history, the Historical and Literary Committee provided much of the impetus for the early growth of the Society's Native American Indian linguistic collections. During Du Ponceau's tenure as secretary, the Committee laid the foundation for the Society's development into one of the premier centers for the study of Native American Indian languages.

A member of the Society during the era in which Thomas Jefferson served as president of the American Philosophical Society as well as president of the United States, Du Ponceau collaborated with Albert Gallatin on a volume of Indian vocabularies commissioned by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson wished to demonstrate the relationships between Indian tribes based on the similarities or differences of their languages. DuPonceau and Gallatin found that a correlation did exist between similarity of language and the length of time since the tribes had migrated to other regions.

His memoir on the grammatical system of the Indian languages (Mémoire sur le systeme grammatical des langues de quelques nations Indiennes de l'Amérique du Nord) won the Volney prize of the French Institute in 1835 and his writings continue to inspire scholars to this day. In addition to his works on Indian languages, DuPonceau wrote on the Chinese system of writing, then largely a puzzle to most Europeans.

An active and influential scholar, Du Ponceau served, simultaneously at one point, as president of not only the American Philosophical Society, but also of the Athenaeum and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. During his years as president of the Society, from 1827 until his death in 1844, the Society expanded its linguistics collection to a degree not seen again until the 20th century.

From the guide to the Peter Stephen Du Ponceau notebooks on philology, [1815-1834], Circa 1815-1834, (American Philosophical Society)



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  • International Trade.
  • Quakers
  • Law--United States--History--19th century
  • Diplomatic History
  • International trade
  • Turkic languages
  • Indemnity--History--19th century--Sources
  • Silk
  • Admiralty--United States
  • Philology.
  • Indians of North American--Languages
  • Revolutions
  • Maritime law--United States
  • Philology
  • Law.
  • Business
  • Linguistics
  • Beyond Early America
  • Maritime law.
  • Polynesian languages
  • Natural history.
  • Trade
  • Courts -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia County.
  • Neutrality
  • Courts
  • Quakers -- Pennsylvania.
  • Freedom of the seas.
  • Silk industry
  • International Affairs
  • Debt, Imprisonment for
  • Manuscripts, American
  • Learned institutions and societies--History--19th century
  • Indians of North America--Languages
  • Native America
  • Claims--History--19th century--Sources

Occupations:

  • Lawyers.
  • Lawyers--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia.
  • Authors.
  • Compilers.

Places:

  • Poland (as recorded)
  • Philadelphia (Pa.) (as recorded)
  • Pennsylvania (as recorded)
  • Pennsylvania--Philadelphia (as recorded)
  • France (as recorded)
  • Philadelphia (Pa.) (as recorded)
  • France (as recorded)
  • Philadelphia (Pa.). Select Council. (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Paris (France) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Pennsylvania--Philadelphia County (as recorded)
  • Philadelphia (Pa.) (as recorded)
  • Belgium (as recorded)
  • Pennsylvania--Philadelphia (as recorded)
  • Alabama (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Pennsylvania (as recorded)
  • Pennsylvania (as recorded)
  • France (as recorded)
  • Valley Forge (Pa.) (as recorded)