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Collection Scope and Content Note


Manuscript documents and correspondence, mainly government documents, including 6 volumes of bound manuscripts, concerning mostly the administration of the French government throughout the Revolution, be it at the national level (esp. the Comite de Salut Public and the Comite de Sûrete Generale et de Surveillance in 1793-5), at the "departement" level, or at the local level (esp. Paris and Toulon in1793-4).

Also included are a 1789 letter by Brissot to the English Abolitionist Society expressing his views on slavery; a contemporary Italian translation of the Testament of Louis XVI (guillotined in January 1793); and the first two drafts of Gracchus Babeuf's "Precis d'un projet de cadastre perpetuel", a technical essay that he wrote in 1787 in response to Calonne's proposal for a general land tax.

Post-revolutionary documents cover a wide range of subjects, such as military and naval history, or the education and sociability of the French elites. Noticeable here are: a letter concerning Menou, a French general who had converted to Islam and married an Egyptian [veiled] woman, 1802; a letter from Napoleon to Berthier containing strategic instructions for the battle of Wagram, 1809; a letter from Fontanes, then "grand master of the University," deriding the idea of a Professorship of Poetry in France (c.1810); a letter from four Napoleon's marshals trying to negotiate a deal on their income-providing "dotations" with the great powers assembled in Vienna, in late September1814; a letter from Richelieu on "the White Terror", 1815; a statement by Gregoire (1820); and a letter by Nesselrode, given and annotated by A.D. White.

A diplomat, historian, statesman, and co-founder and first president of Cornell University, Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918) was also the first to teach French (and German) modern history at University-level in the United States -- at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and at Cornell. His lectures were largely based on original documents from his private collection, which forms the bulk of this present set of documents. His developed summaries (see, for example, 4606 Bd. Mss. 11 ++, "Lettres de cachet") show both his mastery of the French language, and his pedagogical concerns while building his collection, not a mere private hobby.

Autographs followed by a * come from the Bowe Collection #4624, "Miscellaneous French Correspondence and Documents", given to Cornell by Arthur and Mary M. Dean in April 1976, and now merged with #4606. A couple of documents were purchased and added to the collection in 2008-9 (box 3, folder 31, and box 5, folder 14.)

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