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Louis-Marie de La Revellière-Lépeaux papers

Call Number: GEN MSS 549

Scope and Contents

The Louis-Marie de La Revellière-Lépeaux Papers consist of correspondence, official reports, printed material, subject files, personal papers and other documents, primarily in French, documenting La Revellière-Lépeaux's political career and personal life, particularly during the reign of the First Republic. The papers span the years 1789-1872, and include correspondence written to La Revellière-Lépeaux's son from researchers eager to access his father's memoirs. The papers include the manuscript draft of these memoirs, published as Mémoires de Larevellière-Lépeaux. Pub. par son fils, sur le manuscrit autographe de l'auteur et suivis des pièces justificatives et de correspondances in 1873. The bulk of the collection dates from the beginning of La Revellière's entry into politics through the period of his directorship, with most material dated between 1789 and 1799.

The collection is housed in six boxes and is organized into six series: Correspondence, Writings, Official Reports and Other Documents, Printed Material, Subject Files, and Personal Papers. Oversize materials are stored in one box.

Series I. Correspondence (box 1) is organized into two subseries: General Correspondence and Third Party Correspondence.

General Correspondence consists of letters from other French officials, scholars and colleagues. Almost all letters are incoming, although some files include drafts of outgoing letters by La Revellière-Lépeaux. Topics include the French Revolution, Theophilanthropy and deism, diplomacy, and contemporary scientific research and expeditions. Correspondents include Charles Delacroix, Victor Marie Du Pont, Alexander von Humboldt, Eloi Johanneau, Pierre Rabaut, Alexis Rochon, J. H. Vergniaud and David Bailie Warden. Three corrected drafts of letters from La Reveillière-Lépeaux to President James Monroe, dated 1818 and 1820, request Monroe's assistance in ensuring that letters from Mr. Belanger, a judge in Maine-et-Loire who has fallen on hard times, reach his brother, Mr. Benoit, in Philadelphia. The letters reference La Revellière-Lépeaux's friendship with Monroe, which was established during Monroe's visits to Paris in 1794 and in 1803.

Third Party Correspondence consists of manuscript copies of letters as well as originals. The subseries includes a copy of a letter from Nicholas Baudin, French naval officer and explorer, to the Ministry of the Navy; a letter from Besnard, the president of the department of Sarthe to the Minister of the Interior; a manuscript copy of a June 1794 letter from General George Rogers Clark to Colonel Samuel Fulton; a plea from Marie-Louis Descorches to the Minister of External Affairs regarding Turkey; an 8 page letter from Quénet Duhamel to "Citoyen Luminais" concerning a Portuguese fort on the Rio Negro in South America; and a letter from Moissonnier (the Ex-Vice Consul of the French Republic to the United States) to Jean-François Rewbell concerning the Russian Empire. There are also sets of correspondence from Adolphe Thiers and Jules Michelet addressed to La Revellière-Lépeaux's son, requesting permission to consult Revellière-Lépeaux's memoirs.

Series II. Writings , (boxes 1-3) is organized into two subseries: Memoirs and Other Writings. Memoirs consists of fifteen individual packets, titled and paginated in two separate sequences, in La Reveillière-Lépeaux's hand. La Revellière-Lépeaux's memoirs trace his public and private life from his early years until his return to Maine-et-Loire in 1819, describing his early political career and his directorship, as well as his retirement. Other Writings consists of printed materials and manuscript drafts or copies of material written by La Revellière-Lépeaux. Many of the pamphlets in this series were printed anonymously but manuscript annotations on copies in the collection attribute authorship to La Revellière-Lépeaux. Other pamphlets issued by the Convention Nationale circulated La Revellière-Lépeaux's opinions about the indictment of Louis XVI. Two pamphlets issued by the office of the Directoire Exécutif comment on public affairs. Drafts of La Revellière-Lépeaux's speeches about various regions, the government, and the financial state of the France after the revolution are also included.

Series III. Official Reports and Other Documents , (boxes 4-5) is organized into five subseries: General, Africa and Asia, Americas, Europe, and Domestic Affairs. These reports and documents were generated for the Director Exécutif and other officials during La Revellière-Lépeaux's tenure as director.

The General subseries encompasses broad international reports as well as documents that analyze France's position as a colonial power. Reports related to two significant scientific expeditions are also included. A report by explorer and botanical voyager Charles Baudin records his last 1792 voyage, and relates the political alignments that led to his arrest by Spanish authorities. Three documents relate to the search for missing explorer Jean-François de Galaup La Pérouse, a French navigator who was lost at sea in 1788 after setting sail from Australia's Botany Bay. La Pérouse had been charged with finding a Northwest Passage from the Pacific and had explored the Pacific, traveling the coasts of America, and to China, Siberia, Japan and the South Seas. In 1791, the National Assembly organized an expedition to search for La Pérouse. Aristide Du Petit Thouars departed France in command of the Diligent, hoping to reach the Pacific and pick up La Pérouse's trail after rounding Cape Horn. The expedition, beset by poor provisions and illness, stopped off the coast of Brazil for medical assistance. The ship was seized and the crew was arrested by the governor of Fernando de Noronha. A log of the Diligent, an undated report describing details of the voyage, and a narrative prepared by Du Petit Thouars after his release in August 1793 document this expedition.

The Africa and Asia subseries consists of seven reports relating to France's affairs with nations of those continents. Five reports from Lord Claude Etienne Savary, resident of Cairo from 1776 to 1779, relate to work he was undertaking for France and detail his observations and proposals for improving trade and communication in the Near East, as well as for promoting French interests in the region. There are also reports about trade around the Red Sea and an undated report about the Russian military.

The Americas subseries consists of ten reports and memorandums which document France's relationship with her colonies in the Americas, with the United States, and with other colonial powers. One 1796 report explores the importance of the Spanish ports of San Domingo and of Louisiana, shortly before the ceding of Louisiana back to France in 1800. There are several documents that relate to the new American republic, including a report about the "claims" of General George Rogers Clark, an American Revolutionary hero who was commissioned as a French officer in 1793, and a proposal about how to align and strengthen French and American interests. Other documents include "Le Dernier Cri du Desespoir, La Guadeloupe," an account of affairs in Guadeloupe; a memorandum prepared by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier which estimates the kind of forces, equipment and supplies that would be needed to conquer Canada; a report about Guiana; and notes and reports related to French diplomatic efforts in North America, including a three page report about the French consul in New York.

The Europe subseries consists of reports and supporting documents related to French relations with European nations, reporting on specific regions, and documenting events and opinions during the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1801).

A group of material related to Italy is present, including a draft of instructions for General Napoleon Bonaparte regarding the organization of Italy after the success of the French campaign in Italy. The draft, dated April 7, 1797, is in the hand of La Revellière-Lépeaux and signed by four members of the Directorate. The Italian material includes a 48 page proposal from Italian sculptor Giuseppe Ceracchi arguing for the relinquishment of the state of Rome in January 1796; two official copies of documents written in 1796 by officers of the Commission of Sciences and and Arts who were posted with the French army in Italy; a 1797 memorandum about Malta and Italy that was written by A. M. Eymer; and a report outlining Emanuel Baller's service supplying "sustenance" and rations to French troops in Italy. Documents related to other parts of southeastern Europe include a 1799 report from the Consul of the French Republic at Salonica (Thessalonike) in Greece discussing a military plan to counter British and Russian power in the Mediterranean; an undated report listing the advantages of possessing islands in the Ionian Sea; and an undated report about French holdings in the Adriatic Sea. The subseries also includes a 1793 packet of supplementary material, originally attached to a dispatch from the Swiss Alpine town of Vicosoprano, with copies of correspondence from François Barthélemy, the French minister to Switzerland and a key participant in negotiating the Treaties of Basel in 1795; an analysis of the European political system by Antoine Diannyère, political arithmetician, accompanied by a letter written in his hand to La Revellière-Lépeaux dated February 13, 1796; an undated report on Poland; a report about the petroleum fields in Andernach that England relies on; a detailed plan for European nations to unite against England's growing empire; and an undated document transcribing entries from the journal of a passenger who was on board the French frigate La Loire on its expedition to Ireland. The journal entries are accompanied by a letter dated February 22, 1799, from Reveliere.

French Domestic Affairs consists of reports, memorandums, notes and other documents pertaining to the administration of political, social, and cultural affairs within France, including relations between central offices and local government bodies. There are two documents relating to the administration of mines in France, including a 1796 proposal to enlarge the office. Three documents relate to Bergevin's Globe, a sculpture of the world, eight feet in diameter, that was commissioned for the Library of the Four Nations in 1796. One 1799 report from François Christophe Kellerman, a retired French Marshal, analyzes in detail the expenditures and accounts of the Constitutional Guard. Three documents relate to the institution and administration of the French National Lottery while two other short reports, both a page, concern Victor Du Pont's voyage for the Institut National des Sciences. Another selection of documents records communication related to governance on the local and regional level. Reports from committees and delegates from the departments of Gers and Sarthre provide insight into regional matters, as well as how local government bodies interacted with the Ministry of the Interior (Ministre de l'Interieur) and the Directory. One manuscript analyzes the administration of internal tariffs; two memorandums relate to the cases and issues of specific French citizens.

Series IV. Printed Material , (box 5) consists of pamphlets and other printed publications, arranged alphabetically by title. Among other works, the series includes an open letter to Louis XVI in 1792, a few months before the proclamation of the First Republic, and several issues of the Journal du Département de Maine et Loire... from 1791 and 1792. A number of the publications are works emanating from various regional Friends of the Constitution (Société des amis de la Constitution).

Series V. Subject Files , (box 5) covers two main topics: L'Academie Celtique and Theophilanthrophy, with the bulk of the material relating to La Revellière-Lépeaux's interest in the latter. The L'Academie Celtique material consists of sketches and notes examining the significance of Celtic monuments in France. The five documents related to Theophilanthropy include a report issued by the Office of Theophilanthrophy (Bureau de la Théophilantropie) in 1798; a memorandum about the Free Mason connection to the French Revolution; a report considering Theophilanthrophy's relationship with the Republican government; a list of the first members of the "Culte Theoph."; and a proposal for replacing Catholicism as the national religion of France.

Series VI. Personal Papers , (box 5) consists of travel documents and a security pass.

Oversize material, found at the end of the collection (box 6) is arranged in series order.


  • 1789 - 1872
  • Majority of material found within 1789 - 1815


Language of Materials

Chiefly in French; some material in Italian.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Louis-Marie de La Revellière-Lépeaux Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from William Reese Co. on the Library Associates Fund, 2003. Formerly owned by Brigham Young University under accession number A78-41.


3.62 Linear Feet (6 boxes)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The collection consists of correspondence, writings, official reports, subject files, printed materials, and personal papers documenting the life and political career of La Revellière-Lépeaux, particularly during the period of the First Republic (1792-1804). The papers span the years 1789-1872, encompassing early publications by La Revellière-Lépeaux through correspondence of La Revellière-Lépeaux's family after his death.
Series I, Correspondence, contains letters from other French officials, scholars and colleagues concerning political affairs, the French Revolution, Theophilanthrophy and deism, diplomacy and contemporary scientific research and expeditions. Correspondents include Charles Delacroix, Victor Marie Du Pont, Alexander von Humboldt, Alexis Rochon, David Bailie Warden, and United States President James Monroe. Third Party Correspondence includes correspondence from Nicolas Baudin to the Ministry of the Navy; a letter from Moissonnier, ex-Vice Consul to the United States, to Jean-François Reubell concerning the Russian Empire; and correspondence related to events in the United States, Turkey, and South America. There are also sets of correspondence addressed to La Revellière-Lépeaux's son from Adolphe Thiers and Jules Michelet, requesting access to the papers of La Revellière-Lépeaux for research.
Series II, Writings, consists of La Revellière-Lépeaux's manuscript memoirs as well as printed materials and manuscript drafts of material written by or attributed to La Revellière-Lépeaux during his career. Drafts of La Revellière-Lépeaux's speeches are also present.
Series III, Official Reports and Other Documents, is organized by geographic region, encompassing broad international reports as well as more focused reports and supporting documents that analyze France's position in relation to other nations and France's colonies. Materials relating to two expeditions, the 1792 voyage of Charles Baudin which ended in his arrest by Spanish authorities, and the expedition undertaken by Aristide Du Petit-Thouars in 1791 in search of the missing explorerer Jean-François de Galaup La Pérouse, are present. The Africa and Asia subseries includes five reports from Claude Etienne Savary which detail observations and proposals for improving trade and communication in the Near East. The Americas subseries contain reports relating to the new American republic, reports concerning Guadeloupe and French Guiana, a printed map of French Guiana, a memorandum estimating the forces needed to conquer Canada, and other documents relating to French diplomatic efforts in North America. The Europe subseries includes several documents related to Italy, including a draft of a military order for General Napoleon Bonaparte regarding the organization of country after France's successful 1797 campaign. The French Domestic Affairs subseries consists of documents pertaining to the national and local administration of political, social, and cultural affairs within France.
Series IV, Printed Material, consists of pamphlets and other printed publications, primarily political. Series V, Subject Files, contains notes and drawings related to L'Academie Celtique and Celtic monuments in France, as well as documents concerning Theophilanthropy, which La Revellière-Lépeaux proposed as the new national religion of France. Series VI, Personal Papers, consists of travel documents and a security pass.


Louis-Marie de La Revellière-Lépeaux was born in Montaigu in the Vendée, France, in August 1753 to J. B. de la Revellière. He later adopted the name Lépeaux from property which belonged to his family. After studying law in Angers and Paris, he joined the bar in 1775 at the age of 22. He was elected to be a representative of the Third Estate and attended the Estates-General of 1789 as a deputy. After the session ended, he returned to Angers and sat on the council of Maine-et-Loire. In this position, he observed some of the first outbreaks of anti-Republican violence in the Vendée. In 1792, La Revellière-Lépeaux became a member of the Convention, the national assembly that governed France from 1792 to 1795.

La Revellière-Lépeaux voted for the death of Louis XVI, but because of his moderate leanings, became associated with the Girondins and went into hiding during the Terror of 1793-94. He remained in hiding until the revolution of 9-10 Thermidor which occurred in late July 1794. After the revolution, La Revellière-Lépeaux returned to the Convention, served on the commission that drew up the Constitution of 1795, and in July 1795, became president of the Assembly. He also joined the Committee of Public Safety from September 1 until its dissolution on November 4, 1795. Shortly before the Committee's termination, on November 2, 1795, the Executive Directory, commonly known as the Directory, assumed executive power in France. Five directors shared power. La Revellière-Lépeaux's appeared as the first name on the list of elected directors, and he became president of the Directory (effectively, the president of the French Republic).

La Revellière-Lépeaux held his position on the Directory until June 18, 1799, when the revolution of 30 Pairial compelled his resignation. The Directory itself ceased to exist five months later, when Napoleon Bonaparte overthrew the Directory and replaced it with the Consulate during the coup d'état of 18 Brumaire. The four years of the Directory were a period of turbulence and domestic political disquiet. The period of La Revellière-Lépeaux's leadership was particularly marked by hostile policies towards the Christian religion. He became an advocate of a deistic belief system called Theophilanthropy which promoted reason over revelation or tradition and which he hoped to launch as the national faith of France.

After his resignation, La Revellière-Lépeaux retired to the country for ten years before returning to Paris. He stayed out of public affairs for the remainder of his life, refusing to swear allegiance to Napoleon in 1804. He died in Paris on March 27, 1824.

La Revellière-Lépeaux's Memoires, with publication attributed to his son, was published posthumously in 1873.

Processing Information

The Louis-Marie de La Revellière-Lépeaux Papers were originally organized and described in 1982 by Neil Brodhurst at Brigham Young University. The papers were reprocessed by Beinecke staff in 2005.

Guide to the Louis-Marie de La Revellière-Lépeaux Papers
Under Revision
by Kathleen T. Burns
November 2005
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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