Barbé-Marbois, François, Marquis de

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Barbé-Marbois, François, Marquis de

BARBÉ-MARBOIS, FRANÇOIS, MARQUIS DE. (1745–1837). French diplomat and politician. Son of a spice merchant, he became tutor to the children of the marshal de Castries. He was employed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1768 and served at Ratisbonne, Dresden, and Munich. He accompanied Luzerne to Philadelphia in 1779 as chargé d'affaires and secretary of legation. He was soon authorized to organize consulates throughout the American states. In an effort to gather information about each state, he sent questionnaires to prominent Americans. Jefferson later revised and published his responses as his Notes on the State of Virginia (1785). Barbé-Marbois accompanied Lafayette during the latter's negotiations in 1784 with the Iroquois at Fort Stanwix to reconcile them with the Americans. During his stay in America, Marbois married Elizabeth Moore, the daughter of the president of Pennsylvania.

After his return to France, he was named intendant general of the French Leeward Islands in 1786. He served in several diplomatic positions under the revolutionary government. He was arrested after the coup d'état of 4 September 1797 and transported to French Guiana, but was freed in 1799 by Napoleon, under whom he advanced quickly in the bureaucracy. In 1803 he negotiated the Louisiana Purchase. During the Bourbon restoration, he was created a peer (4 June 1814) and accorded the rank of marquis in 1816. Noted for his malleability, he survived the vicissitudes of French politics under six governments.

SEE ALSO Fort Stanwix, New York.


Chase, Eugene Parker. Our Revolutionary Forefathers: The Letters of François, Marquis de Barbé-Marbois. New York: Duffield, 1929.

Lafayette, Gilbert du Motier de. Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Documents, 1776–1790. Edited by Stanley J. Idzerda et al. 5 vols to date. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1977–.

Lyon, E. Wilson. The Man Who Sold Louisiana: The Career of François Barbé-Marbois. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1942.

Rowe, G.S., and Alexander W. Knott. "The Longchamps Affair (1784–1786): The Law of Nations and the Shaping of Early American Foreign Policy." Diplomatic History 10 (1986): 199-220.

                           revised by Robert Rhodes Crout