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PIERRE LOUIS DE LACRETELLE (1751-1824)

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Originally appearing in Volume V16, Page 54 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PIERRE LOUIS DE LACRETELLE (1751-1824), French politician and writer, was born at Metz on the 9th of October 1751. He practised as a barrister in Paris; and under the Revolution was elected as a depute suppleant in the Constituent Assembly, and later as deputy in the Legislative Assembly. He belonged to the moderate party known as the " Feuillants," but after the loth of August 1792 he ceased to take part in public life. In 1803 he became a member of the Institute, taking the place of La Harpe. Under the Restoration he was one of the chief editors of the Minerve francaise; he wrote also an essay, Sur le 18 Brumaire (1799), some Fragments politiques et litteraires (1817), and a treatise Des partis politiques et des factions de la pretendue aristocratie d'aujourd'hui (1819). His younger brother, JEAN CHARLES DOMINIQUE DE LACRETELLE, called Lacretelle le jeune (1766-1855), historian and journalist, was also born at Metz on the 3rd of September 1766. He was called to Paris by his brother in 1787, and during the Revolution belonged, like him, to the party of the Feuillants. He was for some time secretary to the duc de la Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, the celebrated philanthropist, and afterwards joined the staff of the Journal de Paris, then managed by Suard, and where he had as colleagues Andre Chenier and Antoine Roucher. He made no attempt to hide his monarchist sympathies, and this, together with the way in which he reported the trial and death of Louis XVI., brought him in peril of his life; to avoid this danger he enlisted in the army, but after Thermidor he returned to Paris and to his newspaper work. He was involved in the royalist movement of the 13th Vendemiaire, and condemned to deportation after the 18th Fructidor; but, thanks to powerful influence, he was left " forgotten " in prison till after the 18th Brumaire, when he was set at liberty by Fouche. Under the Empire he was appointed a professor of history in the Faculte des lettres of Paris (18o9), and elected as a member of the Academie francaise (1811). In 1827 he was prime mover in the protest made by the French Academy against the minister Peyronnet's law on the press, which led to the failure of that measure, but this step cost him, as it did Villemain, his post as censeur royal. Under Louis Philippe he devoted himself entirely to his teaching and literary work. In 1848 he retired to Macon; but there, as in Paris, he was the centre of a brilliant circle, for he was a wonderful causeur, and an equally good listener, and had many interesting experiences to recall. He died on the 26th of March 1855. His son Pierre Henri (1815—1899) was a humorous writer and politician of purely contemporary interest. J. C. Lacretelle's chief work is a series of histories of the 18th century, the Revolution and its sequel: Precis historique de la Revolution francaise, appended to the history of Rabaud St Etienne, and partly written in the prison of La Force (5 vols., 18o1–18o6) ; Histoire de France pendant le X VIII' siecle (6 vols., 1808) ; Histoire de l'Assemblee Constituante (2 vols., 1821); L'Assemblee Legislative (1822); La Convention Nationale (3 vols., 1824–1825); Histoire de France depuis la restauration (1829–1835); Histoire du consulat et de l'empire (4 vols., 1846). The author was a moderate and fair-minded man, but possessed neither great powers of style, nor striking historical insight, nor the special historian's power of writing minute accuracy of detail with breadth of view. Carlyle's sarcastic remark on Lacretelle's history of the Revolution, that it " exists, but does not profit much," is partly true of all his books. He had been an eye-witness of and an actor in the events which he describes, but his testimony must be accepted with caution.
End of Article: PIERRE LOUIS DE LACRETELLE (1751-1824)
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