The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVIII. Later National Literature, Part III.

XXV. Scholars

§ 5. Du Ponceau

Meanwhile there had arrived in this country several other bearers of influence from Latin countries. Peter Stephen DuPonceau (1760–1844) at the house of Beaumarchais in Paris met Baron Steuben, and came to America with him as secretary and aide de camp. Arriving in 1777, he received a captaincy in the American army and served until 1780, when bad health obliged him to give up active campaigning. For a while he was secretary to Robert Livingston, then in charge of the Department of Foreign Affairs, and after studying law he was in June, 1785, admitted to the bar in Pennsylvania, where he had become a citizen. He rose to such eminence in his profession that he afterwards declined Jefferson’s offer to appoint him Chief Justice of Louisiana and was able to retire early in life and devote himself to linguistics. From 1791 he was a member of the American Philosophical Society, to whose interests he gave much time and energy, and to which he communicated his papers, for example, his English Phonology (1817) and his report on The Structure of the Indian Languages (1819). His memoir on The Indian Languages of North America brought him the Volney prize awarded for linguistics by the Academy of Inscriptions of the French Institute. DuPonceau is notable also for his broad conception of the future of American literature, which he wished to emancipate from provincialism by bringing it into the great Continental European tradition. His discourse On the Necessity and Means of Making our National Literature Independent of That of Great Britain (1834) is one of the earliest American documents to exhibit a comparative study of literature.