André Michaux: botanist and French spy in the heart of young people United States Courier of the Americas


In its July-August review Smithsonian portray botanist and French explorer André Michaux (1746-1802). The young farmer of the king in Satory (Versailles) after his father, then studied botany with the royal doctor, obtained a diploma and in 1779. he was sent on a mission to England. The royal government assigned him to Persia in 1782, and in 1800 he left for his last voyage, where fever prevailed on the island of Madagascar. But in the meantime, André Michaux, who became a “royal botanist,” will stay in the young United States for eleven years in particular, between 1785 and 1796. His goal is: find species that could enrich the forests, parks and gardens of the Kingdom of France (since 1792 Republic): ancestor (much lesser known) Jean-Jacques Audubon. During all these years, André Michaux embarks on incredible expeditions to the West. He then plants what he finds in a garden in New Jersey, then in Charleston, and sends the seeds to France. Transported a large number of new species of oak, maple, and walnut virgilier (Cladrastis lutea), large-leaved magnoliaMagnolia macrophylla), purple rhododendron etc …

He arrived in Philadelphia at the age of 46, but an interesting aspect was described in this article Smithsonianis that in 1793 the French Republic asked Michaux to abuse his ways to spy on his paycheck. The problem, Michaux was commissioned by Thomas Jefferson and the American Philosophical Society (Association of American Scientists), of which Jefferson is vice president. He could have worked in both Washington and France, but the Franco-American friendship born of the independence of the United States had just died at the same time that the Republic beheaded Louis XVI on January 21, 17 January 1793. In any case, historians still wonder today how a scientist like Michaux could betray his American commissioners for political power, even if it was his country, France. Because international relations at the time were not a trifle: before his emperor Napoleon finally got rid of Louisiana, the nascent French Republic was interested in expelling the Spaniards from their American lands … with the help of information provided by Michaux.

In addition to the land, Michaux will continue his expeditions. In August 1794, he was the first to reach the top of Dědeček’s Mountain in the Blue Ridge. There he sings the new national anthem, Marseillaiseand calls: Long life to America and the French Republic, long life to freedom!“So we can guess his political motivations.”

However, André Michaux could no longer finance his expeditions and had to return to France in 1795. Upon his return, he found that most of his plants had been destroyed by the French Revolution.

So America did not erect a statue for him, but some plants there bear his name for eternity, like a fern. ” Pleopeltis michauxiana ‘; or wild flower ” Michaux’s saxifrag And the humility of his expeditions still impressed historians.

In recent years, the “André Michaux International Society” has been established in Charlotte, North Carolina:


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