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James L. Shepherd III

GAILLARDET, THÉODORE FRÉDÉRIC (1808–1882). Frédéric Gaillardet, early traveler and writer in Texas, was born on April 7, 1808, in Tonnerre, France, the son of Jean Baptiste and Geneviève (Henry) Gaillardet. He received a law degree in Paris and returned to Tonnerre to practice, but soon became successful enough as a dramatist to have three plays produced in Paris in 1832 and 1833. As a dramatist Gaillardet is chiefly remembered for his first success, La Tour de Nesle, which was rewritten by Alexandre Dumas père, frequently revived during the nineteenth century, and twice translated into English. Dumas attempted to take all credit for the play, and Gaillardet retaliated with a duel and legal action. Before moving to America he also published a well-received novel, which became the source of several popular dramas and vaudevilles.

In 1837 Gaillardet arrived in New Orleans, hoping to contribute articles to Parisian newspapers and also to start a wine-importing business, but after bank failures and an epidemic of yellow fever in New Orleans, he conceived the plan of studying the political and social organization of the United States. After visits to Cuba, Texas, and Indian Territory, he settled in New York, where he remained for more than eight years. There he wrote of French affairs for New York newspapers and of American affairs for French newspapers. In 1840 in New York he purchased and edited the Courrier des États-Unis, which under his direction became the leading French language newspaper in the Western Hemisphere.

Gaillardet's visit to Texas, from April to July 1839, coincided with that of Dubois de Saligny, who accompanied him in his calls upon Gen. Sam Houston and Mirabeau B. Lamar. Gaillardet communicated to Europe a favorable impression of Texas, and his accounts and analyses of events no doubt helped in bringing about French recognition of Texas independence from Mexico. Among his important dispatches from Texas are those urging French recognition, a description of the movement of Anglo-Americans into Texas, his accounts of the Texas Revolution, an analysis of the republic, and a projection of the future for the French in Texas.

After his marriage Gaillardet established his residence in France, where he served as mayor of Le Plessis-Bouchard and was working on a memoir of his life in America, which was to have been a companion piece and corrective to Alexis de Tocqueville's De la Démocratie en Amérique, when he died in 1882. Parts of his memoirs appeared posthumously in 1883 under the title L'Aristocratie en Amérique. See also FRENCH.


Dictionary of American Biography. Frédéric Gaillardet, Sketches of Early Texas and Louisiana, trans. James I. Shepherd III (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1966).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, James L. Shepherd III, "GAILLARDET, THEODORE FREDERIC," accessed August 07, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fga02.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on June 15, 2020. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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