Édouard René de Laboulaye

Édouard René de Laboulaye

Laboulaye by Nadar.

Édouard René Lefèbvre de Laboulaye (French pronunciation: ​) (18 January 1811 in Paris – 25 May 1883) was a French jurist, poet, author and anti-slavery activist. In 1865 he originated the idea of a monument presented by the French people to the United States that resulted in the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.

Laboulaye was received at the bar in 1842, and was chosen professor of comparative law at the Collège de France in 1849. Following the Paris Commune of 1870, he was elected to the national assembly, representing the département of the Seine. As secretary of the committee of thirty on the constitution he was effective in combatting the Monarchists in establishing the Third Republic. In 1875 he was elected a life senator, and in 1876 he was appointed administrator of the Collège de France, resuming his lectures on comparative legislation in 1877. Laboulaye was also chairman of the French Anti-Slavery Society.[1]

Always a careful observer of the politics of the United States, and an admirer of its constitution, he wrote a three-volume work on the political history of the United States, and published it in Paris during the height of the politically repressed Second Empire. During the American Civil War, he was a zealous advocate of the Union cause and the abolition of slavery, publishing histories of the cultural connections of the two nations. At the war's conclusion in 1865, he became president of the French Emancipation Committee that aided newly freed slaves in the U.S.[1] The same year he had the idea of presenting a statue representing liberty as a gift to the United States, a symbol for ideas suppressed by Napoleon III. The sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, one of Laboulaye's friends, turned the idea into reality.


Laboulaye wrote poetry in his spare time. One of his poems, "L'Oiseau bleu" was set by Victor Massé. Laboulaye also translated into French the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and the works of the poet William Ellery Channing.

Laboulaye published many books. Those relating to the United States include:

  • Political History of the United States (3 vols., 1855–66)
  • The United States and France (1862)
  • Paris en Amerique (1863) translated into English by Mary Louise Booth
  • The Poodle-Prince (1868) translated into English by Mary Robinson in 1895 (ISBN 978-2-37037-002-0)

See also

Laboulaye, Córdoba, an Argentine city named in his honour.


  1. ^ a b Khan, Yasmin Sabina (2010) Enlightening the world: the creation of the Statue of Liberty p.40. Cornell University Press, 2010

References and further reading

  • John Bigelow, U.S. lawyer and statesman (1817–1911) wrote a mini biography on Laboulaye entitled "Some Recollections of the Late Edouard Laboulaye", 1889, self-published
  • Yasmin Sabina Khan Enlightening the world: the creation of the Statue of Liberty, Cornell University Press, 2010, p. 40
  • Frédéric Passy, Édouard Laboulaye: conférence faite à la Société du travail, Paris, ed. Guillaumin, 1884, en ligne sur Gallica BNF
  • Magda Moiola, Il pensiero politico di Édouard Laboulaye, Università degli Studi di Pavia - Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia, 1998, p. 228
  • Walter Dennis Gray, Interpreting American democracy in France: the career of Édouard Laboulaye, 1811-1883, Newark, University of Delaware Press, 1994, (Biographie d'Édouard Laboulaye)
  • Dates and other biographical information in this article are drawn from Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography 1887-89

External links

  • Lyric by Laboulaye
  • Works by Édouard Laboulaye at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Édouard René de Laboulaye at Internet Archive
  • Works by Édouard René de Laboulaye at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)