Dubois de Saligny (1809–1888)

By: Nancy N. Barker

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: July 6, 2019

Jean Pierre Isidore Alphonse Dubois, French diplomat in the Republic of Texas, son of Jean Baptiste Isidore and Marie Louise Rose (Bertrand) Dubois, was born on April 8, 1809, in Caen, Normandy, France. He entered on a diplomatic career in 1831 and became, successively, secretary of the French legations in Hanover, Greece, and the United States. While at this last post he was instructed by the French government to go to Texas to investigate the conditions and prospects of the new republic. During this mission in the spring of 1839 he visited Galveston, Houston, and the coastal area as far west as Matagorda. His reports to the French foreign minister influenced the French government to recognize Texas in a treaty of friendship, navigation, and commerce.

Appointed to head the new legation with the rank of chargé d'affaires, Dubois, or "A. de Saligny," as he now signed himself (he was not in fact a member of the French nobility), returned to Texas in January 1840. He established his residence in Austin, then the capital of the republic, and lived successively in the inn of Richard Bullock (see BULLOCK HOUSE) and in a nearby house on West Pecan Street, where he entertained members of the Texas government. He bought twenty-one acres of land on the east side of town and began construction there of the house known today as the French Legation. As a strong supporter of the Catholic Church, he worked effectively in this period with John Timon and Jean Marie Odin for the restoration of church property taken at the revolution. In acknowledgment of his efforts Pope Gregory XVI later awarded him the Order of Saint Gregory the Great. He was drawn into Texas politics and backed the controversial Franco-Texian Bill, became identified as a supporter of Sam Houston, and was a bitter enemy of the Mirabeau B. Lamar faction. His personal and political troubles culminated in the Pig War with his landlord Richard Bullock and in his withdrawal in April 1841, without instructions from the French foreign minister, to Louisiana. Dubois had sold his still unfinished house and property to Odin, and he never again returned to Austin.

Although the French foreign minister criticized Dubois for leaving his post without permission, he stood behind the agent in his quarrel with the Texas government and insisted on receiving an appropriate apology and promises to bring Bullock to trial. Somewhat tardily, Anson Jones, secretary of state in the second Houston administration, fulfilled these requirements and paved the way for Dubois's return to Galveston in April 1842. Dubois resumed cordial relations with the Houston administration, but, his health failing, he departed for France in July. During his absence Viscount Jules de Cramayel served as chargé d'affaires ad interim.

Though he was disappointed in his hopes for promotion to a more prestigious post, Dubois returned in January 1844 to serve as the French representative until the annexation of Texas to the United States. During this last period of his mission he evinced a marked preference for Louisiana over Texas as a place of residence and traveled only infrequently and reluctantly to Galveston to fulfill his duties. With his British colleague, Capt. Charles Elliot, he tried to stave off annexation, but, constrained by his instructions to a position of reserve, he could offer only the good offices and moral support of France in seeking to obtain Mexican recognition of the Texas republic. Dubois withdrew to Louisiana in April 1845, where he remained until 1846.

In 1849–50 he served as French minister plenipotentiary to the Hague and in 1856 represented France on a commission to verify the Russo-Turkish border in Asia. Emperor Napoleon III appointed him plenipotentiary to Mexico in 1860. His dispatches from that post urging French intervention helped the emperor decide to undertake the military expedition that placed Maximilian and Carlota on their Mexican thrones. In 1862 Dubois was promoted to the rank of grand officer in the Legion of Honor. While in Mexico he married María de Ortiz de la Borbolla; they had one son. In 1864, after being accused of dishonest financial operations and too close an association with the clerical party in Mexico, Dubois was recalled in 1863 and returned to France in disgrace. Despite repeated attempts to vindicate himself, he was unable to obtain another assignment from the foreign ministry. He died in 1888 in his residence, known as Le Prieuré, in St. Martin du Vieux Bellême, a village in Normandy.

Nancy Nichols Barker, "Devious Diplomat: Dubois de Saligny and the Republic of Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 72 (January 1969). Nancy Nichols Barker, trans. and ed., The French Legation in Texas, Vol. 1: Recognition, Rupture, and Reconciliation (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1971); Vol. 2: Mission Miscarried (1973). Nancy Nichols Barker, "The Republic of Texas: A French View," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 71 (October 1967). Kenneth Hafertepe, A History of the French Legation (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1989).

  • Peoples
  • French
  • Politics and Government
Time Periods:
  • Republic of Texas

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

Nancy N. Barker, “Dubois de Saligny,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 02, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/dubois-de-saligny.

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July 6, 2019