Pierre Etienne Louis Dumont, a Swiss scholar, born in Geneva, July 18, 1759, died in Milan, Sept. 30, 1829. He was ordained a minister of the Protestant church of Geneva in 1781, and distinguished himself as a preacher, at the same time taking a warm interest on the liberal side in the political controversies of his native city. In consequence of the triumph of the aristocratic faction, he went in 1783 to St. Petersburg, where his father had formerly been court jeweller. Here he became pastor of the French Reformed church, and his eloquence attracted much attention; but after a residence of 18 months he went to London, and became in 1785 teacher of the second son of Lord Shelburne. Here he became acquainted with Romilly and Bentham, with the writings and ideas of the latter of whom he was so much impressed as to conceive the scheme of bringing them out in a French version. At the request of the Genevan exiles in London, Dumont in 1789 made a journey to Paris in company with M. Duroverai, ex-attorney of the republic of Geneva. Their object was to attain through their countryman Necker support for the revolution already commenced at Geneva, and an unrestricted restoration of Genevese liberty.
He immediately entered into very close relations with Mirabeau, assisting him in the preparation of his speeches, writing his published letters to his constituents, and becoming joint editor with him of a journal called the Courrier de Provence. The pecuniary ill success of this publication, the abatement of Dumont's sanguine hopes of political regeneration, the character of Mirabeau himself, and the attacks levelled at Duroverai and Dumont in journals and pamphlets, as being his tools, determined Dumont to leave Paris in March, 1791; but he revisited it several times in that and the following year, finally accompanying Talleyrand's embassy to England, and remaining there. His Souvenirs sur Mirabeau, written some ten years after, but which appeared posthumously, contains a very interesting account of his observations and experiences in Paris. After his return to England he devoted himself to drawing from the manuscripts and printed works of Bentham a lucid and popular view of that philosopher's system of jurisprudence.
In 1802 he published in Paris the first instalment of his labors, Traites de legislation civile et pe-nale (3 vols. 8vo). The work attracted great attention throughout Europe; and in 1806, while Lord Henry Petty, Dumont's former pupil, was chancellor of the exchequer, the sinecure clerkship which he had long held was superseded by a pension of £500. In 1811 he published at London another instalment, Theorie des peines et des recompenses (2 vols.), of which two editions appeared at Paris. In 1815 he published at Geneva Tactique des assemblies legislatives; in 1823 at Paris, Preuves judiciales (2 vols.); and in 1828, Organisation judiciale et codification. All these treatises reappeared in a single collection edited by Dumont, and published at Brussels in 1828, shortly before his death. These works owed almost entirely to the dress in which Dumont clothed them the attention which they attracted, and the impression which they made; and to his labors Bentham was indebted for his wide-spread reputation in Europe, into the principal languages of which, including the Russian, the Traites de legislation were translated. When Geneva recovered her liberties in 1814, Dumont hastened thither. He carried with him a small fortune, married, and spent there most of the remainder of his life.
He was chosen a member of the sovereign representative council, and did what he could to liberalize and improve the institutions of his native city. In 1817 he laid before the magistrates a draft of a penal code, borrowed principally from Bentham's manuscripts, and accompanied according to Bentham's system with a running commentary of reasons. This was referred to a commission, of which Dumont was a member, and occasioned long and fruitless discussions. He was more successful in obtaining the establishment of a penitentiary on Bentham's panopticon plan.