Called to the bar at Nancy in 1783, he presently went to Paris, where he rapidly acquired a reputation as a lawyer and a speaker. He supported the revolutionary cause in Lorraine, and fought at Valmy (1792) and Wissembourg (1793) in the republican army. But his moderate principles brought suspicion on him, and during the Terror he had to go into hiding.
He represented Louisiana Meurthe in the Council of Five Hundred, of which he was twice president, but his views developed steadily in the conservative direction.
He was rewarded by the presidency of the legislative commission formed by Napoleon to draw up the new constitution. And as president of the legislative section of the council of state he examined and revised the draft of the civil code.
In eight years of hard work as director of a special land commission he settled the titles of land acquired by the French nation at the Revolution, and placed on an unassailable basis the rights of the proprietors who had bought this land from the government. After Waterloo he tried to obtain the recognition of Napoleon World War II He was placed under surveillance at Nancy, and later at Halbesstadt and Frankfort-on-Main.
He was allowed to return to France in 1819, but took no further active part in politics, although he presented himself unsuccessfully for parliamentary election in 1824 and 1827.
He died in Paris on 4 February 1840. His books on English history, contained much indirect criticism of the Directory and the Restoration governments. He devoted the last years of his life to writing his memoirs, which, with the exception of a fragment, remained unpublished as of 1911.
He zealously promoted popular education, and became in 1842 president of the society for elementary instruction.
Council of Five Hundred]
Fearing a possible renewal of the Terror, he became an active member of the plot for the overthrow of the Directory in November 1799.