French support of the American cause was helped greatly by a rationalization of gunpowder production begun by Lavoisier very shortly before the American Revolution. The major constituent in gunpowder was nitre (potassium nitrate) extracted from saltpeter, which was perpetually in short supply in France. Lavoisier succeeded first in having the Académie Royale des Science sponsor this rich prize competition for the best essay on the production of saltpeter.
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