Before Haiti: Race and Citizenship in French Saint-Domingue by John D. Garrigus (auth.)

By John D. Garrigus (auth.)

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Extra info for Before Haiti: Race and Citizenship in French Saint-Domingue

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Its settlers “grow the most beautiful cacao trees in the world . . 2 He predicted that their rich bottomland would soon be filled with farms producing cacao, indigo, rocou, tobacco, and cotton. This promising district, a “nursery for cacao and for children,” already had a name: Fond des Nègres. As Labat noted, these large and expanding families were almost all free mulattos or blacks. What the missionary witnessed in 1701 was a situation that leading colonists and imperial administrators at the end of the eighteenth 22 Before Haiti century tried to deny had ever existed.

The most important of these attempts was the Code Noir, a collection of laws written by French scholars in the 1680s for France’s emerging Caribbean slave colonies. The Code was based on Roman slave law, though prominent planters and colonial officials did review and revise it. 71 In Saint-Domingue, this balance was never achieved. Notorious for their independence and materialism, the colony’s ex-freebooters would not accept Versailles’ guidance on how to drive and discipline their slaves. From the 1680s to the 1780s they and their successors largely ignored requirements to instruct slaves in Catholicism, supply them with prescribed amounts of food and clothing, and cancel work on holy days.

In the early 1700s they claimed that freedmen disrupted the slave system, insulted colonists, dealt in stolen property, sold alcohol to slaves, and sheltered maroons. In 1711, therefore, administrators amended the Code’s manumission policy. All bona fide manumissions in Saint-Domingue now had to be explained to the governor in writing and approved by him. 91 Yet these laws do not seem to have had much effect. In the 1730s, SaintDomingue’s administrators were still complaining about planters’ self-serving use of manumissions.

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