Judgment from the State Council of the King, Granting Appeal of an Ordinance from M. le Marquis de Chilleau, Governor, Lieutenant General of Saint-Domingue, from the 27th of last May Concerning the Introduction of Foreign Grain

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This decision from the State Council of the King struck down le Marquis du Chilleau’s May 27th Ordinance allowing the importation of foreign grain and provisions to Saint-Domingue in exchange for colonial goods, although not sugar cane or coffee. By weighing in on the situation in Saint-Domingue, King Louis XVI exacerbated the already strained relationship between the Metropole and its Caribbean colony. This decision called for heavily restricted trade between Saint-Domingue and foreign countries (i.e. the United States of America), granting access only to Saint-Domingue’s three authorized admiralty ports. In exchange for foreign goods, the planters of Saint-Domingue were allowed to trade authorized products (likely derived from the sugar production process), but neither refined sugar nor coffee.

The document cites previous legislation on the matter of grain importation to the colonies, such as the Decision of the Council of the 30th of August 1784, which supported the exclusive laws of foreign commerce.[1] The Arrêt du Roi (King’s Judgment) reassessed the exclusive laws, allowing for some colonial products to be traded. The Colonial Deputies of Saint-Domingue believed the Judgment ruled too heavily in favor of the French merchants, creating trade restrictions such as import quantities, payment methods, and even the access to and availability of shipping ports. Although it may seem a neutral judgment by the State Council, this document showed colonists that the shocking events in France [the Judgment is dated 9 days after the Fall of the Bastille] had not changed the monarchy’s conviction that it needed to uphold the colonial trade monopoly. This might be interpreted as reinforcing the colonists’ belief that they needed to send delegates to the new National Assembly in Paris to ensure that their “reform” point of view was represented. However, this brought up the difficult question of how to define colonial citizenship, leading to a divisive debate over whether to use color or race as a factor. That debate eventually led to a civil war in Saint-Domingue between whites and free people of color in 1791.

[1] The exclusive laws, called les lois exclusives, l’exclusif, or les lois prohibitives in French, limited foreign trade between the colonies to French companies, causing French merchants to gain wealth and prestige in France.

(Arrêt du Conseil d’État du Roi, portant cassation d’une Ordonnance de M. le Marquis du Chilleau, Gouverneur, Lieutenant général de Saint-Domingue, du 27 Mai dernier concernant l’introduction des farines Étrangères)

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From July 23, 1789

Excerpt from the Registers of the State Council.

In his Council, the King being presented for a second time an Ordinance given on the 27th of last May, under the name of the Administrators of Saint-Domingue, signed only by M. du Chilleau, Governor general, recorded at the Superior Council of the Colony on the 29th of the same month, supports, until the first of next October, the prolongation of the permission to import foreign biscuits and grain granted by a previous Ordinance on the 31st of March and recorded at said Superior Council the first of April. His Majesty, recognizing that in addition to the prolongation of the term that circumstances [the colonial food shortage] could have made necessary, the Ordinance from the 27th of last May contains permission to import foreign grain and biscuits into all of the Ports of the Admiralty and to export colonial goods from them for the value of said grain and biscuits, to the weakening of the prohibitions and conditions laid out both in the Judgment from the Counsel of the 30th of August 1784, as well as in the Dispatch of the 13th of the following November, in which His Majesty ordered the Secretary of the Navy to circulate the aforementioned Decision to the colonial administrators. For what appeal: hearing the report; the King being in his Council, quashed and cancelled said Ordinance of the 27th of last May, in that it authorizes the importation of foreign biscuits and grain in all of the Ports of the Admiralty of Saint-Domingue, and that it permits the foreign exportation of colonial goods that would be given in payment. His Majesty orders that the aforementioned foods may not be introduced until the first of next October, that French or foreign ships may only introduce the aforementioned food in Saint-Domingue’s three warehouse ports, and that the only goods and merchandise that may be exported are those mentioned in article III of the Judgment of the Council from August 30, 1784, which will, moreover, be observed in its letter and spirit [tenor]. Let the present Decision be registered by the Superior council of Saint-Domingue, read, published, printed, and shown everywhere it need be.

Drawn up at the State Council of the King, His Majesty there being, held at Versailles the twenty-third of July year one thousand seven hundred eighty nine. Signed, LA LUZERNE