Judgment of the Northern Provincial Assembly of Saint-Domingue Session in Le Cap Against Barbé de Marbois, his Council, Accomplices and followers September 21, 1789

This succinct document presents the charges brought against Barbé de Marbois by the Colonial Deputies of Saint-Domingue that ultimately caused Marbois to leave his current appointment and escape back to Metropolitan France.[1] Marbois was accused of trying to profit from illegal legislation, deregulation, and the centralizing of power to his office. One of the claims even implicates his father-in-law, a retired governor and merchant in Pennsylvania, who was thought to possess large stores of grain destined to be illegally imported to Saint-Domingue to the immense profit of his son-in-law. While César-Henri de la Luzerne, French Naval Minister, as well as Marbois had previously disputed many of these claims, the Colonial Deputies had taken control of the Provincial Assembly and saw great economic benefit in ridding the colony of its current Intendant. Evidently, having seen the writing on the wall, Barbé de Marbois left his post in Saint-Domingue early for Paris rather than being hung, burned, and having his ashes cast into the high winds of the Antilles.

In short, this document provides a brief view into the elaborate web of social institutions – including courts, clergy, local government, and shifting trade regulations for human and material cargo  – which shaped daily life in Colonial Saint-Domingue after the French Revolution and prior to the start of the Haitian Revolution.

[1] James, CLR. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint Louverture and the San Domingo Revolution. New York: Vintage, 1963. Page 61-63.

(Arrêt de l’Assemblée provinciale de la Partie du Nord de Saint-Domingue séant au cap, contre Barbé de Marbois, ses conseils, complices & adhérens. En date du 21 Septembre 1789)

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This case came to be heard by the Northern Provincial Assembly on this day the 21st of September 1789, which was made and argued by the Court’s Magistrate on the denunciation and petition against Barbé de Marbois – the Intendant of Saint-Domingue, his council, accomplices, and followers. M. Marbois has been accused of abusing the authority entrusted to him by S.M.[2] on numerous occasions, most notably: for having carried out the Council meeting even though he had no such orders to do so if it excluded the North of Saint-Domingue, for being opposed to admitting the Deputies from Saint-Domingue into the Estates-General, for having taken over the handling of the parish taxes[3], for having directed to France more than two million silver pieces belonging to the colony in order to pay his loans, for having participated in an illicit commerce relating to the regrouping and granting of parcels of land, for having been formally opposed to the introduction of English grains at time when the Colony suffered its worst shortage and because of the speculation he created through proposed grain trade with his father-in-law in New England that would have gone directly through M. Marbois in such large quantities that he would have seen a considerable financial gain, [and] for having wanted to take over the Royal Officer’s inspection duties in the harbor of Port-au-Prince. All of these, among other infractions, are recorded in the current case, etc., etc., etc.

The Magistrate’s ruling:

Having heard the report of one of the Sirs, seen, and considered all the evidence, the Provincial Assembly finds the aforementioned Barbé de Marbois guilty and convicted of the crimes brought forth in the present case. In compensation, the Assembly condemns him to death by public hanging, strangled until death overtakes his body, at the hands of the Executor of High-Justice in the Place de Cluny [sic] of this town. Afterwards, his body will be burned, his ashes cast into the wind, his property confiscated and distributed to the Colony’s impoverished citizens. As far as his Councils, Accomplices and Followers are concerned, the said Provincial Assembly declares that it shall be more amply informed in one year’s time, everything remains under [legal] consideration.

Presented in Le Cap, in the Chambers of the Provincial Assembly, August 21st, 1789.

Emanuel, President and Scribe

Verified by Doctorus, Clerk.

[2] S.M. refers to Saint-Marc, a major city in colonial Saint-Domingue and the site of the provincial government of the Northern portion of the colony.

[3] The church in Saint-Domingue, parishes and clergy stipends, were funded by taxes levied on imported slaves. See Michel René Hilliard d’Auberteuil’s Considérations sur l’état de la colonie de Saint-Domingue: Ouvrage politique et législatif, tome second. Page 206-207. See also Moreau de Saint-Méry’s Loix et constitutions des colonies françaises de l’Amérique sous le vent