Supplement to the Counter Argument from the Deputies of French Manufacturers and Commerce to the Deputies of Saint-Domingue, Concerning the Supply of Provisions to the Colony

This supplement to the Réplique, or “counter argument,” made by the Deputies representing the French merchants and manufacturers, argues that the Deputies of Saint-Domingue use a rhetoric that is not only petulant, but that also serves as an attempt to deceive the Metropole. This supplement shifts the perspective from that of the colonial planters to the wealthy French merchants and calls for stricter regulations regarding colonial trade by the National Assembly. They argue that if the Colony of Saint-Domingue continues to informally trade colonial goods such as sugar and coffee with the United States, they are stealing products and profits that rightfully belong to France. While the counter argument is addressed to the Colonial Deputies on behalf of the colony, it could also be directly addressed to the most wealthy and influential planters – those who could avoid obeying the law with few local consequences.

While the supplement stands alone as an economic and patriotic treatise, it is part of a larger document dismantling the Colonial Deputies’ reports of commercial malpractice. The larger Réplique uses fragments of letters, newspapers and ships’ logs to prove that the French merchants are not, in fact, neglecting Saint-Domingue. Published in late 1789, the Réplique takes into account many of the previous developments in the larger dispute over grain supplies in Saint-Domingue.[1]

Although the supplement does not contain evidentiary “proof” that the merchants upheld their end of the flour trade, its rich and patriotic rhetoric emanates from a wealthy class of French citizens who paved the way to the French Revolution. Furthermore, the pamphlet demonstrates the unfaltering ambition of the French bourgeoisie immediately after the Revolution as they assessed the possibilities of global economic superiority.

[1] The authors of the Réplique refer to the “Réponse succint [sic]” published October 9, 1789.

Original
(Supplément à la Réplique des Députés des Manufactures et du Commerce de France à MM. les Députés de S. Domingue, concernant l’approvisionnement de cette Colonie)


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Translation:

[…]

No sophism from the Deputies of Saint-Domingue can substantiate their request for the exportation of colonial goods by foreign vessels. The Colony of Saint-Domingue has managed to reach a degree of prosperity that astonishes all Nations. It owes this prosperity to [French] national Commerce. To deny this is nothing but absurdity and ingratitude. If the colony’s Southern province still languishes, this languor must be principally attributed to the concurrence of national and foreign Commerce. A severe prohibition [of foreign trade] and assurance of payments [to France] would grant this portion all of the splendor it can maintain. We need only wise laws and courageous execution. Already the Southern province has begun to pull itself out of its void, its harbors were protected militarily, its workshops were staffed, its cultures grew rapidly, while a governor despising the law he had sworn to execute, and substituting himself in its [the law’s] place, struck it down again in turning it over to the rivalry of the two Nations [Britain and France] who sized each other up uneasily, and who only developed their means with fear.

Some have raised doubts and asserted that France could not operate and supply its Colonies. They should have argued, to the contrary, that with good commercial laws [policies], France could operate the commerce of the entire World.

It is now time to collect those who were misled by the assurance with which such daring and foolish opinions were presented. It is the time for the Colonies to pay the tribute that they owe to the Motherland for creating the products that brought them their great wealth. The greatest wealth of a nation is work without limitations for all citizens; it is by the construction of ships, by the transportation of colonial goods in our ports, by the opening of 90 million productions in the Colonies that we have managed this great sum of work. A desire to diminish this sum is to infringe upon public fortune. Nevertheless, this is what the Deputies of Saint-Doming are trying to do. When will their plan take shape? In a time where beggarly and armed idleness can only be legitimately destroyed by work. It is in these unfortunate times when we should wish that work would bring an end to its underground activities, that we want to ship colonial goods Abroad, causing our ships to remain unequipped in our ports, leaving sailors and workers unemployed. So that the Manufacturers [in France] stop sending cloth to our Islands that no one abroad buys anymore and thereby ceasing to employ the few hands left to them by the commercial treaty with England.

Have the Deputies of Saint-Domingue come to participate in French legislation in order to officially sanction this foreign commerce that is destroying the Nation? While the provinces, the cities, the bodies, the communities, and individuals flock in mobs to bow their heads under the honorable yoke of liberty and equality, wiping away their privileges, their freedoms, and even their persons in the name of public good. Have the Deputies of Saint-Domingue come to France to hold themselves apart in the midst of 26 million people and profit from the troubles agitating France, covering themselves with vain pretexts and loosening, possibly even completely breaking the ties that connect them to the Metropole? Or, what would be even more strange, to propose new laws [for the Metropole] and dictate the articles of their union?

Allowed to share the sublime function of legislators of a great people, they now weigh in their hands the enormous chains under which these good people moan, and the taxes that still burden them. Let them compare the deplorable situation of a French farmer, whose revenue is the prey of taxes, with the duty-free property of an American farmer. [Original footnote not included in translation] Ah! At the least, in this so unequal delivery against which we do not make claims, let them renounce the ancient and unjust pretentions that harm the interests of the homeland, and let them swear to no longer begin [trade] with their enemies![1] It is the only sacrifice the homeland demands of them; it is the only tribute it must impose on them.

Signed,

Deputies of Paris […][2]

Deputies of Marseille

[1] At the end of the document, the merchants and manufacturers soften their critique of the Deputies of Saint-Domingue, saying that they commend them for standing on firm moral ground by no longer trading with France’s enemies.

[2] There are many other deputies of major French port and manufacturing cities whose signatures appear as well, further suggesting that the supplement supports Hexagonal manufacturers over colonial enterprises.