The six pamphlets that make up the next installment of A Colony in Crisis bring to the fore of this project a number of pressing concerns about the kind of knowledge about life under slavery that can be gleaned from the colonial archive.
This six document installment seeks to build on the first by providing a variety of perspectives on the “Grain Famine” of 1789. However, while the first issue focused mainly on the rapport between the Deputies of Saint-Domingue with French officials in France or Saint-Domingue, our second issue attempts to provide a larger, transnational context for the issues surrounding 1789 Saint-Domingue.
The effect of the 1789 grain disputes in the colony of Saint-Domingue and its colonial Metropole serves as the primary focus of the first installment of our reader. This crucial, and yet little-known episode, in the history of not only Colonial Saint-Domingue, brings up issues of commerce during the Ancien Régime, and is one of the first major issues that was brought forth to the newly formed National Assembly in 1789.
Written by an unnamed ship captain preparing to return to Cap Français, this letter recounts the violence that has consumed Saint-Domingue during various revolts, and the beginning of the Haitian Revolution. The author intimates the numerous ways the Whites and Creole planters retaliated against the enslaved and other people of color through various acts of torture and extermination tactics.
This is a speech by the Mayor of Port-au-Prince delivered before an audience of white colonists, free people of color, and military men on October 23, 1791, which hereby eliminated all distinction between race and social status, naming every man simply “citizen.”
These Reflections on the Code Noir challenge the National Assembly’s stance on slavery and, the code in general The Society of the Friends of Blacks implores the Assembly to abolish the slave trade in its entirety, but not slavery itself, which they see as a given.
The following document is a twenty-page excerpt from a lengthy report by François Barbé de Marbois refuting claims that, as the Intendant of Saint-Domingue, he personally profited from restricting trade between Saint-Domingue and the United States of America. With the principal goal of exonerating himself before his peers in the National Assembly, Marbois methodically discredits charges that he had been negligent towards a colony suffering from the horrors of a famine.
Delivered by the likes of Julien Raimond, Vincent Ogé, and others, this Request and Petition narrated a long history of legal discrimination of Free People of Color in Colonial Saint-Domingue.This petition calls for political enfranchisement and representation of Free People of Color in the Colonial Assembly as a way of countering a long history of racial discrimination.
This supplement to the Réplique, or “counter argument”, made by the Deputies representing the French merchants and manufacturers, argues that the rhetoric of the Deputies of Saint-Domingue is not only petulant, but that it also serves as an attempt to deceive the Metropole.
In his “reflections,” M. de Cocherel outlined a plan to import much-needed flour to Saint-Domingue while simultaneously refuting merchants’ claims that French trade would suffer if the colonies were allowed to bypass the laws handed down by the French Metropolitan government. Arguing that the three main ports of Saint-Domingue, le Cap, Port-au-Prince, and les Cayes, were insufficient to supply the colony with enough grain, Cocherel urged the “Comité des Six” to open all of Saint-Domingue’s ports to foreign trade of grain and flour.
This response from the colonial deputies of Saint-Domingue is a reaction to a report published by French merchants that establishes the amount of grain, among other foodstuffs, necessary to nourish the entire French Empire.
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 appointment and escape back to Metropolitan France. The 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.
This response from the Deputies of Manufactures and Commerce of France to MM. de Cocherel and de Reynaud offers a detailed rebuttal to the Colonial Deputies’ claims that the French government and National Commerce perpetuated famine in Saint-Domingue. This later section provides evidence as to how MM. de Cocherel and de Reynaud misled the French government with regard to the merchants’ commercial activity on the island.
This response from the Deputies of Production and Commerce of France provides a comprehensive review of the legislation surrounding the grain dispute of 1789 in order for the Commercial Deputies to defend themselves from the Colonial Deputies’ accusations that they have perpetuated famines.
This “précis,” or summary, sent to the Commissioners appointed by the National Assembly to examine the needs of the colony, outlines the efforts made by the deputies and the governor of Saint-Domingue to acquire much-needed provisions to sustain life on their plantations.