"There Are No Slaves in France": The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Régime

By Sue Peabody | Go to book overview

Chardon suggested to Joly de Fleury that the article be rephrased following English and Spanish law to prohibit the offspring of interracial marriages from holding public office until the fourth generation, but the commissioners apparently decided to eliminate the article altogether because it was not in the final version presented to Louis XVI for his signature on August 9, 1777. 66


Conclusion

When Sartine presented the final draft of the Déclaration pour la police des noirs to the king at Versailles for his signature on August 9, 1777, he sought to justify its necessity in a number of ways. First, he recounted the lack of registration of earlier laws by the Parlement of Paris and the proliferation of lawsuits. 67 These lawsuits, noted Sartine, are publicized by posters and mémoires, giving blacks the notion that they are equal to "the superior beings they were destined to serve." 68 What is more, some judges were helping slaves to escape from their masters, or they "detain them in prison, prohibiting the jailers from releasing them, under the pain of exemplary punishment." 69

Sartine went on to describe a veritable onslaught of blacks in the kingdom, reminiscent of Poncet de la Grave 1762 "deluge." The familiar complaints against sexual license and racial intermixing are amplified by political alarm, generated by the recent slave uprisings in Dutch Guiana ( 1764 and 1776):

[In the kingdom] their marriages to Europeans are encouraged; the public houses are infected; the colors mingle together; the blood degenerates. A prodigious quantity of slaves [who are] removed from cultivation in our colonies are brought to France only to flatter the vanity of their masters and of these same slaves. If they return to America, they carry with them the spirit of liberty, of independence and of equality that they communicate to the others; destroy the bonds of discipline and subordination and thereby prepare a revolution, of which the colonies of our neighbors have already furnished some examples, and which the most alert vigilence will not be enough to prevent. 70

Sartine's letter describes a chaotic world where traditional order is overturned: blacks and whites mix and slaves escape their subordination. Given the fact that British colonies in North America had only recently declared their independence from England, Sartine may have

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"There Are No Slaves in France": The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Régime
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - Slavery in France 11
  • Conclusion 22
  • 2 - The Case of Jean Boucaux V. Verdelin 23
  • Conclusion 39
  • 3 - The Impact of the Declaration of 1738: Nantes, La Rochelle, and Paris 41
  • Conclusion 54
  • 4 - Notions of Race in the Eighteenth Century 57
  • Conclusion 70
  • 5 - Crisis: Blacks in the Capital, 1762 72
  • Conclusion 87
  • 6 - Antislavery and Antidespotism: 1760-1771 88
  • Conclusion 105
  • 7 - The Police Des Noirs, 1776-1777 106
  • Conclusion 119
  • 8 - Erosion of the Police Des Noirs 121
  • Conclusion 134
  • Epilogue 137
  • Notes 141
  • Bibliography 189
  • Index 201
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