The Métis of Senegal: Urban Life and Politics in French West Africa

By Hilary Jones | Go to book overview

3
Religion, Marriage, and Material Culture

On Saturday, 22 June 1889, at nine in the morning, Mayor Charles Molinet pronounced Hyacinthe Devès and Charlotte Crespin married at the town hall in Saint Louis. The marriage act read:

Sir Jean Lazare Hyacinthe Devès, licensed in law, commercial agent, and
General Councilor
[author’s emphasis], age 29 years and a half and born in
Saint Louis, Senegal on the 13th of November 1858, living here as the adult
and legitimate son of Pierre Gaspard Devès, wholesale merchant and prop-
erty-owner
and Dame Madeleine Fatma (Tamba) Daba Daguissery, without
profession
both residing in Saint Louis presents and consents to the marriage
of their son, of one part and demoiselle Charlotte Louise Crespin, without
profession
, age 25, born on the island of Matacong (Sierra Leone) on March 3,
1864 and residing in Saint Louis as the single adult and legitimate daughter
of Jean Jacques Crespin, conseil commissionné, General Councilor and Dame
Hannah Isaacs, without profession, presents and consents to the marriage of
their daughter on the other part.1

The civil marriage between Hyacinthe Devès and Charlotte Crespin legitimized their union in the eyes of the French state. It confirmed their adherence to the legal and cultural expectations of French marriage, family, and religion. A closer reading suggests that families who opted for unions that conformed to French law and the teachings of the Church rather than marriage à la mode du pays understood the official act in other ways. Declaring one’s marriage in the civil registry strengthened claims to citizenship and conveyed respectability on the individuals and their families. Marriage, moreover, had a direct bearing on the field of electoral politics. The DevèsCrespin marriage occurred at a key moment in the formation of a political alliance between Jean Jacques Crespin and Gaspard Devès. Madeleine and Gaspard Devès made their mariage à la mode du pays official less than a

-73-

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