Crisis: Blacks in the Capital, 1762
Although the Declaration of 1738 had remained unregistered by the Parlement of Paris and the Admiralty Court of France, the Admiralty clerk complied with one of the law's provisions: he duly recorded the declarations of slave owners who brought their slaves to Paris. 1 These declarations perhaps reflect only a small portion of blacks living in Paris, but they nevertheless offer a wealth of information about these individuals. 2 The purpose of this chapter is to assess the size and the sociological makeup of Paris' black population, as well as the administration's efforts to control the growth of this group.
Between 1738 and 1776, the number of blacks registered in Paris increased gradually, with no more than thirty registered in any given year, except 1762. One factor in the increasing presence of blacks in France was the Seven Year's War ( 1756-1763), which interfered with ocean passage and prevented many colonists from returning to the colonies with their slaves. Many of the declarations of this period state that the masters intend to return their blacks to the colonies "as soon as navigation is free." This long interlude--almost a decade--may have accustomed slave owners to keeping blacks in France as servants.
In the year 1762 alone, however, 159 blacks were registered in Paris. The reason for this sudden increase lies, in part, with another court case. The case of Louis v. Jean Jacques Le Fevre (or "Febre") spurred the officers of the Admiralty of France to draft an ordinance that required all blacks in Paris, free and enslaved, to be registered by the Admiralty's