Black Code: Promulgated by Louis XIV in 1685, the Black Code ruled the black men slavery
The Code noir initially took shape in Louis XIV’s edict of 1685. Although subsequent decrees modified a few of the code’s provisions, this first document established the main lines for the policing of slavery right up to 1789. The very first article expels all Jews from the colonies; Jews played a significant but hardly dominant role in the Dutch colonies of the Caribbean region but were not allowed to own property or slaves in the French colonies. The edict also insisted that all slaves be instructed as Catholics and not as Protestants. For the most part, the code concentrated on defining the condition of slavery (passing the condition through the mother not the father) and establishing harsh controls over the conduct of those enslaved. Slaves had virtually no rights, though the code did enjoin masters to take care of the sick and old.
IN SEARCH OF THE COUNTRY OF THE HUMAN RIGHT
We want and understand that the law of the late King of glorious memory our lord and father, of the April 23rd 1615, be executed in our islands. We order to all our officers to chase out of our islands all the Jews who have established their home, to who, like to declared enemies of the Christian name, we order to get out within three months, from the day of publication of the law, on pain of confiscation of body and possessions.
All the slaves who will be in our islands will be baptized and educated in the catholic, apostolic and roman church. Order the inhabitants who buy Negroes newly arrived to inform the governor and quartermaster of the islands within eight days the latest, on pain of arbitrary fines; that will give order to baptize and educate them in adequate time.
We forbid public exercise of other religion than the catholic, apostolic and roman one; want that the contravening persons be punished as rebels and disobeying persons to our commandments. Forbid any assembly for this reason, we declare those one as illicit and seditious subject to the same pain, which will be the same even for the masters who let this done by his slaves.
There will no commander to direct the Negroes, who is no of the catholic, apostolic and roman religion, on pain on confiscation of those Negroes against this masters who put a such commander and arbitrary punishment against the commanders who accept this job.
We forbid our subjects of the so-called reformed religion to cause trouble either impediment to our other subjects, even to their slaves in the free exercise of the catholic, apostolic and roman religion, on pain of exemplar punishment.
We enjoin, all our subjects, whatever function and condition they are, to observe the Sundays and holidays; which are kept to our subjects of catholic, apostolic and roman religion. Forbid them to work either to make their slaves work the appointed days, since midnight to other midnight, to culture the land, making sugars and any other work, on pain of arbitrary fine and punishment against the masters, and of confiscation of the sugars as well as the slaves that our officers will see working. [NB: all pretexts are good, to deprive the slaves of weekly rest and holidays.]
We forbid them to hold Negroes market and any kind of goods the appointed days too, on same pain of confiscation of the goods on the market, and arbitrary fine against the merchants.
Declare our subjects who are not of the catholic, apostolic and roman religion incapable to contact in the future any valid marriage. Declare bastards the children who will birth from these conjunctions, that we want to be held and reputed, we hold and repute for real cohabitation.
Free men who had one or several children in their cohabitation, with their slaves, the master and him will be condemned to a fine of two thousand pounds of sugar. And if they are the slave masters with who they had the so-called children, we want that further the fine, they will be deprive of the slave and the children, and she and them be confiscated to profit of the hospital, without any possibility to be emancipated. This article is not valid when the man is free and he is not married to an other person during his cohabitation with the slave, will marry in the church rules his so-called slave, who will be emancipated by this mean, and the slave become free and legal.5in the black code of 1724 (Louisiana): no possible marriage between white and black, banning of celebrate mix marriages for the priests; no cohabitation between whites and blacks emancipated or free, and slaves.]
The so-called solemnity prescribed by the edict of Blois and the declaration of the month of November 1639, for the marriages, will be observes as for free persons as slaves, with nevertheless that the consent of the slave’s father and mother be necessary, but only the master’s. [NB: the slaves who would be constrained to marry by their master have no legal mean to refuse.]
Forbid very expressly the priest to proceed to slaves’ marriages, if they don’t have their masters’ consent. Forbid to the masters to use no compel on their slaves for marry them against their will.
The children who will birth from marriages between slaves will be slaves and will belong to the masters of the slaves women and not to their husband’s one, if the husband and the wife have different masters.
Want if the husband has married a free woman, the children as males as females follow their mother’s condition and be free like her in spite of their father’s servitude; and if the father is free and the mother slave, the children be slave too.
The masters are required to bury in holy land in a cemeteries intended to this aim their baptized slaves; and for those who will die without receive baptism, they will be buried by night in some field close to where they’ll deceased. [NB: the black men “holy land” is quite different to the whites “holy land”.]
Forbid to slaves to carry offensive weapon, either big sticks, on pain of whip and confiscation of the weapons to the benefit of who will seize them; except only those who have been sent hunting by their masters, and will have their notes or know marks.
Forbid also to slaves belonging to different masters to form a crowd by day or night on the pretext of wedding party or otherwise, either at one of their masters or elsewhere, and more less in big paths or place away, on pain of corporal punishment, which will not be less than whip and lily flower; in case of frequent repeat offense and others aggravate circumstances, will be able be punished of death, what we let to the judges arbitration. Enjoin our subjects to hunt for the contravening, and arrest them and lead them in jail, although they are not officers and there is no decree against them.
The masters will be convinced to have let or tolerated such assemblies composed by slaved who don’t belong to them, will be condemned in their own and private names to repair any damage which will be done to their neighbors during these assemblies, in ten ecus fine for first time and twice for subsequent offense.
Forbid the slaves to sell sugar canes for any reason or occasion, even with their masters’ permission, on pain of whip for the slaves, and of ten pounds for the masters who let this and the same for the buyers.
Forbid them too to expose for sell in the market, either bring in the particular houses to sell any kind off foodstuff, even fruits, vegetables, firewood, grasses to feed animals and the products they made, without an express permission of their masters by a note or known marks, on pain of claims of the sold goods, without restriction of price by their masters.
Want for this reason that two persons are in charge of each market to verify the foodstuff and goods that have been brought by the slaves, together the notes and known marks of their masters, the carry.
Permit to all our subjects inhabitants of our islands to seize all the things they’ll find the slaves in charge when don’t have notes of their masters, either known marks, to be delivered very shortly to their masters, if the plantations are close of where the slaves will be surprised at committing offense; or else the things will be very shortly sent to the hospital to held in trust till the masters are informed.
The masters will be obliged to make supply, per each week, their slaves aged of ten more for their food, with two pots and half, measurement of the country, of manioc flour, or three cassavas weighting two pounds and half each at least, or equivalent things, with two pounds of salted beef or three pounds of fish or anything else with same proportion; and the children, since they are weaned till ten years old, the half of provisions above. [NB: the mortality of black people was very important. They were poorly fed. The white people make them work out of their possibilities for more benefits.]
Forbid them to give to the slaves sugar cane brandy for the provisions mentioned in previous article.
Forbid them also to release themselves of the food and subsistence of their slaves, by letting them work some days of the week “to be self-employed”
The masters will be obliged to supply each slaves every years two clothes or four alders of cloth, as so-called masters like. [NB: in fact, the masters don’t care of clothing them.]
The slaves who won’t be fed, clothed and maintained by their masters in accordance with what we have order by the presents rules will be able to give the opinions to general attorney and the memories in his hands, on what and automatically, if the opinions come to him from other persons, the masters will be prosecuted by his petition and without pay anything, what we want to be observed as the masters’ crimes and barbarian and inhuman treatments toward their slaves. [NB: the articles 30 and 31 quash purely and simply the good intentions of the article 26.]
The infirm slaves by age, illness otherwise, either the illness is incurable or non, will be supported and will maintain by their master; and incase they would have neglected themselves them, the so-called slaves will be assigned to the hospital; the masters will condemned to pay six sols by day by days for the food and the maintain of each slave. [NB: the current practice is pure and simple desertion]
Let us declare that the slaves can not have anything which is not belong to their master, and all come them by industry or liberality of other persons or otherwise whatever the way, is acquired in full property to their master, without the slaves’ children, their father or mother, their parents and any free or slave others can lay claim nothing by inheritance, provision of a will between living people or because of death. We declare the such provisions are useless, both all the promises or obligations which would be made, as being made by people legally incompetent to incline and to contract by their own.
Let us want nevertheless that the masters are responsible of what their slaves will make by their commandment, and together for what they’ll will have managed and negotiated in the shops, and the particular kind of trade of which their masters will appoint them; and the case the masters didn’t give any order and didn’t appoint them, they will be responsible only for what will profit to them; and if nothing profit to the masters, the earning of this so-called slaves that their masters permitted them to have will be seized, after the masters will have deduced what will be owed to them; except if the earning is, all or a part of goods which the slaves have been permitted to trade for their own, on what their masters will take only by contribution of a sol for a pound with the other creditors.
The slaves won’t have office neither commission with public functions, neither be constituted agents by others than their masters for manage neither administrate any shop, neither be arbitrators, experts or witnesses in civil and criminal matter. And in case they are listen as witness, their deposition will serve only for memories to help the judges to find out, but those depositions won’t be able to be used to have presumptions, neither circumstances, neither evidences.
The slaves won’t be able to be litigant neither is in judgment in civil matter, in plaintiff or in defendant; neither be private party in criminal matter, except their masters to act and to proceed, and to prosecute for compensations for insults and excess their slaves have been subjected.
The slaves will be prosecuted without the need the master get responsible but only in the case of complicity; and so-called slaves will be judged in first pending by ordinary judges and on appeal by the supreme council on the same pre-trial investigation of the case, with the same procedures than free persons.
The slave, who hit his master, his mistress or his mistress husband or their children with contusion or bloodshed, or at the face, will be punished by death.
And as for the immoderate language or assault which will be committed by slaves against free people, we want that it’s be severely punished, even by death if it’s necessary.
The daylight robberies, even the horses, the mares, the mules, the oxen and the cows one which will be made by slaves, or by emancipated persons, will be punished by corporal pains, even by death if necessary.
The robberies of sheep, goats, pigs, poultry, sugar canes, peas, millet, manioc, or others vegetables made by the slaves will be punished regarding the degree of robbery, by the judges, if they’ll be able if it’s necessary condemn them to be beaten by birch by the enforcer of the great justice, and marked by lily flower.
The masters will be obliged, in case of robbery or other damage caused by their slaves, besides the slaves corporal pains, to right the wrong in their name, if they don’t prefer to abandon the slaves to the one who the wrong has been made; what they have to choose in three days, starting from the day of the sentence, otherwise they will be waned.
The runaway slave who has been on the run during one month starting from the day his master will denounce him to justice, will have the ears cut off and will be marked by lily flower on a shoulder; if he re offends one more time starting from as well as the day of his of the denunciation, will have the ham cut off and will be marked by lily flower on the other shoulder; and the third time he will be punished by death.
Emancipated people who will harbor in their house runaway slaves will be condemned for each one toward their masters in fine of three hundred pounds of sugar by retention day; and the other free people who help them in the same way, in ten pounds of fine for each day.
The slave, punished by death on denunciation of his master, non accomplice of the crime for what he will have been condemned, will be appraised before the execution by two major inhabitants of the island who will be appointed automatically by the judge; and the price of appraisal will be paid to the master; and to satisfy for what, it will be fixed by the quartermaster for each head of Negroes who rights of the amount of money given by the estimation. It will be settled up for each so-called Negroes, and will be levied by the farmer of the western royal property to avoid charges.
It is forbidden to the judges, to our prosecutors, and to the clerks to collect any tax in the criminal trial against the slaves, in pain of misappropriation of public funds.
The masters will have the right, when they’ll estimate it’s necessary, to chain up the slaves and make beat them by sticks and ropes; defend them to torture them, neither make them member mutilations, on pain of confiscation of the slaves and very extraordinarily the masters will be prosecuted. [NB. The reality is that settlers bully, wound, torture, and kill.]
We demand to our officers to prosecute the masters and the commanders who will kill a slave under their power and leadership, and punish the murder regarding the atrocity of the circumstances; and in case the forgiveness it’s necessary, permit our officers to sent back the forgiven masters and commanders, without it’s needing letter of mercy from us.
We declare the slaves be movable, and as such enter the community, can not be seize by mortgage, can be shared equally between co-heirs without possibility for one of them to take a part before the sharing neither birthright, neither to be reserved to their wife before death by the husband, and be subject of feudal or descendants retract, feudal and seigniorial rights, to the formalities of the decrees.
We don’t want to deprive our subjects of the faculty to stipulate them proper to their persons and to their own folks by their side and lineage, as it’s the use for money and other movables things.
In slaves seizures will be fulfilled prescribed formalities by our orders and customs for seizure of movable things. We want that the money which coming from to be distributed by order of the seizures, or, in case of ruin, a sol for a pound, after the privileged debts will have been paid, and generally that the slaves condition to be well-ordered in all matter, as the one of the others movables things, except these cases.
Do not let them be seized and sold separately the husband and the wife with their under age of puberty children, if they are all under the power of the same master; we declare null seizures and separate sale which will be done of them, what we want to take place in voluntary alienations, on punishment against those who would do alienations to be deprived of the one or those they will have kept, who will be awarded to the acquirers, without they would pass to do any supplement of value. [In the practice the master can sell children separately of his parents and to bargain for separately the spouses.]
Do not let them can therefore slaves working now in the sugar-refinery, indigo houses and plantations, age of fourteen years and overhead until sixty years, be seized for debts, otherwise as to will arise of the value of their purchase, or that the sugar-refinery or the indigo house or the plantation where they work would been seized really, we defend, hardly of nullity, to proceed by real seizure and adjudication by decree on the sugar-refineries and indigo houses neither plantations, without comprising in it the slaves of the aforesaid age and there working now.
The judicial farmers of sugar houses, indigo houses or plantations really seized with slaves will have to pay the entire price of their lease: without the possibility to count as the fruits they perceive the slave children born during their lease.
We want, nevertheless all contrary conventions that we declare null, that the so-called children belong to the seized part, if the creditors are satisfied or to the adjudicator if it intervenes a decree; and for that purpose mention, will be done in the last forepart notice before the interposition of the decree, the so-called children born the slaves since the real seizure; that in same notice mention will be done the deceased slaves since the real seizure in which they were counted.
We want to avoid expenses and procedure lengths, that the giving away of entire value of the conjoined fund adjudication and slaves and what will proceed from the value of judicial leases, be done between creditors according to the order of their privileges and mortgages, without distinguishing what is for the fund value of what is for the slaves value.
And nevertheless the feudal and seigniorial rights will be paid only in proportion to the funds price.
It will be only admit to retire the ordered funds, the persons of noble lineage and feudal lords who retire the slaves who have been sold with these funds, neither the purchasers won’t be able to keep the slaves without the funds.
We enjoin to noble guardians and burgesses, persons who rent usufruct and others enjoying of the funds to which are joined who work, to steer the appointed slaves as good paterfamilias without they would pass after their administration to give back the value of those who will be deceased or full-fashioned by illness, age or otherwise without their lack, and without they draw as to hold back as fruits to their profits born of slaves children lasting their administration; who we want be preserved and return to those who will be his masters and proprietors.
The masters of twenty years old will be able to free their slaves by all actions between living persons or because of death, without they would to pass to give reasons of their emancipation, neither that they would need of opinion of their parents, though they would be minor of twenty five years. [Measures will come hereafter to penalize hardly the emancipation]
Slaves who will have been done residuary legatees by their masters, or named executors of their testaments, or guardians of their children, will pass and will consider as free men. [It didn’t ever has been any black guardian neither of mulatto of the whites, and of course, there hasn’t been a black executor or half-breed of the white deceased masters.
We declare their emancipation made in our island serve as them as place of birth in our island, and the emancipated slaves don’t need our letters of naturalization to enjoy our natural subjects advantages in our kingdom, lands and countries of our obedience, even they born in foreign countries.
We command the emancipated persons to respect singularly their ancient masters, their widows and their children; or else the insult they will have made to them be punished more severely than if it has been somebody else. We declare them franc and quit toward them of all other charges, services and useful rights that their ancient masters would like too pretend, both on the persons and properties and succession in quality of bosses.
We grant to the emancipated persons the same rights, privileges and immunity, which enjoy the persons born as free, we want that merit of an acquired freedom produce in them, also as for their persons than for their goods, the same effects as the happiness of the natural freedom causes to our other subjects. [NB: a lot of restrictions will be added: no access to nobility, no access to the “whites class”, no possibility to have a practice in magistrate and in the militia, no job which can make them meet, even far from, the juridical or judicial functions, etc.]
We declare the seizures and fines, which have not particular destination by these present articles, belong to us, to be paid to those who are appointed to the collect of our incomes. We want nevertheless that the third of these so-called confiscation and fine be given to the hospital established in the island where they have been made. We ask the persons who hold our sovereign council established in Martinique, Guadeloupe, saint-Christopher, that they have to make read, publish and register these present articles, and keep and observe point by point in accordance with the form and the term of the content in them, without to agree on neither permit they are contravened in any way, in spite of all edicts, declarations and customs, we have departed and depart from by these present articles. Because it’s our good pleasure; in order to be firm and stable matter forever, we have made append our seal. Given in Versailles in the month of March sixteen eighty-five and our reign the forty-second. Signed Louis. Further, by the King, Colbert. Stamp Le Tellier. And sealed with the great green wax seal, in green and red silk shellac.
Bibliography: le Code Noir, Louis Sala-Molins, Presses Universitaire de France