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Extracts from the Black Code, 1685.


On the subject of the Discipline & Trade
of Negro Slaves in the Islands
of French America.
On the subject of the Discipline of Negro
Slaves in the Islands of French America.
Done at Versailles in the month of March 1685.

Louis, by the grace of God, King of France and Navarre: to all those, present & to those to come, Greetings. In that we must equally care for all people that Divine Providence has put under our tutelage, we have agreed to examine the reports that were sent by our Officers from our Islands in America, by which we were informed of their need for our authority & our justice in order to maintain the discipline of the Catholic, Apostolic &


Roman faith & to regulate what concerns the condition & status of the slaves in our said Islands, & desiring to settle these issues & inform them that, even though they reside infinitely far from our normal abode, we are always present for them, not only through the reach of our power but also by the promptness of our help toward their needs. FOR THESE REASONS, and on the advice of our Council & with our certain knowledge, absolute power & royal authority, we have declared, ruled, & ordered, and declare, rule, & order, that the following pleases us:

II. All Slaves, that shall be in our islands, shall be baptized & instructed in the


Catholic, Apostolic and Roman faith. We enjoin the inhabitants who shall purchase newly-arrived Negroes to inform the Governors & Intendants of the said islands within eight days, or risk being fined an arbitrary amount. They shall give the necessary orders to have them instructed & baptized within a suitable amount of time.[...]


VI. We enjoin all our subjects, of whatever status they may be, to observe Sundays & Holidays that are observed by our subjects of the Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic faith. We forbid them to work, or to make their slaves work, on the said days, from midnight until the following midnight, whether at cultivating the soil, manufacturing sugar, & all other work, at the risk of a fine & an arbitrary punishment against the masters. [...]


XII. Children born from marriages between Slaves, shall be Slaves, & will be the property of the Masters of the women slaves, & not of the masters of their husbands, if the husband & the wife belong to different masters. [...]

XIV. Masters will be required to bury on Holy land in cemeteries designated for this purpose, their baptized Slaves; & as regards those who die without having received the sacrament of Baptism, they will be buried in the night in some field neighbouring the location where they died.


XLIV. We declare Slaves to be movables, & as such enter into Community property.

Source: Roi de France, "The status of slaves, according to the Collection of Regulations, Edicts, Declarations and Decrees: Regarding Commerce, the Administratoin of Justice, & the Policing of French Colonies in America and Indentured Servents, with the Black Code and Additions to the Said Code" (Paris: Chez les Libraires Associez (1685), 1745).

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