Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie française de l’isle Saint-Domingue: avec des observations générales sur la population, sur le caractère & les moeurs de ses divers habitans, sur son climat, sa culture, ses productions, son administration (Topographic description, physical, civil, and political history of the French part of the island Santo Domingo: with general observations on the population, on the character and manners of its various inhabitants, its climate, its culture, production, administration)

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy on 2013-10-10 02:27Z by Steven

Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie française de l’isle Saint-Domingue: avec des observations générales sur la population, sur le caractère & les moeurs de ses divers habitans, sur son climat, sa culture, ses productions, son administration  (Topographic description, physical, civil, and political history of the French part of the island Santo Domingo: with general observations on the population, on the character and manners of its various inhabitants, its climate, its culture, production, administration.)

Chez l’auteu
1797-1798
2 volumes : 2 ill., maps (engravings) ; 26 cm. (4to)
856 pages

M. L. E. Moreau de Saint-Méry (Médéric Louis Élie Moreau de Saint-Méry) (1750-1819)

From The John Carter Brown Library: The mixing of races in Saint Domingue occasioned a plethora of commentaries, mostly venomous and polemical, on the causes and consequences of the colony’s multiracial order. The most famous of these commentaries, though not the most polemical, was by Moreau de Saint-Méry, the colonial jurist and historian whose writings on Saint-Domingue are still a major resource for contemporary scholars. In volume one of his Description, Moreau counted and categorized 11 racial combinations in the colony. He argued that ancestry should be traced back seven generations and hence ultimately comprised 128 combinations. The “science” of skin color received one of its earliest formulations in this work, completed in 1789. Moreau was himself the father of a mixed-race child by his mulatto mistress.

Read the entire book here.

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Race, Reproduction and Family Romance in Moreau de Saint-Mery’s Description. ..de la partie francaise de l’isle Saint Domingue

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery on 2011-11-08 04:41Z by Steven

Race, Reproduction and Family Romance in Moreau de Saint-Mery’s Description. ..de la partie francaise de l’isle Saint Domingue

Eighteenth-Century Studies
Volume 38, Number 2, Winter 2005
pages 227-246
DOI: 10.1353/ecs.2005.0008

Doris Lorraine Garraway, Associate Professor of French
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

This paper analyzes the colonial jurist and historian Moreau de Saint-Méry’s racial classification system with an aim to disclose its ideology of family romance and reproduction. By examining the sexual allegory implicit in the tabular demonstration of métissage, I argue that Moreau’s racial science represents a sexual fantasy for white colonials whose libertine practices threatened the fragile demographic balance of colonial society. Moreau de Saint-Méry revises Enlightenment ideas about racial degeneration and infertility to arrive at an original hypothesis for the biological reproduction of colonial humanity, one that places the control of such procreation squarely in the hands of white men.

The publication in 1797 of the colonial jurist and historian Médéric-Louis-Élie Moreau de Saint-Méry’s Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie française de l’isle Saint-Domingue represented a milestone in Enlightenment racial theory. Within the first volume of the encyclopedic account of the colony on the eve of the Haitian Revolution, there appeared a systematic classification of human variety in the colonies, unprecedented in its scope and detail. Expanding on previous taxonomies of De Pauw and Hilliard d’Auberteuil, and borrowing from eighteenth-century innovations in algebra and statistics, Moreau devised an exhaustive tabular, arithmetic and narrative typology of “nuances of the skin” along a continuum between white and black. Comprising nearly twenty pages, this attempt to delineate and classify human color variation in the colony of Saint-Domingue represented much more than an experiment in Enlightenment rationality or the science of amalgamation. By meticulously theorizing the genealogical progression between black and white, Moreau de Saint-Méry fixated on the one difference that carried political consequences in Saint-Domingue—that between white and non-white, or “sang-mêlé” (mixed-blood).

In the decades leading up to the Haitian Revolution, whites faced increasing challenges to their economic and political supremacy from the growing class of free people of color. As established slaveholders, planters, entrepreneurs, skilled laborers, artisans, and military leaders, they had acquired considerable wealth and property in land and slaves. As such, they aspired to the same political recognition and elite titles and offices held by whites. While mulatto activists such as Julien Raymond traveled to Paris to petition the royal government on behalf of free people of color, those at home sought to improve their position by building social networks, sending their children to be educated in France, adhering to French moral codes regarding marriage and legitimacy, and, in some cases, marrying their daughters to white men. The social ambitions of free people of color did little to quell the long-standing controversy over the prevalence of interracial sexual relationships in Saint-Domingue. In addition to engaging in sexual relations with slave women, elite white men frequently sought free women of color to serve as ménagères, their live-in housekeepers and lovers. In the late eighteenth century, colonial writers sensationalized mulatto women as icons of sensual pleasure and sexual excess, figures both loved and blamed for the luxury, indebtedness and moral laxity of the colony. Yet this stereotype concealed the fact that free women of color were among the most entrepreneurial and financially independent women in the colony, owing to their connections to white benefactors and their prevalence in urban marketing and commerce. While interracial marriage was never officially outlawed in the colony, the colonial leadership made many attempts to suppress the practice and in the end settled for a series of punitive measures against “misallied” white men. More difficult to control, however, was the massive increase in the population of free people of color in the last decades of French rule. In the two decades prior to the revolution, their numbers increased at nearly twice the rate of whites in the same period, such that by 1789 each population amounted to approximately 30,000 persons.

Faced with the population increase, social ambition, wealth and political demands of free people of color, the white elite responded with an extraordinarily oppressive regime of racially exclusionary laws intended to halt their advancement. Free people of color were forbidden to wear luxurious clothing, take the name of a white person, carry arms, practice certain professions and hold public office. By 1785, Moreau de Saint-Méry had become a leading figure of colonial jurisprudence. Born in 1750 to the white Creole elite of Martinique, Moreau had risen through the ranks of the magistrature to become a counselor on the Superior Court in Cap-Français, Saint-Domingue, and premier historian of colonial law. He was also a prominent figure of the colonial Enlightenment, holding memberships in the colonial Chamber of Agriculture and the Cercle des Philadelphes, later named the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences. This organization made Cap-Français a center of scientific debate, comparable in its time to Philadelphia and Boston. Moreau’s rise in the colonies was concomitant with his growing notoriety on the French political and cultural scene. In the 1780s, he took a leading role in the pre-revolutionary assemblies in Paris as a spokesperson for the colonial elite, arguing polemically against mulatto rights and the proposals of the Société des Amis des noirs. His address of May 12, 1791 provoked Robespierre’s famous speech calling for the end of the colonies should they compromise revolutionary principles…

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The whole being of a mulâtresse is given over to sensual pleasure…

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes, Women on 2011-11-08 02:07Z by Steven

The whole being of a mulâtresse is given over to sensual pleasure and the flame of this goddess burns in her heart so as only to be snuffed out with life itself… Even the most inflamed imagination can conceive of nothing that she has not fathomed, concocted, experienced. Her sole vocation is to bewitch the senses, deliver them to the most delicious ecstasies, enrapture them with the most seductive temptations; nature, pleasure’s accomplice, has given her charms, endowments, inclinations, and what is indeed more dangerous, the ability to enjoy such sensations even more keenly than her partners, including some unknown to Sappho.

Moreau de Saint-Méry, Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie Française de l’isle Saint-Domingue, (1797): 104.

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Redrawing the Color Line: Gender and the Social Construction of Race in Pre-Revolutionary Haiti

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, Media Archive, Slavery, Social Science on 2011-11-07 22:12Z by Steven

Redrawing the Color Line: Gender and the Social Construction of Race in Pre-Revolutionary Haiti

Journal of Caribbean History
Volume 30, Numbers 1 & 2 (1996)
pages 28-50

John D. Garrigus, Associate Professor of History
University of Texas, Austin

This article examines the social and political construction of race in French colonial Saint-Domingue. After 1763 white elites redefined the category “free coloured” using negative images of femininity rooted in French political discourse. This engendering of racial stereotypes solidified a racial hierarchy that whites found alarmingly fluid. Planters’ councils and the governors they opposed evoked images of sexually powerful women and effeminized men to explain colonial despotism and disorder. In the late 1780s, however, free men of colour deliberately asserted their civic virtue and virility, challenging these stereotypes and eventually destroying the colonial racial hierarchy.

By 1789 French Saint Domingue was home to the largest, wealthiest, and most self-confident free population of African descent in the Americas. Comprising close to half the colony’s free population, these gens de couleur won civil equality with whites from the French Legislative Assembly in April 1792 and their political demands helped produce the Haitian Revolution. Why did such an extraordinary population emerge in this colony?

This article contends that the size, wealth, and self-confidence of this group were partly the result of new social and legal definitions of race formulated in Saint-Domingue after 1763. As this frontier society became the centerpiece of the French empire after the Seven Years’ War, prejudice established a deep and apparently permanent gulf between “whites” and “people of colour.” This new legal and social discrimination was deeply influenced by politicized French gender stereotypes, which whites used to reinforce a new, biological conception of racial difference. Old colonial families were relabeled gens de couleur. After 1769 whites considered free people of mixed African/European descent to be not merely “between” whites and blacks, but morally and physically inferior to both races. This exaggeration of the difference between white and brown colonists reinforced the ambiguous category “free people of colour” and served as an effective target during the French Revolution for wealthy “mulattos” and “quadroons” eager to claim full citizenship.

At the heart of the new racism were conflicts over Saint-Domingue’s political and cultural identity. After the Seven Years’ War new immigration from Europe and the increasingly “civilized” tone of elite colonial society raised the question of how “French” Saint-Domingue could become. Could a slave plantation colony produce a civic-minded public of the sort said to be emerging in France at this time? Many colonial planters, magistrates, and merchants wanted to believe it could. These elites appropriated metropolitan political discourse to explain why free Dominguan society differed from France. After the Seven Years’ War they began to describe free men and women of colour as passionate, narcissistic, and parasitic, terms used in France to vilify powerful women at court. This redirected and highly politicised misogyny helped solidify the ambiguous category gens de couleur, placing these families and individuals firmly outside respectable colonial society. The new image of people of mixed ancestry answered troubling questions about white behaviour in Saint-Domingue and seemed to guarantee that an orderly, rational colonial public could emerge. Grafting a stereotyped effeminacy onto emerging biological notions of race legitimised the disenfranchising of free people of colour, some of whom were indistinguishable from “whites” in wealth, education, distance from slavery, even physical appearance. In Saint-Domingue’s rough-and-tumble seventeenth-century buccaneer society, race was not the obsession it would later become. Early censuses did not distinguish between “whites” and “mulattoes,” but between free and enslaved residents. Before the massive importation of slaves for sugar work, children of mixed African/European descent were apparently considered free from birth. Even in 1685, the metropolitan authors of France’s slave law, the Code Noir, were more concerned about sin than race and racial mixture. The Code ordered colonial officials to confiscate mixed-race children and slave concubines from their owners, but stated that if a master married his slave mistress, she would be automatically free, as would the children of their union. Under the original terms of the Code Noir, ex-slaves enjoyed all the rights of French subjects…

For example, as he charted the somatic varieties produced by different combinations of African and European “blood,” Moreau also described distinct moral qualities. Blacks were strong and passionate while whites were graceful and intelligent. Therefore, mulattoes, who were one-half black, were stronger than quarterons, who were only one-quarter African. According to Moreau, African appetites for physical pleasure were especially pronounced when combined with white qualities. Mulattoes lived for sexual gratification, and the offspring of a mulatto and a black had a “temperament impossible to contain.”

Convinced that black women had strong psychological and physical inclinations to be mothers, Moreau believed that mulatto and quadroon women had difficulty giving birth, due to their physical and moral deficiencies. Men of mixed descent were similarly flawed. Mulattos were often intelligent and attractive, but they were lazy, beardless, foppish, and sensual, according to Moreau. Nor did free coloured military service challenge this image:

It seems that then [in the ranks a mulatto] loses his laziness, but all the world knows that a soldier’s life, in the leisure it provides, has attractions for indolent men … A mulatto soldier will appear exactly to the calls of day, perhaps even to those of the evening, but it is in vain that one tries to restrict his liberty at night; [the night|] belongs to pleasure and he will not indenture it, no matter what commitments he has made elsewhere…

Read the entire article here.

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Redeeming the “Character of the Creoles”: Whiteness, Gender and Creolization in Pre-Revolutionary Saint Domingue

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery on 2010-10-09 20:05Z by Steven

Redeeming the “Character of the Creoles”: Whiteness, Gender and Creolization in Pre-Revolutionary Saint Domingue

Journal of Historical Sociology
Volume 23, Issue 1 (March 2010)
pages 40–72
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6443.2009.01359.x

Yvonne Fabella, Lecturer of History
University of Pennsylvania

This article examines the political significance of white creolization in pre-revolutionary French Saint Domingue. Eighteenth-century Europeans tended to view white creoles as having physically, morally, and culturally degenerated due to the tropical climate, the monotony of plantation life, and their interaction with enslaved and free people of color. Yet elite white colonists in Saint Domingue claimed that white creoles possessed certain positive traits due to their new world birth, traits that rendered them physically stronger and potentially more virtuous than the French. Focusing on little-known publications authored by the white creole Moreau de Saint-Méry, this article highlights the deployment of gendered notions of virtue and noble savagery in debates over white creolization. Moreau’s claims, when placed in the context of a conflict between local colonial magistrates and the French Colonial Ministry, challenge interpretations of white creolization as an undesirable, subversive side-effect of colonial slavery. Rather, white colonial men claimed that white colonists knew best how to ensure the obedience of the enslaved precisely because of their creolization.

Read the entire article here.

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