Code Noir


Code Noir
The Code Noir, 1742 edition.

The Code noir (French pronunciation: [kɔd nwaʁ], Black Code) was a decree passed by France's King Louis XIV in 1685. The Code Noir defined the conditions of slavery in the French colonial empire, restricted the activities of free Negroes, forbade the exercise of any religion other than Roman Catholicism, and ordered all Jews out of France's colonies. The code has been described by Tyler Stovall as "one of the most extensive official documents on race, slavery, and freedom ever drawn up in Europe."[1]

Contents

Context

Louis XIV wanted to increase his power in the colonies. The Code Noir was one of the many laws inspired by Jean-Baptiste Colbert. At that time in the Caribbean, Jews were mostly active in the Dutch colonies, so their presence was seen as a Dutch influence. Also at that time, the majority of the population of the French Caribbean were slaves and slave revolts were frequent.

Summary

In 60 articles,[2] the document specified that:

  • Jews could not reside in the French colonies (art. 1)
  • slaves must be baptized in the Roman Catholic Church (art. 2)
  • the exercise of any religion other than Catholicism was forbidden (art. 3)
  • slave masters must be Roman Catholic (art. 4)
  • non-Catholic colonial subjects must not interfere with the Catholic practices of other subjects (art. 5)
  • all colonial subjects and slaves must observe Catholic holidays regardless of their own faith, and no one must work on Sundays and on holidays (art. 6)
  • slave markets must not be held on Catholic holidays (art. 7)
  • only Catholic marriages would be recognized (art. 8)
  • white men would be fined for having children with slave concubines owned by another man, as would the slave concubine's master. If the man engaged in sexual relations with a slave was the master of the slave concubine, the slave and any resulting children would be removed from his ownership. If a free, unmarried black man should have relations with a slave owned by him, he should then be married to the slave concubine, thus freeing her and any resulting child from slavery (art. 9)
  • weddings between slaves must be carried out only with the masters' permission (art. 10). Slaves must not be married without their own consent (art. 11)
  • children born between married slaves were also slaves, belonging to the female slave's master (art. 12)
  • children between a male slave and a female free woman were free ; children between a female slave and a free man were slaves (art. 13)
  • slaves must not carry weapons except under permission of their masters for hunting purposes (art. 15)
  • slaves belonging to different masters must not gather at any time under any circumstance (art. 16)
  • slaves should not sell sugar cane, even with permission of their masters (art. 18)
  • slaves should not sell any other commodity without permission of their masters (art. 19 - 21)
  • masters must give food (quantities specified) and clothes to their slaves, even to those who were sick or old (art. 22 - 27)
  • (unclear) slaves could testify but only for information (art. 30-32)
  • a slave who struck his or her master, his wife, mistress or children would be executed (art. 33)
  • fugitive slaves absent for a month should have their ears cut off and be branded. For another month their hamstring would be cut and they would be branded again. A third time they would be executed (art. 38)
  • free blacks who harbour fugitive slaves would be beaten by the slave owner and fined 300 pounds of sugar per day of refuge given; other free people who harbour fugitive slaves would be fined 10 livres tournois per day (art. 39)
  • (unclear) a master who falsely accused a slave of a crime and had the slave put to death would be fined (art. 40)
  • masters may chain and beat slaves but may not torture nor mutilate them (art. 42)
  • masters who killed their slaves would be punished (art. 43)
  • slaves were community property and could not be mortgaged, and must be equally split between the master's inheritors, but could be used as payment in case of debt or bankruptcy, and otherwise sold (art. 44 - 46, 48 - 54)
  • slave husband and wife (and their prepubescent children) under the same master were not to be sold separately (art. 47)
  • slave masters 20 years of age (25 years without parental permission) may free their slaves (art. 55)
  • slaves who were declared to be sole legatees by their masters, or named as executors of their wills, or tutors of their children, should be held and considered as freed slaves (art. 56)
  • freed slaves were French subjects, even if born elsewhere (art. 57)
  • freed slaves had the same rights as French colonial subjects (art. 58,59)
  • fees and fines paid with regards to the Code Noir must go to the royal administration, but one third would be assigned to the local hospital (art. 60)

See also

References

  1. ^ Stovall, p. 205.
  2. ^ Full text of the "Code Noir"
  • Édit du Roi, Touchant la Police des Isles de l'Amérique Française (Paris, 1687), 28–58. [1]
  • Le Code noir (1685) [2]
  • The "Code Noir" (1685), translated by John Garrigus, Professor of History [3]
  • Tyler Stovall, "Race and the Making of the Nation: Blacks in Modern France." In Michael A. Gomez, ed. Diasporic Africa: A Reader. New York: New York University Press. 2006.

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