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Slavery in the French Colonies: Le Code Noir (the Black Code) of 1685

Snippets from a very interesting article by Kelly Buchanan about slavery in the French colonies and the French law which were fixed in "The Black Code" in 1685 and remained in force for 163 years.
Published on 22 Sept. 2018

Kelly Buchanan for: In Custodia Legis, The Library of Congress Blog


“Although published two years after his death, the Black Code is usually attributed, at least in spirit, to Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the famous Minister of Louis XIV. Colbert, known as a great financier, the founder of the French Navy, and the reorganizer of French commerce and industry, was also a remarkable jurist (as noted in the book Great Jurists of the World). He was at the origin of the codifying ordinances adopted during the reign of Louis XIV such as the Civil Ordinance, the Criminal Ordinance, the Commerce Ordinance, and the Navy Ordinance. The Colonial Ordinance of 1685, best known as the “Black Code,” was the last one to be prepared during his Ministry and may have been completed by his son, the Marquis de Seignelay. Although subsequent decrees modified some of its provisions, the gist of the Code remained in place until 1848.

The Code’s sixty articles regulated the life, death, purchase, religion, and treatment of slaves by their masters in all French colonies. It provided that the slaves should be baptized and educated in the Catholic faith. It prohibited masters from making their slaves work on Sundays and religious holidays. It required that slaves be clothed and fed and taken care of when sick. It prohibited slaves from owning property and stated that they had no legal capacity. It also governed their marriages, their burials, their punishments, and the conditions they had to meet in order to gain their freedom.”

Snippets from a very interesting article by Kelly Buchanan about slavery in the French colonies and the French law which were fixed in “The Black Code” in 1685 and remained in force for 163 years.

>>> Slavery in the French Colonies: Le Code Noir (the Black Code) of 1685, by Kelly Buchanan (In Custodia Legis, The Library of Congress Blog, January 13, 2011)

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