Compilation of Rules, Edicts, Declarations and Decisions on Trade, the Justice System and the Police in America’s French Colonies. Including the “Code Noir”


In 1717, French finance minister John Law decided to introduce the importation of slaves into the colony of Louisiana, with the goal of developing the plantation economy in Lower Louisiana. The Compagnie des Indes (Company of the Indies) subsequently obtained the monopoly on economic activity in the region and between 1719 and 1743 imported approximately 6,000 slaves to the colony. To regulate relations between slaves and colonists, the Louisiana Code noir, or slave code, was introduced in 1724. Based largely on the code compiled in 1685 for the French colonies in the Caribbean, its 55 articles regulated the status of slaves and free blacks, as well as relations between masters and slaves. Contrary to the edict of 1685, it prohibited marriage and sexual relations between persons of European and African ancestry. It also specified the corporal punishments for cases of theft or escape. As in the Caribbean, the Code noir was frequently subverted and contravened. With the complicity of local authorities and royal courts, many planters put the code into effect only when it was convenient for them. They were obligated to instruct their slaves in the Catholic faith, to furnish them with food and clothing, and to allow them Sundays and holidays off. Planters were forbidden from mistreating their slaves. Certain planters, however, acted with extreme harshness toward their slaves. Others granted their slaves relative liberty of action, allowing them, for example, to raise chickens or pigs, to cultivate small individual plots of land, and even occasionally to possess firearms. Presented here is the 1744‒45 version of the Code noir, which includes the code of 1724 and such additions and amendments as were made in the following two decades.

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Recueils de reglemens, edits, declarations et arrets, concernant le commerce, l'administration de la justice et la police des colonies françaises de l'Amérique. Avec le Code noir et l'Addition audit Code

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Last updated: November 20, 2015