Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Code Noir


Taken from The History of the Island of Trinidad under the Spanish Government
By Pierre-Gustave-Louis Borde

The Royal Cedula for Colonisation

The Code Noir
(1779-1784)

Governors of the Period:
Don Martin de Salaverría
Don Juan Francisco Machado
Don Antonio Barreto

As soon as he had been relieved of his duties as a judge, Roume de Saint Laurent hastened to proceed to Trinidad in order to supervise the work on his properties, and in consultation with the Governor, to try to urge by all possible means, the colonization of the island. On this occasion he was accompanied by a good many of his comptatriots, among whom were three of his intimate friends, Mr. Dominique Dert, Mr. Étienne Noël and Mr. Picot de Lapéyrouse.[i] It was the latter who established the first sugar factory in the island, on lands which today form the cemetery in Port of Spain, and which continues to bear his name.

As was to be expected, Spain had not yet made any decree on the memorandum of the Coloniser, but she had however, taken administrative measures which proved her preoccupation with the interests of the colonists of the island. She had doubled the administration of government, and had appointed two governors, one of whom was concerned entirely with civil and commercial matters, and the other with purely military affairs. The civil governor was entirely independent of the military governor, and consequently he was concerned only with the progress of the colonisation of the island. Spain had appointed to this superior post Don Martin de Salaverrîa, who was the sub-delegate of the Intendant at Caracas and only the sinecure of military government was left (13th April 1779) to Don Manuel Falquez. But on the arrival of the dispatch on the 21st August 1779,[ii] Don Manuel Falquez had already been dead for over a month, and therefore Don Rafael Delgado, who was commanding the troops, took over the military government. The new civil and commercial governor was a gentle and affable man, and at the same time, he was extremely able and had the prosperity of the island very much at heart.[iii] In the negotiations which this Governor had with Roume de Saint Laurent, the latter had no trouble in winning him over to his ideas. The one difficulty however, was to get the metropolitan government of Spain to accept their proposals, and this, in the opinion of the Governor, was a considerable one. To overcome this, he considered that the aid of the Intendant at Caracas was indispensable, and he urged Saint Laurent to go to Caracas to explain the details of his plan, and to get him to approve it. As a preliminary step, and in order to gain the confidence of this high official, it was agreed that Saint Laurent should go in person to the smaller islands with the object of recruiting the inhabitants to come to Trinidad. Complying with this arrangement, Phillipe Rose Roume de Saint Laurent was appointed Alcade of the First Election for the year 1780, and in this capacity he was authorised by a decree from the Governor, dated 29th April 1780, to proceed to the French islands, and furnished with a copy of the Royal Decree granted by His Majesty the King of Spain, which was translated into French and English, he was to invite the French and Irish inhabitants to establish themselves in Trinidad.[iv]
On returning from his voyage, which had not resulted in matters of much importance to the country, he had however, been able to recruit a number of French families over and above the previous ones.[v] When he arrived in Trinidad, he received the sad news that during his absence his friend Dominique Dert had been put into prison. Mr. Dert had set up a coffee plantation near to the sugar factory of Mr. de Lapéyrouse on a site which is today occupied by the road which bears his name (Dert Street). One night his young coffee trees were destroyed by a horse belonging to the military Governor. He impounded the horse and refused to return it without receiving compensation for the damage which the animal had caused. Don Rafael Delgado refused to consider such a claim, and Mr. Dert persisted in retaining possession of the animal. Thereupon, he was arrested by the military Governor, in spite of protests from the civil Governor, Don Martin de Salaverría. Roume de Saint Laurent found great public indignation aroused by this arbitrary act, and in consequence the colonization of the island was seriously compromised. Owing to his friendship with Mr. Dert, and actuated by a desire to settle such a delicate matter, he took the affair in hand, but without success. The bad-tempered and brutal military Governor would not consent to release the prisoner unless he apologized very humbly, and the prisoner, considering that he had done nothing reprehensible, refused to submit to this humiliation. Having reached this point, the difficulty could not be settled except by the superior authority of the Captain General in Caracas, and Roume de Saint Laurent, on the advice of Governor Salaverría, took the opportunity of going to Caracas and submitting to the Intendant, Done José de Abalos, his plan for colonization, and asking for his approval of it.[vi]
The Coloniser left for Caracas accompanied by his friend Mr. Noël and Mr. de Lapéyrouse. He had no difficulty in obtaining full and entire justice from the Captain General. Don Rafael Delgado was thrown out and declared incapable of occupying any other appointment in government.[vii] Don Juan Francisco Machado was appointed to succeed him on 31st March 1781.[viii] With the Intendant, the Coloniser had equal success. The writer whom we follow here says, that Saint Laurent had such a very strong and attractive personality in his role of a prospective planter of a colony in what was then a desert, that it was easy for him to communicate his enthusiasm to such a benevolent man as Don José de Abalos. With an easy eloquence, he showed how Trinidad, which was so important for the military establishments and commerce of Spain, was an island which was gradually stagnating. He also pointed out the dangers and privations which would have to be endured by foreign colonists who were to establish themselves there, and the necessity of offering them advantages to cover the risks and perils which they would be undertaking. He said that it was only under such conditions that one could hope to colonise the island within a reasonable time. The Intendant, who was already impressed by these ideas, studied the memorandum with much care. He was struck by such a splendid project, and promised to give it his support when sending it to the Court in Spain, seeing that it already had the approval of the two Governors, Falquez and Salaverrîa. However, he raised only two objections of detail, and to which Saint Laurent felt that he had to agree in order to obtain the approval in principal of his plan. The objections raised were on the subject of the introduction of French priests, and about the equality of advantages granted to foreign colonists, both white and coloured.[ix]
Roume de Saint Laurent returned to Trinidad with the hope that the support given to him by the Intendant would finally lead to the acceptance of the plan of colonization which he had drawn up and submitted to the Court in Spain, at least four years ago. Nevertheless, nothing happened, and after he had waited anxiously until the end of that year, he decided with the approval of Don José de Abalos, to proceed to Spain for the purpose of stimulating the colonial zeal of the Minister, and for coming to an understanding with him. In order to get together the necessary funds for such a long voyage, he was obliged to dispose of all his possessions and turn them into money, and he left his family in the charge of his mother. No consideration of personal interest was allowed to be an obstacle in his devotion to his new country. He paid a second visit to Caracas in order to get letters of recommendation from the Intendant, and also to obtain favourable reports on his project, and following this, eh ambarked for Europe in the beginning of 1782.[x] After a successful voyage, he arrived in France and proceeded to Paris where he submitted his colonization plan to the Spanish Ambassador, with a view to obtaining from him as well, his approval and recommendations. It will be seen that the Coloniser neglected nothing which might help the success of his enterprise. The Spanish ambassador at that time, was the illustrious Count d’Aranda, the previous minister who had advised the King to adopt a liberal political attitude towards this matter in view of the coming independence of the New England Provinces, and the revolutionary influence which this independence brought about in the Spanish possessions in the New World. He gave a very favourable welcome to the project of the colonization of the Spanish islands through the admission of foreign Catholics, and gave his support to the Coloniser. He advised him about the line of conduct which he should follow in order to conciliate the Minister in Spain, and to get him to agree to his plan without losing too much time. It is said[xi] that he carried his good will to the point of urging him to lose no time in taking these steps, because he knew that in the peace treaty which was about to be negotiated, England was proposing to demand the island of Trinidad in exchange for Gibraltar.
Armed with these recommendations and information, Roume de Saint Laurent arrived in Madrid. There he had no difficulty in getting an interview with the Minister, and it did not take him long to gain his interest with the same facility with which he had been able to get approval from all others to whom he had submitted his plans. All the advantages which had been agreed upon with the Intendant at Caracas were liberally granted in support of the foreign Catholic emigration, and particularly those accorded to the French colonists, which as was right, was his particular aim. In a short time there was not much more to be done than to undertake the legal recording of these advantages, but the Minister would not consent to give them the force of law until after the conclusion of peace. While waiting for the Peace Treaty, which was being negotiated at Versailles, St. Laurent occupied his time in establishing business relations between Europe and Trinidad. To this end he visited the principal towns of commerce, both in France and Spain, where he succeeded in establishing business connections in favour of many of his friends in the island. Everywhere he spoke so favourably about the commercial and agricultural advantages of the country, that he persuaded many wealthy European merchants and others to acquire land there.[xii] At last the Peace Treaty was signed on 3rd September 1783 at Versailles, and immediately after this, the Court at Madrid took up the duty of making the necessary administrative changes for the new colonial organisation in the island. By a ministerial decree dated 18th October 1783, the Governor Don Martin de Salaverría was promoted to another post, and Governor Don Juan Francisco Machado was appointed to administer provisionally, both the civil and military government of the island, whilst awaiting the arrival of the naval Captain Don José María Chacon, who had been appointed Captain General, and whose mission it was to carry out the plan of colonization which had been adopted by the Royal Court of Spain.[xiii]
On the 24th November 1783 the colonization plan was legally formulated and was duly stamped with the Royal Seals at the Palace of San Lorenzo. The foreword of the Cedula states that, in the instructions given on the 3rd September 1776 to Captain Don Manuel Falquez on his nomination as Governor of the Island of Trinidad de Barlovento, and in the commission delivered to Don José de Abalos when he was invested as Intendant of Caracas, regulations were then established and privileges accorded for the advancement of the population and commerce of the island. Now, on the demand of the said Intendant, and on the representations of foreign colonists who were already established on the island, as well as for those who were desirous of establishing themselves there, it had become necessary to make more complete regulations. This declaration of intended policy is followed by a document of twenty-eight articles as follows:
The first prescribes that every new colonist of a foreign friendly nation, already established in the island or desirous of doing so, should prove his quality as a Roman Catholic. Those exempted from this regulation were the Spaniards, either from Europe or the Indies, as in their case no doubt exists about their religion.
The second insists that foreign colonists shall take the oath of allegiance to the King of Spain, and undertake to obey the laws of the Indies. In return for this, they were given a free and perpetual title to lands which they were authorized to possess under the provision of the following article.
The third provides that every white colonist of either sex has a right to four fanegas and two sevenths, or ten squares of land[xiv] (or 32 acres in English measurements), and half of this amount for every slave which he shall bring into the island. It recommended an equal distribution of these lands so that the good, middling and bad should be equally divided among all; and it prescribed the recording of each one of these concessions of land in the Libro Becerro de Poblacion, (the Register of Population), together with the name of the concessionaire colonist, the date of his admission, the number of members of his family, his profession and the place from which he had come. An authenticated copy of each of these records was to be handed to the concessionaire as a title to their property.
The fourth grants the same privileges to black or coloured colonists, but only one half of the quantity of land given to the white colonists. The lands given to the slaces remain practically the same.
The fifth stipulates that the foreign colonists after a stay of five years in the island, and on their promise to continue to live there, will enjoy all the rights and privileges attached to nationalization, which would include the children whom they had brought with them and those who had been born since. In consequence, they would be admitted to honourable appointments in the administration and militia, according to their aptitude and ability.
The sixth exempts all the white colonists from all head or personal tax, but it hit them through their slaves, in that after a period of ten years in the island, they paid a tax of one strong piaster (or a dollar) per head per annum, but the cost of this was ever to be increased.
The seventh grants to the Spanish and foreign colonists, after a period of five years from the date of their arrival in the island, the facility to leave, together with the valuables which they had brought with them, without any export tax. The valuables acquired during their stay in the island were subject to an export tax of ten percent, and the lands which had been granted to them, were returned to the Crown.
The eighth grants to the already established and new colonists who have no natural heirs in the island, the facility of makings wills in favour of their relatives and friends abroad, and such heirs from abroad who came to establish themselves in the island, were to enjoy the same privileges as their benefactors. But if they prefer to transfer their inheritance elsewhere, they would have to pay an export duty of fifteen percent, and if they stayed over five years, they would have to pay an export duty of fifteen percent. The same privileges are granted to natural heirs who are established abroad in the case of their relatives in Trinidad dying instestate.
The ninth also grants to the colonists established in the island, the power to bequeath in accordance with Spanish laws, their real properties which are not capable of division either to one or many of their children, provided that this does not result in any prejudice to the legitimacy of others and to that of the widow of the Testator.
The tenth permits the colonists on account of legal processes or because of other urgent private affairs, to leave the colony to go to Spain, to Spanish colonies and to foreign countries, provided they are not enemy countries, after having obtained permission from the Governor.
The eleventh exempts the Spanish and foreign colonists from the payment of tithes during ten years from the 1st January 1785, and from the expiration of this period, their contribution is fixed at half tithes or five percent.
The twelfth also exempts these said colonists from payment of the “alcabala”, which is the tax payable on the sale of their produce and merchandise, during the same period of ten years. On the expiration of this time, a tax of five per cent is payable on all exports, except those sent to Spain in Spanish ships, as these had freedom from all taxation in perpetuity.
The thirteenth in peace time imposes a duty on all colonists to keep themselves armed in order to control their slaves and to resist any attacks from pirates, and for these purposes they were formed into corps of regular militia. In time of war, or if there should be a revolt of slaves, their obligation was to rally the defense of the island.
The fourteenth imposes on both former and recent colonists who are the owners of vessels of any size and make, the obligation to put these under the Spanish flag, in addition to those which they might have purchased abroad up to the end of 1786. This was to be done without cost of registration or naturalization. Those of the colonists who wished to build vessels in the island, were granted permission to cut timber free of charge from the Crown forests.
The fifteenth permits free of any franchise, the introduction of black slaves and the trade in them, for a period of ten years from the 1st January 1785. On the expiration of this term a duty of five per cent was payable on slaves imported into the island, and six per cent on those who were exported to other Spanish colonies.
The sixteenth permits colonists to leave for the purpose of selling their produce in the foreign but friendly islands, provided that an export tax of five per cent was paid, and also provided that the profits from these ventures should be used for the purchase of slaves. The same tax is imposed on merchants who import slaves, but this does not include the import tax from which colonists alone were exempt.
The seventeenth grants an absolute free franchise on all direct commerce between Spain and Trinidad and also on the produce of the island shipped to Spanish possessions in the Indies, during the period of ten years as from the 1st January 1785. At the expiration of this term the only articles which were declared free were those in the final schedule of commerce which were all exempted.
The eighteenth grants during the same period of ten years the same free franchise on all importations from Spain of materials and merchandise, Spanish and foreign, also provisions and liquors from Spain, and of all these imports no export was allowed to the other colonies except of Spanish articles. These were subject to the taxes in the schedule of commerce recently published.
The nineteenth, during the same period of ten years, authorizes Spanish vessels to accept cargoes for Trinidad in the French Consular Ports. In Trinidad, cargoes for the said ports paid a tax of five per cent on entry and the same on export of produce, except on those whose export was prohibited.
The twenthieth in cases of urgent necessity grants permission to give all colonists the same privileges for the French islands in America on payment of the same tax of five per cent on entry and exit of provisions and merchandise.
The twenty first promises the colonists that orders will be sent to the Captain General at Caracas to supply them at current prices, with the necessary cattle for their food industries and agriculture, up to the time when the colonists themselves have been able to breed sufficient for their own requirements.
The twenty second also promises to the colonists that similar orders will be sent to allow them to import flour during the period of ten years from the 1st January 1785. In the case of scarcity, they would be allowed to go elsewhere to buy under the Spanish flag, and in payment they would export produce which would be charged a five per cent duty, similar to that imposed on flour received in exchange.
The twenty third also promises to the colonists the sending of similar orders to the factories in Biscay, so that during the same period of ten years, they could be supplied with the agricultural tools, and in case they should not arrive, they are authorized to procure them from the foreign and friendly islands, on the same conditions established for flour in case of scarcity.
The twenty fourth also promises to newly arrived colonists, that two priests who knew foreign languages would be sent to them as parish priests, and to these would be given sufficient income so that they can live according to their character, as without this, they would have to recourse to the purses of their parishioners.
The twenty fifth obliges all colonists to submit to the King, through the Governor, the regulation which seems to be the best for the conduct of their slaves, on condition that this regulation should be in accordance with instructions which the Governor will receive regarding this matter, and this must be based on the principle of the restitution of fugitive slaves from the foreign islands.
The twenty sixth recommends a very severe surveillance in order to prevent the introduction from neighbouring islands of destructive ants.[xv] It orders a rigorous inspection of vessels and also of luggage and effects of new colonists who arrive from the ant-ridden islands.
The twenty seventh promises to give the colonists the right to establish sugar refineries in Spain when the sugar crops in Trinidad had become sufficient for them to make a profit. They will enjoy the same privileges and liberties granted to foreign nationals. It also promises, but later on, the establishment of a Consular Court or Commerce Court in the island, in order to extend protection to agriculture, shipping and commerce. It also recommends that in the meantime the Governor and other judges should undertake an administration which is just and prompt and humane, so that justice can be done to all inhabitants, both Spaniards and foreigners.
The twenty eighth gives the right to all inhabitants of the islands, to petition the King through the intermediary of the Governor. They are also granted the facility to go to Spain in person for the purpose of obtaining relief from the wrongs which they may have suffered. A final paragraph stipulates, as is usual, that all provisions of the law which are contrary to the present Cedula remain in abeyance, and the officials of the American colonies and the Consuls in the Consular Ports in France, are hereby ordered to obey.[xvi]
In order to understand the complete plan for colonization adopted by Spain, we must remember, following the Cedula of Population, the Code Noir, drawn up by Roume de Saint Laurent, and promised by the twenty fifth article of the Cedula, even though it did not come into force until six years later. It is actually dated at Aranjuez, the 31st May 1789, and carries the title of the Roual Cedula for Protection of Slaves in the Spanish Colonies. This work undertaken by the new colonists in Trinidad, plainly gives effect to the noble thoughts of Roume de Saint Laurent who said, that he wished to make the life of slaves as happy as their state would allow, because he was well known for his great humanity. The honour of preparing this Cedula was confided to Mr. Joseph de la Forest, a French colonist from Grenada who was the Syndic Procurer (or Attorney General) of the Cabildo in 1785. This duty could not have been confided to anyone with more philanthropic ability.[xvii] The regulations are preceeded by a long preamble which states that, many abuses having been introduced into the education, treatment and work of slaves by their masters or owners, it had become necessary to remedy these matters, particularly at this moment when liberty having been granted to the Spanish subjects by a Royal Order dated 28th February 1785, it had become necessary to regulate the treatment of the blacks, as the number of slaves in the Americas was bound to increase considerably. The regulations are divided into fourteen articles as follows:
1.            Education – Every single proprietor, whoever he may be, is obliged to instruct them in the precepts of the Roman Catholic Religion in order that they may be baptized within the year of their instruction; he is also bound to grant them rest on public holidays, except at harvest time. On those days, as the slaves will have to attend Mass, a priest will be provided at the expense of the master. Every day after working hours, they will have to say the rosary with devotion, in the presence of the master or his steward.
2.            Food and Clothing – The master is under the obligation of feeding his slaves, as well as their wives when they can earn their keep, which is fixed at twelve years for girls and fourteen for boys. As there is no other fixed rule as to the quality of the difference of climate, it is stipulated that the magistrate or syndic appointed for the protection of slaves will decide the quality and quantity of food and clothing to be allowed to them according to their age and sex. This regulation shall be fixed upon the door of the Town Hall and of the church of each district so that everyone may be informed.
3.            Work of Slaves – The slaves will be principally employed in agriculture. In order to make their services profitable to their masters and to the state, their tasks will be regulated by the magistrates and syndics in the manner as said in the foregoing chapter. The rule is that for two hours each day they will be free to do whatever work they want to their own personal interests, and every year they will receive from their masters two dollars for the use of their families; over sixty years and under seventeen years they will not be at the service of these masters, and women will not be employed in any work which is not comformable to their sex.
4.            Relaxation – On public holidays, after attending Mass followed by religious instruction, the slaves will be allowed to relax in the presence of the master or steward, men and women separately, excluding those of neighbouring estates. Attention must be paid that there should be no excessive drinking and that their amusements should end before evening prayer.
5.            Housing and Infirmary – All slaves will be accommodated in suitable houses to protect them from all types of weather, unmarried men apart from women, and each house will be provided with beds, blankets, and other necessary objects; each man will have his bed and there shall be no more than two beds in each house.
Another house, warm and comfortable, will be for the sick, and there they ought to receive all that will be necessary for them. If they have to be sent to the hospital due to lack of space or the proximity of a town, the master will be bound to pay their daily hospital fees decided upon by the magistrate according to what was stated in Chapter 2. In case of death, the master will have to reimburse the hospital the funeral expenses.
6.            The Aged and the Infirm – Those who due to old age or illness are incapable of work, as well as children of both sexes, must be provided for by their masters. Such people cannot be given their liberty in order to get rid of them unless a sufficient amount of money be given to them to ensure their subsistence; the sum to be decided upon by the magistrates and syndics.
7.            Marriage of Slaves – The master must not allow concubinage but must encourage marriage among his slaves. Neither must he hinder them from marrying the slaves belonging to other masters; in the latter case, if the estates are distant from one another so that the newly married couple are unable to fulfill the object of marriage, the master shall purchase the wife of the husband at a price fixed by two experienced arbitrators nominated by the two parties, and in case of disagreement, a third will be chosen by the two arbitrators. If the husband’s master refuses to buy his wife, the wife’s master will have the right to buy the husband.
8.            Duties and Punishments of Slaves – As masters of slaves are obliged to maintain them, to educate them and to employ them in useful work proportional to their strength, age and sex, without forsaking their children and those who are old and sickly, so on the other hand there is an obligation on the part of the slaves to obey and respect their masters and stewards, to perform the work which is given to them to do according to their strength, and to respect them as the heads of their family. Consequently those who fail to fulfill those duties will be punished in the measure of the seriousness of their offence. The punishment will consist of imprisonment, chains or whip, the latter not to exceed the number of twenty five lashes so as not to cause any contusion or bleeding. These punishments cannot be imposed on slaves except by the master or steward.
9.            Applying Greater Punishments – When slaves commit crimes which deserve a more severe punishment, the master, his steward or any other witness will have the culprit arrested and will inform the court so that in the presence of his master and his defender he will be judged and punished in accordance with the seriousness of his offence. The same procedure as applied to common criminals will also be applied to the slaves. If the slave is condemned to pay a third of the expense of the trial, and even if the corporal punishment inflicted on him according to the seriousness of his crime, goes as far as death or the mutilation of his limbs, the master will be responsible for it.
10.        Omissions or Excesses of Masters and Stewards – The master or his steward who fails to provide education, food, clothing, relaxation, housing, etc of slaves or who should forsake their children and those among them who are sick, will pay a fine of $50 for the first time, $100 for the second time and $200 for the third time. These fines will be paid by the master even when his steward is at fault. If the latter is not in a position to pay them, one thurd will be for the informer, one third for the judge, and one third for the Fines Chest which will be mentioned later. In case these fines do not produce the desired effect, the Queen will be informed so that she may decide whatever she may wish. If the masters or their stewards are guilty of excess in punishing their slaves causing wounds, bleeding or mutilation of limbs, beside paying fines, they shall be prosecuted as criminals and will be punished in proportion to their crime. The slave shall be taken away and sold to another master if he is able to work. The amount of the sale shall be put in the Fines Chest. If the injured slave is no longer able to work and therefore cannoy be sold, he will not be returned to his master but the master will be bound to provide a daily sum which shall be fixed by the magistrate for his subsistence, and this for the rest of his life, paying every month in advance.
11.        Of those who injure Slaves – Slaves can only be punished by their masters or their stewards, therefore no other person will be permitted to ill-treat, chastise, wound or kill without incurring the punishment enacted by the law against those who commit the like excesses towards free people. The master of the slave who has been thus ill-treated, has the right to file a law suit against the criminal which will be defended by the Attorney, the Protector of Slaves.
12.        List of Slaves – The slave masters are bound to provide the magistrate of their district with a list of the slaves they possess, mentioning the age and sex of each one, so that the Notary of the Town Hall may enter them on a separate register which will be kept in the said Town Hall to this effect. Each master whose slave runs away is bound to inform the magistrate within 3 days so that mention will be made of it in the register to avoid suspicion of murder. Should the master not fulfill this obligation, he will be obliged to produce proof either of the absence or the natural death of his slave; failing which he will be brought to court.
13.        Method of Investigating the Excesses of Masters and Stewards – As it will be difficult for slaves to bring their complaints to the lawful authority, it will be necessary to find out how they are treated by their masters. To this effect the priest responsible for the religious instruction of slaves on each estate, will seek information about the treatment they receive. Should there be reason to complain, he will secretly let the Attorney General know, and it will be the duty of the latter to open an enquiry. If the complaints are unfounded, the priest will not be held responsible for informing the Attorney, as the mission of the latter will be only to notify the magistrate to open the enquiry and to pursue whatever procedure he may have begun. Besides these means, it will be necessary that trustworthy persons be appointed by justices and magistrates to visit estates three times a year and to report whatever they will have observed contrary to regulations of the foregoing chapter; it is also declared that the denunciation of every infraction of these regulations is a public law which gives the privilege of secrecy to every informer, and that no one will be charged for his information.
Finally it is declared that the justices and Attorneys as Protectors will be answerable for any neglect of theirs in making use of any necessary means to enforce these Royal Resolutions.
14.        Chest of Fines – In the towns and villages where the forementioned regulations will be enforced and wherever there will be Court of Justice, a Chest with three keys will be put and kept in the Town Hall, one of which will be delivered to the Justice of the Peace, another to the Governor, and the third to the Attorney General. In this Chest will be kept the amount of fines received from those who have not obeyed the Royal Orders. The money will be used as a means of enforcing these same orders, and cannot be touched without an order signed by the three entrusted with the keys, who will be responsible for whatever may be missing and are obliged to replace it so that the yearly accounts which have to be presented to the Intendant of the Province may be approved of by him. Then comes the final required section where it is stipulated that every law or custom opposed to the present Cedula, is and remains cancelled, and that the Supreme Council of the Indies and the American public servants are obliged to conform and have it enforced.[xviii]
Such is the collection of regulations of colonization adopted by Spain on the recommendation of Roume de Saint Laurent. These regulations applied to all the different colonial classes of the time including whites, people of colour and the slaves, and they became the basis of our public laws. They did not however, apply to the Indians who were still confined to their missions and subject to the double tutelage of the priests and the magistrates. The regulations are remarkable for their liberality and consideration. The Code Noir cuts right across the dragon-like legislation which applied to the slaves at the time. It is highly honourable to the colonist who proposed it and the government which adopted it. As regards to the Cedula of Population, the success which it was shortly to attain is evidence of its great value. As usual however, this success did not fail to provide a number of criticisms among those who had first spoken of it with praise. These people amongst other things, said[xix] that Spain had made the great mistake of turning Trinidad into a foreign colony on whose loyalty she could not depend. This specious objection does not hold good when carefully examined. Certainly it would suit the nations to have their colonies populated by their own nationals. But since this desirable state could not be arrived at, they would have the choice of either abandoning them or populating them by means of foreigners. At the time, Spain herself was depopulated and could not possibly think of depriving herself of her inhabitants in order to send them to Trinidad, and on the other hand, neither could she resolve to abandon so important a colony. To condemn the re-population of colonies by foreigners is also to condemn all conquests, seeing that it is obvious that countries which are conquered are necessarily then populated by foreigners. Spain, by inviting foreigners to come and colonise Trinidad, would she not with good reason be bound to emphasise her aptitude to mould together foreign races and to assimilate different classes? Furthermore, would not these foreigners who had chosen to live under Spanish laws, offer to Spain far more guarantees of loyalty and fidelity than those whom she had succeeded in bringing into her power by conquering them? From all these points of view one is obliged to conclude that, Spain, unable to colonise Trinidad with her own nationals, had given proof of true colonizing genius in re-populating her by foreigners.
Thus it was that after six years of incessant efforts, the tireless Roume de Saint Laurent finally saw his generous project crowned with success. From this moment one would have thought that there was nothing left for him to do but to reap the fruits of his devotion; but this did not mean anything, and it was his very devotion which became the cause of his ruin. As so often happens to well meaning benefactors, he was repaid by the ingratitude of the government which he had served. He appealed in vain to the Court of Spain, not for a reward for his services which he had undertaken quite voluntarily, but for a refund of the expenses of the voyages which he had undertaken to the different islands, Caracas, and Europe, voyages which had consumed the whole of his fortune. In vain did he appeal to the Intendant, Don José de Abalos, to remind him of his promises and to ask him to support his appeal. Finally, crippled by debts which he had contracted to carry out these voyages, he was forced to leave Madrid and to retire to Paris. There he renewed his soliciting through the intermediary of the Spanish Ambassador, but he obtained nothing but vague promises. Because of his debts, soon he had nothing to look forward to but prison. It was during this period of sad misery, while living in a garret that unexpected help came to him from the French Government. The Marshal de Castries, minister of Marine, being informed of the presence in Paris of the ex-judge from Grenada, sought him out and offered him the appointment of the Intendant in the island of Tobago. This appointment was then one of great responsibility, and the Minister wanted to seize the opportunity of appointing such a highly competent man. But Roume de Saint Laurent was too scrupulous to accept this offer there and then. Although the parsimony of the Spanish government had brought him to poverty, he still considered it his duty not to abandon his service to them without properly relinquishing his duties, and he requested the Minister to delay the matter for a short while so that he could find out the result of a final conference which he had arranged to have with the Spanish Ambassador. At the embassy there was no one but the first secretary to whom Roume de Saint Laurent explained by the brilliant offer which had been made to him by France. The Spanish first secretary advised him to accept it. Hardly had he engaged himself in the service of France than he received from the Court of Spain the appointment of First Commissioner of Population in Trinidad, with a salary of $2,000.00. He could not however, accept this reward from Spain, since it was both too late and too mean, so he left for Tobago.[xx]
In this way he was rougly separated from Trinidad; the benefactor to whom she owed so much, the eminent man who had consecrated his noble faculties and his prosperity to her cause, the devoted servant who, for her had sacrificed the best years of his life and his fortune, and even the affections of his family. He had established all this in 1781, and it was not to be his fate to see Trinidad again.[xxi] He was actively engaged in the great events of the end of that century, and in 1792 we find him in the eminent post of Chairman of a Commission of three appointed by the National Assembly of Santo Domingo, for the pacification of that colony which was then in revolt. Later, in 1796, he was Chairman of a second Commission of two, and was sent by the Director to the same colony and with the same object. On this occasion he became Governor of the Spanish portion of that island which had been ceded to France in 1795, and soon after that he was also Governor of the French part of the island[xxii]. But in spite of the splendid services which he rendered to our country, thanks to the short memories of those who benefited, even his name is hardly known. It is for us a great pride and satisfaction that we have been able to bring his splendid services to the notice of our compatriots.
Two months after the date of the Cedula of Population, on 23rd June 1784, the government of Trinidad passed from the hands of Don Juan Francisco Machado, into those of Captain Don Antionio Barreto, who was temporarily appointed while awaiting the arrival of the Governor elect, Don José Maria Chacon.[xxiii] It was during the administration of Captain Barreto that the Cabildo, finally giving way to the force of circumstances, decided to move to Port of Spain, where they held their first meeting on the 20th August 1784.[xxiv] Some weeks previously, on 7th June 1784, the Cabildo had appointed one of its Regidors to supervise the portioning out of fish and provisions arriving by launches from the mainland, and to forestall any monopoly, and to have them disposed of at the priced fixed by the Tariff.[xxv] It was a case when one can say that it was hunger which made the wolf come out of the forest.





[i]  Free Mulatto, Address to Earl Bathurst, p. 8
[ii] Meany, Abstract of the minutes of Cabildo, 1733-1813, ms., p.81
[iii] Free Mulatto, Address to Earl Bathurst, p. 4
[iv] Meany, Abstract of the minutes of Cabildo, 1733-1813, ms., p.82
[v] Marquise de Charras, Naturalizacion, ms. 1787. Then they came from Dominica, Martinique, St. Vincent and most of all from Grenada.
[vi] Free Mulatto, Address to Earl Bathurst, p.4 et seq.
[vii] Id., ibid
[viii] Meany, Abstract of the minutes of Cabildo, 1733-1813, ms., p.84
[ix] Free Mulatto, Address to Earl Bathurst, p.7. Obviously the author mistook the role of traders with that of coloured planters. In his way of thinking Roume de Saint Laurent was making no distinction between the latter and white people. It is reasonable to believe that the distinction, which was introduced in the Cedula of Colonisation, came from the governor.
[x] Marquise de Charras, Natualizacion, ms., 1787.
[xi] De Lery, Memoire sur l’ile de la Trinité, 1786, ms.
[xii] Bryan Edwards, History of the B.W. Indies, t.IV, p.299, art. Trinidad.
[xiii] Meany, Abstract of the minutes of Cabildo, 1733-1813, ms., p.87
[xiv] Or 32 acres, an English measurement.
[xv] The ants, which are seen today in Trinidad, may have been introduced by the colonists despite the precautions taken, or perhaps have always been there but gone unnoticed by the colonists.
[xvi] See the Cedula of Colonisation.
[xvii] Meany, Abstract of the minutes of Cabildo, 1733-1813, ms., p.91. A coloured illegitimate son of M. de la Forest, having inherited the wealth as well as the humanitarian principles of his father, since he had as a direct inheriter, bequeathed his fortune and name to a young slave of his workshop.
[xviii] See in the Appendix of the English translation of the Code Noir of which the Spanish original was unobtainable.
[xix] E.L. Joseph, History of Trinidad, part II, Chap. VIII p.165 et. Seq. To this ridiculous objection, the author adds a double calumny which will be mentioned later.
[xx] Marquise de Charras, Naturalizacion, ms., 1787.
[xxi] Id., Ibid.
[xxii] Beard, Life of Toussaint Louverture, passim.
[xxiii] Meany, Abstract of the minutes of Cabildo, 1733-1813, ms., p.88
[xxiv] Id., ibid, p89.
[xxv] Meany, Abstract of the minutes of Cabildo, 1733-1813, ms., p.88

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