For these reasons, and on the advice of our council and of our
certain knowledge, absolute power and royal authority, we have
declared, ruled, and ordered, and declare, rule, and order, that
the following pleases us:
We desire and we expect that the Edict of 23 April 1615 of the
late King, our most honored lord and father who remains glorious
in our memory, be executed in our islands. This accomplished,
we enjoin all of our officers to chase from our islands all the
Jews who have established residence there. As with all declared
enemies of Christianity, we command them to be gone within three
months of the day of issuance of the present [order], at the risk
of confiscation of their persons and their goods.
All slaves that shall be in our islands shall be baptized and
instructed in the Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Faith. We enjoin
the inhabitants who shall purchase newly-arrived Negroes to inform
the Governor and Intendant of said islands of this fact within
no more that eight days, or risk being fined an arbitrary amount.
They shall give the necessary orders to have them instructed and
baptized within a suitable amount of time.
We forbid any religion other than the Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic
Faith from being practiced in public. We desire that offenders
be punished as rebels disobedient of our orders. We forbid any
gathering to that end, which we declare to be conventicle, illegal,
and seditious, and subject to the same punishment as would be
applicable to the masters who permit it or accept it from their
No persons assigned to positions of authority over Negroes shall
be other than a member of the Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Faith,
and the master who assigned these persons shall risk having said
Negroes confiscated, and arbitrary punishment levied against the
persons who accepted said position of authority.
We forbid our subjects who belong to the so-called "reformed"
religion from causing any trouble or unforeseen difficulties for
our other subjects or even for their own slaves in the free exercise
of the Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Faith, at the risk of exemplary
We enjoin all our subjects, of whatever religion and social status
they may be, to observe Sundays and the holidays that are observed
by our subjects of the Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Faith. We
forbid them to work, nor make their slaves work, on said days,
from midnight until the following midnight. They shall neither
cultivate the earth, manufacture sugar, nor perform any other
work, at the risk of a fine and an arbitrary punishment against
the masters, and of confiscation by our officers of as much sugar
worked by said slaves before being caught.
We forbid them also to hold slave markets or any other market
on said days at the risk of similar punishments and of confiscation
of the merchandise that shall be discovered at the market, and
an arbitrary fine against the sellers.
We declare that our subjects who are not of the Roman, Catholic,
and Apostolic Faith, are incapable of contracting a valid marriage
in the future. We declare any child born from such unions to be
bastards, and we desire that said marriages be held and reputed,
and to hold and repute, as actual concubinage.
Free men who shall have one or more children during concubinage
with their slaves, together with their masters who accepted it,
shall each be fined two thousand pounds of sugar. If they are
the masters of the slave who produced said children, we desire,
in addition to the fine, that the slave and the children be removed
and that she and they be sent to work at the hospital, never to
gain their freedom. We do not expect however for the present article
to be applied when the man was not married to another person during
his concubinage with this slave, who he should then marry according
to the accepted rites of the Church. In this way she shall then
be freed, the children becoming free and legitimate. . . .
We forbid priests from conducting weddings between slaves if it
appears that they do not have their masters' permission. We also
forbid masters from using any constraints on their slaves to marry
them without their wishes.
Children born from marriages between slaves shall be slaves, and
if the husband and wife have different masters, they shall belong
to the masters of the female slave, not to the master of her husband.
We desire that if a male slave has married a free woman, their
children, either male or female, shall be free as is their mother,
regardless of their father's condition of slavery. And if the
father is free and the mother a slave, the children shall also
be slaves. . . .
We forbid slaves from carrying any offensive weapons or large
sticks, at the risk of being whipped and having the weapons confiscated.
The weapons shall then belong to he who confiscated them. The
sole exception shall be made for those who have been sent by their
masters to hunt and who are carrying either a letter from their
masters or his known mark.
We also forbid slaves who belong to different masters
from gathering, either during the day or at night, under the pretext
of a wedding or other excuse, either at one of the master's houses
or elsewhere, and especially not in major roads or isolated locations.
They shall risk corporal punishment that shall not be less than
the whip and the fleur de lys, and for frequent recidivists and
in other aggravating circumstances, they may be punished with
death, a decision we leave to their judge. We enjoin all our subjects,
even if they are not officers, to rush to the offenders, arrest
them, and take them to prison, and that there be no decree against
them. . . .
We forbid slaves from selling sugar cane, for whatever reason
or occasion, even with the permission of their master, at the
risk of a whipping for the slaves and a fine of ten pounds for
the masters who gave them permission, and an equal fine for the
We also forbid slaves from selling any type of commodities, even
fruit, vegetables, firewood, herbs for cooking and animals either
at the market, or at individual houses, without a letter or a
known mark from their masters granting express permission. Slaves
shall risk the confiscation of goods sold in this way, without
their masters receiving restitution for the loss, and a fine of
six pounds shall be levied against the buyers. . . .
Slaves who are infirm due to age, sickness or other reason, whether
the sickness is curable or not, shall be nourished and cared for
by their masters. In the case that they be abandoned, said slaves
shall be awarded to the hospital, to which their master shall
be required to pay six sols per day for the care and
feeding of each slave. . . .
Slaves shall not be a party, either in court or in a civil matter,
either as a litigant or as a defendant, or as a civil party in
a criminal matter. And compensation shall be pursued in criminal
matters for insults and excesses that have been committed against
slaves. . . .
The slave who has struck his master in the face or has drawn blood,
or has similarly struck the wife of his master, his mistress,
or their children, shall be punished by death. . . .
The fugitive slave who has been on the run for one month from
the day his master reported him to the police, shall have his
ears cut off and shall be branded with a fleur de lys
on one shoulder. If he commits the same infraction for another
month, again counting from the day he is reported, he shall have
his hamstring cut and be branded with a fleur de lys
on the other shoulder. The third time, he shall be put to death.
The masters of freed slaves who have given refuge to
fugitive slaves in their homes shall be punished by a fine of
three hundred pounds of sugar for each day of refuge.
The slave who has been punished with death based on denunciation
by his master, and who is not a party to the crime for which he
was condemned, shall be assessed prior to his execution by two
of the principal citizens of the island named by a judge. The
assessment price shall be paid by the master, and in order to
satisfy this requirement, the Intendant shall impose said sum
on the head of each Negro. The amount levied in the estimation
shall be paid for each of the said Negroes and levied by the [Tax]
Farmer of the Royal Western lands to avoid costs. . . .
The masters may also, when they believe that their slaves so deserve,
chain them and have them beaten with rods or straps. They shall
be forbidden however from torturing them or mutilating any limb,
at the risk of having the slaves confiscated and having extraordinary
charges brought against them.
We enjoin our officers to criminally prosecute the masters,
or their foremen, who have killed a slave under their auspices
or control, and to punish the master according to the circumstances
of the atrocity. In the case where there is absolution, we allow
our officers to return the absolved master or foreman, without
them needing our pardon.
We declare slaves to be charges, and as such enter into community
property. They are not to be mortgaged, and shall be shared equally
between the co-inheritors without benefit to the wife or one particular
inheritor, nor subject to the right of primogeniture, the usual
customs duties, feudal or lineage charges, or feudal or seigneurial
taxes. They shall not be affected by the details of decrees, nor
from the imposition of the four-fifths, in case of disposal by
death or bequeathing. . . .
Husband, wife and prepubescent children, if they are all under
the same master, may not be taken and sold separately. We declare
the seizing and sales that shall be done as such to be void. For
slaves who have been separated, we desire that the seller shall
risk their loss, and that the slaves he kept shall be awarded
to the buyer, without him having to pay any supplement. . . .
Masters twenty years of age may free their slaves by any act toward
the living or due to death, without their having to give just
cause for their actions, nor do they require parental advice as
long as they are minors of 25 years of age.
The children who are declared to be sole legatees by their masters,
or named as executors of their wills, or tutors of their children,
shall be held and considered as freed slaves. . . .
We declare their freedom is granted in our islands if their place
of birth was in our islands. We declare also that freed slaves
shall not require our letters of naturalization to enjoy the advantages
of our natural subjects in our kingdom, lands or country of obedience,
even when they are born in foreign countries.
We grant to freed slaves the same rights, privileges and immunities
that are enjoyed by freeborn persons. We desire that they are
deserving of this acquired freedom, and that this freedom gives
them, as much for their person as for their property, the same
happiness that natural liberty has on our other subjects.
Versailles, March 1685, the forty second year of our reign.
and below the King.
Colbert, visa, Le Tellier.
Read, posted and recorded at the sovereign council of the coast
of Saint Domingue, kept at Petit Goave, 6 May 1687, Signed Moriceau.