*** African Atlantyic slave trade -- country traders France

The Atlantic Slave Trade: Individual Country Traders France

slave trader off West Africa
Figure 1.--.This painting by Auguste-François Biard depicts slave traders off West Africa. It was painted in 1833. (WSe have noted an 1840 date.) Biard was an abolitionist, but this seems to be an accurate depoiction of slve traders bringing cptive Agrins aboard their ship. We note authors and many websites using this image, but note thstee have found maske any effort to describe whst is happeming. Theree is a great deal gong on which we will try to describe. As Biard was French, it is likely that this was a French slaver. Biard traveled widely, including time in Brazil where slavery was still legal. Whether he was actually on a slave vessel to observe his seems unlikely, but the depiction is much more detailed and seemingly accurate than most abolitionist depictions. Of couse this is in pat because he was a talented artist. It may also be because he wnted to crete an accurate depiction of the horrors of slavery. Click on the image for a fuller discussion of this image.

Portugal and Britain dominated the transatlantic slave trade. France was the third largest parucipant in the Atlantic slave trade. This was primarily due to staggering numbers of captive Africans tranported to Saint-Domingue (Haiti). Saint-Domingue was the western portion of Hisasniola. The French gradully achived defacto control and one of Louis XIV's many wars in Europe eventually persuaded the Spanish to cede western Hispaniola to the French under the Treaty of Ryswick (1697). Available data shows that 1.4 milliomn Africans were transportefd on French ships, nostly in the late-18th centuty. Some 1.2 million survived the Middle Passage to enndure the extrodinarily harsh conditions in the French Caribbdan sugar islands. Sizeable numbers were transported on French ships to Guadeloupe (nearly 0.1 million) and Martinique (over 0.2 million). French Guiana was less important, in part becuse uunlke the islands, slaves could run away into the interior and merge with the Amer-Indian populstion. The great proportionn (nearly 0.8 million) were delivered to Saint-Domingue. Such was Europe's hunger for sugar, Saint-Domingue was by far the New World’s most lucrative 18th century colony. French possessions in the Caribbean were larger in population and more productive than British and Spanish holdings in the 18th century, primarily because of Saint-Domingue. The value of this trade explains the many naval battles fought in the Caribbean between the British and Franch during the 18th century. The value of the sugar explains wht Fance settled for Martiuqe abd Guadeloupe instrad if Canads after the French bd Inian War (1754-63). (During the Americn Revolution, Admiral De Grasse tended to be more interested in the Caribbean than American waters.) It should not be thought that dsugar was theonly crop.l Cpffee was alsp of some imprtnce. Thelabor on a coffee plabtation was not as demning, Women abd children could be used. [Geggus, p. 128.] The French slave trade was conducted from several Atlantic coastal ports. Le Havre was France's major slave-trading port. Slavers based in Le Harve transported captives Africans to Martinique, French Guiana, but primarily to Saint-Domingue. Slavers were also active from Nantes, Bordeaux, and La Rochelle. French slavers purchased captive Africans from West Africa (from Senegambia to West-Central Africa). The most important West African port was Whydah in the Bight ofg Benin. Oher ports inckuded Malembo, Cabinda, and Loango. [Geggus, p. 122.] They were trasported to Dutch and French Guianas, Caribbean islands, and even the Spanish Caribbean mainland as well as the Mississippi Delta. The vast Louisiana tarritory was a French colony for much of the 18th century. The great majority of the captive Africans, however, transported to the sugar planters of Saint-Domingue. The plantations onn Guadeloope n Mrtinjiuw were smaller and more creolized. There were also reportedly ant problems. [Geggus, p. 127.] The huge numbers were needed becuse the conditions in the French sugsr olsnbytations were so brutal that thec slave population was not self sustining. This did not end until the Haitian slave rebellions (1791). While France lost Haiti, it still had other profitable operations in the Caribben aeea anbd the Indian Ocean. Napoleon re-introduced slavery in their sugasr islands (1802). After Btritain ended the slve trade vand began to pressure other countries to do so as well, France was reluctant. There were still substantial profits. And the French Abolitionist Movement was not as influential as the Brutish movement. In addition the French were uncertain about British motives, many French were suspious that they were relly attemting to damage the French economy. Napoleon when he returned to power abolished the slave trade (1815). The Congress of Vienna declared its opposition to the slave trade. The restored Royal goivernment banned the slave trade (1818). French uthorities refused to cooperate closely with the Biutish Royal Navy and its ensborcement actions, not fully trustiung British motives. France was viductiuve toward haiti, its former highly profiutabke sugar colony. They demanded huge reparations for financial losses. The Ftench alsl led s camopaign to iolate Haiti from the the internatioinal community and commerce. Napoleon, Louis XVIII, and even Charles never reconciled themselves to the loss of Haiti's enormous sugar revenue. Eventually Haiti was forced by a French fleet to sign an agreement commiting to a 150 million francs indemnity to France (1825). [Gamio et. al.] That was ten timeswhat Ametrica had paid for Louisana. Haiti could never pay thas amount. They had to borrow to make the first mapyments before fefaulting. Resulting in another French expeditioin and more high interest loans. [Dent] France finally passed the Mackau Laws (1845). French authoritieds proclaimed the asbolition of slavery (1848). . Gabon was founded as a settlement colony for former slaves.


Dent, Marlene. "When France extorted Haiti: The greatest heist in history," theconversation.com (June 30, 2020).

Geggus, David. "The French slave trade: An overview," The William and Mary Quarterly Vol. 58, No. 1, New Perspectives on the Transatlantic Slave Trade (January 2001), pp. 119-38.

Gamio, Lazaro, Constant Méheut, Catherine Porter, Selam Gebrekidan, Allison McCann, and Matt Apuzzo. "Haiti's lost billions," The New York Times (May 20, 2022). 24.


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Created: 8:44 AM 5/25/2022
Last updated: 8:45 AM 5/25/2022