Research Subjects: Government & Politics



Napoleon's Decree Abolishing the Slave Trade

29 March 1815

Following a peace with Britain that culminated in the Treaty of Amiens (1802), Napoleon initiated an ambitious project to re-establish the French overseas empire. One element of this scheme was the re-establishment of slavery, which had been abolished during the French Revolution, in France's Caribbean colonies, including Saint-Domingue (Haiti). The failure of the French campaign in Haiti and the breakdown of peace with Britain, dashed Napoleon's colonial dreams. After his return from exile on Elba, Napoleon desired to recreate his rule as a new "liberal" empire. One element of this effort was abolishing the slave trade. The slave trade in the British Empire was abolished in 1807, although slavery wasn't eradicated in the British West Indies until 1833.

Napoleon, Emperor of the French,

We have decreed, and do decree as follows: —

  1. From the date of the publication of the present decree, the slave trade is abolished. There shall not be permitted any expedition for this trade, either in the ports of France, or in those of our colonies.
  2. There shall not be introduced for the purpose of sale, in out colonies, any Negroes, the produce of this trade, whether by French or foreign.
  3. The breach of this decree shall be punished by the confiscation of the vessel and cargo, to be pronounced by our courts and tribunals.
  4. Nevertheless, the persons who, before the publication of the present decree, shall have fitted out and dispatched vessels for this trade, shall be at liberty to sell their cargoes in our colonies.
  5. Our ministers are charged with the execution of the present decree.

[Signed] Napoleon.

By the Emperor,
The Minister of State, [signed] The Duke of Bassano.

Dated March 29th, 1815.

 

References

Southey, Thomas, Capt. Chronological History of the West Indies. In three volumes. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1827.


 

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series 9/00

 

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