The Black Code of Louis XIV 1685

The Black Code of Louis XIV 1685

The Black Code of Louis XIV
The Black Code of Louis XIV – Louis XIV ruled France for more than seventy years.

Louis X (1289–1316), Louis XIV (1638–1715), Maximilien Robespierre (1758–1794), and Napoléon Bonaparte (1769–1821) are some of the most famous French monarchs. Slavery was outlawed in France by Louis X in 1315, but his proclamation did not extend to French colonies created centuries later. Columbus and those who followed him enslaved indigenous Americans, initially as translators, but eventually as slaves in the West Indies alongside African slaves. Slavery’s immense economic worth became increasingly important to many European governments as the decades passed. In 1625, the French built their first permanent Caribbean settlement on St. Kitts, and African slaves began to arrive two years later. Slavery had spread across the French colonies by 1685, including Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Domingue (Haiti), and other islands. In the same year, Louis XIV signed the Code Noir, or Black Code, which is considered one of the most important documents in the heinous history of slavery.

Its contents included civil, criminal, and religious law, as well as the legal relationship between slaves and masters. Slaves were to be baptized and indoctrinated into Catholicism, as a result of Louis XIV’s strong religious views and one of the code’s main motivations. Slaves were regarded as their masters’ personal property, preventing them from owning property and separating them from other civic rights. However, the code compelled masters to provide for and protect their slaves in specific situations. Slave holders had to pay for their slaves’ medical treatment, and food and clothing allowances were stipulated. Torture and forced marriage were also illegal.

Interracial marriage was legal, and if a master married a slave, the slave and her offspring gained their freedom. The Black Code helped to ameliorate circumstances, but as the Age of Enlightenment proceeded, European nations began to understand the institution’s brutality and hypocrisy. In 1794, Maximilien Robespierre’s First Republic outlawed slavery in all of France’s colonies. Napoléon reestablished it less than a decade later. The spirit of the Code, as well as many of its rules, survived in French Louisiana, where it was imposed by edict, and other American colonies under French influence, such as Arkansas and Missouri, where the Code served as a model for slave laws enacted after the Louisiana Purchase.

SEE ALSO:

The Amistad (1839);

The Dred Scott Decision (1857);

The Emancipation Proclamation (1863);

The Abolition of Slavery (1865);

The Brazilian Slave Emancipation Act (1888).

Sources:

The Black Code of Louis XIV 1685

The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law (Sterling Milestones) Hardcover – Illustrated, 22 Oct. 2015, English edition by Michael H. Roffer (Autor)

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