Édit du Roi, Touchant la Police des Isles de l’Amérique Française (Paris, 1687), 28–58.
May 6, 1687
Edict of the King:
The Code noir initially took shape in Louis XIV’s edict of 1685. Although subsequent decrees modified a few of the code’s provisions, this first document established the main lines for the policing of slavery right up to 1789. The very first article expels all Jews from the colonies; Jews played a significant but hardly dominant role in the Dutch colonies of the Caribbean region but were not allowed to own property or slaves in the French colonies.
The edict also insisted that all slaves be instructed as Catholics and not as Protestants. For the most part, the code concentrated on defining the condition of slavery (passing the condition through the mother not the father) and establishing harsh controls over the conduct of those enslaved. Slaves had virtually no rights, though the code did enjoin masters to take care of the sick and old.
On the subject of the Policy regarding the Islands of French America
Recorded at the sovereign Council of Saint Domingue, 6 May 1687.
Louis, by the grace of God, King of France and Navarre: to all those here present and to those to come, GREETINGS. In that we must also care for all people that Divine Providence has put under our tutelage, we have agreed to have the reports of the officers we have sent to our American islands studied in our presence.
These reports inform us of their need for our authority and our justice in order to maintain the discipline of the Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Faith in the islands. Our authority is also required to settle issues dealing with the condition and quality of the slaves in said islands.
We desire to settle these issues and inform them that, even though they reside infinitely far from our normal abode, we are always present for them, not only through the reach of our power but also by the promptness of our help toward their needs.
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:
Article I – Expel all the Jews
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.
Article II – Baptism of All Slaves
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.
Article III – Faith by Coercion
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 slaves.