The One-Drop Rule in Reverse? Interracial Marriages in Napoleonic and Restoration France

By: Jennifer Heuer

In the early nineteenth century, an obscure rural policeman petitioned the French government with an unusual story. Charles Fanaye had served with Napoleon’s armies in Egypt. Chased by Mameluks, he was rescued in the nick of time by a black Ethiopian woman and hidden in her home. Threatened in turn by the Mameluks, Marie-Hélène (as the woman came to be called) threw in her lot with the French army and followed Fanaye to France. The couple then sought to wed. They easily overcame religious barriers when Marie-Hélène was baptized in the Cathedral of Avignon. But another obstacle was harder to overcome: an 1803 ministerial decree banned marriage between blacks and whites.1 Though Fanaye and Marie-Héléne begged for an exception, the decree would plague them for the next sixteen years of their romance.1
      As we will see, Fanaye’s history was atypical in several regards. But he was far from the only person to confront the ban on interracial marriage. The decree, which seemed to reinstate a 1778 edict, went hand in hand with the reestablishment of slavery after the French Revolution. It was officially applied to metropolitan France, rather than the colonies, and was circulated throughout the continental Napoleonic Empire.2 It would remain in effect even after Napoleon fell from power, quietly disappearing only in late 1818 and early 1819.2
      This quiet disappearance has persisted in the historical record: both the ban and its application have been almost completely forgotten.3 The reasons for this oversight are both conceptual and practical. While there is burgeoning interest in the history of slavery in the French empire, historians tend to focus on the drama of emancipation during the Revolution, rather than on the more painful return of slavery after 1802.4 When scholars of European history think of miscegenation laws, we often turn immediately to colonial arenas, or look to the later nineteenth and twentieth century when social commentators were particularly obsessed with interracial sex; metropolitan France in the early nineteenth century seems an unlikely site for contestations over racial and family law.5 More generally, the supposedly race-blind French model of citizenship, that of republican universalism, has often made it difficult to think about racial categories when discussing French history and politics.63
      There are also pragmatic reasons why the decree has been forgotten. The black and mulatto population in metropolitan France was small in the period, at most 5000 people, and there are few records that address them as a group.7 Many of the relevant documents are buried in a series at the French National Archives on dispensations for marriage.8 While a few are grouped together thematically, many are organized alphabetically, within at least 160 cartons of records. Others are in a series of administrative correspondence catalogued geographically.9 A few are scattered in municipal and departmental archives, often under the rubric of local administration. These are not categories that promise obvious connections to racial or colonial history.4
      Yet the ministerial decree was not trivial. It affected a surprising number of people; I have located about fifty cases, primarily in the French National Archives, and suspect that there are more that did not make it to the attention of central authorities, especially if local officials tacitly approved their liaisons. Couples who were barred from marrying often petitioned repeatedly, usually when changes in regimes or marriage law gave them hope of a better decision. Some of their pleas were clearly written for them, noting explicitly that would-be brides or grooms were illiterate.10 The spelling, phrasing, and handwriting of a few other documents suggest strongly that they were written by petitioners themselves, like the one for the only woman who seems to have petitioned the government, Catherine Prunague of Montpellier in 1820, who had fallen in love with a “black African” and was afraid that if she could not legitimize their children, her offspring would not be able to inherit when she died.11 In many cases, however, the authorship of such petitions is more ambiguous, combining distinctive autobiographies with standardized legal formulas. But taken together with related correspondence, they reveal much about the life trajectories of blacks and people of color who settled in France, and the communities that they entered.5
      Perhaps more important, however, is the distinctive nature of the ban: authorities decided to apply it only to those deemed black, not those of mixed race. This policy contrasts dramatically with the “one-drop” rule that would be applied in the United States, in which anyone with black ancestry was legally prevented from marrying a white partner.12 In Napoleonic France, anyone with a drop of white ancestry was potentially permitted to marry a white spouse.6
      Looking closely at the decree reveals the ways in which petitioners and authorities actually understood such racial categories and balanced the relative importance of race against other factors. In trying to persuade authorities that they should be allowed to wed, couples presented a series of arguments, including religious devotion and the need to legitimate their children, the value of French citizenship, individual service to the state, and the conflicts between the ministerial circular and more fundamental French law. Many of these involved values that postrevolutionary regimes claimed to embrace, and which were clearly at odds with an insistence on strict racial classifications. The negotiations over what principles to apply are particularly striking because they took place not during revolution—when conflicts between slavery and principles of equality were obvious—but during a period of conservative rule and an apparently quiescent abolitionist movement.7
      The story of the ban—and its end—also illuminates metropolitan and colonial relations. Historians have often sought to understand how metropolitan values were imposed on colonial arenas, or conversely, how colonies served as “laboratories” of social experimentation and reshaped perceptions and policies in the mainland. In the case of France’s first empire, such back-and-forth dynamics are clearest during the Revolution. The decrees of the National Assembly transformed racial and political relations in the Caribbean, while slave revolt and civil war in Haiti pushed the metropolitan government to abolish slavery in 1794. The story of the ban shows less dramatic, but nonetheless persistent, connections in the postrevolutionary Atlantic World. It reveals that measures regulating slavery and freedom of travel in the colonial arena had unexpected consequences within France itself. At the same time, however, it reveals important divergences between the meanings of race in metropolitan France and in its colonies.8
The Origins of “One-Drop” in Reverse 
The 1803 ministerial circular stated succinctly that the government could not register marriages between white men and black women or between black men and white women. Different versions of the circular used the terms “noir” or “nègre” to denote black. Petitioners and local authorities immediately sought to establish whether these terms included people of mixed race. Claude Ambrose Régnier, Minister of Justice from September 14, 1802, through November 20, 1813, responded that the ban applied only to blacks “properly speaking.” Those of mixed blood—whatever their actual skin color—were allowed to marry as they chose.9
      Both the original decree and Régnier’s decision to distinguish blacks from gens de couleur were administrative proclamations, not laws. They were not part of standard legal collections, though the ban appeared in instruction manuals for civil authorities.13 This meant that they could block couples from marriage, but were not used to prosecute those who had married, unlike various American antimiscegenation laws.10
      However, Régnier’s proclamations—and their reiteration by his successors—were nonetheless powerful. After 1791, couples in France seeking to marry were required to do so civilly. They could also wed religiously if they choose, but only the civil bond legitimated their marriages in the eyes of the state. This meant that unlike in the United States, sympathetic or hostile clergy could not determine who wed, although they might exercise unofficial influence. Instead, couples went to the local mairie or town hall to formalize their unions. There officials approved liaisons they deemed to be in order. Administrators with questions—or looking for reasons to oppose a marriage—turned both to the Napoleonic Civil Code (after 1804, the most important basis for defining the conditions and procedures for marriage) and to the decrees or clarifications of higher administrators; as Minister of Justice, Régnier was the ultimate voice of authority on such matters.11
      Why did Régnier institute the measure—and distinguish between blacks and those of color? This distinction appears odd in a metropolitan context. There were elaborate hierarchies of race in the colonies, yet within mainland France, the distinction appeared to have less legal, ideological, or social relevance. Why then an insistence on distinguishing the two categories?12
      Precedent offers a partial answer. Official disapproval of interracial sex and mixed marriages long predated the 1803 decree. Measures against such relations were initially most common in the colonies. Indeed, Guillaume Aubert has argued that proscriptions against sexual union between French men and black and Indian women in Canada and Louisiana appeared as early as the late seventeenth century.14 The provisions of the Code Noir of 1685 implicitly encouraged mixed marriages in the Caribbean, especially those between white men and women of color, by fining free men who refused to marry the enslaved mothers of their children.15 But the relevant articles were often circumvented, or supplemented by later regulations, like a decree that forbade marriage between blacks and whites in Guadeloupe beginning in 1711.16 In perhaps the most well-known case, French Louisiana officially barred both marriage and concubinage between whites and blacks in 1724.1713
      By the mid-eighteenth century, racial lines began to harden in the metropole as well as in the colonies.18 The most direct precedent of the 1803 ban was a royal decree from April 1778 that barred mixed marriage in France, although the ban was inconsistently enforced. The decree was overturned with the Revolution. The law of September 1791 declared that all men in metropolitan France were free, regardless of their color; it also granted them full citizenship rights, provided they met the other qualifications of the constitution. This effectively ended regulations against interracial marriage in the metropole. Revolutionary governments also issued a series of new measures affecting the colonies, and in a dramatic historic gesture, the National Convention abolished slavery throughout France’s colonial empire on February 4, 1794. Among its other consequences, general emancipation also implicitly lifted barriers on mixed marriages in the colonies. Although there is no systematic register, it is clear that some interracial couples did wed during the Revolution, at least within metropolitan France.1914
      But neither the freedom to marry across color lines nor general emancipation lasted. In 1802, Napoleon restored slavery in the French empire. The 1803 circular was closely tied to the reestablishment of slavery, and drew directly on old regime precedents. It followed a decree from July 2, 1802, that forbade blacks, mulattos, and other people of color to enter into France without authorization. Similarly, the 1778 royal decree barring intermarriage had followed an August 1777 decree that also barred blacks, mulattos, and people of color from entering the kingdom. Indeed, the two decrees restricting travel used very similar language.20 In both cases, restrictions on intermarriage were tied closely to restrictions on access to French territory.15
      But the 1778 decree actually forbade “whites of either sex to contract marriage with blacks, mulattos or other people of color,” at least until a new law had established the status of those living in France.21 It made no distinction between blacks and people of color. Napoleonic and Restoration officials were aware of the breadth of the previous measure, at least by 1814, when advisors to the newly restored king invoked the 1778 decree, and explained that the distinction between blacks and people of color had been made only under Napoleon.22 Precedent may have led to the ban; it did not lead to its particular application against those deemed black.16
      Another possible explanation is that of early nineteenth-century ideas about race and racial mixing. Petitioners themselves sometimes questioned whether such motives were behind the law. For example, Fanaye, the former Napoleonic soldier, and his Ethiopian love asked if the decree was motivated by “the fear of mixed blood on the continent.” In one of their repeated attempts to gain permission to wed, they noted that they were unlikely to have mixed-race offspring: “one can observe that the couple has cohabited for more than sixteen years without children, and since Marie Hélène was born in oriental climates, where women become fertile young, and is now at least forty, it seems unlikely that she will ever become a mother.”2317
      Fanaye and Marie-Hélène received no response to their claim that they would produce no racially awkward children. This did not mean that concern about the effects of racial mixing was absent. Indeed, fears of miscegenation seem to have played a role in the 1778 ban against mixed marriages, the decree that served as a rough template for the 1803 measure. The only official justification for the 1778 ban was “the good order of the kingdom.” But the Minister of the Navy, Antoine de Sartine, who was one of the principal forces behind the ban, openly denounced the dangers of racial mixing and tainted blood.24 Napoleonic and Restoration administrators similarly expressed periodic hostility towards interracial unions. The Prefect of the Allier in 1818, for example, complained that “the bastardization of the race is an inevitable consequence” of mixed marriages.2518
      Yet it is difficult to generalize about the extent of views like those of Sartine and the Prefect of the Allier. Historians differ in judging attitudes towards race mixing in the early nineteenth century. Enlightenment writers tended to endorse what later became known as monogenist theories, i.e. theories emphasizing a common human ancestor rather than separate “races.” This would remain the dominant interpretation among scientists in the early nineteenth century, although there was an increasingly vocal and powerful minority of scientists who argued for polygenist origins.26 The historian of colonialism, Yves Benot, has focused on one of these scientists, Julien-Joseph Virey, whose Histoire naturelle du genre humaine was published in 1800–1801. Benot argues that Virey marks the transition to “human races” rather than “varieties of the human race,” a view he sees as deeply implicated in colonial projects and belief in fundamental racial inequality.27 Others have highlighted the differences between these theorists and their later nineteenth-century counterparts, like the influential Arthur de Gobineau or subsequent proponents of Social Darwinism.28 What is clear is that there was a growing scientific interest in the early nineteenth century in racial classifications, including potentially distinct aspects of black anatomy, even if these classifications were not as rigid or widely accepted as they would be later.19
      The story of Sara Baartman emblematizes such contemporary interest, both among scientists and popular audiences. Baartman, better known as the “Hottentot Venus,” was a South African Khoekhoe woman brought to Europe. Her captors—or employers, depending on the account—publicly displayed her body. Crowds flocked to see her in London in 1810 and 1811, and in France from September 1814 to late 1815. They hoped to get a glimpse of her large buttocks and the “apron” that reputedly covered her genitals. Some of the most influential French scientists of the period—including Georges Cuvier, Geoffroi de Saint Hillaire, and a team of other anatomists, zoologists, and physiologists—examined her for several days in March 1815, and wrote extensively about their observations. After her death in 1816, Cuvier also dissected her body, ultimately presenting her genital organs to the French Academy of Sciences.29 Baartman’s case obviously postdated the original ministerial circular on interracial marriage, but it suggests contemporary interest in scientific classifications of race and anatomy. It also suggests that at least in some cases, blacks could be viewed as sexually fascinating but also as fundamentally different from white Europeans, and as not fully human or assimiliable into the French nation as a whole.20
      Yet while such popular and scientific views of race may have contributed to how the decree was applied, they do not fully explain it. Moreover, as we will see, the ban was lifted when there was no fundamental change in scientific understandings of race. General concern about miscegenation also does not fully resolve the more complicated issue of why those of mixed ancestry were allowed to marry whites, while those deemed black were not. Indeed, the logic of such exemption appears odd from a strictly scientific perspective; it implied that those who were already of mixed blood should, or at least could be, “whitened” over subsequent generations of intermarriage and offspring, but that racial lines between those black and white should otherwise be kept strictly separate.3021
      There were, however, more social factors connected to racial hierarchies in France and French colonies. Officials may well have assumed that in some cases, mulattos, especially wealthier or more socially prominent individuals, were closer to whites than those deemed blacks and more deserving of favor. Gens de couleur had also often had distinct legal statuses in the empire of the Old Regime.31 Revolutionaries debated whether to grant political rights to free people of color in the colonies, especially in Saint Domingue (later day Haiti), a measure that could be seen either as the first step towards full racial equality, or as a support of property-owners and the slave system.32 They ultimately granted citizenship rights to gens de couleur, in a legal transition that would be overshadowed by the drama of slave revolt and general emancipation. Civil war in Haiti in the later 1790s also sometimes pitted groups of gens de couleur against blacks, and French officials often played sides against one another in an attempt to remain in control of the island.22
      Contemporary records do indicate social acceptance of some gens de couleur in France, possibly to a greater extent than blacks. For example, in 1807, authorities in Chateaudan praised the mixed-race widow Bandouin, who managed a school for young girls. They described her as the “daughter of a rich property-owner, who received a polished education, and combines a sweet character with pure morals. Her children were similarly raised with care; little different from whites in their color, they do not differ at all in their habits and character.”3323
      The precise language of the Minister of Justice, Régnier, hints at such social prejudice. In responding to query after query, he reiterated that “This prohibition only concerns blacks (nègres) properly speaking; it must never affect mulattos or men of color, whatever their skin shade; these are entitled to the same rights as other citizens.”34 Contemporaries often used the words nègre and noir interchangeably to denote black, and in many administrative exchanges, the policy appeared as “noirs properly speaking.” Yet nègre could be more derogatory than noir, and Régnier’s formula implied that blacks, unlike mulattos or men of color, were not citizens.24
      But if administrators may have been influenced by contemporary scientific and social concerns, they did not make an explicit biological argument about the nature of race as a rationale for the degree. For the most part, they also did not explain either the ban or assess exceptions to it directly in terms of the biological or social effects of mixed blood. What other factors lay behind it?25
      Another factor is that of gender, and particularly, the makeup of most of these relationships. Fanaye’s liaison with Marie-Hélène was an unusual combination. The overwhelming pattern in France was that of a black man or homme de couleur involved with a white woman. In certain respects, this is not surprising. The population of blacks and people of color in France in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century was predominately male. Pierre Boulle has established that three quarters of a sample of 765 nonwhite individuals living in Paris between the years 1777 and 1790 were male.35 An 1807 survey of blacks and gens de couleur in France (excluding Paris) similarly showed almost twice as many men as women.3626
      Yet if interracial relationships in the metropole usually involved black or colored men and white women, the opposite was true in the colonies. Indeed, when eighteenth-century writers commented on interracial relationships, they usually imagined a white man and a lascivious and subservient Créole mistress.37 Such accounts may reveal more about contemporary fantasies and literary tropes than social realities. But at least until the early twentieth century, liaisons between white European men and nonwhite women were far more common than the reverse. Authorities often complained about interracial relationships, even when they involved allegedly compliant women of color. Yet such relations could also maintain a degree of social acceptability.3827
      The reverse did not necessarily apply to unions between black men and white women, which explicitly opposed racial and gendered hierarchies. Anthropologists and historians have shown that such relationships provoked controversy in almost every modern colonial empire. Ann Stoler has called particular attention to the ways that regulating interracial relationships could serve as flashpoints for larger conflicts. While she has looked most closely at the debate over mixed-marriage legislation in the Dutch Indies, she has tracked similar concerns throughout European empires in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.39 Even in cases where marriage legislation was not explicitly discussed, the specter of interracial sex haunted colonists, especially in the form of “black peril,” the threat of rape or sexual assault of white women by black men.4028
      Concern about the status of white woman married to black men appeared in France’s Caribbean colonies in the early nineteenth century. Rebecca Hartkopf Schloss has shown that in Martinique, the return of a mulatto from Britain in 1815 with his white wife caused great consternation that a white woman had fallen to the ranks of the affranchi, or freed person of color.41 Both in the colonies and in France, the postrevolutionary regimes sought to reinforce paternal power after the relative equality of Revolutionary family law. The creators of the Napoleonic Civil Code sought to avoid the possibility that a woman could have a separate nationality from that of her husband, and thus undermine his authority as the head of household; separate racial status could also appear as a threat to family unity.29
      Surprisingly, however, neither central authorities nor the local administrators charged with carrying out the decree expressed concern with apparent threats to white womanhood or paternal power. The absence of such an explicit or widespread discourse suggests a need for caution when generalizing about fears of interracial sex involving men of color. Such fears seem to have been most prevalent in cases with large slave or colonized populations, where threats to white womanhood symbolized larger threats to vulnerable communities and hierarchies defined as “natural” but nonetheless precarious. They were also common when large immigrant populations appeared to threaten declining “native” populations. The population of blacks and gens de couleur in France may simply have appeared too small to pose such a visible peril.30
      It is also possible that the involvement of men of color in revolutionary and Napoleonic wars increased their social acceptability as possible partners for white women.42 Several petitioners for interracial marriages were former soldiers or servants of soldiers.43 They may have gained prestige from their military activities, especially as the Napoleonic government actively promoted martial notions of masculinity, including encouraging state-sponsored marriages between veterans and young women.44 Yet such dynamics would appear to apply equally to both those identified as black and gens de couleur.31
      What then motivated the Minister of Justice Régnier to ban marriages between blacks and white and approve those identified as colored? There is, unfortunately, no smoking gun to establish his motives definitively, although it seems likely that the ban was tied to the failed attempt of the Napoleonic government to reconquer Haiti, beginning with an expedition led by General Leclerc in January 1802. While the leader of former slaves, Toussaint Louverture, surrendered in April 1802, Leclerc died of yellow fever in November of that year, and by early 1803, it was clear that his successor, Rochambeau, was struggling to assert French control over the island. On January 8, 1803, the day Régnier first issued his decree against interracial marriage, news reached Paris that the blacks in Saint Domingue had rebelled again, and that the colony was far from tranquil.45 As Rochambeau sought support against largely black troops from white colonists and mulatto forces, Régnier may have been more sympathetic to gens de couleur than to blacks.32
      But while these various factors may well have increased Régnier’s tendencies to see people of color as a distinct from backs, what seems to have motivated him to limit the application of the decree was ultimately pragmatic: a bureaucratic tendency to apply categories narrowly and once a clarification was made, not to reconsider it. Régnier was a frequent proponent of this approach.46 It also corresponded to a general trend in Napoleonic jurisprudence to focus on the letter of the law, often identified with the école d’exégèse or the school of exegesis.47 It is unclear if Régnier intended to limit the application of the measure when it was first decreed, but once it was established, both he and his successors seemed reluctant to revisit or broaden it. The ministerial circular said “black”; it was therefore to be applied to blacks. Administrators appeared to want to avoid being drawn into deciding what level of whiteness was acceptable and responding to questions such as that posed by one local official: “if the prohibition extends to mulattos, at what degree of filiation or nuance of color must this prohibition stop definitively?”33
Determining Race: Applying—and Contesting—the Decree 
Yet if they avoided this question, administrators could not avoid judging race. On the contrary, they faced it with every couple. The distinction between black and gens de couleur may have been simple to proclaim; it was not simple to apply. Each time an apparently mixed-race couple came to a town hall seeking authorization to marry, local officials were required to decide if the partner in question was black or mulatto. (They had to decide first if one partner was actually nonwhite at all, but perhaps because of the ability of those of mixed race to marry whites, there are few records of such assessments in the archives.) Unlike in the United States, courts within metropolitan France were rarely called upon to judge race; indeed, there appears to have only been one case in which the legality of interracial marriage came before the courts in early nineteenth-century France.48 Doubts, questions, or pleas from frustrated couples, were referred up the administrative ladder, to the regional authority of prefects or beyond them to the Minister of Justice.34
      Even with the possibility of recourse to higher authority, local officials, however, were often at a loss. They were rarely prepared to decide who was or was not black, and were given few guidelines for doing so. While colonial arenas sometimes had very clear distinctions and hierarchies of different degrees of mixed blood, vocabulary in the metropole was often much less precise.49 As we have seen, contemporaries often used nègre or noir to denote black; while nègre could be more closely associated with slavery than noir, the two terms were often used interchangeably. For those of mixed blood, the most common terms were gens de couleur, mulâtres, mixtes, or occasionally more precise expressions, like quarteronne. A further problem was that homme de couleur could be used as an umbrella category, to include those deemed to be black, or, conversely, as a distinct category that explicitly excluded blacks.35
      Visual indicators were insufficient to resolve potential dilemmas. Those of the darkest skin shade could be allowed to marry if they could somehow establish themselves as gens de couleur, not black. Nor could contemporaries draw lines based clearly on social status. While those of mixed blood were sometimes wealthier than those defined as black, there were no systematic social or economic lines between the two groups in France. Servants and former soldiers predominated in both cases. There were also no overwhelming numerical differences between the two groups. In the 1807 census of blacks and people of color in France, Michael Sibalis has counted 579 men and women deemed to be black and 548 of mixed blood, although in several hundred cases, color was not indicated.5036
      The instinct of these bureaucrats was to turn to paper proof. But neither petitioners nor authorities could draw clear lines based on records classifying individuals’ lineage or racial backgrounds. Many were former slaves, who lacked the paperwork of civil identity; others had no records of their birth because such documents had been destroyed in the turmoil of revolution and war in France and the Caribbean. How then were racial classifications to be determined?37
      In some cases, local authorities accepted the word of petitioners themselves, or the testimony of neighbors, employers, or those who had known a petitioner for a period of time. This was the case with a man known as Placide, a servant living in the department of Charente Inférieur, who wanted to marry a white woman in 1806. To prove that he was of mixed race and not black, he asked for the support of a local judge, in the civil tribunal in the arrondissement of Marenne. The judge had known him since 1776, and had visited a friend’s estate in Guadeloupe before the Revolution, where he had seen Placide’s parents.5138
      Yet few petitioners had such convenient witnesses. If possible, authorities called in other sources of expertise. In at least one case, this included medical expertise. In 1816, a would-be bridegroom, Jean-Louis Désiré, submitted to an exam by the chief surgeon of the royal hospice of Versailles to determine his status.52 The surgeon gave Désiré a thorough physical exam, including his genitals. He admired Désiré’s body, proclaiming, “the skin that covers the rest of his body is of a color no less beautiful than that of the skin of his face.” But this beautiful color was black and this case, the beauty of blackness was not empowering. The surgeon concluded that Désiré was born in Africa, of a black family, without mixture with a white family, and thus could not marry a white woman.39
      In Désiré’s case, such evidence seemed decisive, in part because he also freely acknowledged that he was born in Africa, although he could not specify where. Yet, medical evidence was otherwise of limited use. Reports like that of the Versailles surgeon simply established skin color, but the decree exempted those of mixed race, whatever their skin shade.40
      In general, it was left to individuals to justify themselves, and to local civil authorities to decide their status on whatever grounds they could find. This often produced a strange tone in the responses from central authorities addressed to petitioners themselves. They mixed standard bureaucratic honorifics, racial categories, and careful qualifications, telling a petitioner, for example, that the writer had the honor to inform him that “it appears that you are a homme de couleur …”5341
      However, once petitioners were labeled as “black” in official testimony, the label was hard to change. For example, Réné Benjamin, a native of the island of Sainte Lucie, described himself as an homme de couleur, a term he seemed to use without knowing if it was advantageous to him.54 Ironically, a document intended to support him actually destroyed his chances of marriage. His former master, a man of considerable social stature as a property owner, a former officier de dragons, and member of the electoral college, testified to Benjamin’s good character and morals and to the desirability of his marriage—but referred in passing to his servant as black. Authorities took this reference as proof that Benjamin was indeed black, not colored. He was thus forbidden to marry a white woman.42
More Important than Race? 
If in a case like Benjamin’s, local officials fretted about the distinction between black and colored, petitioners often invoked other circumstances that they hoped would supersede racial categories. Most frequently, they referred to the need to legitimate children, the national status of interested parties, and the dubious legality of the ministerial circular. Each of these domains pitted values that Napoleonic and Restoration officials claimed to hold dear—including religious and social order, the value of French citizenship, and fundamental French laws—against the racial dictates of the decree.43
      Couples who sought marriage frequently faced the imminent birth of a child, or already had children they hoped to legitimize. Parents, or would-be parents, had real practical and emotional motives for wanting to marry, including religious faith, the desire to ameliorate their own social position, and worry about the legal and social status of their offspring. But referring to children was also a potentially effective rhetorical strategy in appealing to authorities who professed deep concern about religion, family, and public order.44
      The possibility of an exception for pregnant women or couples with children appeared almost immediately after the circular was announced. An administrative report to the central government referred with sympathy to the case of a black man who had two children with a white woman and wanted to marry his lover: “This paternal sentiment, this return to a proper behavior, and the interests of the two children, all seem to call for an exception in favor of this individual. Can we not make an exception without danger or fear of abuse?”55 The answer was no. At the same moment that the ministry of justice decided to apply the law only to blacks, it also decided not to make any exceptions for couples who had, or awaited, children.45
      Yet pregnancy or the hope of legitimating children remained one of the main impetuses for couples to try to marry. Indeed, couples tried this argument with particular frequency during the early Restoration. They sought to appeal to the Catholic government’s touted respect for public morals and marriage as the basis for social order. Petitioners, however, had no more success than they, or their predecessors, had under Napoleon.46
      The refusal to take pregnancy or children into account for mixed-race partners is striking when contrasted with other contemporary cases. Girls younger than fifteen were forbidden to marry, yet pregnant teenagers were usually granted dispensations to wed.56 By the later 1820s, white male immigrants would risk expulsion for concubinage and fathering illegitimate children. Yet in the first two decades of the nineteenth century, the pregnancy of their French loves often expedited their attempts not only to marry, but also to acquire citizenship rights or at least civil rights in France.5747
      There was one other notable exception to the principle of ending social scandal by allowing otherwise forbidden couples to marry if they produced children: brothers- and sisters-in-law. Allowed to marry under the revolutionary law of September 1792, they were barred from wedlock by the Napoleonic Civil Code, even if the previous spouse had died, or the couple had, or was about to have, children together. Yet in that case, the rationale appeared to be partly one of morality. Authorities feared that legalizing such marriages in any circumstances would undermine marriage more generally. As one writer described this logic in 1814, the fear was that it would “create for brothers and sisters a motive for seeking divorce and thus favor scandalous unions, with the hope or the pretext of legitimizing them by the dissolution of a former marriage.”58 In contrast, marriages between blacks and whites seemed to pose no threat to other relationships; the refusal to permit their wedlock was justified less by explicit concerns of morality than a simple refusal to consider an exception.48
      A potentially stronger ground for seeking permission to marry was that of French citizenship. Many blacks or people of color who sought to marry in France were technically foreigners; others were legally French. The white women who sought to marry, however, were all French. When petitioners referred to their desire to marry, they often used française (French woman) as an implicit synonym for a white woman. Administrators similarly often conflated the race and nationality of the white intended.49
      In general, foreigners were allowed to marry in France regardless of their citizenship status. But many petitioners were unaware of this policy, or unsure if the issue was actually citizenship, rather than race. Their uncertainty was logical; the definition of what it meant to be French, the political and civil rights associated with citizenship, and the legal effect of marriage on the citizenship of men and women were all in flux throughout the period.59 Moreover, the nationality of colonial subjects, especially former slaves, was itself open to question. The French 1685 Code Noir stated explicitly that freed slaves did not require letters of naturalization, and the 1794 abolition of slavery declared that all men in French colonies were French citizens. But British victories in the Caribbean and the independence of Haiti complicated claims to French citizenship, while the restoration of slavery called into the question the rights of colonial subjects. Some petitioners thus made it explicit that they sought, or had sought, legal citizenship in France. For example, a 29-year-old mulatto who had been born in Saint Domingue noted that he had come to Bordeaux with his father. He had originally intended to return to the island, but the “diverse revolutions that had repeatedly crushed the colony” had deprived him of his heritage there, so he had elected to stay in France. In 1806, he explained that “For four years he has worked as a wig-maker with a shop; for that and to have the title of French citizen, he has conformed to the laws of the country, and has paid personal taxes…. yet he does not entirely enjoy European prerogatives, because he is refused the sweetest ones of marriage.”6050
      Others similarly tried either to naturalize in France or prove that they were already French. We have already encountered Réné Benjamin, who described himself as an homme de couleur, but was doomed because his master referred to him as black.61 But Benjamin’s story is more complicated. From the age of fifteen, he had served in the French army, initially in a colonial regiment in Sainte Lucie, where he was wounded and taken prisoner by the English; after four years in captivity, he arrived in metropolitan France as part of an exchange of prisoners. As part of his request for marriage, he sought to naturalize in 1806 to secure his status. His petition used common formulas in requests for naturalization; he threw himself on the paternal benevolence of Napoleon and depicted himself as a loyal and devoted subject. His naturalization attempt, however, appears to have been unsuccessful. An unsigned marginal note on his petition revealed contemporary prejudices with particular bluntness: “The imperial prosecutor having pronounced that he is black, he cannot marry a white woman. Naturalization will not make him white, and I doubt that it is accorded to blacks (nègres).”51
      Officials in general tended to view blacks and people of color as colonial subjects, and not as foreigners or French citizens. Indeed, an 1807 census of “individus noirs ou de couleur des deux sexes existant dans le 1er arrondissement” (corresponding to about 50 departments) divided the population into two geographical categories: those born in France and those “coming from the islands.”62 It was clear from the officials’ own tables that these two categories were inadequate. While the majority of those listed were either born in France or from France’s principal colonies in the Caribbean, administrators also classified as “coming from the islands” people originally from India (particularly Calcutta and Bengal), and various regions of Africa (including Egypt, Madagascar, Darfur, the Guinea Coast, and the Malabar Coast). The clear inadequacies of those categories did not lead administrators to redefine them.52
      Depending on their background, some petitioners explicitly framed either their colonial background or, conversely, their distance from the colonial arena as rationales for granting them rights. For example, Pierre Eugene, a servant living in Paris in 1814, petitioned to be allowed to marry Dlle Jeanne Chapuy, a “française.” He had a son, aged about three at the time of his application, whom he wanted to legitimate. When Eugene presented himself at the local city hall, he was told of the ban. As one of the arguments furthering his cause to authorities, the petitioner claimed “as a native of Saint Domingue, he dares believe that he has some rights.”6353
      Others made the converse argument. Fanaye, the former Napoleonic soldier in love with an Ethiopian woman, asked explicitly if the ban was motivated by the goal of “maintaining the supremacy of Europeans in the colonies.” If so, he argued, their case should be considered differently: “we can respond that Marie Hélène is neither a slave, nor a Creole of the French possessions. She is a free Ethiopian, who voluntarily followed the destiny of a Frenchman, whom she rescued from a massacre.”6454
      In practice, the ban discriminated against those who had come to France from Africa rather than from the Caribbean. This was not because authorities deliberately sought to privilege colonial subjects. Instead, it was because those from the islands were more likely to be of mixed race. Race, it appeared, trumped, citizenship—even within metropolitan France.55
      Yet citizenship was critical in another respect for those who reflected on the measure: relating the ministerial circular to the fundamental laws that established the legal equality of French citizens, especially the 1804 Civil Code and the 1814 Charter. Both petitioners and local officials often questioned the status of the decree. They were unsure about how long the circular remained in effect, or how widely it should be applied, especially after Napoleon’s fall from power. The letter of the Public Prosecutor (procureur général) in Beaumetz on June 8, 1814, was typical of such queries: he observed that “this decision was anterior to the Civil Code, which does not contain a similar prohibition, and I am uncertain if still exists.”65 He was told that since it had not been abrogated, it remained in effect. When cases surfaced in their towns or regions, others similarly sought guidance from higher officials, like the mayor of Bourges who in 1817 expressed his confusion because the Code did not discuss interracial unions.6656
      More importantly, however, petitioners and some officials questioned not only the continued relevance of the law, but also its compatibility with the legal equality established by the Code and the Charter. Such queries became increasingly common in the first few years of the Restoration, and especially in 1818. A petition on behalf of Antoine Dogard, a former soldier from Madagascar who had been in France for forty years, is typical of such challenges; on February 28, 1818, he suggested that the circular had been “implicitly revoked by the first article of the Constitutional Charter, which proclaims the French equal before the law.”6757
      A similar case came from the deputy mayor of Montluçon in the department of the Allier. In late 1818, he inquired about a twenty-seven-year-old pregnant white woman who had come before him wanting to marry a black man (nègre), Jean-Baptiste Noé from Saint Domingue; both had been in the area for about a year.68 His question was transmitted to the Prefect of the department, who in turn sought advice from the Minister of Justice. The Prefect explicitly condemned the degenerative effects of interracial unions. But the legal status of the decree confused him. Implicitly accepting that many petitioners were French citizens, he wondered if both the ministerial circular and the old regime precedent “were repealed by article eight of the civil code, which states that all French are entitled to civil rights. This article does not make an exception for color. There is also not an exception in article 174, which establishes the grounds for opposing marriages.”58
      The Prefect also introduced another element, the decision of the Royal Court of Bordeaux, of May 22, 1806, that parents could not legally object to their children’s marriage on the basis of a “difference of color.” This appears to have been the only case in which the legality of interracial marriage came directly before a Napoleonic court. It pitted Charlotte Crouzeilles, a young woman who wanted to marry an homme de couleur, against her disapproving mother. The court ultimately decided in favor of the couple and formally sanctioned their union.6959
      But the Prefect was misinformed about the wider implications of the judgment. The bride’s mother’s objections appear to have had more to do with money than race, and the Crouzeilles’ legal struggles over family legacies continued into the late 1820s.70 As an homme de couleur, Pierre Pigeot was allowed to marry even under the ministerial circular. Moreover, even as the court made a wide-ranging list of circumstances that could not prevent marriage, it made an exception for blacks. The court ruled that the “inequality of conditions, differences of color, blacks (nègres) excepted, differences of fortune and age cannot be a means for parents to oppose their children’s marriages.” In concluding, it reiterated this qualification: “with the exception of marriages between a white man and a black woman (négresse) or between a white woman and black man (nègre), which is formally prohibited by a governmental act, differences in color, birth, fortune, age, or state, cannot be accepted by the courts as grounds to forbid or prevent marriage.”7160
      More general queries about the legality of the ministerial circular, however, were recurrent. This was in part because administrators often verified legal procedures with higher authorities, especially if there was any ambiguity. For those more concerned with challenging the law than learning how it should be applied, it also made ample sense to stress the incompatibility of slavery and other racist laws with constitutional declarations of equal rights. This was a standard strategy in abolitionist rhetoric, from those who emphasized the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen in 1789 to proponents of emancipation in 1848.72 Yet the abolitionist movement in France was weak in the early nineteenth century and had little public presence; while those who criticized the legality of the measure could have drawn from contemporary critiques of the legality of slavery itself, it seems unlikely that they did so.7361
      Moreover, it was difficult for an individual to challenge a decree on the grounds that it was at odds with fundamental law. Certainly, institutions existed to decide whether administrators had exceeded the limits of their authority or acted arbitrarily or ignorantly. Régnier, the Minister of Justice who decreed the initial ban on intermarriage, was also president of the Commission of claims (des affaires contentieuses) of the Council of State from 1806 to 1813, which oversaw such cases. However, there was no easy or systematic way to challenge the dictates of Ministers themselves, although they could be overturned by their successors or by the legislature.62
      Perhaps more importantly, neither of the major points of reference—the 1804 Napoleonic Civil Code nor the 1814 Charter—had the same potential authority as the United States Constitution. The Civil Code proclaimed that all Frenchmen enjoyed civil rights and that its regulations applied throughout French territory. But it was promulgated after the re-institutionalization of slavery; when it was instituted in 1805 in Guadeloupe and Martinique, article three specified that its measures applied only to whites. Some in France may well have felt that similar racial exceptions to the Code were also justified in the metropole. It also explicitly regulated civil rights, not citizenship; it was a legal code, not a constitution, and did not necessarily override earlier measures if those had not been formally abrogated.63
      The 1814 Charter may have provided stronger grounds for claiming equality, as article one proclaimed that Frenchmen were equal before the law, whatever their titles and ranks. This was very similar language to that used in the revolutionary Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, language that fueled demands for civil and political rights for oppressed minorities. But while men and women in the Restoration invoked the Charter as fundamental law on key political issues, the existence of a separate and prior Civil Code meant that the Charter was rarely applied directly to questions of civil equality. Referring to the Code or the Charter thus provoked questions about the legality and force of the ministerial decree on interracial marriage, but did not immediately negate it.64
Keeping Toleration Quiet 
Official policy began to change in the late summer of 1818. The first signs of a new policy appeared in the response to the petition of Jean Marcel. Born in Guadeloupe, Marcel had fought in French armies and had been retired for about six years when, on November 14, 1817, he first petitioned the government to be allowed to marry.74 The mayor of Pau, however, hesitated to allow him to legitimate his child by marrying his white lover. The Minister of Justice assured Marcel that the mayor’s refusal to marry him lacked justification. Using familiar phrases, the Minister wrote that the “decree applies only to blacks properly speaking; if you are not of that class, it is not applicable to you. The officier de l’état civil should judge.” The officer in question, the mayor of Pau, wrote again to the Minister of Justice, to double-check what he should do. He accepted that the marriage did not contradict the Civil Code or the laws in force, but it did seem to contradict ministerial instructions from June 9, 1813.75 The Minister responded on August 7, 1818, that the union could not be stopped, but the decision should not be rendered public, as such unions were not to be encouraged.7665
      This formula actually prefigured a major shift in policy. The Minister of Justice reiterated it frequently, even as the government began to approve marriages that were clearly between whites and blacks, rather than those deemed to be of color. On December 30, 1818, authorities allowed a marriage between Antoine Uginet, born in Versailles and residing in Paris, and Mlle Louise Marie Adélaïde Joséphine Lippine Yaou Karissa, born on the African coast. (No further specifications were given; her proliferation of names presumably came in part from her baptism in Saint Eustache, in 1786, by the Monseigneur le Duc d’Orleans.) An official at the tribunal of première instance wrote the Minister of Justice, assuring him that he would keep the marriage quiet: “I will observe carefully Your Honor’s decision that that these kinds of marriages not be made public.”7766
      The call for secrecy was repeated when Charles Fanaye, the former Napoleonic soldier in love with an Ethiopian woman, was finally allowed to marry in January 1819; local authorities were warned not to publicize his marriage. The formula similarly appeared on June 29, 1819, when Pierre Jaron, a black man (homme noir) born in Saint Domingue, sought to wed Antoinette Geneviève Peronnet. The two had lived together for nine years in the department of the Yonne, and had borne a child who had not survived.78 They were allowed to marry, on the condition that local officials kept the news of their union quiet.67
      What motivated this shift? In part, the new policy corresponded simply to a new government in office. Étienne Denis, baron Pasquier, was Minister of Justice from January 19, 1817, to December 29, 1818; the first case in which blacks and whites were permitted to marry began on December 30, 1818, when the Count de Serre took office. While de Serre clearly borrowed his predecessor’s language in keeping quiet any news of mixed marriage, he seems to have rejected the ban itself. But the rationale for a new policy went beyond a change of personnel.68
      Indeed, in justifying Uginet and Karissa’s marriage and those that followed, de Serre partially explained his reasoning for this new policy. The ban on mixed marriages was based “only on the will of the former government, and cannot be reconciled with the dispositions of our laws on marriage. Civil rights were accorded in France to blacks (nègres) and other gens de couleur since the law of October 16, 1791, and the ban cannot be upheld.”69
      The law in question, more generally associated with its initial proclamation in September 1791 than its October ratification, explicitly addressed rights in metropolitan France. Article one declared free any individual as soon as he was on French territory. Article two declared that “any man, whatever color he may be, has all the rights of a citizen in France, if he has the qualities prescribed by the Constitution to exercise these rights.”70
      On the face of it, this was a peculiar law for de Serre to draw upon. It was, first of all, a revolutionary decree; it might have appeared more logical for a member of the conservative Restoration government to look to the Old Regime or to convenient Napoleonic measures. Indeed, even those who challenged the legality of the ban on interracial marriage usually compared it to the Civil Code or the 1814 Charter; few, if any, mentioned the 1791 decree. The decree in fact had been effectively negated by the 1802 law that forbade all blacks, mulattos, and other people of color to enter France, and the ban on entry into France was reiterated in circulars on July 20, 1807, and October 17, 1817.71
      Yet de Serre’s reference was not as unusual as it might appear. Like his predecessor Pasquier, he was a political moderate in 1819. While unquestionably hostile to the radical Jacobin republic of 1793–1794, he would have been more sympathetic to the constitutional monarchy instituted in 1791 and to some of the legislation associated with it. His recourse to the 1791 decree reminds us that Restoration policy was more diverse and sometimes had more in common with Revolutionary principles than we might think.72
      Perhaps more importantly, his new attitude toward interracial marriage corresponded to new policies in 1818 regulating how freely blacks and people of color could travel. In October 1817, the Minister of the Navy reinvigorated the measures of an 1802 ban on travel, closing French ports to blacks and mulattos.79 But in April 1818, the legislature outlawed the slave trade in the French empire. The law itself was ineffectual in regulating the trade, and most historians have dismissed it because slave smuggling continued in significant numbers into the late nineteenth century.80 It nonetheless had indirect effects on travel and racial status within France. In August of 1818, the Minister of the Marine sent out a circular proclaiming that while special measures applied to slaves, free people of color could enter and leave France without being subject to any financial guarantee.81 Passenger lists of ships confirm that gens de couleur traveled from Martinique to France in growing numbers in the wake of the circular (some had previously done so illegally). Increasing numbers of nonwhites from other colonies also came to France in the following years, although their total numbers remained small.82 Such official freedom of movement was a dramatic change from earlier policies.73
      De Serre did not explicitly invoke the 1818 circular on travel when he approved interracial unions. But since the 1803 law forbidding interracial marriage took effect shortly after the 1802 law that forbade blacks, mulattos, and other people of color to enter into France without authorization, it seems likely that relaxations of travel restrictions also went hand in hand with de Serre’s decision to relax the ban on mixed marriages. In this light, it is also logical that he referred to one of the few laws in French history, perhaps the only law, that directly linked the ability of men and women of color to come freely to France with their rights as citizens.8374
Publicly Lifting the Ban 
De Serre’s response to another would-be couple, on July 13, 1819, marks a final turning point. The case concerned Auguste Gérome, referred to in his dossier as a negro (nègre). Born a slave in Guadeloupe, he had been in the department of the Charente-Inférieure since 1802. Initially a servant, he had set up a household with a white peasant woman, with whom he had seven children, four of whom remained alive in 1819. Like Fanaye and Jaron, Auguste Gérome was now allowed to marry. In the draft of his response, the Minister of Justice added his now standard formula: “As these sorts of marriages are not of a nature to be encouraged, this decision must not be public.” Then he, or someone else, crossed it out.8475
      Several more petitioners and confused local officials contacted the government in the months that followed, including the only woman to petition the government directly, Catherine Prunague of Montpellier, and a final petition from July 1820, for Jean-Baptiste Lafortune, an illiterate servant in Poitiers. Both were permitted to marry; while the letter granting their request reiterated the justification for overturning the ban, the formula about publicity did not reappear.76
      What happened to make publicity appear acceptable, or at least unavoidable? Looking at a brief legislative discussion reveals at least part of the story. The ban was fully lifted in February 1819, after a former military officer and rich man of color from St. Domingue petitioned the Chamber of Deputies and managed to catch the attention of prominent legislators.85 Like some of his predecessors, Augustin Regis invoked the dubious legality of the measure. He dismissed it as a ministerial decision, issued by a deposed government, rather than as the product of serious legislative discussion and reflection. He also claimed that it particularly hurt former soldiers who had sacrificed for France (he was a retired officier des Etats-Majors), as well as merchants who served the state by paying taxes and making other financial contributions. He contended that such individuals “could not lose their civil and political rights with harm to the articles of the Constitutional Charter, that guarantee of the inviolability of individual rights, and the rights of citizens.” In wrapping up his arguments, Regis also invoked the practical difficulties in determining race. He claimed that for such distinctions to work, “it would require tested experts in color and skin,” expertise at “odds with the philanthropic sentiments of the Restoration government.”77
      One legislator in particular was inspired by Regis’s petition: Gabriel Joseph Laisné de Villevêque.86 Laisné was an ardent proponent of French imperialism; among other ventures, he fought against Bonaparte’s sale of the Louisiana Territory in 1803, championed expeditions to West Africa, and supported unsuccessful French colonization efforts in Mexico in the 1830s.87 But he was also an opponent of the slave trade and proposed gradual abolition of slavery itself.88 In the early Restoration, he appeared a particularly vocal supporter of the rights of the gens de couleur. Indeed, he is the probable author of an 1823 pamphlet De la situation des gens de couleur libres aux Antilles françaises (The situation of people of color in the French Antilles), the circulation of which provoked the Cyrille Bisette affair, a major cause célèbre over the status of free people of color in Martinique.8978
      In 1819, Regis’s petition provided him with the opportunity both to praise France’s colonies and to criticize what he termed an “aristocracy of color.” Like Regis, Laisné noted that the ban ran counter to the “equality of rights proclaimed by the Charter.” It was similarly incompatible with the Civil Code, “which also does not contain this offensive and impolitic ban.” Laisné even added a third proof of the absence of a legal basis for the measure, the Code Noir itself: “The ban on marriages between whites and gens de couleur did not even exist in the Code Noir. It is the sad and arbitrary conception of a few former governors.”79
      Laisné, however, devoted most of his speech to the relationship between France and Haiti. He began by proclaiming that if legislators did not loudly condemn “this decree dictated by the sprit of despotism, pride, and blindness that presided over the murderous expedition to Saint Domingue in 1802” they would “establish an eternal wall of separation between France and this beautiful colony; reconciliation will become impossible.”90 Laisné voiced both a common Restoration desire to see Haiti reunited with France and a change from the Napoleonic policy that France could and should reconquer the colony by force.91 While diplomacy was complicated by the political instability in Haiti after the death of Pétion (the ruler over southern Haiti) in March 1818, France seems to have engaged in an increasing number of nondiplomatic overtures. Perhaps most notably, in April 1819, a few months after Laisné’s speech, France welcomed six children of prominent Haitian mulattos to “perfect their French.”9280
      Laisné’s support for mixed marriages was also clearly motivated by his hopes of reconciliation. He championed them as the best means of fostering peace within the former colony and of improving its relationship to France. In his eyes, “Frequent marriages between whites and gens de couleur are the surest way to extinguish hatreds, memories, and sentiments.” His emphasis on the instrumental uses of mixed marriages is striking. Few of his contemporaries made such explicit claims, although the person who comes closest is probably the Abbé Henri Grégoire. Grégoire was a far more prominent and more controversial political figure than Laisné in the period; indeed, while he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in September 1819, his election would quickly be nullified by ultraroyalists who objected to the presence in the legislature of a man they considered a regicide. While known for his republicanism, Grégoire was also famed for his revolutionary defenses of the rights of people of color; noted author of the 1808 work De la littérature des nègres, ou Recherches sur leurs facultés intellectuelles, leurs qualités morales et leur littérature (translated at the time as An Enquiry Concerning the Intellectual and Moral Faculties and Literature of Negroes), he continued to correspond with Haitian intellectuals during the Restoration.9381
      Like Laisné, Grégoire supported mixed marriages, especially in the Caribbean. In his 1823 Considerations on Marriage and Divorce addressed to the citizens of Haiti, he condemned long-standing prejudices against “the marriages of whites with other colors,” although he made no reference to the ban against interracial marriage in France itself.94Considerations was primarily motivated by a desire to eradicate what he saw as the immorality of concubinage and divorce in the former colony, but also implied that interracial marriage was not simply tolerable, but even desirable. By 1826, Grégoire did explicitly cite the ban on interracial marriage in France in his tract De la Noblesse de Peau (Essay on the Nobility of the Skin); although he was confused about the details, he bewailed the power of prejudice against such marriages.95 Indeed, Alyssa Sepinwall has argued that interracial marriage was at the heart of Grégoire’s project of global regeneration, even before the Saint Domingue Revolution. She also suggests that Grégoire’s version of universalism was compatible with new forms of colonialism and cultural hegemony, an implicit parallel to Laisné’s contemporary interest in both rights for gens de couleur and further imperial conquest.82
      Laisné’s portrayal of mixed marriages as a tool of both racial reconciliation and colonialism is also striking in a wider historical perspective. As we have seen, bans on miscegenation had been widespread in the Old Regime, especially by the later eighteenth century. Employers and colonial officials did continue to accept or encourage concubinage with native women in certain cases, sometimes well into the twentieth century, but this seems to have been most common in cases where there were few European women and where such liaisons promised to expedite imperial conquest and rule.96 Few directly welcomed interracial marriages—especially between whites and blacks—as a means of reconciliation both within and with a former colony and as an aspect of further conquest. Laisné’s endorsement of such a policy resulted in part from his own sympathies for gens de couleur; he seemed not to realize that the measure had not in fact been applied to them in France. It was also a product of a very particular moment in the history of imperialism, as France adjusted to the loss of much of its eighteenth-century colonial empire and feared losing more, even as individuals began to dream of conquering anew.83
      The members of the French Chamber of Deputies briefly discussed French and Haitian relations in their response to Laisné de Villevêque’s speech, but did not devote much time to the subject. In the name of the Commission on Petitions, Broglie reported that “the King’s government has destroyed the effects of the ministerial circular which the petitioner is complaining about, and has sworn in the future to conform to existing laws that do not forbid such marriages.” The former Minister of Justice, the baron Pasquier, promised that “the ministry that he had been part of has done everything to make up for the effects of the circular referred to in the petition, but with all the wisdom and just measures (juste mesure) required by such delicate interests.” He added that the circular had been revoked, and in a somewhat questionable claim, that “there was no longer anyone who could now complain to be injured by it.”9784
      It is not surprising that Pasquier referred to “delicate interests,” given his concern for secrecy. It is also not surprising that it was no longer possible to keep mum about official recognition of such unions. Laisné’s speech and the surrounding political debate appeared in the Moniteur, the primary journal covering legislative debates and news; an attentive public could discover that marriages between blacks and whites were now legally acceptable.85
Yet in other respects, Pasquier’s discretion was successful. The ban on interracial marriage drew little public attention, even in contemporary works that explicitly addressed mixed marriage, like Claire de Duras’s well-known novel Ourika.98 First published in 1823, the novel recounts the life of a Senegalese girl who was rescued from slavery as an infant by an aristocratic French family. The girl leads a privileged existence until she reaches marriageable age. Then, one night, she accidentally overhears a crucial conversation between her benefactors and realizes that the only reason a white man would marry her would be for money, not love. She is abruptly confronted with the reality of her situation as black woman and her prospects of a loveless, childless existence in France.86
      The novel is set in the 1790s, when in the ferment of revolution, interracial marriage was allowed. But it showed no awareness that just a few years before the publication of the book, a real-life black Senegalese woman would not have been allowed to marry a white man in France, regardless of her social position. Contemporary plays based on the story similarly overlooked the recent history of legal restrictions on mixed marriage.9987
      Even when the ban was in effect, it seemed to have little impact on popular culture within France. Certainly it did not figure in a November 1814 play inspired by the display of the Hottentot Venus. The vaudeville featured a French man who vowed that he would not marry a Frenchwoman; he was ultimately seduced by his white cousin who disguised herself as an exotic beauty.100 Because he wed a white woman, the legal status of their marriage was unproblematic. Yet the vaudeville did not mention even the prospect of a legal barrier to interracial union; it simply vaunted the beauty and superiority of French women.88
      Given that the reality of such marriages was difficult for many to imagine, it is perhaps unsurprising that the legal barriers against them did not resonate beyond local settings and legal halls. Yet the invisibility of the ban in early nineteenth-century French popular culture should not mean its disappearance from history. Its very existence requires us to nuance our understanding of race in French history, and more generally, in the Atlantic world. In a 2005 article, the prominent American historian of race George Fredrickson looked at attitudes towards miscegenation in the United States and France.101 Based on the understanding that metropolitan France passed no laws against intermarriage after the short-lived decree of 1778, Fredrickson has concluded that racial fusion was much easier to accept there than in America in the same period. While that may have been true overall, the couples barred from wedlock in the early nineteenth century would scarcely have seen French officialdom as welcoming hybridity.10289
      Looking closely at the application of the decree also reveals the uses of neglected sources in illuminating how racial categories were understood and experienced. Particularly in the context of early nineteenth-century France, administrative decrees and policies can be as revealing as the courtroom contests more often used to look at the intersections of law and race. It is also easy when thinking specifically about colonial history to focus on the proliferation of documents relating directly to imperial conquest and rule; or conversely, to turn to literary and scientific sources to find images of the “other” within European culture. Such materials are often deeply illuminating, yet they can miss aspects of both the relations between metropole and colony and the lived experience of race within France.90
      Indeed, both the institutionalization and end of the ban point to hidden connections—and divergences—between metropolitan and colonial histories. The story of the ban shows how reinstitutionalizing slavery in the colonies affected continental France, where slavery theoretically did not exist. Even when the freedom of individual men and women was not questioned, the reimposition of slavery and associated restrictions on travel within the empire deeply affected the lives of some within France.91
      At the same time, however, the story of the ban cautions us against simplistic mapping of the histories of race and slavery, colonies, and metropole. The racial and gender politics of intermarriage were very different in France itself, in part because of the different demographic makeup of France and the Caribbean. The distinctions that metropolitan officials made between the rights of gens de couleur and blacks were also not necessarily those in the colonies. Frédéric Régent has pointed out that in 1802, French officials in Guadeloupe sought to deprive free gens de couleur of the title of “citizen” as a key step towards reinstituting slavery; in metropolitan France, the Minister of Justice would distinguish between blacks and gens de couleur by explicitly equating those of mixed race with “other citizens.”10392
      Similarly, the end of the ban and the change in the status of blacks within France did not map simply onto the end of slavery or to a moment of decolonization. It preceded the second abolition of slavery in 1848 by close to thirty years; it reflected changing policies towards travel within the empire, but not necessarily towards slavery itself. Nor did it necessarily mean rejecting or abandoning colonialism, as evidenced by Laisné de Villevêque’s support both of mixed marriages and French imperial conquest.93
      The ban also suggests the importance of a transitional period for working out ideas of race. The late eighteenth-century cauldrons of revolution and war, in both Europe and the Caribbean, dramatically reshaped colonial and racial relations. Similarly, the “new imperialism” of the late nineteenth century and mass migrations of the twentieth century involved major shifts in thinking about race, identity, and power. Yet the early nineteenth century was not simply a period of quiescence between more major upheavals. Instead, contemporaries struggled to decide what race meant, or should mean, in a post-Revolutionary world, in ways that often conflicted with contemporary understandings of family, social order, and national citizenship. In instituting a ban on interracial marriage, officials did not simply return to the Old Regime slave regime after the Revolution; the application of the decree involved very different distinctions than the eighteenth-century version of a similar ban. In ending the law, Restoration officials also did not simply replicate Old Regime policies. They returned explicitly to Revolutionary law—but to a very select version of that law, one that applied specifically to French territory.94
      Finally, the story of the ban has a mixed message for us. It shows us how a seemingly arbitrary definition of race in France could, at least briefly, trump concerns about gender, religion, and national identity. But it also shows the persistence of certain couples in legitimizing their bonds, and the eventual, if grudging, acceptance by the French Restoration government not only of liaisons between gens de couleur and whites, but also of those between couples deemed to be black and white.

Jennifer Heuer is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst <[email protected]>. She would like to thank Alyssa Sepinwall, Sue Peabody, Rebecca Hartkopf Schloss, Anne Verjus, Brian Ogilvie, and the anonymous reviewers of Law and History Review for their suggestions and comments on earlier versions of this article.


1.� Archives nationales (henceforward A.N.) BB15–211, R4, no 3266. This description of their encounter dates from early 1819. See also A.N. BB15–200, for the refusal of their marriage in 1816. Napoleonic census records place them in the department of Eure et Loire in 1807 and note that she had also nursed him back to health after a grave illness; see A.N. F7–8705.

2.� A.N. BB15–183.

3.� Marcel Dorigny mentions the law in Révoltes et révolutions en Europe et aux Amériques (1773–1802) (Paris: Belin, 2005), 170. He presents it as a return to the legislation of 1778, which is partially true. Dwain Pruitt has also discovered a case from 1817 in Nantes, when local officials sought to determine if a man who called himself an Indian was allowed to marry. See Pruitt, “Nantes Noir: Living Race in the City of Slavers” (Ph.D. dissertation, Emory University, 2005), 131, note 63.

4.� For an important exception, see Marcel Dorigny and Yves Benot, eds., 1802: le rétablissement de l’esclavage dans les colonies françaises (Paris: Maisonneuve & Larose, 2003). See also Yves Benot, La démence coloniale sous Napoléon (Paris: La Découverte, 1992).

5.� For works on France, see especially Owen White, “Miscegenation and the Popular Imagination,” in Promoting the Colonial Idea: Propaganda and Visions of Empire in France, ed. Tony Chafer and Amanda Sackur (New York: Palgrave, 2002), 133–42; and Owen White, Children of the French Empire: Miscegenation and Colonial Society in French West Africa, 1895–1960 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). See also Jennifer Yee, “Métissage in France: a postmodern fantasy and its forgotten precedents,” Modern & Contemporary France 11 (2003): 411–25; Nelly Schmidt, Histoire du métissage (Paris: Editions de la Martinière, 2003); Claude Blanckaert, “Of Monstrous Métis? Hybridity, Fear of Miscegenation, and Patriotism from Buffon to Paul Broca,” in The Color of Liberty: Histories of Race in France, ed. Sue Peabody and Tyler Stovall (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 42–69; and George M. Fredrickson, “Mulattoes and Métis: Attitudes Toward Miscegenation in the United States and France since the Seventeenth Century,” International Social Science Journal 57 (2005): 103–12.

6.� Recent works on race in French history include Sue Peabody and Tyler Stovall, eds., The Color of Liberty: Histories of Race in France (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003); and Herrick Chapman and Laura Frader, eds., Race in France: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Politics of Difference (New York and Oxford: Berghan Books, 2004). But for continued difficulties with addressing race in Francophone historiography, see Alyssa Sepinwall, “The Specter of Saint-Domingue: American and French Reactions to the Haitian Revolution,” in The Haitian Revolution: 200 Years After, ed. Norman Fiering and David Geggus (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, forthcoming 2009); and Alyssa Sepinwall, “Atlantic Amnesia: French Historians, the Haitian Revolution and the 2004–6 CAPES Exam,” Proceedings of the Western Society for French History, 34 (2007): 300–14.

7.� An 1807 census recorded 821 men and 461 women who were “noirs ou de couleur.” Michael Sibalis, “Les Noirs en France sous Napoléon: l’enquête de 1807,” in 1802: le rétablissement de l’esclavage, 95–106. For the original inquiry, see A.N. F7–8705 and F7–8444. However, the census did not include Paris, where the majority of nonwhites lived in prerevolutionary France. Eighteenth-century officials estimated the total population of nonwhites in the kingdom as four to five thousand; although these numbers are disputed, two recent historians have deemed them plausible. See Erick Noël, Etre noir en France au XVIIIe siècle (Paris: Tallandier, 2006), 95–97; and Pierre Boulle, Race et esclavage dans la France de l’Ancien Régime (Paris: Perrin, 2007), 169–71. It seems likely that the numbers are comparable for Napoleonic France.

8.� A.N. BB15–206 to BB15–211 are most relevant; alphabetical records are in BB15–18 through BB15–178.

9.� A.N. series BB16.

10.� Such records include those for Placide, a former servant living in Bordeaux in 1806, in A.N. BB16–142, R7 no. 1174, and Jean-Baptiste Lafortune, also a servant, in Potiers in 1820, in A.N. BB15–211, R4, no. 7253.

11.� A.N. BB15–211, R4, no. 6161.

12.� The “one-drop” policy is most associated with the United States in the Jim Crow era, especially the series of laws beginning with Tennessee’s one-drop statute in 1910. By the early nineteenth century, however, various southern states applied if not “one-drop” laws, then at least “one quarter” or “one eighth” rules about “African blood” to determine one’s legal ancestry. See Peter W. Bardaglio, “‘Shameful Matches’: The Regulation of Interracial Sex and Marriage in the South Before 1900,” in Sex, Love, Race: Crossing Boundaries in North American History, ed. Martha Hodes (New York: New York University Press, 1999), 112–38.

13.� In June 1814, the procureur general at the Royal court of Douai in the Nord referred to a recent work on the duties of civil officers that included the circular. A.N. BB15–206, R2, no. 1070. I have not yet been able to track down the work in question, but it may have been M. Léopold, Dictionnaire général de police civile et judicaire de l’empire français (Paris: Eymery, 1813). The ban also appears in later editions of the Dictionnaire from 1816 and 1822. The text contained a telling mistake; all three versions claimed the ban forbade marriage between “white men and black women and between black women and white men.” Clearly, Leopold did not register that the decree could affect relationships between black men and white women, or consider the text important enough to correct; he also did not register the end of the ban in 1818.

14.� Guillaume Aubert, “‘The Blood of France’: Race and Purity of Blood in the French Atlantic World,” William and Mary Quarterly 61 (2004): 439–78.

15.� Sue Peabody, “Négresse, Mulâtrese, Citoyenne: Gender and Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1650–1848,” in Gender and Emancipation in the Atlantic World, ed. Diana Paton and Pamela Scully (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2005), 56–78.

16.� Myriam Cottias, “La séduction coloniale: Damnation et stratégies aux Antilles, XVIIe-XIXe siècle,” in Séduction et sociétés: approches historiques, ed. Cécile Dauphin and Arlette Farge (Paris: Seuil, 2001), 125–40.

17.� Jennifer Spear, “Colonial Intimacies: Legislating Sex in French Louisiana,” William and Mary Quarterly 60 (2003): 75–98. There is a lively debate about how to interpret interracial attitudes and comparative policies towards marriage with Native Americans and with blacks.

18.� Sue Peabody, There are no slaves in France: the political culture of race and slavery in the Old Regime (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996); and Pierre H. Boulle, “Racial Purity or Legal Clarity? The Status of Black Residents in Eighteenth-Century France,” The Journal of The Historical Society 6 (2006): 19–46.

19.� Several interracial couples appear in the Napoleonic survey of 1807, who had clearly married during the Revolution. See A.N. F7–8705 and F7–8444.

20.� The 1777 decree is available at (accessed August 1, 2007); the 1802 decree at (accessed August 1, 2007). The 1802 decree is also reprinted in Benot et Dorigny, 1802, 564.

21.�Arrest du Conseil d’état du Roi concernant les mariages des noirs, mulâtres, ou autres gens de couleur, du 5 avril 1778 (Lille: NJB Peterinck-Cramé, 1778).

22.� A.N. BB15–206, R2, no. 3057.

23.� A.N. BB15–211, R4, no. 3266.

24.� Boulle, “Racial Purity,” 25. Sartine’s subordinate, the procureur du roi, Poncet de la Grave, also repeatedly denounced interracial sex, and helped promote the ban. Peabody, No Slaves, especially 110, 124, and 182–131.

25.� A.N. BB15–210, R4, no. 3002.

26.� Martin Staum, “Paris ethnology and the perfectibility of ‘races,'” Canadian Journal of History 35 (2000): 453–72; and Martin Staum, Labeling People: French Scholars on Society, Race, and Empire, 1815–1848 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s press, 2003).

27.� Benot, La démence coloniale, 211–28. See also Jean-Claude Halpern, “Le nègre et l’européen: Virey ou l’anthropologie bavarde,” in Dorigny and Benot, 1802: le rétablissement de l’esclavage, 523–35.

28.� For an overview of later attitudes, see Neil MacMaster, Racism in Europe, 1870–2000 (Hampshire, England: Palgrave, 2001).

29.� Sadiah Qureshi, “Displaying Sara Baartman, the ‘Hottentot Venus,'” History of Science 42 (2004): 233–57, and Ann Fausto-Sterling, “Gender, Race and Nation: The Comparative Anatomy of ‘Hottentot’ Women in Europe, 1815–1817,” in Deviant Bodies: Critical Perspectives on Difference in Science and Popular Culture, ed. Jennifer Terry and Jacqueline Urla (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), 19–48. See also Clifton Crais and Pamela Scully, Sara Baartman and The Hottentot Venus: A Ghost Story and a Biography (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008).

30.� Indeed, some nineteenth-century theorists, like Michel-Hyachinthe Deschampes, argued explicitly for the regeneration of the human species by successive whitening through cross-breeding. See Blanckaert, “Of Monstrous Métis?”

31.� A far from comprehensive list includes John Garrigus, “Redrawing the Colour Line: Gender and the Social Construction of Race in Pre-Revolutionary Haiti,” The Journal of Caribbean History 30 (1996): 29–38; John Garrigus, Before Haiti: Race and Citizenship in French Saint-Domingue (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006); Carminella Biondi, “Le problème des gens de couleur aux colonies et en France dans la seconde moitié du XVIIIe siècle,” Cromohs 8 (2003), <>; Dominique Rogers, “Les libres de couleur dans les capitales de Saint-Domingue: Fortune, mentalités, et intégration à la fin de l’ancien régime (1776–1789)” (Ph.D. dissertation, Université de Bordeaux-III, 1999); and Stewart King, Blue Coat or Powdered Wig: Free People of Color in Pre-Revolutionary Saint Domingue (Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 2001).

32.� David Geggus, “Racial Equality, Slavery and Colonial Succession During the Constituent Assembly,” American Historical Review 94 (1989): 1290–308; Robert Forster, “The French Revolution, people of color, and slavery,” in The Global Ramifications of the French Revolution, ed. Joseph Klaits and Michael H. Haltzel (New York: Woodrow Wilson Center and Cambridge University Press, 1994), 89–104; and Didier Renard, “Vivre blanchement: les hommes de couleur et la révolution,” in Les droits de l’homme et la conquête des libertés: Des lumières aux révolutions de 1848, ed. Michel Vovelle (Grenoble-Vizille: Bicentenaire de la révolution française en Dauphiné, 1986), 257–63.

33.� A.N. F7–8705, Eure et Loire.

34.� See for example, Réponse au préfet de la Meurthe, Thermidor an 12 (juillet 1804) or the 1808 Réponse au préfet des Alpes maritimes, both in A.N. BB15–208.

35.� Boulle, Race et Esclavage, 127.

36.� Sibalis, “Les Noirs en France,” 102.

37.� See Cottias, “Séduction”; T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, Black Venus: Sexualized Savages, Primal Fears, and Primitive Narratives in French (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1999); and Doris Garraway, The Libertine Colony: Creolization in the early French Caribbean (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2005).

38.� See John Garrigus, “Redrawing the Colour Line.”

39.� Ann Laura Stoler, Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), especially chapter four. See also Lora Wildenthal, “Race, Gender and Citizenship in the German Colonial Empire,” in Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World, ed. Frederick Cooper and Ann Laura Stoler (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1997), 263–83.

40.� For some examples, see White, Children of the French Empire. For the British empire, see Jock McCulloch, Black Peril, White Virtue: Sexual Crime in Southern Rhodesia, 1902–1935 (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2000); and Dane Kennedy, Islands of White: Settler Society and Culture in Kenya and Southern Rhodesia, 1890–1939 (Durham: Duke University Press, 1987).

41.� Private correspondence, September 16, 2005. See also Rebecca Hartkopf Schloss, “The February 1831 Slave uprising in Martinique and the Policing of White Identity,” French Historical Studies 30 (2007): 203–36.

42.� I thank Sue Peabody for reminding me of this dynamic. Free colored men played an increasing role in pre-revolutionary militia companies; see King, Blue Coat. On the revolutionary “transformation of slaves into citizen-soldiers,” see Laurent Dubois, A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787–1804 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), particularly chapter 8, “War and Emancipation.” See also Mimi Sheller, “Sword-bearing citizens: Militarism and Manhood in Nineteenth-century Haiti,” Plantation Society in the Americas 4 (1997): 233–78.

43.� In many cases, records did not include the occupation of petitioners. The largest category of those whose occupation was given in their files is that of servant (domestique); soldiers or former soldiers formed the next largest group. A few servants were also former soldiers, or were employed by military officers.

44.� This was most explicit in the public weddings of young women to veterans, accompanied by state-sponsored dowries. These began in 1802, but Napoleon particularly promoted them in 1810 and 1811.

45.� “Rapport de la préfecture de police du 19 nivose an XI (sur 18 nivose an XI, 8 janvier 1803),” in François Alphonse Aulard, Paris sous le Consulat: Recueil de documents pour l’histoire de l’esprit public à Paris (Paris: Maison Quantin, 1903–1909), 3: 553–54. The date of January 3, 1803 for Régnier’s original declaration comes from Léopold, Dictionnaire général de police civile, 366; most discussions of the decree do not actually date it precisely.

46.� For more on Régnier, see Benoit Yvert, Dictionnaire des ministres de 1789 à 1989 (Paris: Perrin, 1990); and Elisabeth Laurent, Claude Ambroise Régnier, duc de Massena, Ministre de Napoleon (Paris: E. Laurent, 1980).

47.� Eugène Gaudamet, L’intérpretation du Code Civil en France depuis 1804 (Paris: Editions Mémoire du Droit, 2002).

48.�Cour royale de Bordeaux. 1re chambre. Notes pour Marie Charlotte Crouzeilles, devenue épouse et veuve de Pierre Pigeot, contre Eulalie-Josephe Crouzeilles, veuve Berretté (Bordeaux: Henry Faye, n.d). The literature on race in American courtrooms is substantial, but see especially Ariela Gross, What Blood Won’t Tell: A History of Race on Trial in America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008).

49.� For an example of contemporary colonial classifications, see Louis Elie Moreau de Saint Méry, Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie française de l’isle Saint-Domingue, 3 vols. (Philadelphia: chez l’auteur, 1797). See also Frédéric Régent, Esclavage, métissage, et liberté: La révolution française en Guadeloupe, 1789–1802 (Paris: Grasset, 2004); Garrigus, “Redrawing the color line”; and Garrigus, Before Haiti.

50.� Sibalis, “Les noirs en France.”

51.� A.N. BB16–142.

52.� See A.N. BB15–208, and for an earlier petition by Désiré, BB15–206.

53.� A.N. BB15–209, R3, 9359.

54.� A.N. BB15–207.

55.� A.N. BB15–208, Rapport au gouvernement, travail du 3 messidor an 11. June 21, 1803.

56.� Dispenses d’âge were one of the most common requests. See A.N. BB15–18 through 178.

57.� Jennifer Heuer, The Family and the Nation: Gender and Citizenship in Revolutionary France (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005).

58.�Chambre des Députés. Motifs présentes par M. Emeric-David à l’appui de sa proposition tendante à ce que le Roi soit investi du droit d’autoriser, par des dispenses, les Mariages entre Beau-Frère et Belle-Sour (Paris: Hacquart, 1814), 4. In A.N. C2030.

59.� See Heuer, The Family and the Nation.

60.� A.N. BB16–295.

61.� A.N. BB15–207, R2, no. 5848.

62.� A.N. F7–8705.

63.� A.N. BB15–206, R2, no. 1515. I have been unable to locate Eugene in the marriage registers in the Archives de Paris, but suspect that as an homme de couleur he was able to marry.

64.� A.N. BB15–211.

65.� A.N. BB15–206, R2, no. 1070.

66.� A.N. BB15–209, R3, no. 8688.

67.� A.N. BB15–210, R4, no. 318.

68.� A.N. BB15–210, R4, no. 3002.

69.� A.B. BB16–295, Gironde, R7, no. 1426.

70.� See Charlotte’s 1828 court battle with her sister in the Cour royale de Bordeaux.

71.� L. M. Devilleneuve and A. A. Carette, Recueil Général des Lois et des Arrêts, 1er série 1791–1830, vol. 2, An XIII-1808 (Paris: Bureau de l’administration, 1840), 144.

72.� For examples of such rhetoric, see Lynn Hunt, ed., The French Revolution and Human Rights: A Brief Documentary History (New York: St. Martins, 1996); La révolution française et l’abolition de l’esclavage: textes et documents, 12 vols. (Paris: EDHS, 1975).

73.� Lawrence Jennings, French anti-slavery: The movement for the abolition of slavery in France, 1802–1848 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

74.� A.N. BB15–209, R3, no. 9359.

75.� I have not been able to track down the instructions in question, but suspect that they were a reiteration of the ban on interracial marriage.

76.� A.N. BB15–210, R4, no. 2265.

77.� A.N. BB15–211, R4, no. 3214.

78.� A.N. BB15–211, R4, no. 4102.

79.� Shelby T. McCloy, The Negro in France (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1961), 130–31.

80.� On the continuation of an illegal slave trade, see Jennings, Anti-Slavery; Robert Stein, The French Slave Trade in the Eighteenth Century: An Old Regime Business (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1980); Serge Daget, La répression de la traite des Noirs au XIXè siècle: l’action des croisières françaises sur les côtes occidentales de l’Afrique, 1817–1850 (Paris: Karthala, 1997); and Christopher L. Miller, The French Atlantic Triangle: Literature and Culture of the Slave Trade (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2008).

81.� The circular appears in the Code de la Martinique on August 5, 1818. My profound thanks to Rebecca Hartkopf-Schloss who first pointed out this decree to me, citing CAOM-Code de la Martinique- 1814–1818, volume 6, 44645/vi), 557–no 1942: circulaire ministerielle qui déclare que les gens de couleur libres peuvent librement et sans être assujettis a aucun cautionnement sortir des colonies pour se rendre soit en France, soit a l’étranger, inspection. reg. 10, 5 août 1818. On Martinique, see also Ghislaine Ornème, “Identité et combat assimilationniste des libres de couleur de la Martinique de 1789 à 1833,” in Esclavage, résistances et abolitions, ed. Marcel Dorigny (Paris: CTHS, 1999), 295–303. For the circulation of the decree in France, see the Minister of the Marine to the Commissaire principal at Nantes, Archives de la Ville de Nantes 12 Police générale, 147, carton 34, dossier 1, as cited in Shelby T. McCloy, The Negro in France (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1961), 131.

82.� McCloy, The Negro in France, 131–34.

83.� While the policy of “free in France” appears to have been unofficially in effect, the 1791 law, was probably the first time that the Free Soil principle had been articulated as positive law by a French legislative body.

84.� A.N. BB15–211, R4, no. 4160, 13 juillet 1819.

85.� A.N. C2046.

86.� Laisné de Villevêque, Opinion de…. Sur une pétition sur une pétition présentée à la chambre dans la séance du 17 février 1819, par M. Régis, homme de couleur qui réclame contre une décision ministérielle qui interdit les mariages entre les blancs et les noirs (Paris: Veuve Agasse, 1819).

87.� For the original prospectus to establish a colony in Mexico by the Compagnie du Chalchisapa, see Gabriel-Jacques Laisné de Villevêque, Jean François Giordan, and H. Baradère, Colonie du Guazacoalco dans l’ état de Vera-Cruz, au Mexique, projet de société en commandite par actions (Paris: Tasu, 1827).

88.� He was a member of the Société française pour l’abolition de l’esclavage, which was founded in 1835, soon after the official end of slavery in British colonies. Jennings, French anti-slavery, 57, 65, and 152.

89.� Gabriel Jacques Laisné de Villevêque et Valère Darmiant, De la situation des gens de couleur libres aux Antilles françaises (Paris: Mac-Carthy, 1823). For a summary of the Bisette Affair, see Eric Mesnard, “Resistance Movements in the French Colonies: the Bisette Affair (1823–1827),” in The Abolitions of Slavery: From L. F. Sonthonax to Victor Schoelcher, 1793, 1794, 1848, ed. Marcel Dorigny (London: Berghahn Books, 2003), 255–60. Laisné also championed the civil rights of free people of color in the French legislature on various forums, including shortly after his speech on interracial marriages; see Laisné, Chambre des Députés. Opinion … sur les colonies. Séance du 5 juin 1819 (Paris: Hacquart, n.d.)

90.�Archives Parlementaires, 2nd series, vol. 23 (Paris: Dupont, 1873), 50.

91.� Robert Stein, “From Saint Domingue to Haiti, 1804–1825,” Journal of Caribbean History 19.2 (1984): 189–226.

92.� AN Col CC9A 51, April 17, 1819, Commissaire general de la marine (Bordeaux) to the Minister of the Marine and Colonies, as cited in Stein, “From Saint Domingue,” note 78, 223.

93.� Alyssa Sepinwall, The Abbé Grégoire and the French Revolution: The Making of Modern Universalism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), especially chapter 8; and Alyssa Sepinwall, “Exporting the Revolution: Grégoire, Haiti, and the Colonial Laboratory,” in The Abbé Grégoire and His World, ed. Richard Popkin and Jeremy Popkin (Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Press, 2000), 41–69.

94.� Henri Baptiste Grégoire, Considérations sur le mariage et sur le divorce adressées aux citoyens d’Haïti (Paris: Badouin Frères, 1823).

95.� Henri Baptiste Grégoire, De la noblesse de la peau, ou, Du préjugé des blancs contre la couleur des africains et celle de leurs descendants noirs et sang-mêlés (Paris: J. Millon, 1996). Grégoire dated the decree to Year 14, or 1805, and believed that it affected both blacks and those of mixed race; he also thought it had been overturned by usage and opinion, rather than a formal abrogation.

96.� Ann Stoler argues that the early twentieth century, especially the 1920s, was a turning point in policies towards concubinage in French, British, and Dutch empires. She also points out that even when employers and administrators tolerated intermarriage, they often effectively discouraged it; for example, the Dutch East India Company did allow European men to marry native wives, but prevented those with native wives and children from returning to Holland, making concubinage a more attractive option. Stoler, Carnal Knowledge.

97.�Archives Parlementaires, 2nd series, vol. 23 (Paris: Dupont, 1873), 51.

98.� Claire de Duras, Ourika: An English Translation (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1994 (1824).

99.� See especially the collection of plays reprinted in Sylvie Chalaye, ed, Les Ourika du Boulevard (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2003).

100.� Marie-Emmanuel-Guillaume Marguerite Théalon, Armand Dartois, and Nicolas Brasier, La Vénus hottentote ou haine aux françaises (Paris: Martinet, 1814.) The play is reprinted and translated in Sharpley-Whiting, Black Venus.

101.� Fredrickson, “Mulattoes and Métis.”

102.� Several historians have argued that there was more tolerance—if not toleration—of interracial sex in antebellum America than has often been assumed; see especially Martha Hodes, White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth-Century South (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997). However, such cases seem to be much rarer than in contemporaneous France; the very number of petitions asking for exemption from the law does suggest the existence of a variety of long-term interracial relationships, and indirectly support some of Fredrickson’s comparison.

103.� See Régent, Esclavage, métissage, et liberté, and Régent, “Le rétablissement de l’esclavage et du préjugé de couleur en Guadeloupe,” in Dorigny and Benot, 1802, 283–96. For a comparative analysis, see also Dubois, A Colony of Citizens.

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