1804 Census, Gros Morne, Haiti

This brief census report from October 1804 in Gros Morne, Haiti is in the collection at the John Carter Brown Library. It’s an amazing source, and I haven’t seen anything like it for this time period!

There are a number of really interesting features in the document, including the fact that it is a form that was ten years out of date; slavery had been abolished in 1793 but the form has a number of categories for “esclaves,” (the entries for “esclaves” are left blank except for the total population of “Nègres” at the bottom of the reverse).

At the conference we discussed the implications of the Declaration of Independence for the white French population that remained on the island after the evacuation of the French troops. In the early months (February to April) of 1804, Dessalines initiated a series of brutal massacres to keep true to his “pledge to kill every Frenchman who soils the land of freedom with his sacrilegious presence.” Most accounts note that few whites remained on the island after the massacres.

This 1804 census report, however, suggests a different story. The number of “blancs” in the city of Gros Morne is listed at over 600 (if you add up the different categories – I am assuming that each person was only counted for one category).  The highest categories for white males (surgeons, skilled laborers, and servants) support the claims that some “useful” individuals were spared during the massacres. White women, widows, and girls are also well populated categories. The total number of whites is higher than the total number in the “de couleur libre” categories.

Indeed, while the census-taker did not fill in the section for “esclaves,” they did fill out the “de couleur libre” sections. I assume that the individuals who were counted for these categories were the new anciens libres class (formerly free, ie. before the abolition of slavery). I am a bit confused by the total population of “Nègres” on the reverse; it almost looks like it says over 36 million, but I suspect that it is in fact just over 36 thousand. This number also seems high. Any thoughts?

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Here are a few quotations from recent publications by Philippe Girard, who has done the most in-depth and recent studies on Dessalines’s massacres in the early months of 1804.

“The words [in the Declaration of Independence] were not mere rhetoric. Over the following four months, on Dessalines’s orders, soldiers rounded up white planters, their families, French soldiers and the urban poor known as petits blancs, and killed them. Neither women nor children were spared.” Philippe Girard, “Caribbean Genocide: Racial War in Haiti, 1802-1804,” Patterns of Prejudice, (2005) 39(2): 138-161.

“The pattern was now familiar: financial requisitions, mass executions in the streets and outside of town, mercy for a few select individuals and all foreigners, searches, attempts to escape on board merchantmen or to Santo Domingo, and finally a pardon to lure the last survivors out of hiding.” Philippe Girard, The Slaves Who Defeated Napoleon: Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian War of Independence, 1801-1804, (Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2011), 321.

“Contemporaries often attributed Dessalines’ 1804 massacres to his violent personality, thus turning it into the irrational act of a psychopath, while his apologists blame popular pressure, his entourage, or even the British to exonerate him. In fact, Dessalines’ decision was a well-thought-out act whose rationale he outlined at length in an April 28 proclamation in which he announced that he had ‘avenged America.’ Front and center in his proclamation was payback for the crimes committed under Leclerc and Rochambeau, and more generally slavery and imperialism. Dessalines next cited security imperatives at a time when a French invasion was a distinct possibility. Last and most intriguing, he presented the massacre as a form of nation building.” Girard, The Slaves who Defeated Napoleon, 322. [Girard also notes that financial gain was a primary goal during the massacres]

I’ve done a basic translation of the document; any corrections and help with the words that I couldn’t translate are welcome! And also any alternative readings of the numbers and categories or additional comments!

Hommes blancs 30 [White men 30]
Femmes blanches 60 [White women 60]
Veuves blanches 89 [White widows 89]
Garçons blancs au-dessous de 14 ans 20 [White boys below 14 years 20]
Filles blanches au-dessous de 14 ans 60 [White girls below 14 years 60]
Regisseurs ou Economes blancs 30 [White Managers or treasurers 30]
Rafineurs blancs 40 [White [sugar?] refiners 40]
Chirurgiens 65 [Surgeons 65]
Commis. 10 [could be 40?] [Clerks 10 [could be 40?]]
Ouvriers blancs 75 [White workers [skilled labor?] 75]
Domestiques blancs 80 [White servants 80]
Sexagenaires blancs 10 [Elderly whites 10]
Naissances des blancss 120 [White births 120]
Mort des blancs 30 [Deaths of whites 30]
Hommes de couleur libres 46 [Free men of color 46]
Femmes de couleur libres 21 [Free women of color 21]
Veuves de couleur libres 75 [Free widows of color 75]
Garçons de couleur libres au-dessous de 14 ans 65 [Free colored boys under 14 years 65]
Filles de couleur libres au-dessous de 14 ans 51 [Free colored girls under 14 years 51]
Domestiques libres 81 [Free servants 81]
Economes de couleur libres 22 [Free colored treasurers 22]
Sexagenaires de couleur libres [Elderly free people of color]
Naissances des gens de couleur libres [Births of free people of color]
Mort des gens de couleur libres 24 [Deaths of free people of color 24]
Hommes esclaves [Male slaves]
Femmes esclaves [Female slaves]
Garçons esclaves au dessous de 14 ans [Slave boys under 14 years]
Filles esclaves au dessous de 14 ans [Slave girls under 14 years]
Sexagenaires esclaves [Elderly slaves]
Infirmes esclaves [Infirm slaves]
Naissances des esclaves [Births of slaves]
Mort des esclaves [Deaths of slaves]
Fusils [Guns]
Pistolets [Guns]
Poudres de guerre [Gun powder?]
Balles [Bullets]
Epées ou Sabres [Swords and Sabres]
Quarrés de terre arpentées de toute nature 2 [Squares of land surveyed all kinds 2]
Quarrés de terre en plaines [Squares of land in the plains]
Quarrés de terre en morne 2 [Squares of hilly land 2]
Quarrés de terre en savanne [Squares of marsh land]
Quarrés de terre en bois debout halliers [Squares of land standing timber thickets]
Quarrés de terre cultivés 100 [Squares of cultivated land 100]
Quarrés de terre en cannes 500 [Squares of land for sugar plantations 500]
Quarrés de terre en cacao 400 [Squares of land for cocoa 400]
Quarrés de terre en café 1/4 [Squares of land for coffee 1/4]
Quarrés de terre en cotton 1/6 [Squares of land for cotton 1/6]
Quarrés de terre en vivres ¾ [Squares of land for food ¾]
Sucreries en blanc 8/9 [White sugar plantations 8/9]
Sucreries en brut 1 et 1/12 [Raw sugar plantations 1 and 1/12]
Cotonneries [Cotton plantations]
Caféteries 1 [Coffee plantations 1]
Cacaoteries [Cacao plantations]
Pieds de Gérofliers [Clove trees]
Pieds de Cannelliers [Cinnamon trees]
Guildiveries [Distilleries]
Tanneries [Tanneries]
Fours à chaux [Lime kilns]
Poteries et tuilleries [Pottery and Tuilerie [tile manufacturing]]
Moulins à eau [Watermills]
Moulins à vent [Windmills]
Moulins à bêtes [Animal powered mills]
Cabrouets à mulets [Mule drawn cart]
Cabrouets à boeufs [Ox drawn cart]
Chevaux et cavalles [Horses and mares]
Poulains et pouliches [Fowl]
Bourriquets et ânes [Donkeys]
Mulets [Mules]
Boeufs et Vaches [Oxen and cows]
Gazelles et bouvards [Gazelles? and young oxen]
Moutons et Cabrits [Sheep and goats]
Cochons [Pigs]
Bâteaux et Canots [Boats and Canoes]
Faits et affirmé véritable, aux peines des Ordonnances. [Facts and said real penalties Orders.]
Au gros morne ce 12 8bre 1804 [At Gros Morne 12 October 1804]
P. Marie Anne M. [?].
Charruau

[Reverse]

ESCLAVES [SLAVES]
Noms, Prénoms et Surnoms [Names, First Names and Family Names]
Age sujet a la Capitation [Age subject to Taxation]
Enfans [Children]
Sexagenaires [Elderly]
Metier des Ouvriers [Job]
Observations [Observations]

Le total des têtes sujettes à la Capitation, monté à………. 36069 Nègre [Total number subject to Taxation, now at………. 36069 Blacks]

About Julia Gaffield, PhD

Assistant Professor of History, Georgia State University
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2 Responses to 1804 Census, Gros Morne, Haiti

  1. Greg says:

    Hey Julia,
    great work as always!
    a few ideas: here, commis is more likely “clerks.” You got the trees right.
    A guildiverie is indeed a distillery, apparently from the English “kill devil” for spirits! Go figure.
    Tuilerie is where they make clay tiles (tuiles) for roofs. A bouvard is a young ox.

  2. Julia Gaffield, PhD says:

    Thanks, Greg!
    I’ve made the changes! Let me know if you’d like to write a post of your own on the blog!

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