European Imports from the Colonies, 1789

This table comes from an 1805 publication in Paris by M. Wante called Importance de nos colonies occidentales, particulièrement de celle de Saint-Domingue.scan0001

The book contains three fold out tables (very hard to scan!) that detail the colonial imports of France and Europe (with particular attention paid to Saint Domingue). The notes in this table highlight the role of the British in helping Haiti achieve its independence in 1804 and also their desire to see the “civil war” in Saint Domingue continue. The British governor of Jamaica in 1804, George Nugent, also expressed that continued war in Saint Domingue was beneficial to the British since it distracted the French army and cut off the French Empire’s greatest source of wealth.
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The table highlights that just before the Haitian Revolution, Saint Domingue was the most wealth producing colony in the Americas, more than double any one colony and almost double the combined total of the silver and gold producing colonies in the Spanish Empire.

I couldn’t get a high-res scan of the table, so here is my transcription and a rough translation of the “Observations” column. Any comments or corrections are welcome!
Picture 1OBSERVATIONS

The period of 1789 is the only one for which there is precise data.

The main purpose of this table is to demonstrate that England is only undertaking a war of commerce; she ruined our colony of Saint Domingue, and over the last twelve years she has fanned the flames of civil war, products have been decreasing when her efforts have been augmented; she has therefore procured all the means to pump all the cash from Europe, and especially that of France. It must follow from this demonstration that France cannot expect a solid and lasting peace, as long as England’s government will not be more moderate in its spirit of ambition and commercial rivalry.

From the comparisons that are offered in this chart, it follows that alone the colony of Saint Domingue produced more than one and a half fifths, compared to the sum of all the products of the Caribbean and mainland South America imported in Europe.

The results remains that the loss of this product in our trade explains the reasoning better than the disappearance of cash, the embarrassments and distress of commerce.

In 1789, France had over England a preponderance of colonial products amounting to 120,900,000 pounds.

England, at the same time, had by its trade with China and the East Indies a preponderance over France amounting to 55,500,000 pounds.

France still has over England an advantage in colonial products amounting to 65,400,000 pounds.

This balance establishes the origin and proof of this positive balance, which assured the French trade this abundance of cash and the commercial ease which our rivals seized.

About Julia Gaffield, PhD

Assistant Professor of History, Georgia State University
This entry was posted in Documents and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to European Imports from the Colonies, 1789

  1. Reblogged this on The Critical Historian and commented:
    Thanks to Julia Gaffield, for sharing fresh fruits of her archival research– documents revealing (once more) how Europe enriched itself on the backs of the enslaved Africans in Saint-Domingue. What is intriguing about this document is how the British perceived the struggle. We know they tried to occupied the colony, but were ultimately expeled by the Black warriors.

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