[LOUISIANA]. Le Code noir ou edit du Roy, servant de reglement pour le gouvernement & l'administration de la justice, police, discipline & le commerce des esclaves negres, dans la province & colonie de la Louisianne. Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1727.
4o (269 x 205 mm). 8 leaves. (Some dustsoiling to first and final leaves.) Modern red half morocco, top edge gilt, others uncut.
THE EARLIEST FRENCH LAWS REGULATING THE SLAVE TRADE IN LOUISIANA. "... before leaving the colony, he [Bienville] published, in the month of March of the year 1724, a Black Code, containing all the legislation applicable to slaves. It remained in force until after the cession of Louisiana by Spain to France, and by France to the United States, and some of its provisions have been incorporated into the Black Code which is now the law of the land. As it embodies the views, feelings, and legislation of our ancestors more than a century ago, on a subject which has been daily growing in importance, I have deemed it of sufficient interest to lay the whole of it before the public. Its first and third articles were, it must be confessed, strangely irrelevant to the matter in consideration. Thus, the first declared that the Jews were forever expelled from the colony; and the third, that the Roman Catholic religion was the only religious creed which would be tolerated in Louisiana" (Gayarré, History of Louisiana. The French domination, NY, 1866, v.I, p.362).
The code establishes a number of personal and civil regulations: slave owners have the obligation to give their slaves Sundays and holidays off; owners are forbidden to marry their slaves and, if they produce children with slaves, these children will remain slaves; if the slaves they have children with belong to them, the children will be taken away as punishment; children of slaves adopt the status of their mothers, and become the slaves of their mother's masters. Slaves are not allowed to carry any kind of weapon, nor to assemble by day or night; they are forbidden to sell on the market or to hawk from door to door, without their master's permission; the master is responsible for the slaves' food and clothing, and for their care in case of illness; slaves have no legal or civil standing, nor can they fill any public office or be accepted as witnesses; slaves who hit their masters will be put to death; theft is punished with penalties ranging from corporal punishment to death, and the master is held responsible for thieving on the part of his slave; and is allowed to chose between making reparation for the loss involved or conceding the slave to the person wronged; slaves who run away have their ears cut off, should they run away a second time their legs, and the third time they are put to death; masters are not allowed to torture their slaves, only, if they believe the slaves deserve punishment, they are allowed to chain them and beat them with whips or ropes. Sabin 14124 ("very important"); Wroth & Annan, Acts of French Royal Administration Concerning Canada, Guiana, the West Indies and Louisiana, prior to 1791, 1058.