chapter  6
14 Pages

Unwelcome Visitors: France and the Code Noir

The Secret Relationship says very little of Jewish involvement in the French slave trade. For much of the seventeenth century in France the concept of mercantilism was known as Colbertism, after Jean Baptiste Colbert, the chief adviser to Louis XIV between 1661 and 1683. Minister Colbert followed up with a separate letter to Lieutenant-General Charles deBaas, governor of Martinique, clarifying the monarch's intentions of extending special protection to the Jews. The harrassment from corrupt administrators, jealous trading rivals, and bigoted priests came to a head on the island of Santo Domingo in the spring of 1765. The French monarch thanked Gradis-Mendes for its "considerable advance of money to the nation in time of war." He also saluted the trading house for serving as chief provisioner of American and African colonies since 1748. It is impossible to adduce from one memorandum how many slaves may have been transported by the Gradis-Mendes clan.