Skip to main content

Jérémie Papers

 Collection
Identifier: MS Group 017

Scope and Content

As the records of the jurisdiction of Jérémie, the Jérémie Papers contain the archives of more than thirty notaries who operated both in Jérémie and in outlying areas. These archives contain such legal documents as marriage contracts, wills and successions, and sales of both urban and rural real estate. Pertinent to the study of the African slave population are sales of slaves, slave emancipations, and the sale of plantations, which often included the enslaved workforce. The economic life of the free inhabitants of the quartier is recorded in documents forming and dissolving partnerships, buying and selling property, and recording the property left behind upon the death of their death.

The Jérémie Papers also contain ecclesiastical records covering scattered years for both parishes of the Grand'Anse. Though fragmentary, they are important sources for the religious and social life of the region, recording not only baptisms, marriages, and deaths but also who attended these important occasions. These records are presumably copies of those sent to Versailles and now housed in le Centre des Archives d'Outre-mer in Aix-en-Provence, with the exception of those dealing with the 1790s. No copy of these latter documents are located in archives in France.

Finally, the Jérémie Papers contain records of the quartier's civil administration. Some land survey records have survived from the period beginning in the early 1770s, and several land concessions from the governor and intendant of the colony survived as well. More plentiful are the registers of civil proceedings recorded before the greffe, a municipal office similar to that of a clerk of court in the United States. Though only an unknown fraction of the original civil registers has survived and though years covered by the extant registries are uneven, these manuscripts offer scattered images of daily life in Jérémie and its outlying dependencies. Three kinds of registries have survived: first, minutes of the notaries, in which were transcribed notarized documents; second, records of the sénéchaussée, or local court (named after the presiding officer, the sénéchal, which amount to lists of monetary awards given in lawsuits; and, finally, declarations registered made before the greffier (registrar). Complete lawsuits are not recorded in the registries of the sénéchaussée, and if these records survived, the University of Florida does not have them.

Most of the documents in the collection date from the turbulent 1790s and are those documents retained in the colony and not remitted to France. Most of the documents appear to be unique copies of notarial and judicial papers for this region of modern Haiti. Like the ecclesiastical records these civil registers from the late 1790s are not found in French archives.

Dates

  • 1714-1896
  • Majority of material found within 1770-1804

Access

The collection is open for research. However, NOTE usage restrictions.

Usage Restrictions

Researchers may be restricted from handling particularly fragile records. Due to the poor condition of certain documents, photocopying may not be permitted. Patrons must seek permission from department staff prior to reproducing these items.

Biographical/Historical Note

The Jérémie Papers encompasses the notarial and administrative archives of the municipality of Jérémie, located on the northern coast of present-day Haiti's southern peninsula. Under the French colonial regime, the jurisdiction of Jérémie (also known as la Grand'Anse) encompassed two parishes, Saint-Louis de Jérémie and Notre Dame du Cap Dame Marie, which were both civil and ecclesiastical divisions. Several bourgs, or small towns, existed in the outlying districts, or cantons. During the 1770s and 1780s, Jérémie experienced a coffee boom, as did many other parts of Saint-Domingue that contained highlands not suitable to sugar cultivation. In addition to coffee, many of these highland plantations grew cacao and cotton as secondary crops. A handful of sugar plantations existed on the coast near the town of Jérémie.

Although no full census of the Grand'Anse exists for the pre-revolutionary period, it is clear that newly arrived Africans were exceptionally numerous in the region's slave population. Most slaves were common laborers on highland coffee plantations, but some had more dignified positions as slave drivers, or commandeurs, or as artisans. Older women were often assigned to be medical practitioners, particularly midwives. A small percentage of slaves also worked in a variety of occupations in the town of Jérémie and in the hamlets of the jurisdiction.

Free persons of mixed race, variously described as mulâtres, quarterons, tiercerons, and mestifs, and free Blacks constituted a middle stratum in society in Jérémie, as they did elsewhere in the colony. Membership in this class included both those born free and those who had been awarded their freedom. These gens de couleur libres, as they were known, were varied in economic standing, and many owned their own plantations. They were less common in Jérémie than in many other parts of Saint-Domingue.

Whites born in the colony (creoles) or in France formed the top of the racial hierarchy. They were divided along economic lines between grands blancs, including government bureaucrats, large plantation owners, and merchants engaged in large-scale commerce, and petits blancs, who included white European and Creole artisans, wage-earners, and small landowners. The racial hierarchy did blur at various points, and ecclesiastical and notarial records attest to occasional marriages between whites and free people of color. Apparently more common were marriages between free Blacks and their slaves, which freed the latter and legitimized their offspring.

For much of Saint-Domingue, the French Revolution shook the racial hierarchy, as the gens de couleur began to demand civil rights to match their economic power and contributions to the defense of the colony. In la Grand'Anse, the grands blancs called in the British to occupy their region, thus preserving the status quo. Documents for the early 1790s reveal evidence of the arming of slaves by the whites to defend against the revolutionaries they termed "brigands." The full story of the revolution in la Grand'Anse has yet to be told, and the Jérémie Papers provide an ample documentary base for such a study.

Following the abandonment of Jérémie and their other positions in western Saint-Domingue in 1798, the British left the colony to the French Republican forces. The documents reflect this change in government, notably in the use of the term as citoyen (citizen) and of the French Republican calendar. This second revolutionary period lasted until 1803. Haiti declared its independence from France the following year.

Sources and recommended reading: 1) Fick, Carolyn. The Making of Haiti: The Saint Domingue Revolution from Below. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1990. 2) Geggus, David Patrick. Slavery, War, and Revolution: The British Occupation of Saint Domingue, 1793-1798. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982. 3) Geggus, David Patrick. "Unexploited Sources for the History of the Haitian Revolution." Latin American Research Review 18, No. 1 (1983), pp. 95-103.

Extent

27.25 Linear feet (65 Boxes)

Language of Materials

French

Abstract

Records of the jurisdiction of Jérémie in Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) notarized by more than thirty notaries who operated both in Jérémie and in outlying areas. Also includes records of the civil administration, documents registered with the greffier (registrar), and a small number of ecclesiastical records.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Acquisition Information

The University of Florida acquired the Jérémie Papers from the Austrian archaeologist Kurt Fisher in 1959.

Alternate Form of Material

Digital reproductions of items in this collection are available online via the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC). Please read the Permissions for Use statement for information on copyright, fair use, and use of UFDC digital objects.

Related Material

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library also acquired materials from Kurt Fisher that complement these records. In addition, other materials related to la Grand'Anse exist in le Centre des Archives d'Outre-mer.

Processing Notes

Between 2004 and 2007, substantial arrangement and description activities were completed for the Jérémie Papers. In 2004, Keith Manuel processed the Papers of the Greffe, a portion of the collection which previously had not been fully accessible to researchers. Andrée-Luce Fourcand provided numerous, invaluable revisions of document descriptions, including a 2006 report addressing the most serious errors that she had identified. Both Fourcand and Professor David Geggus provided significant advice regarding the proper arrangement and description of the collection. In 2007 Lesley Futterknecht corrected all of the errors identified by Fourcand, made several additional corrections to the document descriptions, and transferred documents to new folders and boxes to ensure their longterm preservation.

Title
A Guide to the Jérémie Papers
Status
Completed
Author
Finding aid created by Keith A. Manuel with contributions by Andrée-Luce Fourcand and Lesley Futterknecht
Date
October 2007
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

Contact:
George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America
352-273-2755