By the end of the Ancien Régime (1788/89), St. Domingue, the western part of the island Hispaniola was considered to be the most valuable plantation economy of the world. Based upon the work of half a million of African slaves, its 792 sugar, 2.810 coffee, 3.097 indigo and 705 cotton plantations produced colonial 239 Mio. Livres worth of commodities destined for Continental Europe and U.S. markets.  Between 1763 and 1789, the exports of this French colony who exceeded those of the United States were the driving force behind the French "commercial revolution" of the second half of the 18th century and the principal source of wealth of the plantation owners who mainly came from Nantes, Bordeaux, Paris, la Rochelle, Bayonne and the Loire Valley.
While writing my phD on the revolution of Saint Domingue (1789-1803) I have transcribed an important source of the time: the Royal Indemnity Report for the French plantation owners who held properties in this formerly rich Caribbean colony and who lost their properties during the Haitian revolution. Its 6 volumes contain a list of a about 7.900 owners and their heirs. The independence of Saint Domingue/Haiti led to the expulsion of all white plantation owners (1803/04). The Haitian government accepted to pay an indemnity of 150 mio. Francs for these Frenchmen while the French government acknowledged Haiti's independence. To get a share of this money, former plantation owners had to send juridically relevant documents to a Royal commission of high ranking jurists proving the value of their colonial enterprises and other real estate. After several years of work this commission published the names of the former plantation owners whose claims had been accepted. This "Royal Indemnity Report" contains precise informations about the lost plantations and other real estate (parish where it lay, coproprietors, heirs (their list contains sometimes up to 40 names!), the kind of production i.e. sugar, coffee, cotton or indigo), the name of the enterprise and its estimated value.
I have compared most of these 7.900 names of former plantation or house owners of Saint Domingue with hundreds of other printed and unprinted sources of the time, biographical dictionaries and books of the 20th century. In many cases I can add informations on the plantation owners such as biographical data, titles, public functions, political activities, membership in Masonic Lodges and so on. But my main service consists in providing the informations of the Royal Indemnity
Report. So, for some Frenchmen in my data bank I have many additional informations, for others the file does only contain the entry in the Royal Indemnity Report. My website http://www.domingino.de/stdomin/informations_compl_engl.htm shows an example how the main part of a planter's file looks like. All files for English/American clients are in English.
: F. de Barbé de Marbois: État des finances de Saint-Domingue, Bd. 2, (1790), État N° III verso: Récapitulation des denrées exportées de chaque quartier de la Colonie de Saint-Domingue, depuis le 1er Janvier 1788, jusques & compris le 31 Décembre de la même année.
© 2013 Dr. Oliver Gliech (Berlin).