THE ROSEAU CATHEDRAL and a time of terror and horror in Dominica part IX The French occupation from (1778-1784).
by Bernard Lauwyck
In my previous article I described several factors, such as hurricanes, war, naval blockades and privateers, which made the 5 years of the French occupation one of the most miserable times in Dominica’s history. Marquis Duchilleau, the first French governor, was depicted by English history writers such as James Atwood as the culprit of all ills and misery that befell Dominica. It is said “History is written by victors or winners”. Bishop James Moris wrote in his “History of the Diocese of Roseau”: “Several stringent laws were passed against the British Colonists. As a result the population decreased both rapidly and considerably. In 1780 there remained only 1566 Europeans, 14713 slaves and 543 free people of colour.” Compare this civil population with the 1527 French soldiers stationed in the island by July 1781 (« Etat de la Situation des Garnisons, AN, Colonies C8 A 80 »). This large garrison had to be fed by the local economy.
We know from Joseph Alfred Boromé in his book “ La Dominique pendant l’occupation française (1778-1784)” that the 2/3 majority of the “Europeans” or whites were French settlers or their descendants. One of Duchilleau first move was to appoint a few of them to the local Assembly. This body consisted of English freeholders only before the French invasion. The French appointees were Nicolas Crocquet de Belligny, Collart D'Auchamps, Edme Desabaye, John Baptiste Bernard Serrant. The free people of colour; mulattos, coloured tradesmen from Martinique/ Guadeloupe and free blacks, remained a stable presence during the French occupation at about 550 persons.
The publication “MONTGOMERY MARTIN’s THE BRITISH COLONIES” stated that in 1763, at the start of the first English occupation, Dominica had 5872 slaves, which was increased in 10 years of English occupation and the development of sugar cane plantations,...
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