CANADA'S FORGOTTEN SLAVES
from the book by the same name
The Slave Market
On June 15,1709, Madeleine Just, wife of Pierre You d'Youville Ladecoverte, sold a Panis to Pierre-Thomas Tarieu de Laperade, husband of Madeleine Jarret de Vercheres; then on October 19., Jacques Nepveu sold the Panis Marie to his own brother. In September 1796, Louis Payet, parish priest of Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, sold a black woman, Rose, to Thomas Lee; and Jean-Baptiste Routhier sold his mulatto to Louis-Charles Foucher.83 These examples constitute the first two slave sales in Quebec, in 1709 and, then the very last two such sales, in 1796. Buyers and sellers were French-speaking Canadians in each case.
Slaves as Personal Property
On April 13, 1709, Intendant Raudot issued an ordinance making it legal to buy and sell slaves: "All Panis and Negroes who have been and who shall hereafter be bought, belong in full ownership to those who purchased them as slaves." According to the 1685 edition of the CodeNoir (but also the 1724 edition specially drafted for Louisiana, another part of New France), slaves were likened to personal property.84 The Code Noir never came into force in the St. Lawrence Valley, but slaves were considered to be personal property here as elsewhere, and Canadians treated them as such.
By "personal property" we mean that slaves were owned in just the same way as livestock. When the notary Raimbault drew up an inventory of the property of the late Francois-Madeleine You d'Youville, whose wife came to be known as Mother d'Youville, he simply wrote at the end:
Panis by birth, around ten or eleven years old, value about 150 livres. A second-calf cow, red undercoat, value about thirty livres.85
The only difference between the slave and the cow was that the slave was worth five times as much as the cow.
The same mercantile approach was taken to slaves under the British regime. In a 1783 advertisement the printer William Brown offered an eighteen-year-old black woman for sale, adding "We also have a lovely bay mare available." An English-speaking resident of Quebec City offered a thirteen-year-old black boy for sale, as well as a black woman aged twenty-six, along with a horse, cart and harness.86 Slaves could be offered for sale along with animals, and could be exchanged for animals. This for example was the case of John Turner, a Montreal merchant, who struck a deal with a Bostonian to trade the black Josiah Cutan, about twenty-two years old, for a grey horse and thirty-one pounds ten shillings.
Since slaves were treated as personal property, they could serve as security for debts. In 1784, Elizabeth Chautler, wife of Alexander Bissett, master of languages, was a creditor of the inn-keeper Paterson of Sorel; Paterson owed forty pounds, Quebec currency (160 dollars in the eighteenth century). The Patersons handed a twelve-year-old black girl over to the Bissetts as security, but if the Patersons paid off the loan they would get their slave back.87
A similar case arose in 1797. The former lieutenant George Westphal borrowed the sum of twenty pounds Quebec currency, from Pdchard Dillon, owner of the Montreal Hotel; the loan contract stipulated that he would repay the capital over eighteen months, with 6% interest. As security, Westphal provided his mulatto woman Sedy, who would work for Dillon as a domestic servant until the loan was fully paid; however, the services she rendered to Dillon meant that fifteen shillings (two dollars) would be deducted from the debt each month; if Westphal did not pay down the loan in the agreed time, then the mulatto would become Dillon's property, which would in turn extinguish the debt (Lukfn registry, November 22,1797).
Even a Baptized Person Could Become Personal Property Could a baptized slave be treated as personal property, just like an animal? How could such a practice be reconciled with the fact that the charter of 1627 automatically granted full citizenship to the baptized person?
The problem arose in the Court of Montreal in 1733. A Padu-cah belonging to Philippe You d'Youville de Ladecouverte was seized and then sold. But this slave was a baptized Catholic. Youville de Ladecouverte sought, on the grounds of baptism, to have the Conseil superieur void the sale, and also reprimand the judge who had ordered the sale. The Conseil handed the problem over to the intendant, who upheld the court's decision. When the king was apprised of the situation, he refused to give his opinion on Amerindian slavery, and replied instead that customary practice should be followed.88 This meant that baptized Amerindians could be sold as slaves.
This problem reappeared during a trial in 1740. The Panis Marie-Marguerite, whom Chevalier Dormicourt was on the point of transporting to the Caribbean, used every possible argument in court to avoid being sent into exile; in a brief drawn up by a legal practitioner, she pleaded that as a baptized Catholic she should be allowed to regain her liberty. This argument was not admitted, however, and she lost her trial.
As a result of this case in 1740 and Intendant Hocquart's ruling in 1733, slaves could be sold even if they were baptized Catholics. We found at least five Amerindian slaves who fit this description.
This problem did not arise for blacks, however: they could not cite Article 17 of the Charter of the Compagnie des Cent-Associes. As a result, no legal objections were raised when baptized blacks were sold.
When a slave changed masters, whether by sale or otherwise, steps were taken to ensure that religion was not affected. Missionaries in Detroit continually sought to maintain slaves in the Catholic faith. For example, when the Recollet Bonaventure Leonard baptized Louis Campeau's two young blacks in Detroit in 1739, he wrote in the register that Campeau "undertook to raise and educate them as if they were his own children and if he was forced to sell them, he would only sell them to Roman Catholics, otherwise I would not have baptized them." As the word "otherwise" indicates, the missionary had set an ultimatum...89 When Cuillerier baptized his slave's child in Detroit in October 1736, he promised he would only hand the child over to Christians or to its mother, so the child could be raised in the Catholic faith. Pierre Chesne-Labutte and Pierre Saint-Cosme made the same commitment to baptize a newborn slave in Detroit in 1737, and Guillaume Dagneau-Douville de Lamothe made the same promise in 1752.
Where the new owner of a Catholic slave was Protestant, he took a solemn pledge: Louis-Francois de Lacorne sold a Catholic Amerindian woman to the Protestant merchant Connolly, who promised he would not force her to convert to his religion; and he evidently kept his promise because in MichiHmackinac in May 1763 this slave's child was baptized according to the Catholic rite.
Various Opportunities to Acquire Slaves Since deliveries of slaves were generally slow and scattered, it is safe to assume that potential buyers found it hard to secure supplies of Amerindian and ebony slaves. They had to wait for the opportunity to buy slaves.
The luckiest masters were the ones who had received a slave as a gift. Around 1754, some Amerindians gave Saint-Ours Deschaillons a Panis woman to compensate him for the accidental death of one of his men; in another case, a slave woman who had just delivered a baby gave the newborn to one Leduc-Persil.
Inheriting a slave was a profitable option. The most interesting example of slaves being inherited was when Charles Lemoyne, first Baron de Longueuil, left his two sons a legacy of seven black slaves: one of the baron's sons inherited the father and mother with three children, while the other son inherited two other children but as a way of making the distribution more equitable he also obtained a Panis man and woman from his brother.
Where slaves could not be inherited, they could be bought. Slave purchases sometimes took place in unusual circumstances. For example, in Detroit in 1769 two slave owners joined forces to buy a young Panis who was gravely ill (his master had bothered neither to treat nor to baptize him); they had the young slave baptized and he died three days later.90 Another owner, John Askin, was motivated by the same sense of charity, in buying a young slave from Charles Paterson of Montreal; the slave belonging to Paterson had suffered at the hands of the Ottawas, and Askin offered to trade an Amerindian woman for him.91
Another unusual slave purchase to ok place when a buyer sought to acquire a Sioux woman in order to marry her. This was not the latest instalment of some romance, but rather a way of stifling a scandal. The Sioux woman, Marie-Marguerite-Caroline, belonging to Claude Landry dit Saint-Andre, had five illegitimate children with Firmin Landry dit Chariot; to put an end to this cohabitation, the priest in Detroit noted, the Sioux woman's owner undertook to sell her to Landry dit Chariot on the express condition that he marry her, which he did on July 17,1771 (Register of Sainte-Anne-du-Detroit).92
An even more interesting case occurred when the black Louis-Antoine, who had been freed from bondage at a very young age, fell in love with the merchant Dominique Gaudefs eighteen-year-old black slave Marie-Catherine Baraca. Gaudet had no objection to marriage, but he did not want to lose his slave by letting her marry. He was prepared to accept that the two marry as long as Louis-Antoine voluntarily became his slave. This presented no problem for Louis-Antoine who sold himself before a notary to. Gaudet; the deed of sale specified that the master would dispose as he saw fit of Louis-Antoine, the woman and their future children. The following week, Louis-Antoine married his beloved. He would only recover his liberty on Gaudet's death, in 1769 (Panet registry). Motivated by love, this voluntary slavery lasted eight years.
The black woman Mary Bulkley also volunteered to become a slave, but in her case it was in order to free herself of "considerable" debt. On November 28, 1785, she undertook to serve Elias Hall "in the condition of a slave for a period of thirty years" and Hall could sell her as he saw fit. He actually did sell her; Mary Bulkley would have four other masters during the thirty-year term of her contract. When she was acquired by the last of these masters, in 1797, by contract she still had eighteen years of bondage to go. But her new owner was concerned about talk of abolishing slavery, so he got her to commit to a new thirty-year contract, as a domestic servant (according to the registries of notaries Bathelemy Faribault and Maurice-Louis de Glandons).
Acquiring slaves as gifts, inheriting them, or having individuals become slaves of their free will did not change the fact that supply still fell short of demand. Anyone wanting to purchase a slave had to accept that trading in slaves followed a routine of sorts, and often started with ascertaining whether a master was willing to sell one of his slaves. The merchant John Askin, for example, wanted to acquire two young Panis girls, and let it be known he was willing to part with a mulatto woman.93 In 1766, when William Brown, the printer of the Quebec Gazette, faced a desperate shortage of labour, he was told the only solution was to buy slaves: he finally decided to acquire a young black man through a friend in Philadelphia, who sent the slave to Quebec by sea, but only after taking the precaution of insuring the merchandise.94
The Public Slave Market and Sales by Auction Was there a public slave market in Canada the way there was in the Thirteen Colonies and the Caribbean? And if there was such a market, was it in continuous operation, or only occasionally? The historical record does not enable us to provide a satisfactory answer to these questions. In 1733, when You d'Youville de Ladecouverte claimed in court to be shocked that a baptized Amerindian was sold at auction, he referred to a slave sold in a public market just like animals. Was he referring to an actual slave market in Montreal or was this merely a colourful figure of speech designed to impress the judge? Benjamin Suite stated categorically, "No Negro or Panis was ever sold in Canada at public auction."95 But Suite was wrong about this.
Public sales of slaves at auction definitely occurred in Canada. We only know of one such case under the French regime, when in 1733 the merchant Charles Nolan de Lamarque bought a Paducah on the market square, who had previously been seized from You d'Youville de Ladecouverte. Several more public slave sales took place under the British regime. In Quebec City in 1778, Captain Thomas Venture offered his mulatto slave Isabella at auction, and the butcher Hipps made the highest bid.96
According to the Quebec Gazette, there was to be a sale on October 5, 1782 of a young black by auctioneers "in their public showroom" in rue Notre-Dame in Quebec City. John Brooks of Quebec offered a black for sale, specifying that the slave could be inspected in his home until May 20, after which he would be offered in a public sale.97 In 1765, two public slave sales took place: William Ward of Vermont sold a black man and woman and a black boy to William Campbell of Montreal, and the following month, Campbell resold the three slaves to Doctor Charles Blake (J.-G. Beck registry). In 1791, the auctioneer put a young black up for auction.98
Moreover, these public sales and auctions were regularly advertised in newspapers. Between 1767, when the first slave sale ad appeared, and 1798, when the last such ad came out, there were at least 137 advertisements for thirty different slaves; only one of these thirty slaves was an Amerindian - a Panis woman whom the merchants Melvin Wills and Burns offered for sale in July 1782 in the Quebec Gazette.
One ad featured a young black man who was trained in domestic service, and knew how to shave and style hair. Prospective buyers who preferred a black woman could read in another ad of a slave who had belonged to Governor Murray and had now become (what a let-down!) the slave of Prenties the tavern keeper; she was a good servant who knew how to milk cows and made butter to perfection. Another ad offered both an eighteen-year-old black man and "a beautiful mare"; interested parties were advised to contact the newspaper for particulars.
The slave put up for sale for the longest period was Joe, an unruly black man belonging to the printer William Brown: the master had punished him many times and even had him whipped by the executioner, for stealing and running away. Nothing could be done to change his ways. From 1779 to 1784, Brown tried unsuccessfully to sell the slave, who still belonged to his master in 1789."
It is clear that slaves were indeed put up for auction in Quebec and Montreal, and sold to the highest bidder. Slavery was legal in Canada, so why would slaves not have been sold at auction here, as they were in other colonies?
We know of an oral tradition concerning the slave market. In his memoirs, the Oblate missionary Damase Dandurand wrote: "I can state quite definitely that in my early childhood, a full-fledged slave market existed in Montreal." Since Father Dandurand was born in 1819, his early childhood coincided with the first quarter of the nineteenth century, well before the official abolition of slavery in the British Empire. He said he had come to Montreal with his mother, and they both walked by this market where a sick old black man begged Madame Dandurand to buy him.100 Father Dandurand lived to the age of 102: he wrote his memoirs long after the fact, and the word-for-word dialogue he sketched in, between the black man and his mother, was probably inaccurate. But the memory itself — of a public market and a slave for sale — seems authentic enough. In fact, in a small colony featuring over 4200 slaves, it would have been astonishing if there had been no slave market in Montreal, where almost half of all Quebec slaves lived.
A Sluggish Market
Despite regular slave ads and the labour shortage, the slave market does not seem to have been particularly active. Apart from cases of inheritance, it was extremely unusual for a single slave to change hands and even rarer for the same slave to pass repeatedly from one master to another. In 1785, William Ward sold three blacks to William Campbell, who resold them the following month to D octor Charles Blake. Some slaves had four successive owners, such as the mulatto Isabella who belonged to Lieutenant-Governor Cramahe among other masters. Three slaves had five successive owners: the black woman Marie Bulkley, the black woman Cynda (who had five owners in just two years), the black woman Rose, who belonged for one year to the parish priest in Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu. Two slaves had six successive owners: the Panis Jacques under the French regime, and the black Josiah Cutin, who had six owners in six years, and finished on the gallows.
Our documentation of slaves in Canada indicates that slaves usually remained the property of a single master, which may have meant that slavery had less of a commercial and more of a humane nature.
In the rare event slaves were sold by the batch, the batch was small. On September 25,1743, the merchant Charles Reaume of lie Jesus sold a group of five slaves to the bourgeois Louis Cureux dit Saint-Germain of Quebec City for 3000 livres: the group included two black men and three black women.101 In 1785, William Campbell bought and immediately resold three blacks (including a young Negro, six months old) for 425 dollars.102 In 1787, Jacques Lafreniere bought four blacks on behalf of the "Departement des Sauvages" or "Indian Department": these slaves were destined to serve Amerindian masters.103
All in all, slave sales were infrequent: we counted 120 sales, forty-one of them involving Amerindians, even though most slaves were Amerindians. It is probable that some sales by mutual agreement escaped our attention.
In Search of Healthy Merchandise
Canadians were inveterate horse-dealers, intent on outwitting and outmanoeuvring their opponents, and this approach must also have been taken when prospective buyers and sellers got together to deal in slaves.
Advice was always available for slave trading:
[Do not accept] subjects below four and a half feet in height, depending on their gender. According to Van Alstein, it is advisable to have surgeons examine the subjects. They should examine the eyes, mouth, noble parts, get the slaves to walk, run, and cough loudly with their hands placed on the groin, in order to detect hernias. An anonymous directive from 1769 urges buyers to avoid wrinkled old men, with dangling and shrivelled testicles. No big skinny Negroes, with narrow chests, wild eyes, or the look of an imbecile which is a harbinger of epilepsy. [Similarly for women], no propped up [i.e. false] breasts, no flabby bosom; an appearance of promptitude and cleanliness.104
Were slaves scrupulously examined from head to foot in Canada, according to the recommendations of specialists in "Negroes"? Since slaves were bought and sold here just like domestic animals, slaves must have been examined with just as much care as anywhere else.
It would have been very foolish to buy a slave without first inspecting the merchandise. In 1737, when Joseph Chavigny de Lachevrotiere de Latesserie bought a thirteen- or fourteen-year old Fox girl from Jacques-Hugues Pean de Livaudiere, he declared that, having "met her in person, he recognizes she is healthy and not in any way crippled." In 1779, the merchant James Finlay sold a black woman to the Jewish fur trader and seigneur Aaron Hart, specifying in the deed of sale that she was "sound and free of all Sickness and disorders whatsoever." In 1786, James Bloodgood made the same statement when selling another black woman to Aaron Hart.105 Most deeds of sale specified that the slave had already had syphilis or chickenpox, which amounted to immunity.
We can learn some physical details about black slaves from sales contracts, reports of fugitive slaves and other documents of this kind. They were generally tall: in 1796, the mulatto Jean-Louis stood five feet ten inches tall; a black slave belonging to Pinguet de Vaucour was five and a half to six feet tall.
Historical documents provide further details about these slaves. Jean Orillat's twenty-two-year-old black slave: "is well built, seems very gentle, with a slightly elongated face, a small scar on the left side of his neck, next to the jaw, resulting from a gland which has not yet healed." Crofton's mulatto Andrew, twenty-three years of age: of average height, with an exceptionally large mouth, thick lips, crooked fingers, and a very lively and alert disposition. Christie's black slave Bruce, thirty-five years old: "is tall and well built," with "an upturned nose and a quite dark complexion," and "speaks in a somewhat hesitant manner." Turner's black slave Ismael, thirty-six years of age, "has something remarkably sad in his expression, and skin of a colour between black and swarthy; his. hair is short, thick and curly, his face extremely pockmarked, he has lost some of his upper front teeth as well as the first joint of the fourth finger of his left hand, and he also has a fresh scar in the middle of the right leg, where a horse kicked him, an injury from which he has recently recovered"; Ismael spoke with the characteristic accent of his native New England. This was surely a slave with little commercial value; but as a deserter, he was not for sale, and his master wanted to recover him.106
According to slave traders, a good, marketable "Negro" (also known as a piece d'Inde) should not be over thirty years of age, since black slaves over this age quickly lost their value. Prospective owners therefore had to buy slaves as young as possible.
Of the twenty-five blacks whose age is indicated in the deed of sale, twelve were under twenty years of age, ten were under thirty, and three were over thirty. However, these last three do not appear to have been bargains, since Sullivan in buying a thirty-three-year-old black slave ended up with a lot of grief, as we shall see. The average age of these twenty-five blacks was just 18.8 years.
Prospective buyers of Amerindian slaves were also concerned about age, since they wanted to keep their slaves in bondage as long as possible. There was the added challenge of Amerindians being tempted to return to their native ways in the forest: masters thus took Amerindian slaves at as young an age as possible, in order to familiarize them with the values of French civilization and make them less likely to run away as adults. Civil registries tell us more than deeds of sale about the age of Amerindian slaves. We know that the average Amerindian slave died at 17.7 years of age (this was an eyeball estimate), which means slaves were generally acquired during adolescence and especially childhood. Based on deeds of sale alone, Amerindians were sold into slavery between the ages of five and twenty-five years, and on the average at the age of 14.1 years, which gives an indication of just how young Amerindian slaves were.
Black Slaves Cost More Than Red Ones In 1720, Intendant Begon wrote to the Regent that communities and residents of Canada were prepared to buy black slaves for 600 livres apiece, but he was careful to add "or by mutual agreement in Quebec" with the masters of slave ships. The intendant was wise not to insist on 600 livres and to mention the prospect of mutual agreements, since slave traders would not have found this price very attractive: at the time, a black already cost the supplier more than that, as was indicated by the prices a merchant of La Rochelle offered the inhabitants of Louisiana in 1737, prices they accepted in principle: Negro children often to fifteen years, 650 livres; black women sixteen to thirty years, 750 livres; black men of the same age, 850 livres. The French West Indies were much closer to sources of supply than Canada, and average prices there were as follows: in 1728, 800 livres; in 1750, 1160 livres; in 1776, 1825 livres. Slave valuations naturally fluctuated depending on conditions such as age, physical appearance, health, skills and the country of origin.
For the years 1737-1797, we have a list of forty-four slave prices, varying from 200 to 2400 livres. A black slave who only cost 200 livres must have been fairly poor merchandise, since a high-quality .-slave could fetch up to 2000 livres. In Quebec City in 1768, two black men between seventeen and twenty years of age sold for an average of 2400 livres. Of the forty-four prices on our list, sixteen blacks brought 600 livres or less, eleven brought 700 to 1000 livres apiece, while seventeen cost over 1000 livres. This list contains the only specific pricing information we were able to obtain. On this basis, the average black slave was-sold for 900 livres, or already 300 livres more than Intendant Begon's estimate.
What did it cost to buy an Amerindian slave? We only located eighteen examples, which do not provide absolutely conclusive information, since many details could affect the price of Amerindian as well as black slaves. These examples range from 1709 to 1792, and nevertheless provide an approximation.
The Amerindian slave could fetch 120 livres and we did not find any single Amerindian slave worth more than 750 livres: five Amerindians were sold for less than 300 livres, ten cost between 300 and 600 livres. In no case did the maximum price paid for an Amerindian slave reach the average price paid for a black one. The average Amerindian cost only 400 livres, whereas the average black cost 900. Another way of putting this is to say a black slave was worth twice as much as an Amerindian slave. This should come as no surprise, since New France was close to the market in "savages," but far from the market in black ebony, and the additional cost of acquiring black slaves was passed on to the purchaser.
The price paid for a slave, whether black or Amerindian, usually included clothing, because slaves were not sold naked. In 1753, the Panis woman Catiche was sold "with the clothes and linen on her back"; in 1778, the mulatto Isabella was sold to Lieutenant Governor Cramahe "with the clothes and linens on her back, which the said Purchaser acknowledges having received in his house"; in 1748, when Widow Philibert sold her black man to the explorer Gaultier de Laverendrye, she undertook to deliver him "with the clothes on his back at the time of delivery as well as three shirts."107 In short, the slave only reached his new master with what he had on his back, or a small bundle under his arm.
Going into Debt to Buy Slaves
Slaves were luxury items, so it was normal that wealthy-people should be the ones acquiring them. In January 1787, Louis Payet, parish priest of Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, bought a ten-year-old black boy from the bourgeois Samuel Mix for the sum of twenty-three pounds, Quebec currency, or 552 French livres, this payment being made in gold and cash (Leguay registry). But prospective buyers did not always have ready cash for such purchases. Sometimes slaves were bartered rather than sold for cash: Joseph Chavigny de Lachevrotiere de Latesserie bought a twenty-two-year-old Panis woman from the merchant Jean-Baptiste Auger for the sum of 400 livres; but instead of paying cash, he undertook to import the equivalent from Martinique in pepper and coffee; in 1732, the merchant Pierre Guy bought a Paducah, ten to twelve years of age, from Louis Chappeau for the sum of 200 livres: he made payment in beaver and other pelts; in 1790, Pierre-Charles Boucher de Labruere bought a black boy aged eight and a half years in exchange for ninety minots of wheat (the old French dry measure of minot was slightly more than a bushel). On another occasion, the above-mentioned Latesserie bought a ten-year-old Paducah slave for cash and barter, providing 250 livres in card money and two barrels of molasses, or the equivalent of 550 livres.
Prospective buyers with neither cash nor goods to barter could take out loans. On June 15, 1709 the officer and Seigneur Pierre Thomas Tarieu de Laperade, husband of Madeleine Jarret de Vercheres, took out a loan to buy a fourteen-year-old Panis boy for 120 livres, which involved obtaining an advance on the salary he would receive for June and July. On May 4,1757, the merchant and goldsmith Ignace-Francois Delzenne only had 600 livres in hand to buy a black slave at the cost of 1192 livres: he undertook to pay the remainder in fifteen days, which involved mortgaging his property, and he managed to pay off this debt two months later. In 1797, the tavern keeper Thomas John Sullivan bought a thirty---three-year-old black man for thirty-six pounds, Quebec currency, or the equivalent of 864 French livres: he mortgaged his property, planning to pay for this black slave at the rate of seventy-two livres per month.108 It took him just one year to pay for a "Negro" although this was a "Negro" aged thirty-three!
Some Deals Worked Out Badly
Transactions have their perils, and slave transactions were no exception. Ownership was not always clearly established, which led to disputes,for example between Doctor Timothee Sylvain and Widow d'Youville - Marie-Marguerite Dufrost de Lajemmerais -later known as Mother d'Youville. Sylvain claimed ownership of' the Panis held by Widow d'Youville, and he accused her in court of having seized this slave from him during the night.109 In 1762, one Falson had a Panis woman in his household whom he claimed to have bought from a ship surgeon; the Jewish merchant Eleazar Levy maintained in court that he was the real owner, since he had bought the slave from Joseph Lorrain. Levy won his case.
One had to be wary of transactions where the seller wanted to get rid of poor merchandise while seeking an inflated price. Jean-Baptiste Barthe entrusted his brother-in-law, the merchant John Askin, with the sale of his Panis slave. Askin was an able businessman, and knew the Panis had limited value since he was "too stupid to make a sailor or to be any good whatever."110 Askin nonetheless managed to obtain 750 livres for the slave - the highest price paid for an Amerindian slave, according to the documents we consulted. Things did not work out well for the buyer.
The buyer sometimes accepted huge risks, by legally acquiring a slave who had disapp eared. In May 1724, Jean Gaultier de Landreville of lie Sainte-Therese, sold a Panis to Seigneur Louis-Hector Piot de Langloiserie, whereas this Panis had not been seen anywhere for six months. The buyer took it upon himself to locate the Amerindian, and by agreement, even if his efforts were to fail, the seller would still be paid. This was a risky business! Piot de Langloiserie hoped this transaction would enable him to recover 200 livres Gaultier de Landreville owed him. Whether or not Piot de Langloiserie laid his hands on the Panis slave, the debt was extinguished."
In 1751, the merchant Louis Duniere took the same risk and paid the butcher Jacques Damien 500 livres in cash for a black slave. But when the black slave learned on what day he was to be sold, he disappeared the day before, and no one had seen him. Even so, the buyer had assumed all risks by contract, and concluded the transaction was still valid.
In 1785, Mary Jacobs bought two black women from Mr. and Mrs. Fisher for the cash sum of fifty pounds, Quebec currency, the equivalent of 1200 French livres, then waited for her two "Negro wenches" to show up. Time went by, and still no delivery of slaves took place. Mary Jacobs thought things would speed up if she served the Fishers with a summons, but they did not respond. Finally, three years later, she filed a complaint in court, claiming either her black slaves or a compensatory sum of 2400 livres. The Fishers did not even bother to turn up in court. They were ordered to restitute the slaves or pay her 1200 livres. The buyer received no compensation for the time spent waiting.111
A Montreal man named Moge also cut a bad deal, in paying 500 livres for an Amerindian slave brought back from the Thirteen Colonies by the Iroquois of Sault-Saint-Louis. Then the English turned up, demanding to have their Amerindian back. Moge was willing to restitute the slave as long as he was refunded his 500 livres, which the English refused to do, on the grounds that the Amerindian was a prisoner of war. In order to avoid any delay in the exchange of prisoners, Governor La Jonquiere ordered Moge to hand the Amerindian over, offering the meagre consolation that the latter could eventually ask the Court for compensation.112
Just as startling was the case of.a prospective owner buying a black man, only to discover he claimed to be free. In August 1797, the tavern keeper Thomas John Sullivan bought a black man for 864 livres and agreed to free the slave after five years of bondage. This was not much of a deal for Sullivan, who paid 864 livres on credit for a thirty-three-year-old slave in 1797 at a time when the anti-slavery campaign was underway. Sullivan expected to have this black man in his service for at least five years: yet shortly after, the man claimed to be free, and ran away. Sullivan was desperate because he still owed 720 livres for the black man. Then in March 1798, Mr. and Mrs. Turner intervened, demanding the slave as compensation for the amount Sullivan owed them. Sullivan defended himself by accusing the Turners of having sold him a free black man. Justice William Osgoode did not recognize slavery, and ruled that . the Turners had failed to prove their rights to the slave, ordering them to refund what Sullivan had already paid them. The black man, meanwhile, seems to have established his free condition as a result. Another reason for going to trial was when someone sold a slave he did not actually own. Around 1754, Amerindians accidentally killed a man named Petit dit Rossignol in the St. Joseph Paver region, south of Lake Michigan. In order to console his mother, the Amerindians decided to "cover" the death by offering a Panis woman and a few strings of wampum (the Amerindian equivalent of currency). Following established practice, she would benefit from having this Panis in her service. But the commander of the post, Pierre-Roch Saint-Ours Deschaillons, decided that the Panis woman belonged to him instead, and he sold her for 500 livres and kept the proceeds of sale. At the end of 1763, the Petit dit Rossignol family took the case to court in Montreal, and the judge ordered Saint-Ours Deschaillons to pay the 500 livres to the family.113