"Christophe’s Rural Code" by Vergniaud Leconte
An excerpt from Leconte’s Henri Christophe dans l’histoire d’Haïti (1931). Leconte was a renowned lawyer who presided over the bar association in Cap-Haïtien in the early 1900s.
In July 1811, Christophe instituted a commission to elaborate laws that would be submitted to the Privy Council of the Grand Council of State for consideration.… [Christophe] would arrive early, take active part in the discussion, present his arguments and shed light on the debates. The conferences lasted about six months; and, at the end of January 1812, nine new laws were passed and compiled together under the title of the Code Henri, using the first name of its creator.
The laws on agriculture were divided into eight parts. The first three dealt with the reciprocal obligations of the landowner and the farmer who cultivated the land. The landowner was to treat the workers as well as possible; otherwise, the latter could complain to the King's lieutenant.
The owner was obligated to construct the essential buildings and provide the mill and the tools needed to make sugar. He had the responsibility of keeping the mill in good condition, making sure that the sugar cane was planted, taking care of the fields, and cutting the cane in time to make sugar of impeccable quality. Coffee plantations had to have a good location, drying sheds, and a crushing and winnowingmill. The old coffee trees had to be pruned and cut back.
Part four governed the distribution of the quarter of the revenues that went to the cultivators. All rural habitations that owned a workshop in accordance to the law had to first sell their crop and then distribute a quarter share to the eligible parties….
The last part of this law regards offences and penalties. Infractions were punished with fines, imprisonment and [the] coercion [of labor].
The Royal Dahomets were the police force in the countryside… Every home was visited at three o’clock in the morning by an agent of the Royal Dahomets who were in charge of surveillance. The cultivator was obligated to work the land and could not leave as he wished, wander from one habitation to the other, or live wherever he wanted: he needed to have a job and had to be able prove his employment.