The Michel Marsaudon Papers primarily consist of correspondence to the young Frnech merchant Michel Marsaudon trading in various ports in Haiti during the Haitian and French Revolutions. Also included are documents relating to Marsaudon's brief service in the artillery corps of his native Bordeaux, as well as other correspondence, official documents and receipts mostly relating to trade and society in Haiti in the early 1790's. The collection is arranged in 104 folders in one box.
Nothing is known about Michel Marsaudon except what is contained in the letters and documents in this archive. He was a native of the Bordeaux region of France, probably in the early 1770's. After having done a little trading in Haiti in the late 1780's, he returned to Bordeaux where he served for a brief time in the Corps d'Artillerie Patriotique Bordelaise in 1790, from which he received permission to leave and again pursue his carrer as a merchant in Haiti. During much of his time in Haiti he appears to have been closely allied with Jean Baptiste Lafosse, Captain of the galleon General Duras, and a trading partner with G. Rocquette in Bordeaux, both of whom wrote the young Marsaudon numerous times with advice on making shrewd investments, collecting debts, and protecting capital from the dangers of rioting and pillaging. Numerous other colonial buyers and sellers wrote to Marsaudon as well: placing orders, staving off debts, giving advice, reporting on conditions in Port au Prince, St. Marc, or Cap Francais, and bidding final farewell before fleeing the chaotic colony.
The social and romantic sides of colonial Haiti also make strong showings in the collection of correspondence, as male friends exchange advice on wooing women on the island and several women profess their love for Michel Marsaudon, as well as their anger at being rejected. There are also letters between family members, sometimes those of Michel Marsaudon and sometimes of unknown colonists, telling of political turmoil back home in France and even a tale of flight to America to avoid hardship.
The collection paints an interesting picture of daily life and internal and external trade in Haiti during the beiginings of its chaotic revolution in the early 1790's. There is discussion of the decrees by the Assemblee Nationale in Paris regarding the status of free men of color and the effects they would have. Notable names in the collection are Francisco Louis Hector Baron de Carondelet, Spanish governor of Louisiana and a Mr. Lafitte. Carondelet was one of the most noteworthy colonial governors of Louisiana, most importantly building a canal which aided to port of New Orleans which still bears his name. A document granting a ship permission to sail from New Orleans bears Carondelet's signature with the restriction that the ship only be commanded by Spanish officers.
One letter from a Mr. Lafitte and another referring to a 'Mr. Lafitte', both of Bordeaux, may be references to family members of the noted pirate Jean Lafitte. Lafitte was born in Haiti about the time of the correspondence of this collection to parents who were merchants from Bordeaux, much the same background as Michel Marsaudon. What happened to Michel Marsuadon and how this archive survived the Haitian Revolution are unknown. The correspondence ends abruptly in June 1794, when Marsaudon was in Port au Prince and many of his peers had fled the colony. Printed documents regarding Haitian trade dated 1798 and 1802 are the only items created after that date and give reasonable evidence that Marsaudon or whoever kept the archive remained active in trade with the island for at least eight years.
Collection-level Access Restrictions
Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.