MANUSCRIBE. - [SEYCHELLES]. Memorandum for Mr. M. Interested on the Concession requested in Isle Seychelles. S.l.n.d. [years 1770-1780]. In-folio manuscript (316 x 195 mm), tabbed, 16 pages, marbled half calf with small vellum corners, spine decorated with grotesque, red title piece (Modern binding in the old taste).
Manuscript from the second half of the 18th century, presumably unpublished, detailing a project for a private company to exploit the archipelago.
Perfectly legible writing, on watermarked laid paper.
The beginnings of the colonisation of the Seychelles (1756-1789).
The archipelago, known as early as the 9th century by Arab merchants, was officially discovered in the 1500s by Portuguese navigators, notably Vasco de Gama. In 1756, it became French thanks to an officer of the Royal Navy, Corneille Nicolas Morphey, who took possession of Mahé, the main island, which was immediately renamed Ile Seychelle [sic] in honour of Moreau de Séchelles, general controller of finances under Louis XV.
The tropical climate and the geographical situation of the Seychelles (close to the Ile de France (Mauritius) and Bourbon (Reunion Island)) are major assets. It is being considered as a stopover on the way to the East Indies, or even as a counter. The prospect of creating a prosperous colony there and making considerable profits from it thus decided a French shipowner named Brayer du Barré to embark on the adventure: with the permission of the State, the latter thus founded the very first colony there around 1770.
The avatars of the Brayer du Barré experience will leave indelible traces in the history of the colonisation of the Mahé islands. ...] Settling on a desert island where you have to bring everything, organize everything, build everything, is certainly not easy. Especially if the purpose of the operation is to earn a financial income [...]. Spend some more time there to get wood, commies and turtles [...]. But from there to take root there... (Buttoud, pp. 94-95).
This very ambitious undertaking is a failure, however. Three years later, the colony is at a standstill, but the foundations for the future colonization of the Seychelles have already been laid. The colonisation of the archipelago will take off again in 1787 with the establishment of a real land use plan to rationalise the allocation of concessions (cf. Buttoud, p. 115).
The Seychelles: a paradise for financiers.
The manuscript is not dated but it was written before the French Revolution, i.e. at the time when the colonisation of the Seychelles was slowly beginning. It is quite possible that it has something to do with Brayer du Barré's enterprise, the first known private project of colonization of the archipelago, but it could also be another project, unknown, perhaps a few years earlier, which was not retained or which was aborted.
The project is particularly motivated by the lure of gain (as for Brayer du Barré): the demand for the Seychelles Island to a double point of view also lucrative; the costs will be simple, and the ratio double. The plan of the operation foresees, once the concession is obtained, the creation of a company with 15 shareholders and the division of Isle Seychelle (Mahé? Island) into as many parts (this information suggests that the island is still devoid of any concessions). The activities of the shareholders would be linked to trade and the slave trade (pp. 5-15). The memorandum in fact stipulates the acquisition by the said company of two ships on which would be embarked the 200 settlers that would be transported there on the first expedition, with the food and tools necessary for clearing and cultivation (this figure of 200 settlers is consistent with the population of the Seychelles before the Revolution, the island of Mahé having in 1785 less than 160 people, and in 1789 nearly 250, including more than 200 slaves; see Buttoud, p. 131): one of the ships would then be shipped to the African coast with 200,000 # to process 400 blacks there and the other would go to India, Pondicherry or Bengal with 900,000 # to process goods for Europe.
We learn there that the colonists will get horses from the Cap-de-Bonne-Espérance and Muscat for the donkeys, Madagascar will provide oxen of a prodigious size and strength, and that the colony will become in a few tems very flourishing and will gather the most precious productions of the two Indies: cotton of a whiteness and a rare delicacy, indigo, coffee, spices, etc..
The manuscript seems unpublished, there is no explicit mention of it in Fauvel's Unpublished Documents on the History of the Seychelles Islands anterior to 1810 (1909).
Manuscript of the greatest interest for the history of the colonization of the Seychelles.
It comes from the Raymond Decary Library (1891-1973), administrator of the Colonies in Madagascar, with ink stamp at the head of the first page.
Bibliography: Gérard Buttoud, La Colonisation française des Seychelles (1742-1811), 2017.
Location of the item France - 75008 Paris