The Forty Artisans of the Boré Plantation

Stop 5 of 6 on the No Sugar-Coating: The Plantation History of Audubon Park tour

In October of 1796, General Victor Collot, a spy for the French colonial government, arrived in New Orleans after a military expedition down the Mississippi River creating maps of Spanish land holdings and military preparedness. [2] During his time in New Orleans, the Spanish Governor of Louisiana, Francisco Luis Héctor de Carondelet, arrested and imprisoned Collot for treason. [1] Victor Collot’s imprisonment lasted one month, being released by Carondelet on December 4, 1796 for Collot to return to Philadelphia where he published his mission writings entitled the "Voyage dans l'Amérique Septentrionale." [1] 

Though short-lived, Collot’s imprisonment was not within a jail cell, but at the Boré Plantation, located within today’s Audubon Park. His journal details the daily life on the Boré Plantation for enslavers and the enslaved. 

Boré’s Statement of Success 

According to Collot, Étienne de Boré stated that his success as a sugar planter was “due to his bringing the Mississippi waters into his fields, by means of trenches, which he opens and closes at will with the help of sluices. These ditches keep·his ground continually damp during March, April, and May, (season of drought in Louisiana), which time Mr. de Boré has observed to be extremely detrimental to the growth of the cane.” [3] (Sluices are water channels controlled by a gate.)

Étienne de Boré’s statement did not acknowledge the work of Antoine Morin, a chemist and a free man of color who designed the technology of sugar granulation which made Boré’s sugar industry the largest within Louisiana. Boré also did not acknowledge the many enslaved men and women that planted and harvested the sugar cane, which was a brutal and dangerous process. 

But, Victor Collot did. Collot noted that Boré’s financial success would not have come about without the forty enslaved men and women who not only planted and harvested the sugar cane, but also planned and built the various buildings required to collect and granulate the sugar. Collot states that “it is true that the labor was done by his own negroes, forty in all, men and women. It is also true that the bricks, tiles, lime and carpenters' wood were all prepared by his laborers on his plantation, and the entire construction was finished by them in eighteen months.” [3] Collot goes on to say, that without the enslaved people’s labor, the cane would have rotted and been unsellable. [3] Collot’s writing implies that he observed the work of the enslaved men and women and credited Boré’s financial success to the labor of enslaved people and these forty enslaved men and women were the driving force behind Boré’s sugar production. [3]

Collot’s writings show how enslavers like Boré depended on enslaved people and their labor for their wealth. His writings also negate the common myth that enslaved people worked only as field hands, showing that these men and women were great artisans, carpenters, builders, architects, and farmers.