The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 25, Number 2
Aug 2001

ROYAL EDICT, Concerning establishment in Versailles, of a Storehouse for Public Papers from the Colonies

Given in Versailles, in the month of July, 1776.
Registered in the Chamber of the Comptroller, the 15th of April, 1777

Louis, King of France and Navarre by God's Grace: For all present and future: Greetings. The public papers from the French American, African and Asian Colonies, have always been exposed, because of the climate, to many destructive influences. The acts of a generation have scarcely been preserved, without being deteriorated by the next generation; and their civil status, as the property of those of our subjects that live in these countries, is constantly compromised. The uselessness of the methods that have been tried in the past over there, to keep the titles which also concern especially the families' peace and safety, leaves us no other resource than the establishment in France, of a Warehouse where legal and authentic baptism, wedding and burial registers, will be brought, as well as all judicial and extra-judicial proceedings, concerning the people and their property records for the past and the future, duplicates of the proceedings that will be made after the registering of this Edict. The originals that were left in place would also be supplied, in the case of loss or other accidents, by copies or duplicates of these documents, which will be sent to the colonies if needed. Another effect of this establishment will be to provide, concerning the existence of our subjects who migrate to these Colonies, some information that is very difficult for us to obtain because of the great distance, and whose lack often prevents significant arrangements for the families. Because of these facts and others, in the opinion of our council, and from our certain science, our full power and our royal authority; by this present, perpetual and irrevocable Edict, we have said, ruled and ordered; we say, rule and order, want, and what follows pleases us:

First Article.

For the conservation and safety of the public papers from our Colonies, a Warehouse will be established in Versailles, as Warehouse for the charters of the Colonies, and its form will be determined by the present Edict.


A basic statement of the recordings made before this Edict, of the laws proceeding from our authority, and of the transcriptions, of the rules made by the general Governors and Bursars, with basic comment of their recordings, as well as the rules made by the superior Councils, will be done very shortly by the Clerks of the superior Councils. They will go back in time as far as the registers' condition will permit. These statements and expeditions will be signed by these Clerks, and stamped by the President of each Council.


The parish Priests and the People who are serving the parishes will make, at the expense of the parishes, a copy signed by themselves, and legalized by the ecclesiastical Superior, of the baptism, wedding and burial registers which they would keep on deposit; and the civil hospital Employees will make a copy of the burial registers, which would precede the present Edict, so as to offer a pattern for the way it will be told hereafter.


The parish Priests and People who are serving the parishes, will be forced, in case of refusal or carelessness, by legal proceedings from our public Prosecutors, by the seizure of their record books, or of the record books of the Missions they are coming under, to give back these registers. The civil hospital Employees will be forced by fines that can not be passed on to the ownership of these hospitals.


The Clerks very shortly will also have the baptism, wedding and burial registers, for which the first copy could not be found by the parish Priest or People who are serving the parish, with whom they will verify the number and the years of the registers for which they are depository; the record books will be signed by themselves, and stamped by the first Headquarter Officer, without cost, submitted to their offices; if not, the Clerks will be forced by interdiction, by legal proceedings from our public Prosecutors.


We enjoin the general Governors and Bursars from the superior Councils to be sure that these transcriptions prescribed above will be done as quickly and exactly as possible; and that every three months these transcriptions will be given to the Clerks and Subdelegation offices, according to the residences, having the form of those named hereafter.

[Here we have to stop for lack of time and space. The original Edict has a total of 27 numbered paragraphs, and is 10 pages long. Because the jobs of translation and then smoothing the resulting English text are so time-consuming, not all of the Edict's text can be published in this Newsletter. However, we do have a photocopy of the original French document, which we can send on request by fax or snailmail; and we also have the draft translation of the entire document into English. This can be sent by e-mail as an attachment.

[The original French text was supplied by Lily Powell-Froissard from Paris; the translation was performed by Gwenola Furic, an intern in photographic conservation now at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas, Austin. She returns to Paris in late July. -Ed.]

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