SWISS PARTICIPATION IN SLAVERY, THE SLAVE TRADE, AND ANTI-BLACK RACISM AS RELEVANT TO CARICOM MEMBERS AND THE CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC SPACE
Compilation by Hans Fässler, MA Zurich University, historian from St.Gallen (Switzerland), for the attention of the CARICOM Reparations Commission
Since the end of the 1990s, a number of Swiss historians have established beyond doubt that Switzerland as a society and a cultural, economic, and ideological space has been involved in all the activities relevant to the «Black Atlantic», i.e. to slavery, the slave trade and the elaboration of anti-black racism. Between the 16th and the 19thcenturies, Swiss trading companies, banks, city states, family enterprises, mercenary contractors, soldiers, and private individuals participated in and profited from the commercial, military, administrative, financial, scientific, ideological, and publishing activities necessary for the creation and the maintenance of the Transatlantic slavery economy. In a narrower sense, this includes:
- participation in triangular trade expeditions
- insurance businesses
- investments in colonial projects and societies
- trade and speculation with slavery-produced goods
- trade with goods for the triangular trade
- slave trade in its proper sense
- ownership of plantations with slaves
- participation in military undertakings to establish and/or secure colonies relevant to slavery
- administration of colonial territories
- participation in military operations to preserve or secure slavery
- «scientific» or journalistic activities to justify slavery and the colonial system based on slavery
- journalistic and ideological activities to establish, elaborate, maintain and/or spread anti-black racism
- scientific contributions to navigation
- production and export of timepieces essential for celestial navigation at sea
Whereas these historical facts are unquestioned by academic circles and the reading public, there is an ongoing and rather heated debate between historians and the Swiss authorities (including the government) as to how to interpret them. In their answers to a number of private member’s bills, the Federal Council (the multi-party coalition cabinet or «Bundesrat») have always argued that Switzerland as a nation state has never been involved in slavery nor ever been a colonial power. Critical historians working within a postcolonial research context (myself included) however, emphasize firstly that it is not a big achievement for Switzerland as a nation state player not to be involved in colonial policies, since Switzerland has only existed as such since 1848. They point out secondly that the slavery-based economy of the Black Atlantic cannot be broken up into so many nation states, but has to be considered as a whole, i.e. «Switzerland» has to be defined as a society and a cultural, economic, and ideological space, and predecessor statal entities (like city states and cantons of the «Old Confederacy») have to be taken into account, too. Therefore, the following compilation is based on the assumption that «Swiss» is understood as referring to individuals from within – or having lived within – modern Switzerland’s borders, to Swiss citizens, to legal entities with headquarters on the territory of modern Switzerland, and to statal entities that can be considered predecessors of the federal state of 1848. On the line of succession of Swiss statal entities see the APPENDIX.
Table of Content
1 CARICOM MEMBER STATES
1.1 Antigua and Barbuda
1.6 Guyana (colonies «Demerara», «Essequibo», and «Berbice»)
1.7 Haiti (colony «Saint-Domingue»)
1.11 Trinidad and Tobago
2 CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC SPACE
2.2 Netherlands Antilles (colonies «Aruba», «Bonaire», «Curaçao», «St. Eustacius»)
2.3 French West Indies (colonies «Guiana», «Guadeloupe», «Martinique»)
2.4 Danish West Indies (colonies «St. John», «St. Croix», and «St. Thomas»)
3 STRUCTURAL CONTRIBUTIONS
3.1 Ideologies Relevant to the Caribbean Economic Space
3.2 Marine Navigation
5 SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
APPENDIX: SWISS LINE OF SUCCESSION
Map of contemporary Switzerland
1 CARICOM MEMBER STATES
1.1. Antigua and Barbuda
=> Arthur Thellusson, son of Lord Rendlesham and grandson of Peter Thellusson, born into a Geneva banking family, who had bought the original Brodsworth Hall estate in South Yorkshire (GB) in 1790, married the daughter of an Antigua slave owner, Sir Christopher Bethell-Codrington.
=> In her book A Small Place (1988), the Antiguan writer Jamaica Kincaid indicts the Antiguan government, the tourist industry and Antigua’s British colonial legacy by saying:
«Have you ever wondered to yourself why it is that all people like me seem to have learned from you is how to imprison and murder each other, how to govern badly, and how to take the wealth of your country and place it in Swiss bank accounts? Have you ever wondered why it is that all we seem to have learned from you is how to corrupt our societies and how to be tyrants? You will have to accept that this is mostly your fault.»
=> In 1718, Captain Woodes Rogers (1679-1732) accompanied 250 Swiss, Huguenot, and German Palatinate farmers on an expedition to settle the Bahamas. Together with 100 foot-soldiers, they sailed from London to New Providence on the 460-ton East Indiaman «Delicia».
=> In 1677, Swiss medical doctor Felix Christian Spoerri (1615-1680) from Zurich wrote a detailed description of Barbados («Americanische Reiss-Beschreibung nach den Caribes Insslen, und Neu-Engelland»), which he had visited in 1661 and 1662, including the slavery economy, which produced sugar, tobacco, cotton, and indigo.
=> Appenzell (NE Switzerland) was reported in 1764 by Karl Graf von Zinzendorf, civil servant of the Austrian court, to process cotton from Barbados.
=> 1719-1734, the city state of Berne as well as the Berne-based banking houses of «Malacrida» and «Samuel Müller» held shares in the speculative South Sea Company. With 253,000 £, Berne was the biggest single investor. The South Sea Company had slave deposits on Barbados, and all in all, it shipped 20,000 slaves from Africa to the New World.
=> In 1767, Peter Thelluson (1737-1797), a Swiss banker, entrepreneur and slave-owner from Geneva, acquired a share in the slaver «Liberty», which transported 227 enslaved Africans from West Africa to Barbados. 45 died during the Middle Passage.
=> After 1800, Anton Schulthess from a Zurich merchant and banking family served as captain in the British Royal-African-Corps in Barbados. In 1814, his elder brother, Colonel Paravicin Schulthess (1757-1843), applied to the British ambassador for a death certificate for his brother, who had apparently deceased some years earlier.
=> Jean-Antoine Bertrand (1726-1780) from the City of Geneva became a merchant in Dominica in 1764, his brother Charles (born 1716) followed him in 1775 and bought a plantation in Bourg du Roseau.
=> The brothers Jean (b. 1735) and Henri (b. 1741) Peschier from Geneva bought a Grenada plantation of 192 acres called Good Chance with at least 80 slaves. They paid 12,600 livres for it.
=> Paul Coulon (1731 – 1820) from Neuchâtel (NW Switzerland), together with Jacques Louis Pourtalès (1722–1814) from Neuchâtel and Johann Jakob Thurneysen (1729–1784) from Bâle, owned the plantations Bellair, Mont Saint–Jean, La Conférence, Clavier, and Larcher. Until 1797, they produced sugar, coffee, cocoa, and cotton with about 100 to 200 slaves on each plantation. The plantations were administered by François und Pierre de Meuron from Neuchâtel.
=> Laurenz Vonwiller (1759–1825) from the City of St.Gallen (NE Switzerland) migrated to Grenada around 1790, probably to try and bring back profitability to three plantations owned by the Swiss Johann Jakob Thurneysen and Jacques-Louis Pourtalès since 1770. In Grenada, where he felt very much at home, Vonwiller married twice (1790 and 1797). For his role in the 1795 revolt of the French Creoles against British rule, he was tried for treason and imprisoned 1798–1800 He attempted to go back to St.Gallen with his wife and was said to have been refused entry. He then returned to Grenada, where he died in 1825. His son Georg Ludwig (1793–1835) moved to Trinidad, where he «imported» a female slave in 1822.
=> The banking company «Marcuard, Beuther & Cie.» from Berne were creditors of a trading house active on St. Eustatius, Grenada und Saint-Domingue.
=> Jean Henri (1792-1873) worked on St. Eustacius for the merchant house and shipowners of «Fabry & Sugnin». He later returned to Switzerland (Canton of Vaud), from where he continued his St. Eustacius business activities. He cooperated with Samuel Chollet and his cousin Louis Chollet from Moudon (then Berne, today Canton of Vaud).
=> Jean David Fatio and Richard Besanquet from Vevey (Canton of Vaud, W Switzerland) were owners of coffee and cocoa plantations, including their slaves, on Grenada and transmitted their knowledge of the cocoa and chocolate business to Switzerland.
=> François Aimé Louis Dumoulin (1753-1834) from Vevey (Canton of Vaud, W Switzerland) was a merchant who went to England in 1772 and from there to Grenada, where he painted and produced plans in the service of the governor.
=> In 1768, Peter Thelluson (1737-1797), a Swiss banker and entrepreneur from Geneva, set up as a merchant banker in London. He acquired a share in the 330 acres sugar estate Conference in Grenada with 155 enslaved people, when the former owner failed to pay his debts. In 1772, he lent money to the owner of Bacolet Estate, a 384 acres sugar plantation, partly secured on 101 enslaved people who lived upon the property. Thelluson amassed a huge fortune, a great part of which came from money related to the slavery economy: He undertook widespread lending of money in the Caribbean, as the Grenadines, Guadeloupe and Martinique. He traded in goods used in the slave trade and in colonial goods as well (slave-produced sugar and coffee). He was involved in slave-trading itself and in close contact with Liverpool slave-traders. He was also active in the beads and cowry trade, a commodity often used as currency in the slave trade. Peter Thelluson’s son Peter Isaac Thelluson (1761-1808) was probably brought into the family merchant house at the early age of 15, and he was later a known associate of slavers and global traders. He was a director of the Bank of England (1787–1806).
1.6 Guyana (colonies «Demerara», «Essequibo», and «Berbice»)
=> The Ammann banking and merchant company from Schaffhausen (N Switzerland) traded in cotton, indigo, sugar, and tobacco. In the second half of the 18th century, 35% of the cotton it delivered into the Zurich, Aargau, Toggenburg, and Appenzell areas were from Berbice or Essequibo.
=> Louis de Saulles (1767-1817) came from a Huguenot family who fled from France to Switzerland. In 1808, he paid the colonial tax for his three slaves in Demerara. In his obituary, it was said that he was born in Switzerland.
=> Nicolas Laurent (1750-1817) from Noréaz in the Canton of Fribourg was commander in Guyana in the rank of a colonel in the Dutch corps of engineers.
=> Anton Zollikofer (1720-1761) from a prominent St.Gallen family died in Berbice, where there is a plantation called Altenklingen on the Berbice River. «Altenklingen» was the name of the Zollikofer family’s main castle, situated in the Canton of Thugau, NE Switzerland.
=> In Demerara, there was a plantation called Geneve on Canal Nr. 1.
=> In 1810, the plantation Neufchatel on the right bank of the Mahaica River in Berbice was offered to the highest bidder, «with all its appurtenances, Negroes, &c. &c.». It is today called Neuchâtel Estate. Next to this plantation there was another called Vevay or Vevey.
=> In 1808, Jeanette Crousaz from Lutry (Canton of Vaud, W Switzerland) from a patrician family, owners of the local castle since 1598 and known for foreign services, among them General Pierre François Crousaz de Corsier (1690-1769) for Holland, lived in the colony of Essequibo, where she married Rudolph Onink from Rio Demerary, a plantation and slave owner and trustee.
=> Charles-Louis de Mellet (*1759) from Vevey in the Canton of Vaud (W Switzerland) was in the military service of the Dutch against the British in Demerara and Essequibo from 1782 to 1802. He was appointed Brigadier General in 1808, Major General in 1811.
=> Around 1760, Christoffel Mittelholzer, probably from the Appenzell area, was administrator of the plantation De Vreede.
=> David Benjamin Bourgeois (1750-1809, aka «L’Américain») from Lausanne (Canton of Vaud) emigrated to Berbice in 1770. In 1791, his first child, Jeanne Marie, was born, out of wedlock. His mother was probably a black slave called Sara. In 1800, in the colony of Demerara, he begat another child, again with a black woman. That son was called Louis Henri Bourgeois (1800-1834), who, without his mother, followed his father back to Switzerland, where he first became a member of the cantonal legislature and then of the cantonal government.
=> In 1763, a great slave rebellion broke out in Berbice. It lasted from February to December, and the insurgents managed to keep control of the southern part of the colony for a year. In the spring of 1764, with the help of British and French troops, the rebellion was suppressed. Louis Henri de Fourgeod (1708-1779) from Bussigny-près-Lausanne (Canton of Vaud, W-Switzerland), then in the rank of a Dutch captain, took part in the campaign.
=> Jakob Stäheli (1727-1761) from St.Gallen (E Switzerland) was a slave-overseer in Berbice.
=> In 1771, Conrad Schläpfer, member of the municipal authorities of Trogen (Canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden, NE Switzerland) published a report on Berbice in the annual «Appenzeller Calender», a colony which he had visited in 1769/1770. He described Berbice as a place where many plantations were inhabited by Swiss and German immigrants. To plant coffee and cotton, he went on, «negroes or slaves are used, they are wild black folks taken from Africa and bought there, a male costs 150 to 500 guilders, they are better adapted for work than the original inhabitants, they go about naked, except for their pubic area, their toes and eyes are white, their hair short and black like the wool of sheep.»
=> In 1773, one H. Werndli from Zurich, was employed as a surgeon in Berbice. He sent the Zurich Naturalist Society a collection of reptiles (e.g. the embryo of an armadillo preserved in alcohol) and of «American snakes».
=> Plantation owners in Guyana («Demerara», «Essequibo», «Berbice») with Swiss backgrounds:
• At the beginning of the 18th century, Pierre Antoine Charbon from Treytorrens (Payerne, Canton of Vaud, W Switzerland) together with his family fled to Holland and later, as «Charbon & Zoon» owned plantations in Suriname and Berbice (coffee plantations De Standvastigheid and Op Hoop van Beter, plantations De Standvastigheid, De Vrouw Johanna, Ruijmzicht, and Bestendigheid).
• On his death in 1760, Michael Schläpfer from Speicher (Canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden, E Switzerland), captain-lieutenant in the Dutch army, left to his five heirs a plantation in Berbice worth 9000 guilders. Master carpenter Johannes Klee from Bühler (Canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden), Konrad Schläpfer, and his son Andreas Schläpfer administered the plantations Oberberg and Flachtal. In 1771, Andreas Schläpfer died and his father returned to Switzerland. In 1779, Johannes Klee returned, too, to his home village of Bühler (AR). In 1781, the plantation, which had fallen into decay because of the British invasion of Berbice, was sold.
• Paulus Züblin (1709–1760), grandson of the mayor of St.Gallen (E Switzerland), emigrated via Holland to Berbice, married Cornelia Gertrud Versteer, became a Dutch legal officer and the owner of the plantation Zubli’s Lust. One Abraham Zubli was born on the plantation in 1760. In 1762, Cornelia Gertrud Versteer married again: Adriaan Gillissen. Two members of the Züblin (or Zubli) family (Johan George and Ambrosius Zubli) fought against an attack by 600 slaves on the De Peereboom plantation in the great slave rebellion of 1763. They were overpowered, and one Abraham Zubli (not the one mentioned above) was killed as well.
• In the 1780s, Conrad Vincent (1745-1792) from the Canton of Grisons (SE Switzerland) was an administrator on the coffee plantation Mara in Berbice and owned 10 adult slaves. He married Helena Johanna Versfelt in 1776.
• Johann Konrad Winz (1757–1828) from Stein am Rhein (Canton of Schaffhausen, N Switzerland) was banished to Berbice for revolutionary activities. There he worked his way upwards and soon was able to take over the coffee plantation Middleburgs Welvaren (80 slaves), whose owner Schläpfer from Appenzell Ausserrhoden (E Switzerland) wanted to return home. In 1800, Winz returned to Switzerland a rich man. The road on which he had his mansion built is still called «Berbiceweg» (Neuhausen am Rheinfall, Canton of Schaffhausen).
• Members of the Zollikofer family from St.Gallen are mentioned as plantation owners in Berbice: J. de Sollicoffre (Engelenburgh) and Robert de Sollicoffre (De Waakzaamheid). One Anton Zollikofer died in Berbice in 1761.
• Laurens Kunckler from a prominent St.Gallen family, captain of the local militia, owned the plantations Goed Land and Goed Fortuin in Berbice, where in 1762, slaves rose in rebellion. 30 of them were killed and the rebellion, which was a prelude to the great rising of 1763, was put down.
• The Faesch family from Bâle held shares in plantations in Essequibo and Demerrara.
• Jakob Pool (1700-1771) from Bever (Canton of Grisons, SE Switzerland) took over from his father the flourishing family business in Amsterdam, which had already expanded to the Dutch West Indies in 1710. The company «Westrik & Pool» and members of the Swiss Pool family (Ambrosius, Ambrosius Johannes, Anna Louisa, Jacob Ambrosius, Jan Jacob, Jan Vintzenz, Jan, Louis, Pieter) owned shares in the following plantations on the Berbice River: Essendam and Sans Souci (150,000 guilders), Julianenburg, guilders), Maria Germania (coffee), Middelburgs Welvaren (coffee), Schepmoed (coffee), Zandvoort (coffee), Bellevue (coffee), Sophia (coffee), L’Esperance (sugar), De Grond Engelenburg, De Grond Ida Sabina, and Mon Repos. Jakob Pool left a fortune of over 240,000 guilders. The company «Westrik & Pool» seems to have been in existence until 1828.
• The coffee and cotton plantation Helvetia (or: Helvecia) in Berbice (1800 acres) first belonged to banker Jean-Barthélémy Rietmann from St.Gallen (E Switzerland). In 1740, it passed into the hands of members of the families Rietmann, Schlumpf and Högger (all from St.Gallen).
=> In 1810, the cantonal authorities of Zurich dealt with a number of complaints from local trading houses on account of the conflict between France and Britain («continental blockade») which led to sequestrations. The goods concerned were, among others, long fiber cotton from Demerara.
1.7 Haiti (colony «Saint-Domingue»)
=> In 1528, merchant and nobleman Hieronymus Sailer (1495-1559) from St. Gallen (E Switzerland), together with Heinrich Ehinger from Konstanz (Germany), received a license issued by the Spanish crown which allowed them to colonise Venezuela and to transport 50 mining workers from Germany to Santo Domingo, from where they would be distributed among the Spanish colonies. Sailer was also granted permission to use the Santo Domingo shipyards.
=> Plantation owners in Saint-Domingue with Swiss backgrounds:
• Louis-Joseph Bloisselier de Carnotte from Geneva, coffee plantation
• the Simon family, indigo plantations
• the Meynadier family from Geneva, coffee plantation Mont-Soucy (Jean-Louis Privat from Geneva, son of Anne-Andrienne Meynadier, was forced to return to Geneva in 1796 because of the slave revolt)
• Bertrand brothers, Bertrand père (1781, Artibonite plain)
• members of the Cadusch or Cadouche family from Graubünden (E Switzerland) were influential planters and owners of great sugar plantations
• Jean Trembley (†1791) from Geneva (1781, Artibonite plain, with slaves from Benin, Elmina, the Gold Coast, the Congo, Nigeria and Angola)
• Jean David Ramel from the Canton of Vaud (W Switzerland), owner, at the age of 45, of a large cotton and indigo plantation on Saint-Domingue in 1795
• Jean-Conrad Baron de Spechbach from Miécourt, Prince-Bishopric of Bâle, in 1789 owner of a plantation and a sugar refinery, officer in the mercenary regiment «von Hallwyl», commander of the Grande Anse batallion
• Jean-Louis Robert Coëls from Switzerland
• Benoist-Lambert Robert-Coëls from a family with Swiss origins, coffee plantation
• Jean-Baptiste-François chevalier de Volant, son of the commander of the Swiss troops in garrison in Saint-Domingue
• Anne-Marie-Elisabeth-Marguerite de Nucé, wife of Louis Tousard d’Olbec (1757-1840) from Grône and Saint-Maurice (Canton of Valais), coffee plantation
• Jeanne-Elisabeth Gouin, wife of Louis Sévérin de Costar (b. 1743), officer in the Swiss regiment d’Hallwyl
• Maria Jeanne Ducoing, wife of one Mr Comblefort from Geneva
• Jeanne-Benedictine Ducamp, wife of Boisselier de Carnotte from Geneva
• In 1784, Charles Emmanuel de Rivaz (1753-1830) from Sion in the canton of Valais (SW Switzerland) left for Saint-Domingue to administer the assets of Count Paradès, his brother in law.
• In 1795, through a contract signed in Nyon, Jean-David Ramel (1757-1819) from Château-d’Oex in the Canton of Vaud (W Switzerland) became the owner of a sugar, indigo and cotton plantation in the Saint-Marc area.
• Raymond Marie (1748-1825) from Geneva was a merchant and owned (a) sugar, cotton and indigo plantation(s). In 1791 he was a deputy member of the Assemblée coloniale and a member of the Assemblée provinciale.
=> The following individuals with Swiss background were compensated or made attempts at compensation by the French government for loss of property in the Haitian Revolution:
• Jean Antoine Abeille (1770-1826), died in Lausanne, Canton of Vaud
• Jeanne Madeleine Courlet (1769-1849) from Geneva
• Pierre Gautier (1763-1838) from Geneva (coffee business)
• Raymond Marie (1748-1825) from Geneva
• 1825-1830, Carl Friedrich Lutsdorf (1785-1835) from Berne, officer in French services, made complaints about the compensations to be paid to his father-in-law, César Rey de la Rousse (born 1775), former colonel in the service of the French in Saint-Domingue.
• In 1827, Joseph-Hubert Franc (1773-1858?) from Monthey in the canton of Valais (SW Switzerland) was informed in a letter (without name of sender) that he could not receive compensation for his plantation slaves, since, in 1789, they had been legally separated from the plantation grounds and could therefore only be considered as moveable objects under the Ordinance of 10th April 1826.
=> The following merchants and trading companies with Swiss backgrounds were active in Saint-Domingue:
• «Louis Nadal & Le Roy», «Roque & Bonnafus», «Marcet et Corneille» from Geneva, based in Cap-Français
• Raymond-Marie Duperrier in Port-au-Prince
• members of the Zollikofer family from St.Gallen (E Switzerland)
• the Cuentz brothers from St.Gallen (E Switzerland), speculation on indigo
• Sebastian Kunz (1683–1734), whose son died at the age of 12 in Saint-Domingue
• «Marcuard, Beuther & Cie.» from Berne, creditors of a trading house active in Saint-Domingue
• In 1824, Grégoire de Riedmatten (1782-1846), from a prominent patrician family in the canton of Valais (SW Switzerland), officer in several Swiss regiments in the service of France, married Nathalie Taffanel de La Jonquière († Sion, 1862) from a family of colonial administrators (Nouvelle France), Saint-Domingue plantation owners and coffee merchants.
• V. Gaspard Deonna (1746-1797) from Geneva was a master founder in Saint-Domingue.
=> The textile family businesses of the Zellweger in Trogen (Canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden, E Switzerland) imported «cotton de saint domingue».
=> In the 1780s, Louis d’lllens (1749-1819) from Lausanne and «Louis d’Illens et Cie», in association with Jacob van Berchem, imported coffee, indigo, and cotton directly from Martinique.
=> In 1791, the French aristocrat and Minister of Finance Louis Auguste Le Tonnelier de Breteuil fled to Switzerland, and in Solothurn he had a leisure walk built through the gorge dedicated to Saint Verena. Le Tonnelier de Breteuil owned sugar and coffee plantations in Saint-Domingue, which he had to sell later.
=> Two members of the Hollard family from Lausanne in the Canton of Vaud (NE Switzerland), Louis and Charles, in the context of the Haitian «debt of independence» demanded the repayment of 1000 francs from the French banking house «J. Lafitte et Cie.», which was centrally involved in financing the Haitian government of Jean-Pierre Boyer, who was struggling with the «ransom of independence».
=> Rudolf-Emanuel von Haller (1747–1833), banker, merchant, and politician from Berne, learnt from a trading partner that the slave rising had come to a head and that Port-au-Prince had gone up in flames. His trading partner advised him to gather as much sugar and coffee in Marseilles (in order to profit from rising prices later).
=> The following slave-ships equipped with Swiss investments sailed to Saint-Domingue in the context of triangular expeditions:
• «La ville de Bâle» (1786) sailed from La Rochelle and was destined to transport part of its 236 slaves to Cap-Français. The Bâle-based company «Weiss et fils» had invested in the expedition.
• «Le Saturne» (1787): The slave-ship was destined to take on board approx. 350 slaves along the Gold Coast and to transport them to Saint-Domingue (Saint-Marc). A citizen from Vevey (Canton of Vaud, W Switzerland) held shares, the ship carried Swiss cheese from the County of Gruyère and indiennes textiles produced by the companies «Pelloutier» and «Bourcard & Cie.», originally from Bâle.
• «Maréchal de Mouchy» (1783): 960 slaves were bought in Africa, 810 arrived in Saint-Domingue, the company «Christoph Burckhardt & Sohn» held a share of 20,000 £ in the expedition.
• «La Bonne Sophie» (1783), «Petit Mathurin» (1787), «Véronique» (1787), «Georges» (1789), «Roi d’Angole» (1789), «Neptune» (1790), «Georgette» (1789, 1790), «Réparateur» (1790), «Conquérant» (1791), all with shares held by one of the three Burkhardt companies originally from Bâle («Christoph Burckhardt & Sohn zur Goldenen Müntz», «Christoph Burckhardt & Cie.», «Bourcard Fils & Cie.»).
• The frigate «L’Helvetie» (600 tons), equipped and administered by «Illens et Van Berchem» from the canton of Vaud (W Switzerland), left Marseille in 1791 for Mozambique. The slaves are bought relatively cheap there (300 livres tournois) and sold dear in Saint-Domingue (2’400 livres).
=> The Swiss slave-trading company «Solier, Martin et Salavy», whose Marseilles activities are well documented for the years 1781-1787, received investments from Hunziker (Aarau), de Fellenberg and Manuel Frères (Berne), Deonna, Fazy-Claparede, Lullin, Plantamour, Milliet (Geneva), de Pourtalès (Neuchâtel), Jean-Theodore Rivier, de Charriere, de Severy, de Chandieu, de Gingins, Chavannes, de Constant, d’lllens, Polier (Lausanne), Ferdinand de Roverea (Rolle), de Saussure (Morrens), Jurgla, Perdonnet, Couvreu de Deckersberg (Vevey). Among the documents of the latter family, Couvreu de Deckersberg, a leaflet was found, advertising «the expedition of a vessel of some 400 tons, which will sail for the Guinea Coast to trade 400 to 450 blacks in order to transport them to the French Isle of Saint-Domingue on a Portuguese ship by permission granted by the French court to a company in Lisbon, which undertakes the equipping.»
=> When Christoph Burckhardt-Merian (1740-1812), merchant and bailiff from Bâle, was confronted with fears that the Haitian Revolution could endanger trade and business, he answered that reports now showed a brighter picture. There were, it was true, still armed «negroes» roaming the woods, but Whites and Blacks were already celebrating their reconciliation with great festivities. The statement of account of the slave-ship «Le Conquérant» showed, still according to Burckhardt-Merian, that sales opportunities for «negroes» were favourable. Should unrest in Saint-Domingue continue, he argued, they would have to be sold in Suriname. The price «per negro» was 650-800 guilder, according to their looks.
=> 1721–1763, the 3rd company (approx. 200 soldiers) of the Swiss mercenary regiment of marine infantry «de Karrer» was stationed on Saint-Domingue as part of the French troops in the service of the «Compagnie des Indes». In 1722, soldiers of the regiment are reported to have been stationed in Petit-Goâve, which briefly functioned as the capital of the French colony. They were commanded by Franz Adam Karrer (1672 – 1741) from Solothurn (NW Switzerland). In 1758, soldiers of that company secured the square where the revolutionary slave leader was burnt. Their commander then was Franz Josef von Hallwyl (1719-1785) from Solothurn, and the regiment was called «de Hallwyl» after him. The Swiss military presence was apparently so well known in Saint-Domingue that during the Haitian revolution, a fighting unit composed of free blacks recruited by the free men of colour to fight for pay was called «Les Suisses».
=> David-Philippe Treytorrens (1721-1788) from Yverdon (Canton of Vaud, W Switzerland) became immensely rich in the service of the Dutch West-India Company. As a captain in the Swiss regiment Hallwyl in the service of France, he helped to suppress a slave rebellion in Saint-Domingue (probably the Mackandal rebellion). Through his wife, he was related to a family of French plantation owners and politicians. In 1776 he returned to Switzerland with his two slave children François Mida and Pauline Buisson. Pauline was commented on by the German racist theoretician Friedrich Blumenbach as being «a negro woman of perfect beauty» and «an outstanding midwife with solid professional knowledge».
=> In 1800, Marie Joseph Simon Alexis Vonderweidt (1771- 1802) from Fribourg (W Switzerland) became a colonel in the service of the French. He accompanied Leclerc in his 1802 expedition to Saint Domingue, where he was promoted to Brigadier General. He was stationed in Môle Saint-Nicolas and died of yellow fever in August 1802.
=> Maurus Meyer von Schauensee (1765-1802) from Lucerne (central Switzerland) was Chief of Staff of the French invasion troops on Saint-Domingue.
=> In 1801, Marie Joseph Simon Alexis Von der Weid from Fribourg joined the Leclerc expedition to Saint Domingue in the rank of a colonel. In July 1802, he was promoted to Brigadier General in Môle Saint-Nicolas. He died of yellow fever in August 1802
=> The 3rd Helvetian (Swiss) Half-Brigade had been stationed on Corsica in 1802. On account of a capitulation (treaty) with France, 635 soldiers and officers from Switzerland and other European regions (Poland, Austria, Hungary, Piemont) had to board the man-of-war «Le Redoutable» in Ajaccio on 4th February 1803, in order to reinforce the French troops fighting the rebellious slaves in Saint-Domingue. The 1st batallion of the half-brigade under the command of Captain Jean Gaspar (Hans Kaspar) Wipf from the city of Schaffhausen (N Switzerland) arrived in Port-au-Prince on 5th April 1803 and was immediately integrated into the French infantry. In the end, only 11 men survived the yellow fever and the fighting. They were taken prisoners by the British and transferred to Jamaica.
=> Paul de Cadush (Cadosch), son of a Swiss officer from Graubünden (E Switzerland), was a landowner in Quartier-Morin, member of the Saint-Marc Assembly and president of the second Colonial Assembly. He owned half of a 330-acre sugar plantation. In 1791, he asked English settlers and soldiers in Jamaica for help against the rebellious slaves. After the revolution, he fled to Jamaica.
=> In 1757, Joseph Comte, aka L’Eveille, subject of the bishop of Bâle, soldier of the company de Courpon in Saint-Domingue, applied for a leave.
=> In 1803, the Swiss almanac «Le véritable messager boîteux de Berne et Vevey» published an image called «The cruelty of the negroes», which showed four black rebels besetting a white planter with knives, thus clearly apportioning blame in the ongoing Haitian revolution.
=> For Swiss glaciologist and racist Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), the Haitian Revolution was not a beacon a freedom and democracy, but the great ominous historical warning and bugbear. In a letter to his mother, he wrote in 1846: «Be not tempted by false humanity to tie the future of the white race to that of the black. Because then, the result will merely be a recurrence of the scenes of Saint-Domingue.»
=> Swiss neuroanatomist, psychiatrist and eugenicist Auguste Forel (1848–1931) reported from his trip through the Caribbean in 1878 (voyage from Jamaica to Barbados to St. Lucia) that he could no longer stand «the stench of the negroes» in his cabin and that there were a lot of «negroes and mulattoes» from Haiti on the boat, «whose childish chatter (in French) made him break out laughing.»
=> Henri de Saussure (1829-1905), Swiss mineralogist and entomologist from a prominent Geneva family, undertook a research trip through the Caribbean in 1854-1856. With admiration, he commented on the fact that the French consul had managed to make the Haitians resume their payments of the «independence ransom». The letters which he sent home (which were probably meant as the basis for a later publication) show a vicious racism and a marked euro-centricity:
«The negro has no idea what it means to fix something; he never brushes nor cleans anything; if there happens to be a hole somewhere, nobody tries to repair it – one might think that there is no remedy at all for this evil.»
«Nothing is funnier than listening to a senior official in golden galloons, how he speaks the rather limited and naïve language of the negro.»
«If you talk of a Minister or a general in Switzerland, you know what that means. Here, the former is an orang-utan, the latter a capuchin monkey.»
=> 1719-1734, the city state of Berne as well as the Berne-based banking houses of «Malacrida» and «Samuel Müller» held shares in the speculative South Sea Company. With 253,000 £, Berne was the biggest single investor. The South Sea Company had slave deposits on Jamaica, and it shipped 1,230 slaves from Jamaica to America in the first year of its existence. All in all, it shipped 20,000 slaves from Africa. Those that were left in the docks of Jamaica to die were called «refuse slaves».
=> Hans Rudolf Zeller (1639-1700) and Hans Heinrich Hauser (1638-1683) from Zurich were Anglican clergymen in Jamaica. They probably owned slaves and Zeller complained about the Quakers‘ antislavery activities.
=> Medical doctor Jeremias Müller from Bâle owned a few slaves in Jamaica and was killed by one of them in 1670. Before Jamaica he had lived in Virginia and Brazil for 14 years.
=> Augustin Prévost (1723-1786) from Geneva was an officer in Sardinian, Dutch and British services. After the Seven Years War, he was stationed in Kingston as Inspector General in the rank of a lieutenant colonel. In 1774, he was promoted to the rank of colonel.
=> In 1785, the «Appenzeller Calender», an annual publication with astronomical and agricultural information, entertaining texts and national and international news headquartered in Trogen (Canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden, E Switzerland), contained a lengthy «Historical Description of Kingtston, a city in America – in letters». The author, possibly from Lower Saxony in Germany, is rather put off by the wealth and splendor of the colonists and gives a critical rendering of a slave market, organized after the arrival of a French slaver with 550 «humans» from the Guinea Coast. He concludes that the colonists all die young on account of their unhealthy lifestyles and wishes he were home again, eating potatoes rather than pineapples.
=> Of the 635 soldiers and officers from Switzerland and other European countries who fought in Saint-Domingue in 1803 to put down the slave revolution, only about 11 survived. Some of them were taken prisoners of war by the British and transferred to Jamaica: Captain Albert Deflue, Sub-lieutenant Leonard Tremp, and Sub-lieutenant Frederic Rutz.
=> Caspar Landolt von Oehrlingen from the Canton of Zurich entered the British Regiment of York Light Infantry Volunteers stationed in Jamaica. His death there was reported in 1817. Johannes Meister from Andelfingen (also Canton of Zurich) had also served in that regiment.
=> Henri de Saussure from Geneva (see 1.5.3) took a trip to Jamaica in 1854. On the boat, he made the acquaintance of a planter from Cuba, who owned 300 slaves. De Saussure thought him «a great and good-natured guy». In Cuba, de Saussure commented on Jamaica and Haiti:
«Havana is, so they say, a wonderful city, whereas everything you see on Jamaica and in Haiti in nothing but a bunch of wooden shacks. In fact, the negro no longer works as soon as he is free […] and the lands lie fallow, the houses are abandoned and fall apart.»
=> Auguste Forel from Morges in the Canton of Vaud (see 1.5.3) commented on Jamaica during his trip through the Caribbean in 1878: «Order on the island is exemplary, at least externally. But inside, the Negroes are hardly any better than anywhere else.»
=> When the racist «scientist» Charles Davenport (1866-1944) in his book Race Crossing in Jamaica (1929) tried to prove that «…Whites are relatively swift and accurate, the Blacks are slow but accurate, while the Browns are slow and inaccurate…», he based himself on the authority of Louis Agassiz (1807-1783) from Môtier (Canton of Fribourg, NW Switzerland). The Swiss professor of zoology and geology at Harvard had advocated the same theories of the purportedly fatal consequences of racial mixing in A Journey in Brazil (1868). Davenport in his turn was used as an authority by the Nazi racial hygienists and quoted extensively in their 1936 standard work Menschliche Erblehre und Rassenhygiene (Baur, Fischer, Lenz, 1936).
=> English abolitionist George Thompson (1804-1878), in his three lectures on British and colonial slavery, had this to say on the 1832 slave revolt in Jamaica:
«How do we speak of individuals struggling for liberty all over the world? – of a Tell in Switzerland, – a Byron in Greece, – a Bolivar in Mexico, –a Brutus at Rome, – a Lafayette at Paris? And let me remember, before we answer this question, that the rebels of Jamaica were more enslaved, more brutalised, –had more insults and wrongs to complain of, and were a million times more oppressed than ever were the Swiss, the Greeks, the Mexicans, the Romans, or the French. (Great applaus)»
=> From 1772 to 1796, Peter Thelluson (1737-1797), a Swiss banker, entrepreneur and slave-owner from Geneva, owned a share in Windmill Estate in Montserrat.
=> Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717), from the original Bâle branch of her family, left a few critical remarks on slavery during her stay in Suriname (1699-1701) in her work Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium. However, she never questioned slavery as such, and used indigenous and African slaves for her research and expeditions. She herself enslaved an indigenous woman during her voyage back to Holland in order to obtain first-hand botanical information. The details of this indigenous woman’s life beyond her servile captivity on the journey to Amsterdam were not documented by Merian and are therefore unknown.
=> In 1770, Judith Coin from Echallens in the Canton of Vaud (W Switzerland), widow of Vulle Nuhouser, inherited 1000 Dutch guilder from the property of her husband in Suriname.
=> Around 1792, Lieutenant Rod from the Canton of Vaud (NW Switzerland) was stationed in Suriname.
=> In the 1790s, Bernhardin Peyer from the Canton of Schaffhausen (N Switzerland), mercenary captain in the service of the Dutch in Suriname, died in Paramaribo. An agreement was reached over his heritage between the families Peyer and von Waldkirch.
=> Philippe de Chambrier (1701-1756) from Neuchâtel (NW Switzerland), chief engineer in the rank of a lieutenant-colonel, was given command of the Dutch colony of Suriname in 1742.
=> In 1859, Swiss chocolate factory Maestrani (St.Gallen, E Switzerland) imported cocoa beans from Suriname, where slavery was abolished as late as 1863.
=> An uncle of Auguste-Frédéric de Meuron’s (1789-1852) from Neuchâtel was a merchant in Suriname.
=> In 1747, the governor of Suriname, Johan Jacob Mauricius (1692-1768), launched a project of German and Swiss settlers to colonise the territory. In Switzerland, the city of Bâle was chosen for recruitment and the colonists were promised 10 slaves per family. In 1748, ten families or 93 people from Bâle set out for Suriname, but the project by Louis de Bussy, who was a physician from Switzerland in Paramaribo, was a failure and many of the emigrants, who had to create a village called «Carolinenburg», succumbed to maroon attacks or tropical diseases. An 1807 map of Suriname (Christlieb Quandt, Nachricht von Suriname und seinen Einwohnern sonderlich den Arawacken, Warauen und Karaiben, … Goerlitz, 1807) still shows five «Schweizer Dörfer» (Swiss villages) between Carolinenburg on the Suriname River and Post 7 Provinces on the Saramaka. River.
=> In 1772, the Dutch lost control over the rebellious maroons after a four-year war. In 1773, Holland sent an armada with 800 men under the command of Colonel Louis Henri Fourgeoud (1708-1779) from Bussigny-près-Lausanne (Canton of Vaud, W Switzerland) to put down the rebellion. They fought until 1777.
=> In 1775, Swiss captain Meylan from the Vallée de Joux (Canton of Vaud) led a military patrol against the village of Gabo Saby, which was under the command of Boni, the leader of black resistance in Suriname.
=> In 1777, the «Appenzeller Calender», an annual publication with astronomical and agricultural information, entertaining texts and national and international news headquartered in Trogen (Canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden, E Switzerland), contained a lengthy description of slavery and the slave trade, including information on the triangular trade, investments, living conditions in the West Indies, plantation life expectancy and slave prices in Brazil, Suriname and at the Cape of Good Hope. The «Appenzeller Calender» had been founded by Johannes Tobler from Rehetobel, who in 1736 had emigrated to the Carolinas to become a slave-owner himself. Tobler remained co-editor until 1754.
=> In 1810, the cantonal authorities of Zurich dealt with a number of complaints from local trading houses on account of the conflict between France and Britain («continental blockade») which led to sequestrations. The goods concerned were, among others, long fiber cotton from Suriname.
=> In 1850, Johann Ludwig Gutmann from the Canton of Zurich, was in the service of the 27th Battalion of Infantry stationed in Paramaribo.
=> Between 1791 and 1796, mercenary Captain Bernhardin Peyer from the Canton of Schaffhausen died in Paramaribo.
=> In 1846, a settlement was reached between the siblings Sophia and Emil Paravicini from the Canton of Zurich concerning the properties in Surinam of their brother Major General Paravicini.
=> Plantation owners in Suriname with Swiss backgrounds:
• Amédée Jaques Sugnens (1737-1773) from Moudon (Canton of Vaud, W Switzerland), clergyman of the French Church in Paramaribo, together with father and son Jean and Pierre Chevalier from Switzerland, owned the sugar plantations La Liberté and Acaribo (with at least a dozen slaves). In 1770, Sugnens, together with Nicolas David Guisan (appr. 1727-1781, in Suriname since 1759) from the Canton of Vaud, acquired the coffee plantation Leliëndaal on the Commewjine River (1000 acres, 187 slaves). In 1781 Nicolas David Guisan and Rosa Du Toit-Sugnens, Amédéé’s sister, each owned half of the property of Leliëndaal and La Liberté. In his last will of 1781, decreed that a certain Nanetta Gerarda (ca. 1771-1852), whom he recognized as his legitimate daughter, was to be freed. She was probably the child of a liaison with a slave called Johanna la Liberté, his «housekeeper».
• Nicolas David Guisan (appr. 1730-1781) from the Canton of Vaud, together with François Louis Chaillet from Neuchâtel, was administrator of the sugar plantation Le Mat-Rouge on Perica Creek (2,500 acres, 110 slaves). He also administered for «Clifford & Chevalier» the plantations Le Mat-Rouge on the Perica, Mijn Geluk on the Orleane, La Nouvelle Esperance on the Cottica, and Groot-Chattillon on the Suriname River. In 1772, Nicolas Guisan, together with E. J. Chaillet-Leijnslager, was administrator of the coffee plantations Perou (890 acres, 158 slaves) and Va comme je te pousse (1000 acres, 113 slaves), and of the sugar plantation Libanon (1500 acres, 161 slaves), all three on the Cottica River. In 1781 Nicolas Guisan and Rosa Du Toit-Sugnens, Amédéé Jacques Sugnens‘ sister, owned half of the property.
• In 1863, the coffee-plantation Sorgvliet on the Commewijne River with 77 slaves was in the hands of one Frederique de Paravicini. The Paravicini family were a noble family with branches in the Cantons of Grisons, Glarus and Bâle. Family members were found in the mercenary service of Holland and France. As early as 1692, a «Freikompagnie» (a non-official unit) from the Canton of Glarus was in the service of Holland under the command of a member of the Paravicini family.
• Moïse Tissot from Geneva owned a sugar plantation, which on his death in 1692 went to his mother, who lived in Vuillerens (Canton of Vaud, W Switzerland). Later, François Fatio (1622–1704) of the merchant banking company «Fatio & fils» from Geneva acquired three thirds of the plantation. It was inherited by Jean-Baptiste Fatio after his father’s death. In 1693 there was a litigation over the heritage involving Isaac de Mestral and Gabriel Henri de Mestral (1670-1753) from the Canton of Vaud.
• Vriendsbeleid en Ouderzorg was a coffee plantation on the Commewijne River in Suriname. It was founded by Abraham Vereul, who came to Suriname in 1714 via Rouen. In 1716 he married Elisabeth Felix, who originally came from Aarau in Switzerland.
• At the beginning of the 18th century, Pierre Antoine Charbon from Treytorrens (Payerne, Canton of Vaud, W Switzerland) together with his family fled to Holland and later owned plantations in Suriname and Berbice. In 1826, the company «Charbon and Son» bought the coffee plantation Crappahoek (1000 acres) on the Nickerie River, which was still in the hands of the Charbon family in 1860. It also owned the coffee plantation Nieuwe Aanleg (1500 acres) on the Nickerie River. In the years of emancipation 1863, the company also owned the sugar plantation Hamburg on the Beneden-Saramacca River.
• In the middle of the 18th century, David François Dandiran ( 1774) from Geneva started the coffee plantation Nooytgedacht (later renamed Ellen) on the Cottica River. He also owned the sugar plantation Guineesche Vriendschap on the Suriname River and the plantation Beekvliet on the Cottica. He was a captain in the citizens‘ militia, served in the criminal justice system, and represented the trading company «Jan van der Poll» from Amsterdam. When he died, his plantations were bought by Jean André Tourton from a Geneva family.
• In 1770, François Louis Chaillet from Neuchâtel owned the sugar plantation Rosenburg on the Boven Commewijne Rivier in the Paramaribo area with some 170 slaves. In 1771, he also owned half of the plantation Libanon (capital 150,000 guilders).
• In 1769, Jean Samuel Guisan from Avenches (Canton of Vaud) emigrated to Paramaribo and from his uncle Nicolas David Guisan took over the administration of the plantations La Liberté and Accaribo (together representing a capital of 700,00 guilders) together with M. Tschiffeli from La Neuveville (Canton of Berne)
• Jean-Zacharie Robin from Geneva owned a coffee and cotton plantation called La Campagne. In 1779, he handed over its administration to a lawyer in Paramaribo and returned to Geneva. On his death in 1783, the plantation passed to his son Chrétien-André, who appointed Charles Pache from Morges (Canton of Vaud) as administrator. One André-Dominique Robin was born in Paramaribo in 1810 and died in Geneva in 1871. While in Suriname, he was a judicial counselor. La Campagne remained in the hands of the Robin family until 1821.
• Alfred Jacques Henri Berthoud (1802-1887) from a noble Neuchâtel family (NW Switzerland) settled in Suriname in 1821. He bought and administered coffee, sugar and cotton plantations including their slaves. He was married to Christiana Esther Weissenbruck, daughter of the governor of Suriname. In 1834, he returned to Switzerland, but remained an absentee landlord. In 1839, he owned: 1/3 of La Prosperité (161 slaves, 3200 acres, wood), Livorno (155 slaves, 1800 acres, sugar), Killenstein (104 slaves, 725 acres, coffee), Boksweide (213 slaves, 900 acres, sugar), Bertaud’s Lust (213 slaves, 903 acres, sugar), 1/3 of Meyndershoop (1000 acres, wood), Rees en Corp (10 slaves, 1000 acres), and 1/3 of Ornamibo (202 slaves, 669 acres, sugar). In 1840, he returned to Suriname for a year in order to sell his property.
• In 1772, Charles Alexandre Dunant from Geneva (from the same family as Henri Dunant (1828-1910), Swiss founder of the Red Cross) owned plantations in Suriname, among them the sugar plantation Boxel on the Suriname River with 124 slaves. In Geneva in 1770, he recruited workers and an overseer for the slaves. Together with his wife Jeanna Dekanter, he travelled to Suriname in 1772. Probably in 1793, they returned to Geneva.
• Isaac Vernet (1700-1773), banker in Paris, left to his son Isaac Vernet (Geneva) the sum of 16,000 guilders in 16 bonds of a plantation company in Suriname.
• Michel Trollet from Geneva owned plantations in Surinam from 1740-1770. One of them was called Mon Plaisir.
• Protestant clergyman Heinrich Grob from Zurich emigrated to Suriname, where he was employed by the Dutch West India Company (WIC), who paid him with money and slaves. In 1803, his widow intervened with the Swiss federal and the Zurich authorities to secure the 500 guilders pension which she had been promised by the Dutch West Indian Company.
• In 1755, Salomé Högger(-Rietmann) together with her son Daniel Högger from St.Gallen (E Switzerland) owned the sugar plantation La Liberté on the Surinam River, including its 132 slaves and 45 slave children. It probably stayed in St.Gallen hands until the 1770s. The slave-register of 1755 was created with the help of J.G. Chifelli (family from La Neuveville, Berne).
• On Para Creek in Suriname, there were two plantations called Zwitsergrond and DrieZwitsergrond. This probably goes back to the fact that around the middle of the 18th century, some of the local lands were given to smale-scale farmers from Switzerland. On those plantations, fugitive slaves from the 1733 Berbice rebellion were defeated. Also on Para Creek and close to the two above-mewntioned, there was a timber plantation called Munchenstein. It was fist mentioned in 1819. Münchenstein is a village in the canton of Basel-Landschaft (NW Switzerland).
• In the 18th century, members of the Faesch family from Bâle owned, held bonds or shares on the Surinam plantations Herstelling (coffee and cotton), Marienburg (sugar), Voorburg (sugar), Leyerdorp, Weltevreden (coffee), Waterland (sugar), Palmeniribo, Surimombo, Charlottenburg (coffee), Bekenhorst, Egmont, Rhijnbeek, Mon Tresor (coffee) and Hoyland. The sugar plantation Hoyland was owned by the Faesch family as late as 1852. On her wedding in 1782, Margarethe Maria Faesch from Bâle received plantations as a dowry from her parents, and out of gratitude christened her country estate near Bâle «Zum kleinen Surinam» (Little Suriname). Until today, a bus-stop in that area is called «Surinam».
• The son of Margarethe Maria Faesch, Johann Rudolf Rhyner, was sent to Suriname to administer his mother’s plantations. With an enslaved woman, he had a son called Jan Harry Rhyiner, whom he recognized as his legitimate offspring. He wanted to buy both the mother’s and the son’s freedom, but slave owner Boedeker only allowed the purchase of Jan Harry. Johann Rudolf then married a mulatto woman called Missi Groenberg. Later he returned to Basel, and when he committed suicide in 1824, he left a fortune of 350,000 Swiss francs.
• Pierre Alexandre DuPeyrou (1729–1794) from Neuchâtel (NW Switzerland) owned plantations in Suriname, which he had inherited from his father Pierre. These were the sugar plantations Libanon and La Nouvelle Espérance on the Cottica River, as well as the coffee plantation Pérou and the timber plantation L’Espérance on Para Creek. These plantations generated for Pierre Alexandre DuPeyrou an income of 24,000-40,000 guilders per annum. In 1843, the plantations Libanon and Zuinigheid (with 53 slaves) were still registered as being in the hands of «Erven du Pyrou» (heirs of the DuPeyrou family).
• Jacques-Joseph DuPeyrou (1734–1788) from the Neuchâtel family owned the plantations Monserraton the Cottica River and La Bonne Amitié (sugar) on Para Creek. On the Commewjine River, Jan (or Jean) DuPeyrou owned the coffee plantation Picardie and one J. P. Du-Peyrou the coffee and cotton plantation Guadeloupe.
• In 1703, a service contract was signed between Jean Tourton, owner of plantations in Suriname, originally from Geneva, and Nicolas Hachen from Reichenbach (Canton of Berne, central Switzerland). Hachen committed himself for two years of work on the plantations owned by Jean Tourton and Jean-Baptiste Fatio from Geneva. In 1706, administration of the Tourton and Fatio plantations passed into the hands of Isaac Tourton.
• At the beginning of the 18th century, Jean-André Guiger (born 1671) from the Canton of Thurgau (NE Switzerland) died in Surinam, where his uncle Jean Tourton had owned the coffee plantation Ellen on the Commewijne River. Jean Tourton had been director of the «Sociëteit van Suriname» from 1698-1706 and had created the coffee plantation Tourtonne near Paramaribo. The «Sociëteit van Suriname» was created in 1683 and was owned – one third each – by the City of Amsterdam, the West Indian Company and the Aerssen of Sommerlsdijck family.
• Student of theology Ami Butini (1718-1780) from Geneva inherited the plantation Tulpenburg on a tributary to the Commewijne River. He settled and got married in 1753 in Paramaribo, where he also served as a Dutch legal officer. In 1759, he offered a number of ethnographic objects to the Geneva Library, among them a foetus de nègre. Johanna Magdalena Buttini (1773-1829), born a «redeemed mulatto» (a manumitted child of a white man and a negro woman) in Paramaribo might have been his daughter.
• Gédéon Flournois (1639-1684) from Geneva died in Suriname and left his plantations to his son David. The latter sold his plantations and his house in 1755, and settled as a banker in Paris.
• Jean Gallatin (1733-1765) from Geneva left his underage son Albert (the future US Secretary of the Treasury) his share in the plantation Le Mat-Rouge in Surinam. The other half was held by Georges-Alexandre Rolaz (1728-1805), citizen of Geneva and Rolle (Canton of Vaud), captain in the service of the Dutch army, and by Alphonse Rolaz from Rolle.
1.11 Trinidad and Tobago
=> In 1795, the Faesch family from Bâle held shares in the plantation Vriendschap on Tobago.
=> In 1781, Henri Peschier (1741-1791) from a Geneva Huguenot family landed in Port-of-Spain with his wife, children, brother Jean and his mother-in-law. He received 179 acres of land from the Spanish governor, which through the work of slaves he turned into the sugar plantation Paradise Estate. After his death, the plantation remained the property of his wife Celeste Rose Peschier (1755-1817) until her death. The heirs then sold it to the governor.
=> Sir Ralph James Woodford (1784-1828), Peter Thelluson’s nephew and a trustee of his will after the death of his uncle Matthew Woodford, was governor of Trinidad from 1813 to 1828. He was also a strong apologist for the retention of slave labour.
2 CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC SPACE
=> In 1815, Heinrich Escher (1776-1853), member of the Escher family from Zurich and father of industrialist, politician and railway tycoon Alfred Escher (1819-1882), bought the coffee plantation Buen Retiro southwest of Havanna, including 87 slaves, for his brothers Friedrich Ludwig und Ferdinand Escher, who administered it. Friedrich Ludwig Escher died in 1845, and in 1847, Heinrich Escher inherited the plantation, the slaves and the infrastructure with a total worth of 40,000 pesos, about 800,000 Swiss francs in today’s worth. As has been argued by German historian Michael Zeuske, one of the authorities on slavery in general and Caribbean and Cuban slavery in particular, Federico (Friedrich Ludwig Escher) begat a child with his enslaved washer-woman Serafina, which means that Alfred Escher, the great champion of politics and industry, had a little Afro-Cuban cousin born into slavery.
=> Heinrich Studer (1779-1831) from Winterthur in the Canton of Zurich lived in Matanzas as a plantation owner.
=> Johann Ulrich Zellweger (1804–1871) from the village of Trogen (Canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden, NE Switzerland) migrated to Cuba in 1831, where he was intended to take over the Studer plantation. But Studer had died, and Zellweger started to work for a number of merchant houses founded and owned by members of the Drake family. The original family firm had been founded by James Drake (1763-1838), a shrewd trader from England, who had married into the Cuban aristocracy and become a sugar-plantation owner. In 1840, Zellweger became a member of the executive quartet of Drake Brothers & Co., together with James Drake’s son Charles, proprietor of a sugar plantation with 400 slaves, Alexander Friedrich, Charles Respinger, and José Morales. In 1842, a new partnership was formed with Johann Ulrich Zellweger, Louis Morales, and two other sons of James Drake’s. In the summer of 1845, Zellweger retired from the company and returned to Europe a very wealthy man.
=> In 1850, Jacob Jakob (born 1822) from the village of Trogen (Canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden, E Switzerland)worked as a plantation overseer in Cuba.
=> In 1791, the slave-ship «Conquérant» sailed from Malimbé in Angola. One of the Burckhardt companies from Bâle had invested 9,700 pounds in the expedition. Because of the Haitian revolution, the slaves could not be sold in Saint-Domingue, but were taken to Havana.
2.2 Netherlands Antilles (colonies «Aruba», «Bonaire», «Curaçao», «St. Eustacius», «St. Martin»)
=> Bankers from Geneva helped to finance the Dutch West India Company.
=> Isaak Faesch (1687–1758) from Bâle was a merchant active in the textile trade and a speculator in shares of the French «Compagnie d’Occident». He commanded the Dutch island of St. Eustacius for three years (1737-1740). He was governor of the Netherlands Antilles (Curaçao, Aruba and Bonaire) from 1740 to 1758. In 1745, he reintroduced flogging, branding with red-hot irons and banning to the Bonaire salt facilities as corporal punishment in order to maintain public order. Neveretheless, in 1750, the slaves on the West India Company estate Hato, which Faesch managed, rebelled. The rebellion was defeated, the rebels treated harshly, and 47 Blacks were beheaded.
=> Johann Rudolf Lauffer (1753-1833) from the town of Zofingen (Canton of Aargau, N Switzerland), whose mother was from the Chaillet familiy from Neuchâtel (see 1.7), entered the services of the «Danish West India Company» (WIC) and arrived in Curaçao in 1776. In 1796, he became governor of Curaçao, and in 1799 governor of Curaçao, Aruba and Bonaire. In 1804, he withdrew from public life, and in 1805 returned to Switzerland. In 1806, he returned to Curaçao, where he died one of the richest inhabitants of the colony. He left his wife and children (who kept their Swiss citizenships) the plantations and the slaves of Scharloo, Bleinheim, Eenzaamheid, and Nooitgedacht (aka Heintje Kool).
=> Johann Jakob Hoffmann from Bâle, together with Isaak Faesch (1687–1758), traded cocoa, sugar, coffee, tobacco, silver, and gold on Curaçao. They were active in the brokerage and insurance business, insuring both regular inter-Caribbean trade and smuggling ventures by Curaçaoan and French West Indian vessels. The crops they traded in included sugar from Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Saint-Domingue, tobacco from Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, and St. Vincent, coffee from Guadeloupe and Martinique, and cacao from Venezuela. Hoffmann, secretary of the Dutch colony of St. Martin, was also a slave-trader on Curaçao, which has been called a hub of the global slave trade. He purchased slaves from the British islands (like St. Christopher) and had them transported to the coast of Venezuela, where they were exchanged with cocoa. Once he planned to evade tax on slaves who arrived in Willemstad by dressing them up as sailors. Hoffmann advised his human-trafficking partners to buy «only young and strong negroes with handsome faces».
=> Isaac Debrot (1771-1854) from Neuchâtel came to Curaçao 1793 as a soldier in Dutch service. He was commander of Bonaire from 1817-1827, i.e. he held the highest job in the administration of the island. In 1863, when slavery was abolished there, five Debrot families owned 71 slaves.
=> Martinus Marugg (1784-1823) was born in Amsterdam to a family originally from Klosters (Canton of Graubünden). His father Caspar Marugg (born 1759) had emigrated to Amsterdam and married there in 1782. Martinus reached Curaçao as a naval surgeon in 1804.
2.3 French West Indies (colonies «Guiana», «Guadeloupe», «Martinique»)
=> Sebastian Högger (1686-1737) from St.Gallen was in the service of the Swedish navy from 1710 on. On behalf of King Charles XII. of Sweden, he travelled to Martinique in 1716.
=> In 1791, the slave-ship «Intrépide» with an investment of 194,000 livres by Burkhardt family company from Bâle sailed from Nantes via Vieux Calabar to Cayenne.
=> In 1815, the slave-ship «Petite Louise» with an investment of 20,000 livres by a Burkhardt family company (copper sheet and indiennes textiles) sailed from Nantes via Cap Lopez (Gabon) to Cayenne.
=> In 1785, the slave-ship «Bonne Sophie» with an unknown investment by a Burkhardt family company sailed from Honfleur via the Guinea Coast to Guadeloupe.
=> Jean Gressier (ca. 1705-1785) lived in Guadeloupe 1738-1747. The French Gressier family (André father, André son, Jean) had been wealthy sugar plantation owners in the Trois-Rivières area, producing 34,000 lb of sugar p.a. In 1749, Jean Gressier acquired the citizenship of La-Tour-de-Peilz in the Canton of Vaud (W Switzerland) and bought the local castle.
=> In 1790, the slave-ship «Alexandrine» with an investment of 10,000 livres by a Burkhardt family company sailed from Nantes via Angola to Martinique.
=> In 1815, the slave-ship «Cultivateur» with an investment of 5,000 livres by a Burkhardt family company was destined to sail from Nantes via Bonny (Niger Delta) and Ambriz (Angola) to Martinique, but the vessel was captured by the British fleet.
=> Charles Louis de Meuron from Neuchâtel, father of Auguste-Fréderic de Meuron («de Bahia»), was an important indiennes manufacturer, whose commercial activities extended as far as Martinique.
=> In the second half of the 18th century, Jacques Solier (1749-1815) from Vevey (Canton of Vaud, W Switzerland) was first a merchant in Marseille and then part of the profitable enterprise «Cayla, Solier, Cabanes, Jugla et Cie» in Cadiz. He organised triangular expeditions towards the East and the West Indies, among them the slave-ship «La Naz». In 1814, he bought the sugar plantation Clairefontaine on Guadeloupe and in 1833 sold it to his nephew Alfred d’Alaret Solier.
=> Charles Daniel de Meuron (1738-1806) from Neuchâtel served in the regiment Hallwyl from 1755 to 1763, and in 1765, he joined the Swiss Guards of the regiment Erlach. In 1779, he received from the French king a licence to exploit the land between the rivers Approuague and Oyapock with the help of soldier-colonists and slaves. The project did not materialise, and after a long military career, de Meuron returned to Neuchâtel a very wealthy man.
=> Samuel Guisan (1740-1801) from Avenches (Canton of Vaud, see also 1.7), a direct ancestor of the Swiss WW II general Henri Guisan (1874-1960), after his stay in Suriname, moved to Cayenne, and from 1777-1791 was chief engineer responsible for hydraulic and agricultural projects. With the techniques of polderisation and canal-digging, realized with an enslaved workforce, he aimed at developing the Approuague estuary area. He administered the spices plantation La Gabrielle, which belonged to the King of France. He owned two plantations, Trio and L’Esperance, and for the latter signed a treaty for the «delivery» of 110 slaves per annum from Angola and the Gold Coast. The village of Guisanbourgh on the Approuague River (abandoned today) bears testimony to his presence. He returned to Switzerland in 1791 to become «inspector general for roads and bridges» of the short-lived Helvetian Republic.
=> In 1810, the cantonal authorities of Zurich dealt with a number of complaints from local trading houses on account of the conflict between France and Britain («continental blockade») which led to sequestrations. The goods concerned were, among others, long fiber cotton from Guyana and precious woods («bois satiné») from Cayenne.
2.4 Danish West Indies (colonies «St. John», «St. Croix», «St. Eustaches», and «St. Thomas»)
=> The Swiss bank «Leu» from Zurich, which was half private and half statal (it managed the finances of the city state of Zurich) held shares of the French «Compagnie des Indes». In 1760, together with Geneva investors, «Leu» participated in a Danish bond issue which was meant to finance the acquisition of the islands of St. John, St. Croix and St. Thomas. In 1769, «Leu» participated in a plantation business on St. Croix: Reinhard Iselin brokered a loan of 42,000 guilders from the Swiss bank «Leu» from Zurich for the Brown brothers (John and David), for which a plantation was used as collateral.
=> Reinhard Iselin (1714-1781), Swiss-born Danish merchant originally from Bâle and a customer of the Swiss bank «Leu» from Zurich, was a ship-owner and an arms and indiennes manufacturer. In 1749, he founded «Reinhard Iselin & Co.» in Copenhagen. The company completed 65 expeditions to the Danish West Indies, where he operated a large sugar refinery. He was also active in the Danish Africa Company. His successor was Caspar Hauser (1741–1824), also from Bâle, who became director of the «Danish West India Company».
=> In the 1770s, Reinhard Iselin motivated Salomon Kitt (1744-1825), merchant from Zurich, to establish on St. Thomas and St. Eustaches a company for the import of silk from Zurich and other European textiles.
=> In 1733, approximately 150 Akwamu slaves staged a rebellion on the island of St. John. The slaves, who outnumbered the colonists at a rate of nearly 5:1, took control of the fort at St. John’s Coral Bay and proceeded to take possession of the plantations. The Danes called the French for help, and among the troops that arrived from Martinique and brutally put down the rebellion were Swiss mercenary soldiers, too.
=> In 1842, Swiss merchant Robert Lutz (1823-1843), owned a domestic slave in St. Thomas.
=> In 1528, Hieronymus Sailer (1495-1559) from St.Gallen (E Switzerland), together with Heinrich Ehinger from Konstanz, was contractor of the second asiento do negros , i.e. a royal charter authorising the transportation of slaves directly from Africa to the Americas for the sum of 20,000 ducats. The contract with King Charles V of Spain gave him the right to «export» 4000 slaves from Portuguese Guinea to Venezuela, which was to be colonized by the Welser company from Augsburg.
=> The Mississippi Bubble was a financial scheme in France that triggered a speculative frenzy. It was engineered by John Law, Scottish adventurer and financial wizard, and monopolized the French tobacco and African slave trades. In 1719, the vessels «Grand Duc du Maine» and «Aurore» unloaded their human freight in Pensacola (Florida): 500 black slaves. In 1720, Law’s companies ended in financial collapse. Swiss money was invested by:
• the city State of Solothurn (N Switzerland)
• les Mississippiens de Steckborn, i.e. Jean-Henri Labhard, Jean and Jean-Georges Deucher, and Jean-Georges Füllemann, all from Steckborn (Canton of Thurgau, NE Switzerland)
• the merchants Conrad Zellweger-Tanner (1659-1749), Conrad Zellweger-Sulser (1694-1771) and Johannes Zellweger-Sulser (1695-1774) from Trogen (Canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden, E-Switzerland)
• Louis Guiguer (1675-1747), citizen of Bürglen (Canton of Thurgau, NE Switzerland), with an investment of 800,000 £ the fourth most important shareholder of the «Compagnie des Indes Occidentales»
• a considerable number of citizens of Geneva and citizens of St.Gallen in Lyon (among them banker Henri d’Antoine Locher)
• the banking company «Malacrida» from Berne
3 STRUCTURAL CONTRIBUTIONS
Albeit a land-locked country at a great distance from any major colonial port (320 km to Marseilles, 600 km to Nantes, 600 km to Amsterdam, 700 km to London, 1400 km to Cadiz, 750 km to Hamburg), Switzerland has made a number of important structural contributions to the European colonial project. Since they cannot be assigned to one single Caribbean country, they shall be set out in the following chapter.
3.1 Anti-Black Racism and Ideologies Relevant to Caribbean Economic Space
=> Johann Caspar Lavater (1741–1801) from Zurich was an important figure in the development of «racial science». He is known for his contributions to the field of physiognomy, which pretended to assess a person’s character or personality from their outer appearance and thus became a theory of morality and racial superiority. Lavater categorised black Africans as «animal-like» and «limited», and in his books spread ideas of contemporary authors who argued that tribal societies were unable of cultural development, that even without slavery there would be no progress, and that slavery was after all not a very hard fate. Lavater, Swiss popularizer of the physiognomic school, was enthusiastically welcomed in France (nine editions of his L’Art de connaître les hommes par la physionomie in half a century) and in England. He was also in contact with and influenced by Petrus Camper (1722-1789), whose theory of the «facial angle» became one of the stepping stones of anti-black racism. In fact, in volume 4 of his Essays on Physiognomy, Lavater claimed that he had used the facial angle for analysis before Camper. A facial angle of 100° was found with Greek gods, an angle of 80° was typical of humans worthy of that term (such as himself), those with angles of 70° like «the Angolan negro and the Kalmyk» were losing all traces of human likeness. They were followed by orang-utans (58°) and macaques (42°).
=> Swiss media of the time reported on the 1763 Berbice slave rebellion (see 1.4) and the indigenous Pontiac’s Rebellion in the Great Lakes area of the same year in a clearly partisan manner, as if it was their own interests (and not those of the British, of the Dutch, or of the American settlers) which were at stake. The following quotes from the Alter und neuer grosser Staats-, Kriegs- und Friedens Appenzeller-Calender published in the Canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden in 1765 betrays the ruling discourse, i.e. the discourse of colonial dominance:
«The Blacks on the island of Berbice, which belongs to the Dutch, rose in rebellion, and it is pitiful to read with what cruelty they killed the Christians.»
«The English in North America were confronted with an even bigger rage from those inhumane brutes. (…) During the siege of Fort Detroit, such atrocities took place as to make mankind tremble: In an attempt to sally out, one of the Indian chieftains was killed. As soon as his father had learnt the news, he took one of the English captains who had been captured and forced him to say his prayers over the dead body of his son. He was massacred thereafter, and his heart was torn from his body and devoured by the Indians; the body of another Englishman was boiled in a cauldron and feasted on; his skin was made into tobacco-bags.»
«The English as well as the Dutch have immediately sent reinforcements in order to resist the rebels and to bring them to heel, and, as we have been informed so far, most colonies have by now been freed from the rebels and again enjoy the desired peace and quiet.»
=> In 1849, Scottish historian and essayist Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) anonymously published his racist pamphlet Occasional Discourse on the Nigger Question. It propagated the vision of a feudalist, paternalistic society in the West Indies that would treat the now free blacks with sternness and keep them in a state of inferiority similar to serfdom. Carlyle largely drew from the writings of Carl Ludwig von Haller (1768–1854) from Berne, professor for constitutional law and politician, who had argued in 1818 in his Digression on Slavery that slavery was neither morally wrong nor abhorrent nor a crime, but a reasonable system of reciprocal rights and obligations.
=> Swiss scientist Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) from Môtier in the Canton of Fribourg (see also 1.5.3) has been called «the most influential scientific racist of the 19th century» (Alex Marsh). He made a career in Europe as a glaciologist and ichthyologist, and from 1846 until his death he lived and worked in the USA. He divided mankind into races, postulating a clear hierarchy: He defined the «white race» as superior and creative, and described the «black race» as «ape-like», incapable of establishing a culture and not belonging to the same mankind as the whites. He categorically rejected miscegenation, considering it the cause of cultural deterioration. He described mixed race «hybrids» as inferior and wanted to force the state to adopt racial policies, including spatial separation of races as well as quickly getting rid of «hybrids». His ideology influenced the thinking of the fascist poet and Mussolini-admirer Ezra Pound as well as the doings of John Kasper, Ku-Klux-Klan member and militant racist in the fight against the Civil Rights Movement. The thoughts of Louis Agassiz can be traced as far as the Nazi racial hygienists.
=> In 1863, the Swiss federal government was asked in a private member’s bill by MP Wilhelm Joos from Schaffhausen to take legal action against those compatriots in Brazil who bought and sold and owned slaves. The Swiss House of Representatives («Nationalrat») with 64:4 voted against the move. In 1864, Wilhelm Joos again submitted an application asking for the federal government to write a report on the question of slave ownership by Swiss citizens in Brazil. In 1864, the report by Swiss scholar Johann Jakob von Tschudi (1818-1889) was submitted to the House by the federal government. It held that it was neither unreasonable nor illegal nor immoral for Swiss citizens to hold slaves. It was rather beneficial and expedient. A Swiss consul, said the Swiss government, could not be expected to stand in the kitchen and do housework himself. That thought was unbearable, and so it was perfectly acceptable to own slaves. The federal government of today excused their predecessors of 1863 by saying «their reaction had been marked by the predominant norms of the 1860s».
=> In 1860, Adolf Guyer (1839-1899) from Neuthal (Canton of Zurich) travelled to the USA to see where the raw material processed in his father’s cotton mill came from. In his travel diary, he argued that the slaves‘ living conditions were not so bad after all, that slave revolts like the ones in Cuba aimed at eradicating the white man from the face of the earth, that primitive African slaves became civilized on the American plantations, that slavery was a necessary evil, that the great nations of antiquity (the Greeks and the Romans) had already practiced slavery and that, if God had not wanted slavery to exist, HE would have abolished it long ago. The man who held that some were born to rule and some to serve later became a cotton entrepreneur, the founder of a HSBC predecessor bank, a railway tycoon, and a politician.
=> In the context of Jean-David Ramel (1757-1819) from Château-d’Oex in the Canton of Vaud (W Switzerland), who owned a plantation in Saint-Domingue, local historian R. Campiche wrote in a historical review in 1948 that after the Haitian revolution, the estates of Saint-Domingue fell into ruin, because «the Black, who strives to destroy, does not care to rebuild».
3.2 Marine Navigation
Naval expeditions, the triangular trade and maritime commerce in the colonial era set the need for better navigation tools (instruments like the astrolabe, the sextant and precision timepieces). This led to a fierce competition between colonial powers and likewise between scientists including astronomers, mathematicians and finally watchmakers. The following Swiss played a role in this:
=> Ferdinand Berthoud (1727-1807) was a watchmaker and a scientist from Plancemont (Canton of Neuchâtel), whose main credit was the development of a robust marine chronometer for measuring longitude on the high seas. In 1745, he moved to Paris, and in 1753 was made a «Master Watchmaker» by the French king. In 1764, he became an «associate foreign member» of the Royal Society in London. In 1768, the two sea clocks built by Berthoud and financed by the King were tested on the corvette Isis during a voyage from Rochefort to Saint-Domingue and back.In 1770, Berthoud received the title of «Horloger Mécanicien du Roi et de la Marine» and was commissioned by the king of France to produce twenty marine chronometers.
=> Pierre-Louis Berthoud (1754-1813) from Plancemont (Canton of Neuchâtel) together with his uncle Ferdinand manufactured and repaired the sea clocks supplied to the French and Spanish navies.
=> Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823) from Neuchâtel was apprenticed in watchmaking in Neuchâtel and Versailles. In 1775, he set up his watchmaking company in Paris, where he soon became famous for his innovations. In 1814, Breguet became a member of the «Bureau des Longitudes», and in 1815 was appointed as chronometer-maker to the French navy.
=> A number of scientists from Basel (N Switzerland) made important contributions to naval architecture: Johann Bernoulli (1667-1748) and his brother Jacob Bernoulli (1655-1705) worked on the mathematics of ship sails; Leonhard Euler (1707-1783) made a study into ship stability (the best way to place the masts on a ship); Daniel Bernoulli (1700-1782) researched the best shape for a ship’s anchor and created the principle in fluid dynamics named after him and relevant for the movement of ships in open bodies of water.
=> Jost Bürgi (1552-1632) from Lichtensteig in the Canton of St.Gallen (E Switzerland) was a watchmaker, inventor, mathematician and astronomer. By 1586, he was able to calculate sines at arbitrary precision, using several algorithms to calculate tables which were important for navigation at sea. In 1585, he built the first metal sextant.
In the course of my involvement with the history of the Black Atlantic, I have had four memorable opportunities to meet historians, activists, politicians and diplomats committed to researching and addressing the «appalling tragedies in the history of humanity» that Transatlantic slavery and the slave trade have been defined by the 2001 «World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance» in Durban.
In November 2003, I was invited by the Haitian foreign minister Joseph Philippe Antonio to participate in the «Inter-Ministerial Conference on Restitution and Development» in Port-au-Prince. The participants of the conference were received by President Jean Bertrand Aristide for an exchange of ideas on reparation and restitution.
In January 2005, I was invited to Dakar (Senegal) for a colloquium on «Transatlantic Echoes» at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop, as well as to Gorée and Jilor in the context of the «Bouki Blues Festival».
In March 2008, I was again invited to Dakar (Senegal), this time to present and discuss the French edition of my 2005 book Reise in Schwarz-Weiss. Schweizer Ortstermine in Sachen Sklaverei (Travels in Black and White. Swiss Dates with Slavery) before the PhD students of slavery at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop and at the library ClairAfrique before a meeting organized by the «West African Research Centre» (WARC).
In November 2013, I was invited to take part as a speaker in the «Pluridisciplinary Colloquium on the Culture of the Maroons in the Guianas and the Caribbean Basin from the 17th to the 20th Century» in Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni (French Guiana). The participants were able to travel the Maroni River upstream by boat as far as Apatou, in order to attend a meeting with the Gran Man of the local community, whose members were descendants of the bushinenge or Boni people, who rose in rebellion in the Dutch colony of Suriname, established maroon settlements and fled across the river to French Guiana.
The people I met in Port-au-Prince, Dakar, Gorée, Jilor, Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, and Apatou (and in Bordeaux, Nantes, La Rochelle, and Paris for that matter) have further convinced me that Transatlantic slavery is an unfinished business. They have inspired and motivated me to continue trying to be of help when it comes to demanding justice and reparation from the colonial powers of the 16th-19th centuries. How much was Switzerland one of them?
I am aware that it is problematic and maybe nearly impossible or even cynical to convert the degree of a country’s participation in a crime against humanity so gigantic that the mind boggles into – percentages. But I want to do it all the same. And fortunately, others have tried before me. As early as 1992, Martin Bossenbroek found that between 1814 and 1909, Swiss mercenary soldiers accounted for a surprising 4% of the total colonial troops of the Dutch (whose empire stretched from the Caribbean via the Cape Colony to the East Indies) and were even ahead of the French. In La Suisse et l’esclavage des Noirs (Lausanne 2005), historian Bouda Etemad writes on p. 47 : «A broader balance, taking into account the direct and indirect Swiss involvement in the slave trade, would go beyond 172,000 deported slaves, i.e. 1.5% of the 11-12 million human being captured in Africa in the context of the Transatlantic trade.» I myself, in my book Reise in Schwarz-Weiss, have put it like this on p. 287f.: «Starting from the basic assumption of an average life expectancy of 10 years for the enslaved labour force, an average plantation size of 100 enslaved workers, and of a period of ownership of 30 years, one would get about half a million enslaved labour years for the approximately 50 Swiss plantations in South America, the Caribbean, in North America and South Africa. To this, one would have to add the slaves that worked in Swiss households and factories. I assume that in relation to the total volume of enslaved labour years in the slavery economy of the New World, this would amount to a percentage rate in the lower one-digit range. The same percentage would probably be true for military operations.»
I made these estimations in 2005. Considering that since then, more Swiss participation (investment in triangular expeditions in an approximate total of 100 cases, plantation ownership) has been established, considering the important role of the Swiss indiennes production (e.g. 80% of all the indiennes in Nantes were produced by Swiss companies), considering the significant Swiss share of the trade with colonial goods (i.e. Swiss cotton imports in part of the 18th century were second only to Britain in absolute figures), considering the fundamental importance of military operations to maintain slavery, and – last but not least – in view of the Swiss contributions to the «ideological logistics» of anti-black racism, I would dare the claim that Swiss participation in Transatlantic slavery was around 2%. Professor Harald Fischer-Tiné, Chair of «History of the Modern World» at the Swiss Federal Institute of Science and Technology (ETH) in Zurich, even put the Swiss share in the total slave-trade between 1772 and 1830 at 2.4 %.
Is that much? It is very little compared to what has been estimated for Britain (40%), Portugal (30%), or France (20%). But it is infinitely more than the 0% that most Swiss (including most historians, including myself) would have guessed as late as the 1990s. And if one puts it in relation to respective population sizes, one is in for a surprise. Around 1800, Switzerland had a population of about 1.7 million, and France about 29 million. From which follows that the country we have all come to think of as tiny, land-locked, neutral, and Alpine had a per capita involvement in Transatlantic slavery which was almost twice as big as that of the great European colonial power of France.
I am convinced that the historical evidence I have gathered in this paper is sufficient reason why the CARICOM reparations movement should not only target the classical colonial powers such as Portugal, France, Britain and Spain, but also Switzerland. There are two more good reasons why.
Firstly, the inclusion of Switzerland in the list of nations targeted for reparations would help CARICOM to make its initiative better known in Europe. Switzerland is embedded in that continent, it has a very developed press and media system, which is closely linked to the German and the French press and also covered by the British press. If Switzerland is rightfully targeted as a colonial profiteer or a «free-rider» of the European colonial system, there will be a certain European logic of thinking: If even Switzerland is in it, then the whole of Europe must be.
Secondly, the inclusion of Switzerland would be of extremely good use to postcolonial scholars and activists in Switzerland. Whenever the Swiss federal parliament or the Swiss government has been confronted with demands for reparations in the past, the standard answer has been: Switzerland has never been a colonial power; Switzerland has never had formal colonies; Switzerland has never received any formal demands for reparations from any country. A simple letter from CARICOM or the CARICOM Reparations Commission to the Swiss government, asking them to enter into negotiations or into a dialogue on reparations for the Swiss share in slavery, the slave trade, the development of anti-black racism and colonial rule will work wonders. It will once and for all shatter the myth of the landlocked, Alpine, innocent and forever neutral country that can self-righteously keep outside the great confrontations of our time.
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Witschi Peter, Appenzeller in aller Welt, Herisau 1994
APPENDIX: SWISS LINE OF SUCCESSION
In the following line of succession of Swiss statal entities, the cantons, city states or territories mentioned in the compilation above have been italicised.
Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft (today’s Switzerland)
a federal state, created in 1848 as successor state of the
comprising the 19 sovereign cantons of Zürich (Zurich), Bern (Berne), Luzern (Lucerne), Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Glarus, Zug, Freiburg, Solothurn (Soleure), Basel, Schaffhausen, Appenzell, St.Gallen, Graubünden (Grisons), Aargau, Thurgau, Tessin, Waadt (Vaud), Wallis (Valais), Neuenburg (Neuchâtel), and Genf (Geneva), created in 1803 as successor state of the
a centralised state («une et indivisible») under French control, created in 1798 by Napoleon as successor state of the
comprising since the 14th century the sovereign cantons of Uri, Unterwalden, Luzern, Glarus, Zürich, Zug, Bern, Freiburg, Solothurn, Basel, Schaffhausen, and Appenzell, including their associates, condominiums and protectorates, among which the Abbey of St.Gallen, the City of St.Gallen, the «Sieben Zenden» (an independent federation in the Valais), the Three Leagues (independent federations on the territory of the Grisons), the City of Geneva, the County of Neuchâtel, Payerne, Stein am Rhein, County of Gruyère, Valley of Saanen, Bishopric of Basel, Landgraviate of Thurgau, and County of Toggenburg.
St.Gallen (Switzerland), 28th November, 2019
To be updated at irregular intervals.