The Gentleman Dave story: a French aristocrat, a slave revolt …

germc1

Between Jan. 8-10, 1811, a group of slaves from different plantations along the Territory of Orleans’ “German Coast” — a portion of the Mississippi River through present-day St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and St. James parishes — took part in a rebellion against their masters.

The revolt came just over a year before Louisiana became a state in the Union of the United States, and it was brutally suppressed by both government forces and white militias comprised of plantation owners and other authority figures.

By the time the rebellion was quelled, nearly 100 slaves — mostly mixed-race men — had been killed, with many being summarily tried and executed via beheading and their heads being placed on stakes at the entrance to plantations as well as public places in New Orleans proper.

1811-battle-scene

Eight days after the complete suppression of the rebellion, Louisiana territorial records documented the “sale” of an unnamed slave by an owner named “Malarcher.” In reality, the document was essentially the official recording of a financial loss written off by Malarcher. The slave, quite obviously, had fatally taken part in the revolt. Stated the document:

“Slave listed as dead. This slave was involved in a conspiracy or a revolt against slavery. … Malarcher, 2 killed in battle, no name given. Listed on census of slaves killed during revolt, executed after judgment, in prison in the city or in the countryside, or missing before revolt.”

This seller named Malarcher was in all likelihood Chevalier Louis Joseph D’Aspremont Malarcher, a wealthy white planter born in France in 1753 who shifted to the then-French colony of Haiti by the early 1790s.

Records show, however, that the Chevalier — an honorific title for French upper-crust nobility — fled Haiti almost as soon as Toussaint Louverture instigated a successful slave rebellion in the colony that led to the creation of the free republic of Haiti.

Malarcher arrived in New Orleans in 1791 at the age of 38 and lived for a time in Orleans proper before, sometime between 1805 and 1810, taking up residence and launching a sugar plantation along the Mississippi River in what is now St. James Parish.

The Chevalier probably owned many slaves. Some he might have brought with him when he fled Haiti in 1791. Several others, documents state, he bought in Orleans Territory after he arrived the the still-nascent United States.

The Malarcher slave killed following the German Coast Uprising could have been imported with Louis from Haiti or purchased thereafter. There might never be any way of knowing for sure.

However, what is almost certain is that the unnamed, martyred slave was a distant ancestor of David Julius Malarcher — Negro Leagues legend “Gentleman” Dave Malarcher, who was thus the descendent of the family of a wealthy, white, sugarcane planter who became one of the pillars of society in the region named Cabanocey — modern-day St. James Parish, according to a book by Lillian C. Bourgeois.

How can we be sure that it was this strain of Malarchers to which Gentleman Dave belonged? We’ll leave that for the next post. For now, let’s conclude this beginning of the David Julius Malarcher story here …

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2 thoughts on “The Gentleman Dave story: a French aristocrat, a slave revolt …

  1. Pingback: Gentleman: the plantation connection | The Negro Leagues Up Close

  2. Pingback: ‘One of the most cruel slave owners …’ | The Negro Leagues Up Close

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