[Archive of Manuscripts from and relating to the Island of Mauritius]
[Mauritius: 1767-1817]. Approximately thirty-four items, totaling 75pp. plus several other later or tangential items. Mostly folio and quarto sheets, with a few smaller pieces. Light soiling and wear throughout, heavier to some documents.
A superb archive of manuscripts spanning more than fifty years of French colonial history in the southern Indian Ocean, and reflecting the extreme danger of some of France's farthest flung endeavors, especially during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. Among the manuscripts offered are letters signed by Mauritius governor, Malartic, to the governor of Réunion, and an instruction given to the Chevalier de Sanglier sent to Mauritius by the Commander of the French troops in Madagascar, Maurice Auguste, Baron Benyovszky.
The earliest item is a letter from the Cesar Gabriel de Choiseul, Duc de Praslin, regarding the precarious social climate in the colony. Dated 1767, he writes, "Messieurs... les revolutions arrives En Cette Colonie dans les affaires de la Compagnie...." At that time, the Compagnie des Indes was handing over control of the island to the French government. There are eight autograph manuscripts signed by Anne Joseph Hippolyte de Maures de Malartic - Governor of the island, "Le Citoyen President," and "Sauveur de la Colonie" - regarding the governing of the islands during the French Revolution. All are dated at the Ile de France from 1793 to 1794.
There are also two autograph letters on the printed letterhead of Maurice Auguste, Baron Benyovszky, regarding the supplies needed for his Madagascar colony, including tens of thousands of seeds for coffee and cotton. An officer of the Hapsburg army during the Seven Years' War, Benyovszky later served in the Confederation of Bar and assisted with a rebellion against the King of Poland, for which he was eventually imprisoned in Siberia. He managed to organize a rebellion among the Polish soldiers, commandeer a ship, and sail through the Aleutian islands and on to Taiwan and then Macau, where he befriended French diplomats. He used his new contacts to arrange an audience with Louis XV, to whom he proposed a French colony on Madagascar. King Louis was intrigued enough to agree, and he appointed Benyovszky Governor of the new colony.
Two further manuscripts relate to the precarious position in which the French colonists found themselves during the Mauritius campaign of 1809-1811. "Croyez, Messieurs, que Sa Majesté L'Empereur, Saura apprécier ce nouvel acte de Votre dévouement...." Dated at the Ile de France, 31 8bre 1809. There is also a group of letters and other items from 1853 relating to Eugene Leclezio, the man who seems to have assembled all of the manuscripts. It includes several small manuscript maps of the island and the region in the Indian Ocean. There are also several later printed and manuscript items related to the same subjects.
The Dutch were the first Europeans to become interested in the island, taking possession in 1598. After exploiting the island's dense forests for a century and introducing the cultivation of sugar cane and cotton, the Dutch abandoned the colony in 1710. The French soon claimed it as "Ile de France," and the island remained under the control of the French East India Company until 1767. During the long war between France and England at the beginning of the 19th century, Mauritius proved to be an important strategic naval base, and as a result the British took charge of the island in 1810, and the Treaty of Paris confirmed official British possession in 1814. It remained an important sugar producing colony, and in the 20th century agricultural production was expanded to include tea, rice, and other produce.
A unique and fascinating archive of manuscript material relating to French activities in the Indian Ocean.