18 Pages

French Colonial Policy in seventeenth century Madagascar: François Martin's Account - article ; n°1 ; vol.17, pg 81-97


Gain access to the library to view online
Learn more


Archipel - Année 1979 - Volume 17 - Numéro 1 - Pages 81-97
III. Aniruddha Ray memaparkan konteks sejarah tentang François Martin waktu berada di Madagaskar dari tahun 1665 sampai 1668; sewaktu Compagnie Française des Indes mencoba untuk menjajah pulau tersebut yang ternyata mengalami kegagalan. Mémoires dari François Martin lebih-lebih lagi menarik karena penulisnya mengemukakan kritik atas pilihan politik pada waktu itu.
17 pages
Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.



Published by
Published 01 January 1979
Reads 10
Language English
Document size 1 MB

Aniruddha Ray
French Colonial Policy in seventeenth century Madagascar:
François Martin's Account
In: Archipel. Volume 17, 1979. pp. 81-97.
III. Aniruddha Ray memaparkan konteks sejarah tentang François Martin waktu berada di Madagaskar dari tahun 1665 sampai
1668; sewaktu Compagnie Française des Indes mencoba untuk menjajah pulau tersebut yang ternyata mengalami kegagalan.
Mémoires dari François Martin lebih-lebih lagi menarik karena penulisnya mengemukakan kritik atas pilihan politik pada waktu
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Ray Aniruddha. French Colonial Policy in seventeenth century Madagascar: François Martin's Account. In: Archipel. Volume 17,
1979. pp. 81-97.
doi : 10.3406/arch.1979.1460
AU XVHe s.
François Martin was born in 1634 at Paris (') and joined as a
shopboy in a grocer's shop in 1650 at the death of his father. His
other brothers forced him to leave the house. Around 1661, Martin
married Mary Guperly and as a result lost his job (*). In the summer
of 1664, Martin joined the newly formed East India Company and was
♦ This paper was presented at the Indian History Congress (December 1976),
at Calicut University, Kerala.
1. P. Kaeppelin: La Compagnie des Indes Orientales et François Martin, 1908, 45-46,
See also the Introduction of the Mémoires de François Martin, Paris, 1931-34, 3 Vols
by Henry Froidevaux. Martin's is- be called Mémoires here.
2. Robert Challes : Journal d'un Voyage fait aux Indes Orientales depuis 1690, Paris.
3 Vols., III, 11-13. See also, F. Didot: Nouvelle Bibliographie Générale, Paris, 1751,
T. 34, 34-35 ; A. Fleury, "François Martin" in Annales de l'Ecole Libre des- Sciences
Politiques, 15 May 1894, 289-309 ; H. Froidevaux, "Un Explorateur Inconnu de
Madagascar au XVI le siècle, François Martin" in Bulletin de Géographie Historique
et Descriptive, 1896, 5-44; H. Sot tas, Histoire de la Compagnie Royale des Indes Orientales,
Paris, 1904; M.V. Labernadie : Le Vieux Pondichéry, 1673-1815, Pondichéry, 1936. 82
sent to Madagascar in one of its four ships in March 1665 (;»). He was
then an under-merchant with a rather high salary of 600 livres a year.
This is an account of his observations at Madagascar (4), from where
he left for Surat on October 19, 1668 (5), never to return. Other publi
shed and unpublished accounts on Madagascar located at Bibliothèque
Nationale, Paris and at National Archives, Paris have been consulted
to compare his statements and to understand the French attempts of
colonisation at Madagascar and its failure. This study is a necessary
complement to the more well-known use by scholars such as Jadunath
Sarkar and Surendranath Sen (6), of Martin's account of India.
The French merchants at Normandy had already started distant
voyages by the end of 16th century. On November 13, 1600, they
formed a society in co-operation with the merchants of Vitré and La
val^7). In June 1604, Henry IV founded a Company with 15 years
exclusive privileges. Ships were sent irregularly to Madagascar in opposition
3. Mémoires (All references here are from Vol. I), 6. The ships left Brest on
March 7, 1665. L. Pauliat gives the date as March 6 (Louis XIV et la Compagnie
des Indes Orientales de 1664, Paris 1886, 46). Souchon de Rennefort, Secretary of
the Sovereign Council of Fort Dauphin, who travelled with Martin, wrote March
7 in both of his works (Relation du premier voyage de la Compagnie des Indes Orientales
en l'isle de Madagascar ou Dauphine, Paris, 1668 and Histoire des Indes Orientales, Leiden
1688, 13). An unpublished letter of the Directors to the King in 1667 states that the
ships left Brest on March 7, 1665 (Bibliothèque Nationale, to be referred as Z?JVhere
Paris Mss, NA, Fr. 9353 : Requête ou écrit des Directeurs de la Compagnie de*
Indes Orientales au Roy, f. 30). S.P. Sen (The French in India, Calcutta, 1948 28)
gave the date as March I, following Martin who had obviously made the mistake
4. Mémoires, 12-172. Alfred Grandidier first published this part of the account
of Madagascar in Histoire de Madagascar, Paris, 1880, V.I. Portions of his
of have been published in the form of articles since then.
5. Mémoires, 146.
6. G.B. Malleson : History of the French in India, Edinburg, 1868; Surendra Nath
Sen: Foreign Biographies of Sivaji, Calcutta, 1927; Jadu Nath Sarkar : House of
Sivaji, Calcutta, 1955.
7. Charles de la Roncière, "La Politique Coloniale des Malouins", published in
Revue de la Colonie Française, 1913, 1er année, 39-72. 8S
to the Dutch (*). The accounts of Madagascar and other islands, given
by the Parmentier brothers and Pyrard de Laval (') had encouraged
Cardinal Richelieu to promote the formation of a new Society of the
Orient in 1642 with 20 years privileges (l0).
In March 1642, the French landed at Madagascar and established
a base at Fort Dauphin in the Taolanara region on the coast (").
Relation with the local inhabitants was far from friendly. Also the
successive mutinies of the catholic French settlers, sometimes in coope
ration with the local inhabitants, routed the rigorous and sometimes
inhuman rule of the Protestant Governor Pronis. In 1648, Flacourt took
over as Governor but pursued the same policy of his predecessor, in a
milder form, though neither the French government nor the Company
8. For the interesting world tour of Pierre de Malherbe de Vitré in 1609, who
met Akbar and Shah Abbas of Peisia, see an article by Charles de la Roncière,
"Un Manuscrit à retrouver, le premier voyage Français du Monde" in Revue
d'Histoire, Paris, 1907, September 7. For the account of" the Parmentier brothers,
who did not meet Dutch opposition in the 16th century, see their book Le Dis
cours de la Navigation, ed. by Ch. Shefer, Paris 1833. In 1527 and in 1529, the
Parmentier brothers landed on the western coast of Madagascar. On September 9,
1606, the Dutch had forbidden their countrymen to take service in any foreign
ship beyond the Cape of Good Hope or in the Detroit of Magellan. On Decemb
er 28, 1617, the Dutch seized the French ship St. Michel near Bantam. In 1619.
the Dutch seized another French ship, Espérance and burnt it. On February 18,
1667, the Dutch again seized the French ship St. Charles. The experience of the
pilot, Jean le Telier (Voyage faict aux Indes Orientales, Dieppe 1631) is a clear case
of continued and deliberate Dutch opposition to French voyages.
9. Payrard de Laval : The Voyage of François Pyrade de Laval, tr. into English by
A. Gray, London, 3 Vols., 1887. See also François Martin de Vitré : Description
du Voyage faict aux Indes Orientales par les en l'an 1603, Paris 1604, who
was with Laval. But it was the glowing account of François Cauche de Rouen
(Relation de Voiage, Paris 1638) which inspired Richelieu most.
10. Royal privileges were granted to this new Company, under the patronage
of Fouquet, Marshal Duc de la Meilleraye, dated June 24, 1642. But the real
inspirator was Captain Rigault of the Marines and several rich bankers of Nor
mandy. After Richelieu's death, the Regency, acting under the minority of Louis
XIV, confirmed these privileges by an edict dated September 20, 1643 for 20
Company" years (cf. John in A Harris, Complete "History Collection of the of Voyages Rise and Progress Travels, of London, the French 1745, East 2nd India éd..
2 Vols., 1764, 149-50).
11. According to Etienne de Flacourt (Relation de V isle de Madagascar, Paris, 1658,
193-197), Sr. Pronis and others landed at Mascareigne (called Bourbon and later
changed to Réunion) in March 1642. At Madagascar, they at first selected a village
at Anesy and because of its bad climate, moved to neighbouring peninsula of
Taolanara, named Fort Dauphin. Andre stated the first landing was made in
September 1642 (Madagascar, Paris, 1908, 43). Also see, L.M. Maclend Madag
ascar and Its People, London, 1865, 8-10. 84
gave him any support. In 1655, Flacourt returned to Paris to remedy
this administrative negligence. He was drowned while returning to
Madagascar on June 10, 1660. He wrote two books on Madagascar,
which formed basic information material on French policy at Madag
ascar (}2). By 1661, two parties had already been formed within
the Company regarding the policy to be pursued at Madagascar (13).
The French Government was by that time financially in a critical
situation with an empty treasury due to the Wars of the Fronde, which
had just ended. As a result, the Company was neglected. By 1656, the
Company had been reconstituted with the Duc de Meillerayc holding
the major shares (M).
He sent several ships to Madagascar, the last one arriving at Ma
dagascar in 1663. But other powers were not inactive. Between 1638
to 1658, the Dutch conquered the Portuguese settlements in the East (lsy
and had secured the Portuguese monopoly trade between Europe and
Japan ("). It was in this background of the critical situation at home,
with an empty treasury and disbanded soldiers roaming the country
side and the cities, while rival European powers were expanding in the
«astern world, that the Madagascar enterprise was decided upon.
Martin's description of the formation of the new French East India.
■Company in 1664 differs from other known sources (l7). Martin did not
12. For the problems of the French before the return of Flacourt to France,
see his Relation, 196-202 ; Ralaimihoatra, E. : Histoire de Madagascar, Tananarive,
2nd éd., no date, 58-59. For an analysis of Flacourt's book, see an article of
H. Flacourt" Froidevaux published entitled in Revue "Valeur de Madagascar, Historique Paris, de deux October Editions 10, de 1900, l'Ouvrage 8-11. The de
constant references by Martin clearly showed the influence of Flacourt. His other
book is Histoire de la Grande Ile de Madagascar, 1642-1660, Paris, 1658.
13. For a general discussion, see R. Malotet: Etienne de Flacourt, Paris, 1908, who
claimed that the policy of intimidation started by Flacourt was followed by his
successor. For the defence of Flacourt, see an anonymous pamphlet, Eloge de feu
M. de Flacourt, referred by Froidevaux in Valeur Historique, 8.
14. On September 19, 1656, a Royal Ordinance practically set up a new Com
pany with Etienne de Flacourt as one of the associates. The King accords the
same privileges as given to the Company of America. Other associates started a
case against Flacourt who won on October 25, 1659. A new contract was signed
between and the Company and Louis XIV, by a letter-patent dated
May 4, 1660, appointed him as Governor of Madagascar (Malotet, op.cit., 27 1-282).
15. C.R. Boxer: The Portuguese Sea-Borne Empire, London, 1969^ 112-3.
16. Harris, op. cit., 663-696.
17. Henry Weber: La Compagnie Française des Indes, 1604-1875, Paris, 1904, 111.
For the interventions of the King and Colbert, see Charpentier : Relation de l'estar
blissement de la Compagnie Françoise pour le Commerce des Indes Orientales, Paris, 1665,
11-14. See Pauliat for detailed discussion. 85
mention the initiative taken by Colbert but ascribed it to an unknown
banker and the King. Other documents, including the unpublished ones,
point clearly the initative taken by the King and Colbert. By April
1 664, the new Madagascar enterprise had already been formulated and
the succeeding months saw the formation of the Company, in which the
merchants of Paris took the initiative (l8). Public shares were also floa
ted besides the heavy subscription by the King, his courtiers and other
cities of France (l9). At the same time, envoys were also sent to the
courts of Persia and India for special privileges to be given to the
Company f20).
By May 18, 1664, the last ship of the Duke de Meillcraye came
back to France with a glowing account of Madagascar. In the spring
of 1665, four ships sailed for Madagascar. A Government was to be
set up at Madagascar, to be named as "Private Sovereign Council" (2I).
In the list of passengers, one finds carpenters, shoe-smiths, cabinet
makers, masons and stone-cutters, cartwrights, gardeners, labourers, wine
growers, bakers, butchers, tanners, candle workers and so on. There
were also free individuals to set up their own manufacture (**).
Pauliat (2a), working on the formation of the Company, found that
the objectives of sending these people were not clearly spelt out. His
18. Meetings were held at Paris on May 23 and May 26. On May 29, the mer
chants wernt to meet the King at Fontainebleau and on May 31, the King signed
the articles presented to him by Colbert and Berryer, Secretary of State (See,
Pauliat, op. cit., 88-92 & Charpentier, Relation, 67).
19. For details, see Relation, 8-10 & Weber, op. cit., 118-9. The
list of subscription is in Charpentier.
20. Nicholas Claude de Lelain reached the Persian court but died on the way
to India in 1666. For his activities in Persia, see Chevalier de Chardin : Voyage
en Perse el d'autres lieux de l'Orient, éd. by Langles, 1811, Vol. III, 427-8. François
Boullaye Le Gouz and Beber reached the court of Aurangzeb (See N. Manucci :
Storio de Mogor, ed. by W. Irvine, London, 1907, Vol. II, 150). Copies of the
letters of Louis XIV to the King of Persia and the Grand Mogol can be seen in
Archives Nationales, Paris (to be referred A jV here), Mss, Colonie B(l), ff. 139-40v.
Colonie Also see C a (2) report 2, f. in 250v. the General Chambers to the King in 1667 in AN, Mss,
21. For the different articles and the objectives of sending the four ships, see the
discussion in Pauliat, op. cit., 143-48. Also see, Charpentier, Relation, 63-65.
22. For the list, see Charpentier, Relation, 70. Regarding the number of persons,
there are different opinions. An unpublished official letter of the Directors of the
Company to the King in 1667 gave the number as 491. The objective was "to es
tablish there a civil society with original inhabitants ..." (Requête, op.cit., f. 30).
23. Pauliat, op. cit., 129-32 & 154^-56. •
argument was that since most of these people did not fall under agri
culture, the rationale of sending them was not clear. Perhaps, Colbert
was not certain about the kind of development to be made and there
fore he was hesitant to commit himself, one way or the other.
From the beginning, the French had the problem of hangover of
the colonial policy of sheer force followed by Flacourt Q4) and the con
sequent worsening of the relation between the French and the local
inhabitants. Martin, however, was preoccupied, in the beginning, with
describing the internal faction fighting among the French (*5), alluded
by him as the result of lack of coordination among various occupatio
nal groups Q6) which broke out during the crossing and the rivalry of
the Dutch. This kind of fighting later became all the more acute under
the scarcity conditions at Fort Dauphin (27), where the French, because
of worsening relation with the local inhabitants, found it difficult to
procure rice and meat - two staple food of the French at Madagascar.
Thus began the setting of three different posts in different areas mainly
to supply rice at Fort Dauphin for local consumption (M). Here also
began the raids in the interior for the collection of cattle. Martin was
sent to one of these posts at Ghalemboule(29), from where he continued
to supply rice to Fort Dauphin till his recall there in 1668.
24. An unpublished letter of Hugo dated June 26, 1664, gives an idyllic picture of
Madagascar and the need to set up a colony there with emigrants from France
N° 7, ff 2v-16v). See also Malotet, op. cit., 287-291 {AN., Mss, Colonie C (5A) 1,
for discussion. Malotet suggested that Flacourt, instead of attending of work of
agriculture and commerce, emphasized the expansion of French influence and
French rights at Madagascar became clear by the occupational policy followed
by Flacourt. Those who succeeded Flacourt, including Champmargou at the
time of Martin, followed the same system of Flacourt.
25. For the quarrel during the crossing, see Rennefort, Histoire, 141-2, which
corroborates Martin {Mémoires , 8).
26. He mentioned the differences among the men of the sword and men of the
Robe {Mémoires, 8). See also an unpublished letter of the King to the Director
Defaye dated March 31, 1669, where he suggested that the commanders of the
army were not in agreement with those of commerce {AN, Mss, Colonie B(l) f 29v).
27. For the condition at Fort Dauphin, where two parties had already been
formed within the French establishment, see Mémoires, 47-49 & 78-79.
28. The three posts were already there and the French now were asked to take
possession (Charpentier, Relation, 63-65).
29. Actually Fenerive, where Martin arrived on August 26, 1665. The French
habitation was named Fort Gaillard {Mémoires, 34). By September 13, he had
already supplied 158 barrels of rice and 500 birds {Ibid, 35). 87
With the colonials, came the priests who attempted to convert the
chiefs i30). They failed and some of them were killed because of their
excess of zeal (31). But their bitter criticisms (*2) of French ruthlessnes»
and their raids produced an inner discord within the establis
hment at Madagascar. In a meeting of the Sovereign Council (33), the
alternatives were hotly debated but approaching famine at Fort Dau
phin gave the Council no choice. The raids continued.
Thus, two strands of policy became quite clear. One was the Fla-
court type (*4), which was that since production was abundant, it was
simply a question of taking by force, if exchange of glass trinklets failed,
from the native "savages", who were supposed to be untrustworthy and
revengeful. The "slaves" would easily be available in the island and it
would be possible to make war, with the soldiers recruited from the
island, into the Red Sea, in alliance with the King of Abyssinia against
Medina and Mecca. There should be 9 colonies at Madagascar which
would be able to supply provision to the ships. Different commodities,
like indigo, hides, sugar-cane, tobacco etc. would be manufactured and
sold in different world markets, which would meet the cost of keeping
the island by superior force. The rigour of the rule would be mitigated
by the blessings of the Christian Church and their conversion programmes
30. Fray Juan de San Thomas, a Portuguese, was probably the first Dominican
monk to land at Madagascar in 1587. With the French, came Abbé de Belleharbc
on July 26, 1646. The French had a contract with the Lazarists. In 1665, four
missionaries were sent (See a monograph by H. Froidevaux entitled Les Lazaristes
à Madagascar au XV Ile siècle, Paris, no date).
31. For the description, see Mémoires ; 45-46. See also Rennefort, Relation, 83-124.
Father Etienne arrived at Madagascar on September 29, 1666 and was poisoned
in 1674.
32. There was constant criticism from the very beginning, even against the
treatment of the Company. For example, Father Bourrot wrote to his superior,
Almeiras at Paris, that when they go to the stores of the Company, the clerks
treat them as slaves. They had less ration than the soldiers and he asked permis
sion from the Superior to start trade, which was refused. The classic letter was in
1671 from Roguet to Almeiras : "... war continues, famine has not left, our
weakness increases ... As our enemies, they increase their forces every day in
number and in force ... we are not in a position to defend ourselves, not having
arms, men, munitions of war nor the guns ..." (Froidevaux, Lazaristes 220-235) .
33. Mémoires, 78 & 102. Rennefort suggested that the President de Beusse first
started the division by driving a wedge between the old inhabitants and the new
comers (Relation, 148-50).
34. Flacourt, Relation, 23, 25, 42 ; 19-20, 17. For the Memoir of the Duc de
Meilleraye, see AN, Mss, C (5A) 1, N° 5, ff 1-lv. For the speech of April 1, 1664,
see Charpentier: Discours d'un fidèle sujet au Roy, 17-33. 88
which would keep the "savages" within the fold of European culture.
The initial project of sending free colonials to Madagascar would help
Metropolitan France where the poor, needy and vagrants, who had been
thrown up on the surface in large numbers by the devastating war
efforts and consequent peace had increased. These ideas were worked
out by Duke of Meilleraye in 1663. On April 1, 1664, Charpentier
suggested big establishment there which could be held by 100 men.
These ideas were attacked in 1664 (3S) but none paid any heed to the
criticisms, since others supported the project equally vehemently (36).
The second strand modifies the rigour of the rule but keeps the
church as well. Belleville (37), who sailed to the Red Sea and landed at
Madagascar, married locally and settled there. He believed the supersti
tions and followed the customs of the local inhabitants. His type there
fore succumbed to the local culture, whom he did not consider as
"savages" and therefore had not need of ruthless raids and policy of
force. He called for slow integration, in which the church was to play
its part by slow conversion and by leading the natives to the higher
form of culture.
A slight modification of this strand is Major La Case (38), who
was generally sent on raids and who returned successfully. La Case,
married locally, and known to the local inhabitants as a 'hero' and very
courageous, believed in individual bravery and raids. He however dif
fered from the policy of ruthlessness or from the submission. It was the
heroism of La Case which kept the French out of famine during the
lean months.
35. Sr. Gentilhot : Remarques et observations d'un fidèle sujet au Roy sur les
discours touchant Pestablissement d'une Compagnie des Indes Françaises pour
le commerce d'Orient dated April 9, 1664 (AN, Mss, Colonie C (2) 2, ff 77-80).
36. Hugo, op. cit., ff 15v-16v.
37. Martin's description of Belleville's adventure to the Red Sea and his return
to Madagascar remain the best. The story shows that Belleville can not be trusted.
Belleville married the daughter of a local chief, had two children and his wife
gave Martin, the food and drink of the country (Mémoires, 24-26). For Belleville's
belief to the Malagassy superstition see Ibid, 33-34.
38. For the biography of La Case, see Rennefort, Histoire, 59-115. La Case, born
at La Rochelle in the family of Vacher probably came to the island in 1655 and
married the daughter of local chief Adrian Rasissate. He had trouble with the
French and went to live with the Malagasses. A reconciliation was effected and
he was made Major. He died on June 23, 1670. It was his bravery and his raids
that saved the French from starvation. Martin mentions his belief in future pre
dictions of the Malagasses (Mémoires, 101-2). Also see a monograph of Cautier
and Froidevaux entitled "Un Manuscrit Arabica- Malgache sur les campagnes de La
Case dans l'Imore, 1659-1663, Paris 1907. 89
Martin then brought out his concept of an ideal colonial - a type
not generally succumbing to the native way of life and culture but not
cruel and unsympathetic to the natives - the father figure, though he
did not trust the natives completely (39). Martin's disbelief of the supers
tition of the natives was not complete in all the cases, particularly if
these were accepted by the French. Actually, this acceptance stemmed
from his belief in the existence of a mysterious power over everything
which he alludes occasionally, in relation to the French at Madagascar
as well as in his journey from France to the island (i0).
At Madagascar, therefore, Martin had a dilemma which he did
not solve; he was not in a position to accept the role of the protector
of the natives, played by Belleville, neither would he accept fully the
superiority of the French power over the beliefs of the natives and their
culture, because of commercial reasons. He could not accept Belleville's
assumptions since this would jeopardise his concept of father figure. At
the same time, Martin rejected Flacourt's rule of sheer power with the
concomitant suggestion that the natives were uncivilised and barbarous.
Therefore throughout the Mémoires Martin tried to prove that Belleville
could not be trusted - as he had gone native and that on the other
hand, Flacourt had sent wrong information misleading France (4I). He
tried to modify these two by bringing the third type, which was not
understood by the local French authorities.
39. Martin used much moderation in buying catties from the local inhabitants
and even released the herd which he had seized, "which surprised the village
chiefs . . . they were not expecting that we would use such moderation ..."
(Mémoires, 72). At the same time, he threatened to go to war in case of any foul
play (Ibid, 73). For the necessity of treating them severly and also softly, see Ibid,
95. Also his comment regarding the Malagasses of North East who are very hos
pitable even to the unknown (Ibid, 156). Again, he comments about people
waiting in their route with presents. His classic comment was that if the French
accuse the blacks of bad faith, of surprise killings while at peace, the blacks can
also accuse the French of similar charges (Ibid, 157). For the vindictive nature
of Malagasses, see his comments in Ibid, 19. See also his comment: "One had
made a mistake, in certain accounts, to call these people savages . . ." (Ibid, 155).
40. See his story of the dog in Ibid, 70-71. As regards his comment on the
mysterious power, see, Ibid, 87. See his comments about the priests, "who influence
by telling the future. "I have frequently represented to them the error of this
science . . . (Ibid, 158). But he seems to believe another similar case when La
Case believes it (Ibid, 159-60). However, he does not believe it if it concerns
Belleville (see an example in Ibid, 33-34).
41. For the conclusion of Martin on Flacourt, see, Ibid, 168-9. This was partly
reflected at Fort Dauphin in a Mémoire dated February 10, 1668 (op. cit., f 1). By
1669, Paris had realised this (Mémoire sur l'Etat Présent, Paris, March 8, 1669
in AN, Mss, Colonie B (1) 1, f 43v).