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Louise Bonne Lalanne

Louise Bonne Lalanne (c. 1786—c. 1816), free carteronne fromSaint Domingue, property-owner and slave-owner in New Orleans, was the natural daughter of the enslaved woman Reinette and Jean Baptiste Lalanne de Beaumarais.

Louise was born around 1786 in Les Cayes, Saint Domingue. Cayes was the name of a city, a parish, and the multi-parish administrative district called quartier. The city of Les Cayes was Saint Domingue’s third largest port and, in 1779, it became the administrative capital of the southern peninsula. Its commercial and official influence rivaled with Cap Français and Port-au-Prince.

Louise’s mother, Reinette, was enslaved and described as a “négresse” or “mûlatresse.” Her father, Jean Baptiste Lalanne de Beaumarais (c. 1742—c. 1829), was a French military officer. He migrated to Saint Domingue in the 1760s and became capitaine des milices of the quartier of Les Cayes. The captain of local militia was the first agent of the government in each community. This person was usually the most powerful and respected member of the community. He was appointed from above (by the governor, and by extension, by the King of France), but, in fact, he derived his authority from the community. He eventually became captain of the Compagnie des dragons mulâtres et nègres libres (a regiment composed entirely of free men of color) in 1776 and he was the owner of a cotton plantation.

Details of Louise’s early life in Saint Domingue remain unknown. She was likely among the tens of thousands of immigrants from Saint Domingue and Cuba who resettled to Louisiana between the 1790s and 1810 (in her 1816 will, Louise claimed to have debtors in Cuba, which suggests that she may have spent time in Cuba before coming to New Orleans). Louise purchased two enslaved women, Adeline and Rozitte, in New Orleans in 1808: It was the first time she appeared before a notary in the city. In 1809, she bought real-estate property in Faubourg Marigny and another enslaved woman named Agathe.There is no record of her having an occupation in the city. Yet notarial records make clear that her business was slave dealing. 

Louise was involved romantically with Joseph Judor (also Judor Bonfond or Bonfont) (c. 1765—c. 1815), a native of Brussels in Belgium, with whom she had several children. A petition of insolvency presented to the City Courtof New Orleans in 1809 revealed that Judor was a négociant (amerchant). Even though Judor was not a successful business owner, Louise trusted him enough to let him manage her affairs and gave him a power of attorney in June 1810. That year, Judor registered six sales and purchases of enslaved persons on Louise’s behalf (his power of attorney was revoked in 1811). Louise also acted in her name and registered in the notary’s office another thirty-four business transactions related to enslaved persons between 1810 and 1815. Nine of these transactions revealed that Louise had also acquired enslaved persons par sous-seing privé which had not been registered in the notary’s office.

Louise’s business activities provide ample evidence of the various channels available to her as she conducted business in the city. She did business with whites as well as with other free persons of color, and bought, sold, and exchanged enslaved women and men of all ages, African-born and Creole. For the majority, Louise acquired and sold enslaved women between the age of 18 and 35. Louise kept men and women enslaved for as little as a month and as long as a few years. Her business sense must have been keen since every time she sold an enslaved person, she sold him or her for a profit. Louise’s activities indicate that, for her, slaves were money-making commodities which she could be used to assure a comfortable life for herself and her children. 

In 1811, Martin Dubourg filed a suit against Louise over the sale of the enslaved women Adeline who, he claimed, was affected by scrofula (a form of tuberculosis infections that appears outside the lungs). This suit was one among many slave redhibition cases heard before the Louisiana Supreme Court. In the Louisiana Civil Code, sales of enslaved persons were regulated the same way as the sale of any other commodity. The Roman law concept of a warranty of quality in the sale of enslaved persons was integrated in Louisiana law and was intended to protect the purchaser, and therefore, the slaveholders. If the enslaved were diseased and evidenced “vices of body” or “vices of character,” they were legally considered defective merchandise in a sale, and they could be returned to the sellers. Some enslavers were willing to admit their enslaved property’s legal defects, as were those who were willing to discharge themselves of a diseased, disabled, or refractory enslaved person. According to Dubourg, Louise knew of Adeline’s condition and did not divulge it at the time of the sale. Louise denied the charges brought against her, however the Court rendered a judgment against her. She had to take Adeline back, return the price of the sale to Dubourg, and pay interests and costs.

Louise died in 1816. The total value of her assets was estimated at 2,320 dollars, which was around the average value of inventoried property among free women of color at the time. She left her children real-estate property and two enslaved women, Babet, a Creole from Saint Domingue, and Rosette. Her executor was obligated to hire Babet out while Rosette would care for Louise’s children. Slaveholding thus proved essential to ensure the survival of her family and construct and maintain a desirable social and economic status in New Orleans.


Online Resources

Ulentin, Anne. “Shades of Grey: Slaveholding Free Women of color in Antebellum New Orleans.” PhD dissertation, Louisiana State University, 2012. https://repository.lsu.edu/gradschool_dissertations/3072/.


Lachance, Paul F. “The Foreign French.” In Arnold R. Hirsch and Joseph Logsdon, eds. Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992. 


Lachance, Paul F. “The 1809 Immigration of Saint-Domingue Refugees to New Orleans: Reception, Integration and Impact.” Louisiana History 29, No. 2 (Spring, 1988): 109-141.


Schafer, Judith K. “Guaranteed against the Vices and Maladies Prescribed by Law: Consumer Protection, the Law of Slave Sales, and the Supreme Court in Antebellum Louisiana.” The American Journal of Legal History 31, No. 4 (Oct., 1987): 306-321.


Ulentin, Anne. “Shades of Grey: Slaveholding Free Women of Color in Antebellum New Orleans.” PhD dissertation, Louisiana State University, 2012.


Anne Ulentin

Color reproduction of a watercolor painting, “Creole Woman with Maid,” by Edouard Marquis (1867). Courtesy of Louisiana State Museum https://64parishes.org/entry-image/creole-woman-of-color-with-maid-2

Key Events

c. 1786

Birth of Louise Bonne Lalanne in Saint Domingue.

c. 1790s-1810

Louise resettles in New Orleans, perhaps via Cuba.


Louise purchases two enslaved women. Narcisse Broutin, 18:370, August 8, 1808. Narcisse Broutin, 18:461, November 4, 1808, New Orleans Notarial Archives.


Louise purchases another enslaved woman as well as property in Faubourg Marigny. Pierre Pedesclaux, 59:371, August, 8, 1809. Pierre Godefroy (in Michel de Armas), 1:204, May 25, 1809, New Orleans Notarial Archives.


Judor’s petition of insolvency is presented to the City Court of New Orleans. Judor, Joseph, Insolvents’ Docket, Docket No. 56, 1809, City Court, New Orleans, New Orleans Public Library.

June 1810

Louise gives Joseph Judor power of attorney (revoked in 1811). Narcisse Broutin, 23:348, June 10, 1810, New Orleans Notarial Archives.


Louise purchases and sells dozens of enslaved persons. New Orleans Notarial Archives.


Lawsuit filed against Louise (redhibition case). Martin Dubourg v. Lise Bonne Lalanne (1811), Docket No. 2658, City Court, New Orleans, New Orleans Public Library.

22 April 1816

Louise registers her second and final will. Narcisse Broutin, 34:342, New Orleans Notarial Archives.


Inventory of Louise’s estate. Inventory of the Estate of Lise Bonne Lalanne, May 18, 1816, Roll L-291, Inventories of Estates, Court of Probates, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, New Orleans Public Library.