In April 1795, a number of slaves were arrested at Pointe Coupée for planning a revolution. Their idea was to set fire to a shed on the Julien Poydras estate. Lying in wait, they would ambush the whites who came to extinguish the fire and then travel from plantation to plantation, killing their former masters and gathering other slaves to join the revolt.

In April 1795, a number of slaves were arrested at Pointe Coupée for planning a revolution. Their idea was to set fire to a shed on the Julien Poydras estate. Lying in wait, they would ambush the whites who came to extinguish the fire and then travel from plantation to plantation, killing their former masters and gathering other slaves to join the revolt.

The slaves were inspired by the French and Haitian Revolutions, and their conspiracy included several whites and free persons of color who were similarly dedicated to the ideals of the radical enlightenment. The conspiracy was betrayed, and after a crackdown, a trial began on May 4. Following weeks of testimony, convictions were handed down for fifty-seven slaves and three whites. Twenty-three slaves were hung. As a warning sign to deter future uprisings, they were decapitated, and their heads were impaled on posts alongside the Mississippi River. The remaining conspirators were flogged and deported to colonies where they were sentenced to hard labor.

The conspiracy occurred during radical phases of the French Revolution, where the extension of liberty, equality and brotherhood were legally applied to free afro-descendents in French colonies in the Caribbean. The Haitian Revolution, underway at the same time, was another large influence on the conspiracy. Unlike the conspiracy of 1791, the Pointe Coupée slave conspiracy of 1795 was carried out by whites and the enslaved Africans, mulattoes and creoles.

In 1794, the French National Convention had abolished slavery in their Caribbean colonies. This news was widely publicized in English, French and Spanish throughout the Caribbean. It also reverberated intensely in Louisiana due to the geographic, economic and cultural proximity to Caribbean. Louisiana, under the jurisdiction of Spain ub 1795, moved toward policies of more humane treatment of the enslaved in an attempt to limit discontent and rebellion. The hope was that with these policy changes, there would be no need to abolish slavery altogether. The enslaved were well aware of the war and political tension between the French and Spanish colonial governments. Despite the changes to slave policy, the slave at Pointe Coupée had realistic hopes that if France gained control of Louisiana, they would be granted legal rights to their freedom. 

The legal decree of the abolition of slavery in French colonies fueled rumors, news and meetings energizing the conspiracy. Many travelers and free mulattoes came upriver from the Caribbean declaring that the King had freed all the slaves.[1] But it was the masters of the Post who had not followed the decree thus denying the enslaved their freedom.

In clandestine meetings, the enslaved at Pointe Coupée spoke of desires to revolt like the revolutionaries in Le Cap (Saint Domingue). However, a white tailor named Rockenbourg suggested a different strategy. He said that he would write a petition for freedom that would be delivered by a slave named Noel Capitaine into town. Those present at the meeting agreed that should the petition fail, they would rise up and kill the white masters.[2]

This plan for an uprising continued to gain momentum especially in response to violence against the enslaved. The day before Easter two négres were flogged. It was then that the conspirators decided to assemble at the church on Easter Sunday morning; if the whites whipped them, they would massacre them right there in the church as retaliation for denying them the freedom the King had granted.[3] This show of force, however, did not lead to massacre and revolt. According to testimony, the leaders decided to wait for more slaves from the Poydras estate, who were returning from the city with provisions and ammunition.[4] Given the momentum after the Easter Sunday display, leaders planned a meeting for the next Saturday at the bridge of New Roads at False River to decide and plan a full coup.

The meeting was thwarted before it could even happen. A négres Pierre, of the Duflour estate, informed his master that Jean Baptiste of the Lacour estate had come up the road to let the enslaved know that the blacks must take their freedom by killing all the whites. Charlot Négre, of the Riché estate, also corroborated this story to Duflour when he sought to verify what his slave Pierre had told him. That evening, Louis Riché claimed to overhear a couple of negrés talk to one another about the necessary weapons they needed to wipe out the whites successfully in their fight for freedom.[5]

Not only did other slaves report the conspiracy to their masters but the indigenous people living in the Pointe Coupée post also played a role in thwarting the conspiracy. Two indigenous Tunica women, also living on the Riché estate, told their master about the conspiracy on April 9th, 1795.[6] They testified that they had heard of the plan to revolt in the cipriére (cypress swamp) behind the Widow Lacour's estate. The enslaved frequently gathered there and were able to discuss their plans. They intended to burn a cabin in the Poydras estate so that when the whites arrived, the enslaved would attack and kill them. They would then steal guns, bullets, and powder in the Poydras storehouse.[7] However,this plan never came to fruition. Before the meeting on the next Saturday could take place at the bridge, Charles Duflour and Martin Bourgeat informed the Pointe Coupée militia officer Alejandro de Blanc about the rumored revolt. Antoine Sarrasin, a creole enslaved at the Poydras estate, and others were arrested for conspiracy to kill the whites.

Upon the arrest, a second plot within the conspiracy formed in order to free Sarrasin and the others before they were moved away from the district. This plot to attack the patrol, initiated by Joseph Mina, was also thwarted by other slaves informing their masters about the plans. According to the testimony, there are conflicting stories about who the true leader of this second plot was.

Joseph Mina shared his plan to free the arrested conspirators with Jean Baptiste, a slave on the widow Lacour estate. Jean Baptiste told Joseph Mina to share his plans with the slaves on the Goudeau estate to rally up additional support.[8] However, once the Goudeau slaves heard of the proposal, they informed their master immediately. According to the testimony, upon his return from the Goudeau estate, Joseph Mina said he was fearful that the plot had been discovered, and he had wanted to flee.[9] He and Louis Bordelon, another slave, ran away in fear of being arrested for the plot. They fled despite Jean Baptiste’s promise that if he were arrested, he would not give up Joseph’s name. The escape was to no avail; the two slaves were captured near the east bank of the Mississippi River by Frederick Riché.

The trial for the conspiracy began in Pointe Coupée on May 4th of 1795. Within a month, 23 of the 57 convicted slaves had been hanged for their plans to massacre white plantation owners to gain their freedom.


[1] Declaration of Antoine [Widow Lacour] (May 11, 1795), p. 3 ; Declaration of Antoine Sarrasin [Poydras] (May 11, 1795), p. 8 ; Declaration of Louis [Dufour] (May 10, 1795), p. 1-2

[2] Declaration of Philipe [Widow Lacour] (May 13, 1795), p. 2-3

[3]Declaration of Jean Baptiste [Poydras] (May 10, 1795), p. 5

[4] Declaration of Petit Pierre [Goudeau] (May 9, 1795), p. 4

[5] Declaration of Louis Riché (April 24, 1795), p. 1

[6] Declaration of Frédéric Riché (April 25, 1795), p. 2; Declaration of Jean Baptiste Riché (April 25, 1795), p. 1

[7] Statement of Jean Baptiste Riché (May 5, 1795), p. 2

[8] Declaration of Jean Baptiste [Poydras] (May 10, 1795), p. 7-8

[9] Declaration of Joseph Mina [Poydras] (May 9, 1795), p. 8-9