Royal Administration of Mauritius (1767-1790)

mauritius travel and tourism guide
© 2002 All rights reserved. Photo courtesy Musée de la Photographie
Mauritius history champ de l'ort bridgeUnder the Royal Administration, a Governor and an Intendant governed the island jointly. This was done while the Governor exercised military and naval authority and also supervised the civil government. The intendant was in change of finance and justice. Of the two however the Governor theoretically held supreme power. This system of shared power however often proved unworkable especially when the people had conflicting personalities. This was the case during the first administration. The first Governor was Daniel Dumas and the first Intendant Pierre Poivre (the agent of the F.E.I.C who had introduced spices in Isle de France).

At Pamplemousses, Labourdonnais experimented new crops. One of the main obstacles to permanent settlement on the island’s since the Dutch had been food supply. As a result the population had often suffered from famine after cyclones and had relied heavily on imported food supplies. He thus encouraged the growing of food crops and one of his greatest successes was the introduction of manioc/cassava from Brazil. He also encouraged the cultivation of other crops like sugar cane, potatoes, vegetables, maize and other cereals as well as cotton and indigo. To encourage agriculture, he also brought in slaves from Mozambique and Madagascar.

From the beginning, they quarreled and continuously opposed each other. After sixteen months of bitter disputes, Dumas was recalled and Poivre reprimanded for insubordination to his superior officer.
Much of the pioneering work of Labourdonnais had stopped after his departure and it was vital to develop the existing infrastructure if the island was to become more important.
Mauritius history Pierre PoivreDesroches and Poivre greatly improved the facilities in the capital. Many store buildings and houses and cobble-paved streets were done under the Royal Administration of Desroches and Poivre. They also tried to raise the moral standards on the island. Drinking houses were shut down and only twelve inns were allowed to operate. This however led to illegal houses opening up, as the drinks served in the legal inns were too weak.
Poivre also achieved a lot on the island. He is considered by many to be the greatest French Official to serve the island.

Some of his main contributions were:

Three watermills able to produce 6000 pounds of flour a day were built.
A bakery was set up to provide bread for the garrison and ships.
A new warehouse containing reserve stock of 400,000 pounds of wheat, 400,000 pounds of flour and 150 000 pounds of rice was built. Besides he improved the harbor facilities and organized an engineering service as well as set up a printing work and a pharmacy.

Charles Louis De Terrey (1772-1776) and Maillert Dumesle (1772-1777) replaced Desroches and Poivre.
Like their predecessors, they issued many decrees to improve life on the island. They forbid the sale of liquor and put limitations on drinking houses. They also forbid the construction of wooden houses in favor of stove constructions.
These same activities, such as general construction, building and improvement of urban facilities occupied the attention of the various governors and intendants that followed. The Royal Administration lasted until 1789, when there was the French Revolution
Governors and Intendants that were on the island during the Royal Administration:
Governor Intendant
La Brillare (1776-1779) Foucault (1779-1787)
Vicomte de Souillac (1779-1787) Clerreau (1781-1785)
Raymond D’Entrecasteaux (1787-1789) Narbonne (1785-1789)
Isle de France under the Royal Administration enjoyed a period of prosperity. This was due to the freeing of the island’s trade from the F.E.I.C’s monopoly in 1770. As a result more trading ships visited the island. In 1769, seventy-eight ships visited Port Louis. By 1789, two hundred and three ships had come to Port Louis. The merchants in Isle de France traded with other ports around the Indian Ocean, including Madagascar, in Portuguese colonies ports in East Africa and British colonies ports in India. Also during that time, agriculture was developed even further. Although Poivre’s ambition of turning the island into a spice island was not realized, cultivation of sugar cane and indigo did spread.
But it was probably in the growth of food crops that the main expansion in agriculture took place. Commerce by corsairs continued to be another major economic activity. About thirty ships operated from Isle de France against the British. The Pitot family, Dubignon, Deschiens and Chandeuil were among the most famous corsairs of the period.
During the American War of Independence (1778-1783), the good economic situation that prevailed on the island meant that it was used as a port of call by Admiral Suffren and his fleet of 150 000 men on their way to attack the British in India. In fact, Suffren found that the gay social life, proof of a quite high standard of living on the island, too demoralizing for his troops and was reluctant to return to the island afterwards.
By 1789, Port Louis had became the major French port, east of the Cape, partly also because all the counters in India had been abandoned. During the same year, the renowned book of Bernadin de St Pierre, Paul and Virginie, was published. But the Isle de France described by the famous French writer was far from being true. Isle de France and Port Louis was no longer a backward island. Port Louis at that time could be easily compared to all the other great ports of Asia and even to some ports in Europe. Life was blossoming and the wealth of the people was all too evident as described by many travelers of that time.
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