Striking, Intricate Chart of the Caribbean Region
Scarce and highly-detailed map of the Gulf Coast, Florida, Central America and the Caribbean from J.A. Dezauche, successor to Philippe Buache and Guillaume De L'Isle.
The map is incredibly detailed, not only sharing geographic information, but also thematic information about the winds, units of measuring distance, and imperial boundaries.
The waters are criss-crossed by rhumb lines, a nod to the intense commercial activity that roved the waters of the Caribbean, Atlantic, and even the Pacific Coast off Central America. At the center is Cuba, Jamaica, and the other profitable, imperially-controlled, slave-labor-fueled islands of the Caribbean.
Inland, mountain ranges, rivers, and settlements are highlighted. At sea, a dot-and-dash line indicates the areas in which the trade winds operate. A dotted line on the Gulf Coast shows the limit of where a ship can sound the bottom, while a solid double line shows the galleon route between Veracruz and Havana.
A large cartouche in the upper right corner carries an explanation of the derivation and differences in measurements of distance and depth. The text box also compares calculations of longitude from Paris and the Isle de Fer in the Canary Islands. At bottom is a color-coded key that explains which landmasses and islands are the imperial purview of which European empire.
This map is an updated version of Buache's map of 1740, which itself was drawn largely from Henry Popple's Map of 1733. The former is well respected and the latter is widely regarded as one of the most important eighteenth-century American maps.
Gone are Devin's Aransas Bay plan (for La Salle's St. Louis Bay) and Buache's customary rendering of the tip of Florida as an archipelago. Instead, here is Popple's coastline and interior information on a peninsular Florida, including his St. John River (St. Jean).
An area of especial detail is what is now Texas, where there are notes on seventeenth and eighteenth-century missions and forts. It is appreciatively more detailed than Thomas Jeffrey’s contemporary Gulf Coast map.
The French Caribbean
Dated 1780, this map shows the French Caribbean in a period of transition, at the end of the First French Colonial Empire. The French had colonies in the Antilles, where they still maintain some holdings, and on Saint Domingue; indeed, the latter was France's most lucrative colony. All of the colonies were dominated by plantation agriculture, especially sugar cultivation, and forcibly worked by enslaved people of African descent.
After the Treaty of Paris of 1763, France lost its North American colonies. Napoleon Bonaparte regained the Louisiana Territory from Spain in 1800. Napoleon had intended to re-establish the French North American Empire, but the high costs of his continuing wars led him to decide to sell the land instead. This transaction is now called the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the size of the United States and leaving France in 1803 again with only its Caribbean holdings in the Western Hemisphere.
The French first established themselves in the region on the South American coastline in what is today French Guiana in 1624. A year later, they founded a colony on St. Kitts, which was shared with the British until 1713. Meanwhile, the Compagnie des Îles de l’Amérique started plantation colonies on Guadeloupe and Martinique in 1635; Saint Lucia followed in 1643, and Grenada in 1649. Dominica was settled from 1690. Guadeloupe and Martinique, along with other French Caribbean holdings like Dominica, Saint Lucia, and Grenada, were taken by the British during the Seven Years’ War. However, Guadeloupe and Martinique were ceded back to France as a result of the Treaty of Paris. Saint Lucia would also be returned at the end of the American Revolution.
By far the most valuable Caribbean colony was Saint Domingue, on the western half of the island of Hispaniola. The Spanish and French shared the island from 1664, when the French founded their claim, and 1795, when Spain gave France their half of Hispaniola due to the wars stemming from the French Revolution.
In 1791, a massive slave revolt in Saint Domingue shook French dominance. The rebels were led by Toussaint L’Ouverture, but he was captured by the French in 1801. Under Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the revolution continued and the Republic of Haiti was declared in 1804—the world’s first Black republic. However, France was loathe to recognize their former colony as an independent state; France would only recognize Haiti in 1825.
Today, France still has several Caribbean territories under its sovereignty. These are the overseas departments of Guadeloupe, Martinique, and the overseas collectivities of Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy.
Philippe Buache (1700-1773) was one of the most famous French geographers of the eighteenth century. Buache was married to the daughter of the eminent Guillaume Delisle and worked with his father-in-law, carrying on the business after Guillaume died. Buache gained the title geographe du roi in 1729 and was elected to the Academie des Sciences in the same year. Buache was a pioneering theoretical geographer, especially as regards contour lines and watersheds. He is best known for his works such as Considérations géographiques et physiques sur les découvertes nouvelles dans la grande mer (Paris, 1754).