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This webpage reproduces an item in the
Louisiana Historical Quarterly

published by the
Louisiana Historical Society

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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p327 Translation of General Collot's Description
of de Bore's Sugar House
and Comparison with the West India Cane

"In the latter part of October the occasion presented itself of seeing Mr. de Bore's plantation. They were then cutting the cane which had been planted since February according to the custom in San Domingo; it however seemed to me that they were less distant at Mr. de Bore's than in the Antilles. I found them still green, the knots very close together and the tubes very slender. Notwithstanding this imperfect state they were grinding, that is, in the manufacturer's language, they were putting the canes into the mill. This mill as those of San Domingo was worked by four mules. The juice (vesoul) was of a greenish color and contained a great deal of acid. It was evaporated in six kettles of different sizes, the only ones Mr. de Bore was able to procure in the colony.

"The syrup, of a lighter color than that of the Antilles, was sweet and good; the pale color noticeable in the San Domingo syrup is alternately attributed to drought or to great humidity during the growth of the cane. In Louisiana it proceeds principally from the fact that the cane planted in winter can remain but nine months in the ground, whilst in the Antilles it is continually exposed to a more ardent sun; the planters consider it ripe only after thirteen, fourteen and fifteen months. In Louisiana sugar loses more by evaporation and crystallizes with more difficulty than in the Antilles, on account of the great quantity of acid and aqueous parts contained in its juice.

"Brown sugar at Mr. de Bore's is good, well crystallized and has a rich grain, but it still contains fat and aqueous matter, such as the juice, which evaporation has not wholly purified.

"As to the clarified sugar, it is of the finest quality, so considered even by the inhabitants of Guadeloupe to whom I showed some samples; a great many persons were persuaded that it had been refined. This perfection shows great fertility of the soil and all the necessary requisites for the nourishment of this plant. The only question is to find the species which will in the shortest time attain maturity.

"Before the revolution trials had been made in San Domingo with Batavia cane; the few planters who cultivated it found it greatly superior to ordinary cane as its production was more certain and more abundant.

p328 "These trials were interrupted by internal troubles in the colony. Therefore the experiences made in San Domingo cannot yet be depended on, and we ignore the essential and interesting point for Louisiana, which is the question if it can, in nine months vegetation, attain the right maturity; as to myself, I do not doubt it.

"In Guadeloupe, in the English colonies, and especially in Antigua, the Otaitiº cane is cultivated; it has been introduced only since four years, and its advantages over ordinary cane are: 1, that it ripens in ten months instead of fourteen; 2, that in a drought when ordinary cane cannot grow the Otaiti cane is not delayed in its growth; 3, that it comes in lean ground in which the other cane could not grow; 4, that it gives more juice than ordinary cane, and that the same quantity of juice of the Otaiti gives more sugar than the other; 5, that the cane is of a finer color. The only disadvantage of this cane, in comparison with the other, is that its bark is not suitable to light fire in the ovens and kettles, and that it exhausts the ground; but these inconveniences are trivial considering the fertility of the soil and the wealth of the Louisiana woods.

"The superiority of this cane was so well demonstrated in Antigua that no other is cultivated at present; it is grown in all the English colonies, especially in Jamaica; vessels entirely loaded with this plant are constantly sent from Antigua to Jamaica since two years, notwithstanding the risk and danger threatening them on account of the war. It is probable that the culture of this cane would be applicable to the soil of lower Louisiana, but time alone and different trials can teach the inhabitants which is to be preferred.

"However, the counsels of learned administrators and of the scientists of Europe might enlighten the inhabitants, who, encouraged by Mr. de Bore's success, give their energy with so much ardor to this new culture; but lower Louisiana lacks refiners. There is only one, who belongs to Mr. de Bore; when his work is finished, Mr. de Bore willingly lends him to those who ask for him. One realizes how much sugar must be lost for want of this kind of labor.

"Mr. de Bore believes his success is due to his bringing the Mississippi waters into his fields, by means of trenches, which he opens and closes at will with the help of sluices. These ditches keep his ground continually damp during March, April, May, (season of drought in Louisiana), which time Mr. de Bore has observed to be extremely detrimental to the growth of the cane. These means are practicable in almost all the plantations, the nature and situation of the lands suited to sugar cane culture being about the same all over p329lower Louisiana, and the waters of the Mississippi regularly rising from March to July.

"Other informations I have been able to secure on Mr. de Bore's establishment are these:

1. The cane he cultivates, which is indigenous to the country, yields but eight or nine hundred pounds of brown sugar by arpent and the same acreage of lands in San Domingo produces up to 2500 and 3000 pounds. This difference comes, as I have said, from great evaporation.

"2. His establishment consists of a mill, drying room and shed, (the whole built of bricks and covered with tiles), including cylinders and kettles. It cost him but $4,000. It is true that the labor was done by his own negroes, forty in all, men and women. It is also true that the bricks, tiles, lime and carpenters' wood were all prepared by his laborers, on his plantation, and the entire construction was finished by them in eighteen months. This expense will no doubt appear very moderate for so large and important an establishment. In San Domingo it would have cost 200,000 pounds to put up an establishment of this sort.

3. Mr. de Bore's crop brought him $12,000, and once more, he employed but forty negroes, not owning a greater number, which caused a large part of his cane to remain standing and to rot for want of hands to cut it.

"A longer sojourn at Mr. de Bore's would have given me more information. There are however, several important questions which he acknowledges that he is unable to answer, being himself a novice in this culture.

"Long experience, comparison of the products during several years, on different species of cane, on the economy of labor, comparison of costs and profits can alone give a complete solution to these questions.

"But an incontestable and very important truth is that the soil of lower Louisiana is adapted to raise cane, that good and fine sugar may be made, and that as much as possible is made considering the hands available to its exploitation."

General Victor Collot."

In 1796 there were ten sugar houses in Louisiana.


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