WOULD YOU CONSIDER LABOURDONNAIS AS AN EXCEPTIONAL GOVERNOR OF ISLE DE FRANCE? DISCUSS It was in 1715 that the French claimed the island and named it Isle de France. Several governors have been appointed in the island; however, none of them have been able to succeed in developing the island. It was only when Mahe de Labourdonnais came as the governor of the island that the island began to develop and Labourdonnais was even able to make Isle de France a prosperous colony.
Labourdonnais is even considered as the greatest governors of Isle de France “As a colonial administrator, Labourdonnais stands out among French Governors. ” (V. Teelock, 2009) In June 1735 under the French East India Company rule, Bertrand Mahe de Labourdonnais was appointed as the governor of Isle de France. When he came to Isle de France, Labourdonnais came with a baggage of experience and achievement which fitted him well for this post. The fact that he had many connections in the Indian Ocean also worked in his favor. According to Hazareesingh, Labourdonnais was a man of tireless energy and considerable visions.
Labourdonnais was a hard worker and he also expected the others to work as hard as him. Labourdonnais had a full understanding of the commercial and strategic positions of Isle de France in the Indian Ocean. When he came to Isle de France, Labourdonnais saw his role as a governor consisting of two main tasks. The first task was to satisfy the immediate needs and interest of the Mascarene Islands, to develop them into permanent and flourishing colonies. It was in this prospect that he developed a commercial port-and strategic naval base in Isle de France.
The second task was to make use of the resources available in the Mascarene Islands in order to meet the demand imposed by the broader strategic needs of France in the coming struggle for power. The first task of Labourdonnais when he came to the island was the construction of the city around the harbor. In fact, Labourdonnais has successfully implemented the plan elaborated by Cossigny which was left idle. Labourdonnais has brought architects and skilled workmen from Madras who had the task to execute the plans that Cossigny has drawn up.
As a matter of fact, Labourdonnais has spent the first five years of his governorship in developing the infrastructure of Port Louis and the island. He built better roads, stores and a hospital (Civil and Military hospital) “which he visited personally each day for over a year to check that it was running efficiently” (J. Addison and K. Hazareesingh, 1990). Fortifications and batteries were built around Port Louis. By 1740, Port Louis had a well equipped and constructed harbor which was run by a harbor department staffed with a variety of skilled men.
As a governor, Labourdonnais did not neglect the need of the population and thus he tired to provide some facilities to the population such as the aqueduct which brought fresh water supply from the Grand River North West. Labourdonnais also took the decision to move the main administrative headquarters from Bourbon Island to Isle de France thus making Isle de France the main administrative centre. A Government House and an official residence ‘Mon Plaisir’ for the Governor were constructed. The official residence for the governor was built at Pamplemousses.
Apart from developing the infrastructure of the island, Mahe de Labourdonnais also tried to develop the agricultural domain of the island. According to Hazareesingh, Labourdonnais gave every encouragement to agriculture and particularly to the growing of food crops. In fact, Labourdonnais encouraged agriculture as the food situation in the island was precarious to the extreme and the colony was near starvation. Labourdonnais gave special concessions to the planters and he encouraged them to plant maize.
There were also experimental crops which were grown on his estate. One of the greatest successes of Labourdonnais in agriculture according to historians was the introduction of cassava which was brought from Brazil. The introduction of cassava in the island was a great success as the island’s climate was ideal for its cultivation and it stood up well to the frequent cyclones. Sugar cultivation began to spread slowly in the island and it was not before long that the first sugar factory was built in the island by Labourdonnais’ brother at Villebague.
Labourdonnais also encouraged other food cultivation such as maize and other cereals, potatoes and other vegetables, rice, cotton and Indigo. During his governorship, Labourdonnais also established internal order. In fact, the runaway slaves were menace for the public security. Thus Labourdonnais attempted to remedy to the situation by organizing according to Hazareesingh what seemed to be an early example campaign against terrorist tactics. “Part of the islands’ garrisons was given the special task of patrolling the forests to track down the runaway” (J.
Addison and K. Hazareesingh, 1990). The soldiers were even trained by hunters and men with experienced in order to look for runaway slaves. As a result, by 1740, Labourdonnais reported that there were not more than twenty male runaways in the whole of Isle de France. Labourdonnais was an exceptional governor of Isle de France as according to the figures, the population of the island has increased from 1000 to 3000 when Labourdonnais was the governor of the island. However, after the departure of Labourdonnais, the island has faced many problems and weather crises.
According to Toussaint, despite the fact that after Labourdonnais’ departure, he had many successors, none of them were able to equal Labourdonnais’ achievements. On a conclusive note, it can be said that indeed Labourdonnais was an exceptional governor of Isle de France as he was the only governor who have been able to make Isle de France become a flourishing island despite the weather conditions and other problems he had to face. In fact, Mahe de Labourdonnais was the one who has set the first steps for the island’s prosperous future. ?