Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Mabille, A.
Estillac Plantation Records
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1665-1813 (mostly 1752-1783)
1 box
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box B-001095


Consists of over sixty letters and related documents concerning the Estillac sugar plantation in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now the Republic of Haiti) from the late 1750s through the early 1780s. Many of the letters are addressed to A. Mabille, a Paris-based hatter, trustee, and creditor, and pertain to the operations and troubled finances of the plantation under the management of Guillaume Claude Besson and Jean Guillaume Robillard.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

Consists of business correspondence and documents concerning the Estillac plantation (also known as "Le Bonnet au Grand Boucan") in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, which is now the Republic of Haiti. Materials largely pertain to the operations and troubled finances of the plantation from the late 1750s through the early 1780s under the management of Guillaume Claude Besson, and later, Jean Guillaume Robillard. Many of the letters are addressed from various creditors and persons responsible for maintaining the Estillac plantation to Monsieur A. Mabille, a Paris-based hatter, trustee, and creditor. In total, there are over sixty letters, as well as several financial and genealogical documents related to the property and the families who managed it.

The correspondence primarily deals with various agricultural issues, particularly land acquisition and sugar production, the slave trade, financial difficulties, and problems with creditors. After Guillaume d'Aubarède, Marquis d'Aubarède (1717-1795) acquired a stake in the property from the Estillac family, Guillaume Claude Besson managed the plantation's operations. The collection includes letters to Mabille from the Marquis d'Aubarède, as well as a number of letters from Besson, who reports on the many difficulties he encountered, including partial abandonment of fields, dealing with creditors and settlers, the strenuousness of the labor, and diseases decimating enslaved laborers on the plantation. Besson's letters also present proposals for addressing the problems facing the plantation, such as his plan to abandon sugarcane production in favor of coffee and cocoa.

The Estillac plantation later passed into the hands of the Robillard family, whose letters describe the precise state of the property, sugar mills, and enslaved laborers as the family found them when they took over the management of the plantation. In particular, these letters relate the terrible physical condition of 155 enslaved laborers who were suffering from a tropical skin disease called "yaws," as well as the Robillards' plans to seek monetary damages and reimbursement for their care. The collection also contains letters from Lory, Plombard, and Compagnie, French traders based in Cap‑Français (Cap-Haïtien), who warn against investment in the plantation crops of Saint-Domingue, and advise speculation, instead, in the slave trade.

Additionally, there are letters from or mentioning individuals belonging to the families of Rohault, Bertrand de Laroque, De Ste. Marie, Gauthier, La Baron, Angot, Estillac, Mauny, De Survarenne, De la Borderie, and Guerin, as well as a genealogical table of the Robillard family. Some letters also mention war news and other current events, including the arrival of the squadron of Charles Henri, comte d'Estaing (1729-1794) in 1764.


Arranged chronologically.

Collection Creator Biography:

Mabille, A.

A. Mabille was a Parisian hatter and fur merchant who invested in the Estillac sugar plantation in the French colony of Saint-Domingue on the portion of the island of Hispaniola (Taíno: Haiti) that is now the Republic of Haiti. Also known as "Le Bonnet au Grand Boucan," the Estillac plantation was located in Plaine-du-Nord, near Cap‑Français (now Cap-Haïtien). Guillaume d'Aubarède, Marquis d'Aubarède (1717-1795) and his brother Jean Anthelme d'Aubarède (1722-1794) acquired a stake in the property in 1756-1757 from Jean Joseph de Marans, comte d'Estillac and Marie Elisabeth Allaire du Langot as an investment to develop the land into a sugarcane plantation. The operation was already in financial trouble by 1759 and was entrusted to Guillaume Claude Besson. Despite Besson's attempts to turn a profit by converting some of the land from sugar production to coffee and cocoa production, the plantation was soon virtually bankrupt and was liquidated to several creditors, headed by A. Mabille as the main trustee. The management of the Estillac plantation then passed into the hands of another creditor, Jean Guillaume Robillard (d. 1793), of the Robillards, a family of French settlers who were already well-established on the island.

Collection History


Purchase, 2017 (AM 2018-53).


No materials were separated during 2017 processing.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Kelly Bolding in December 2017. Finding aid written by Kelly Bolding in December 2017.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Estillac Plantation Records; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box B-001095