by Julia Schroers
Washington got a memorial. Franklin got a one hundred dollar bill. Hamilton got a musical. Whitfield has a house and Leete got an island. But what about an enslaved African man? Because the founding fathers built our country and our town, but not on their own. Slaves from the 17th through the 19th century contributed to the growth of America by planting fields and raising children and everything in between. In the latter half of the 18th century, one such man is Jouachim, and through his story we find one of the untold stories of Guilford. He belonged to Nicholas Loyselle, a Frenchman from Guadeloupe who was involved in the trade in the West Indies. Throughout Jouachim’s life in Connecticut, he was indentured to George Hallam and part of a property contract between Nicholas Loyselle and Thomas Pynchon. The themes of dehumanization, treatment, economics, and agency shaped Jouachim’s life, and though there is a great deal of information about Jouachim which is unknown, we are certain of some things. He was enslaved alongside another man by the name of Joissin. His life was greatly influenced by trading with the West Indies. At age forty-five Jouachim was emancipated for good behavior and hard work. Even under the oppressive environment, Jouachim showed agency and took control of his future and eventually won his freedom.
The trade with the West Indies played a large role in Jouachim’s life, as mentioned above. In Connecticut, the fur trade had been reduced greatly by the lack of animals and many farmers grew the same crops, which limited the amount of trade that was possible in the small area. The trade between the Northeast and the West Indies began with the increased demand for sugar. Europeans and other people in the West began in use sugar much more, so people began to grow sugar in the West Indies. In order to turn raw sugarcane into sugar, a great deal of work was required. Seven to nine million slaves were brought from Africa to the West Indies to produce the sugar that was desired. Over time, many slaves were brought from the West Indies to Connecticut who had been working to manufacture sugar. This was one way Connecticut benefited from the trade, and it clearly demonstrates the theme of the economics of slavery. Not only did enslaved people produce the sugar that was traded, but many were brought to America through the trading. Because the market for sugar was so strong, the West Indies produced it at a rapid rate. This left no time or space to grow crops or raise livestock on the islands. So, people from Connecticut would load their ships with livestock, wood products, and produce to trade it for sugar, rum, and molasses in the West Indies. Jouachim’s owner, Nicholas Loyselle, was believed to be one of these merchants.
Nicholas Loyselle, we can assume, was a supporter of the French monarchs. He lived in Guadeloupe, a French Colony in the West Indies. It is believed that he traveled to New London during the French Revolution due to disturbances in France regarding the revolution and slave revolts on the island, which were inspired by peasant riots on the mainland. One-third of refugees fleeing French colonies in the Caribbean were wealthy plantation owners and their family members, while the other two-thirds were slaves or freed slaves. Loyselle, a white man, brought two slaves, Jouachim and Joissin to America as captives. There is no knowledge about whether the slaves were born in Africa or Guadeloupe, but we know they were taken from Guadeloupe with Loyselle. It is believed he supported the king and queen because of a story that still exists today. It states that he was having his house painted when he heard the news that Louis XVI had been beheaded. Loyselle then ordered his house to be painted black in response to their deaths. Loyselle, a previous French citizen adjusted to life in America with the help of a French consul in New London, who was informed about the culture and politics of the country. Having a consul in New London may have been a motive for Loyselle when choosing Guilford as a home.
As previously mentioned, Jouachim and Joissin were involved in a contract between Loyselle and a man named Thomas Pynchon. Dr. Thomas Pynchon lived in Guilford as well. Nicholas Loyselle required a great deal of money, which is believed to be for a voyage to the West Indies. It is likely that he would bring produce and livestock to the islands in exchange for sugar, and in order to make such a large journey, he needed money. Thomas Pynchon loaned him this money. As collateral for the loan, Loyselle provided all his movable property, including Jouachim and Joissin. The movable property was pawned to Pynchon for 500 pounds. Despite the direct impact that this contract had on Jouachim’s life, he had no say in the deal. Neither Jouachim nor Joissin signed the document, showing the true dehumanizing nature of these types of agreements. While 500 pounds would be considered a lot of money, the slaves were listed with cows, horses, and furniture. It is implied within the document that Jouachim and Joissin are equal to livestock and furniture. Nicholas Loyselle made a similar agreement with Michael Guemar, except he sold five acres of land, instead of his slaves and property. On this agreement, Loyselle put a clause on the bill of sale to get all the land returned to him if he paid the money and interest. We assume that the conditions were the same between the two documents, and that if the money and interest was paid back, the land and property (including Jouachim and Joissin) would be returned to Loyselle.
When Loyselle had purchased all his property back, he struck up another deal, this time with George Hallam. Jouachim became an indentured servant to Hallam. Once again, he was given no choice and may not have consented to the agreement. He did not have signatures on the document and they never had a surname, stripping them of identity. The slaves would work for George Hallam, and in exchange, he would pay Loyselle. Loyselle was being paid for the work that Jouachim and Joissin did. It is possible that this work included shipbuilding, because Hallam’s father was involved in the production of ships. This type of agreement is another example of how many owners economically benefited from slavery. Usually, the payment was yearly, but we can only speculate based on similar agreements with other slaves. Moses, a different slave in Guilford was indentured to someone for life, but the payments to Moses owner were made yearly. In addition to Hallam paying Loyselle, there were other things he had to do. He had to provide food, clothes, and shelter for the slaves, as well as pay taxes for them. This information can be located in the indenture of Moses, where the temporary owner had to provide “Sutable Meat, Drink, Apparrel, Washing and Lodging During the sd Term both in sickness and health, and to pay all Rates & Taxes” (Indenture of Moses to Amos Fowler). Information about Moses indenture helped us understand Jouachim’s indenture. This deal went on for some time.
Despite the indenture deal between Loyselle and Hallam, Jouachim still legally belonged to Loyselle. Jouachim’s loyalty finally began to pay off. In 1796 Nicholas Loyselle embarked on another voyage to the West Indies. This time, he made a promise to Joissin (the other enslaved person that worked alongside Jouachim). He promised that if he returned safely from the trip he would free Joissin and after his death, Joissin would receive 120 pounds. This promise is a legal document from the Vice Consul of the French Republic, and we can speculate that Loyselle made a similar promise to Jouachim, though this document has not been found yet. We do know, however, that in 1797 Jouachim was emancipated. In the emancipation document, Loyselle states that Jouachim was freed for “the consideration of past services, fidelity, and good behavior.” (Property Records 15 April 1797). These words paint a picture of how Jouachim behaved when he was taken away from his home, used as collateral, rented out like property, worked while others made money. Despite the dehumanization, pain, and hard work, Jouachim showed agency and took some control over his future. He remained loyal and hardworking, and Loyselle took notice of this. At age forty-five Loyselle freed him.
Jouachim’s life represents the story of many enslaved Africans. His journey took him across many countries and through many struggles. He worked for much of his life with little control over his future. He remained faithful to his owner throughout his life as a slave. We know nothing about his life after emancipation, although it is unlikely that he ever had children, because he was freed at age forty-five, and did not have children before that. His date of death is unknown. We do know, however, how important Jouachim and other slaves contribution to Guilford is. We understand how hard Jouachim worked for his freedom, and how many others worked as hard but were not emancipated. His life was almost completely out of his control, yet he didn’t argue or fight back. The bravery it must have taken to remain faithful and well behaved when you are treated like property should not go unnoticed. It requires a great deal of strength to put up with oppression. With every step you take around Guilford be reminded of this bravery and strength. Jouachim’s stone acts as recognition for the struggles he overcame and the resilience he showed. This enslaved Africans story is a vital part of American history. Jouachim, like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, deserves his memorial.