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INSURRECTION IN ST DOMINGO,
BEGUN IN AUGUST 1791,
TAKEN FROM AUTHENTIC SOURCES,
J. G. HOPKIRK, LL.B.
Quis cladem illius noctis, quis funeral fando
Explicet, aut possit lacrimis square dolores ?
Plurima per vias sternuntur inertia passim
Luctus, ubique pavor, et plurima mortis imago.
WILLIAM BLACKWOOD, EDINBURGH;
T. CADELL, STRAND, LONDON.
PETER BROWN, PRINTER, LADY STAIR'S CLOSE.
THIS little Work has no other pretensions than to give
a simple narrative of the nearly-forgotten story of the
Insurrection in St Domingo, as related by those who
witnessed it; leaving to the reader inwardly to digest it,
with reference to the present time, when the settlement
of the West India Questionr is looked forward to with
tremblingq expectation (paventosa speme.)
The fate of the French colony seems a beacon-light
held out by the hand of Providence to guard Great Bri-
tain from striking against the rock on which St Domingo
perished. May she not neglect the solemn warning !
Inform his mind-one flash of heavenly ray
Would heal his heart and melt his chains away.
Then would he say-submissive at thy feet,
While gratitude and love made service sweet-
" I was a bondsman on my native plain-
Sin forged and ignorance made fast the chain.
Thy lips have shed instruction, as the dew-
Taught me what path to shun, and what pursue.
Farewell my former joys I sigh no more
For Africa's once-lov'd-benighted-shore :
Serving a benefactor, I am free
At my best home-if not exiled from thee !"
ST DomINGo, or Hispaniola, is one of the largest, and was
accounted the most fertile of the islands forming the Ame-
rican Archipelago. It is about one hundred and seventy
leagues in length, thirty in breadth, and about three
hundred and sixty in circumference. By the natives it
was called Haiti, or the Highland Country, on account
of the hilly nature of its north division. When originally
discovered by Columbus, it was called by him Isabella, in
honour of the queen of Spain, but it soon afterwards was
denominated St Domingo, after .the principal city of the
island. It is situated among the islands of Cuba, Jamaica,
and Porto Rico. It extends from 170 37' to 200 of north
latitude, and from 670 35' to 700 15' west longitude.
The island was formerly divided into two parts, that
which is properly called Haiti, and Hispaniola; the for-
mer being the part which belonged to the French, and the
latter to the Spanish.
The Spaniards held undisputed possession of the whole
island of St Domingo for upwards of one hundred and
twenty years, till, about the middle of the sixteenth cen.
tury, when a number of French bucaniers settled at Tor.
tuga, a small island lying to the north of St Domingo.
From this place, they made constant incursions against
the Spanish settlements, till, at length, by the treaty of
Ryswick, that part of the island in which they had
established themselves was ceded to the French king, who
had acknowlkaged them as his subjects, and taken them
under his protection.
From this time the colony rapidly increased, favoured
by the fertility and natural productions of the soil, as well
as by the mildness with which the government, in itself
essentially military, had been exercised. It is true that
the laws which regarded the Mulattoes, placed them in an
infinitely worse situation than those of the same class in
the British colonies, but the very severity of these laws
prevented their being executed, from the acknowledged
humanity of the whites, and the abhorrence which would
have attended their enforcement. The privilege also,
which the coloured people of St Domingo held, of acquir-
ing and holding property to any amount, mainly contri-
buted to their protection.
\K The population, in the end of 1789, consisted of thirty
thousand eight hundred white inhabitants, about twenty
thousand free people of colour; while the negroes amounted
to not less than four hundred and eighty thousand. The
number of sugar plantations was seven hundred and ninety-
three. There were upwards of three thousand plantations
of coffee, seven hundred and eighty-nine of cotton, three
thousand one hundred and sixty of indigo, and six hun-
dred and twenty-three smaller establishments, such as
provision grounds, tanpits, potteries, brick-kilns, &c. &c.
At the period when a false philosophy had lighted up
the torch of revolution in France, a strong feeling pre-
vailed in the minds of many, whose passions had been
inflamed by the writings of their distinguished but infidel
philosophers, that they who were themselves about to enjoy
their new-born liberty, were bound to communicate it to
their enslaved fellow creatures. Hence there arose, through-
out France, a strong prejudice against the inhabitants of
the sugar islands, on account of their negroes being in a
state of slavery. It was not asserted that the condition of
this class was worse at the time than at any former period,
for the reverse was notoriously the case; but declamations
in favour of freedom, and invectives against despotism of
every kind had now taken hold of the public mind, and
its indignation was directed against the planters, by those
who were desirous of exciting commotion and insurrection
in different parts of the French dominions.
This spirit was fostered and kept alive by a society
which had established itself under the name of Amis des
Noirs, and which is supposed to have been formed on the
model of a similar society in London. There existed, how.,
ever, this essential difference between the two societies,
that the English society then professed to have no farther
or ulterior object in view, than to obtain an act of the
legislature for prohibiting the introduction of African
slaves into the British colonies-disclaiming all intention
of interfering with the government or condition Qf the
negroes, and declaring their opinion to be that a general
emancipation of these people, in their state of ignorance,
would prove to themselves, in place of a benefit, a source
of misery and distress. The association of the Amis des
Noirs, on the contrary, whose latent design was to destroy
the ancient despotism of France, whose philosophy was a
dagger, and whose virtue was a flaming torch, loudly
insisted for a general and immediate abolition, not only of
the slave trade, but of slavery itself. They did not investi-
gate into the actual state of human nature, nor the distinc-
tion between civilized and uncivilized life, but proceeded
entirely upon theory and abstract reasoning. This society
was composed partly of furious Jacobins,* partly of
deluded fanatics, and, doubtless, of a few who were really
actuated by benevolent motives, and had the interest of
their fellow creatures at heart, but who had allowed the
specious sentiments of sophism to obtain the mastery over
sound reason and mature deliberation. At this conjunc-
ture then, when the French revolution had already begun
to assume its wild and violent character, the immediate
and unprepared emancipation of the slaves in the West
India islands was a measure which met with almost uni-
versal approbation. It was in this disposition that the
National Assembly voted on the 20th of August 1789,
the celebrated Declaration of Rights, the direct tendency
of which was to destroy all distinctions and gradations of
rank in society, and which could not fail to be fraught
with ruin to the whole constitution of the colonies. The
promulgation of the declaration, accordingly, excited the
utmost alarm and dismay among the planters and the
French residents of St Domingo.t Whatever was stated
in France regarding the friendly feelings of the people
Brissot, La Fayette, Robespierre, and the Abbe Gregoire, were the lead.
ing members of this society. Brissot was guillotined in October 1793, and
Robespierre in July 1794.
t This declaration stated that all men are born and continue free
and equal as to their rights."
towards the slaves, and the exertions of the Amis des
Noirs to obtain their emancipation, was represented in
exaggerated terms, and glowing colours in the colony:
these feelings were seconded and encouraged by the writ-
ings of certain ecclesiastics, and of several creoles who had
received education at Paris ;* and the whole was calculated
to excite, in the hitherto peaceful negroes, sentiments of
the deepest enmity towards the whites.
It would appear that the government had itself antici-
pated this consequence, for an order was issued to the
Governor-General of St Domingo, requiring him to con-
voke an Assembly for interior regulations. This, how-
ever, was superseded by the adoption of measures of their
own, and a strong disposition was evinced, on the part of
the colonists, to renounce their dependence on the mother
country. At length, in consequence of remonstrances
from the merchants and traders, who implored the Gene-
ral Assembly to adopt measures for the security of the
colonists, the subject was considered by that body on 8th
March 1790, when, after a full discussion, they voted
" That it never was the intention of the Assembly to com-
prehend the interior government of the colonies in the con-
stitution which they had framed for the mother country,
or to subject them to laws which were incompatible with
their local establishments; they therefore authorise the
inhabitants of each colony to signify to the National
Assembly their sentiments and wishes concerning that
plan of interior legislation and commercial arrangement
which would be most conducive to their prosperity."
" See Note 1. App.
A declaration was annexed to this decree, That the
National Assembly would not cause any innovation to be
made, directly or indirectly, in any system of commerce
in which the colonies were already concerned."
If the Declaration of Rights was obnoxious to the
colonists, the present decree was still more so to their oppo-
nents. It was received by the people of colour and the
Amis des Noirs with the utmost indignation and disap-
pointment, being viewed by them as a direct sanction, on
the part of the legislature, to the continuance of the slave
trade; and it was held, that by leaving the internal regu-
lations of the colonial constitutions to the colonists them-
selves, their independence had been tacitly recognized.
In the meantime, the General Assembly of St Domingo
having been duly convoked and constituted, proceeded to
make some salutary laws for the melioration of the condi-
tion of the people of colour and slaves, and for the rectifi-
cation of abuses which had prevailed in their judicatures.
In these measures, however, they met with opposition from
the Governor-General, M. Peynier, and a party who were
strongly attached to the old system; and to the heart-
burnings and discontent which the vacillating conduct of
the National Assembly had given rise to, there was soon
afterwards added a spirit of discord and dissention among
the planters themselves.
Proceeding on the independence which they imagined
they had acquired, a new and comprehensive decree was
passed by the Colonial General Assembly on the 28th of
May, for establishing the constitution, in which, among
other ill-judged provisions, the Governor-General, the
representative of the sovereign, was refused a negative
to any act of the legislature; and it was declared that no
decree of the National Assembly should be in force till
confirmed by the Colonial Assembly. These and similar
propositions were held out as tantamount to a declaration
of independence, and it was even alleged by some of their
enemies, that the members of Assembly had sold the
colony to the British.
The Governor-General, filled with resentment at the
terms of this decree, issued a proclamation dissolving the
Assembly, in which he did not hesitate to denounce the
members as traitors to their country, and enemies to the
King. He went so far as to attempt to seize the committee
of the Western Provincial Assembly, when a skirmish
ensued between his troops and the national guards, who
protected the house of their meeting, in which several lives
were lost. A civil war was on the eve of commencing,
when the members of the General Assembly undertook a
voyage to France for the purpose of justifying themselves
in person, and all parties seemed disposed, tacitly, to await
the issue of the appeal.
These members, whose numbers amounted to eighty-five,
arrived in France in September 1790; but they found that
their enemies had preceded them, by the industrious disse-
mination of misrepresentation, and they were condemned
without beingheard. A decree was pronounced, reversing
all their orders and acts, dissolving the Assembly, and
declaring the members for ever incapable of being chosen
delegates in future; and orders were issued for forming a
new Colonial Assembly, on the principles of the decree of
8th March 1790.
See note 2, App.
Nothing could exceed the surprise and indignation with
which this decree was received in St Domingo. It seemed
as if the government were resolved to leave no measure
untried which might tend to degrade and to insult the
colonists; and the decree was so much disregarded and
contemned, that many of the parishes positively refused to
choose other deputies. And, in order still farther to
heighten the dissention, the National Assembly, instigated
by the Abbd Gregoire, Condorcet, La Fayette, Brissot,
Robespierre, and others, passed another decree on 15th
May 1791, by which it was declared, That the people
of colour resident in the French colonies, born of free
parents, were entitled, as of right to, and should be allowed
the enjoyment of, all the privileges of French citizens, and
among others, to those of having votes in the choice of
representatives, and of being eligible to seats, both in the
parochial and colonial Assemblies.
These measures were essentially calculated to uproot all
the established laws, prejudices, and opinions, which had
subsisted in the French colonies from their earliest period,
while, at the same time, they destroyed the right which
they had acquired, by the decree of 8th March 1790, of
passing laws for their own internal government. The
strongest remonstrances against them were ineffectually
made by the colonial committees, while the deputies from
the colonies refused to give their farther attendance. The
only consequence of these remonstrances was the appoint-
ment, by the National Assembly, of three civil commis.
sioners, who were required to repair to St Domingo to see
the decrees duly enforced.
The feelings of the colonists were now excited to rage
and despair. Obedience to the decrees was universally
refused; and as they appeared to have been betrayed by
the mother country, their first impression was openly to
throw off their allegiance, to seize on the French ships
then in the harbour, to confiscate the goods of the mer-
chants, and to throw themselves for protection on the
British. The national cockade was degraded and tramp-
led under foot, while the Governor-General, stripped of
his authority, and finding all subordination at an end,
awaited the issue in silence and in sorrow. It was then
that alarming symptoms of commotion, the portents of
the coming storm, manifested themselves in every quar-
ter. The people of colour and the negro slaves were seen
suddenly to assemble in vast bodies in different parts of
the island, and the whole scheme of rebellion burst forth,
in the month of August, in one uncontrollable and uni-
versal scene of carnage and desolation.
The subjoined address of a committee, deputed, in
November 1791, to make a last appeal to the justice and
protection of the National Assembly, resumes the narrative
where we have left it, and eloquently relates the melan-
choly story, in terms which are calculated to sink deep
into the heart of the most callous.
ADDRESS to the NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, on
3d of November 1791, by the Deputies from
the General Assembly of the French part of
THE General Assembly of the French part of St Domingo
has appointed us a deputation to address you.
In that character, our first duty is to assure you of the
inviolable attachment of this important part of the empire
to the mother country, before we describe to you the terrible
events which are now working its destruction, and solicit
the earliest and most effectual succour, to save, if it be yet
possible, its wretched remains.
Long have we foreseen the evils which afflict us, and
which, doubtless, will end in our annihilation, if the
national justice and power interpose not speedily for our
We come to lay before you some particulars, which yet
will give you but an imperfect idea of our disasters and of
The General Assemblyof the French part of St Domingo,
after having been constituted at Leogane, had appointed
to hold its sessions in the town of the Cape. The deputies
were gradually assembling there, for the purposes of their
Several of them arriving, on the 16th of August, at the
district of Limbe, distant six leagues from the Cape, were
there witnesses of the burning of a trash-house on Chabaud's
The incendiary was a negro-driver of Desgrieux's plan-
tation. Armed with a cutlass, he fled; M. Chabaud saw,
pursued, and overtook him ; they fought; the negro was
wounded, taken, and put in irons.
Being interrogated, he deposed, That all the drivers,
coachmen, domestics, and confidential negroes of the neigh-
bouring plantations and adjacent districts, had formed a
plot to set fire to the plantations, and to murder all the
whites." He marked out, as ringleaders, several negroes
of his master's plantation, four of Flaville's, (situated at
Acul, three leagues from the Cape,) and the negro, Paul,
driver on Blin's plantation at Limbe.
The municipality of Limbe proceeded to M. Chabaud's,
and, on putting the same questions, received the like
answers from the incendiary negro. The municipality
presented the examination, in form of a proces-verbal, to
the Northern Provincial Assembly; and, informing Fla-
ville's attorney of the names of the conspirators that were
about him, advised his securing and lodging them in the
prison of the Cape.
This man, who was of a mild and gentle disposition,
more inclined to confidence than suspicion, assembled the
negroes under his command, and, communicating the infor-
mation he had received from the municipality, told them
he could not give credit to a plot so atrocious, and offered
them his head if they desired it. With one voice they
answered, that the deposition of Desgrieux's driver was a
detestable calumny, and swore an inviolable attachment to
their manager. He had the weakness to believe them ;
and his credulity has been our ruin. The municipality of
Limbe demanded from M. Planteau, attorney of Blin's
plantation, that they might examine the negro, Paul.
This slave being interrogated, replied, That the accu-
sation brought against him was false and injurious; that,
full of gratitude to his master, from whom he was daily
experiencing acts of kindness, he would never be found
concerned in plots that might be framed against the exist-
ence of the whites, and against their property."
In return for this perfidious declaration, and under
assurance from M. Planteau, that Paul deserved credit,
he was released.
In this state matters continued till the 21st, when the
public force of Limbe, at the requisition of the munici-
pality, proceeded to Desgrieux's plantation, to take into
custody the negro cook, accused of being a ringleader.
The negro fled, found out the negro, Paul, of Blin's plan-
tation, and, in conjunction with the other conspirators,.
they prepared fire and sword for the completion of their
In the night between the 22d and 23d, twelve negroes
reached the sugar-house on Nod's plantation at Acul, seized
upon the apprentice refiner, and dragged him before the
great house, where he expired under their wounds. His
cries brought out the attorney on the estate, who was laid
lifeless on the ground by two musket-balls. The wretches
proceeded to the apartment of the head refiner, and assas-
sinated him in his bed. A young man who lay sick in a
neighboring chamber, was left for dead under the blows
of their cutlasses; yet he had strength to crawl to the
next plantation, where he related the horrors he had
witnessed, and that the surgeon only was spared-an
exception which was repeated in regard to the surgeons in
general, of whose abilities the negroes had reckoned they
would stand in need.
The plunderers proceeded to Clement's plantation, and
there killed the proprietor and refiner.
Day began to break, and favoured the junction of the
ill-disposed, who, spreading over the plain, with dreadful
shouts, set fire to houses and canes, and massacred the
On that same night, the revolt had broken out on the
three plantations of M. Gallifet.* At one of these the
blacks, with arms in their hands, made way into the
chamber of the refiner, with a design to assassinate him,
but only wounded him in the arm. Favoured by the
night, he escaped, and ran to the great house. The whites
who resided there united for their defence. M. Odeluc, a
member of the General Assembly, and attorney for the
affairs of Gallifet, came to the Cape, and gave information
there of the insurrection of his negroes. Escorted by the
patrol, he reached the plantation, seized the ringleaders,
and returned at their head to the town. Immediately he
went out again with twenty men in arms, that he might
restore tranquillity and maintain order. But the negroes
were all embodied, and attacked him. Their standard
was the body of a white infant empaled upon a stake.,
At the Cape, it was a proverbial mode of expressing any man's happi-
ness-" Ma foi, il est heureux comme un negre de Gallifet."-He is as
happy as one of Gallifet's negroes.
M. Odeluc, addressing himself to his coachman, whom he
perceived among the foremost, exclaimed, Wretch I
have ever treated thee with kindness, why dost thou seek
my death ?"---" True," he replied; but I have promised
to cut your throat," and instantly a hundred weapons were
upon him. The majority of the whites perished with him,
particularly M, Averoult, also a member of the General
At the very same time, Flaville's gang (that which had
so recently sworn fidelity to the attorney) armed them.
selves and revolted, entered the apartments of the whites,
and murdered five of them who resided on the plantation.
The attorney's wife, on her knees, besought the life of her
husband. The inexorable negroes assassinated the hus.
band, and told the wife that she and her daughters were
reserved for greater brutality. M. Robert, a carpenter
employed on the same plantation, was seized by the
negroes, who bound him between two planks, and sawed
him deliberately in two.
A youth, aged sixteen, wounded in two places, escaped
the fury of the cannibals, and it is from him we learned
these facts. The sword was then exchanged for the torch,
fire was set to the canes, and the buildings soon added to
the conflagration. It was the appointed signal; revolt was
the word, and with the speed of lightning it flamed out on
the neighboring plantations; wherever there were whites
there were so many victims slaughtered; men, women,
the infant and the aged, expired indiscriminately under
the knife of the assassins.
A colonist was murdered by the very negro whom he
most distinguished by acts of kindness. His wife, stretched
upon his body,became the victim of the brutality of his
M. Cagnet, an inhabitant of Acul, seeking to escape
from these horrors, embarked for the Cape. His domestic
negro begged permission to attend him. Such a mark of
attachment determined his master to leave him as a guard
upon the plantation, that he might endeavour to preserve
it. But M. Cagnet had hardly set foot on board, when
he saw that slave, with a torch in his hand, setting fire to
Expresses being sent to the Cape, armed citizens and
troops of the line were despatched thence. They proceeded
towards the strongest body of mutineers, and destroyed
a part of them; but finding the number of rioters in-
creasing in centuple proportion to their losses, and being
unable to maintain their ground, they retreated in
expectation of a reinforcement, which had arrived, but
not before night, headed by M. de Touzard, who took
the command of the little army.
M. de Touzard, perceiving that the revolters were
rallying on Latour's plantation, marched thither. The
moment the artillery was ready to play, in order to disperse
them, the negroes pretended to surrender. M. de Touzard
advanced, and many of them exclaimed they would return
to their duty. He trusted to their repentance and retired.
Humanity and the interests of the colony enjoined his
forbearance; but it was not long before he was undeceived.
The negroes separated indeed, but only that they might
recruit their numbers with all the neighboring gangs.
The army returned into the town to take new steps for
putting an end to the disorder. The revolters profited by
this interval to fill up the measure of their depredations.
Our communications with the adjacent districts became
impeded. We were alarmed lest the disorder had reached
them, and our fears were soon realized. We learned from
persons escaped by the sea, that Limbe, Plaisance, and
Port Margot, were a prey to like horrors; and every citi-
zen, in detailing his misfortunes, discovered to us new
M. Potier, an inhabitant of Port Margot, had taught
his negro driver to read and write. He had given him his
liberty, which the fellow enjoyed; he had granted him
ten thousand livres, which were soon to be paid to him
he had also given to this negro's mother a piece of land
on which she cultivated coffee. The monster seduced the
gang of his benefactor and of his mother, burned and
destroyed their possessions, and obtained, for this action,
a promotion to the rank of general.
At Great River, an inhabitant, M. Cardineau, had
two natural sons of colour,* to whom he had given their
liberty, and who, in their childhood, had been the object
of his tenderest care. They accosted him with a pistol at
his breast, and demanded his money. He delivered it,
but no sooner had they obtained it than they stabbed him
to the heart.
At Acul, M. Chauvet de Breuil, deputy to the General
Assembly, was assassinated by a mulatto, aged sixteen, his
natural son, to whom he destined his fortune, having
manumitted him from his childhood.
*In the French colonies, the free negroes, as well as the mulattoes, and
others of the mixed race, were denominated people of colour.
M. and Mad. Baillon, with their son-in-law and daugh-
ter, encouraged by their negroes, remained on their
plantation; but the depredations of those whom they
had most trusted warned them that it was time to fly.
The nurse of Mad. Baillon, the younger, confessed to her,
there was not an instant to be lost, and offered to attend
them. An old servant engaged to conduct their steps.
Luckily, Mad. Baillon's nurse was the wife of Paul Blin,
one of the negro generals, and had obtained from him some
provisions for her master's family. At her entreaty, he
had even promised to provide, at a distant barquadier, a
canoe to carry the fugitives to the Cape. But how great
was their grief at seeing a little skiff, without mast, or
pars, or rowers! One of them tried to embark in it--
the flimsy boat overset, and his life was with difficulty
saved. Again they applied to Paul, and his wife reproached
him with breaking his promise. He replied, that he
only provided this as a preferable mode of death to that
which the revolters had prepared for the unhappy family."
Petrified with terror at this recital, despair gave them new
strength: they set off on foot; and, after being twenty-
one days in performing a journey of only five leagues,
every day encompassed by dangers, they arrived at Port
Margot, whence they reached the Cape.
Meantime, the flames gained ground on all sides. La
Petite Anse, la Plaine du Nord, the districts of Morin, and
Limonade, presented only heaps of ashes and of mangled
Nothing, one would think, could deepen the horrors of
this recital; and yet it is marked with features of a still
more dreadful character, when we see that those slaves
who had been most kindly treated by their masters were
the very soul of the insurrection. It was they who
betrayed and delivered those humane masters to the
assassin's sword; it was they who seduced and stirred
up to revolt the gangs disposed to fidelity; it was they
who massacred all who refused to become their accom.
plices. What a lesson for the Amis des Noirs What
a heart-breaking discovery to the colonists themselves, to
whom futurity could suggest nothing but prospects of
despair, if, in the midst of so many crimes, there had not
yet been found slaves who gave proofs of an invincible
fidelity, and who made manifest their determination to
reject with disdain the seductions of those who have
endeavoured, by promises of liberty, to inveigle them into
certain destruction. Liberty is now theirs; but it is the
gift of their masters-the reward of their honest attach-
inent; and it has been ratified by the representatives of the
colony, amidst the transports of universal gratitude.
We resume the narrative of our disasters. At this time
one hundred thousand negroes were in rebellion ; and all
the buildings and plantations of more than half the
northern province appeared only as one general confla-
gration. The plains and the mountains were filled with
carnage and deluged with blood. The colonists, stupified
*ith fear, knew not where to seek refuge. One flies for
safety to the woods-is there betrayed by his negroes and
stabbed; another confides in the promises of his gang; a
rebel ringleader steals in among them, the gang rises, and
the proprietor is their first victim.
Scattered over an extent of country intersected by
mountains and deep valleys, the flying inhabitants
attempted to rally and sell their lives dearly. The roads
were blockaded; they were taken prisoners and mass
They who combined opposed but a feeble bulwark
against the swelling torrent. They were routed, taken,
and expiated in tortures their exertions for self-preserva-
tion. These horrible scenes were acting at the very gate
of the town of the Cape. Terror and dismay took posses-
sion of every mind; yet all felt the urgency of providing
for their common safety. They assembled-.-acted in
concert--the citizens took up arms--and the General
Assembly placed the patriotic troops under the command
of the governor.
The town of the Cape, with about three thousand men
at the most, had to keep in check fifteen thousand black
inmates, ready to follow the example of those without, and
many ill-disposed whites. The General Assembly delibe-
rated for an entire night upon the means of preservation
from internal enemies. The result was a resolution to
adhere solely to a well.directed and constant watch over
their conduct and their dispositions. The revolt had been
too sudden and too well concerted to leave a hope of stop
ping or of alleviating its ravages. The town of the Cape
(the side next the sea excepted) was defenceless and inca-
pable of fortification, without a delay of several days and
immense labour. It was extremely to be feared, that the
revolted, negroes might pour down upon the town, and,
favoured and seconded by those within, make a general
massacre of the whole race of the whites. One resource
alone, therefore, remained-to take possession of the
passes of the hills contiguous to the town-to establish a
commanding post, which, by the help of the adjoining
marshes, might protect it'-and to defend the road of La
Petite Anse by a battery of cannon and boats, lashed
together. This resolution was adopted and executed:
thenceforward, the Cape, surrounded by a solid pallisade4
by chevaux-de-frize, and by considerable posts, might feel
its situation less alarming.
During this interval, not a minute was lost in sending
information, by sea, to the parishes which were yet uncon-
taminated, and in suggesting to them the proper precau.
tions to be taken. The inhabitants of those parishes
formed a league, and established camps, more or less cozj-
siderable. These were stationed at Tron,. Valliere, Great
River, Moruet, Dondon, Marmelade, Port Margot, and
other places in danger. The revolters followed the same
plan. They stationed camps in all the districts they had
ravaged. Moreover, they forced the camp of the whites at
Great River, and killed or put to flight all the inhabitants
of that district. The camp at Dondon shared the same
fate, after a contest of seven hours, in which more than
one hundred whites fell. The few unfortunate people
who escaped on that occasion sought refuge among the
Spaniards, but were driven back.
M. M. Gramal, Roynaud, and Lambert, inhabitants of
Great River and Dondon, reached the house of a Spanish
colonist, their intimate friend ; this worthy man, urged on
the one hand by the strongest sympathy and on the other
by the fear of being burned out by his own countrymen,
determined to keep the three Frenchmen locked up in his
closet, whence he allowed them to escape at night, in the
midst of deserts and under advantage of a storm.
Shall it be told you, that you may feel the indignationt
which the conduct of our neighbours must have excited,
that depositions and the public report state, that several
of the inhabitants of Dondon who took refuge among the
Spaniards, were driven beyond the limits, and sold to the
negro chiefs in consideration of three Portugal pieces (one
hundred and thirty-two livres of France) per head, and
that they were put to death.
The districts of Rocou, Maribaroux, Le Terrier Rouge,
Jacquesy, Caracole, Ouanaminthe, and Fort Dauphin,
forming the east part of the northern province, were, as
yet, uninjured; their defence was an object of instant
A camp was established, under the orders of M. de
Rouvrai, which completely answered the purpose for which
it was formed, in spite of the continual efforts of the in-
surgents to prevent it.
While these alarming transactions were passing, the
town of the Cape was resorted to by the inhabitants of the
neighboring hills and plains who had escaped from the
sword of the assassins. It was then that M. de Blanche-
lande thought it prudent to march out two small bodies of
troops, which, joined by M. de Rouvrai, attacked, and
carried in succession, several camps of the revolters,
situated on the plantations of Chabanon, La Chevallerie,
Bullet, Duplat, Charitte, Denort, Dagout, and Gallifet;
in each of which, many white females were set at liberty.
It is from them that we have learned to what excess the
revolters had carried their brutality. Your sensibility,
* These districts were all afterwards successively ravaged and destroyed.
already excited, could not endure the narrative of the
horrid scenes which these women witnessed.
From the rebel prisoners, we discovered that the dif-
ferent chiefs of these banditti are at bitter enmity with
each other: every troop forms a party, and these parties
are always at variance-always ready for mutual destruc-
tion. The authority they have established is absolute des-
potism. The chiefs exercise unheard-of tyranny over those
they command; the least disobedience, the slightest sign
of hesitation, is punished with death; and it is a notorious
truth, that more negroes have been sacrificed to their own
ignorant rage and suspicion, than we have been compelled
to destroy in our defence, although we have obtained over
them several signal advantages. Their acts of cruelty fall
oven on those who have voluntarily engaged in the revolt.
But who will not shudder to hear in what manner they
punish those who determine to remain faithful to their
masters! They seize them by force, and roast them at
the next fire. They have been seen, with the cruelty
of cowards, placing in the front of battle, the aged, the
infants, and the women; and, finding them unfit for action,
making use of them to parry our blows. Have they any
wounded, and, for want of surgeons, cannot dress their
wounds, they confine them in a hut and set fire to it. In
short, be assured of this, if the sanguinary designs of
these uncivilized and ferocious men should be realized in
respect to the whites-should they accomplish the exter-.
mination of the Europeans in the colony--soon would you
see St Domingo presenting a picture of all the atrocities
of Africa. Subjected to the most arbitrary masters, dis-
tracted by the most bloody wars, they would render their
prisoners subservient to their caprices; and the moderated
servitude under which they are held by us, would be ex.
changed for a slavery, aggravated by all the refinements
In the deplorable situation we have described, M. BlMan
chelande, who acted in concurrence with the General As.
assembly, thought it right to suggest a proclamation, which
might contribute to bring back the revolters to their duty.
The General Assembly, composed of planters, perfectly
acquainted with the character of the negroes, represented
to him the danger of such a proclamation, and positively
refused to give it their sanction. The week following
M. Blanchelande renewed his proposal: the same motives
dictated the same refusal. He persisted, and determined
to issue it in his own name; and he did it, because he had
learned that the negroes were willing to submit themselves,
The proclamation was made, and delivered by twelve
dragoons. What effect was produced by this measure?
Seven of them were assassinated in the camp of the rebels,
and the rest saved themselves with the utmost difficulty.
It would serve no purpose to describe to you all the
horrors to which our unfortunate fellow-citizens have been
a prey. Posterity will be shocked at so many cruelties,
committed in the names of philosophy and litterty.
Yet have we only, in this relation, sketched to you some
scattered outlines of the dreadful picture of those evils
which have visited a country, till lately, so peaceful, so
flourishing, so valuable to the French empire! You will
better judge by a summary of the losses which the colony
had experienced at the period of our departure.
They reckoned, in the parishes of Plaisance, Port Mar-
got, Limb6, Marmelade, Acul, La Plaine du Nord, Lg
Petite Anse, Morin, Limonade, Sainte Susanne, Moka,
Cottellettes, Great River, Dondon, and other districts,
more than two hundred sugar works, twelve hundred cof.
fee works, many indigo works, entirely burned down;
numerous potteries, distilleries, many considerable villages,
public magazines, an immense quantity of merchandise,
had shared the same fate. By adding to these all the in-
struments of husbandry, utensils for manufactures, house-
hold furniture, and specie, horses, mules, and other cattle,
some idea may be formed of the enormity of our losses,
which we value at upwards of six hundred millions of
livres. The assistance of the nation, the exertions of com-
merce and of our own industry, may perhaps repair them;
but what shall dry the tears that flow for more than one
thousand of our fellow-citizens slaughtered, the victims of
this cruel revolt ? Can sensibility be mute, when we
reflect, that fifteen thousand negroes will be destroyed
before order and tranquillity can be re-established, and
that, should they succeed in their projects, St Domingo
will become the tomb of fifty thousand Frenchmen !*
Hitherto we have only spoken of the misfortunes of the
northern parts; they are not all we have to lament;
Blood was spilt in the western province; fire destroyed
several properties there; the gangs of Grandfonds, Char-
boniere, and Fond Ferrier, revolted.
The detection of a conspiracy at Leogane preserved that
district from carnage and conflagration, as well as those of
Archaie, Des Vases, and le Cul de Sac. Jeremie experi-
* See Note 3, App.
enced some commotions, but a timely arrest of the excites
of them saved that place from the impending evil.
The southern parts had also great cause of alarm. The
precautions taken there had, to the period of our depar-
ture, maintained their tranquillity; yet the population
there is so thin that the measures employed are more the
proofs of timidity than the pledges of security.
Thus you behold, on every side, the colony threatened;
and if there be colonists who are yet to be saved from so
many complicated dangers, still will they have to contend
with treachery and famine--with epidemical diseases,
caused by so many unburied carcasses in a burning cli-
mate-with disorders more acute, the effects of fatigue,
terror, and vexation; in a word, with every evil that
nature engenders for the destruction of mankind. What
just reason have we not to dread the total ruin of the
colony-a ruin which must accelerate that of the mother
country. The destruction of our plantations will cause
the stagnation of your manufactories; successive bankrupt-
cies will injure public credit, and, even in Paris, will be
felt by the capitalist and tradesman; in the inmost of your
provinces, it will check the collection of taxes; the decrease
of shipping in the sea-ports will reduce to beggary an
innumerable body of labourers and of seamen. Then will
cries of rage and despair ascend from every quarter, call-
ing upon you for justice against the authors of so many
calamities; and can they fail to be detected by the per-
fidious cunning, by the cruel perseverance with which
they have so long been contriving a catastrophe, now,
so terribly conspicuous.
We passed our lives in tranquillity in the midst of our
slaves. A paternal government had, for many years pat,
meliorated the condition of our negroes; and we dare affirm,
that millions of Europeans, attacked by every want, sub-
ject to every misery, possess fewer enjoyments than those
who have been represented to you, and to the world in
general, as loaded with chains and perishing by a lingering
death. The situation of the negroes in Africa--without
property, without political or civil existence, continually
a prey to the weak capricious fury of tyrants, who divide
among them that vast uncivilized country--is changed in
our colonies for a condition of comfort and enjoyment.
They are deprived of nothing; for liberty, which, it is true,
they have not, is a plant that has never yet proved fertile
in their native soil; and, whatever the spirit of party may
assert, whatever imagination may invent, well-informed
men are not to be persuaded that the negroes in Africa
have the enjoyment of freedom. The traveller* who has
most recently visited a part, hitherto almost unknown, of
that extensive country, has given us, in his long and inter-.
esting work, a history only of blood and desolation. The
men who inhabit Abyssinia, Nubia, the Galla, and the
Funge, from the coasts of the Indian ocean to the very
frontiers of Egypt, seem to rival, in ferocity and barba-
rity, the hyenas and tigers which nature has there created.
Slavery is, with them, a title of honour; and life, in these
horrible climates, is a possession unprotected by any laws,
and held only at the will of a sanguinary despot.
Let any man of feeling and information compare the
deplorable state of the negroes in Africa with the mild
and comfortable lot they enjoy in our colonies; let him
set aside declamation, the pictures which a false philosophy
has been pleased to delineate, (far more from a pursuit of
popularity than from zeal in the vindication of humanity;)
let him recall the regulations which governed our negroes
before they were seduced and alienated from us; pro-
vided against every want; supplied with accommodations
unknown in the greater part of the cottages of Europe;
secure in the enjoyment of their properties, (for they had
property, and it was sacred;) nursed, in times of sickness,
with an expense and an attention which may be sought in
vain in the much boasted hospitals of England ; protected,
respected, in the infirmities of old age; at ease in respect
to their children, their families, and their affections; sub-.
jected to a labour calculated according to the strength of
each individual, because individuals and employment
were classed, and interest (even should humanity fail)'
enjoined an attention to the preservation of their numbers;
enfranchised whenever they had merited it by important
services. Such was the just unflattered picture of the
government of our negroes; and this domestic government
had been meliorated (particularly in the last ten years)
with an anxiety of which you will find no example in
Europe. The sincerest attachment connected the master
and his slaves. We slept in security in the midst of men
that were become our children, and many of us had
neither locks nor bars to our houses.
Not that we would disguise to you, that there did exist,
among the planters, a very small number of hard and
ferocious masters; but what was the lot of these wicked
men ? Blasted in their fame, detested by men of charac-
ter, outcasts of society, discredited in their business, they
lived in disgrace and dishonour, and died in misery and
despair. Their names are never pronounced without
indignation in the colony, and the bad estimation in which
they are held serves as a warning to those who, yet
unversed in the management of their slaves, might be led,
by the impetuosity of their tempers, into excesses, proved,
by experience, to be as.contrary to good policy as they
are, by increase of knowledge and humanity, become
Here we appeal, not to those who write romances to
gain a name as men of sensibility-to acquire a moments
ary popularity, soon to be wrested from them by general
indignation; but to them who have visited-who know
the colonies. Let them say if the recital we have made
is faithful, or if we have coloured it to interest you in our
We repeat it, we have passed our lives in this state of
tranquillity and happiness, and we returned to the mother
country-the protectress of our properties--the entire
tribute of our produce, which was applied in adding to
the wealth of the metropolis, to her internal strength, and.
to her superiority in foreign commerce.
Meantime, a society springs up in the bosom.of France,
and prepares, at a distance, the destruction and convulsions
to which we are now a prey. Unobtrusive and modest in
their outset, they professed only a desire to alleviate the
lot of our slaves; but that alleviation, already so far
advanced in the French islands, must result from means-
which were totally unknown to this society, although they,
were objects of our unceasing attention, until obliged to.
abandon them, by these incompetent meddlers having
excited among our slaves a spirit of mutiny, and, among
us, a spirit of distrust.
In order to meliorate gradually the lot of the slaves,
and to increase the number of the emancipated, there
should certainly be a previous solicitude of attention to
the perfect safety of their masters. But an expedient:so
wise would have gained no applause in their temple of
renown. Vanity commanded that measures of prudence
should be relinquished for specious declamations, that we
should be surrounded with terror and alarm, and that
calamities should be contrived, the same which we have
predicted since the earliest proceedings of the Amis des
'Noirs, and which have been so lately realized.
On a sudden, this society demands an abolition of the
slave trade; that is to say, that the profits which may
result from it to the French commerce, should be trans-
ferred to foreigners; for never will their romantic philosophy
persuade all European powers, that it is incumbent upon
them to abandon the culture of their colonies, and to
leave the natives of Africa a prey to the barbarity of their
native tyrants, rather than employ them elsewhere, and
under more humane masters, in cultivating a soil which,
without them, must remain uncultivated, and whose valu-
able productions are, to the nation which possesses them,
a fertile source of industry and prosperity.
Combining itself next with the revolution in France,
this society confounds its extravagant and irrational system
with the plan which the nation had conceived for its enfran.
chisement;; and, profiting by-the universal ardour of.all
Frenchmen in the cause of liberty, interests them, from
the remembrance of their servitude, in its design to put
an end to that of the negroes. Its blind enthusiasm, or
its perversity, forgets that those savage men are incapable
of knowing in what true social liberty consists, or of
enjoying it with moderation, and that the rash law which
should destroy their prejudices, would be, to them and to
,us, a sentence of death.
Thenceforwards this society, or, at least, some of its
members, have given an unbounded loose to their enter-
prise ; all means have seemed to them good, so they might
but tend to its accomplishment. The open attack, the deep
andstudied innuendo, thebasest and most despicable calum.
nies, have been practised to forward their designs; inges.
niously mixing cunning with audacity, the society at one
time flatters us by an invitation to shake off the yoke of
the French merchants, assuring us of its support if we
will unite with it in obtaining a free commerce, at another
time it arms the mercantile body against us, affirming that
we have in view a disgraceful bankruptcy, a chimerical
independence, and that, in our career of vanity, we would
build up a separate power on a level with that of France.
Thus, after having endeavoured to irritate the planters
and the merchants against each other-after having offered
us principles incompatible with the interests of the mother
country, when, in spite of its insidious counsels, we have
declined to adopt them-still are we accused by this society
of such intentions. And they lay hold of the Declaration
of the Rights of Man-an immortal work, and beneficial
to highly enlightened men, but inapplicable, and therefore
dangerous, to our colonial regulations; they send it with
profusion into our colonies; the journals in their pay or
under theft- influence publish this declaration in' the midst
of our gangs; the writings of the Amis des Noirs openly
announce, that the freedom of the negroes is proclaimed
by the Declaration of Rights.
The decree of the 8th of March seemed calculated to
check these desperate plots. But can the Amis des Noirs
reverence any law but those oaths by which they are bound
together, and that vow which they have formed to carry
fire and sword into our habitations ? If a law be favourable
to their theories, they adopt, they promulgate, they inter-
pret that law ; if repugnant, they misconstrue, disavow,
ihsult it, without shame; they endeavour to degrade the
authority on which it is founded.
The planters, merchants, and men enlightened enough
iot to be the dupes of their falsities, are indiscriminately
the objects of their abuse. It is not enough that they
have made themselves the arbiters of our property and
our peace-they assume over us a supremacy of defama-
tion ; nor may we defend ourselves and strive to party
their blows, without undergoing a torrent of their low scur-
iility. Thus, prejudicing us against the public opinion,
shutting up from us the channels of defence, they undermine
in security the rock on which our possessions are placed
they surround it with snares, and our ruin must follow.
When it was found, that they had vainly flattered them-
selves with obtaining from the National Assembly the
emancipation of our slaves, they attempted to introduce
dissension among us, by persuading that assembly to take
on itself to discuss the question of the people of colour.
We had demanded, that we should ourselves make the
laws upon this subject, which require great delicacy and
prudence in their application. We had pledged ourselves
that those laws should be just and humane.
But that boon, which, had it then been granted by the
white planters, would have eternally cemented the ties
of affection and benevolence existing between these two
classes of men, is presented to them by the Amis des
Noirs as an offering of vanity and the means of avoiding
Other measures were tried to gain their point: they
collected together at Paris some people of colour; they
extolled their understandings; they invited them to unite
their cause with that of the negroes. These men passed
over to St Domingo in the sort of delirium occasioned by
such doctrine; they communicated to the slaves those
hopes with which they had been amused; they were loaded
with libels and pamphlets, which encouraged the people
of colour and the slaves to a general insurrection and a
general massacre of the whites.
Og6 was the first victim of this fatal error; one of his
brothers, misled by him, declared, on the 9th of March,
in his death-bed testimony, that, had not the swelling of
the rivers prevented the junction of the conspirators, eleven
thousand rebel negroes were ready to pour down upon the
Cape so early as the month of February, and to cause the
devastation which took place only on the 23d of August.
He named the ringleaders, gave particulars of the conspi-
racy, and offered proof. It was the voice of his conscience
which spoke out at that moment, the last that remained to
him for discovering the truth. .
In the midst of this fermentation, in this general deli.
rium, while the whites were agitated by distrust and terror,
and while the negroes 'ere indulging themselves in a
thousand fatal dreams, was the discussion of the decree of
the 15th of May agitated among you. A shoal of writings,
previous and subsequent, have been disseminated among
our gangs. There have been read and commented upon,-
those terrible words-.those words, the signal of blood and
"Perish the colonies !" *
It was then that a minister of the gospel of peace, in a
letter addressed to his brethren, the people of colour,
announced to our slaves, that soon should the sun shiae
upon none but freemen.T I.
Could the negroes--assailed by so many temptations,
worked upon by so many'manoeuvres, stimulated by libels
written in characters of blood, read at evenings in their
huts, in the midst of assemblies of their chiefs, by men
breathing only disorder and pillage-could they long
resist the vertigo with which they were stricken ? All
memory of the kindness of their masters was erased from
their minds; a desire of novelty- was all they felt; they
became the apt instruments of those men inveterately
malevolent, who have greedily seized, in the writings of
These words were used by Robespierre, in the National Assembly, when
attempting to prove that the Declaration of Rights implied an enfranchise-
ment of all the negroes in the colonies. Let the colonies perish,'
exclaimed he, "rather than that we should sacrifice one of our principles !"
His speech was printed, and, with many other writings of a similar teft.
dency, extensively circulated in St Domingo.
+" The ALbe Gregoire. See note 4, App.
the Amis des Noirs, and in the interpretation of decrees,
Such arms as were best suited to lead the way to insurrecs-
Is our measure of misfortune sufficiently full, that we
may hope at last to have the truth no more disguised ?
Have we a valid claim to the retribution of the laws, with.
out waiting those proofs which must result from the pro.
ceedings now on foot at St Domingo, and which will be
transmitted to us ? Is not the fatal influence of the
authors of so many calamities already evidently proved
by the whole of their transactions and by their criminal
writings ? Can it be doubted at this time that our ruin is
their work ? And shall France still restrain the cry of
indignation due to the guilt of our enemies ?
Flattered by hopes that misfortunes like ours would
find consolation in the bosom of the mother country--
that on our arrival in the capital, where we have at least
a claim to pity, the hearts of our fellow-citizens would be
open to our complaints-we find ourselves preceded by
talumny. They who have made light of our properties
ind our blood, reckoned upon being the objects of our
bitter reproaches, and have endeavoured to anticipate
them. Skilled in the arts of defamation, which are
habitual to them, after having rendered us the victims of
their machinations, it remained to cast upon us the reproach
and the shame. With a cruelty equalled only by their
disregard for probability, they have dared to fabricate and
to report that our constituents were themselves the con-
trivers of their own afflictions. They have dared to affirm
that the absurd and barbarous project of effecting a counter-
revolution was the object to which they have sacrifiedtheir
properties, their families, their lives They have dared
to say that we wished to offer ourselves to Great Britain !
In return, we ask of you, with the boldness of freemen
and of French citizens, (for, after all, we too are French~
men and citizens,) we ask of you whether it be permitted
to any set of men, of any nation upon earth, to insults
with such effrontery, those whom they have injured ?
What! We place fire and sword in the hands of our
negroes! We light the torch that has destroyed our
plantations We sharpen the daggers that have assassin.
ated our brethren and our friends We prompt the brutal
passions of which our females have been the hapless victims !
We kindle in our country the volcano which has already
covered it with ashes, and which perhaps will reduce it to
These desolators, calling themselves patriots, accuse us
of having plotted a counter-revolution. They are then
uninformed that, from the earliest days of the revolution,
it has had our veneration; and that, as being more
exposed under a despotic government to oppression, we
have, with greater ardour, sprung towards liberty. Our
most recent transactions testify in our favour. Is it the
act of a counter-revolutionist to have declared, in consti-
tuting our assembly, that we would protect, with all the
power of the law and of public opinion, the recovery of
the debts due to the mother country ? Is it the act of a
counter-revolutionist to have there recorded, that to the
National Assembly belongs the right of instituting our
political and commercial regulations ?
Is it the act of a counter-revolutionist to have written
to the representatives of the ,nation, whik the grave wa
opening beneath our feet, that our last sigh and our last
vow should be for our country ?* "
* Had we been counter-revolutionists, is it to the National
Assembly we should have addressed such sentiments ? -
It is asserted, it is printed and published, that we
wished to offer ourselves to Great Britain. Our reply to
this falsehood is very simple: it is written in every page
of our proces-verbal. There we have manifested our
principles; and we can safely affirm the full performance
of our duty. f
But we will go yet farther. Permit us a hypothesis#
which our situation, singular in the records of history,
authorises us to state,
At the moment of the insurrection breaking out, all the
inhabitants of the town of the Cape were anxious to dis-
cover the cause of an event so horrible.
A journalist had printed the decrees of the 13th and
15th of May last, with the speech of M. Monneron,
deputy of the Isle of France. The first depositions
stated, that these papers, with all those of the pretended
philanthropists, were read and commented upon by a
mulatto upon Normand's plantation, in the nocturnal
assemblies where the negro-drivers met, who are now the
ringleaders of the rebels. We learned that the town of
the Cape was to be included in the conflagration, and that
within that town were lurking those who were to set it on
fire and massacre all its inhabitants. Immediately a cry
of rage and despair arose on all sides. The philanthro-
'* See Note 5. App.
pit*-France itself-were. accused of this dreadful plot.
Distraetion and fury were impressed on every counte-
nance ; every heart was in agitation; every thing menace&
a horrible butchery-"a general confusion. Already. the
report of muskets was heard. Negroes and mulattoes
received their contents at the very door of the General
Aswmbly. Some assumed a white cockade, some loudly,
called for the protection of the English, some assumed a
black cockade. These words--" The nation, the law, and
the king," disappeared from the hall which was preparing
for the General Assembly : a hand, bewildered by rage,
obliterated them. Exclamations were heard, that the
government at home had yielded us to the murderer's
sword-to the torch of incendiaries That, in short, they
had delivered us over to every human crime, in one day,
believed to be the last of the colony Furious voices
blasphemed against a country to whom they were indebted,.
not for their protection, but their death !
In the midst of this frenzy, of which no power could
repress the first effusion, the General Assembly was yet
attentive to measures of security. The moments were
precious. A proclamation was issued forbidding, under
pain of death, any one to take away another's life. Four
of the members made it public even whilst it was writing.
These commissioners carried it from place to place, and
met, in every place, mobs and shouts, and even insults;
but they succeeded in saving the mulattoes, who, being
accused, would otherwise have been massacred; and their
care and their entreaties suspended the fury of the people.
A new alarm was suggested. The General Assembly
was accused of participating in the crime of the people
of colour, and was threatened. Its courage remained
unabated. The mulattoes offered to arm.themselves for the
common defence, and to leave, as hostages, their wives and
children. The Assembly ventured to arm them; and,
uniting them with the soldiers of the regiment of the Cape,
thus converted into defenders those who had been nearly
sacrificed as enemies.
At this violent crisis, which betokened a subversion of
all things-if, giving way to impressions so calculated to
inspire terror, we had experienced its effects-if, like those
who surrounded and threatened us at that moment, we had
regarded our country in no other light than as the cause
of our misfortunes-if we had called in a foreign power to,
snatch the colonists from their butchers, to save their
properties, to preserve the very credit of the metropolis-
where is that man, having a conscience, who would have
dared to condemn us? Yet were we still Frenchmen-!
And shall we, after this, be reduced to the abject necessity
of justifying ourselves from the reproach of having aimed
at independence ? Let them examine all our acts. If
there be a single one that tends to loosen us from those
indissoluble ties which attach us to the empire, our heads
are here to suffer the punishment due to such perfidy.
We know that some captains of ships, whose vanity has
been wounded because their inhumanity was made public,
have been ready to join the Amis des Noirs in finding us
guilty; but the groans of dejected commerce, feeling for
our calamities and for their consequences, shall teach them
their error, and that, should they succeed in rendering us
odious by their calumnies, they will themselves have, ere
long, to lament their success.
. True, we have asked-we glory in having asked-(for
it was the duty of men invested with a trust by their
filow-4itisens)-assistance from all who surrounded us.
That assistance we implored in concert with the Governor-
General, and, therefore, as Frenchmen and as men; and
since, without distinction, we applied at the same time to
three different nations, we have sufficiently proved that
our solicitations, the dictates of misfortune, could cover
no project inimical to the mother country. Who, indeed,
will dare accuse us for having had recourse to the British
of Jamaica, since the National Assembly (then informed
of our calamities and of our dangers only by imperfect
reports) thought fit, of itself, to express the national
gratitude to that generous people.
But even had we called in the British-not to lend us
assistance but to govern us-to whom ought the guilt to
be imputed ? Place, for a moment, in our situation that
department of the kingdom which you believe to be the
most patriotic, the most proud of the appellation of
Frenchmen; suppose that the sowers of sedition had stir.
red up in its bosom servants against masters, banditti
against possessors of property; that, a hundred times,
the peaceable inhabitants had remonstrated against such
practices with no return but contempt; that, so far froni
receiving succour from the mother country, all that issued
from its bosom seemed to teem with the seeds of revolt;
that already the houses and properties of a multitude of
citizens had fallen a prey to the disturbances; that they
had seen the most abominable murders committed under
their eyes; that they were hopeless of protection : if, at
such a time, so destitute and abandoned, these hapless
citizens should have indulged an idea of forming new
connections, and of imploring the assistance of another
country, to whom, think you, ought the reproach to be
made? To wretches bewildered by despair, or to the
miscreants who took pleasure in wearing out their patience,
and in breaking asunder the dearest and most sacred ties
by an excess of misery ?
We know our duty and we love it, but we also know
and boldly claim our rights. We dedicate to the pros.
perity of the mother country the entire produce of our
labours. She owes us protection against foreign force;
she owes us the security of our properties and peace against
the plots of the turbulent.
It is now proved that the influence of the Amis des Noirs
is fatal to the colonies. Let them weave what sophisms
they please, they cannot hide the evidence of our calamities.
There is not an unprejudiced man existing, who can doubt
that their labours, their declamations, their writings, their
infamous emissaries, have been the active persevering
cause which, for two years past, has paved the way for our
ruin, and which at length has succeeded.
France owes us protection, but in vain would she render
it effective, if such attempts are to remain unpunished;
that which ought to disgrace our enemies, affords diem
matter of triumph and exultation.
She owes us protection; but to what end are her fleets
and her armies, if she permit that seditious writings should
incessantly scatter in our houses the seeds of every trouble;
if she permit us to be pressed down to the earth with
humiliations; and if to encompass us with murder and with
blood become, in the eyes of the country to whom we
sacrifice ourselves, the road to glory and to fame !
Forgive the warmth of our language. So many calami.
ties have given us a privilege to speak out. Grief, bitter
grief, is at our hearts! A hundred times have we impre-
cated the public vengeance on the hateful manoeuvres of
those men who convulse our country under the mask of
humanity. We have obtained no redress. 0 may the
dreadful calamity of which we have sketched to you the
picture, serve as a lesson for futurity, and preserve from
like calamities all those of our fellow-citizens to whose lot
they have not yet fallen.
It is to your steadiness in punishing the authors of
our disasters, and in checking their new efforts, that the
western and southern provinces have to look for their
As for the northern province, its losses are irreparable.
Immense capitals are sunk-the restoration of its industry
requires such an advance of funds as the merchants and
proprietors cannot wholly accomplish. We speak not to
you of individuals, but you will examine what, on your
part, is required by the interest of the colony and that of
Representatives of the people of France! You have
heard a recital of the greatest calamity that has visited
the human race in the course of the eighteenth century.
You have heard the complaint of the first colony in the
world; of a colony necessary to the existence of that
nation whose concerns are placed in your hands. That
colony wishes to interest you only by its feelings ald its
It demands from you Jartsict, sAFrTY, suCCOUn.
(Signed) J. B. MILLET.
CHENEAU DE LA MsOIxal.*
REPLY OF THE PRESIDENT.
To love our country is a source of heartfelt satisfaction !
To serve- it in time of distress is the first of civic virtues,
and it is yours! The calamities of the colony are dread-
ful! The National Assembly views them with horror,
with indignation, with grief. You ask its justice-that
is due from it to all the citizens of the empire. Its pro-
Ctlion- t hat i, <[u1 ft Voiir CM I'
in )provitinll I w. It will ,-ivi' your )11 )Ili.ttin it- most
..vinus- c,,on.id rl'atioi, :ind inite- ',to th l ,, I ,HHo r,' of
Tlie si( j u l of the )l tlnII tin1ol- v tory, \. i]f-ht is o well
lI-tailed ini the forgoing i addlre i> 011 T 1ti) L 'ili;i] v
France became herself too much distracted a"d rent
asunder by the dissensions and atrocities which marked
her unhallowed career in the march of revolution, to be
able to afford any effectual relief to her injured colony;
and the justice, protection, and succour, which had been
promised, never was extended.
The ascendency which the Amis des Noirs had, by this
time) acquired with the Jacobins and in the legislative
body, enabled them to get passed the decree of 4th April
1792, which acknowledged and declared, that the people
of colour and free negroes in the colonies ought to enjoy
an equality of political rights with the whites;" and the
National Assembly sent out three commissioners for the
purpose of seeing this decree enforced, and of restoring
tranquillity and order But neither the character nor the
measures of these commissioners were calculated to produce
any such beneficial results. They were three of the most
violent of the Jacobin faction; men of low origin, without
talents, principles, or abilities, who had risen, amidst the
confusion of the times, to a power which they abused.
Such men as these were but little calculated to meet with
any consideration from the planters. Actuated by a spirit
of avarice, fanatacism, and revenge, they took advantage
of their authority to enrich themselves by plunder and
confiscation. They made perfidious protestations of pro.
tection to the colonists, and then joined against them; and
they succeeded in bringing, for a second time, indiscri-
minate carnage on the ill-fated island. Under such men
as these there could be little hope of any amelioration;
and accordingly, having, by their injudicious measures
and the immorality of their private lives, frustrated entirely
the object which they had been sent to accomplish, they
became terrified at the mischief which they had themselves
wroilght, and, after a few months residence, sought their
safety in an ignominious flight, and returned separately
The white inhabitants now fled from all quarters to the
sea-shore, in hopes of finding protection from the governor,
on board the ships in the harbour; but a body of mulat-
toes intercepted them, and a slaughter ensued, which lasted
from the 21st to the 23d of June 1793, when the savages,
after having murdered every white person who fell in their
way, set fire to the buildings, and more than half of the
city was consumed.
. Towards the end of this year, the British government,
(induced by a disposition, on the part of several of the
colonists, and subsequent overtures made to General Wil-
liamson, the governor of Jamaica, to throw themselves
upon the protection of Britain,) fitted out an expedition
under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Whitelock, for
the purpose of taking possession of the French part of the
island. After several years of varied success, and after
suffering dreadfully by the ravages of a pestilential malady
which had broken out,* the British troops were finally
withdrawn in the month of October 1798, and the island
evacuated. In 1795, the Spaniqh part of it had been ceded
Of the eighty-second regiment, no less than six hundred and thirty
became victims to this disorder within ten weeks after its landing. In
one of its companies no more than three rank and file were fit for duty.
Hompesch's regiment of hussars was reduced, in little more than two
months, from one thousand to three hundred, and the ninety-sixth regiment
perished to a man!
to the French, who, however, could not retain possession
of it; and although Bonaparte, after the peace of Amiens,
sent out a large army under the command of General Le
Clerc, the expedition was in the greatest degree disgrace-
ful and disastrous.
It became obvious that the struggle could be no longer
maintained-that the colony was for ever lost; and it was
thenceforth delivered over to the black population, by
whom it has been rent asunder and devastated by the
incessant struggles of the barbarous chiefs who have, from
time to time, arisen to strive for the ascendency, and this
once beautiful and flourishing colony is now fast retro-
grading to a condition of sterility and desolation.
In reviewing the events which are detailed in the fore-
going pages, it becomes interesting to inquire, first into
the causes which led to the insurrection in St Domingo,
and secondly, the means by which so fatal an event may
be avoided in other colonies similarly situated.
Of the causes, then, which produced the catastrophe,
the perusal of the preceding narrative cannot leave a
doubt on the mind that the *chief was the dissemination,
in the colony, of the theories of the French philosophers
and philanthropists, and the industrious promulgation of
the abstract proposition that all men ought to be free, and
that every bond by which a human being held his fellow
being in- subjection, was a moral sin. These sentiments
were eagerly caught by the negroes, men in the. lowest
state of mental cultivation, whose ignorant and unen-
lightened minds could not lead them to discriminate
between moral and corporal restraint, who were utterly
incapable of understanding the necessity of a gradation
of rank in civil society, or the mutual relations in the
chain of creation by which mankind is linked together,
and between whom and their masters the only tie which
as yet subsisted, was that of force on the one side arid fear
on the other. When these men were told that liberty
belonged to them as a birthright equally with the whites,
they naturally imagined that it was attended by all the
privileges and comforts which the whites enjoyed; and
being taught by the most enlightened men in France that
this valuable birthright was withheld from them by the
cruelty and selfishness of their masters, the impulse of
their unrestrained feelings hurried them on, first to seize it
by force, and then to punish those by whom it had been
How could it be supposed that beings so low in the
scale of intellect could possibly enter into, or understand,
the complicated and artificial relations on which the well
being of cultivated society depends for its existence, and
those feelings of affection, resignation, patience, humility,
and a thousand others, which teach a man how to fill his
station in life-a lesson which it requires long tuition, even
in those who are born in the most favourable circumstances,
to acquire. When they were told, in the address of the
the Abbe Gregoire, that, "reinstated in the fullness of
their rights, they would in future participate in the sove.
reignty of people; that the decree which the National
Assembly had just published respecting them was not a
fatour, for a favour is a privilege, and a privilege to one
olass of people is an injury to all the reit ;"-when they
were assured that, above a century ago, Louis XIV.
solemnly acknowledged and proclaimed their rights, but
of this sacred inheritance they had been defrauded by
pride and avarice;"--when they were reminded that
" there had been new oppressions on the part of their
masters, and new miseries on theirs, till at length the cup
of affliction was filled even to the brim,"-what other
result could be expected than that they should consider it
a sacred duty to resume that boasted inheritance of which
they had been defrauded, and an act of justice to bring
upon their oppressors the just punishment which their
crime deserved. In the untutored mind of every age, the
strongest feelings are those of cupidity and revenge, and
it is only by the means of education and religion that the
one can be lowered down into industry and the other raised
up to justice. The rebellion of St Domingo was not the
irresistible impulse of human nature groaning under the
load of intolerable oppression, and struggling to be free
it was the work of savage minds, goaded into frenzy by
the precepts of an insane philosophy, which taught them
to struggle through rebellion and bloodshed in the hopes
of grasping an unsubstantial shadow.
At the present time, when there has gone abroad over
the empire a strong feeling for the emancipation of the
slaves in the British colonies, and when the great council
of the nation is about to be occupied in deliberation on
the subject, the fate of St Domingo furnishes matter for
deep and solemn meditation.
It will be the great duty of the legislature, in consider-
ing the question, to revolve the subject well in all its
bearings; and, above all, to take advantage of those lights
which history and the experience of other nations has fur-.
nished, for guiding them along the path to justice and
mercy; pushing aside, on the one hand, all regard for
arguments derived from selfish interest, and, on the other,*
the unstable phantasies of abstract theory and speculation.
They will avoid being led away, alike by the excited
feelings of those who would maintain a principle,"
though the colonies should perish," and the long rooted
prejudices of those who would support what is wrong,
although it had no farther claim to respect than that
which is derived from antiquity. They will come to the
discussion of the momentous question, impressed by the
consideration that the lives of many thousand human
beings hang on their decree; and they will recollect that,
as soon as the flat shall go forth which makes the negro
free, there will be no recall-vestigia nulla retror8um-
and the fate of the colonies, for weal or for woe, is from
that hour irrevocably fixed.
By every rightly constituted mind, slavery cannot fail
to be viewed as an evil which is indefensible, and ought
to cease. But it is an evil which was originally sanctioned
by British statutes, and has been continued and main-
tained under British authority; and the question is,
whether the whole system ought to be suddenly demolished,
and the boon of freedom showered down, without prepa-
ration, upon those who have not yet received that intellec-
tual enlargement of soul which would teach them duly to
appreciate the gift, and properly to use it when bestowed.
We should think meanly of his judgment who would let
in the dazzling rays of the noonday sun upon the weak-
ened orbs of one who has just recovered from total
blindness. To the poor exhausted wretch who might be
discovered in a state of inanition from hunger, the skilful
physician would administer food by a cautious and sparing
hand, until he should be sufficiently restored to be able to
support a more substantial meal. In the same way it may
be thought that the negro ought to be raised up by an
easy ascent from his state of intellectual weakness, by
ameliorating his condition, cultivating his understanding,
and leading his mind to an accurate knowledge of the
gradations of rank, and of the relative situations of master
and servant, by which he will learn, that his own happiness
and welfare depend on the manner in which he performs
the duties of that station which has been allotted to him
by providence. Surely a fearful responsibility is incur-
red by those who, in the mistaken zeal of indiscriminat-
ing humanity, distribute specious tracts and pamphlets
throughout the colonies, holding out the necessity of imme-
diate and unconditional emancipation, the direct tendency
of which must be to render the white inhabitants odious
in the eyes of their slaves, to excite in the latter visionary
ideas of independence and equality, and which may lead
to a renewal of the scenes of horror which St Domingo
exhibited, involving masters and slaves alike in one com-
It cannot be doubted, that the planters have done much
of themselves, and under many disadvantages, to foster
this moral culture; and to them, as being intimately
acquainted with the habits and dispositions of the people,
the task peculiarly belongs. All improvement in the
condition of the negro should, in policy and in principle,
be derived from the hand of the master,* whose interest,
if a higher feeling be wanting, depends on the prosperity
of the slave, so as to strengthen the incipient sensations of
gratitude, until the iron chains of fear be superseded by
the silken cords of affection. It would seem to be a wise
measure, and one essentially leading to the end in view,
not with a rash hand to tear asunder the bonds which have
hitherto subsisted between the planters and their depen.
dents, but to encourage the former to proceed in the
good work, to second their endeavours for the melioration
of the slave population, and to afford them protection and
assistance in their system for progressively leading the
slaves onward to civilization and mental improvement,
until the time should arrive when the chains of captivity,
having thus been gradually lightened, shall finally drop
off, the negro shall come forth a free, intelligent, and
emancipated moral being; and the beams of the morning
shall indeed cease to illumine the fetters of slavery."
* See note 6, App.
NOTE 1. p. 9.
THE most remarkable of these latter was James OgE, whose miserable
fate, a short time afterwards, excited much commiseration.
Ogd was a Creole, born at St Domingo, but was resident at Paris.
He had been introduced into the Society of Amis des Noirs, where
he soon became initiated into a knowledge of the rights of man, and
became acquainted with the imaginary miseries of the condition of himself
and his brethren. Filled with the notion, which was industriously fos.
tered, that the whole coloured population was ready to rise up in arms
against their oppressors as soon as a fit leader should appear, his heated
imagination and vanity led him to believe that he possessed all the qualify.
cations requisite for the situation, and he therefore resolved to set himself
at their head. He secretly landed at St Domingo on 12th October 17901
with arms and ammunition, which he found means to convey to a place
which his brother, who resided there with his mother, had prepared.
His first act was to send a letter to the Governor-General, demanding;
in imperious terms, that the provisions of the Code Noir should be
enforced; that the privileges enjoyed by the whites should be extended to
all classes whatsoever; and in which he proclaimed himself the protector
of the oppressed.
He then endeavoured, by every means in his power, to disseminate
disaffection and to draw together associates; but he only succeeded in
collecting about two hundred undisciplined young men, who commenced
their military career by the murder of such whites as fell in their way,
and of those people of colour who refused to join them. Notice of these
proceedhigs having reached the town of Cape Francois, a body of troops
* An edict passed by Louis XIV. in 1685, in favour of the slaves.
was sent against them, who attacked them at a camp which they had
established at Grande Riviere, and completely routed them, having killed
many and made sixty prisoners. Oge himself escaped and took refuge
with the Spaniards, who, on the demand of the Governor-General, delivered
him up in the end of December, and he was shortly thereafter miserably
put to death by being broken upon the wheel.
It was discovered, nine months afterwards, that Ogd had made a con-
fession, in which he had fully detailed the plot of the insurrection which
subsequently took place, with the names of the ringleaders and the places
where their meetings were held. This confession was suppressed by the
commissioners appointed by the supreme council of the northern province
to take Ogd's examination.
NOTE 2. p. 11.
Extracts from the Address of the St Domingo Planters, assembled at Paris,
to the King, 11 th December 1791.
"On the first report of our calamities, France has seen those men, whose
philosophy is a dagger, and whose virtue is a flaming torch, setting their
writers and their clubs to work to counteract that impression of pity which
our situation was calculated to inspire; and, at the very moment of the
accomplishment of their prophetic vow, Perish the colonies rather than
our principles,' M. Condorcet published, in his journal, that the accounts
were fabricated, and had no other object than to create, to the King of
the French, an empire beyond the seas, in which there should be masters
and in which there should be slaves.'
When the news was confirmed, when the manufacturers, the seamen,
the shipowners, and the whole commercial body of the kingdom discovered
their alarm, the anti-social sect (through its agent, M. Brissot) exclaimed,
that the blood of our brethren and the ashes of our habitations covered a
crime of high treason; and this friend of humanity proposed to summon
before the high national court whatever remnant of the planters should be
left unmurdered by the negroes.
"Theseproposals were agitated and discussed in the National Assembly*
Perhaps it was the first time that a civilized people suffered, in a legal form,
the impious assault of guilt against misfortune.
The contempt, consequent on such charges, obliged them to shift their
ground. The colonial regulations are inimical to their levelling system.
Sworn enemies are they to all property, for they spurn, they persecute,
they would annihilate, all wealth and all authority, in which they cannot
participate. Their hypocrisy would preserve sacred the rights only of that
multitude of which they are the despots. Therefore, the people of colour
in the colonies were, for them, fit instruments into whose hands they must
put arms, and they have succeeded I"
Even M. Brissot, the most violent of abolitionists, at one period dis.
avowed any thing beyond the cessation of the slave trade, having declared,
That he had never thought of liberating the slaves; that during his
residence in Virginia, he was convinced that the negroes were as unfit for
liberty as infants of two years of age; that he was persuaded that the
abolition of slavery would be a great evil to them; and that, in opposition
to it he would lose his life, if necessary."-.Du Morer sur les Troubles des
NOTE 3. p. 28.
"Several journals have taken Incredible pains to soften the representation
of this mass of horrors. I can affirm that the General Assembly, whose
meetings I attended till the 21st of October, had, at the close of the pre-
ceding month, received a particular account of the destruction of two
hundred and twenty-two sugar estates, and between eleven and twelve
hundred coffee plantations ; and it could not then be known how far the
mischief had extended itself among the hills, with which the town of the
Cape could no longer maintain any communication.
The number of white men, women, and children, whose throats had
been cut, or who had been otherwise butchered by the negroes, then
amounted to more than two thousand, and not to six hundred only, as the
journals of the pretended philanthropists assert.
It would be too irksome a task to enumerate the acts of cruelty com-
mitted by the revolters, those barbarians in whose favour a certain sect of
philosophers so warmly interest themselves I All the white and even the
mulatto children have, in many places, been murdered without pity, and
most frequently before the eyes or clinging to the bosom of their mothers.
Infants, empaled on the ends of pikes, have been their ensigns. The Sieur
Blin, an officer of police, was nailed to one of the gates of a plantation, and
his limbs, one by one, cut off; others have been tied between two planks
and sawed asunder."-Mot de Verite par M. Baillio.
NOTE 4. p. 37.
Many of the mulattoes had established a correspondence with consider-
able persons in France, from several of whom, particularly the Abbd
Gregoire, letters of a very extraordinary tendency were received and
distributed through the colony. In one of these letters, after promising
protection and support, the Abbd declares, that the day will soon come
when the sun shall shine upon free people only." The beams of the
morning," says he, shall no longer give light to the fetters of slavery."
These and similar expressions were exaggerated into one point-that the
king had given freedom to all the slaves in St Domingo ; and the Abbd
Gregoire, to whose good offices this benevolence was ascribed, was imme-
diately considered as the patron of all the mulattoes and negroes in the
island. It is no wonder, therefore, that, considering their masters unjustly
to withhold from them those privileges which they believed were granted
them in France, they determined to do justice to themselves by slaying
No one who reads the above can fail to be struck with the resemblance
which it bears to the repetition of the scene which has been acted forty
years afterwards in Jamaica; where the same belief-that the King of
England had given freedom to the slaves, but that the boon had been
withheld by the planters-led to the same acts of insurrection and blood-
shed. "' Did you ever hear the prisoner say any thing about negroes being
free ? Yes ; he said that, after Christmas, we all should be free. Did the
prisoner tell you not to work ? Yes; he told us we were all free. Who
did the prisoner say had made them free ? The king."--Trial of Mr
Pfeiffer-House of Commons Papers, No. 482, p. 14.
Did you ever attend the chapel and hear the prisoner say, that slaves
were to be free ? Yes ; he told them that they must behave themselves-
that the king has given them free."-Ib. p. 15.
Sharpe said, The thing is now determined upon; no time is to be lost.
The King of England, and the Parliament, have given Jamaica freedom,
and it is held back by the whites: we must at once take it. The King
sent the law since March last, and it has been withheld by the whites:
rise at once and take it."-Confession of Robert Gardner.--Report, House
of Commons Papers, No. 185, p. 35.
NOTE 5. p. 40.
The following affecting passage occurs in the first address by the mem-
bers of the General Assembly of St Domingo to the National Assembly:-
" We will not inform you what cause has produced our calamities; you
ought sufficiently to be acquainted with it. That which you will learn
from us is, that, if we must perish, our last eyes shall be turned towards
France-our last wishes shall be for her !"
NOTE 6. p. 54.
The late Mr Canning thus expressed himself in the House of Commons,
in March 1824 :--" If the condition of the slave is to be improved, that
improvement must be introduced through the medium of his master. The
masters are the instruments through whom, and by whom, you must act
upon the slave population; and if, by any proceedings of ours, we shall
unhappily place between the slave and his master the barrier of insur-
mountable hostility, we shall at once put an end to the best chance of
emancipation or even of amendment. Instead of diffusing gradually over
these dark regions a pure and salutary light, we may at once kindle a
flame only to be quenched in blood."
PETER BROWN, PRINTER, LADY STAIR'S CLOSE.