This item is only available as the following downloads:
This volume was donated to LLMC
to enrich its on-line offerings and
for purposes of long-term preservation by
THE BLACK REPUBLIC.
BALLANTYNK, HANSON AND CO.
EDINBURGH AND LONDON
I ^ .; .... ....",m7"&l I '
N/ U A.,',L \ -"
,, .4,,,. .., .- ..
r ^ "' '. ". ,_..,_a,/. -T. I. t,.
-- n- I
Sxi 7r II .... U,![ .
S" |r '
4 IIIA/TI' I I p i
, JA M A C A... .
it ; A I ,, ,jAt r
A ,, ... '1' .
,/C 1 I
In ,' .. --
,p ^',,./^ -,*^ f'^ t,.s
" 1 [--- -t _
".' ... .~ L
THE BLACK REPUBLIC.
SIR SPENSER ST. JOHN, K.C.M.G.
FORMERLY HER MAJESTY' S MINISTER RESIDENT AND CONSUL-GENERAL
IN HAYTI, NOW HER MAJESTY'S SPECIAL ENVOY TO MEXICO.
"Haiti, Haiti, pays de barbares."
SMITH, ELDER, & CO., 15 WATERLOO PLACE.
WHILST in Port-au-Prince, a Spanish colleague once
remarked to me, "Mon ami, if we could return to
Hayti fifty years hence, we should find the negresses
cooking their bananas on the site of these warehouses."
Although this judgment is severe, yet from what we
have seen passing under the present Administration, it
is more than probable-unless in the meantime influ-
enced by some higher civilisation-that this prophecy
will come true. The negresses are in fact already cooking
their bananas amid the ruins of the best houses of the
capital. My own impression, after personally knowing
the country above twenty years, is, that it is a country
in a state of rapid decadence. The revolution of 1843
that upset President Boyer commenced the era of
troubles which have continued to the present day. The
country has since been steadily falling to the rear in
the race of civilisation.
The long civil war (1868-1869) under President
Salnave destroyed a vast amount of property, and
rendered living in the country districts less secure, so
that there has been ever since a tendency for the more
civilised inhabitants to agglomerate in the towns, and
leave the rural districts to fetish worship and canni-
balism. Fires, most of them incendiary, have swept
over the cities; in the commercial quarters of Port-au-
Prince, it would be difficult to find any houses which
existed in 1863, and the fortunes of all have naturally
When I reached Hayti in January 1863, the capital
possessed several respectable public buildings. The
palace, without any architectural beauty, was large and
commodious, and well suited to the climate; the Senate
the House of Representatives, the dwellings occupied by
several of the Ministers, the pretty little theatre, were
all featui es which have now entirely disappeared.
The town of Petionville or La Coupe, the summer
and health resort of the capital, where the best families
sought a little country life during the great heats, was
almost entirely destroyed during the revolution of 1868,
and nothing has taken its place. People are still too
poor to afford to rebuild.
Society also has completely changed. I saw at balls
given in the palace in 1863 a hundred well-dressed
prosperous families of all colours; now political dis-
sensions would prevent such gatherings, even if there
were a building in the city which could receive them,
and poverty has laid its heavy hand more or less on all.
It is the same in a greater or lesser degree in every
other town of the republic.
Agriculture in the plains is also deteriorating, and
the estates produce much less than formerly, though
their staple produce is rum, to stupefy and brutalise
the barbarous lower orders.
Foreigners, nearly ruined by their losses during the
constant civil disturbances, are withdrawing from the
republic, and capital is following them; and with their
withdrawal the country must sink still lower. The
best of the coloured people are also leaving, as they
shun the fate reserved for them by those who have
already slaughtered the most prominent mulattoes.
In fact, the mulatto element, which is the civilising
element in Hayti, is daily becoming of less importance;
internal party strife has injured their political standing,
and constant intermarriage is causing the race to breed
back to the more numerous type, and in a few years
the mulatto element will have made disastrous ap-
proaches to the negro. The only thing which could
have saved the mulatto would have been to encourage
the whites to settle in their country; yet this step the
coloured men have blindly resisted.
In spite of all the civilising elements around them,
there is a distinct tendency to sink into the state of an
African tribe. It is naturally impossible to foretell the
effect of all the influences which are now at work in the
world, and which seem to foreshadow many changes.
We appear standing on the threshold of a period of
great discoveries, which may modify many things, but
not man's nature. The mass of the negroes of Hayti
live in the country districts, which are rarely or ever
visited by civilised people; there are few Christian
priests to give them a notion of true religion; no
superior local officers to prevent them practising their
worst fetish ceremonies.
In treating of the Black and the Mulatto as they
appeared to me during my residence among them, I
fear that I shall be considered by some to judge harshly.
Such, however, is not my intention. Brought up under
Sir James Brooke, whose enlarged sympathies could
endure no prejudice of race or colour, I do not remember
ever to have felt any repugnance to my fellow-creatures
on account of a difference of complexion.
I have dwelt above thirty-five years among coloured
people of various races, and am sensible of no prejudice
against them. For twelve years I lived in familiar and
kindly intercourse with Haytians of all ranks and
shades of colour, and the most frequent and not least-
honoured guests at my table were of the black and
All who knew me in Hayti know that I had no
prejudice of colour; and if I place the Haytian in
general in an unenviable light, it is from a strong con-
viction that it is necessary to describe the people as
they are, and not as one would wish them to be. The
band of black and coloured friends who gathered round
me during my long residence in Port-au-Prince were
not free from many of the faults which I have been
obliged to censure in describing these different sections
of the population, but they had them in a lesser degree,
or, as I was really attached to them, I perhaps saw
them in a dimmer light.
The most difficult chapter to write was that on
" Vaudoux Worship and Cannibalism." I have endea-
voured to paint it in the least sombre colours, and
none who know the country will think that I have exag-
gerated; in fact, had I listened to the testimony of many
experienced residents, I should have described rites at
which dozens of human victims were sacrificed at a
time. Everything I have related has been founded
on evidence collected in Hayti, from Haytian official
documents, from trustworthy officers of the Haytian
Government, my foreign colleagues, and from respectable
residents-principally, however, from Haytian sources.
It may be suggested that I am referring to the past.
On the contrary, I am informed that at present canni-
balism is more rampant than ever. A black Govern-
ment dares not greatly interfere, as its power is founded
on the goodwill of the masses, ignorant and deeply
tainted with fetish worship. A Haytian writer recently
remarked in print, "On se plaisit beaucoup de ce que le
Vaudoux a reparu grandiose et serieux." The fetish
dances were forbidden by decree under the Govern-
ment of President Boisrond-Canal. That decree has
been since repealed, and high officers now attend these
meetings, and distribute money and applaud the most
President Salomon, who is now in power, lived for
eighteen years in Europe, married a white, and knows
what civilisation is. He probably, on his first advent
to the Presidency, possessed sufficient influence in the
country to have checked the open manifestations of
this barbarous worship; but the fate of those of his
predecessors who attempted to grapple with the evil was
not encouraging. It was hoped, however, that he would
make the attempt, and that, grasping the nettle with
resolution, he might suffer no evil results; but many
doubted not only his courage to undertake the task,
but even the will; and they, I fear, have judged cor-
rectly. Whenever all the documents which exist on
this subject are published, my chapter on Cannibalism
will be looked upon but as a pale reflection of the
With regard to the history of the country, materials
abound for writing a very full one, but I do not think
it would prove interesting to the general reader. It
is but a series of plots and revolutions, followed by
barbarous military executions. A destructive and
exhausting war with Santo Domingo, and civil strife
during the Presidency of General Salnave, did more to
ruin the resources of the country than any amount of
bad government. The enforced abandonment of work
by the people called to arms by the contending parties,
introduced habits of idleness and rapine which have
continued to the present day; and the material losses,
by the destruction of the best estates and the burning
of towns and villages, have never been fully repaired.
From the overthrow of President Geffrard in 1867
the country has been more rapidly going to ruin. The
fall was slightly checked during the quiet Presidency
of Nissage-Saget; but the Government of General
Domingue amply made up for lost time, and was
one of the worst, if not the worst, that Hayti has ever
seen. With the sectaries of the Vaudoux in power,
nothing else could have been expected.
I have brought my sketch of the history of Hayti
down to the fall of President Boisrond-Canal in 1879,
and shall not touch on the rule of the present President
of Hayti, General Salomon. I may say, however, that
he is the determined enemy of the coloured section of
the community; is credited with having been the chief
adviser of the Emperor Soulouque in all his most
disastrous measures; and the country is said to have
sunk into the lowest depths of misery. The civil war,
which by last accounts was still raging in Hayti, has
been marked by more savage excesses than any pre-
viously known in Haytian history, the black autho-
rities, hesitating at no step to gain their object, which is
utterly to destroy the educated coloured class. They
care not for the others; as they say, "Mulatte pauvre,
A few words as to the origin of this book. In 1867
I was living in the country near Port-au-Prince, and
having some leisure, I began to collect materials and
write rough drafts of the principal chapters. I was
interrupted by the civil war, and did not resume work
until after I had left the country. It may be the
modifying effect of time, but on looking over the
chapters as I originally wrote them, I thought that I
had been too severe in my judgments on whole classes,
and have therefore somewhat softened the opinions I
then expressed; and the greater experience which a
further residence of seven years gave me enabled me
to study the people more and avoid too sweeping con-
I have not attempted to describe the present condi-
tion of the republic of Santo Domingo, but from all I
can hear it is making progress. The Dominicans have
few prejudices of colour, and eagerly welcome foreign
capitalists who arrive to develop the resources of their
country. Already there are numerous sugar estates in
operation, as well as manufactories of dyes, and efforts
are being successfully made to rework the old gold-
mines. The tobacco cultivation is already large, and
only requires hands to develop it to meet any demand.
I hear of a railway having been commenced, to traverse
the magnificent plain which stretches from the Bay of
Samana almost to the frontiers of Hayti.
After having written the chapter on Vaudoux Wor-
ship, my attention was called to a communication which
appeared in Vanity Fair of August 13, 188r, by a
reply published in a Haytian journal. It is evident
that the writer in Vanity Fair was a naval officer or a
passing traveller in the West Indies, and he probably
carefully noted the information given him. He was,
however, too inclined to believe what he heard, as he
gravely states that a Haytian told him that the kid-
neys of a child were first-rate eating, adding that he
had tried them himself; and the writer remarks that
the IIaytian did not seem to think it strange or out of
th3 way that he had done so. No Haytian would have
ever stated seriously that he had eaten human flesh.
Probably, amused by the eagerness of the inquirer, he
told the story to test his powers of belief, and must
have been diverted when he found his statement was
credited. Cannibalism is the one thing of which
Haytians are thoroughly ashamed.
This communication makes mention of the herb-
poisonings and their antidotes; of the midwives who
render new born-babes insensible, that are buried, dug
up, restored to life, and then eaten. In May 1879 a
midwife and another were caught near Port-au-Prince
eating a female baby that had been thus treated ; he adds
that a Haytian of good position was discovered with
his family eating a child. In the former case the
criminals were condemned to six weeks' imprisonment,
in the latter to one month. (I may notice that I never
heard of a respectable Haytian being connected with
the cannibals.) The light punishments inflicted were
due to the fear inspired by the Vaudoux priests. In
January 1881 eight people were fined for disinterring
and eating corpses. An English medical man pur-
chased and identified the neck and shoulders of a
human being in the market at Port-au-Prince. In
February 1881, at St. Marc, a cask of so-called pork was
sold to a foreign ship. In it were discovered fingers and
finger-nails, and all the flesh proved to be that of human
beings. An English coloured clergyman at Cap Hai-
tien said that the Vaudoux did away with all the
effect of his ministry; and that his wife was nearly
purchasing in the market human flesh instead of pork.
Four people were fined in that town for eating corpses.
When the writer arrived at Jacmel he found two men
in prison for eating corpses, and on the day of his
arrival a man was caught eating a child. Near the
same town nine thousand people met at Christmas
to celebrate Vaudoux rites. At Les Cayes a child of
English parents was stolen, and on the thieves being
pursued, they threw it into a well and killed it.
These are the statements made by the writer in
Vanity Fair, and nearly all are probable. If correct,
the open practice of Vaudoux worship and cannibalism
must have made great strides since I left Hayti, and
shows how little a black Government can do, or will
do, to suppress them. The digging up and eating of
corpses was not known during my residence there.
This communication to Vanity Fair provoked a reply
in a journal published at Port-au-Prince called L'Eil,
October i, 188i. It denies everything, even to the
serious existence and power of the Vaudoux priests, and
spends all its energies in abuse. The article is quite
worthy of the editor,* who was one of the most active
supporters of President Salnave, .whose connection with
the Vaudoux was notorious. It is in this angry spirit
that the Haytians generally treat any public reference
to their peculiar institution.
Ever since the reign of Soulouque, professional authors have been
paid by the Haytian Government to spread rose-tinted accounts of the
civilisation and progress of Hayti. But twenty-four hours in any town
of that republic would satisfy the most sceptical that these semi-
official accounts are unworthy of belief.
MExICO, January 1884.
L GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI
II. HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE
III. HISTORY SINCE INDEPENDENCE .
IV. THE POPULATION OF HAYTI
V. VAUDOUX WORSHIP AND CANNIBALISM.
VL THE GOVERNMENT .
VII. RELIGION, EDUCATION, AND JUSTICE .
VIII. THE ARMY AND POLICE .
IX. LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE .
X. AGRICULTURE, COMMERCE, AND FINANCE
THE BLACK REPUBLIC.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
STANDING on one of the lofty mountains of Hayti,
and looking towards the interior, I was struck with the
pertinence of the saying of the Admiral, who, crumpling
a sheet of paper in his hand, threw it on the table
before George III., saying, "Sire, Hayti looks like
that." The country appears a confused agglomeration
of mountain, hill, and valley, most irregular in form;
precipices, deep hollows, vales apparently without an
outlet; water occasionally glistening far below; cottages
scattered here and there, with groves of fruit-trees
and bananas clustering round the rude dwellings. Gra-
dually, however, the eye becomes accustomed to the
scene; the mountains separate into distinct ranges, the
hills are but the attendant buttresses, and the valleys
assume their regular forms as the watersheds of the
system, and the streams can be traced meandering
gradually towards the ocean.
2 GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
If you then turn towards the sea, you notice that
the valleys have expanded into plains, and the rushing
torrents have become broad though shallow rivers, and
the mountains that bound the flat, open country push
their buttresses almost into the sea. This grand variety
of magnificent scenery can be well observed from a
point near Kenskoff, about ten miles in the interior
from the capital, as well as from the great citadel built
on the summit of La Ferribre in the northern province.
Before entering into particulars, however, let me give
a general idea of the country.
The island of Santo Domingo is situated in the West
Indies between 18 and 20o north latitude and 68
2o' and 74 30' west longitude. Its greatest length is
four hundred miles, its greatest breadth one hundred
and thirty-five miles, and is calculated to be about the
size of Ireland. Hayti occupies about a third of the
island-the western portion-and, pushing two great
promontories into the sea, it has a very large extent of
coast-line. It is bounded on the north by the Atlantic
Ocean, on the east by the republic of Santo Domingo,
on the south by the Caribbean Sea, and on the west by
the passage which separates it from Cuba and Jamaica.
Its most noted mountain-ranges are La Selle, which
lies on the south-eastern frontier of Hayti; La Hotte,
near Les Cayes; and the Black Mountains in the
northern province; but throughout the whole extent
of the republic the open valleys are bounded by lofty
elevations. In fact, on approaching the island from
GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
any direction, it appears so mountainous that it is diffi-
cult to imagine that so many smiling, fertile plains are to
be met with in every department. They are, however,
numerous. The most extensive are the Cul-de-Sac, near
Port-au-Prince, the plains of Gonaives, the Artibonite,
Arcahaie, Port Margot, Leog&ne, that of Les Cayes, and
those that follow the northern coast.
Hayti has the advantage of being well watered,
though this source of riches is greatly neglected. The
principal river is the Artibonite, which is navigable for
small craft for a short distance; the other streams have
more the character of mountain torrents, full to over-
flowing during the rainy season, whilst during the dry
they are but rivulets running over broad pebbly beds.
The lakes lying at the head of the plain of Cul-de-
Sac are a marked feature in the landscape as viewed
from the neighboring hills. They are but little visited,
as their shores are marshy, very unhealthy, and unin-
habitable on that account, while the swarms of mos-
quitoes render even a temporary stay highly disagree-
able. The waters of one of them are brackish, which
would appear to indicate more salt deposits in the
There are a few islands attached to Hayti, the prin-
cipal, La Tortue, on the north, Gonaives on the west,
and L'Isle-h-Vache on the south coast. Some attempts
have been made to develop their natural riches, but
as yet with but slight success. The first two named
are famous for their mahogany trees.
4 GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
The principal towns of the republic are Port-au-
Prince, the capital, Cap Haitien in the north, and
Les Cayes in the south. Jacmel, Jdrdmie, Miragoine,
St. Marc, and Gonaives are also commercial ports.
Port-au-Prince is situated at the bottom of a deep
bay, which runs so far into the western coast as almost
to divide Hayti in two. It contains about 20,000
inhabitants, and was carefully laid out by the French.
It possesses every natural advantage that a capital
could require. Little use, however, is made of these
advantages, and the place is one of the most unpleasant
residences imaginable. I was one day talking to a
French naval officer, and he observed, "I was here as
a midshipman forty years -ago." Do you notice any
change ?" I asked. "Well, it is perhaps dirtier than
before." Its dirt is its great drawback, and appears
ever to have been so, as Moreau de St. Mdry com-
plained of the same thing during the last century.
However, there are degrees of dirt, and he would pro-
bably be astonished to see it at the present day. The
above paragraph was first written in 1867; since that
it has become worse, and when I last landed (1877), I
found the streets heaped up with filth.
The capital is well laid out, with lines of streets
running parallel to the sea, whilst others cross at right
angles, dividing the town into numerous islets or blocks.
The streets are broad, but utterly neglected. Every
one throws out his refuse before his door, so that heaps
of manure, broken bottles, crockery, and every species
GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI. 5
of rubbish encumber the way, and render both riding
and walking dangerous. Building materials are per-
mitted occasionally to accumulate to so great an extent
as completely to block up the streets and seriously
impede the traffic. Mackenzie, in his notes on Hayti,
remarks on the impassable state of the streets in 1826;
torn up by tropical rains, they were mended with refuse
(generally stable dung to fill up the holes, and a thin
layer of earth thrown over), only to be again de-
stroyed by the first storm. Ask Haytians why they do
not mend their streets and roads, they answer, Bon
Dieu, g&td li; bon Dieu, pard lii" (God spoilt them, and
God will mend them). Then, as now, the roads were in
such a state in wet weather that only a waggon with
a team of oxen could get through the muddy slough.
On first entering the town, you are struck with the
utter shabbiness of the buildings, mean cottages and
grovelling huts by the side of the few decent-looking
dwellings. Most of the houses are constructed of
wood, badly built with very perishable materials, im-
ported from the United States or our Northern colonies.
The idea that originally prevailed in the construction
of the private houses was admirable; before each was
a broad verandah, open to all passers, so that from one
end of the town to the other it was intended that there
should be cool, shady walks. But the intolerable stupi-
dity of the inhabitants has spoilt this plan; in most
streets the level of the verandahs of each house is of a
different height, and frequently separated by a marshy
6 GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
spot, the receptacle of every species of filth; so that you
must either walk in the sun or perform in the shade a
series of gymnastic exercises exceedingly inconvenient
in a tropical climate.
On either side of the street was a paved gutter, but
now, instead of aiding the drainage, it is another cause
of the accumulation of filth. The stones which formerly
rendered the watercourses even are either removed or
displaced, and the rains collecting before the houses form
fetid pools, into which the servants pour all that in
other countries is carried off by the sewers. In a few
of the more commercial streets, where foreigners reside,
more attention is paid to cleanliness, but still Port-au-
Prince may bear the palm away of being the most foul-
smelling, dirty, and consequently fever-stricken city in
The port is well protected, but is gradually filling up,
as the rains wash into it not only the silt from the
mountains, but the refuse of the city, and no effort is
made to keep it open. As there is but little tide, the
accumulations of every species of vegetable and animal
matter render the water fetid, and when the sea-breeze
blows gently over these turbid waves, an effluvia is
borne into the town sickening to all but native
The most remarkable edifice of Port-au-Prince was
the palace, a long, low, wooden building of one storey,
supported on brick walls: it contained several fine
rooms, and two halls which might have been rendered
GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
admirable for receptions; but everything around it was
shabby-the stables, the guard-houses, the untended
garden, the courtyard overrun with grass and weeds,
and the surrounding walls partially in ruins. This spa-
cious presidential residence was burnt down during the
revolutionary attack on Port-au-Prince in. December
1869, and no attempt has been made to rebuild it.
The church is a large wooden building, an over-
grown shed, disfigured by numerous wretched paintings
which cover its walls; and, as an unworthy concession
to local prejudice, our Saviour is occasionally repre-
sented by an ill-drawn negro.
The senate-house was the building with the most
architectural pretensions, but its outer walls only re-
mained when I last saw it, fire having destroyed the
roof and the interior wood-work. There is no other
edifice worthy of remark; and the private houses, with
perhaps a score of exceptions, are of the commonest
The market-places are large and well situated, but
ill-tended and dirty, and in the wet season muddy in
the extreme. They are fairly supplied with provisions.
I may notice that in those of Port-au-Prince very
superior meat is often met with, and good supplies of
vegetables, including excellent European kinds, brought
from the mountain gardens near Fort Jaques.
The supply of water is very defective. During
the reign of the Emperor Soulouque a luminous idea
occurred to some one, that instead of repairing the old
8 GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
French aqueduct, iron pipes should be laid down. The
Emperor had the sagacity to see the advantage of the
plan, and gave orders for the work to be done. As an
exception to the general rule, the idea was to a certain
extent well carried out, and remains the only durable
monument of a most inglorious reign. Had the iron
pipes been entirely substituted for the old French
work, the inhabitants would have enjoyed the benefit
of pure water; but when I left in 1877, the people in
the suburbs were still breaking open the old stone-
work to obtain a source of supply near their dwell-
ings; and pigs, children, and washerwomen congregated
round these spots and defiled the stream.
The amount of water introduced into the town is still
most inadequate; and though numerous springs, and one
delightful stream, La Rivibre Froide, are within easy
distance of the port, no effort has been made to in-
crease the supply. La Rivibre Froide-name redolent
of pleasant reminiscences in a tropical climate-could
easily fill a canal, which would not only afford an inex-
haustible supply for the wants of the town and shipping,
but, by creating an outward current, would carry off
the floating matter which pollutes the port. Since my
departure a Mr. Stephens commenced some works to
afford the town a constant supply of water, but these, I
understand, have as yet only been partially carried out.
If ever finished, they will afford to the inhabitants a
The cemetery is situated outside the town. I never
GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
entered it except when compelled to attend a funeral,
and hastened to leave it as soon as possible, on account
of an unpleasant odour which pervades it. It is not
kept in good order, though many families carefully
attend to the graves of their relatives, and there are
several striking tombs. People of all religions are
buried here; but it is on record that a brawling Irish
priest once attempted to disinter a Protestant child.
His brawling subsequently led to his banishment.
I noticed on my first arrival in Port-au-Prince two
marble coffins, very handsome, lying neglected on the
ground outside the palace. I was told they had been
brought from abroad in order that the remains of Pdtion
and Boyer, two of their best Presidents, should repose in
them; but for many years I saw them lying empty on
the same spot, and I never heard what became of them.
The curse of Port-au-Prince is fire. Every few years
immense conflagrations consume whole quarters of the
town. Nothing can stop the flames but one of the
few brick-houses, against which the quick-burning fire
is powerless. During my residence in Port-au-Prince
five awful fires devastated the town. On each occasion
from two to five hundred houses were destroyed. And
yet the inhabitants go on building wretched wooden
match-boxes, and even elaborate houses of the most in-
flammable materials. Companies should be careful how
they insure property in Port-au-Prince, as there are some
very well-authenticated stories of frauds practised on
them both by Europeans and natives.
10 GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
Port-au-Prince, on my first arrival in 1863, was
governed by a municipality, over which presided a very
honest man, a Monsieur Rivibre, one of those Protes-
tants to whom I have referred in my chapter on reli-
gion. As a new arrival, I thought the town sufficiently
neglected, but I had reason to change my opinion.
It was a pattern of cleanliness to what it subsequently
became. The municipality, when one exists, has for its
principal duties the performance or neglect of the regis-
tration of all acts relating to the "d tat civil," and to
divide among its members and friends, for work never
carried out, whatever funds they can collect from the
At the back of the capital, at a distance of about five
miles, was the village of La Coupe, the summer resi-
dence of the wealthier families. As it was situated
about 1200 feet above the level of the sea and was
open to every breeze, it afforded a delightful change
from the hot, damp town; but during the civil war of
1868 the best houses were destroyed and never recon-
structed. There is a natural bath there, the most
picturesque feature of the place; it is situated under
lofty trees, that cast a deep shade over the spot, and
during the hottest day it is charmingly cool
Cap Haitien is the most picturesque town in Hayti;
it is beautifully situated on a most commodious harbour.
As you enter it, passing Fort Picolet, you are struck by
its safe position-a narrow entrance so easily defended.
My first visit was in H.M.S. Galatea," Captain Mac-
GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
guire; and as we expected that we might very possibly
be received by the fire of all the batteries, our own crew
were at their guns, keeping them steadily trained on
Fort Picolet, whose artillery was distant about a couple
of hundred yards. Having slowly steamed past forts
and sunken batteries, we found ourselves in front of
the town, with its ruins overgrown with creepers, and in
the background the rich vegetation sweeping gracefully
up to the summit of the beautiful hill which over-
shadows Cap Haitien.
Cap Haitien never recovered from the effects of the
fearful earthquake of 1842, when several thousands of
its inhabitants perished. To this day they talk of that
awful event, and never forget to relate how the country-
people rushed in to plunder the place, and how none
lent a helping-hand to aid their half-buried country-
men. Captain Macguire and myself used to wander
about the ruins, and we could not but feel how little
energy remained in a people who could leave their pro-
perty in such a state. It was perhaps cheaper to build
a trumpery house elsewhere.
One of those who suffered the most during that
visitation wrote before the earth had ceased trembling,
"Against the acts of God Almighty no one com-
plains," and then proceeded to relate how the dread
earthquake shook down or seriously injured almost
every house; how two-thirds of the inhabitants were
buried beneath the fallen masonry; how the bands
of blacks rushed in from mountain and plain, not to
12 GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
aid in saving their wretched countrymen, whose cries
and groans could be heard for two or three days, but
to plunder the stores replete with goods; and-what
he did complain of-how the officers and men of the
garrison, instead of attempting to keep order, joined
in plundering the small remnants of what the rest of
the inhabitants could save from the tottering ruins.
What a people I
The most striking objects near Cap Haitien are
the remains of the palace of Sans Souci, and of the
citadel constructed by King Christophe, called La
Ferribre. It requires a visit to induce one to believe
that so elaborate, and, I may add, so handsome a struC-
ture, could exist in such a place as Hayti, or that a
fortification such as the citadel could ever have been
constructed on the summit of a lofty mountain, five
thousand feet, I believe, above the level of the sea.
Some of the walls are eighty feet in height, and six-
teen feet in thickness, where the heavy batteries of
English guns still remain in position. All is of the
most solid masonry, and covering the whole peak of
We were really lost in amazement as we threaded
gallery after gallery where heavy fifty-six and thirty-
two pounders guarded every approach to what was
intended to be the last asylum of Haytian inde-
pendence. Years of the labour of toiling thousands
were spent to prepare this citadel, which the trem-
bling earth laid in ruins in a few minutes. What
GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
energy did this black king possess to rear so great a
monument? but the reverse of the medal states that
every stone in that wonderful building cost a human
It is a popular idea in Hayti that the superiority of
the northern department, and the greater industry of
its inhabitants, date from the time of Christophe, and
some express a belief that his iron system was suitable
to the country; but the fact is that Moreau de St. MWry,
writing in the last century, insists on the superior ad-
vantages of the northern province, its greater fertility,
the abundance of rain, and consequently the number of
rivers, as well as the superior intelligence and industry
of the inhabitants, and their greater sociability and
polish. They are certainly more sociable than in the
capital, and people still seek northern men to work
on their estates. As for Christophe's system, no
amount of increase in produce could compensate for
Gonaives is a poor-looking town, constantly devas-
tated by revolutions and fires, with a few broad, un-
finished streets, and some good houses among the
crowds of poor-looking buildings. This neighbourhood
is famous for what are called white truffles. They are
dried and sent to the different parts of the republic.
St. Marc, though not so scattered as Gonaives, is a
small place. It was formerly built of stone; a few
specimens of this kind of building still remain. Jacmel
has a very unsafe harbour, but possesses importance as
14 GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTL
one of the ports at which the royal mail steamers call,
and has a large export trade in coffee. Les Cayes,
Jdrdmie, and other smaller ports I have only seen at
a distance, but I hear they are much like the other
cities and towns of the republic. Mackenzie says that
the city and environs of Les Cayes are described as
" trbs riante," and that in his time it was kept in better
order than the capital. This is said still to be the case.
My last long ride in Hayti was from Cap Haitien to
Gonaives, and nestling in the hills I found some very
pretty villages, planted in lovely sites, with fresh,
babbling streams, and fruit groves hiding the inferior-
looking houses. The place I most admired was, I think,
called Plaisance. There was a freshness, a brightness,
a repose about the village that made me regret it was
situated so far from the capital
Wherever you may ride in the mountains, you can-
not fail to remark that there is scarcely a decent-look-
ing house out of the towns. The whole of the country
is abandoned to the small cultivators, whose inferior
cottages are met with at every turn, and, as might be
expected from such a population, very dirty and devoid
of every comfort, rarely any furniture beyond an old
chair, a rickety table, a few sleeping-mats, and some
cooking utensils. There is no rule, however, without
an exception, and I remember being much struck by
seeing at Kenskoff, a small hamlet about ten or twelve
miles direct from Port-au-Prince, a good house, where
there were some chairs, tables, and bedsteads, and
GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
around this dwelling several huts, in which the wives
of our host lived separately.
Now and then a peasant will build a larger house
than usual; we met with one, the last we slept in on
our ride to the mountain, La Selle, whose proprietor
had really some ideas of comfort, and before whose
dwelling coffee-plants were growing, trimmed to the
height of six feet, planted separate from one another,
perfectly clean, and covered with indications of an
abundant crop. They had been planted there in former
days by an intelligent proprietor, and the peasant had
the merit of not neglecting them.
The plain of Cul-de-Sac, adjoining the north side of
Port-au-Prince, was one of the richest and most cul-
tivated during the time of the French; and as all
regular cultivation depends on the amount of water,
their engineers had constructed the most careful system
for the storage and distribution of the supplies. Pro-
perly managed, all the large estates could receive the
quantity necessary for their lands, but for many years
the stone-work was neglected, and the grand barrage
was becoming useless, when President Geffrard placed
the affair in the hands of an able French engineer,
Mons. Ricard, who efficiently restored the main work,
but had not funds to complete the canals for distribut-
ing the waters. As usual in all enterprises in that
country, the money voted had to pass through so many
hands, that before it reached the engineer it had
diminished to less than half.
16 GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
The soil of the plain is most fertile, and only appears
to require water to give the most promising crops of
sugar-cane. There are some very extensive estates
that could afford work for a large population, but the
ever-increasing disturbances in the country render
Capital shy of venturing there.
As might readily be supposed, the roads are greatly
neglected, and during the rainy season are almost
impassable. They are composed simply of the sur-
rounding soil, with a few branches thrown into the
most dangerous holes. The bridges are generally
avoided; it is a saying in Hayti, that you should go
round a bridge, but never cross it, and the advice is
generally to be followed. For the main streams there
are fords. An attempt was once made to bridge over
La Grande Rivibre du Cul de Sac, but the first freshet
washed away all the preliminary work.
In the mountains there are only bridle-paths, though
occasionally I came across the remains of old French
roads and good paths. On the way to Kenskoff there is a
place called L'Escalier, to escalade the steepest side of
the mountain. The horses that are used to it manage
well, but those from the plains find the steps awk-
ward. On the road from Gonaives to the northern pro-
vince there is a very remarkable paved way, the work so
well done that it has resisted the rain during a hundred
years of neglect. Some of the bridle-paths in the north
are exceedingly good, and are admirably carried up the
sides of hills, so as to avoid the most difficult spots.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
In the range above Tourjeau I came across a very
pretty grassy bridle-path, and near I found the remains
of a large French country-house, evidently the residence
of some great proprietor. The tradition in the neigh-
bourhood is that there was an indigo factory adjoining,
but I could scarcely imagine the site suitable. Wher-
ever you may go in Hayti you come across signs of
decadence, not only from the exceptional prosperity of
the French period, but even of comparatively recent
years. After the plundering and destruction of 1868
and 1869, few care to keep up or restore their devas-
tated houses, and it is now a hand-to-mouth system
Cul-de-Sac is a glorious plain, and in good hands
would be a fountain of riches; and the same may be
said of the other splendid plains that abound through-
out the island. Every tropical production grows freely,
so that there would be no limit to production should
the country ever abandon revolutions to turn its atten-
tion to industry. About three-fourths of the surface
of the plains are occupied by wood or prickly acacia,
that invades every uncultivated spot.
The mountains that bound these plains and extend
to the far interior present magnificent sites for pleasant
residences; but no civilised being could occupy them
on account of the difficulty of communication and the
doubtful character of the population. Up to the time
of the fall of President Geffrard it was possible; now
it would be highly imprudent. In one of the most
smiling valleys that I have ever seen, lying to the left
18 GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
whilst riding to the east of Kenskoff, a friend of mine
possessed a very extensive property. The place looked
so beautiful that I proposed to him a lengthened visit,
to which he acceded. Delay after delay occurred,
and then the civil war of I865 prevented our leaving
Port-au-Prince. In 1869 there were arrested in that
valley a dozen of the worst cannibals of the Vaudoux
sect, and the police declared that the whole population
of that lovely garden of the country was given up to
fetish worship. It was probably a knowledge of this
that made my friend so long defer our proposed visit,
as the residence of a white man among them might
have been looked upon with an evil eye.
I have travelled in almost every quarter of the
globe, and I may say that, taken as a whole, there is
not a finer island than that of Santo Domingo. No
country possesses greater capabilities, or a better geo-
graphical position, or more variety of soil, of climate,
or of production; with magnificent scenery of every
description, and hill-sides where the pleasantest of
health-resorts might be established. And yet it is
now the country to be most avoided, ruined as it has
been by a succession of self-seeking politicians, without
honesty or patriotism, content to let the people sink to
the condition of an African tribe, that their own selfish
passions may be gratified.
The climate of Hayti is of the ordinary tropical
character, and the temperature naturally varies accord-
ing to the position of the towns. Cap Haitien, being
GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
exposed to the cooling influence of the breezes from
the north, is much more agreeable as a residence than
Port-au-Prince, which is situated at the bottom of a
In summer, that is, during the months of June, July,
August, and September, the heat is very oppressive.
The registered degrees give one an idea of the disagree-
ableness of the climate. In my house at Tourjeau, near
Port-au-Prince, 6oo feet above the level of the sea, I
have noted a registering thermometer marking 97* in the
drawing-room at 2 P.M. in July, and 95* in the dining-
room on the ground-floor; and in a room off a court
in the town I have heard of 1o30-no doubt from
refraction.* At the Petit Sdminaire the priests keep
a register, and I notice that rarely is the heat marked
as 95*,generally 93.2 is the maximum; but the thermo-
meter must be kept in the coolest part of the college,
and is no criterion of what is felt in ordinary rooms.
The nights also are oppressively warm, and for days I
have noticed the thermometer seldom marking less
than 80o during the night. In August the heat is
even greater than in July, rising to 97 at the Petit
Sdminaire, whilst in September the maximum is regis-
tered as 91.50; and this heat continues well on into
November, the maximum being the same. I have
not the complete returns, but generally the heats of
September are nearly equal to those of August. In
Mackenzie states that he noticed the thermometer marking 99*
every day for considerable periods.
20 GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
what may be called winter, the thermometer rarely
marks over 84*, and the nights are cool and pleasant.
In fact, I have been assured of the thermometer having
fallen as low as 58 during the night, but I never
saw it myself below 6o*. It is a curious fact that
foreigners generally suffer from the heat, and get ill in
consequence, whilst the natives complain of the bitter
cold of the winter, and have their season of illness then.
Port-au-Prince is essentially unhealthy, and yellow-
fever too often decimates the crews of the ships of
war that visit its harbour. In 1869, on account of the
civil convulsion, French and English ships remained
months in harbour. The former suffered dreadfully;
the "Limier," out of a crew of io6 men and eight
officers, lost fifty-four men and four officers, whilst
the "D'Estrds and another had to mourn their captains
and many of their crew. Who that ever knew him
can forget and not cherish the memory of Captain De
Varannes of the "D'Estrds," one of the most sympa-
thetic of men, a brilliant officer, and a steady upholder
of the French and English alliance? De Varannes
was an Imperialist, an aide-de-camp of the Empress,
and thoroughly devoted to the family that had made
his fortune. When the medical men announced to
him that he had not above two hours to live, he
asked the French agent if he had any portraits of
the Imperial family; they were brought and placed
at the foot of the bed where he could see them. He
asked then to be left alone, and an hour after, when a
GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
friend crept in, he found poor De Varannes dead, with
his eyes open, and apparently fixed on the portraits
before him. I should add that both these vessels
brought the fever to Port-au-Prince from Havana and
The English ships suffered less, as our officers are
not bound by the rigid rules that regulate the French
commanders, who would not leave the harbour without
express orders from their Admiral, though their men
were dying by dozens. Captain Hunter of the "Vestal"
and Captain Salmon of the Defence knew their duty
to their crews too well to keep them in the pestilential
harbour, and as soon as yellow-fever appeared on board,
steamed away; and the latter went five hundred miles
due north till he fell in with cool weather, and thus
only lost three men. A French officer told me that
when the sailors on board the Limier saw the De-
fence" steam out of harbour, they were depressed even
to tears, and said, See how the English officers are
mindful of the health of their men, whilst ours let us
die like flies." Captain Hunter of the Vestal" never
had due credit given him for his devotion to his crew
whilst suffering from yellow fever. He made a hospital
of his cabin, and knew no rest till he had reached the
cool harbours of the north.
Merchant seamen in certain years have suffered dread-
fully from this scourge, both in Port-au-Prince and in
the neighboring port of Miragofne. Two-thirds of
the crews have often died, and every now and then
22 GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
there is a season in which few ships escape without
Yellow-fever rarely appears on shore, as the natives
do not take it, and the foreign population is small and
mostly acclimatised. The other diseases from which
people suffer are ordinary tropical fevers, agues, small-
pox, and the other ills to which humanity is subject;
but although Port-au-Prince is the filthiest town I
have ever seen, it has not yet been visited by cholera.
In the spring of 1882 small-pox broke out in so viru-
lent a form that the deaths rose to a hundred a day.
This dreadful visitation continued several months, and
it is calculated carried off above 50oo people in the
city and its neighbourhood.
If Hayti ever becomes civilised, and if ever roads are
made, there are near Port-au-Prince summer health-
resorts which are perfectly European in their climate.
Even La Coupe, or, as it is officially called, PNtionville,
about five miles from the capital, at an altitude of I2oo00
feet, is from ten to twelve degrees cooler during the day,
and the nights are delicious; and if you advance to
Kenskoff or Furcy, you have the thermometer marking
during the greatest heat of the day 75 to 770, whilst
the mornings and evenings are delightfully fresh, with
the thermometer at from 57 to 68*, and the nights
cold. On several occasions I passed some months at
PNtionville, and found the climate most refreshing after
the burning heats of the sea-coast.
The regular rainy season commences about Port-au-
GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
Prince during the month of April, and continues to the
month of September, with rain again in November
under the name of "les pluies de la Toussaint." After
several months of dry weather one breathes again as the
easterly wind brings the welcome rain, which comes with
a rush and a force that bends the tallest palm-tree till
its branches almost sweep the ground. Sometimes,
whilst dried up in the town, we could see for weeks
the rain-clouds gathering on the Morne de l'Hopital
within a few miles, and yet not a drop would come to
refresh our parched-up gardens.
During the great heats the rain is not only welcome
as cooling the atmosphere, but as it comes in torrents,
it rushes down the streets and sweeps clean all those
that lead to the harbour, and carries before it the
accumulated filth of the dry season. In very heavy
rains the cross streets are flooded; and one year the
water came down so heavily and suddenly that the
brooks became rushing rivers. The flood surprised a
priest whilst bathing, swept him down to the Champs
de Mars, and threw his mangled body by the side of a
house I was at that moment visiting.
That evening, as I was already wet, I rode home
during the tempest, and never did I see more vivid
lightning, hear louder thunder, or feel heavier rain.
As we headed the hill, the water rushing down the path
appeared almost knee-deep; and to add to the terror of
my animal, a white horse, maddened by fear, came
rushing down the hill with flowing mane and tail, and
24 GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
swept past us. Seen only during a flash of lightning,
it was a most picturesque sight, and I had much dif-
ficulty in preventing my frightened horse joining in
his wild career.
The rainy season varies in different parts of the
island, particularly in the north. I am surprised to
observe that the priests have found the annual fall of
rain to be only I 17 inches. I had thought it more.
Perhaps, however, that was during an exceptionally
The great plain of Cul-de-Sac is considered healthy,
although occasionally intensely warm. It is, however,
freely exposed not only to the refreshing sea-breezes,
but to the cooling land-winds that come down from the
mountains that surround it. There is but little marsh,
except near La Rivibre Blanche, which runs near the
mountains to the north and is lost in the sands.
On the sugar-cane plantations, where much irrigation
takes place, the negro workmen suffer somewhat from
fever and ague, but probably more from the copious liba-
tions of new rum, which they assert are rendered neces-
sary by the thirsty nature of the climate.
I had often read of a clap of thunder in a clear sky,
but never heard anything like the one that shook our
house near Port-au-Prince. We were sitting, a large
party, in our broad verandah, about eight in the evening,
with a beautiful starlight night,-the stars, in fact,
shining so brightly that you could almost read by
their light,-when a clap of thunder, which appeared to
GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF HAYTI.
burst just over our roof, took our breath away. It was
awful in its suddenness and in its strength. No one
spoke for a minute or two, when, by a common impulse,
we left the house and looked up into a perfectly clear
sky. At a distance, however, on the summits of the
mountains, was a gathering of black clouds, which
warned my friends to mount their horses, and they
could scarcely have reached the town when one of the
heaviest storms I have known commenced, with thunder
worthy of the clap that had startled us. Though all
of us were seasoned to the tropics, we had never been
so impressed before.
In the wet season the rain, as a rule, comes on at
regular hours and lasts a given time, though occa-
sionally it will continue through a night and longer,
though rarely does it last above twenty-four hours
without a gleam of sunshine intervening.
( 26 )
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
I DO not doubt but the discovery of America by
Columbus was good in its results to mankind; but
when we read the history of early Spanish colonisation,
the predominant feeling is disgust at the barbarities
and fanaticism recorded in almost every page. We
generally overlook much of this, being dazzled by
pictures of heroic deeds, as set forth in the works of
Prescott and Robertson-heroic deeds of steel-clad
warriors massacring crowds of gentle, almost unresist-
ing natives, until despair, lending energy to their
timid natures, forced them occasionally to turn on
their savage persecutors.
In no country were the Spaniards more notorious for
their cruelty than in the first land in America on which
Columbus established a settlement. The population
was then variously estimated, the numbers given vary-
ing between 8oo,ooo and 2,000,000, the former calcu-
lation being the more probable. They were indeed a
primitive people, the men moving about entirely
naked, the women wearing a short petticoat. They are
said to have been good-looking, which, if true, would
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
mark them as a people distinct from any other in
America, as the Indians, who still remain by millions
in South America and Mexico, are as a race the most
ill-favoured natives I have seen in any portion of
the globe. That was my impression when I travelled
among them, though I have seen among the young
women who followed the Indian regiments to Lima a
few who might almost be considered handsome, but these
by their appearance were probably of mixed breed.
Columbus only stayed two months in Santo Domingo,
but left behind him forty of his companions in an
entrenched position. They now began to commit ex-
cesses; and hearing that a cacique in the interior had
a large store of gold, they penetrated to his town and
robbed him of his riches. This roused the population
against them; they were pursued and killed in detail.
In the meantime Columbus had revisited Spain, been
received with honour, and seventeen vessels, laden with
every kind of store and domestic animal, as well as a
large force, were placed at his disposal. On his arrival
his first thoughts were for gold, and he marched in
search of the mines, which, being pointed out to him,
were soon in full work, the Indians by force being
compelled to this task. The conduct of these white
men appears to have been so wantonly cruel, that the
population rose en masse, and a hundred thousand
Indians are said to have marched to attack the
Spaniards, two hundred and twenty of whom put this
crowd to flight without the loss of a single man. These
28 HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
are the heroic deeds we are called upon to admire. It
has often been declared impossible that such, on one
side, bloodless encounters could take place; but I am
well assured that two hundred well-armed Englishmen
could in the present day march through any number
of the Land Dyaks of Borneo, and defeat them with-
It is not necessary to trace in detail the history of
the island; but I may notice that in 1507 the population
was estimated at 60,ooo, which shows that the original
reckoning must have been greatly exaggerated, as not
even these early apostles of the religion of charity
could have thus wiped out the population by millions.
The story of what one called the early exploits of the
Spaniards in Santo Domingo has been so often related
that it is useless to tell it over again, especially as it
would present but a sequence of sickening events, of
murders, executions, robbery, and lust, with but few
traits of generosity and virtue to record.
These foreign settlers soon saw that the island would
be useless to them without population, so they early
began to introduce negroes from Africa, as well as
families from the neighboring isles. The Coral Indians
were not spared, and the Spanish historians themselves
are the chroniclers of this record of infamy. Now not
a descendant of an Indian remains.
Santo Domingo, deprived of population, with its
mineral wealth, for want of hands, no longer available,
and agriculture neglected, rapidly degenerated, and
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
little was left but the city of Santo Domingo and in
the interior a population of herdsmen. Then the
famous buccaneers appeared to inflict on the Spaniards
some of the misery they had worked on the Indians.
Notwithstanding every effort to prevent them, the
French adventurers gradually spread through the
western end of the island, and began to form towns
In 164o Levasseur was sent from France as Governor
of these irregularly-acquired possessions, and from that
time the French may be said to have established them-
selves firmly in the western part of Santo Domingo-
which hereafter I may call by its present name, Hayti,
to simplify the narrative-but their rule was not recog-
nised by Spain until the year 1697.
From this date to the breaking out of the French
Revolution the colony increased in prosperity, until it
became, for its extent, probably the richest in the world.
Negroes were imported by thousands from the coast
of Africa, and were subjected to as harsh a slavery as
ever disgraced the worst system of servitude.
Two events occurred during this period of prosperity
which were worthy of being noted: First, the fearful
earthquake which destroyed Port-au-Prince in 1770,
when for fifteen days the earth trembled under repeated
shocks, and left the city a heap of ruins.* The second
It is a well-known fact that the noise of the approach of an earth.
quake is generally heard; but in Port-au-Prince there is a curious
phenomenon which I have never known explained. A subterranean
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
was the war in which France engaged to aid our colon-
ists to acquire their independence. To increase their
forces the French commanders permitted the free
blacks and mulattoes to enlist, and they did good
service; and when they returned to their country, they
spread widely a spirit of disaffection, which no ordi-
nances could destroy.
When England in 1785 was forced to acknowledge
the independence of the United States, how despotic
France and Spain rejoiced over the downfall of the
only country where liberty was known! The results
were, for France, the Revolution, which, with all its
crimes, did unspeakable good, and deprived her of the
finest colony that any country ever possessed. To
Spain it brought the loss of world-wide possessions, and
a fall in power and prestige which to this day she
shows but few signs of recovering.
On the eve of the great Revolution, France possessed,
as I have said, the finest colony in the world. Her
historians are never weary of enumerating the amount
of its products, the great trade, the warehouses full
of sugar, cotton, coffee, indigo, and cocoa; its plains
covered with splendid estates, its hill-sides dotted with
noble houses; a white population, rich, refined, enjoy-
ing life as only a luxurious colonial society can enjoy it;
noise is frequently heard approaching from the plains, and appears to
pass under the town without any movement of the earth being per-
ceptible. The Haytians call it "le gouffre," or "le bruit du gouffre,"
and many fancy the whole of that portion of the island to be under-
mined, and predict a fearful fate for the capital.
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
the only dark spot, then scarcely noticed, the ignorant,
discontented mass of black slavery, and the more
enlightened disaffection of the free mulattoes and
It has often been a subject of inquiry how it was
that the Spaniards, who were the cruellest of the cruel
towards the Indians, should have established negro
slavery in a form which robbed it of half its terrors,
whilst the French, usually less severe than their
southern neighbours, should have founded a system
of servitude unsurpassed for severity, cruelty, nay,
To this day the barbarous conduct of the Marquis
of Caradeux is cited as a justification for the savage
retaliation of the insurgent negroes. I think that the
explanation of the different conduct of the Spanish and
French slave-owner may be, that the former is indolent
and satisfied with less, whilst the latter, in his fierce
struggle to be rich, cared not how he became so, and
worked his negroes beyond human endurance, and then,
to keep down the inevitable discontent, sought to ter-
rorise his slaves by barbarous punishments.
The true history of Hayti commences with the
French Revolution, when, amid the flood of impracti-
cable and practicable schemes, a few statesmen turned
their generous thoughts towards the down-trodden
African, and firing assembled France with their enthu-
siasm, passed laws and issued decrees granting freedom
to the black; but before these had any practical effect,
32 HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
Hayti had to pass through scenes which have left
blood-stains that nothing can wash away.
When reading the different accounts which have
been written of the state of Hayti when France was
upsetting the accumulated wrongs of ages, I have often
desired to disbelieve them, and place to exaggerated
feelings of sympathy the descriptions of the prejudices
of the planters and the atrocities committed under
their influence. But I have lived long in the West
Indies, and know that there are many whites born in
our colonies, who not only look upon the negro as of an
inferior species-which he may be-but as fit only for
servitude, and quite unworthy of freedom, and on an
alliance with a coloured person as a disgrace which
affects a whole family. They speak of a mulatto as
they would of one affected with leprosy. If in these
days such sentiments exist, we can readily believe that
they existed even in a greater degree before, awakened
to a feeling of justice, most European nations formally
abolished slavery, and let the black and the coloured
man have an equal chance in the struggle of life.
For some years before the meeting of the States-
General, philanthropists who had inquired into the
condition of the slave had had their compassion aroused,
and to give direction to their efforts to ameliorate it,
had founded in Paris a society called The Friends of
The summoning of the States-General in France
created much enthusiasm throughout Hayti; the
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE. i
planters now reckoned that justice would be done,
and that a share would be accorded them in the
government of the colony; the lower class of whites
had a vague idea that their position must be improved,
and hailed the movement as the promise of better
times-though in truth these two classes had little of
which to complain; the former were rolling in wealth,
and the latter were never in want of high-paid employ-
ment. Another class felt even greater interest-that
of the free black and coloured men; they thought that
no change could occur which would not better their
condition, which was one of simple toleration; they
might work and get rich, have their children educated
in France, but they had no political rights, and the
meanest white considered himself, and was treated, as
their superior. The slaves, although discontented, were
only formidable from their numbers.
Exaggerated expectations were naturally followed by
disappointment. The planters, finding that the French
Government had no intention of employing them to
administer the colony, began to think of independence;
whilst the lower whites, passionately attached to the
dream of equality, thought that that should commence
by an apportionment among them of the estates of
the rich. A third party consisted of the Government
employs, whose chiefs were Royalists under the leader-
ship of Penier, the Governor-General, and Mauduit,
colonel of the regiment of Port-au-Prince.
The Colonial party, or rather that of the planters, in
34 HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
order to increase their power, which had hitherto been
disseminated in local assemblies, determined to have
the law carried out which authorised a General
Assembly. This was elected, and held its first meet-
ings in St. Marc in March 179o. The leaders soon
commenced to quarrel with the Government autho-
rities, and dissensions rose to such a height that both
parties began to arm; and on the Assembly decreeing
the substitution of another Governor for Penier, he was
roused to resistance, and in a brief struggle he forced
the General Assembly to dissolve, a portion of the mem-
bers seeking refuge on board of a ship of war, whose
crew they had induced to mutiny and sail with them
The white population thus set the example of
internal strife, and in their struggle for mastery called
in the aid of the freedmen, and then after victory
insulted them. These, however, began gradually to
understand the advantages they possessed in being
able to support the climate, and the persecutions and
cruelties of the French made them feel that those who
would be free themselves must strike the blow.
Among the educated and intelligent mulattoes who
had gone to France to urge on the National Assembly
the rights of their colour was Ogd. He naturally
thought that the time had arrived for justice to be
done, when the President of the Constituant" had
declared that aucune parties de ]a nation ne rdclamera
vainement ses droits auprbs de l'assemblde des reprd-
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
sentants du people franqais." He visited the Club
Massiac, where the planters held supreme sway, and
endeavoured to enlist their sympathy, but he was
coldly received. He then determined to return to
Hayti to support the rights of his caste, which, though
ambiguously, had been recognized by the legislature ;
but unexpected obstacles were thrown in his way by
the Colonial party, and an order to arrest him was
issued should he venture to embark for his native
land. By passing through England and the United
States he eluded these precautions, and landed privately
at Cap Haitien. When the news of his arrival on
his property at Dondon reached the authorities, they
endeavoured to capture him; then he, with a few
hundreds of his colour, rose in arms, but after a few
skirmishes they dispersed, and Ogd was forced to seek
refuge in the Spanish settlement of Santo Domingo.
There he was arrested, and, on the demand of the
Governor of the French colony, handed over to his
enemies. He was tried as a rebel and broken on the
wheel, together with three companions; others were
hung, the rest sent to the galleys.
Og4's armed resistance had encouraged the men of
colour in the south to demand their rights; but they
were easily dispersed, and their chief, Rigaud, taken
prisoner. These isolated and irresolute outbreaks
rendered the division between the coloured and the
white population more marked than ever; the latter
despised the former for their wretched resistance,
36 HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
while the coloured men were indignant at the cruel
and unsparing executions which marked the close of
Monsieur Blanchelande was then Governor, a weak
man at the head of the Royalist party, who had not
the courage to follow the energetic counsels of Colonel
Mauduit. By his vacillation all discipline was lost both
in the army and in the fleet, and the revolutionary
party rose in arms in Port-au-Prince, murdered Colonel
Mauduit, and drove the pusillanimous Governor to seek
refuge in the plain of Cul-de-Sac. Thus the whites
were everywhere divided, but were still strong enough
to disperse any assembly of the freedmen.
The news of the troubles in Hayti produced a great
effect in Paris, and the Constituent Assembly deter-
mined to send three commissioners to restore tran-
quillity; but they prefaced this measure by decreeing
(May 15, 1791) that every man of colour born of free
parents should enjoy equal political rights with the
whites. On the planters declaring that this would
bring about civil war and the loss of the colony, the
famous phrase was uttered, Perish the colonies rather
than a principle," which phrase has not been forgotten
by those amongst us who would sacrifice India to the
perverse idea of abandoning our high political status
in the world.
When the substance of this decree reached Hayti, it
roused to fury the passions of the whites; all sections
united in declaring that they would oppose its execu-
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
tion even by force of arms, and a strong party was
formed either to declare the independence of the
colony, or, if that were not possible, to invite England
to take possession. The coloured men, on the other
hand, determined to assert their rights, and held secret
meetings to bring about an accord among all the
members of their party; and when they heard that
Governor Blanchelande had declared he would not
execute the decree, they summoned their followers to
meet at Mirebalais in the western department.
The whites in the meantime determined that the
second Colonial Assembly should be elected before the
official text of the dreaded decree of the 15th May should
arrive; and so rapidly did they act, that on the ist
August 1791 the Assembly met at Leogane, and was
opened under the presidency of the Marquis de Cadusch,
a Royalist. They called Governor Blanchelande to the
bar of the House, and made him swear that he would
not carry into effect the law giving equal rights to
the freedmen. As Cap Haitien had become in reality
the capital of the colony, both the Governor and the
Assembly soon removed there.
The Royalist party, headed by the Governor, found
their influence gradually declining, and, to strengthen
their hands against both the Colonial Assembly with
its traitorous projects and the violence of the lower
part of the white population, are accused of having first
thought of enlisting the blacks to further their schemes
and to strengthen their party. It is said that they
38 HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
proposed to Toussaint, a slave on the Breda estates, to
raise the negroes in revolt in the name of the King.
This account I believe to be a pure invention of the
coloured historians, and the conduct of the blacks
clearly proved that they were not moved by French
officers. Whoever was the instigator, it is certain that
the negroes in the northern province rose in insurrec-
tion, put to death every white that fell into their
hands, began to burn the factories, and then rushed en
masse to pillage the town of Cap Haitien. Here, how-
ever, their numbers availed them little against the
arms and discipline of the French troops, and they
were driven back with great slaughter, and many then
retired to the mountains. It would naturally be sus-
pected that the coloured people were the instigators of
this movement, were it not certain that they were as
much opposed to the freedom of the blacks as the
most impassioned white planter.
The insurgent slaves called themselves Les Gens du
Roi," declaring that he was their friend, and was per-
secuted for their sake; they hoisted the white flag, and
placed an ignorant negro, Jean Frangois, at their head.
The second in command was a Papaloi or priest of the
Vaudoux, named Biassou. He encouraged his followers
to carry on the rites of their African religion, and when
under its wildest influence, he dashed his bands to the
attack of their civilised enemies, to meet their death
in Hayti, but to rise again free in their beloved
Africa. The ferocity of the negro nature had now full
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
swing, and the whites who fell into their hands felt
its effects. Prisoners were placed between planks and
sawn in two, or were skinned alive and slowly roasted,
the girls violated and then murdered. Unhappily some
of these blacks had seen their companions thus tor-
tured, though probably in very exceptional cases. De-
scriptions of these horrors fill pages in every Haytian
history, but it is needless to dwell on them. On either
side there was but little mercy.
The Governor at length collected 3000 white troops,
who, after various skirmishes, dispersed these bands
with much slaughter; but as this success was not fol-
lowed up, Jean Francois and Biassou soon rallied their
In the meantime the coloured men at Mirebalais,
under the leadership of Pinchinat, began to arouse their
brethren; and having freed nine hundred slaves, com-
menced forming the nucleus of an army, that, under
the leadership of a very intelligent mulatto named
Bauvais, gained some successes over the undisciplined
forces in Port-au-Prince, commanded by an Italian
adventurer, Praloto. The Royalists, who had been
driven from the city by the mob, had assembled at "La
Croix des Bouquets in the plains, and to strengthen
their party entered into an alliance with the freedmen.
This alarmed the inhabitants of Port-au-Prince, and
they also recognized the existence of Pinchinat and his
party by entering into a regular treaty with them.
The Haytians, as I may call the coloured races, began
40 HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
now to understand that their position must depend on
their own courage and conduct.
When everything had been settled between the chiefs
of the two parties, the Haytians returned to Port-au-
Prince, and were received with every demonstration of
joy; they then agreed to a plan which showed how
little they cared for the liberty of others, so that they
themselves obtained their rights. Among those who
had fought valiantly at their side were the freed slaves
previously referred to. For fear these men should
incite ideas of liberty among those blacks who were
still working on the estates, the coloured officers con-
sented that they should be deported from the country.
In the end they were placed as prisoners on board a
pontoon in Mole St. Nicolas, and at night were for
the most part butchered by unknown assassins. And
lauvais and Pinchinat, the leaders and the most
intelligent of the freedmen, were those that agreed to
this deportation of their brethren-in-arms who had the
misfortune to be lately slaves! I doubt if the blacks
ever forgot this incident.
The coloured men gained little by this breach of
faith, as shortly after news arrived that the French
Assembly had reversed the decree of May 15, which
gave equal rights to the freedmen ; and then dissensions
broke out, and the coloured nmen were again driven from
Port-au-Prince with heavy loss. This Was the signal for
disorders throughout the whole country, and the whites
and the freedmeii were skirmishing in every district.
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
Praloto and the rabble reigned supreme in Port-au-
Prince, and soon made the rich merchants and shop-
keepers feel the effects of their internal divisions. They
set fire to the town, and during the confusion plundered
the stores, and exercised their private vengeance on
The whole country was in the greatest disorder when
the three commissioners sent by the French Govern-
ment arrived in Hayti. The Colonial Assembly was
still sitting at Cap Haitien, and the insurgent negroes
were encamped at no great distance. They immediately
endeavoured to enter into negotiations with them, which
had little result, on account of the obstinacy of the
planters. The three commissioners were Mirbeck, St.
Leger, and Roume. Finding that their influence Was
as nought, the former two returned to France, whilst
Roume went ultimately to Santo Domingo.
The state of the colony may be imagined when it is
remembered that the whites were divided into three
distinct sections. The coloured men, jealous of each
other, did not combine, but were ready to come to blows
on the least pretext; while the blacks, under Jean
Franqois, were massacring every white that fell into their
hands, and selling to the Spaniard every negro or
coloured man accused of siding with the French. The
planters wanted independence or subjection to England;
the poorer whites anything which would give thetii the
property of others; the coloured were still faithful to
France; whilst the blacks cared only to be free from
42 HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
work; yet among them was Toussaint, who already had
fermenting in his brain the project of a free black
It would interest few to enter into the details of this
history of horrors, where it is difficult to feel sympathy
for any party. They were alike steeped in blood, and
ready to commit any crime to further their ends.
Murder, torture, violation, pillage, bad faith, and treach-
ery meet you on all sides; and although a few names
arise occasionally in whom you feel a momentary inte-
rest, they are sure soon to disgust you by their utter
incapacity or besotted personal ambition.
The National Assembly in Paris, finding that their
first commissioners had accomplished nothing, sent three
others, two of whom, Sonthonax and Polvdrel, are well
known in Haytian history. They had full powers, and
even secret instructions, to do all they could to give
freedom to the slaves.
These two commissioners were of the very worst
kind of revolutionists, talked of little but guillotining
the aristocrats, and were in every way unsuited to
their task; they dissolved the Colonial Assembly, and
substituted for it a commission, consisting of six whites
of the stamp suited to them, and six freedmen. They
decided to crush the respectable classes, whom they
called Royalists, because they would not join in re-
volutionary excesses, and the massacre commenced at
Polvdrel appears to have had some idea of the
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
responsibility of his position, though both cruel and
faithless; but Sonthonax was but a blatant babbler, with
some talent, but overwhelmed by vanity. He caused
more bloodshed than any other man, first setting the
lower white against the rich, then the mulatto against
the white, and then the black against both. Well
might the French orator declare on Sonthonax's return
to France that il puait de sang." The third commis-
sioner, Aillaud, thinking, very justly, that his companions
were a couple of scoundrels whom he could not control,
embarked secretly and left for home. Whilst these
commissioners were employed in destroying the fairest
colony in the world, France, in a moment of excited fury,
declared war against the rest of Europe, and a new era
opened for Hayti.
Many of the more influential and respectable inha-
bitants of all colours, utterly disgusted by the conduct
of the different parties, thought that the war between
England and France would give them some chance of
rest from the excesses of the insurgent blacks; and
the factious freedmen, supported by that fou furieu,
Sonthonax, sent to Jamaica to invite the Governor to
interfere and take possession of the colony.
England did interfere, but in her usual way, with
small expeditions, and thus frittered away her strength;
but the resistance made was in general so contemptible,
that with little effort we succeeded in taking Jdrdmie
in the south, and then St. Marc, and subsequently Port-
au-Prince. Had we sent a large army, it is equally
44 HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE*
possible that we should not have succeeded, as the
intention was to reimpose slavery. As the garrison of
Jamaica could only furnish detachments, the British
authorities began to enlist all who wished to serve irre-
spective of colour, and being supported by those who
were weary of anarchy and revolutionary fury, were soon
able to present a very respectable force in the field.
The Spaniards, aided by the bands of revolted negroes,
overran most of the northern province; in this they
were greatly aided by Toussaint L'Ouverture, who now
began to come to the front. Sonthonax, whose idea of
energy was simply to massacre and destroy, ordered
that every place his partisans were forced to evacuate
should be burnt. At the same time he thought that a
little terror might be of service, so he erected a giOllotine
in Port-au-Prince; and having at hand a Frenchman
accused of being a Royalist, he thought he would try
the experiment on him. An immense crowd of Haytians
assembled to witness the execution; but when they saw
the bright blade descend and the head roll at their
feet, they were horror-stricken, and rushing on the
guillotine, tore it to pieces, and no other has ever
again been erected in Hayti.
Curious people! they who never hesitated to destroy
the whites, guilty or innocent, or massacre, simply
because they were white, women and children, down
to the very babe at the breast, who invented every
species of torture to render death more hideous, were
horrified because a man's head was chopped off, instead
.lRSTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
of his being destroyed in a fashion to which they were
accustomed, and this at a time when white, coloured,
and black were vying with each other in arts of blood-
The whole country was in terrible confusion; the
French had not one man who had the talent or influ-
ence to dominate their divided factions; the coloured
were represented by such respectabilities as Pinchinat,
Bauvais, and Rigaud, but without one of incontestable
superiority; the blacks were as yet led by such men
as Jean Francois and i ssou, who must even make
the respectable negroes blush to acknowledge that they
were of the same race; yet, as I have said, there was
one man coming to the front who was to dominate all.
Amid the many heroes whose actions the Haytians
love to commemorate, TQussaint L'Ouverture does not
hold a high rank. And yet the conduct of this black
was so remarkable as almost to confound those who
declare the negro an inferior creature incapable of
rising to genius. History, wearied with dwelling on
the petty passions of the other founders of Haytian
independence, may well turn to the one grand figure
of this cruel war. Toussaint was born on the Breda
estate in the northern department, and was a slave
from birth; it has been doubted whether he was of
pure negro race. His grandfather was an African
prince, but if we may judge from the portraits, he was
not of the pure negro type. Whether pure negro or
not, there is no doubt of the intelligence and energy
46 HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
of the man. Though but a puny child, by constant
exercise and a vigorous will he became as wiry and
active as any of his companions, and, moreover, gave
up much of his leisure time to study. He learnt to
read French, and, it is said, in order to understand the
Prayer-Book, a little Latin; but he never quite mastered
the art of writing. He was evidently trusted and
kindly treated by his master's agent, who gave him
charge of the sugar-mills. There is an accusation con-
stantly brought against Toussaint, that of being a
religious hypocrite, but his early life shows that it is
unfounded. Whilst still a slave, his principles would
not allow him to follow the custom of his companions
and live in concubinage; he determined to marry,
though the woman he chose had already an illegitimate
son named Placide, whom he adopted. It is pleasing to
read of the happy domestic life of Toussaint, and it
is another proof of that affectionate disposition which
made those who served him devoted to him.
When the insurrection broke out in the northern
province, Toussaint remained faithful to his master, and
prevented any destruction on the estate; but finding
ultimately that he could not stem the tide, he sent his
master's family for safety into Cap Hartien, and joined
the insurgents. He was at first appointed surgeon to
the army, as among his other accomplishments was a
knowledge of simple, which had given him great in-
fluence on the estate, and was now to do so in the
insurgent forces. He liked this employment, as it
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
kept him free from the savage excesses of his com-
panions, who were acting with more than ordinary
The three leaders of the insurgents were then Jean
Franqois, a negro, about whom opinions differ. St.
Remy says he was intellectual, though the general idea is
more probable, that he was an energetic'savage. Biassou
was sensual and violent, as cruel as man could be, and
an avowed leader of the Vaudoux sect, and apparently
a Papaloi; but the vilest of the three was Jeannot.
He loved to torture his white prisoners, and drank their
blood mixed with rum; but he was as cowardly as he
was cruel, and the scene at his execution, when he
clung to the priest in frantic terror, must have afforded
satisfaction to the friends of those whom he had piti-
lessly murdered. Jeannot was also a great proficient
in Vaudoux practices, and thus gained much influence
with the ignorant slaves; it was this influence, not
his cruelties, which roused the anger of Jean Frangois,
who seized and summarily shot him.
It is curious to read of the projects of these negro
leaders. They had no idea of demanding liberty for
the slaves; they only wanted liberty for themselves.
In some abortive negotiations with the French, Jean
Franqois demanded that 300 of the leaders should be
declared free, whilst Toussaint would only have bar-
gained for fifty. The mulatto leaders, however, were
most anxious to preserve their own slaves, and, as I
have related, gave up to death those blacks who had
48 HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
aided them in supporting their position; and a French
writer records that up to Le Clere's expedition, the
mulattoes had fought against the blacks with all the
zeal that the interests of property could inspire.
The blind infatuation of the planters prevented their
accepting Jean Franqois' proposition; they even re-
jected it with insult, and savagely persecuted the
negroes who were living in Cap Haitien. Biasson then
ordered all his white prisoners to be put to death; but
Toussaint, by his eloquent remonstrances, saved them.
Other negotiations having failed, Biassou attacked the
French lines, and carried them as far as the ramparts
of the town. The planters had brave words, but not
brave deeds, with which to meet their revolted bonds-
men. All the black prisoners taken by the insurgents
were sent over the frontiers and sold as slaves to the
Spaniards. Toussaint remonstrated against this vile
traffic, but never shared in it. The new Governor,
Laveaux, at this time nearly stifled the insurrection,
dispersing all the insurgent forces; but, as usual, not
following up his successes, allowed the negroes again
to concentrate. No strength of position as yet enabled
the blacks successfully to resist the white troops.
When the negro chiefs heard of the death of Louis
XVI., they thought they had lost a friend, and openly
joined the Spaniards in their war on the French
At this time Sonthonax and Polvdrel acted as if
they intended to betray their own country, by remov-
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
ing the chief white officers from command and en-
trusting these important posts to mulattoes. It was
not, however, treachery, but jealousy, as such a man
as General Galbaud could not be made a docile instru-
ment in their hands. Then finding that power was
slipping from them, they proclaimed (1793) the liberty
of all those slaves who would fight for the Republic.
In the meantime Toussaint was steadily gaining
influence among his troops, and gradually freeing him-
self from the control of Biassou, whose proceedings
had always shocked him; and some successful expedi-
tions, as the taking of Dondon, added to his prestige.
Whilst fighting was going on throughout the northern
provinces, Sonthonax and Polv6rel were solemnising
pompous fites to celebrate the anniversary of the
taking of the Bastile. It is singular what a passion
they had for these childish amusements.
Rigaud, a mulatto, in future days the rival of
Toussaint, now appears prominently upon the scene,
being appointed by the commissioners as chief of the
Toussaint continued his successes, and finding that
nothing could be done with the estates without the
whites, appeared anxious to induce them to return
to superintend their cultivation, and he succeeded in
inducing many hundreds to reside in their devastated
Alarmed by the continued successes of Toussaint,
Sonthonax proclaimed in August 29, 1793, the liberty
50 HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
of all, which, under the circumstances, may be con-
sidered the only wise act of his administration.
The people of the north-west, however, were weary
of the tyranny of the commissioners, and, being pro-
bably privately informed of Toussaint's intentions, sur-
rendered Gonaives to him, and the rest of the neigh-
bouring districts followed. A new enemy, however, now
appeared in the shape of the English, who took posses-
sion of St. Marc with seventy-five men,-so like our
system! In June 1794 Port-au-Prince surrendered to
the English after a faint resistance, the commissioners
retiring to Jacmel, from whence they embarked for
France, to answer for their conduct. At that time
Port-au-Prince was in a fair state for defence; but
Captain Daniel of the 4Ist took the famous fort of
Bizoton by storm with sixty men, and then the
English advanced on the town. The effect of having
replaced the French officers by untrained mulattoes
was here apparent: though everything had been pre-
pared to blow up the forts, nothing was done; the garri-
son fled, leaving 131 cannon, twenty-two laden vessels,
with 7ooo tons more in ballast, and all their stores and
At this time Jean Franqois became suspicious of
Toussaint and arrested him, but he was delivered by
Biassou. Toussaint had for some time been meditating
a bold stroke. The proclamation by Sonthonax of the
freedom of the blacks probably worked on him, and he
determined to abandon the party of the king of Spain,
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
which was that of slavery, and join the French Re-
public. He did so, proclaiming at the same time the
freedom of the slaves. His soldiers sullied the change
by massacring two hundred white planters, who, con-
fiding in the word of Toussaint, had returned to their
The new General of the republic now acted with
energy against Jean Frangois, drove him from the
plains, and forced him to take refuge with his followers
in the Black Mountains. Success followed success,
until Toussaint found himself opposite St. Marc; but
his attack on that town was easily repulsed by its garri-
son in English pay. His activity was incessant, and he
kept up constant skirmishes with all his enemies. He
appeared ever unwearied, whatever might be the fatigue
of his companions.
Toussaint had naturally observed, that however his
men might succeed against the undisciplined hordes of
Jean Francois, they could do nothing against a discip-
lined force. He therefore, in 1795, formed four regi-
ments of 2000 men each, whom he had daily drilled by
French soldiers, his former prisoners; and, I may notice
here, with such success, that English officers were sub-
sequently surprised at their proficiency.
Rigaud had, in the meantime, with his usual jactancy,
marched on Port-au-Prince to expel the English, but
was repulsed. Toussaint assembled all his army for
another attack on St. Marc, and for three days, from
the 25th to 27th July 1795, tried by repeated assaults
52 HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
to capture the town; but English discipline prevailed,
and the small garrison foiled every attempt.
It is noticed by St. Remy that Toussaint, when once
he gave his word, never broke it, which was a new
experience among these unprincipled leaders; and it is
added, that he never had any prejudice of colour.
An important event for the French in 1795 was the
peace made between France and Spain, by which Santo
Domingo was ceded to the former.
The year 1796 was ushered in by various English
expeditions and skirmishes, and their failure to take
Leog&ne. Some of the Haytian accounts are amusing.
Petion defended the fort of ga-ira against the whole
English fleet until the fortifications were demolished.
Fifteen thousand English bullets were showered into
the place, and yet only seven Haytians were killed. It
looks as if the garrison had quietly retired and left us
to batter away at the earthworks.
One is often surprised, in reading Haytian accounts
of the war, at the defeats of the English, which make
one wonder what could have become of the proverbial
courage and steadiness of our men; but a little closer
inquiry shows that in most of these instances there
were few or no English present, only black and coloured
men in our pay, or planters who had taken our side in
the war, none of whom were more than half-hearted in
The French were also weakened by internal dissen-
sions. General Vilatte, a mulatto, incited a revolt in
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
the town of Cap Haitien, arrested the French governor,
Laveaux, and threw him into prison. The latter called
on Toussaint to aid him, and the black general had the
supreme satisfaction of marching into the town and
freeing the white governor. With what curious sensa-
tions must Toussaint have performed this act of autho-
rity in a place that had only known him as a slave!
Laveaux received him with enthusiasm, and promoted
him from the grade of General of Brigade, in which the
French Government had confirmed him, to be Lieuten-
ant-General of the Government, April I, 1796. This
successful movement confirmed the ascendancy of the
blacks in the north, and Vilatte had shortly to sail for
France, from whence he returned with the expedition
sent to enslave his countrymen.
Sonthonax and a new commission now arrived at
Cap Haitien, to find Rigaud almost independent in
the south, and Toussaint master in the north. Both
Laveaux and Sonthonax are accused of endeavouring to
set the blacks against the mulattoes. Laveaux having
returned to France as deputy for the colony, Son-
thonax remained at the head of affairs, and one
of his first acts was to name Toussaint General of
Toussaint was in the meantime organising his army
and working hard at its drill; he then started to the
attack of Mirebalais, a port occupied by a French
planter in our service, the Count de Bruges, who
appears to have retired, with numerous forces, without
54 HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
much resistance. He probably could scarcely trust his
raw levies. Sonthonax was so pleased with this im-
portant success that he named Toussaint Commander-
in-Chief of the army in Santo Domingo, which step
displeased Rigaud, who was thus placed under the
orders of a black general.
Toussaint appears to have felt a justifiable distrust of
Sonthonax. He saw that he desired to set black against
coloured, that he was even talking of the independence
of the island, perhaps only to test Toussaint's fidelity;
but he had no difficulty in assuring himself that wher-
ever Sonthonax was, mischief was sure to be brewing.
He therefore had him elected deputy, and sent him to
follow Laveaux. Sonthonax did not like this step, and
made some show of opposition, but Toussaint informed
him that if he did not embark immediately he would
fall on Cap Haitien with 20,ooo men. This irresistible
argument made Sonthonax give way. As he went down
to the boat that was to take him on board, the streets
were lined by crowds of all colours; but not one said,
" God bless him," as he had betrayed every party in turn;
and his one wise act of proclaiming the liberty of the
slaves was simply a political expedient, wrung from
him by the circumstances of the hour. He was a
boasting, bad man, whose history is written in the blood
of thousands of every colour.
The Directory, alarmed at the growing influence of
Toussaint, sent out General Hddouville as pacificator of
the island, and, to produce harmony, gave him power to
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
defeat Rigaud. On his arrival at Cap Haitien he sum-
moned the rivals to confer with him, and Rigaud and
Toussaint, meeting at Gonaives, went together to the
capital. Hddouville, jealous of the power of the latter,
gave all his attention to the former, whilst the newly-
arrived French officers laughed at the negro and his
surroundings. Toussaint, suspecting a plot to arrest
him and send him off to France, and probably very
jealous of the superior treatment of his rival, withdrew
from the city and returned to his army.
The English had now become convinced that it was
useless to attempt to conquer the island; their losses
from sickness were enormous, and the influence of the
planters was of no avail Their black and coloured
mercenaries were faithless, and ready to betray them,
as at St. Marc, where the English governor had to shoot
a number of traitorous mulattoes who would have
betrayed the town into the hands of the blacks. They
therefore determined to treat with Toussaint, and eva-
cuated St. Marc, Port-au-Prince, and L'Arcahaye. He
thus gained at one stroke what no amount of force
could have procured for him.
Toussaint, with a greatness of mind which was really
remarkable, agreed to allow those French colonists who
had sided with us to remain, and promised to respect
their properties; and as it was known that this
magnanimous black ever kept his word, no important
exodus followed oir retreat. Admiral Maitland had
arranged for the surrender of the mole with General
56 HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
Hddouville, but on finding his hostility to the French
planters, whom he insisted on Toussaint expelling the
country, our naval chief made a new settlement with
the black general and handed the mole over to him.
Maitland invited Toussaint to visit him, and reviewed
before him the English army collected from the rest
of the country. He was exceedingly pleased by the
treatment he received from our people, and ever after
showed a kindly feeling towards them.
One can scarcely understand why the English gave
up the mole, which a small garrison could have de-
fended, and the importance of the position in naval
warfare is indisputable. If we wanted to gain Tous-
saint and induce him to declare the island independent,
we should have held it until that desirable event had
Toussaint treated the old colonists with distinction,
and left many of them in the commands they had
held under the English. HWdouville protested against
this good treatment of his own countrymen, and
annoyed Toussaint so much that he began to consider
whether it would not be prudent to send Hddouville to
Hddouville was not the only one who objected to
Our unsuccessful attempt to conquer Hayti does not merit to be
recorded in detail, but it is humiliating to read of the stupidity of
our chiefs at Port-au-Prince, who made our soldiers work at fortifica-
tions during the day and do duty at night. No wonder that we find
a regiment 6oo strong losing 400 in two months, and the 82d
landing 950 men, to be reduced in six weeks to 350.
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
the good treatment of the planters; his opinion was
shared by the black general, Moise, then commanding
in the northern department. To show his displeasure
at Toussaint's humanity, he caused some white colo-
nists to be murdered in the plains near Cap Haitien.
Hddouville, frightened by the practical result of his
teaching, summoned Toussaint to his aid; but doubtful
of his general, he escaped on board a vessel in harbour.
In order to do all the mischief he could before leav-
ing, he wrote to Rigaud, saying he was no longer to
obey Toussaint, but consider himself the governor of
the southern department, adding that Toussaint was
sold to the English and the imigr&.
It was Hddouville who thus laid the foundation of
that civil war which degenerated into a struggle of
caste. The agents sent by France proved each worse
than the other. Rigaud, with the true spirit of a
mulatto, also wrote to Toussaint to drive out the white
planters. When his teaching had incited his soldiers to
murder his white countrymen, all Rigaud could say
was, "Mon Dieu, qu'est que le people en fureur ?"
On the departure of Hddouville, Toussaint invited
Roume to leave Santo Domingo and come and reside
at Port-au-Prince, where they met in January 1799.
Roume appears to have had a profound admiration for
Toussaint. We find him writing to General Kerverseau
as early as February 1795, and describing the negro
chief as a philosopher, a legislator, a general, and a
58 HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
Roume had a difficult part to play. He was most
anxious to bring about concord among the different
generals, and therefore invited Rigaud and Bauvais to
meet Toussaint on the fite of the 4th of February to
commemorate the memorable day when the National
Convention proclaimed full liberty to the slaves. A
little outward concord was obtained, but soon after,
Toussaint, suspecting a plot, arrested some mulattoes.
A slight disturbance among the negroes taking place
at Corail, thirty were captured and died in prison,
from the effect of the gas created by white-washing
the prison." This remarkable excuse did not satisfy
Toussaint, who believed the men to have been assassi-
nated by Rigaud's officers.
Toussaint and Roume had in the meantime left for
Cap Haitien, where they appear to have negotiated a com-
mercial treaty with the Americans, and some arrange-
ment was also, it is said, made with Admiral Maitland.
It was during this year that Captain Rainsford
visited Cap Haitien. As we were at war with France,
our officer passed as an American, and soon after
landing was met by Toussaint in the street, who came
up to him to ask the news. He next saw him at a
restaurant where all classes dined, and he sat down at
a long table with a drummer-boy next him and the
general not far off. The latter used to say that except
on service he did not see the necessity of making dis-
tinctions. In the evening Captain Rainsford played
billiards with Toussaint at the public tables.
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
Rainsford appears to have been as much struck
with Toussaint as Roume. He says he was constrained
to admire him as a man, a governor, and a general.
He describes him as a perfect black, then about
fifty-five years of age, of a venerable appearance, and
possessed of uncommon discernment and great suavity
of manners. He enters fully into a description of his
dress. The general wore as a uniform a kind of blue
spencer, with a large red cape falling over his shoulders,
and red cuffs, with eight rows of lace on the arms, and
a pair of huge gold epaulettes, a scarlet waistcoat,
pantaloons and half-boots, a round hat with red feather
and national cockade, and an extremely large sword
was suspended from his side. Rainsford adds: "He
receives a voluntary respect from every description of
his countrymen, which is more than returned by the
affability of his behaviour and the goodness of his
heart." The vessel in which Rainsford was a passenger
was next driven by stress of weather into Fort Libert6.
Arrested as a spy, he was condemned to death; but
Toussaint would not permit the sentence to be carried
out. He dismissed him with a caution not to return
There is much exaggeration in the account given by
Rainsford of what he saw and heard at Cap Haitien.
He talks of 62,ooo inhabitants leaving the city after
the great fire, and of Toussaint reviewing his army of
6o,ooo men and 2000 officers. He was a better judge
probably of their manoeuvres. He says that the soldiers
60 HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
went through their exercises with a degree of expert-
ness he had seldom before witnessed. At the signal of
a whistle, a whole brigade ran three or four hundred
yards, and then separating, threw themselves on the
ground, keeping up a heavy fire from every kind of
position. The complete subordination and discipline
Rigaud having evidently decided to carry out General
H6douville's instructions and defy both Toussaint and
Roume, it became necessary to subdue him. Ten
thousand men were collected at Port-au-Prince, whilst
Rigaud concentrated his army at MiragoAne, and com-
menced the war by seizing Petit Goave, and there,
without the slightest excuse, murdered all the white
inhabitants. It is singular to contrast the conduct of
the two generals: Toussaint, without the slightest pre-
judice of colour, and Rigaud, the mulatto, the son of a
Frenchman, showing "how he hated his father and
despised his mother" by murdering the whites and
refusing to obey a black.
Roume published a proclamation, calling on the
north and west to march against the south to restore
unity of command; but before entering on the campaign,
Toussaint had to return to the north to repress some
movements, and on his journey back almost fell into
two ambuscades, from which he was saved by the fleet-
ness of his horse. Toussaint shot those who were con-
cerned in these conspiracies, whether black or coloured;
but the stories told by St. Remy of his ordering I8o
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
young mulatto children to be drowned at L'Arcahaye,
is so contrary to everything we know of his character,
that we may set this fable down to caste hatred. That
he was severe with his enemies is no doubt true.
Then began the wearisome civil war in the south by
Dessalines driving back Rigaud's army, and by the
siege of Jacmel, which lasted four months. Pdtion
greatly distinguished himself in the defence, and con-
ducted the evacuation. It appears unaccountable that
while the main body of Toussaint's army was thus
engaged, Rigaud remained passive; it can only be
explained by mean jealousy, which was his character-
istic to the last year of his life. But his principal
fault was jactancy, shown by his proclamation, saying,
" Let the enemy appear and I'll slay them," which was
answered by another from Toussaint offering pardon
Toussaint's army in the south was commanded by
Dessalines and Christophe, or, in other words, by two
ferocious blacks, to whom pity was unknown. Dessalines
soon forced the strong position near Miragoine, and
defeated Rigaud and P4tion, driving them before him
towards Les Cayes. Rigaud ordered his officers to burn
and destroy everything in their retreat, which naturally
roused the inhabitants against these measures of defence,
and they became clamorous for peace.
In the meantime the Consular Government at Paris
sent out officers to Hayti, among whom was Colonel
Vincent. Toussaint was confirmed in his position as
62 HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
General-in-Chief, but the war in the south was dis-
approved. Colonel Vincent was enabled to tell him of
all the changes that had taken place in France, but the
black chief could readily see that he was suspected by
the French Government. He, however, sent Vincent
and other officers to Les Cayes to offer peace. It is
amusing to read the account given of Rigaud. He went
to see the French officers, a blunderbuss on his shoulder,
pistols in his belt, a sword on one side and a dagger on
the other. On hearing that his conduct did not meet
with the support of the French Government, he drew
his dagger as if to stab himself, but did not do so: he
preferred making a truce and embarking for France,
together with his principal officers.
Toussaint entered Les Cayes on the Ist August 8oo,
and showed the grandeur of his character by impli-
citly carrying out his original proclamation. He again
proclaimed union and peace, and pardoned all those
who had been led into rebellion against him; and, to
the astonishment of his enemies, he kept his word and
behaved with great magnanimity. Even his worst
opponents were then constrained to allow that, when
once given, he never broke his word.
If Toussaint was clement, Dessalines was the reverse;
and the mulattoes declare that he killed upwards of ten
thousand of their caste, which is probably more of that
colour than the southern province ever contained.
Whilst this campaign was at its height, Roume com-
mitted the indiscretion of trying to raise a revolt in
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
Jamaica. His agents were taken and hung; and as a
punishment the English captured one of Toussaint's
convoys destined for Jacmel. The General, very angry
with Roume, sent for him; he refused to come, upon
which Toussaint went to Cap Haitien, and after re-
proaching him, insisted on his giving him an order to
invade the eastern end of the island. He refused at
first, but ultimately yielded to the menaces of General
When the southern campaign was over, Toussaint
began to prepare for the occupation of Santo Domingo,
but finding that Roume was inclined to withdraw his
permission, he arrested him and sent him back to
France. Toussaint's prestige was now so great in the
island, that little resistance was made, and he occupied
the city of Santo Domingo almost without a shot being
fired, and established his brother Paul as governor.
The whole of the island being now under one chief,
Toussaint decided to put into execution a constitution
which he had already promulgated. It was certainly
a model of liberality. It placed all colours equal before
the law; employment might be held by black, white,
or coloured; as much freedom of trade as possible; a
governor to be named for five years, but on account of
the eminent services of Toussaint, he was to occupy
that post for life, with power to name his successor.
He sent this constitution to Buonaparte for approval;
but evidently it was too much or too little. Had he
boldly proclaimed the independence of the island,
64 HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
he might have saved the country from great misfor-
Peace being now re-established over all the island,
Toussaint began his civil administration. All accounts
are unanimous in declaring that he himself governed
admirably, but the instruments he had to employ
were too often utterly unworthy. He organised the
country into districts, and appointed inspectors to
see that all returned to their work, and decreed that
a fifth of the produce should be given to the
labourers. Dessalines was appointed inspector-in-
chief; and if a man without any sentiment of hu-
manity was required for that post, surely Dessalines
was a good choice, as he was ready to beat to death
any man, woman, or child whom he chose to accuse of
idleness. Toussaint, looking to difficulties ahead, con-
tinued to pay the greatest attention to his army,
organised it with care, and preserved the strictest dis-
cipline. The stick appears to have been as popular in
that day as it is now.
Toussaint was very friendly to the whites, and was
most anxious to encourage them to aid in developing
the country. This excited the jealousy of some of his
generals; among others, of Moise, his nephew, who to
thwart his uncle's projects incited a movement in the
north to massacre the French. Several having fallen
victims, Toussaint hastened to the spot, and finding
that Moise was the real instigator of the murders, sent
him before a court-martial He was sentenced to death,
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
and very properly shot on the 26th November I8oo.
Had Toussaint connived at these crimes, he would
have upset all confidence in his trusted word.
All was now progressing on the island; the govern-
ment was regularly administered, the finances were
getting into order, and agriculture was beginning to
raise its head, when Buonaparte, having secured peace
in Europe, determined to recover the Queen of the
Antilles and restore slavery. The story of this attempt
may be told in a few words. General Leclerc started
with 3o,o00 men to subdue the island, and although
the evident intention of the French Government was
to restore slavery, the principal mulatto officers accom-
panied him, chief among whom were Rigaud, Pdtion,
and Vilatte. It is true the mulattoes had not yet
frankly accepted the full freedom of the blacks.
General Leclerc did all he could to cause an armed
resistance, as a peaceful solution would have given him
no military glory; therefore, instead of sending Tous-
saint his children and the letter he bore from Buona-
parte, he tried to surprise Cap Haitien. But General
Christophe, before retiring with its garrison, set fire to
the town and almost destroyed it; and Toussaint sent
instructions to his other generals to follow this example.
Leclerc, mortified by the result of his first attempt, now
thought of writing to Toussaint, and sent him his two
boys. Toussaint behaved with great nobility of char-
acter, and asked naturally, Why words of peace but
acts of war ?" Finding that he could not circumvent
66 HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
his black opponent, Leclerc published a decree in
February 1802 placing both Toussaint and Christophe
"hors la loi." This was followed by the burning of the
towns of St. Marc and Gonaives, and a retreat of the
black troops towards the interior.
Whenever you see a fortress in Hayti, you are sure
to be told that it was built by the English; among
others thus known was La Crete h Pierrot. The French
general Debelle, treating with contempt these negro
troops, attacked this fort with an inefficient force and
was beaten; then Leclerc made an assault in person,
but he also was beaten, and was forced to lay siege to
it. The attack and defence were conducted with sin-
gular courage, particularly the latter, considering the
quidality of the men, who had never before been mea-
sured with real white troops: however, after having
repulsed several assaults, the garrison evacuated the
forts. PNtion commanded a portion of the French
artillery in this attack on his countrymen struggling
for freedom. If he loved France but little, he hated
Even the enemies of the great black general are
full of admiration of the courage displayed by him
during all this important struggle, and especially dwell
on his devotion to his wounded officers. I may here
remark that the French general Rochambeau distin-
guished himself for his cruelties, and shot every
prisoner that fell into his hands; which fully justified
the retaliation of the Haytians.
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
Discouraged by a series of reverses which followed
the loss of La Cr6te & Pierrot, where it was amply
proved that the negro soldiers, even among their
mountains, were no match for the disciplined troops
of France, some of the black generals, as Christophe,
began to make terms with the French; and Toussaint,
finding himself thus abandoned, wrote to Leclerc
offering submission. As it was accepted, he went to
Cap Haitien to meet the commander-in-chief, and was
received and treated with much distinction. He then
returned to the village of Marmalade, and there issued
orders to all his officers to cease opposition and acknow-
ledge the French authorities, and peace was established
throughout the island.
General Leclerc was but temporising with these
black leaders; his secret orders were, not only to
arrest Toussaint, Dessalines, and Christophe, but to
re-establish slavery. He found, however, the last two
so zealous in carrying out his instructions to disarm
the population, that he preserved them in their com-
Toussaint himself, having ever kept his word, could
not believe that the French commander-in-chief would
not keep his, and therefore, in spite of all warnings that
treachery was meditated, stayed quietly on his estate
at Ennery. He there received a letter from General
Brunet, asking for an interview at a certain spot;
Toussaint went, and was immediately arrested under
circumstances of the greatest treachery. He was bound
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
with ropes and embarked on board the French ship
"Creole ;" then put on board the "Hdros" with all his
family and sent to France. When received on board
by Savary, Chef de Division, he said to him, En me
renversant on n'a abattu & Saint Domingue que le
tronc de l'arbre de la liberty des noirs; il repoussera,
parceque les racines en sont profondes et nombreuses."
When reading this account of the capture of Toussaint,
we can scarcely credit that we are recording the acts
of French officers, whose plighted word was thus
On Toussaint's arrival in France he wrote to the
French Chief Consul; but he might as well have
written to Dessalines as expect either mercy or justice
from the despot who then ruled France. He was
separated from his family and hurried off to the
Chateau de Joux in the Alps, where his rival Rigaud
was already confined. Here he died from cold and
neglect, under circumstances which raised the suspi-
cion that the close of this illustrious life was hastened
by unfair means. It is some satisfaction to think that
his executioner died also a prisoner in exile, though
surrounded by every comfort that the generous English
Government could afford him.
We have all heard or read something of Toussaint
L'Ouverture, and been taught to think well of him: I
was therefore the more surprised, on my arrival at Port-
St. Remy, speaking of Toussaint's capture, says, Embarquement
par les Mantc" How like a mulatto not to say "par leas frangais !"
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
au-Prince, to hear his memory so depreciated. I do
not remember any Haytian having voluntarily spoken
of him, though they never wearied of talking of Dessa-
lines, Christophe, and Rigaud. I at first.thought that
Toussaint never having unnecessarily shed white blood,
whilst the others may be said to have rejoiced at the
sight of it, was one of the chief causes; but the real
reason why the historians and biographers of Hayti
would lower Toussaint's memory is the energy with
which he acted against the rebellious mulattoes, and his
firm determination that all colours should be equally
respected by the law, and that all should have equal
It is impossible not to be struck with almost the
unanimous opinion favourable to Toussaint which has
been recorded by all parties, even by his enemies. The
Marquis d'Hermonas says that God in this terrestrial
globe could not commune with a purer spirit;" the
French general Pamphile Lacroix records that "Nul
n'osait l'aborder sans crainte, et nul ne le quittait sans
respect." We have seen the opinion of Roume and
Rainsford, that Toussaint was a philosopher, a legis-
lator, a general, and a good citizen," and that the latter
was compelled to admire him as a man, a governor,
and a general."
He was personally brave, and being a splendid rider,
loving from his earliest childhood to be on horseback,
he never appeared fatigued even after the greatest
exertions. As a general he is thought to have shown
70 HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
much skill; and, what proves his sense, but does not
add to his popularity among Haytians, he did not
believe that his men were fitted to cope with the
trained bands of France. He constantly said that they
must trust to climate and yellow fever as their best
allies. As an administrator he had much capacity,
and his influence being unbounded, he would probably
have restored its old prosperity to Hayti, had not
Leclerc's expedition arrived to throw the whole island
Toussaint's personal qualities appear to have been
equal to his public: his word was sacred, he was
humane on most occasions, yet with a firmness and
decision which astonished his enemies. In his family
relations he showed the most tender affection for wife
and children; his fine nature was apparent on all
occasions in his solicitude for his wounded officers and
soldiers, and the thoughtful care of the prisoners that
fell into his hands. His affectionate treatment of ani-
mals was also greatly noticed, and whenever he came
upon fugitive women and children of any colour, his
first thought was for their comfort.
Our Consul-General Mackenzie (1827) often talked to
the black officers of Toussaint; they described him as
stern and unbending, but just, and intimately acquainted
with the habits of the people and the best interests of
The one mistake of his life appears to have been his
refusal, when urged to do so by England, to declare the
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
independence of Hayti Had he accepted the English
proposals and entered into a treaty with us and with
the Americans, it is not likely that Buonaparte would
have ever attempted an expedition against him, and
the history of Hayti might have been happier.
There is one fact which strikes the reader of the
histories of these times, and that is, the soldiers are
described as veritable sans-culottes, without pay and
without proper uniforms, and yet all the chiefs, as
Toussaint, Dessalines, and Christophe, were living in
splendid houses in the greatest luxury. Toussaint is
recorded to have lent the French Treasury 6oo,ooo
livres, an enormous sum for a slave to possess after a
few years of freedom. Gragnon-Lacoste, who published
a Life of Toussaint L'Ouverture in 1877, founded on
family papers, says that this general had a marble
house in Cap Haitien, elegantly furnished, and that he
kept up the same style in all his plantations. His
descendants in late years claimed about the fourth of
Hayti as the estates of the black general.*
Toussaint was also a fervent Roman Catholic, and
was greatly attached to the priesthood; he did all he
This biography, as well as the others I have seen, is full of absur-
dities; talks of Toussaint advancing with an imposing army, which
turns out to be of 950 men. At the battle of Verretes 1500 blacks
drive 35oo English troops from their intrenchments, and then 6ooo
English are defeated and cut to pieces by a few squadrons. As far as
I can learn, Brisbane had eighty English soldiers and some untrust-
worthy black and coloured allies, mixed with French planters. Even
a moderately sensible Haytian could not accept so absurd a bio-
72 HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE.
could to repress the Vaudoux, and he published a
strong proclamation forbidding all fetish rites.*
The treachery of Leclerc towards Toussaint had its
reward; it could not but excite suspicion among the
black leaders, as the previous deportation of Rigaud
had done among the mulattoes. And now the most
fearful epidemic of yellow fever fell upon the French
army, and almost annihilated it. Forty thousand are
reported to have been lost during the years 1802 and
1803: among the victims were Leclerc and twenty
other French generals. The Haytians saw their oppor-
tunity, and Dessalines, Christophe, and Pdtion aban-
doned the invaders, and roused their countrymen to
expel the weak remnants of the French army. 'War
had now been declared between France and England,
and our fleets were soon off the coasts. The French
were driven from every point, and forced to concentrate
in Cap Haitien. Rochambeau, who had succeeded
Leclerc, did all that man could do to save his army ;
but besieged by the blacks to the number of 30,000ooo,
and blockaded by our fleet, pinched by hunger, and
seeing no hopes of reinforcements, he surrendered to
the English and embarked for Europe.
I am glad to be able to notice that M. Robin (mulatto), in his
"Abr*g6 de l'Histoire d'Haiti," remarks in relating Toussaint's sad
death :-" Ainsi fut recompens6 de ses longs et 6minents services cet
illustre enfant d'Haiti, qui pouvait bien se dire le premier des noirs,"
&c. &c. Dessalines appears to have encouraged Leclerc to arrest
Toussaint, and then dishonourably betrayed Charles Belair (black),
nephew to Toussaint, and his wife into the hands of the French, who
shot Belair and hung his wife.
HISTORY BEFORE INDEPENDENCE. 73
Thus ended one of the most disastrous expeditions
ever undertaken by France, and ended as it deserved
to end. Its history was sullied by every species of
treachery, cruelty, and crime; but we cannot but admire
the splendid bravery of the troops under every dis-
couragement, in a tropical climate, where the heat is so
great that the European is unfitted for continued exer-
tion, but where yellow fever and death follow constant
( 74 )
HISTORY SINCE INDEPENDENCE.
"QUE deviendra notre pays quand il sera livr 6 la
vanity et & l'ignorance," exclaimed Bauvais, one of the
leaders of the mulatto party. I am afraid this sketch
of the history of Hayti since the war of independence
will show what are the results to a country when
governed by vanity and ignorance.
Having driven out the French by deeds of unques-
tioned valour and energy, and with a cruelty which
the infamous conduct of Rochambeau could palliate,
if not justify, the Haytians determined to throw off
all allegiance to France and establish an independent
At Gonaives, on the 1st January 1804, General
Dessalines assembled all his military chiefs around
him and had read to them the Act of Independence,
which terminated with the words, "for ever to renounce
France, and to die rather than live under her dominion."
In a proclamation, Dessalines was careful to declare
that it was not their mission to disturb the tranquillity
of neighboring islands, but in unmistakable language
HISTORY SINCE INDEPENDENCE.
he called upon them to put to death every Frenchman
who remained in the island. This was followed by
a declaration signed by the chief generals choosing
Dessalines as Governor-General of Hayti for life, with
power to name his successor, and to make peace or
war. He was thus invested with arbitrary power, and
proceeded to exercise it.
His first act was the one on which his fame rests,
and which endears his memory to the Haytians. He
in fact decreed that all the French who were convicted
or suspected of having connived at the acts of the
expelled army, with the exception of certain classes, as
priests and doctors, should be massacred; and this
applied not only to those suspected of guilt, but to all
their wives and children. Fearing that some of his
generals, from interest or humanity, might not fully
carry out his decree, he made a tourney through the
different departments, and pitilessly massacred every
French man, woman, or child that fell in his way. One
can imagine the saturnalia of these liberated slaves
enjoying the luxury of shedding the blood of those in
whose presence they had formerly trembled; and this
without danger; for what resistance could those help-
less men, women, and children offer to their savage
executioners? Even now one cannot read unmoved
the records of those days of horror.
Dessalines, like most of those who surrounded him,
was in every way corrupt; he is said to have spared
no man in his anger or woman in his lust. He was
76 HISTORY SINCE INDEPENDENCE.
avaricious, but at the same time he permitted his friends
to share in the public income by every illicit means.
His government was indeed so corrupt, that even the
native historians allow that the administration was
distinguished for plunder, theft, cheating, and smug-
gling." Dessalines, when he appointed an employee,
used to say, "Plumez la poule, mais prenez garde
qu'elle ne crie,"-the rule by which the Government
service is still regulated.
The tyranny exercised by Dessalines and his generals
on all classes made even the former slaves feel that
they had changed for the worse. There were no courts
to mitigate the cruelty of the hard taskmasters, who
on the slightest pretext would order a man or woman
to be beaten to death.
In the month of August I804 news arrived that
Buonaparte had raised himself to the imperial throne;
Dessalines determined not to be behindhand, and im-
mediately had himself crowned Emperor. His gene-
rals were eager that a nobility should be created, but
he answered, "I am the only noble in Hayti." As
the eastern portion of the island was still occupied by
the French, he determined to drive them out; but he
was unable to take the city of Santo Domingo, and
retired again to the west.
In June 1805 he published a constitution, which
was worked out without consulting his generals, and
created discontent among them. A conspiracy was
organised; a rising in the south followed a visit
HISTORY SINCE INDEPENDENCE.
from Dessalines, where he had given full scope to his
brutality, and the insurgents marched forward and
seized Port-au-Prince. When the Emperor heard of
this movement, he hastened to the capital, fell into an
ambuscade, and was shot at Pont Rourge, about half a
mile from the city.
The only good quality that Dessalines possessed was
a sort of brute courage: in all else he was but an
African savage, distinguished even among his country-
men for his superior ferocity and perfidy. He was
incapable as an administrator, and treated the.public
revenue as his own private income. He had concu-
bines in every city, who were entitled to draw on the
treasury to meet their extravagance; in fact, the native
historians are in truth utterly ashamed of the conduct
and civil administration of their national hero.
The death of Dessalines proved the signal of a long
civil war. A National Assembly met at Port-au-Prince,
voted a constitution prepared by General PNtion, by
which the power of the chief of the state was reduced
to a minimum, and then elected Christophe as first
President of the republic. He in some respects was
another Dessalines, and resented this effort to restrain
is authority. He marched on the capital of the west
with twelve thousand men, but after various combats
failed to capture the city; then retired to Cap Haitien,
and there had a constitution voted which proclaimed
him President of Hayti.
The Senate again met in Port-au-Prince in i8o6
78 HISTORY SINCE INDEPENDENCE.
to elect a President, and their choice fell on Pition,
who, of all the influential men in the west and south,
certainly appeared the most deserving. He had scarcely
been installed, when his generals began to conspire
against him, and the war with Christophe absorbed
most of the resources of the country. No event, how-
ever, of any great importance occurred till the year
18 io, when Rigaud, having escaped from France, arrived
in Hayti, and was received with much enthusiasm.
Pdtion apparently shared this feeling for his old chief,
and imprudently gave him the command of the
southern department. Rigaud was too vain to remain
under the authority of Pdtion, his former subordinate,
and therefore separated the south from the west.
The President would not attempt to prevent this by
war, and accepted the situation, so that the island was
divided into five states,-Christophe in the north, the
old Spanish colony in the east, P6tion in the west,
Rigaud in the south, and Goman, a petty African chief,
in the extreme west of the southern department.
Christophe in 1811 proclaimed himself King and
created a nobility. Rigaud died, and soon after the
south rejoined the west, which was menaced by a new
invasion from the north. In 1812 Christophe's army
advanced to besiege Port-au-Prince; but finding their
attacks frustrated, the soldiers, weary of the war, began
to desert to Pdtion, and had not the King hastened to
raise the siege, it is probable his army would have gone
over to the enemy.
HISTORY SINCE INDEPENDENCE.
King Henry I., as he was called, appears then to
have abandoned himself to his savage temper, and his
cruelties might be compared to those of Dessalines,
and prepared the way for that union of the whole
island which followed. Pdtion, though rather an in-
capable ruler, was not cruel, and attached the people to
In 1814, the fall of Napoleon brought about peace
in Europe, and the French Government hastened to
send agents to Hayti to claim submission to the mother
country. Pdtion refused, whilst offering an indemnity
to the colonists; but Christophe, having secured the
secret instructions of the French agent, did not hesi-
tate to execute them. These proceedings of the French
made the rival chiefs forget their own dissensions and
prepare to receive another French expedition. Orders
were given that on its appearance off the coast every
town and village should be burnt down, and that
the inhabitants should retire to the mountains. The
old planters were urging their Government to destroy
all the inhabitants of Hayti and repeople it from Africa;
but a discovery of their projects produced so great an
effect in England, that public opinion forced the Con-
gress of Vienna to declare that the slave-trade was for
In 1816 Pdtion named a commission to revise the
constitution; the principal alterations were to elect a
President for life and to add to the Senate a Chamber
of Deputies. Pdtion, however, did not long enjoy his
80 HISTORY SINCE INDEPENDENCE.
new dignity; he died in 18 I8, at the early age of forty-
eight, it is said of fever, but the opinion is still prevalent
in Hayti that he died of weariness of life, brought on by
the loss of all his illusions and the constant public and
private annoyances to which he was subject. During
his illness he is said to have refused all restoratives,
and even to have rejected food. PWtion, though not a
great man, sincerely loved his country, and devoted his
energies to govern it well; but he was feeble in his
measures, and from love of popularity allowed every
kind of abuse to flourish in the financial administration.
M. Robin, however, says truly that he was the most
popular and humane chief that Hayti ever possessed."
Boyer, through the energetic intervention of the
military, was unanimously chosen by the Senate Pre-
sident of the republic, and commenced his long career
as chief of the state in March 1818. Though he com-
mitted many faults, he appears to have been the most
energetic and honest of the series of Haytian rulers.
His first care was to establish order in the finances ; and
if his only errors were not to have erected a statue to
his predecessor or founded an hospital for beggars, with
which M. Robin appears to reproach him, his friends
may still be permitted to admire him. Fortune, or
rather his energy, everywhere favoured him. In 1819
he put down the long-neglected insurrection of Goman
in the far west, and then prepared to move against
King Henry, whose savage rule had alienated the affec-
tion even of his own guards. Struck down by apoplexy,
HISTORY SINCE INDEPENDENCE.
the chief of the northern department was deserted by
all, and sought refuge from anticipated indignities in
The north almost unanimously determined to rejoin
the rest of the republic, and Boyer marched on Cap
Haitien, to be received there with enthusiasm as the
first President of United Hayti
Christophe was no doubt a very remarkable man,
with indomitable energy, who saw the necessity of
developing his country, but whose despotic nature cared
not for the means, so that the end were attained. In
spite of many admitted atrocities, however, there is
no doubt he acquired a marked ascendancy over the
minds of the people, which even to this day is not
completely lost. Discussions still continue as to the
rival systems of PNtion and Christophe, but if to
secure the greatest happiness to the greatest number
be the object of government, the laisser-aller system of
the former was more suited to Haytian nature than the
severity of the latter. As far as material prosperity
was concerned, there was no comparison between the
two departments, though the productiveness of the
north was founded on the liberal application of the
stick. On many of the large estates, a certain number
of lashes was served out every morning as regularly as
Boyer's fortune continued. In 1822 Santo Domingo
separated from Spain and placed herself under the
command of the President of Hayti, who was welcomed
82 HISTORY SINCE INDEPENDENCE.
in the Dominican capital with every demonstration
In the next important event of his Presidency, Boyer
was not so fortunate. From the year 1814 France had
been continually tormenting the Governments of Hayti
with the claims of her colonists, and negotiations were
carried on by the two parties without much success till
1825, when Baron de Mackau was sent with a fleet to
enforce the acceptance of French terms. Though the
wording of the royal ordinance was mortifying to the
Haytians, and the indemnity demanded (C6,ooo,ooo)
out of the power of that little country to pay, yet
Boyer and the senate thought it better to acquiesce, to
avoid the evils of a blockade which would have fol-
lowed refusal. The indemnity was so enormous, that
although it was subsequently reduced to 3,6oo,ooo, it
has not yet been completely discharged. The terms of
the royal ordinance created great indignation amongst
the people, and the French Government acting evasively
added to the excitement, and a plot was formed to
overthrow Boyer. But he showed his usual energy;
arrested four conspirators and sent them before a court-
martial, which, with thorough Haytian disregard of
justice, allowed no defence, as a pure waste of time,
and condemned them to death. They were shot under
circumstances of even unusual barbarity.
These negotiations with France continued to un-
settle the country until 1838. M. Dupetit Thomars
had come to Port- au- Prince, and being convinced
HISTORY SINCE INDEPENDENCE.
that Hayti was really unable to pay this great indem-
nity, induced his Government to reconsider the matter;
and a fresh mission was sent, consisting of Baron
de Lascases and Captain Baudin. Two treaties were
negotiated--one political, by which France acknow-
ledged the complete independence of the republic; the
second financial, by which the balance to be paid of the
indemnity was reduced to 24oo,ooo~ As thirty years
were allowed for this payment, in annual instalments
on an average of 8o,ooo, no doubt Hayti could have
paid it had the country remained quiet. The acknow-
ledgment of this debt, however, was seized on by the
political enemies of Boyer to undermine his position,
and the cry was raised that he had sold the country to
the whites. The continued necessity of sending French
naval expeditions to enforce the payment of the
arrears of this debt has been injurious to the interests
of all Europeans, has increased the unpopularity of
foreigners, and helped to support the policy of those
who wish to keep the white man out of the country.
Among the people, the popular song
"Blanes frangais viennent demander 1'argent
implies that they have unfairly made use of their naval
power in order to extract money which was not due to
them from a people incapable of effectual resistance.
This wretched debt to France has been the cause of half
the misfortunes of Hayti
The Government of General Boyer had certainly the
84 HISTORY SINCE INDEPENDENCE.
merit of preserving tranquillity, and if ever population
should have increased in Hayti, it was during this tran-
quil epoch, when for above twenty years no blood was
shed in warlike operations, and very little in repressing
conspiracies. In 1825 England formally acknowledged
the republic of Hayti by entering into relations with her,
sending Mr. Mackenzie as Consul-General. His reports
and writings drew considerable attention to the country.
In March 1836 Dr. England negotiated a concordat
by which the Pope was acknowledged head of the
Haytian Church, with the power of confirming the
nomination of bishops. However, this arrangement had
little practical effect, as the clergy remained without
control, and were a scandal to every true Catholic.
I am quite unable to reconcile the reports made of
the state of affairs in Hayti at this time. After a
twenty years' peace, the country is described as in a
state of ruin, without trade or resources of any kind;
with peculation and jobbery paramount in all the public
offices; an army supposed to consist of 45,000 men,
according to the budget; in reality few soldiers, but
many officers, among whom the appropriations were
divided. I feel as if I were reading of more modem
times instead of the halcyon days of Haytian history.
Another of the evils which arose from the indemnity
question was the special position which it gave to
French agents, who, even after the independence of the
republic had been recognized, affected to treat Hayti
as a dependency until all the debt should have been