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The French Revolution in San Domingo
The French Revolution in San Domingo
T. LOTHROP STODDARD
A.M., PH.D. (HABV.)
BOSTON AND NEW YORK HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1914, BY T. LOTHROP STODDARD ALL RIGHTS RKSSRVSD
Published November tqi4
TMK LIBRARY TU UNIVERSITY 0P TEXAS
TO MY MOTHER
The world-wide struggle between the primary races of mankind the "conflict of color/' as it has been happily termed bids fair to be the fundamental problem of the twentieth century, and great communities like the United States of America, the South African Confederation, and Australasia regard the "color question" as perhaps the gravest problem of the future. To our age, therefore, the French Revolution in San Domingo the first great shock between the ideals of white supremacy and race equality, which erased the finest of European colonies from the map of the white world and initiated that most noted attempt at negro self-government, the black republic of Haiti cannot but be of peculiar interest.
Strangely enough, the real story of this tremendous racial and social cataclysm has never been told, and it is to fill this gap in the history of modern times that this book has been written. For, be it noted, in this field, the race question, important though it be, is not the sole noteworthy element. San Domingo in 1789 was the most striking example of French colonial genius, and the struggle of the colony's formative ideals with the new political, economic, and social conceptions of the French Revolution is of great importance to the history of European colonic zation. The attempt to apply the Revolutionary ideals to an environment so radically different from that of France"
yields a most valuable side-light to the study of the French Revolution itself, while the attempt made under the Consulate to restore French authority and economic prosperity to San Domingo is one of the most illuminating episodes in the career of the master-figure of the age Napoleon Bonaparte. The keynote to the history of the French Revolution f in San Domingo is a great tragedy, the tragedy of the \^ annihilation of the white population. The period opens in 1789 with a resident white population of nearly 40,000 souls, at the very pinnacle of material prosperity and possessed of a complex social organization, jealously guarding its supremacy and race identity in face of a large caste of half-breeds whose only bond of interest with their white superiors was a common exploitation of some .half-million negro slaves. The period closes sixteen years later with the complete annihilation of the last remnants of the white population, the subordination of the mulatto caste to the negroes, and the destruction of the island's economic prosperity.
In this grim tragedy the chief figure is that of the black leader Toussaint Louverture. Unfortunately it seems improbable that the mists enveloping his personality will ever be cleared away. Extremely little first-class material exists, and practically everything written about him is of such doubtful value that his figure seems destined to remain forever shrouded in the haze of legend and tradition.
Excluding my five opening chapters of an introductory nature, describing the condition of San Domingo in 1789, the body of the work falls under two main heads.^jThe
first of these is thejiomifalLoL^dute supremacy, brought about by internal dissensions, by the revolt of the mu-lattoes and negroes, and by the vigorous determination of Revolutionary France to destroy the colonial ideals of slavery and the color line. This culminates in the genera^collapse of white authority in the year ^793^ The second main heading of the book is the progress of blacjt supremacy, personified in the career of TousSaintXouver-tureT~After seven years of constant struggle this supremacy becomes absolute; the English invaders are expelled, the mulattoes crushed, the Spanish portion of the island overrun, and French authority reduced to a vain shadow. By the yeai\ lSQOjToussaint Louverture is absolute master of San Domingo. But his power is short-lived. France is now under the First Consul Bonaparte, and the peace with England in 1801 frees his hands for the restoration of San Domingo to France. Under the shock of Leclerc's expedition Toussaint's power collapses, and though the complete conquest of San Domingo is delayed by yellow fever and Napoleon's restoration of slavery, the French triumph is averted only by the renewal of the struggle between France and England in 1803. The English war is, however, fatal to the French cause. Within a year the island is completely lost, and shortly afterward the last French colonists are exterminated by the negro leader Pftggajjnf* White San Domingo has become only a memory, and the Mmrk State of Hftiti makes its appearance in the world's history.
Of the^source-materials for the present work, by far the richest collections are those preserved in the French archives, a full description of which may be found in the
appended bibliography. It is almost certain that no archival material remains in San Domingo itself. Toussaint's papers were captured by the French in 1802, and but few documents can have survived the century of civil strife which sums up Haiti's turbulent history. The printed material on San Domingo is extensive. From the earliest times the island attracted attention, the first writers on San Domingo being learned ecclesiastics. As early as 1783 the Jesuit Charlevoix published a four-volume history of the island, based upon still earlier unpublished writings. After the Seven Years' War (1763), San Domingo was by far the most important French colony, and the lively interest displayed by French thought on political and economic questions resulted in a considerable number of writings concerning the island. This growing literature was soon swelled by the humanitarian antislavery agitation which began to be noticeable after 1770. The outbreak of the French Revolution saw a flood of books, pamphlets, and brochures of every description and shade of opinion upon colonial questions in general and San Domingo in particular, and the intensity of output continues till the year 1793, when it sharply declines owing to the repressive influence of the Terror. The revived interest in colonial affairs under Bonaparte and the prospects of a restoration of white authority in San Domingo called forth a large number of writings from exiled colonists, while Leclerc's expedition resulted in several accounts by officers and civilians. The years following the Bourbon restoration in 1814 saw a series of writings by exiled colonists similar to that following the establishment of the Consulate in 1799, noted above; for France
had not renounced her claims on San Domingo and many persons hoped that the Bourbons would follow Napoleon's example after the Peace of Amiens, now that the general pacification of 1815 had again given the French fleets the freedom of the sea. When this hope was seen to be a vain one, however, interest in San Domingo died away. The few writings on the island during the years preceding the final abolition of slavery in the French colonies in 1848 are of little value. Of late years the subject has been touched upon by modern writers on the Old Regime andi on Napoleon, while some twenty-five years ago an American writer (Mills) wrote a scholarly treatise directly on the first two years of the French Revolution in San Domingo, though he did not utilize any of the unpublished archival material. Critical notices upon all the important books in this field may be found in the appended bibliography.
In closing I desire to express my profound appreciation to all those who have so kindly assisted me in my work; especially, to Professor A. C. Coolidge, of Harvard University, the inspirer of the present volume; to Professors R. M. Johnston and R. B. Merriman, of Harvard University, for their suggestions on certain parts of the book; and to Messrs. Waldo G. Leland and Abel Doysi6, of the Carnegie Bureau for Historical Research, for their assistance in my French archival researches. I desire also to express my appreciation of the privileges extended me by the library of Harvard University, which so greatly facilitated my examination of printed material.
T. Lothbop Stoddard.
Boston, June 80,1914.
I. INTRODUCTION AND EARLY HISTORY ... 1
Approach to San Domingo. Area. Spanish Conquest The Buccaneers. Their Impress on San Domingo.
II. NATURAL FEATURES. POPULATION, AND GOVERNMENT...........6
Contrast of French and Spanish San Domingo. French San Domingo: The North, The West, The South. Population. Climate. Government. Confusion of Powers. Character. The Judiciary. Economic Situation of San Domingo. Trade with France. The "Pacte Coloniale." Its Results.
m. THE WHITES.........10
Complex Structure of the White Population. Europeans and Creoles. Sterility. The Official Caste. The Nobility. The Clergy. Irreligion. The Middle Class. The "Petits Blancs." The Creoles. Wealth and Luxury. Consequences. Town Life. Country Life. The "Legend" of San Domingo.
IV. THE MULATTOES AND THE COLOR LINE 37
The "Free People of Color." Mulattoes and Free Negroes. Concubinage. Increase of Mulattoes. The Color Line. Its Necessity. The "Law of Reversion." Abhorrence of Miscegenation. Punishment of Renegades. Indelibility of Color. Status of the Mulattoes. The Mulatto Character.
V. THE SLAVES.........50
Slavery. The Slave Population. Its Sterility. Slave Imports. The Slave Trade. Preponderance of Foreign-Born Negroes. Variety of Types. The African Negro. The Creole Negro. General Character. Religion. Condition. Work. Discipline. Legal Status. Actual Status. "Marronage." The Maroon Negroes. Negro Revolts. Macandal.
VI. THE EVE OF THE REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO 68
States-General. Discontent in San Domingo. The Idea of Colonial Representation. Beginning of the Movement. In
France, in San Domingo. Propaganda in France. The Authorities in San Domingo. Colonial Opposition to Representation. Fear of the States-General, and of the Anti-Slavery Movement in France. Election of Deputies to the States-General. The Government Falls into Impotence. Colonial Propaganda in the French Elections. The "Club Massiac." The Struggle in the States-General. Fatal Results of Colonial Representation. Possibility that San Domingo might have Escaped the Revolution.
Vn. FIRST STAGE OF THE COLONIAL STRUGGLE IN
Rapid Progress of the Revolution. Alarm of the Colonists. Flan of a Colonial Assembly. The Mulatto Agitation in France. The Colonial Committee. Its Report, and Qfis cr^of-4tfs*eb-r-1290. The "Instructions" of March 88. "Article 4." -----
Vm. THE FIRST TROUBLES IN SAN DOMINGO. 90 Latent Unrest at San Domingo. Effect of the "14th of July." The Poor Whites enter Politics. Flight of Barbe-Marbois. The Provincial Assemblies, they call a Colonial Assembly. Mulatto Unrest. Negro Unrest. White Reprisals. Results. The Mulatto Rising of March, 1700. Effects. Possibility of a Government-Planter-Mulatto^Oiance, which is not Realized.
IX. THE ASSEMBLY OF SAINT-MARC .100
Character of the Colonial Assembly. It draws up a Constitution. Its Nature. Tension between Government and Assembly. Peynjer's Referendum. Beginning of Hostilities. The Chevalier Majiduit. The "Pompons Blancs." The Mutiny of the Leopard/ Mauduit's coup
Relative Security of the Colonial System till 1700. Attitude of French Conservatives, and of the Colonists. Its Effect
(CONTENTS xv on the National Assembly. The Tide Changes with 1791. Report of the Grand Committee. The Great Debate on the I Colonies. The Rewbell Amendment. It becomes the Decree of j M^y T^r Hft1 Its Results. Its Arrival in San Domingo, its | Reception. The new Colonial Assembly.
XI. THE NEGRO INSURRECTION IN THE NORTH 128 Its Outbreak. Premonitory Symptoms since 1789. White Disregard. First Negro Successes. Causes of White Inactiv-I ity: Mental Shock, Disaffection within Le Cap. Bravery of the Country Whites. Terrible Nature of the Struggle. Negro i Leaders and Tactics. Primary Cause of the Insurrection. Contributory Responsibility of the French Radicals, of the J Royalists, of the Colonists. I
I XII. THE MULATTO INSURRECTION IN THE WEST. 142 ; The Mulattoes resolve to Strike. The Royalists of the West.
The Alliance of Royalists and Mulattoes. The Confederation of La-Croix-dea-Bouqueta. The Concordat ofSeptember. Its reaTSlgnlficance. Henewal of the Troubles. Arrival of the Decree of September 24, 1791. Its Effects. The Burning of Port-au-Prince Race War in the West, and South.
Xm. THE FIRST CIVIL COMMISSIONERS .158 Character of the Commission, and of the Commissioners. Their Arrival at San Domingo. Their Negotiations with the Negro Rebels. Their Failure. Its Results. Breach between Commissioners and Assembly. The Commissioners and the West. Saint-Leger in the West. He returns to France. Crisis at Le Cap. The March Riots. Mirbeck sails for France. Roume remains, to combat a Royalist Reaction.
XIV. THE LAW OF APRIL 4, 1792 .166 Jacobin Hostility to the Decree of the 24th September. Jacobin Power in the Legislatif." Appeals from San Domingo. The Jacobins prevent the Sending of Aid. Effect on San Domingo. The Jacobin Assault on the Colonial System. The Report of January 10,1792. The Approach of Jacobin Victory. The Law of April 4, 1792. Effect on San Domingo. The "Council of Peace and Union." Policy of Roume. His Journey to the West Blanchelande in the South.
XV. THE SECOND CIVIL COMMISSIONERS .181
Coercive Nature of the Law of the 4th of April. The Second Civil Commission, and Commissioners, Polverel, Ail-haud, Sonthonax. Opinions on their Character. Was there a Jacobin Plot? The C^mmissionere' Instructions. Their Arrival at San Domingo. Their First Measures. Effect of the "Tenth of August" on San Domingo. The Royalist Conspiracy. The October Riots.
XVI. SONTHONAX'S RULE IN THE NORTH 194
Arrival of Rochambeau. Plans against the Color line. The Affaire Theron." Polverel's Voyage to the West. Sonthonax's Rule at Le Cap. Remonstrances of Polverel. The December Riots. Results. Increasing Difficulties. Foreign War. First Moves toward Emancipation.
XVII. POLVEREL'S GOVERNMENT OF THE WEST 206 Polverel at Saint-Marc, and at Port-au-Prince. His Alliance with the Town Whites. The Desertion of Ailhaud. Polverel in the South. The Break-Up of Western Royalism on the Color Line. Hyacinthe's Maroon Rising. The Revolt
of Port-au-Prince. Sonthonax in the West. Fall of Port-au-Prince. Rigaud's Defeat.
XVni. THE DESTRUCTION OF LE CAP .215 Unrest at Le Cap. The Arrival of Galbaud. Alarm of the Commissioners. They Return to Le Cap. The Revolt of the Fleet. The Destruction of Le Cap. Attitude of the Commissioners.
Exodus of the White Population, and of the White Troops. Advance of the Spaniards. State of Le Cap. Sonthonax's New Policy. His Emancipation Proclamation. Its Extension to the West and South. Its Effects. Sonthonax's Perilous Situation. His Flight to the West.
XX. THE ENGLISH INTERVENTION .281
White Desire for English Aid. The Grande Anse calls in the English, and receives a British Garrison. Surrender of the Mole-Saint-Nicolas. Defection of the West. Hopeless Condition of the North. Attitude of the Commissioners. Defection
of the Mulattoes. The Convention Decrees the Commissioners in a State of Accusation. It is Disregarded. Anti-Colonial Feeling in France. The Convention abolishes Slavery. Effect on San Domingo. The Commissioners leave for France.
XXI. THE ADVENT OF TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE 246 His Early life. His First Acts. Toussaint in Spanish Service. He changes Sides. Campaign against the English (1704). The Campaign of 1795. Rivalry of the Colored Castes. Rigaud's Rule in the South. Toussaint's Policy in the West. Rigaud's Policy in the North. The Mulatto Troubles at
Le Cap. The Rising of the 30th Ventose. Its Results.
XXII. THE THIRD CIVIL COMMISSIONERS .258 The Third Civil Commission, and Commissioners. Their
First Acts. Sonthonax's Policy. Its Results in the North, and South. Policy of Sonthonax and Toussaint. Toussaint expels Sonthonax. His Fears of its Effect on France. Hp Attitude.
XXm. THE MISSION OF GENERAL HfiDOUVILLE 269
Reasons for his Mission. Toussaint's English Policy. H6-douville's Policy. His Clash with Toussaint over the English Evacuation. The Expulsion of H6douville.
XXIV. THE WAR BETWEEN THE CASTES .276
Toussaint's Difficulties. He gains over Roume. The Conference between Toussaint and Rigaud. The War between the Castes. The Siege of Jacmel. The Conquest of the South. The "Bloody Assise" of Dessalines. The Ruin of the West.
XXV. THE TRIUMPH OF TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE 283
Toussaint's Projects against Santo Domingo. Opposition of Roume. It is Broken. Bonaparte's Commission. The Resistance of Santo Domingo. Its Conquest by Toussaint. Condition of French San Domingo. Toussaint's Reconstruction of San Domingo. His Favor to the Whites. Moyse's Rebellion. Toussaint's Constitution.
XXVI. THE ADVENT OF BONAPARTE .... 296 The Colonies at the 18th Brumaire. Napoleon's Constitutional Changes. Conflicting Views on the Future Colonial
Policy of France. First Abortive Expedition for San Domingo. Further Tentative Measures. The English Peace frees Napoleon's Hands. Leclerc's Instructions.
XXVII. THE COMING OF LECLERC.....308
Leclerc's Arrival at San Domingo. Toussaint's Attitude. His Position. Leclerc's Plan. Fall of Le Cap, and Port-au-Prince. Surrender of the South, and of Santo Domingo. Dessalines's Failure at Leogane. Leclerc's Negotiations with Toussaint. Capture of Port-de-Paix. Leclerc's Campaign. Toussaint's Defeat at Couleuvres. Dessalines's Defence of the West. His Failure at Port-au-Prince. Humbert's Defeat at Port-de-Paix. Capitulation of Maurepas. Siege of the Crete-a-Pierrot. Effect of its Capture. Submission of the Black Generals. Necessity for Leclerc's Policy of Conciliation.
XXVHI. THE COMING OF THE YELLOW FEVER 326
Yellow Fever. Toussaint's Arrest. Its Effects. Toussaint's End. The Disarmament. Napoleon's Reactionary Policy. Leclerc's Alarm. The Reaction at Guadeloupe. Its Effect on San Domingo. Loyalty of the Black Generals. Leclerc's Despair. Ravages of the Fever. The Death of Leclerc.
XXIX. THE LAST PHASE.......344
Defection of the Mulattoes. Their Attack on Le Cap. Defection of the Black Generals. Improvement under Rocham-beau. Terrible Nature of the Struggle. The English War. The Loss of San Domingo. The Extermination of the Whites. The End of "San Domingo.''
The French Revolution in San Domingo
THE LIBRARY IM UNIVERSITY OF TUAI
The French Revolution in San Domingo
INTRODUCTION AND EARLY HISTORY
The European voyager who, on a morning of early 1789, raised the eastern cape of the island of San Domingo and sailed along its northern shore, had before his eyes substantially the panorama of to-day: a wall of high green hills, clothed with forests and backed by glimpses of mountain-peaks far in the hazy distance. No sign of man broke upon the lonely coast, for this was the decayed and neglected colony of Spanish Santo Domingo.
But when he had crossed the wide bay-mouth of Man-cenille and again neared the land, the scene was changed as by an enchanter's wand. There lay before him a noble plain, teeming and throbbing with human life to its very background of lofty mountains; a vast checkerboard of bright green sugar-cane, upon which rose white columns of tall chimneys and tree-embowered plantation mansions. Where a mountain spur neared the sea, its slopes were belted with coffee-plantations almost to its wooded crest. When the sudden tropic night fell, the long coast sparkled with lights, while ever and anon a sudden flame from some
2 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
boiling-house stack lit up the countryside with its glare.1 For this was the French portion of the island, "La Partie Francaise de Saint-Doiningue."
Sailing next morning past the guns of Fort Picolet, the city of Cap Frangais came into view nestling under the craggy "Morne du Cap." *. This, the Metropolis of San Domingo, was a fine, stone-built town of twenty thousand souls. Over a hundred ships lay at anchor or beside its broaa quays, while three thousand sailors swarmed upon its water-front or made merry in its many taverns.8 Into its warehouses poured ceaselessly the tribute of the great North Plain, the produce* of nearly three thousand plantations and the labor of two hundred thousand slaves.4 Here glowed most brightly the strange, hectic life of those eighteenth-century West Indies; those island-factories, producing sugar and consuming slaves.
This magnificent colony, which supplied not only France but the half of Europe, was not very large. As a glance at the map will show, it was little more than two long peninsulas to north and south, connected by a strip of territory in places not more than twenty miles wide. By far the greater portion of the island remained in the possession of its original masters, the Spaniards.
Columbus, its discoverer, had named it Hispaniola, and it had been the earliest centre of Spanish colonization. But a brief period of brutal exploitation had exhausted its mineral wealth and annihilated its numerous Indian population. The discoveries of Mexico and Peru rapidly drained away the restless conquistadore8, and the island sank almost into oblivion. The few colonists who remained turned loose their cattle on the lonely land, and in time
INTRODUCTION AND EARLY HISTORY 8
troops of swine rooted in its virgin forests and herds of wild cattle grazed upon its silent plains.5
It was early in the seventeenth century that bands of interlopers began to settle upon those northern and westernRoasts which were to form the French porBon of San Domingo.8 These people were by no means predominantly French. The English were nearly as numerous, and there were other minor elements.7 They found the western end of the island entirely deserted, for the Spaniards had always confined their settlements to the east, the regions of mineral wealth. Many of these men ranged the woods after the herds of wild cattle, whence their name "buccaneers"; 8 others settled upon the little island of Tor-tuga, off the north coast, from which they sallied forth to prey upon Spanish commerce.9
For nearly forty years these nests of hunters and pirates pursued a bloody and tumultuous history. Three times the Spaniards descended upon Tortuga and laid it waste, while throughout this period the French and English elements strove for supremacy. The struggle was long and doubtful. As late as 1657 an Englishman ruled Tortuga, and not until 1663 were the French firmly established.10
Henceforth these regions might be considered French; but their early history had set upon them an indelible stamp which was to differentiate San Domingo from all the other colonies of France. Not French adventurers alone, but men of other nations as well, had settled the land and wrested it from the Spaniard; neither crown nor chartered company had brought them thither, but their own adventurous wills. Hence, the basic spirit of this young society was Liberty: Liberty in all its phases,
4 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
political, legal, social, religious, moral, the very antithesis to that ordered despotism of the Grand Mo-narque which ruled contemporary France.11
Royal Governors now sat at Tortuga, men of ability and natural force, but they could do little to increase the power of the Crown. The wild buccaneer spirit famed up at the least sign of encroachment; indeed, this very temper was needed to protect the infant colony from its foreign enemies. For the Spaniard continued to threaten till the Peace of Ryswtek,.1* while the English made continual descents up to the general peace of 1714.18 Thus, after nearly a century of existence, San Domingo still essentially retained its lawless independence.14
At the death of Louis XIV, San Domingo was, it is true, no longer the pirate nest of an earlier time. The Governors had done their best to attach their unruly subjects to the land, had brought in wives, and had encouraged agricultural immigrants. There were distinct beginnings of -farming and trade.16 The long peace which prevailed until almost the middle of the eighteenth century saw the rapid growth of San Domingo in wealth and population.16
But the old spirit lived on. All the West Indies received unruly elements, but San Domingo seems to have been particularly marked in this respect. A Governor of Martinique complains of the number of persons leaving that island for San Domingo, "where they may give themselves up to hunting and disorder, and where licentious liberty is complete." 17 The Governors needed all their tact and coolness to prevent continual outbreaks. "In a word, insolence and mutiny were everywhere." 18 Attempts to infringe upon commercial liberty were
INTRODUCTION AND EARLY HISTORY 5
answered by serious rebellions in 1670 and 1723, and the proposed chartered company regime had to be dropped. And it was very evident that these risings were but symptoms of the basic spirit of the colony. "These people have risen not only against the Company but against the King's authority," writes the Governor in 1723. "They demand tax exemption, free trade with all nations, and\ a republican liberty." 19 It is no mere academic interest which thus emphasizes the origin and early spirit of San Domingo. For, despite the marvellous economic and social transformation of the later eighteenth century, the old ideas lived on. In 1789, the colonists had not forgotten their early history. They claimed that San Domingo had "given itself to the King of France" upon certain conditions;20 they considered the island no mere subject colony, but a "Franco-American Province," bound to France through the Crown:21 a species of personal union somewhat like that of France and Navarre. On the day when the French people should destroy the Crown and claim for itself the right to break conditions which the Crown had always respected and which the colonists considered vital to their existence (the color line and slavery), it is easy to realize the moral sanction given to projects for resistance and rebellion.
NATURAL FEATURES, POPULATION, AND GOVERNMENT
/ In 1789 rench San Domingo was the gem of the West / Indies, and the spectacle of its marvellous prosperity was perhaps enhanced by contrast with its Spanish neighbor. A short journey away from the fierce energy of the west coast across the border mountain wall brought one to a land where it was always afternoon: the same soil and a better climate had here produced only a deepening lethargy. Santo Domingo, the capital, was a handsome, picturesque old town, with many stately landmarks of its early prosperity, but elsewhere all was decay and solitude.1 The total population was barely 125,000. These were mostly ranchers and herdsmen, for there was almost no agriculture and only some fourteen thousand slaves. Of the free population about half were rated white, though the color line seems to have been pretty loosely drawn.1 French San Domingo was divided into three provinces, the North, the West, and the South; this order corresponding to date of settlement and relative importance. The North Province was the oldest, richest, and most densely populated. Its glory was the incomparable Plaine du Nord ": its chief city, Cap Francais (colloquially known as "Le Cap"), was the metropolis of the colony.8 The North Province was shut off from the rest of the island by a difficult mountain-chain running east and west,
POPULATION AND GOVERNMENT 7
which continued out into the sea as a high peninsula tipped by the strong fortress of the Mdle-Saint-Nicolas, the "Gibraltar of the Antilles." Although the North was so largely mountainous, the valleys were of great fertility and the lower hill-slopes eminently suited to coffee-planting. Only about the Mdle was there a dry and sterile region unfit for agriculture.4
The West Province embraced the central portion of the colony, and much of the southern part as well. A glance at the map will show its extraordinary irregularity of outline, pressed close to the sea as it was by the sinuous mountain wall of the Spanish border. It must be noted that much of the long southern peninsula, which was the colony's most striking geographical feature, fell within its jurisdiction.
Although nearly twice the size of the North, the West Province was not so well favored by nature. The mountain ranges to north and east cut off the rainfall, and made its climate hot and unhealthful; precipitation came mostly from violent thunderstorms which were often more a damage than a benefit. Its prosperity in 1789 was largely due to elaborate irrigation, which made possible the regular cultivation of its plains. These were three in number: the wide, inland valley of the Artibonite in the upper portion of the Province, the small but rich plain of Leogane at the base of the southern peninsula, and the great plain of Cul-de-Sac, in rear of the city of Port-au-Prince.6
Port-au-Prince, although dating only from the middle of the eighteenth century, was a thriving town of some eight thousand inhabitants. The produce of the Cul-de-Sac made it a busy port, while its selection as the colonial
8 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
capital gave it added importance. Its appearance, however, was far inferior to that of Le Cap, for the prevalence of earthquakes made it a town of low wooden houses, which European visitors slightingly compared to a Tartar camp.6
The South Province was in all respects the least important. Its small area was entirely confined to the long southern peninsula, in reality little more than a mountain ridge sloping precipitately to the sea. Still largely undeveloped, the South's rather primitive economic and social conditions recalled the earlier times. It was, however, not devoid of possibilities, for there were many fertile valleys, and a real plain behind its busy little capital, Les Cayes.7 One thing should be especially noted; a narrow strip of sea alone separated the South Province from the English island of Jamaica, and a close intercourse had always existed in defiance of the laws against contraband trade.8 In the storms of the Revolution this was to have important consequences.
The population of San Domingo was divided into three castes: the whites, the "free colored" (including both mulattoes and negroes), and the slaves. It is impossible to discover their numbers for the year 1789 with any great accuracy. The last official census was taken in 1788, and it seems to have been far from accurate. No official returns for the slave population can be trusted, since the planters made false reports to avoid the head-tax on their human chattels.
f The official returns for
POPULATION AND GOVERNMENT 9
possess two estimates from experts worthy of every consideration. The Intendant Barbe-Marbois, an exceedingly careful man whose official position ensured him accurate information, estimates the whites at 35,500, the free colored at 26,600, and the slaves at 400,000.10 The deeply learned Moreau de Saint-Miry gives as his figures, 39,000 whites, 27,500 free colored, and 452,000 slaves.11
The climate of San Domingo was very hacL possibly the^worst 6T the West Indies. Official correspondence almost always mentions the writers' failing health, while the history of military operations in the island is one long tragedy of disease, from the decimation of the Anglo-Spanish expeditions in the wars of Louis XTV down to the final catastrophic annihilation of Napoleon's great army in 1803.
The writers on San Domingo unite in a general condemnation. "In this climate," writes an intelligent traveller about the year 1785, "the European must be always on his guard. The sun is a danger, the evening-cool a menace, the rain not less fatal." 11 Good health could be preserved only by abstemious living and the most careful precautions.18 Hilliard d'Auberteuil's is the only voice raised in its favor,14 but he is obviously making a polemical point,18and his words called forth protests of amazement and indignation. "To-day," writes a colonist, "is the 30th of January; it is four o'clock'in the afternoon; and I am obliged to prop up Monsieur d'Auberteuil's book because I am sweating such great drops. What has caused this? the climate or Monsieur d'Auberteuil's assertions? We will let him settle the question." 18
The hot months from April to September were the most
10 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
unhealthful; they were the time of malaria and yellow fever. But the cooler rainy season was also scourged by intestinal troubles.17 The only healthful spots were the barren island of Tortuga, and the dry and sterile district of the M61e-Saint-Nicolas.
Although the storms of the Revolution were to prove that the population of San Domingo had neither forgotten its early history nor lost its turbulent character, the profound transformations of the preceding half-century had greatly altered the spirit of government. Increase in wealth and closer connections with France had enabled the Bourbon Monarchy to tighten its grip upon the island.
"The government of the colony vested ultimately in the Minister of Marine, representing the King." 18 His edicts were laws, and he appointed the high officials.19 But Paris was distant a six-weeks voyage, and the local heads of government were in practice the supreme authority, "pleads," be it remarked; for the local power was twofold, ^tfee Governor and the Intendant. No parallel should be drawn with then* fellows of contemporary France, for the Governor of San Domingo was the stronger factor.20
Theoretically each was assigned a special sphere, with a middle ground of joint activity. The Governor was the titular representative of the Crown, the military chief, < and the medium of external relations. The Intendant, whose office dated only from the beginning of the eighteenth century,21 headed the civil administration and the judiciary.22
But this division of powers remained largely a theory. To begin with, the respective spheres had never been per-
POPULATION AND GOVERNMENT 11
manently delimited. "The powers of the Governors were not fixed definitely by law, but were described in the commission given to each appointee and varied from time to time. To a Governor possessing a greater degree of the King's confidence, especial power would be given." 23 That large range of duties in which joint action was prescribed was another fruitful source of ambiguity. And, to these inherent difficulties, there was added the personal element. The Governor was always an old soldier or
sailor; the Intendant always a bureaucrat. To place members of the "Noblesse d'fipee" and the "Noblesse de Robe" upon a remote island with interlaced authority was to court the usual result, chronic rivalries and usurpations, which extended down through every grade of the administrations.24 For each stood at the head of a numerous official hierarchy which naturally espoused the cause of its superior.26 All eighteenth-century writers are loud in their censure of the endless confusion and scandal. "This hybrid civil and military administration called a government," exclaims Hilliard d'Aubertcuil in 1776," has degenerated into a frightful mixture of tyranny and anarchy." 26
In these struggles the Governor generally came off victorious. He was not only master of the regular military forces, but also head of the elaborate militia and gendarmerie system demanded by the island's strategic position and immense slave population.27 His local commandants sometimes usurped both civil and judicial authority, and governed their districts under virtual martial law.28 But the Intendant always opposed an annoying obstructionism, continuously invoked the intervention of the
IS FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
Minister of Marine, and courted the favor of certain elements of the colonial population.29
As might have been expected, such a regime had a harsh and arbitrary character.80 Its incumbents, however, f boldly defended its necessity. "Yes," writes a Governor in 1761, "authority is in the hands of the military power: but this is the natural consequence of the colony's origin and present condition. Eight thousand whites capable of bearing arms are dispersed along three hundred leagues of coast. Nearly two hundred thousand blacks, their slaves and potential enemies, are about them day and night. Furthermore, these are men not bound to the land by ties of birth, loyalty, and blood, but drawn by self-interest from many regions." 81
Nevertheless, though arbitrary and severe, the Government of San Domingo was by no means so black as painted by the democratic theorists of the time. Such a population, with arms in its hands and the backing of past tradition, would not have submitted to a very grinding tyranny. A native planter like Venault de Charmilly describes the force of pubKc opinion, favored as it was by the internecine struggles of authority itself.82
But though there might be a dispute as to this Government's tyranny, there could be none whatever as to its costliness.88 Bad finance was the besetting sin of the Old Regime, but nowhere was its disorder, wastefulness, and graft seen to better advantage than at San Domingo. In the year 1785 the Abb6 Raynal had protested strongly against an expenditure of three million livres.84 The official report of December, 1789, itemizes an expenditure of nearly five millions.85 Taking Barbe-Marbois's census figures, this
POPULATION AND GOVERNMENT 18
would mean a yearly burden on the colonists of nearly one hundred and forty livres per head. The wealth of ^ San Domingo, it is true, enabled it to carry the burden; but taxation was keenly felt, especially the hated poll-tax on slaves.88
The mere presence of antiquated methods, red tape, and the lack of a well-audited budget produced much leakage.87 But there was a great deal of downright graft besides. A conservative observer like the Baron de Wimpffen speaks scornfully of the venality of the Governors,88 and official peculation seems to have been as brazen as it was serious.89
Nevertheless, with all its faults, the Government was not without its good side. "Especially since the middle! of the eighteenth century it had done much to better the economic situation of the island, had organized a good police, clarified justice, and improved taxation." 40
But all this had been done in the spirit of the contemporary maxim, "Everything for the people, and nothing byV^ the people." The official world was a caste of Europeans, \ -in which the colonists had no part.41 There was not even the humblest form of municipal self-government,41 and the reforming era of Choiseul had given San Domingo only a couple of chambers of commerce.48 Ii-jsaa thuT^ complete lack^Tpolitical education which was to weigh so heavily injhe_HftVftlllfinn M *
Until well past the middle of the eighteenth century, San Domingo had possessed a native judiciary. If we are to believe the colonists, it was endowed with every virtue,46 but the testimony of officials and travellers leaves a different impression. In 1711, a royal officer is greatly
U FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
scandalized at the procedure of a magistrate who pronounced judgment between pipe-puffs, the while a district attorney allowed litigants to curse one another at pleasure.46 And, although time seems to have lent more dignity, the conduct of the legal class remained unedify-ing. In 1750, a registrar, formerly the proprietor of a gambling-house, installed a faro layout amid his official records to while away his idle moments.47
Nevertheless, though crude and unlearned in the law, this colonial judiciary seems to have given cheap and speedy justice in accordance with local conditions.48 Not so the trained European lawyers who replaced them. Their procedure was as tedious at San Domingo as in the Parliament de Paris, and their pedantic application of French precedents to radically diverse cases was a constant source of injustice and irritation.49 "The erudition of these gentlemen," exclaims Raynal, "has well taught us that the Coutume de Paris and the Institutes of Justinian were drawn up under a latitude very remote from that of San Domingo." 80 This impatience at the slowness and pedantry of the courts caused executive encroachment, and royal officers often usurped judicial functions, especially as they were thus striking at henchmen of the hated Intendant.51 The cost of this latter-day justice seems to have been very great. De Wimpffen states that the Provincial Court at Jacmel had a budget of over four hundred thousand livres a year.58
In 1789, San Domingo "had attained a height of prosperity not surpassed in theliistory of European colonies. ^The greatest part of its soil was covered by plantations on a gigantic scale which supplied half Europe with
POPULATION AND GOVERNMENT 15
sugar, coffee, and cotton." 68 And the degree of this prosperity was increasing by leaps and bounds. Since 1786, "the planters had doubled their products, and a large amount of French capital had poured into the island for investment a hundred millions from Bordeaux alone. The returns were already splendid and still greater were expected." 54
San Domingo had undergone the economic transformation of the other islands. In the seventeenth century it^ products had been tobacco, cocoa, and indigo. These had been grown by many small proprietors of modest fortune, with the aid of white indentured servants and a few slaves.66
But the coming of sugar changed all this. The production of sugar is as much an industrial as it is an agricultural operation; it requires broad acres, a costly plant, and large working capital. The small holders quickly vanished before huge plantations worked by great gangs of slaves.68 In 1789, the number of sugar-plantations was close upon j eight hundred.67
However, sugar was by no means San Domingo's only product. Its cultivation was necessarily restricted to the plains and broader valleys, but French thrift had utilized everything except the mountain crests.68 It is true that tobacco and cocoa had practically gone and that indigo was fast going, but other staples had come to take their place. First among these stood coffee, whose three thou- sand plantations covered every mountainside; while the cotton acreage was advancing year by year. The less favored districts were given up to pasture which fed some two hundred and fifty thousand cattle and swine.69
16 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
Such a colony was patently the most precious over-seas possession of France. The imports from her American colonies for the year 1789 totalled two hundred and eighteen million livres,60 fully three fourths of which came from San Domingo.61 Furthermore, of these imports France reexported nearly two thirds, mostly after economic transformations which supported many branches of her industrial system.63 In supplying the wants of the island, both the industry and the agriculture of France were interested. The fifty million livres of exports to San Domingo included everything from foodstuffs to tobacco-pipes; "in a word, every object indispensable to civilized life." 68 Lastly, to all these profits there must be % added the rich returns from the slave trade,64 and San Domingo's predominant share in maintaining the fleet of a thousand ships and fifteen thousand sailors trading with the colonies.66
The splendid position of San Domingo might seem to have meant contented colonists; in reality, they were hot with discontent: though prosperous, they well knew that they might have been more prosperous still. For they aw themselves the victims of that tyrannous economic t system known as the "Pacte Coloniale." 66 ^gj^^^ has well summarized the principles of this
system under five rules: (1) the colony must send its products only to the mother country; (2) the colony must buy ['only from the mother country; (8) the colony must establish no manufactures; (4) the mother country agreed to buy its tropical products only from the colony; (5) the carrying-trade with the colony must be the monopoly of the mother country's merchant marine.67
POPULATION AND GOVERNMENT 17
It is clear that only the fourth rule favored the colony; the others sacrificed it to the mother country in the most ruthless fashion. Yet at the time, no principle was more generally established than the "Pacte Coloniale" : all nations held it to be the keystone of colonial policy, and Colbert's dictum, "Colonies are founded by and for the mother country," 88 was considered an axiom. Even the intellect of a Chatham could contend that the colonies should not be allowed to make a nail or a horse-shoe. The mother country saw in her colonists only a special kind of subjects, predestined to receive her products at an excessively high price and to yield theirs at a value abnormally lowered by the absolute lack of foreign markets and consequent competition."89 They were "in every respect victims of monopoly." 70
But, although the system of France was no stricter than x her neighbors', it bore with especial hardship on her colo- \ nies. The reason for this was that the French merchant marine, although granted the monopoly of the carrying-trade, was quite inadequate to the supplying of the colonies.71 Indeed, it showed no real desire to do so, and strove to keep up famine prices by this artificial scarcity.72 The bitter gibes of De Wimpffen show the deep indignation felt at this conduct.78
And if the French colonies were kept short in normal times, how was it during the long wars of the eighteenth century, when the superior English fleets swept the French flag from the sea? For, be it understood, this was no mere question of annoyance or of loss, but a matter of downright life and death. Not one of these over-specialized islands produced enough tropical foods to feed its negroes,
18 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
while the whites lived almost entirely upon imported provisions.74 Were no grain-ships to enter their harbors, the colonists would die like Midas in his treasure- chamber. As a matter of fact,reat numbers of slaves at San Domingo died of hunger during the Seven Years' War.71 | Of course this preposterous state of things wrought its 'own cure. Smuggling had always existed at San Domingo; smuggling of the most flagrant character and with a backing of public approval which made its suppression impossible. A regular traffic existed with the English and Spanish islands, and with the North American continent.76 Indeed, the Governors themselves openly permitted trading in times of especial scarcity.77
The growing enlightenment of the eighteenth century had led the French Government to attempt to remedy the situation, though in hesitating fashion. In 1767, Choiseul established a port of entry for foreign trade at the Mdle- f Saint-Nicolas, although legalizing only a small list of the most necessary foodstuffs.78 In 1784, further concessions were made by the opening of the chief ports (Le Cap, Port-au-Prince, and Les Cayes), and by an extension of s the legal list.79 Finally, the Anglo-French commercial treaty of 1786 and the Franco-American convention of 1787 broke a wide breach in the "Pacte Coloniale/'80
But, after aU, the old system still existed in principle, and in 1789 the measures taken were either too partial or too recent to have produced much effect. In 1788, the foreign imports were only 7,000,000 livres, the exports only 8,700,000; 81 not very much by comparison with the French trade. At the outbreak of the Revolution colonial discontent was bitter and unassuaged.82
Though small in number, the white population of San Domingo1 was in structure extraordinarily complex. Its lines of cleavage were both many and transverse. This handful of Europeans formed in one sense the Microcosm of contemporary France, since all French classes were there represented;1 yet in spirit the two societies were by no means the same, for in San Domingo, class relations had been much modified by a tropical environment.
To form a correct idea of this colonial society is by no means easy. Its observers often differ in their impressions and in their judgments. Still, the main lines seem to be fairly clear. Differences of opinion arise usually on details; on fundamentals, the bulk of both private and official testimony is in agreement.
The most obvious line of demarcation was one of birth. -
The ftTtt^gpniam hpfwp**n rmtiVn nnH ftwign,Wn
or, in the language of the time, between Creoles and "Europeans"*seems to have greatly impressed observers. "The first thing that strikes every traveller," says De Wimpffen, "is that in spite of the conformity of origin, color, and interests, the whites from Europe and the white Creoles form two classes, which, by their mutual pretensions, are so widely sundered that necessity alone can bring them together. The former, with more breeding, more politeness, and more knowledge of the world,
80 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
affect over the latter a superiority which is far from contributing to unite them." 4 The number of shady characters among the Europeans did not promote good feeling.5 Hilliard d' Auberteuil is particularly severe in his criticism of the European population and advocates radical restriction of immigration to protect the Creoles, whom he regards as by far the sounder element.6 Of late years, however, the quality of the new arrivals would seem to have been improving.7
Yet even within its own ranks, the European class suffered from disunion: "This element, although generally energetic, hardy, and enterprising, at bottom lacked cohesion." 8 Environment and interest had succeeded in producing only the most superficial "consciousness of kind." The Abbe Raynal brings this out very well. "There is here," he says, "no national consciousness; because each one brings his own with him, his native prejudices, education and vices. At the same time, while all these people retain their peculiar manners and customs, they yet take on what I may call the 'habits of the colonies.' This distinction is important, and should not be overlooked. Ordinarily, we seek for the character of a people in its national point of view; but, in San Domingo, there is no real 'people,' only a mass of individuals, with common interests but isolated viewpoints. Even the Creole is not always an American; he is a Gascon or Provencal, if he has chanced to learn his father's dialect or imbibe his principles." 9
Another point to be noted is that the white population of San Domingo was predominantly foreign-born; certainly over one half,10 possibly even three fourths,11 were
of European birth. For this state of things there were several reasons. In the first place, the presence of an immense slave population had made a class of native white laborers impossible;18 the "poor whites" of 1789 were in great part a vicious rabble of adventurers.18
And even among those townsmen and planters who composed the middle and upper strata of society, there were few marriages and fewer children. The causes of this sterility are not far to seek. To begin with, San Do- mingo had always lacked white women. In the buccaneer days their number had been extremely small, and the quality of those then sent from France had made these a doubtful blessing.14 Although the large white immigration of the later eighteenth century had brought about f more normal conditions, the numerical disparity of the sexes was still very great. In 1789, there were 24,700 white males to 10,800 females.18 Then, again, the climate was very hard on the children of Europeans; it took at least two generations before the race could strike root in this new land." 18 As among Anglo-Indians to-day, children were sent to Europe to escape the climate as weU as to get an education.17 Lastly, this was a population of fortune-hunters, not settlers, and the return to France was ever in men's minds. Absorbed in their affairs, with few ties of sympathy or social life, and possessed of luxurious or dissipated habits,18 these men could have but little inclination to married life and the rearing of families.19
There was one element in this strange society which occupied a decidedly anomalous position. This was the official class. Although composed almost exclusively of Europeans, it stood as much aloof from its compatriots
22 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
as from the Creole population,a veritable caste apart.80 The officials "had all that cool assumption of superiority and that disdain for those around them which so commonly mark the man of the metropolis when in the provinces." 81 v Naturally, they were disliked, a fact of importance for the Revolution.
The nobility had played a vital pioneer r61e in the other French islands,22 but this had not been true of buccaneer San Domingo. However, from the first the Royal Governors had been men of birth, and the aristocratic element had steadily grown in importance.28 In 1789, the colony possessed some of the oldest blood of France.24 The nobility was one of the best elements of the island's population. Very many were settled as resident planters, and had become a genuine squirearchy. They officered the militia and the marechauss6e9n and were the stanchest supporters of law and order.28 The relations of this island aristocracy with the French nobility were very close, and were becoming closer through frequent intermarriage.27 "Sire," said a San Domingo deputation to Louis XVI, "your court has become Creole by alliances."28 From these marriages there had grown up an intermediate class of absentee nobles. These men owned great plantations in San Domingo, but rarely visited their estates and were in no way a blessing to the colony. They were, however^) to play an important part in the early days of the Revo-* lution.28 ^ ^ The clergy of San Domingo were inferior to those of the other French islands:80 their character seems to have been consistently bad from the first. Most of the priests here are as debauched as the rest of the inhabitants," says
an official memoir of 1681.81 A century later, things were no better. "A succession of bad and ignorant priests," says the Abbe Raynal in 1785, "has destroyed both respect for the cloth and the practice of religion in almost every parish of the colony. An atrocious greed has become the habitual vice of most of the parish priests." 82 The sacraments were turned into so many instruments of extortion, while the churches were "falling into ruin." 88 The Baron de Wimpffen is even more severe. "The clergy of San Domingo," he writes in 1790, "seem to have voluntarily renounced the advantages which a system of conduct procures them elsewhere. Tranquil in their parsonage-houses, they spend in peace an income sufficiently large to enable them to live comfortably. Mass is celebrated one way or another in churches where none go to hear it so that to avoid reproach of preaching in the desert, they do not preach at all. Meanwhile, the conjectures, which public scandal delights to indulge on the children with which the female mulatto of Monsieur the Rector may have peopled the parsonage-house, keep their course; and, as this increase of family is, for His Reverence, as well as for the rest of the colonists, a sensible increase of fortune, you may easily comprehend that few will have the candor to suppose he is indebted for them solely to the good-will of his parishioners."84 His opinion of the monks is equally unfavorable. "I am persuaded, sir," he writes, "that there are to be found amongst them men of real merit: at the same time, truth obliges me to avow they are not numerous; because the superior clergy, who nominate to the vacant benefices, have contracted the pernicious habit of sending none
84 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
thither but such intriguing and suspicious characters as they wish to be rid of. To speak my mind fully on the subject, nothing, generally speaking, can be more irregular than the regular clergy of San Domingo." 88
With such pastors, it is not surprising that the flocks lacked religious zeal. "It is incredible," writes the Governor in 1743, "what indifference these people have for spiritual things." 86 The sacraments were ignored, and parents left their children unchristened or mockingly baptized them in a punch-bowl.87 The pious Father Labat is greatly scandalized both at the appearance of the churches and the temper of the people. He found the main church of Le Cap in a state of positive dilapidation, while the congregation acted as if at a play-house. They talked, laughed, and joked; especially those in the balcony, who drowned out my voice, and mingled the name of God with their discourse in a perfectly intolerable fashion."88
The middlejclass at San Domingo was made up entirely of merchants and small shopkeepers. It was thus a strictly town population a true bourgeoisie. No rural middle class could exist upon a countryside cut up into large, self-sufficing economic units like the plantations. The greater merchants, as the trusted factors of French commercial houses, were men of standing, but the small-fry contained many persons with a shady business past.89 The middle class was almost exclusively European; the Creoles disliked town life, and lived in the country.40
The lower ranks of the white population of San Domingo were known as the "petits blancs." 41 This term may be best translated "poor whites," although it must be borne
in mind that these people were in many ways dissimilar to the "white trash" of the Southern States, since the town-dwelling element was a heterogeneous rabble of foreign birth.
This absence of a normal white working-class was the inevitable consequence of a slave population outnumbering the whites tenfold. It might have been otherwise. In the early days San Domingo had possessed a class of small landholders and farm-laborers,41 while the French Government had made real efforts to build up a white population by the system of indenture-men, or engages.4* In spite of their poor quality and bad treatment, these engages had done fairly well, and it seems practically certain that if slavery had been excluded, San Domingo would have become the home of an acclimated white people.44 But it was not to be. Slavery became the very basis of society and wrought its logical consequences.
Among the poor whites of 1789 there ran a strong line of demarcation between those of the country and those of the town. All that was sound in the poor white population was to be found in the rural element. In the first place, these men earned an honest living. On every large plantation4hexiwas a small corps of whites, overseers, technical experts, and mechanics.46 In all, these must have numbered several thousands.46 Then, the scattering small truck-farmers and ranchmen were usually classed as "poor whites" rather than "planters," while in the less tropical region of the Mdle were certain agricultural colonies of Acadians and Germans.47
The poor whites of the towns, however, were nothing but a vicious rabble of adventurers, drawn to San Do-
26 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
mingo by the luxury and dissipation of urban life. They were the scum of France, and of Europe as well, for very many were foreigners. Italians and Maltese predominated among the foreign element,48 though there were representatives of many nations.40 Even in ordinary times this mass of crooks and criminals needed careful police watching,60 but with the revolution it became a downright peril. [~For it promptly caught up the patter of Jacobinism, and I seized every chance of riot and plunder.61 Furthermore, [ the brutality of these men to the negroes and mulattoes .did much to envenom the race question.68 ^ The garrison troops and the sailors in the ports were also not unimportant elements of white San Domingo. The island was permanently assigned two royal infantry regiments58 and a strong detachment of artillery, in all about three thousand men.64 The number of sailors of the royal navy and merchant marine in the ports of San Domingo must have always averaged several thousand. The presence of these men did much to determine the character of the port towns.66
But the native-born element of the population must not be disregarded. Mie^Creole whites differed in many respects from those of European birth. In the first place,, they.were a rural, landowning population: a large proportion of the planters, with their dependents, were Creoles, and most of the small farmers and ranchmen as weU. Both in mind and body the Creoles showed the influence of their tropical environment. Physically they were tall and slender, well-featured though pale, and with a proud nonchalance of bearing.68 In character they were generous, warm-hearted, and brave, with a lively intelligence
and an ardent imagination; at the same time they were reckless, frivolous, passionate, and often cruel, while their indolence usually hindered the development of their talents.67
The two main causes of the Creole's special nature were climate and slavery. It was the burning climate of~San Domingo which gave him his mercurial temperament, his intense crises of reckless passion or feverish energy, followed by reactions into languorous apathy.68 But even more important was the influence of African slavery. He certainly owed most of his bad qualities to this evil institution, which seems to have degraded the master^ even more th*" +he s1frTO -Vftiflgi** comments upon this very well. "Lost as they were among their immense herds of slaves, the colonists suffered two fatal consequences: by contact with these primitive beings, they necessarily absorbed much of these people's nature, defects, and vices; from a life spent almost wholly among inferiors, their own characters naturally degenerated."69
This fatal influence weighed upon the Creole from the very moment of his birth. A royal officer laments those Creole children "corrupted in the cradle by the negresses' milk and vices."80 And everything contributed to stimulate the Creole child's wilfulness and vanity. That slave nurse, who dared give him no direct command; 81 those slave playmates, "condemned to flatter his lightest whim";88 those parents, proverbial for over-fond indulgence; 88 all these combined to make of him a pampered tittle tyrant, unable to endure the slightest opposition.84 Most writers on San Domingo quote the classic story of the Creole child who, told there was no egg, de-
28 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
manded two.65 Add a precocious knowledge, gained by constant observation of the indecencies and cruelties of plantation life,66 and the conduct of the future man when exposed to the temptations of unrestrained authority is easy to foresee.67 4
Much of the evil might have been remedied by a sound education. But to the Creole even this was denied. "What, then," exclaims De Wimpffen, "is the inhabitant of San Domingo? JjfKat which every man must be who is born under a burning atmosphere, with a vicious education and a feeble government^ He is born neither corrupt nor virtuous, neither citizen nor slave, but his character will form itself the instant education and government, in concert with nature, shall occupy themselves with the care of giving him morals. At present, we ought to set the higher value upon his good qualities, as his education has hitherto been calculated to give him none but bad ones.68... To tell you what should be done to ensure the children of San Domingo a good education, would be to tell you precisely everything that is not done at present." 89
Many children, it is true, were sent to France for their education. But they there learned little to fit them for a colonial existence, and generally returned fine ladies and gentlemen to whom the monotony and loneliness of plantation life were unendurable.70
In the Creole women, the type characteristics came out most strongly. Piquantly beautiful, their languorous grace charmed all observers. "(Their love was passionate in the extreme, their jealous hate often terrible in its consequences.71 An American woman, who saw them in the
days of their adversity, is favorably impressed. "The Creole ladies," writes Miss Hassal in 1802, "have an air of voluptuous languor, which renders them extremely interesting. Their eyes, their teeth, and their hair are remarkably beautiful, and they have acquired from the habit of commanding their slaves an air of dignity which adds to their charms. Almost too indolent to pronounce their words, they speak with a drawling accent which is very agreeable. But since they have been roused by the pressure of misfortune, many have displayed talents and found resources in the energy of their own minds, which it would have been supposed impossible for them to possess." 71
Even more than her brothers, the Creole girl suffered from the blight of slavery and the lack of education. Too often, she lived in the most complete indolence; passing her days, like an Eastern odalisque, amid the chatter and singing of her slave girls.78 She had few friends, for social life was confined to infrequent balls, to which she gave herself with the greatest abandon.14
In 1789, San Domingo rightfully enjoyed a widespread reputation for wealth and luxury. Its prosperity really dates from the long peace after 1714, but from then on progress was rapid.78 Increase in wealth, however, quickly destroyed the simplicity of buccaneer days.78 "At first," says an official memoir of 1718 on the state of the North Province, "the inhabitants of this quarter were adventurers, used to all kinds of labor; they walked barefoot in the sun without a thought of danger, so hardened were they by continual exposure. But since the late peace 77 has made as many fortunes as there are inhabitants, their
80 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
manner of life is entirely changed. Instead of a bit of wild boar and bananas, on which they used to make merry after having had to hunt the beast in the woods, their tables are now laden with well-served delicacies. The best burgundy and champagne are not too dear for them, they must have them at any price. They no longer dare go out before sundown for fear of the heat, and even then only in a carriage with comfortable springs." 78
With such rapid progress in wealth, it is no surprise to< find ;that at the outbreak of the Revolution there were many persons possessed of large fortunes. From three plantations in San Domingo, Alexandre de Beauharnais drew a revenue of forty thousand livres,78 and many a great planter had an income of over one hundred thousand a year.80 These figures, however, by no means represent net cash values. The hardships of the "Pacte Coloni-ale,"81 the scarcity of ready money,82 and the universal extravagance combined to devour these princely revenues; and some of the greatest proprietors were deeply in debt.88
A prodigal luxury was, indeed, the most striking feature of life. "Everything at San Domingo," writes Moreau de Saint-M6ry, "takes on a character of opulence which astonishes the European."84 People dined "'a la Creole' that is to say, with profusion,"88 and their tables were served by such numbers of waiting-men as cut off the very air.88 A numerous troop of domestics was the surest way to show one's wealth and self-importance.87 "That crowd of slaves which hangs upon the master's lightest word or sign," says Moreau de Saint-M6ry, "lends him an air of grandeur. It is beneath the dignity of a rich man
to have leas than four times as many servants as he needs. The women have an especial gift for surrounding themselves with a useless retinue." 88
However, about all this magnificence one peculiarity must soon have struck the attentive observer, its "personal" character. These costly feasts were very likely served between bare walls, while the guest, who bore upon his person ten thousand livres in lace and jewels, probably dwelt in a house unfurnished and unadorned.89 But the trend of conversation would soon give the key to the riddle, the table-talk must have inevitably turned upon the delights of Paris and the prospect of approaching trips to France.00
Except among the Creoles, few persons cared to prolong their stay beyond a lucky turn of fortune. "The pleasures of San Domingo," exclaims a colonist, "are easily counted. A blue sky, and no cold weather: I can name no others." 91
The consequences of all this were obvious. "A man," says Moreau de Saint-Mery, "regards himself as camping upon a property worth several millions. His air is that of a life-tenant already old, his extravagance is in servants and good-cheer, and you would think him to be living in an 'hdtel garni.'"98 "In a San Domingan town," says Raynal, "you never see a man seated by the domestic hearth and talking with interest about his borough, his parish, or the home of his fathers; you see only inns and travellers. Everything will confirm my statement. Enter these people's houses, they are neither comfortable nor adorned. 'We have no time* 'it's too much trouble' that is what they tell you." 08
82 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
In fine: "All wish to be gone, every one is in a hurry; these people have the air of merchants at a fair." 94
With such a general passion for money-making in the v shortest possible time, a high code of business ethics could not prevail, and it is no surprise to learn that many of the fortunes made at San Domingo were amassed by very shady practices.96
Of course, in such a society, there was much high living^/ Drunkenness had always been a common failing at San Domingo. "There are many heads here, used up by drink," writes a Governor in 1710,96 and his words would have equally well applied to 1789. Rum was cheap, and full advantage was taken of the fact. "The people here," writes an Intendant, "drink this sort of liquor (which is of uncommon strength) as naturally and as copiously as we do wine." 97 The number of taverns was very great.98 Gambling was also common to all ranks of society;09 while the fame of the mulatto girls of Le Cap had spread far and wide through the West Indies.100
Such were the port towns of San Domingo, crude, y but full of life. Those rich merchants and ladies, decked in gay clothes and jewels; those gangs of sailors on shore-leave; those chattering crowds of negresses with their vivid turbans; those mulatto courtesans, gorgeous in towering headdresses and flaming scarves, all these must have made a brilliant picture of peculiar interest.101
The life of the countryside, though it differed in many respects from that of the towns, was in essence the same: the same material crudity was there, the same intellectual poverty and mental isolation. The planter's house, though large and spacious, was generally bare and com-
fortless; it was always devoid of taste.101 "Taste, sir," exclaims De Wimpffen," is still Creolian at San Domingo. And unfortunately, the Creolian is not the right taste. It smells too much of the Boucan."103 Even the richest plantations had about them an air of shiftless neglect. In a journey through the West Province, De Wimpffen is greatly surprised at its aspect. "What you will have some difficulty, sir, to believe of a country so rich as this/9 he writes, "is, that of the two kinds of plantations which we passed, one showed us only the picture of indolence in the last stage of wretchedness; and the other, that of the negligence and disorder of poverty, contrasted with the pretensions of opulence directed by the most execrable taste. Thus, you would sometimes meet an elegant carriage drawn by horses or mules of different colors or sizes, with ropes for traces, covered with the most filthy of housings, and driven by a postilion bedaubed with gold and barefoot." 104
The chief drawbacks to plantation life were monotony and loneliness. The strict regimen imposed by the climate 106 and the unvarying cycle of tropic agriculture 106 made the planter's existence one of deadening routine. Furthermore, he was practically cut off from the world. His nearest neighbor was sometimes miles away, and he lived as on an bland, alone with his family or mulatto housekeeper, surrounded by a horde of negro slaves. "The loneliness of the plantations" is a recurrent phrase in letters from San Domingo.107
And that distant neighbor? With him our planter was probably upon the worst of terms. Isolation had ended by giving both of them the hermit's abnormal craving to
84 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
be alone, and "imperceptibly they had at last become by nature what they had been at first merely through necessity." 108
All observers note these unsocial and quarrelsome ^ tendencies among the planters.109 "In the spot where I reside," writes De Wimpffen, "the neighbors hardly know one another. Pretensions, either ill-founded or^ ridiculous; jealousies of each other's fortune, more ridiculous still; disputes about boundaries and finally trespasses committed by the negroes or the cattle occasion such a misunderstanding, or such a coolness, that all reciprocal communication is out of the question. Consequently, as nothing is so savage as the recluse who is not so by choice, you must not be surprised that each owl rests in his hole, and that so little sociability reigns among men who have few or no sociable qualities." 110 Indeed, the famous "Creole hospitality" of former days was become little more than a memory.111
Such was San Domingo: assuredly the place to find fortune, but scarcely the choice for a home. And yet, curiously enough, there has grown up the "legend" of San Domingo. All the popular writers have painted this lost colony of France as a cross between Paradise and Eldorado.118
This legend seems to have been first built up by the "memories" of those refugees who, scattered through France, North America, and the West Indies, filled two continents with their lamentations. It was but natural that these impoverished exiles should have looked back with longing to their better days, and should have promptly idealized their lost homes. It is interesting to
find the legend already well formed by the opening of the nineteenth century.118
And of course, human sentiment also favored. The dramatic shock of this immense catastrophe, by which a land at the very pinnacle of wealth and prosperity was suddenly blotted out and as much lost to white civilization as though sunk like Atlantis beneath the waves, lent an aureole of mystery and poetic charm.
But the foundations of the legend had been laid long before. The returning colonist had always loved to dazzle the French public, and many a man had ruined himself by a scale of living suited only to the purses of the wealthiest planters. De Wimpffen overwhelms this failing with his scorn. "Do not," he writes, "suffer yourself to be imposed on by the puerile and ridiculous pomp which certain planters display in their transient residence at Paris or in the maritime towns. I am in the secret of these quacks. This coach in which His West Indian Worship so awkwardly parades, that wardrobe of the Marquis de Mascarille, these jewels which sparkle on his tawny fingers, are the profit of many crops and the price of no small number of his slaves. Yet a little while, andfj hard necessity will send the clownish niggard back, half-civilized and wholly stripped (like the daw in the fable) of his borrowed plumes, to begin again with an aching heart those labors which scarce produced in ten years as much as he spent in ten months, with no other advantage than having raised a laugh at his expense from the chevaliers a"Industrie who stripped him of his wealth,, and the prostitutes who shared with them in the spoils.] I never met a West Indian in France who did not enumer-
86 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
ate to me, with more emphasis than accuracy, the charms of a residence in San Domingo: since I have been here, I have not found a single one who has not cursed both San Domingo and the obstacles eternally reviving, which, from one year to another, prolong his stay in this abode of the damned." 114
De Wimpffen is, at times, a little hard on San Domingo. The returned colonist was probably moved not merely by vain-glorious pride, but also by the joyous intoxication of the man just back from the wilds with plenty of money in his pocket. Still, the result was the same; and the "Creole" became to France what the "Nabob" Was to England, the archetype of the wealthy man.
THE MULATTOES AND THE COLOR LINE
Midway between the white and slave populations of San Domingo stood a caste known as the "free people of color." 1 Numbering some twenty-seven thousand,2 andl possessing a considerable share of the island's wealth, itj was a factor of the utmost importance.
Although certain of these people were full-blooded negroes, by far the greater number were mulattoes 8 of various shades.4 The mulattoes looked upon the free negroes with unconcealed dislike, but this never caused an open breach within the caste; the free black fully shared the mulatto's contempt for the slave, and refused to make common cause with his blood-brother. For this reason the free negroes never played an independent r61e, and the "free people of color" may be treated as the caste of the mulattoes.6
The scarcity of white women had made illicit relations between the colonists and their negresses inevitable from the first. The Government disapproved, but its efforts availed little to check this concubinage,8 and "scions of the great names of France a Vaudreuil, a Chateauneuf, the last of the Boucicaults might be seen passing their lives between a negress and a bowl of rum." 7 The negro women made no resistance. They lacked the European ideal of chastity,8 and they had strong reasons for wel- i coming their masters' favor. "The negresses," says an
88 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
official memoir of 1722, "are proud of having children by white men. Also, they cherish the hope that the fathers will free them or buy their liberty." 0
Later on, when mulatto women had become sufficiently numerous, the wealthier whites took them as their concubines. So general became this custom that the census of 1774 showed five thousand out of seven thousand free colored women living as white men's mistresses,10 while mulattresses also formed the courtesan class of the port towns.11 Other influences besides that of sex contributed to bring about this state of things: the planter or merchant regarded his mulattress as a necessity, both to manage his complex household and to warn him of plots among his slaves.12
Given such conditions, however, it can be no surprise that mulattoes appeared early and increased rapidly in numbers. The exact rate of this increase cannot, it is true, be known, for the census counted only the free mulattoes, not those who remained in slavery. But even these partial figures are significant enough. The census of 1681 shows 210 mulattoes in San Domingo.18 By the year 1700, the numbers of the free colored had risen to some 500 individuals; and this figure progressively rose to 1500 in 1715; 8000 in 1745 ; 6000 in 1770; 12,000 in 1780; and 27,000 in 1789.14 Of course, in this series, allowance must be made for free negroes. Also, of the mulatto element many were the children of mulatto parents. Still, from the habits of the mulattresses, it is clear that a large proportion of their children must have had white fathers.
Although marriage between the races was never pro-
MULATTOES AND THE COLOR LINE 89
hibited by law,15 the number of such unions was always extremely small. Now and then a wealthy mulattress did succeed in obtaining a white husband, but this was an exceptional event.16 Hilliard d'Auberteuil, writing in 1776, states that there were only three hundred such cases in the colony.17 For few white men there were bold enough, or reckless enough, to cross the color line.
Jomingo was Trtmoiinly much divide^ against itself, but there was something upon which it was at one. Creole or European, poor white or planter, smuggler or governor, all remembered that they were white; all were determined that the white race shoul^
Yet, in numbers, the white stock was but a iandful scattered amid the masses of the black; and beside it there stood a growing mixed caste, part of which was white to the casual eye.
To safeguard the ideal which they held most at heart, the colonists felt there was but one way, and they ran a racial dead line, so straight and clear that there could be no crossing. To this the Home Government made no demur, for the Old Regime shared the colonial ideal to the with all the force of uulhurily." The^color line is the l^gr to the Revolution in San^ ien theTVTen of 1789 questioned it, the lomsts warned them that no change would be tolerated. When the conquerors of the Old Regime laid hands upon this social fabric, white San Domingo rose in furious rebellion; and this small handful, though threatened with! annihilation by its race enemies at home, defied the whole I power of regenerated France. When they had been
40 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
beaten in the horrible struggle that ensued, these men refused to surrender, abjured France, and gave themselves to the foreigner. In their grim devotion to an ideal, the colonial whites passed the bounds of politics: the religious fanaticism of the Vendee was no fiercer than the racial fanaticism of San Domingo.
From the very earliest days the colonists had been brought to realize one apparent fact, the fact of that greater assimilative power of the black blood later formulated as the "Law of Reversion." ^Once let the black principle enter a stock, and it seemed impossible ever to breed it out again: the moment fresh infusions of pure white blood ceased, the mulatto apparently began to revert to the negro. The learned Jesuit Father Labat notes this early in the eighteenth century,18 and Moreau de Saint-Mery writes to the same effect.19
Elaborate scientific experiments were made by slaveowners with an enquiring turn of mind, and the law apparently held good in the most extreme cases.20 On a plantation of one of the smaller French West Indies there were married two mulattoes, neither of whose ancestry had suffered an infusion of black blood for six generations. "These young people were of remarkable beauty. Their hair was extremely blond, their features retained no negroid trace, and their skin was so white that they might have been taken for albinos, had it not been for the supple vigor of their limbs and the unusual brightness of their minds. Well their children were unmistakably colored, and their grandchildren of an extremely dark shade.81
"After an experiment such as this, a man might well
MULATTOES AND THE COLOR LINE 41
ask how many successive marriages with whites were necessary to really destroy in a family all trace of negro blood, and it is easy to understand why pure white families always refused to marry with persons having the smallest drop of the black. For, once permit this first marriage, and it needed only a second to turn a white family into mulattoes. And from mulatto to negro, the way was short; it needed only one or two steps of the same kind.22
"The instinctive horror of the European for mixed marriages is thus easy to understand, and the reason becomes plain why, in San Domingo, law and custom united to devise every possible means of preventing this confounding of the bloods." 2*
The feeling against miscegenation was present from the earliest times, and it was shared by both the Government and the Church. "I do not think," writes an Intendant in 1681, "that marriages of whites to mulattresses, or of mulattoes to white women, would be good for the colony. Indeed, by what I have already seen, I am only too well convinced of the bad results of such marriages, which have caused much scandal and disorder. It is true that the debauchery of the Spaniards and Portuguese has brought them to alliances with such an impure stock; but I can also say that their colonies are abodes of abomination, vice, and filth, and that from these unions there has sprung a people so wretched and so weak that an hundred of our buccaneers can put to rout a thousand of that canaille.99 24
In his official report of 1722, the Superior of Missions is perhaps even more emphatic. According to this high
42 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
ecclesiastic the increasing numbers of mulattoes, illegitimate or not, is exposing the colonies "to the terrible punishment of those famous cities of abomination, which were destroyed by the fire of Heaven." To him, the mingling of the races is "a criminal coupling of men and women of different species, whence comes a fruit which is one of Nature's monsters." 88
And the Home Government shared this attitude. In certain of the French colonies*6 mixed marriages were forbidden, and although they were never formally prohibited in San Domingo, the disapproval of the royal authority was made perfectly clear. A ministerial letter of 1741 commends an Intendant who had prevented such a union. "His Majesty's pleasure," it runs, "is not to permit the mixing of the bloods; your prevention of the marriage in question is therefore approved." 87
On the white renegade who married a woman with the least trace of negro blood, law and opinion joined in imposing a legal and social ostracism which made of him a veritable outcast. He could hold no public office, no position of trust or confidence.88 His wife's wealth could do but little to relieve his miserable condition. "Everything around these men," says Hilliard d'Auberteuil, "calls forth regret. Everything which consoles others plunges them in sadness. Their life is one long agony." 89 The status of the white renegade is well defined by the legal commentator Desalles. "The white who marries a colored woman," he writes in 1786, "descends from his rank of white, and becomes the equal of the freedman. In equity, he ought to be put lower; for he who, through weakness, is untrue to himself, is still more likely to be
MULATTOES AND THE COLOR LINE 48
untrue to the laws of human society."10 Like the political traitor, the white renegade suffered "corruption of blood." His children followed the mother, and became merely free mulattoes.11
Nevertheless, these measures were largely of a preventive character. But, if mulattoes possessed of wealth and almost imperceptible in color were not to slip across the line, positive measures appeared to be called for. It was therefore thought necessary to mark down the members of this caste through all its generations.82 This was possible through a careful system of birth and marriage records, and every disputed case involved lengthy genealogical researches. The elaborate care exercised to prevent a mulatto from changing his legal identity is best shown by the minute classification of his color. Moreau de Saint-Mery enumerates over sixty recognized combinations.88
On the necessity for this indelibility of color, the Home Government was as strict as colonial opinion. "The negroes," writes the Minister of Marine in 1786, "were brought to the colonies as slaves, and slavery has imprinted an indelible mark upon all their posterity whether of mixed blood or otherwise. Consequently, their descendants can never enter the white class. For, once reputed whites, they could, like whites, lay claim to every honor and office; a state of things absolutely contrary to the constitution, of the colonies." 84 And a ministerial letter of 1771 states that nothing can destroy that difference "which Nature herself has created between white and black, and which policy has ever been careful to uphold as a barrier which the mulattoes and their posterity may never overcome." 88
44 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
The color line was valued not only as the sole means of preserving the purity of the white blood, but also as the best moral restraint upon the slaves. "This law is hard," says an official paper, "but it is both wise and necessary in a land of fifteen slaves to one white. Between the races we cannot dig too deep a gulf. Upon the negro we cannot impress too much respect for those he serves. This distinction, rigorously upheld even after enfranchisement, is the surest way to maintain subordination; for the slave must thus see that his color is ordained to servitude, and that nothing can make him his master's equal. The colonial authorities should be ever zealous in severely enforcing both this distinction and this respect." ,6
A planter expresses colonial opinion very well. "It was by means of this unalterable superiority of the white race," says Carteau, "that, until the Revolution, nearly 600,000 blacks, continually armed,87 obeyed without a murmur a handful of masters. Especially, as this superiority was not purely ideal. The negroes themselves recognized it by daily comparing the activity, energy, knowledge, and initiative of the whites with the degree of those same qualities in themselves and in the mulattoes." 88
On the eve of the Revolution, the growing pressure of that section of French public opinion which favored the mulattoes led the Home Government to waver slightly in its attitude. In 1788, the Minister of Marine asked the Governor whether it might not be feasible to forbid research into the origin of persons whose appearance was entirely white. But the Colonial Government answered that this would be positively dangerous. "The colonial prejudice toward mulatto families," came the reply,
MULATTOES AND THE COLOR LINE 45
"cannot be overcome. (Any attempt to coerce public opinion on this point would Endanger the King's authority." 89 In the light of what was so soon to follow, this reads like a prophecy.
From the theory of the color line, the actual status of the free mulattoes in 1789 can be easily imagined. The discriminations against them were both many and severe. They were forbidden to hold any public office or to engage in the learned professions; they were declared incapable of acquiring a patent of nobility or of receiving the higher decorations, such as the Cross of Saint-Louis; they were hindered by sumptuary laws from adopting European dress and habits; they were assigned special places in theatres, inns, churches, and public conveyances.40
Many of these measures were of quite recent date, for, as time passed, the mulatto status had become more and more rigidly defined. This has been sometimes held as the result of growing race feeling; but such a theory mistakes the effect for the cause. In the early days, the mulattoes had been too few to even dream of effecting any change in their situation. But, with the course of time, things had become different. The mulattoes had grown very numerous; they were often wealthy and possessed of a European education; many of them appeared white. Such persons devised every possible means to escape from their present condition, and strove desperately to evade the laws which bound them to their caste.41 It was this increasing pressure upon the color line which called forth the sharper legislation of the later eighteenth century. Of course feeling steadily rose
46 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
on both sides, and race hatred was very intense in 1789.
There was one field, however, in which the mulattoes had never been restrained, the acquirement and holding of property.42 How large a share in the wealth of the colony was held by them is difficult to say. In 1789, the mulatto leader Raymond claimed that his caste was possessed of one third the landed property and one fourth of the slaves.48 On the other hand, Gouy d'Arcy, one of San Domingo's deputies to the States-General, writes that the mulattoes owned one tenth of the land and fifty thousand slaves.44 Gouy d'Arcy's statement is probably nearer the truth, for he was then attempting to prove the generosity of the white planters in endowing their natural children, whereas Raymond is trying to show the general importance of his caste.
The bitter feeling between the races exposed the mulattoes to much ill-treatment. For this, the poor whites were mainly responsible. The wealth which many of the mulattoes possessed filled the needy adventurers of the towns with envious fury, and spurred them on to insult and injury.46 In the latter part of the eighteenth century, the authorities seem to have protected the mulattoes against the grosser forms of outrage,48 but there was a wide field which existing law could not reach.
This persecution, however, had very serious consequences. To the mulatto's general feeling of social oppression there was added a sharp sense of personal injury, a burning thirst for vengeance, of ominous import for the days to come.47 This danger had not passed unnoticed by attentive observers. At the very beginning of
MULATTOES AND THE COLOR LINE 47
tie eighteenth century, a high ecclesiastic had predicted that the mulattoes would become a future menace to the colony.48 "Be on your guard," says an official memoir of somewhat later date; "these people are but waiting their chance to take a terrible revenge." 48 The council of Port-au-Prince is positively prophetic. "These are dangerous people," says its memoir to the Home Government. In a time of trial or of revolution, they will be the first to throw off a yoke which galls them the more that they have become rich, have whites in their pay, and have lost much of their respect for our kind." 60 With the first^ signs of the coming storm, the thousands of mulattoes, trained to arms in the militia and the marSchaussSe^ were to become a menace to be greatly feared.81
The mulatto's character was not of a high order. How -much his failings were due to his nature, how much to his environment, it is difficult to say. Undoubtedly, his position under the Old Regime was both hard and degrading. Nevertheless, many mulattoes were men of considerable wealth, who had received a European education, and who had lived for years in Prance, where they not only suffered little social discrimination, but were greeted with sympathy and consideration by an increasingly large section of society. And yet, when the Revolution had m*'r given them complete equality and when circumstances ^ had made them masters of much of the island, they failed to rise to their opportunities. The mulatto caste produced no man of striking talents or eminent ability. There is no mulatto Toussaint Louverture.
The most detailed analysis of the mulatto character is in Moreau de Saint-Mery. "The mulattoes," he says,
48 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
"are well made and of a quick intelligence, but they^l share to the full the negro's indolence and love of repose^ Experience has shown that these men would be capable of succeeding in all the mechanical and liberal arts, were it not that their great desire is to do nothing. The mulatto journeyman works when pressed by want, then idles till the same thing happens again. Undoubtedly, there are exceptions. We all know mulattoes who are really industrious. But the ease with which these may be counted proves the general rule. The mulatto loves pleasure. It is his only master, but a despotic one. To dance, ride, and sacrifice to voluptuous pleasure, behold his three passions. He equals the white Creole in the first, he far surpasses him in the last." M
The mulattoes always had the reputation of being gen- \ erous and hospitable people, and the women were espe- i cially noted for kind-heartedness, and for extreme com-J passion towards poverty and suffering. But their moral natures were-weak. The mulatto women were very vain, frightfully extravagant, and extremely licentious." Their moral standing in the later eighteenth century has been already noted,54 and it seems to have been the same from the earliest days. "Most of the mulattresses," says a Governor in 1681, "are not only prostitutes themselves, but the procuresses of others' prostitution." 55
From the controversial writings of the Revolution, it might almost be thought that the mulattoes were, ipso facto, freedmen. The reason for this is that both sides were interested in diverting attention from the slaves of mixed blood. The mulattoes wished to make out that they had little in common with the slave class, while the
MULATTOES AND THE COLOR LINE 49
colonists desired to prove a generous dislike of leaving their own blood in servitude.66
But a study of earlier writers and of official correspondence proves that mulatto enfranchisement was by no means a matter of course, and that the number of such slaves was very large.57 As careful a modern writer as Roloff estimates them to have made up ten per cent of tl\e entire slave population,58that is, a figure of from forty to forty-five thousand.
This is a matter of some practical importance. Surprise has Sometimes been expressed that, in the struggle between the mulattoes and the negroes which took place after the collapse of white authority, the mulattoes should have held out so long. This is far easier to explain if we consider that, as far as the mulattoes were con-| cerned, it was a war of colors, not of castes, and that all,! regardless of origin, had united against black domination. \
The lack of union between the free negroes and their slave brethren has been already noted.59 This was not the case with the mulattoes. The mulatto slave felt himself the superior of the free black. "There is not a negro who dares buy a half-breed or quadroon/' says Moreau de Saint-Me'ry. "Should he do so, the slave would prefer death to such a dishonor:" 80 a striking testimony to the prestige of white blood in colonial San Domingo.
African slavery was the curse of San Domingo. From the very beginning, this dark shadow lay athwart its path, and perverted both its social and economic history. Present even in buccaneer days, with the opening years of the eighteenth century the evil institution became a basic principle and wrought its most fatal consequences. Negroes, and food for the negroes; that is the one rule fori the Colonies." 1 This maxim sums up the eighteenth- / century ideal.
Under the regime of slavery, San Domingo prospered, it is true; but only for the moment, and at the cost of its whole social and economic future. Socjajlyjjtwas a land Wo^ npApJimtp for* flnH a racial deadjine. Economically, it became a field of feverish exploitation, whose end must be complete exhaustion. Negro slavery touched this young society, just quickening with lusty life, and / made it an abortion.2
In 1789, the slave population of San Domingo was enormous; certainly 450,000,* very possibly half a million.4 And it had been increasing with ever-growing rapidity. The census of 1681 gives the slave population as but 2000,6 and that of 1687 as only about 8400.6 Later census figures are unreliable, owing to fraudulent returns,7 but we possess certain official memoirs drawn up for the information of Ministers of Marine, which are probably
near the truth. In one of these, the number of slaves by the year 1701 is estimated at 20,000,8 and another memoir reckons 230,000 slaves by the year 1754.9
But rapid as was this increase, it was due to immigration, not to births; the slave population of San Domingo never reproduced itself, and always showed a tendency to die out. The annual excess of deaths was fully two and one half per cent, over 11,000 persons, reckoning on the conservative basis of 450,000.10 When we consider that by the year 1789, nearly a million negroes had been introduced into San Domingo during the course of its history,11 this matter appears still more important.
The continual dying-out of the slave population in a favorable climate excited much comment at the time, and many reasons for it were given. In 1764, a Governor attributes it to improper food, undue labor imposed upon pregnant women, and a very high infant mortality.18 The general opinion seems to have been that the negroes were worked too hard,18 and Hilliard d'Auberteuil asserts that this was often deliberately done, as many masters considered it cheaper to buy slaves than to breed them.14 A colonial writer lays much of the trouble to immorality among the negroes, and to the ensuing ravages of venereal disease.15
Modern writers have advanced further reasons. Pey-traud, perhaps the ablest student on the subject, thinks that much stress should be laid on the great nervous strain imposed by the sudden change from the careless indolence of savage existence to a life of continuous^ labor.18 His contention seems to be sound. It was apparently this more than anything else which killed off
52 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
the enslaved Indian population; if the negro, less nervous and more robust, survived, it was only after a costly process of natural selection.
Leroy-Beaulieu holds that, by some fundamental law of nature, slavery hinders man's reproduction, as captivity does that of wild animals.17 Certainly the sterility of the slave population was not confined to San Domingo; it was common to the other West India islands without. distinction of nationality.18 Wallon pithily sums up the matter. "Slavery," he says, "like Saturn, devours its own children." 18
It is obvious that to cover an annual deficit of two and one-half per cent,80 and to provide a steady increase as well, the yearly importation of negroes must have been progressively large. The statistics, however, are both insufficient and faulty, while no record was kept of the smuggled negroes, whose number is put at fully three thousand a year.81 The official figure for 1764 is ten thousand and that of 1766 is thirteen thousand.82 An official memoir on the state of French commerce in 1785 gives the number of negroes exported to San Domingo from the West Coast of Africa as thirty-four thousand, not including three or four thousand from Mozambique.28 Another memoir estimates the importation of negroes for the year 1787 at over forty thousand.84 This is probably the approximate figure for 1789.
These great importations were effected by means of the slave trade.28 At the outbreak of the Revolution? this was a great and highly organized industry.28 In 1787, there were ninety-two ships exclusively employed in supplying the French colonies with negroes,87 and in 1788 the
number had risen to one hundred and five.28 The traffic was enormously lucrative, and was considered as the great source of prosperity by the French maritime towns.88
The slaves were obtained from a chain of "factories/9 stretching from the Senegal clear around the Cape of Good Hope to Mozambique. The Senegal region had been the earliest slaving centre, but as time went on this moved steadily down the coast. In 1789, the trade centred on the Congo and Angola coasts, while the Mozambique branch was a late development.80 At every stage of the traffic the slaves were exposed to great hardships, and the crowded slave-ships often became veritable death-traps. The horrors of the "middle passage" have left an evil memory. The average death-rate during the voyage was from seven to eight per cent.81
One of the most important considerations for the his-tpijM^the Revolution in San Domingo is the fact that") a majority^ of lie JOfigro ^population was African-bornJ Hilliard d'Auberteuil writes that in 1775 the Africans outnumbered the Creole negroes by ten thousand,82 while Moreau de Saint-Mery states that in 1789 this proportion had increased to almost two thirds.88 It is therefore essential to know something of this majority, born, not under the influence of white supremacy, but in African savagery.
As might have been expected from the extent of the slave coast, the negroes of San Domingo were of very mixed origin.84 The first slaves had naturally come from the Senegal region. They were all of a relatively high type. The pure negro races of this region (Bambara,
54 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
Mandingo, etc.) rank well up in the scale of negro ethnology, while much of this section of Africa is inhabited by races which are not straight negroes at all. Such are the Fulah, a copper-colored people of doubtful origin, and the "Black Moors" and Joloffs, who have much Fulah, Berber, and Arab blood.
As time went on, however, the new arrivals became of a steadily lower type. The slaving centre gradually shifted to the Guinea Coast, and the Guinea negro was a being far inferior to the black of the Senegal. In 1789, the slavers were bringing mostly Congo and Angola negroes, many of these being among the lowest of the black race. Such were the cannibal Mondongo, who sawed their teeth into sharp points, while the Angola negroes smelled so horribly that the air was "tainted for a quarter of an hour after they had passed."88 The negroes of Mozambique seem to have been physically weak and to have stood the climate badly. They began to come only on the eve of the Revolution.
But despite diversity of origin, certain general traits appear to have been common to all the various tyrjes. Peytraud has ably summed up the opinions of writers who have observed the negro in his African home. "The negro," he writes, "is a grown-up child, living quite in the present and the absolute slave of his passions. Thus his conduct displays the most surprising contradictions. He is trifling, inconsistent, gay; a great lover of pleasure, and passionately fond of dancing, noisy jollification, and striking attire. His natural indolence is unparalleled, force and cruelty alone can get out of him the hard labor of which he is capable. This, together with an inordinate
sensuality, an ineradicable tendency to thieving, and absolute lack of foresight, a boundless superstition favored by a mediocre intelligence, and timidity in face of imaginary terrors combined with great courage before real danger, appear to be the causes of the negro's lack of progress and of his easy reduction to slavery." 86 Turning now to those who observed the African in San Domingo, we find the most careful analysis in Moreau de Saint-Mery. "The Africans," he says, "usually remain indolent and lazy. They are quarrellers, boasters, liars, and given to thievery. Always addicted to the most absurd superstition, there is nothing more terrifying to them." 87
The negroes born in the colony appear to have been somewhat superior to those fresh from Africa. As to the degree of this superiority there seems to have been a slight difference of opinion. According to Moreau de Saint-Mery, "The Creole negroes are both physically and mentally above those just brought from Africa. Accustomed from their birth to a civilized environment, their minds are less dull than the Africans'. .. Generally speaking, their value exceeds that of the Africans by about one fourth." 88 And he adds that house-servants and artisans were nearly always Creole negroes, on account of their higher intelligence. Another colonial writer is not so optimistic. "As regards the Creole negroes," writes Ducceurjoly, "their up-bringing improves them a little; but they always closely resemble the original type."89
One thing seems clear: the differences between native-and foreign-born were so comparatively slight that ob-
56 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
serrations on the negro population as a whole will apply to both classes. A correct estimate is, however, a matter of difficulty. Opinions are very numerous, sometimes irreconcilable, and frequently prejudiced. Even the most conscientious observer could study only a limited number of individuals, whose environment must have varied extremely between a good and a bad master, and whose inconsistencies of conduct must have caused great perplexity. Add to these inherent difficulties the fact that many years before the Revolution the question of slavery had begun to inflame opinions and change observers into partisans, and the obstacles to correct judgment can be easily seen.
Partisan writings vary in the most extraordinary fashion. Antislavery circles pictured the negro as a good type of that "man in a state of nature," that "noble savage," which was one of the favorite ideas of radical thought in the later eighteenth century.40 The most extreme example of this is probably a certain three-volume romance published in 1789, entitled "Le Negre comme il y a peu de Blancs," which endowed the negro with all the virtues of the legendary Golden Age. On the other hand, the hotter defenders of slavery portrayed him as a depraved species scarcely to be classed among mankind,41 while one writer roundly asserts that the negro is not a human being at all, but a superior species of orang-outang.42
The bulk of moderate opinion, however, follows fairly closely the estimates previously quoted regarding the African negro.48 De Wimpffen probably best avoids extremes. "The negro," he says, "just like ourselves, is good or bad, with all the different shades that modify the
two extremes. His passions are those of uninformed nature: he is libidinous without leve, and gluttonous without delicacy.... He is indolent because he has few of the wants that labor is calculated to satisfy. He loves repose, not for the sake of enjoying it as we do, nor for the opportunity of finding in tranquillity the moral fruition which a state of physical activity had deprived him of; but for the sake of doing nothing. .. Generally speaking, the negroes are neither false nor perfidious; sometimes you will find a knave among them, who was probably in Africa a physician, sorcerer, or priest. Such a man is extremely dangerous.. .. Whether it be that they have false or confused ideas on the nature of 'meum' and 'tuum' I know not, but so it is, that the greatest part of the negroes are thieves. like all men whose religion is confined to a few superstitious practices, they have no idea of a conventional morality. Whatever good qualities the negro has, he derives from nature."44
Those of the negroes who came from the Senegal country had a dim idea of Mohammedanism.45 The great majority, however, were adherents of that fetishism which appears to be the native African religion, and though they quickly acquired a veneer of Christianity, the hold of this old religion never seems to have been broken.48 The cult of "Vaudoux" flourished in spite of every effort to stamp it out,47 and is powerful in Haiti to-day.48 The fact that the negroes possessed a religion and a priesthood of their own was to be of the greatest importance in the coming uprising against white rule.
The negro's happiness or misery depended entirely upon the character of his master. This is proved by the
58 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
amount of contradictory testimony from careful observers. We are given pictures of really happy life and glimpses of a perfectly intolerable existence. In general, the good seems to have outweighed the bad.49 The negro's surroundings were, it is true, t>f the^implest character. His "quarters" were primitive in the extreme, his creature comforts few. But then he had known nothing better in his Africajrhomey and the climate required little in the way of shelter or of clothing.60 On Sundays and feast days he was free from labor, and he was allowed to keep the profits of his garden-patch and hen-yard. That these earnings were not negligible is shown by the quality of his holiday attire, which seems to have greatly struck observers.61
Yet, after all, the great central fact in the negro's life was work. The house-servants and artisans seem to have had a fairly easy time,62 but the mass of the slave population led a life of hard and unremitting toil. From dawn to dark the field-gangs pursued their monotonous round of labor, exposed to the burning tropic sun, spurred on by the whips of the black "commanders" under the overseer's eagle eye.5*
The fundamental principle of San Domingo's economic life was forced labor. "The refractory slave could not be discharged like the free workman he must be coerced." 64 And it was evident that this coercion must be
/^severe: to extract continuous labor from such essentially indolent beings as the negroes, an iron discipline was
^ necessary. "To manage those immense herds of men and to keep them in order," says Vaisstere, "there was needed a master with a hand of iron. This becomes doubly clear
when we consider the enormous disproportion which everywhere prevailed between blacks and whites. Here were isolated plantations where two or three whites were surrounded by two or three hundred slaves. The slightest weakness might engender a revolt which could never be put down. Thus, this system of perpetual coercion was' not only the one way to extract from the negro continuous labor, it was also the sole means of repressing his bent towards crime and of guarding against his plots." 65
All persons well acquainted with colonial conditions affirmed this necessity. "I arrived at Martinique," writes a Governor of that island to the Minister of Marine, "filled widi all the European prejudices against harsh treatment of the negroes. But I have quickly become convinced that there must be a discipline not only severe, but severe in the extreme." 58
The great enforcer of this discipline was the lash. "The whip," exclaims a French antislavery writer, "is the symbol of labor in the Antilles." 67 And this was perfectly true. Whipping was the chief recognized punishment, though its variations extended all the way from a slight correction to a virtual sentence of death.68 At the same time many other forms of punishment were inflicted in practice, and cruel or depraved masters were guilty of most horrible excesses.58
In the very early days, the negro had no legal protection whatever. As regards the purchaser, the negro was his "thing," and the master might "do as-he would with his own." The slave of the seventeenth-century Antilles was thus the imtrumentum vocale of the old Roman Law.60
But this state of things ceased legally after 1685. In
60 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
that year, OiIhert_prnTnii1gatffd thft "Black^ Code/' 81 which, though inspired more by economic than humanitarian motives, set distinct bounds to the master's power.82 The principles of the Black Code were reaffirmed and slightly strengthened by the Edict of 1724, while the Ordinance of 1786 reflects the progress of ideas by its very sharp provisions against neglect and cruelty.88
-Such was the law; in theory really humane on the eve of the Revolution; the trouble was that it had never J>ecome a fact. There is no doubt that the softening of manners and the increasing enlightenment of self-interest had combined steadily to better the lot of the slave.84 At the same time he enjoyed little real protection against a cruel or ignorant master.86 For, however much authority and public opinion might reprobate these excesses, they simply did not dare to punish the guilty for fear of the effect upon the slaves.
The Royal Government recognized this clearly. "If it be necessary to repress abuses of unhumane masters," writes the Minister of Marine to Governor Larnage in 1741, "see that you take great care to do nothing which may impair their authority over the slaves, for this might cause a breaking-down of the necessary bounds of dependence and submission." 88 "It is only by leaving to the masters an almost absolute power," read the instructions given a new Intendant in 1771, "that we can succeed in holding such vast numbers of men in that state of submission necessitated by their preponderance over the whites. If persons abuse their authority, repress them covertly; but never let the slaves think that their masters can do them wrong." 81
Edwards touches the fundamental difficulty. "In countries where slavery is established/9 he writes, "the leading principle on which government is supported is fear; or a sense of that absolute, coercive necessity which, leaving no choice of action, supersedes all question of right. It is in vain to deny that such actually is, and necessarily must be, the case in all countries where slavery is allowed. Every endeavor, therefore, to extend positive rights to men in this state, as between one class of people and another, is an attempt to reconcile inherent contradictions, and to blend principles together which admit not of combination. The great, and I am afraid the only certain and permanent, security of the enslaved negroes, is the strong circumstance that the interest of the master is blended with, and in truth altogether dependent upon, the preservation, health, strength, and activity of the slave." 88
In 1788, on the very eve of the Revolution, the illusory character of slave protective legislation was strikingly illustrated by the "Affaire Lejeune." Lejeune, a coffee-planter, had suspected a poisoning conspiracy among his slaves. To discover the guilty parties, he inflicted upon several of his negroes a series of fiendish tortures. Some of the terror-stricken blacks complained to the authorities, an investigation followed, and Lejeune's guilt was proved to the hilt. But this was only the beginning. The case had become the talk of the colony, already stirred as it was by news of the antislavery agitation in France. Governor and Intendant were soon bombarded with letters, petitions, and addresses, begging them to suppress this dangerous scandal. "In a word," writes the
62 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
Intendant BarbS-Marbois to the Minister of Marine, "it would appear that the safety of the colony depends upon the acquittal of the Sieur Lejeune." 89 This was, indeed, what actually occurred. The case was appealed to the highest court of the island, which handed down a decree of acquittal, "thus affirming once again the solidarity of all whites as against their slaves." 70
Bryan Edwards, as we have seen, states that the base of slave societies is fear.71 This is true, and true in its broadest sense. For, if the slave feared the master, the master also feared the slave. In the background of San Domingan life, there lowered a dark shadow, of which men thought much even when they spoke little.
And this was no veiled or distant peril; no year passed in which it failed to give bloody proof of its imminent presence. The mass of the slave population, indeed, might bend or break beneath the yoke, but there was always a minority of untamable spirits who burst their bonds and sought an outlaw's freedom. In a mountainous country like San Domingo this was easy, and soon every tract of forest and jungle came to have its wild denizens.
This state of outlawry was termed "marronage." and the runaways themselves were known as "marrons," or, in English, "maroons." For like conditions were" common to all the West India islands; as Peytraud justly remarks, "Marronage was the endemic social plague of the Antilles." The greatest efforts were made to stamp out this evil, but in spite of a well-organized rural gendarmerie, the maroon bands could never be exterminated. The many wide tracts of tangled mountain, covered with
impenetrable tropical forest, offered the fugitive negroes an almost inaccessible retreat. This was especially true of the high ranges along the Spanish border. Safe in these wild solitudes and secured against hunger by a spontaneous food-supply, the maroon bands would often descend by night upon the plains and valleys to steal cattle, sack plantations, and murder travellers.72 A colonist, writing in 1772, states that at that very moment the mountain districts back of Port-au-Prince were "desolated by their frequent incursions." 78
And, as time went on, the numbers of the maroons steadily increased. During the year 1720 alone, over one thousand negroes took to the woods, while in 1751 a high official estimated the refugees in the mountains of the Spanish border at over three thousand.74 Of course great numbers were recaptured or killed by the mart-chausste, while many soon died from the accidents of a wild life; but the stream of recruits never ceased, and, as there were many women among the bands, a native maroon population gradually came into existence. These "1 men, born out of slavery and inured to a savage life, acquired a tribal consciousness which marked them off as a peculiar people. On the eve of the Revolution, the^" Colonial Government followed the example of the English in Jamaica and the Dutch in Surinam,75 and recognized the tribal existence of the maroons on the Spanish border by a convention of the year 1784.78
The maroon negroes are a not unimportant factor w**~*r -the struggles of the Revolution. They jealously maintained their identity, rendered important service to the English and Spanish invaders, and fiercely resisted Tous-
64 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
\ nniTitJrfTiiYPrhirft'fl trfforH to subject them to his authority. They welcomed Napoleon's army, and, together with the free negroes of the Old Regime, they beca thfi mnaf j loyal allies of the French.
*--Even in the best of times, the maroons were a source
of trouble. The reason why colonial writers do not devote more attention to the problem is because it was one of those constant factors which had come to be taken as a matter of course. Now and then, however, a significant side-light is thrown upon the question. For instance, when the first rumors reached France of the great negro insurrection of August, 1791, a retired officer of the mart* chausste wrote an open letter to one of the daily papers, warning against exaggeration. He thinks that the reports then current may be based upon some acute access of the chronic marronage, and he gives a sketch of his own experiences which portrays a state of genuine guerilla warfare.77 Of course, as it turned out, rumor had not belied the truth; yet this letter is none the less valuable evidence for conditions under the Old Regime.
And now and then these wild bands found a leader. Then the annoyance became a peril; it acquired the consistency of a revolt. For the maroons kept in touch with the enslaved negroes, and could always stir many to trouble.
Slave revolts had taken place throughout the colony's history. In 1679, a Spanish negro formed a conspiracy "to massacre all the French." 78 Foiled in this purpose he formed an entrenched camp among the mountains, and was only put down after a regular campaign.78 And this, at a time when the slave population was only two
thousand as against five thousand whites. In 1691, two other black leaders were hunted down and executed for having planned "to massacre all the whites in'the district of Port-de-Paix,80 down to women and children at the breast." 81 In 1704, the negroes about Le Cap conspired "to kill by night all the whites of that quarter." 88 It is true that the hand of Spain was thought to have been in these troubles, but subsequent affairs of a perfectly spontaneous nature prove that foreign instigation was at most only a contributing cause. In 1703, an able leader arose who for seven years spread terror by the sack of plantations and the rape of white women, while scarcely was he killed than a successor appeared who baffled the marichau&sie for twelve years.88 These men, it is true, do not seem to have entertained the idea of a regular insurrection, and the steady increase of settlement after 1714 must have discouraged the prospects of a successful rising; nevertheless, the early decades of the eighteenth century show quite a list of notorious outlaws.84
But about 1750 there appeared a man of real ideas and powerful personality who was to become a veritable menace to the colony. This man was the famous Macan-daL Macandal was an African, whether from the Senegal or Guinea is uncertain. For more than six years he abstained from active warfare against the whites while strengthening his influence over the negroes. His power was of a religious nature, for he announced that he was the Black Messiah, sent to drive the whites from the island. His magic powers gave him the authority of a veritable Old Man of the Mountain, and the supersti-
66 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
tious negroes considered him a god. He had a clear idea of race, and concerning it, gave utterance to the following remarkable prophecy: One day, before a numerous assembly, he exhibited a vase containing three .handkerchiefs colored yellow, white, and black, which he drew out in turn. "Behold," said he, "the first people of San Domingothey were yellow. Behold the present inhabitantsthey are white. Behold those who shall one day remain its masters" and he drew forth the black handkerchief.85
At last, about 1758, he thought the moment come for his great stroke. His plan rested on the wholesale"] use of poison. Poison had always been the chief slave method of obtaining revenge. It assumed the most diverse forms: poisoning of the master, of his children, his cattle, his slaves, even self-inflicted poisoning, if the party thought himself a chattel of value.88 But Macandal united poisoning to marronage for a definite end. According to an official memoir, the plot was woven with consummate skill. On a certain day all the water of Le Cap was to be poisoned, and, when the whites were in convulsions, Macandal and his maroon bands were to raise the waiting negroes of the "plaine" and exterminate the colonists. Only by the merest chance was the conspiracy discovered. The terror among the whites was great, and Macandal was relentlessly hunted down and executed. Yet even in death he left behind a legacy of unrest, for he prophesied that he would one day return, more terrible than before. This was believed by many ^ negroes, and the colony was never free from poisonings y and disturbances.87
The great negro insurrection of 1791 was thus only the coming to pass of what had been awaiting the favorjjt circumstance since the colony's beginning. Its possibility had long been foreseen. "We have in the negroes most dangerous enemies," writes a Governor in 1685. A century later,88 a royal officer exclaims, "A slave colony is a town menaced by assault; we are walking on barrels of powder." 88 His words were true; and sparks from the edicts of Revolutionary France were soon to fall upon those powder-barrels.
Such was San Domingo: materially prosperous, but socially diseased. In closing this sketch of the colony at the outbreak of the Revolution, let us quote the farewell of De Wimpffen: "Will you have, sir, my parting word on this country? It is: the more I know the inhabitants, the more I congratulate myself on quitting it. I came hither with the 'noble' ambition of occupying myself solely in acquiring a fortune; but destined to become a 'master,' and consequently to possess 'slaves,' I saw, in the necessity of living with them, that of studying them with attention, to know them, and I depart with much less esteem for the one and pity for the other. When a person is what the greater part of the planters are, he is made to have slaves; when he is what the greater part of the slaves are, he is made to have a master! Tout le monde est ici a sa place!"90
THE EVE OP THE REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
On the 19th of November, 1787, Louis XVI promised a calling of the States-General. The phrasing, it is true, was vague, and the date set 1792, but now that the Notables had failed to give relief1 it was plain that the bankrupt Government of France could never stagger through another four years. For the first time since the far-off ~| year 1614, the French people was about to assemble I legally before the throne; there to lay bare its grievances^ and demand redress.
But redress of grievances was not the hope of France alone; it was shared by Frenchmen over-seas, and nowhere more ardently than in the chief colony of the empire. San Domingo, as we have seen,. was filled -with discontent: discontent at the caste of arbitrary soldiers, supercilious bureaucrats, and pedantic lawyers who came from Europe to rule her with such arrogance and waste;' discontent at that colonial system which pinched and mulcted her at every turn.* That a movement for eco^? nomic reform and some measure of colonial self-govern* ment should speedily arise was inevitable.
The most obvious means of furthering these ends was
the sending of representatives to the coming States-Gen---
eral. True, no precedent existed for such a step. But precedent could clearly play little part in the convocation
THE EVE OP THE REVOLUTION 60
of a body which had not met for nearly two hundred years/and San Domingo might claim that her rights were as good as those of great European provinces such as Franche-Comte and Lorraine which had also come under the French Crown since the last States^Oeneral in 1614, yet whose admission was certain not to be refused. Of course, San Domingo was not a contiguous province but a remote colony, and no nation had ever admitted colonial representatives to its council board. But then the States-General was no modern legislature like the English Parliament, but a mediaeval assembly for the stating of grievances and with no direct power of enforcing redress. Theoretically, there seemed no good reason for denying the Frenchmen of San Domingo this opportunity of laying their complaints before the King.
In the early months of 1788 such a movement began, both in San Domingo itself and among that numerous group of absentee nobles, planters, and merchants then < living in France.4 On July 15, 1788, the French section organized as a regular party styling itself the "Colonial Committee." It was dominated by a group of great absentee nobles, and at Court it had powerful connections and the patronage of the Duke of Orleans. Its adherents numbered about a thousand persons, centring in Paris, but also scattered through the provinces and the commercial towns. Furthermore, the party had the good luck to discover among its members a man of real ability in the person of the Marquig^de^ Gouy d!Axpy> whose stirring pamphlets and clever political tactics were at length to bring it success.6
In San Domingo, the party showed equal activity.
TO FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
Here also the movement was headed by a number of wealthy planters of noble birth, seconded by^fime-of the rich merchants and lawyers, while the semi-official Chamber of Commerce at Le Cap set itself up as the steering-committee of the movement.8 The fear of government interference restrained the Chamber from too open a propaganda, but in the month of May it drew up ajnanifesto cLaiining the rights of San Domingo to rep-resentation jn, the.States-General, aiul circulated among its adherents a petition to the King.7 Backed by three thousand signatures, this petition was forwarded to the Colonial Committee in Paris.8 In rather flamboyant language it set forth the signers' griefs and hopes. Sire/9 it reads, "you are about to call all France around you. The clarion call is already sounding, and its note carries across the sea. Our hearts are at your feet. We are Frenchmen; we lament that the ocean hinders us from being the first to reach the footsteps of your throne." 8
This address did much to stimulate the French Committee's propaganda. Within the next few weeks a number of pamphlets appeared, mostly from the clever pen of Gouy d'Arcy; wires were industriously pulled at Versailles; and on September 4 a deputation styling themselves the "Coinmissioners of San Domingo" appeared before the Minister of Marine, La Luzerne, and presented their petition now swelled to four thousand signatures by the adherents of the party in France. La Luzerne avoided committing himself, but laid the petition before the King, and Louis referred it to the Conseil d'tat, which advised against colonial representation on grounds of inexpediency.10
THE EVE OF THE REVOLUTION 71
However, this check was far from discouraging the Colonial Committee. Fresh pamphlets appeared to win over French public opinion,11 and the growing weakness displayed by the King's Government emboldened the party to more radical action. By this time whole provinces, like Dauphine and Brittany, were acting at their own will and pleasure in open defiance of the King's authority,12 and the lesson was not lost upon the partisans of colonial representation. "The Government," says Boissonnade, "was denying them access to the coming States-General; they resolved to force it. The Government was denying them the right of assembly; they invoked the right of nature." 18 They passed the word to their comrades in San Domingo to elect deputies to the States-General.
In San Domingo what was the strength of that royal authority now to be put to this decisive test? The well-meaning but irresolute Minister of Marine, La Luzerne, had been the island's last Governor,14 and his successor, the Marquis du Chilleau, had not yet left France. Nevertheless, San Domingo was in good hands. For the last four years the intendantship had been held by the Marquis de Barbe-Marbois. A man of strong character and great ability, he had effected striking financial and administrative reforms, and was the acknowledged head of the Government.16
Under better conditions this man might have been a tower of strength against the forces of disorder and revolution. But here, as elsewhere, the wretched Government of Louis XVI deserted its most faithful servants. Faced by the rising storm, he demanded again and again
78 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
of the Home Government what attitude he was to assume. "We administrators," he writes, "can only wait upon your orders." ie But the Government had no orders to give. In December, 1788, arrived the new Governor, Du Chilleau; yet his instructions contained not a line of positive direction; they simply ventured a pious confidence "in the prudence of the administrators.''17
To Barbe-Marbois this was all the more perplexing since it was becoming evident that in spite of their noisy propaganda the partisans of colonial representation were only a minority j fully two thirds of the white population were showing themselves either indifferent or positively hostile. The poor whites had nothing to gain from the aristocratic regime proposed by the Chamber's manifesto, the official caste was in violent opposition to claims for self-government which would have deprived its members of their berths; finally, a majority even of the planters expressed lively apprehensions as to the results of this agitation.1^
The dissent among the planters is most significant. The reasons for official opposition are patent, but these planters were fully alive to colonial abuses, and were by nature just as susceptible as the adherents of representation to prospects of power and reform. The_ reason for their opposition was their fear of the coming States-General's attitude toward slavery and the color line.
The first note against slavery had been sounded a full half-century before by Montesquieu in his "Esprit des Lois," but ever since then the chorus had been swelling in volume. All the leaders of later French thought had
THE EVE OF THE REVOLUTION 73
written against this institution,19 and in the preceding year the movement (become international in scope) had assumed a practical form truly alarming to the colonies. In 1787, the English reformer Clarkson had founded in London a society advocating the abolition of slavery. It had spread like wildfire, and a propaganda had begun which within a year reached Parliament and alarmed the British colonies.80
And almost immediately the movement jumped the Channel, for in February, 1788, the brilliant young pamphleteer Brissot founded the famous society of the "Amis des j^pus!'*81 If the English propaganda had spread fast, the French one spread infinitely faster. The mother-society in Paris quickly counted among its members many of the great names of the Revolution: men already famous like Lafayette, Mirabeau, and Condorcet; coming figures like Robespierre. Furthermore, it quickly became much more radical than the English society. It affiliated with the network of secret revolutionary organizations then springing up over France, embraced abstract principles, and already formulated the "Rights of Man." It appealed to the people and soon gained many thousand adherents. By its organized network ; of daughter societies, it anticipated the system j>f the Jacobins.88
If even the English propaganda had disquieted San Domingo,38 it is easy to imagine the alarm caused by the progress of the French society and by the accompanying flood of antislavery literature. "I well remember," says Moreau de Saint-Mery, "the tremendous sensation at Le Cap, when, in April and May, 1788, numbers of the
74 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
'Mercure de France* arrived giving details and comment on this question." 24
Now all this had given the colonists food for much reflection. Judging by the paralysis of the French Gov--\ ernment, radical thought was very likely to dominate | the coming States-General. And it was equally clear that this radical thought was pronouncing against colonial ideals in no uncertain fashion. Was it, then, wise td"*J affiliate with this assembly or raise colonial questions for J) its consideration? To many men the correct line of conduct had already been marked out by the recent action of their English colonial neighbors. The island of Jamaica had been as much wrought up over the efforts of Clarkson and his friends as San Domingo by the doings of the "Amis des Noirs"; indeed, even in San Domingan opinion, the English island was at that moment considered the more menaced of the two.28 Yet the Jamaicans expressed no desire to send a handful of representatives to be lost in the mass of the British Parliament ;/mstead,l they had been more than contented to send agents for the protection of their interests.28 This struck the mass of the San Domingo planters as the proper solution of their own difficulty. To keep colonial questions as much! as possible out of the French public eye, and to ob-1 tain reforms directly from the Crown through the quiet \ efforts of their agents, appeared to these men the onljrj safe course to pursue.87
This opposition to colonial representation was not long in assuming concrete form. Not only was there widespread refusal to sign the petition circulated in May, 1788,28 but a public protest was got up and presented to
THE EVE OF THE REVOLUTION 75
Barbe-Marbois.28 In his correspondence with the Minister of Marine, the Intendant explains the feelings of this opposition. "Admission to the States-General," he writes, "would, in itself, be dear to all the colonists. But they feel how little likeness there is between colonial conditions and those to be treated by the States-General, and they think that the voices of a few colonial deputies would be lost in those of six or seven hundred persons few of whom could have any knowledge of colonial conditions or interests." 80
Such was the conviction of both Government and majority; yet asliaa-oftel happened* they were unable to defeat the plans of an aggressive minority which knew what it wanted and strove to a definite end. By the close of the year 1788 this minority had acquired a well-knit organization, with provincial and even parochial committees working under the guidance of the Chamber at Le Cap.81 Accordingly, after various aggressive moves,81 thTCnamber in late December boldly defied the Government, and convoked throughout the colony electoral assemblies for the chojce-of depiities to the States-General.88 The conservative majority protested,84 but did^ nothing, and its natural leader, tjtie IntendariL. dared not] move for lack of orders. These elections appear to have been highly irregular, packed, and sometimes secret. The planter opposition refused to vote, and of the poor whites only party henchmen were admitted. The result was the "election" of a solid delegation of thirty-seven deputies, several of whom were residents of France.88 At the same time cahiers of grievances were drawn up stat-
ing the electors' wishes. These show clearly the party's
76 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
aims, which were nothing less than the erection of the planter caste into a privileged aristocracy which should monopolize the public offices and rule San Domingo.88]
As the result of these elections the Government was quite discredited,87 and- it soon fell into absoluteJmpo-tence through a quarrel of Governor and Intendant. Th important results of the hard winter of 1788-89 upon the course of the French Revolution have been often noted, and it is interesting to discover a direct effect upon the history of San Domingo as well. The failure of the French crops had caused a prohibition against the export of grain from France, and ihis threatened San Domingo with famine. To avert this famine, Governor Du Chilleau in March, 1789, threw open the jpprtsJjq> foreign foodstuffs. The terms of his proclamation, however, exceeded the law, and 6arb^-Marbois protested. For some time the relations between the two had been growing less cordial, and this action of the Intendant completed the rupture. Du Chilleau, a weak man with a hot temper, now fell under the influence of the radical planters, who, in May, 1789, induced him to issue an entirely illegal ordinance giving the island virtual freedom of trade. The Intendant at once reported to the Home Government this nullification of the "Pacte Coloniale," and the Minister of Marine promptly annulled Du Chilleau's acts and recalled him in disgrace. But the political consequences of the quarrel were none the less serious. The ministerial orders did not arrive until autumn, and before that time the news of the first great triumphs of the French Revolution had reached San Domingo to fino>^-the island virtually without a government.88
THE EVE OF THE REVOLUTION 77
The year 1789 discovered France in the tumult of the approaching elections to the States-General, and therein the voice of the Colonial Committee was heard loudly raised among the rest. That it aroused a certain amount of interest is proved by the election of several of its supporters and by some favorable cahiers." Yet its rather noisy propaganda also had a reflex effect which went far to justify the fears of its colonial opponents. The "Amis des Noirs" took up its efforts as a challenge, seeing in the champions of the Colonial Committee the most bitter opponents of them changes so deeply laid to heart. They therefore declaimed loudly against the oppression of the slaves and the iniquities of slavery, and they succeeded in getting a better hearing than the Colonial Committee itself.40 The great mass of public opinion, however, refused to declare for either party.41
The efforts of the Colonial Committee had evoked yet another current of opposition. Among the colonists living in France there existed the same differences of opinion as among the residents of San Domingo. From the first there had been much lively dissent at the doings of the Colonial Committee, and these dissenters were rapidly drawing together into that definite organization later known as the "Club Massiac." Several of their sympathizers were elected to the States-General where they were certain to oppose colonial representation,48 and in this attitude they were sure to be supported by the deputies of the commercial towns, already alarmed as these were at the Colonial Committee's strictures on the "Pacte Coloniale." 48
Faced by such powerful opponents it is not surprising
78 FRENCH REVOLUTION IN SAN DOMINGO
that the^ firet^fforta-oi-tfae Committee to seat its deputies were failures. The States-General opened on the 5th of May, and in mid-June the cause of the San Do-^mingo deputies looked more than doubtful. In this impasse they were fortuitously saved by the Day of the Tennis Court:44 in that crisis Gouy d'Arcy saw his opportunity and led his fellows to theaid of the imperilled Third Estate. The spectacle of this group of noblemen appearing in the hour of peril to share their fortunes roused a wave of grateful enthusiasm among the Commons, who admitted the principle of colonial representation on the spot.46
The Colonial Committee had thus-won in principle, but the extent of its victory still remained to be determined. In the first debates on the size of the San Domingo delegation, it seemed as though its demand for twenty seats would go through. But the pressure of other business caused frequent adjournments, and this delay was skilfully used by its opponents. Pamphlets from influential members of the "Amis des Noirs" like Brissot and Condorcet appeared to chill opinion; a protest from the "ClubJNIassiac" stabbed the .Committee from behind; worst of all, the able pen of Mirabeau fought savagely against the San Domingans, and in the debates his great voice thundered forth words which must have caused a shudder among the colonial deputies.46 "Have not the best minds denied the very utility of colonies?" he cried. "And, even admitting their utility, is that any reason for a right to representation? These people wish a representation in proportion to the number of inhabitants. But have the negroes or the free