|Table of Contents|
Table of Contents
I. A brief review of the principal circumstances connected with the Emancipation of the Haytians
II. Life, character, and reign of Dessalines
III. Early life and character of Christophe: Part I
III. Early life and character of Christophe: Part II
IV. Contests between Christophe and Petion
V. Christophe's elevation to the throne
VI. Christophe's splendour and popularity
VII. Haytian nobility
VIII. Improvement of the Haytian army, and defence of the Island
IX. Establishment of schools in Hayti
X. Population of Hayti
XI. General view of the condition and character of Christophe's subjects, during his reign
XII. Sentiments of the Haytians towards whites
XIII. View of the Republic of Hayti
XIV. Decline of Christophe's popularity
This volume was donated to LLMC to enrich its on-line offerings and
for purposes of long-term preservation by
Collector Wolfgang Windel, Norderstedt,
'~\ I~' Y AP' I:IU'CWOSO"031 ((
tnd'nha4 A AM Aimst.':~fa rr t~gIA2
SKETCHES OF HAYTI;
EXPULSION OF THE FRENCH,
DEATH OF CHRISTOPHE.
BY W. W. HARVEY,
OF QUEEN'S COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE.
Qiiod ego I'actum cuilibet vctcrtim constilum g1orimt comparanduin reor, nisi quod nat,,ralilcr au(ita visis laiidansus libentius, et presenting invidia, praeterita veneratione proseqllirur.-VELL. PATERC.
PUBLISHED BY L. B. SEELEY AND SON,
FLEET STREET, LONDON.
THE Island of Hayti has been long considered remarkable for the circumstances attending its discovery, the fertility of its soil, the beauty and grandeur of its scenery, and for the riches which it has, at different periods, poured into two of the greatest nations of Europe. But that which invests it with peculiar interest is the history of its inhabitants, every portion of which presents to our contemplation events deeply affecting in their nature, and instructive in their consequences. The aborigines, a harmless and inoffensive race., freely admitted the Spanish adventurers on their shores; and being equally simple and unsuspecting., treated them with perfect confidence and hospitality. But it is well known how short a time served to unfold to them both the character and. designs of the strangers. Their kindness was rewarded with cruelty ; their property was taken from them by violence ; and the loss of
their liberty followed that of their possessions, and with it the power of resistance. Their oppressors were men actuated by avarice, superstition and cruelty, the most malignant of human passions; the gratification of which was neither restrained by conscience nor embittered by remorse. Their greedy desire after wealth prompted them to the perpetration of deeds., over which the honour and the decency of our nature would draw the veil of oblivion.
-Quid non mortalia pectoral cogis,
Auri sacra fames !But thus it was that., by means as impious as they were inhuman and barbarous, the whole of the primitive race was at length so completely exterminated, as not to leave a vestige remaining.
To supply the loss of the aborigines of Hayti, thousands of negroes were, at different times, transported thither from Africa ; and these unfortunate beings, after having been dragged from their native shores, and subjected, during a long and tedious passage, to untold sufferings, were reduced in their new abode under a system the most unjust and barbarous that cruelty has ever suggested, or ingenuity devised. But
injustice and oppr session cannot always triumph; and that injured race., exasperated by the rigours of their bondage, at length rose in opposition to their masters, if indeed with feeble hope of deliverance, yet well resolved to struggle and to bleed for it. Hayti then became the scene of commotions as dreadful in their progress as the world has ever witnessed. Slavery itself could have exhibited nothing more truly shocking. The most horrid massacres were perpetrated without fear and without remorse; and while the planter and the slave contended, the one for subjugation and slavery, and the other for liberty and revenge, their blood often mingled together in the. contest, flowing over every part of the colony.
But if any one period in the history of Hayti be calculated to awaken general interest more than another, it is undoubtedly that which has elapsed since its negro and coloured population have obtained their independence. It presents to us the picture of a people newly escaped from slavery, yet still suffering and exhibiting in their character, its pernicious and demoralizing effects; gradually returning from scenes of confusion and bloodshed, to habits of industry, peace and order; steadily aiming, amidst frequent reverses, to establish a regular and
independent government; and under circumstances of difficulty, with confined resources, labouring to improve their agriculture, to repair an exhausted population, to form commercial connexions, and to introduce a knowledge of the arts and sciences ; thus laudably endeavouring to lay the foundation of an empire, which may perhaps be compared hereafter with nations the most celebrated for their civilization and refinement. To the period of those efforts the present volume relates; and for the satisfaction of those who may favour it with a perusal, it may be proper to state from what sources I have derived its materials., and by what motives I have been engaged to undertake its publication.
During the latter part of the reign of Christophe, I had occasion to visit Hayti, and to spend a considerable time at Cape Fran ois, the capital of his dominions. I had thus a favourable opportunity of observing the condition of the natives in general, of marking the peculiarities of their character., and of witnCSSiDg the plans which had been established with a view to their improvement. At that place resided the principal men in the Haytian. government, both of the civil and military departments; and occasional interviews with
some, and frequent communications with others, enabled me to form a tolerably correct estimate of their talents, and to procure many important particulars respecting their country. Through my acquaintance with several European and American merchants, who had lived many years in different parts of the Island, I was furnished with accounts of such circumstances as had occurred during their residence there. And by my intimacy with those who had dwelt in Christophe's palace, as members of his household, or were in frequent attendance on him,, in their official capacity, I obtained a knowledge of several facts relative to the character and proceedings of that chief. By personal observation therefore,, and by frequent conversation with the natives and white residents., I procured considerable information respecting the Haytians, from the period of their emancipation up to the time of my arrival ; and I was thus furnished with more satisfactory answers to such inquiries as naturally suggest themselves concernirg a free and independent body of negroes, than could be collected from the occasional notices of their state which appeared in p~eriodicals and gazettes, or from any history that has been written respecting them.
The materials of the volume are therefore principally derived from printed documents procured in Hayti, and from short notes made during my residence there. Lest however the reader should, after this statement, expect a more ample and detailed account of the Island than he will find on perusal, it may be necessary to explain more fully of what these materials consist. The communications of the more intelligent Haytians to which I have alluded., being confined to events which they bad themselves witnessed, were necessarily imperfect and unconnected. The notes also of which I speak, were taken entirely for my private satisfaction, without the most distant intention of preparing them subsequently for publication. The jealousies and suspicions of Christophe, at the same time, rendered it necessary to be cautious in committing accounts to writing; and thus my memoranda have actually failed me in some particulars, on which I felt especially concerned to dwell at large. To supply so far as I have been able the deficiencies arising from these causes, I have., as will be seen by references in their proper places, occasionally consulted an anonymous work, entitled History of the Mand of St. Domingofirom its discovery
b~y Columbus to the present period.' But I beg to state most distinctly, that I undertake to furnish nothing more than brief and imperfect Sketches of Hayti, since its emancipation, such as I hope may be found interesting to general readers. 2
With respect to the motives by which I have been induced? to submit these pages to the public eye, it may perhaps be sufficient to say that I conceived that any information, however imper11 Published by A. Constable and Co. Edinburgh ; and Rest Fenner, London, 1818.
2 The plan of the work hardly admitted of chronological order; but lest any confusion should arise from the omission of dates, I have thought it proper to subjoin them in this place :
Original revolts in Hlayti commenced ..23rd August 1791 British forces entered the Island ..........19th Sept. 1793
- _- quitted it ......................June 1798
Independence of Hayti first proclaimed ...1st July 1801 Expedition under the command of Le Clerc 14th Dec. io
sailed ........................... 180
French finally expelled from the Island .... .2nd Dec. 1803 Independence of Hayti again formally pro- I st Jan. 1804
Dessalines crowned Emperor of Hayti 8. th Oct. 1804 Death of Dessalines ....................17th Oct. 1806
Christophe proclaimed President of Hayti.... .17th Feb. 1807 Christophe crowned King of Hayti ........ 2nd June 1811 Death of Christophe ........................Oct. 182,0
feet, respecting a people so interesting as.the Haytians are become, would at this time prove peculiarly acceptable; and as I designed not their history since their emancipation, but merely brief notices of their condition during that period, I ventured to believe that the information in my possession was sufficiently full and correct to answer that purpose. I was the 'more inclined to this undertaking, by the circumstance, that with the exception of a short account in the anonymous history referred to above, nothing, so far as my inquiries have enabled me to learn, has been published in this country respecting them. But for these reasons, the
Sketches of Hayti would never have seen the light.
That these prefatory statements be not unnecessarily prolonged, I will add but one remark, which is in reference to the introductory chapter. That chapter was originally intended to appear in a separate form, having been written for a purpose not directly connected with the general object of the book. Its design therefore, is not, as it will be readily seen, to give a minute description of the horrors which accompanied the early insurrections of the Haytians. It is still less its design to defend, or to extenuate, the excesses and cruelties they
practised, while contending for their liberty. Its principal object is to show, that the early comnmotions in Hayti may be principally attributed to the impolicy and injustice
of the planters and colonists themselves; that the slave population, in endeavouring to recover their freedom, were guilty of no greater cruelties than those exercised towards them by their oppressors ; and thus to obviate the erroneous opinion which ascribes exclusively to the negroes, those deeds of bloodshed and destruction that marked the contest.
Queen's College, Cambridge,
loth April 1827.
P. S. Since this sheet was sent to the press, I have procured
a copy of the Rural Code of Hayti, which code was published at Port-au-Prince in May last, and has just been re-printed in this country. At present I have only to remark respecting it, that it contains many judicious regulations with regard to agriculture; and that there are others which appear to infringe on the liberty of the labouring classes of Haytians, the necessity and policy of which remain to be proved. But whatever change the code may produce, it can never warrant the assertion, which has been incautiously made, that the condition of those classes is again become, in all respects, similar to the condition of slaves.
Page 21, line 11, for posseested read possessed.
40, 4, for six years read two years.
102, 13, for tonjours read toujours.
110, 11, for where read were.
163, 26, for reprehensible read reprehensive.
169, 14, for nor read and.
173, two lines from the bottom, for the same number of
regiments, read three regiments.
1. A brief review of the principal circumstances connected with the Emancipation of the
Haytians - - - I II. Life, Character, and Reign of Dessalines 21 III. Early Life and Character of Christophe: PART I. 44 PART II. 62
IV. Contests between Christophe and Petion 79 V. Christophe's elevation to the throne 106 VI. Christophe's splendour and popularity 123 VII. Haytian nobility :--Courts of Justice :-and
Character of the Judges 143
VIII. Improvement of the Haytian army, and defence
of the Island 169
IX. Establishment of Schools in Hayti :-Education of the Prince and Princesses ]199 X. Population of Hayti:-State of Agriculture and Commerce 233
XI. General view of the condition and character of Christophe's subjects, during his reign 254
XII. Sentiments of the Haytians towards whites:Condition of Europeans and Americans at
Cape Francois 325
XIII. View of the Republic of Hayti:-Last attempt
of France :-Death of Petion 349
XIV. Decline of Christophe's popularity :- His death
and character:-Union of both parties under
Boyer :-Conclusion 385
SKETCHES OF HAYTI.
A BRIEF REVIEW OF THE PRINCIPAL CIRCUMSTANCES
CONNECTED WITH THE EMANCIPATION OF THE HAYTIANS.
THF, circumstances connected with the deliverance of the negro population of St. Domingo from slavery, have been related with great exactness and impartiality. But at the present time, when the subject of general emancipation. excites universal interest, it may be proper to review the principal transactions which led to so important an event; as by this means we shall be enabled to determine the causes., not only of the expulsion of the French from their richest and most extensive colony, but of the cruelties and barbarities which the Haytians are said to have perpetrated during their struggle for liberty and independence.
While the most violent measures were adopted in France to overthrow the established
government, the planters of St. Domingo did not look on in silence; and the National Assembly, in requiring a more equal representtion of the people, tacitly acknowledged that the colonies ought to have a voice in the legislature, before the observance of its decrees could be justly enforced. The colonists themselves perceiving this, determined to seize the advantages which it offered. They selected their deputies, formed their colonial assemblies, and proceeded to establish a newv constitution for the internal government of the island. This constitution, when published, sufficiently showed that nothing short of their independence of the mother country was the object at which they aimed. Among the motives which led them to form this resolution was the decree of the National Assembly, which declared that "all men are born and continue free and equal as to their rights." This declaration they interpreted as tacitly recommending the emancipation of their slaves ;-and fearing the effects it might produce when' known to the mulattoes and negroes, they considered it necessary., for the security of their privileges and property, to take the government of the colony into their own hands.
It is unnecessary to detail the comnmotions
t)F THE HAYTIANS. 3
which now commenced in the Island,-the opposition of the royalists and revolutionists to each others' plans,-the violent measures pursued by each party,-and the disgraceful transactions which followed. It is sufficient to observe, that they created the greatest ferment throughout the colony, in which all classes, the slaves not excepted, largely partook.
As early as the commencement of these contentions among the planters and the colonial government, a society had been formed in France denominated Amis des Noirs, composed chiefly of those who afterwards took a leading part in the French revolution,' and of the mulattoes who were at that time resident in the French capital. Their professed object was to effect the emancipation of the slaves; because, they said, they were assured that these unfortunate beings possessed a right to liberty as indisputable as their own. Whatever was their real design, their measures for its accomplishment were in many instances both injudicious and violent. They contended for immediate emancipation; forgetting, in the heat of their zeal, the unfit state of the negroes at this period to
Gregoirc, La Fayette, and Robespierre, were among its jprincipal members.
value and improve the advantages of freedom and thus overlooking tile propriety and necessity of a gradual method of liberatiDg them. They were equally rash in the manner in which they caused their designs in favouOr of the slaves to be communicated to them. Inflammatory addresses respecting their rights arc said to have been dispersed among them, and various other means were adopted, in order to prevail oil them to rise in their own defence.
One of the first steps of this society was, to recommend Og'e, a mulatto of St. Domingo, at that time at Paris., to return to the Island., with a view of making preparations for the execution of their intentions ;-having previously procured him the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the army of one of the German electors. In the meantime,, the mulattoes urged their claims, and demanded the full benefits and privileges of the whites. But the planters and the colonial assembly, fearing it would be dangerous, in tile present state of their own affairs, to accede to this demand, endeavoured to evade it by promises of future benefits and privileges. Such was the state of things with regard to the planters, and the coloured population, when Og6e arrived in the Island.
The effects produced on the negKoes by the
OF THE HAYTIANS.
contentions among the French residents, the proceedings of the mulattoes, and the exertions of the Amis des Noir,, were such as might have been easily foreseen. And when they learnt from Ogde and his assistants, that steps were taking to effect their speedy emancipation; and were urged, by motives which few in their circumstances could have resisted, to exert themselves in their own behalf,-receiving at the same time promises of assistance and support; nothing was more natural than their determination to escape from the yoke under which they groaned, and to assert their right to liberty and independence.
The mulattoes, perceiving that, notwithstanding the decrees of the national assembly and the promises of the colonists, their privileges were still withheld, determined at length to secure them by force of arms ;-the negroes also, having formed their plans, lost no time in commencing their operations; and both parties united in attacking their common oppressors, and in asserting and maintaining their common rights. Accommodation soon became impossible. The French would offer no terms, nor comply with the most just demands. The negroes had risen, bent on obtaining their freedom, and the mulattoes on
securing their privileges :-these were crimes, in the estimation of the colonists, never to be forgiven. Slavery or destruction was the deinand of the planters : liberty or death the determination of the insurgents. The disregard of the former to all their claims,-the repeated refusal to grant them redress, or to allow their condition to be in any degree ameliorated, with the violence of the measures pursued in order to subdue them, served only to render them more desperate and formidable. Neither their scanty resources on the one hand, nor the strong opposition which they met with on the other, could shake their resolution., or diminish their thirst for revenge. But animated by their numbers, and growing increasingly fierce by their ravages,. an occasional defeat caused only a momentary check, before the flame broke forth in all its fury. Then it was, that St, Domingo became the scene of the most dreadful ravages, and of massacres' as horrid as the world has ever witnessed.
Had the planters, in the commencement of these insurrections, adopted conciliatory measures ; had they listened to just complaints and reasonable demands, they would, in all probability, have softened down their destroyers, and have stopped the tide of human blood which iioNv
OF THE HAYTLANS. 7
flowed over every part of the colony. The ievolters, it should be remembered, did not engage in this work of destruction because their liberty was granted, but because it was denied them. They did not murder the whites because the latter showed a disposition to lessen their toils and sufferings, and to render their condition less grievous and degrading ; or because they held out to them the prospect of emancipation at a future period; but because they evinced a determination to retain them in a state of slavery, and to subject them to all its miseries.
While these commotions were at their height, the English, then at war with France, invaded St. Domingo. The French had now two enemies to oppose ;-the regular and welldisciplined troops of the British army, and the revolted negroes. After several ineffectual attempts to withstand the former, the French commissioners, to wvhomn the government of the Island had been entrusted,, issued a proclamation of freedom, with a view to ensure the assistance of all the negroes. This, at the moment, was considered a dangerous experiment. It was without parallel in the history of slavery ; and its effects on the negroes,
under existing circumstances, could not be determined with any degree of certainty. No longer in subjection to the laws of a de(,rradi.Dg servitude, and collected together in one body, they might easily have fallen on those who, till this time., had shown themselves their greatest oppressors. But the revolters, as well as the other negroes, instantly joined the French forces, and united with them in endeavouring to expel what they considered a common foe. For the invaders, they concluded, came not to assist them in maintaining their rights, but to drive out the French, to claim the colony, and to endeavour, at least., to reestablish and perpetuate the system which was at this moment abolished.
During the ensuing contest,, the French had no reason to lament the important step they had taken. Its history furnishes the most satisfactory proofs that to the exertions of the negroes, they were principally indebted for the expulsion of the English, and their continued possession of the Island: that, in short, had they been destitute of negro soldiers, they would have thought themselves fortunate in escaping with their lives, leaving their foes in quiet possession of their richest and most important colony. Many of their bravest and most skilful leaders
OF THE HAYTIANS. 9
werc selected from among them. The distinguished talents of Touissaint L' Ouverture, and tle importance of his active and perscvering efforts, arc well known and have been duly appreciated. The zeal and bravery of Christophe placed him next in rank and influence to Toussaint. Both were negroes, and had been slaves; but now employed their talents, and risked their lives, in defending their late masters, with the utmost ardour and fidelity.
The struggle was long and doubtful; and the sufferings of both parties, from the loss of men, want of provisions, and the diseases incidental to the climate, were severe. The negroes endured their portion; and that, it should be remembered, for the men by whom they had been enslaved, and in order that they might retain the possession and government of the Island. Nor should it be forgotten, that the French were not in circumstances to command the assistance of the negroes ; especially that of those who had become open revolters. They might have refused it without danger to themselves, and have abandoned the French to their fate. But throughout the contest, there was nothing that indicated a disposition to avenge themselves of their former sufferings; nothing that occurred among them contrary to the
firmest attachment to thle cause of their late masters, and a zealous perseverance in opposing the enemy.
From the first arrival of the English, to the time of their quitting the Island, the relative state of the colony, with regard both to the French and the negroes, had undergone an important change. It remained in possession of France; but the manner in which it was to be governed, existing circumstances rendered totally different to any mode which had been previously pursued. The civil and military chief was not chosen from among the whites, as had been invariably the case hitherto, but was selected from among the negroes ; and Touissaint L' Ouverture, on account of his distinguished talents and integrity, was raised to the most important and honourable station in the colony. Slavery being abolished, the blacks were placed on an equality with the whites. Many of the plantations remained in the hands of their original proprietors, and were to be cultivated, in future, by the labours, not of slaves., but of free men.
These were circumstances in which the negroes had never before been placed ; and their character wvas, therefore, to undergo a further
OF THE HAYTIANS. i
trial. Having one of' their own race at thc hecad of affairs, trained by long service to military exercises., in possession of the instruments of wvar, and having nothing to oppose them but the broken remains of the French forces; how easily might they have shaken off all connexion with the mother- country, have asserted their complete independence, and destroyed those who should oppose them! There was no obstacle to their avenging themselves on their former oppressors, either by expelling them from the Island, or by cutting then off ; nor to their abandoning the plantations to the ruin which the late wvar., with the preceding ravages, had already commenced.
These considerations readily presented themselves to the minds of the remaining planters; nor could they help entertaining a serious concern for their own safety, and for the peace and tranquillity of the colony. But the event showed that their fears were altogether destitute of foundation. The administration of Touissaint, for its ability, mildness, and integrrity, they acknowledged, was beyond all praise. Considering the interests of France alone, the colony had never been in a more prosperous condition. The negroes gave every proof of industry, subordination and content.
They diligently cultivated the plantations, and received the wages of their labour. They submitted cheerfully to all those regulations which it was thought necessary to establish; and, living in possession of their freedom, were satisfied and happy. Those whose merits had raised them to stations of honour and responsibility, were as solicitous for the re-establishment of the French interests, as for the preservation of their own freedom. In short, the colony had seldom been more productive, the revenue which it afforded to the mother-country more abundant, the persons and property of the planters more secure, nor the negroes themselves more industrious and peaceful. In this manner things would have no doubt proceeded,-the natives improving in the arts of peace and civilization,-the produce of the Island yielding increased wealth both to the proprietors and to the cultivators,-till the distinctions of colour and the prejudices founded on them would have been forgotten ;-and the whole state of things have presented a proof that whites and blacks may, in all respects, become equals, and regard each other as brethren,-had not the restless ambition of the usurper of France, and the discontent of the ex-colonists, disturbed the tranquillity
OF THE H4AYTIANS. 13
of the Islandl, and suddenly renewed thosc contests which, it was hoped, had for ever ceased.
During the short interval of peace between England and France in 1802, an expedition was fitted out by the government of the latter country, and sent to St. Domingo. Its professed design was to subdue those in the colony who, they would have it thought, were inimical to the authority of the mother-country : its real object was to reduce the negroes to slavery a second time. For this purpose an army, whose valour had been previously tried in Europe, was transported across tile Atlantic, under the command of one of their most popular generals.' It was further intended that the negroes should be scattered over different parts of the colony, so as to prevent their collecting together in large bodies; and other arrangements having been made, slavery was to be again proclaimed. Than the injustice of this attempt nothing can be more glaring. Independent of the natural right of the negroes to liberty, their freedom had been declared by the French Commissioners, and recognized and confirmed by the French government. That government now .attempted to enslave them again. Could it be for a moment expected that they would stand I .Lc (ere.
still, and allow these designs to be carried into execution, without making any resistance ? They had felt the rigours of slavery, and had endured them too longr to allow them ever to be forgotten. They were now in possession of their freedom, and were not to be suddenly deprived of it without making one effort in its defence.
Happily for the cause of liberty, before the French could make the necessary arrangements, the negro leaders, who from the first suspected their designs, discovered the real object of the expedition. Enraged at the injustice of those in whose honour they had hitherto placed the utmost confidence, they instantly flew to arms; and the negro soldiers with the cultivators, were once more compelled to unite in defendig their rights, against the designs of men who had acknowledged their freedom, and solemnly sworn to be its protectors. The French, finding that nothing could be effected by stratagem, and that the plans on which they had confidently relied for success were defeated, now determined to subdue and enslave the oh. j ects of their oppress ion by force of arms ; feeling assured that the negroes, though their sup~eriors in number, could not long withstand the sliill and bravery of their own troops.
OF T HE HAYTIANS. 15
Disappointed in this expectation also, and regarding the blacks as a species of brutes, they had immediate recourse to such methods of cruelty and death, as would be selected only for the purpose of exterminating a dangerous and destructive race of animals ;-to barbarities worse than had ever before stained the annals of any people pretending to the character of civilization. All the male negroes and mulattoes they could lay their hands on, were murdered in the most shocking manner. Five hundred of these unfortunate beings were at one time shot near Cape Francois; and an equal number were, on another occasion, coolly massacred in view of the negro army. Thousands were carried on board the vessels in the harbour, and were either suffocated in the holds, or thrown overboard in chains and drowned. Even these methods failed to accomplish the horrid purposes of these blood-thirsty tyrants; till at length they had recourse to the dreadful expedient, of hunting and destroying the unhap)py victims of their rage by blood-hounds. These animals, pursuing the negroes to the parts of the mountains inaccessible to their no less b~loodly employers, easily gained their retreats, and devoured all who were so unfortunate as to be discovered. Such of the black
prisoners as had evinced the greatest zeal and activity in defence of liberty, were selected from the rest; and on sundays, were dragged to a spot chosen for the purpose, and in sight of thousands of spectators, were thrown to these terrible animals, and torn to pieces. In short, the attempt was founded in injustice, commenced by treachery, and conducted in a manner the most inhuman and barbarous.
To the arms, the treachery, and the cruelty of the French, what had the negroes to oppose? By what means were a body of men in a great measure ignorant of all that was necessary to 6 successful enterprize, trained in the school of slavery, and knowing little except its rigours, frequently destitute of a sufficient number of leaders, and but ill-furnished with arms., to contend successfully with troops trained to every mode of warfare, and stimulated by a resolution to subdue, or to exterminate? But however hopeless their case for some time appeared, they determined on resistance as long as there should be any left capable of opposing their enemies. They first united in one body, and entered into a common vow either to expel their oppressors, or to die in the attempt. CLa Libert6 ou la mnort," was their rallying cry; and though there appeared little or no prospect
OF THE HAYTIANS. 17
of success, they ever felt animated by the conviction that they fought in the best of causes.,the cause of freedom and independence. Right and justice were on their side ; they felt it so, and it rendered them unconquerable. In the early part of the contest, they were deprived by treachery of their ablest leader ; but his loss served only to increase their rage, and consequently to render them more formidable. During this severe struggle, they displayed a degree of courage and firmness, with a patient endurance of privations and sufferings, far above. their condition and character. At the same time, they sought and found opportunities of revenge; and the cruelties which they perpe-trated were equal, in number and atrocity, to those committed by their oppressors. But it will be remembered that thev were,). in the first instance, compelled to take up arms in their defence., by the unjust designs of the French;, and were then urged, by their subsequent barbarities-, to avail themselves of every occasion and mode of retaliation. They fought for liberty;. and if they found that the only way to secure it was through blood, it was an alternative to which their enemies had reduced them. Nor will those Nvho have paid attention to the circumstances of the war, hesitate to consider the French as
chiefly chargeable with the horrors, cruelties, and massacres, of this sanguinary contest.
After a doubtful and desperate struggle, success crowned the exertions of the Haytians. They expelled their foes, secured their rights, and took possession of the Island, which their toils and sufferings had purchased. To what causes the failure of the French is to be attributed, it may not be difficult to determine. Scarcity of provisions, incessant and laborious duty, continual exposure to nightly dews, want of success,-all these co-operating with the baneful effects of a tropical climate, produced a contagious fever that carried off thousands of the army. In the course of the contest, Le Clere fell a victim to this disease; and though defective in some of the most important qualifications of a general, there was not one among the surviving officers, properly fitted to succeed him. In the meantime, the negroes descending by night from the mountains, continually harrassed their troops, and often drove them from their post. Emboldened by these successes, as well as by the losses which the French experienced, from the disease which prevailed among their troops, they then ventured to commence the attack; and either through their own impectuosity and bravery, or through the ill-ma-
OF THE HAYTLANS. 19
nagement of the French generals, they were frequently masters of the field. In this manner, the expedition, on which so much confidence had been placed, terminated, as it deserved., in the utmost disgrace ; and the majority of the surviving planters and soldiers were glad to escape from the vengeance which they ijeheld ready to fall on them ; and to quit for ever the Island which, but for their cruelty, avarice, and folly, they might have retained in their possession to this day.'
Such unquestionably were some of the principal causes of the failure of the French expedition, and the consequent loss of the colony. But whether they will fully account for an event so important in its results ;-whether the success of the Haytians be not all indication that a superior power favoured their exertions, and enabled them to triumph ;-whether, in. a. word, that power will not ultimately avenge the cause of the oppressed, and put their enemies to flight,"-are questions deserving the serious consideration of those who are still the advocates of slavery ;-nor can they, till they
1 Additional particulars of this contest will be given in the account of Christophe's early life, which follows.
20 EMANCIPATION OF THE HAYTIANS. have decided these, and similar questions, reasonably defend a system so odious in itself, so baneful in its consequences, and so directly opposed to every principle of justice and humanity.
LIFE, CHARACTER, AND REIGN OF DESSALINES.
AFTER the successful contest of the Haytians for their liberty, the proceedings of Dessalines are the first objects presented to our notice; and a brief account of his character, and of the principle events of his career, will serve to furnish us with a clear and correct view of their condition, from the era of their emancipation up to the time of his death.
Dessalines may be considered the first ruler of a body of emancipated negroes, possee4sed of their independence; an office for which neither the circumstances of his early years, nor the opinion then entertained of his abilities, could have led him to hope. Of that part of his life previously to his joining in the first insurrections, little more is known than that he was a slave of the lowest order, his master being himself a negro; and that, while in this condition, he was remarkable chiefly for his strength and activity, for an unconquerable obstinacy, and a low sort of cunning not un-
2 2 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND
usual among negroes. It is probable that he was induced to join in the early commotions, by the natural desire of freeing himself from that kind of bondage which, it appears, was considered, by the slaves of the planters, still more degrading than their own ;-by a principle of ambition which even slavery, it has been found, cannot wholly destroy.;-and by a restlessness of disposition, too powerful to be resisted, whenever an opportunity for its indulgence offered. Wliatever were his motives, he soon became one of the most active in conducting their proceedings, one of the most daring in proposing and carrying into effect, schemes of the greatest hazard, and one of the most cruel and barbarous in his treatment of the planters and other whites who fell into their hands.
His activity, hardihood, and cruelty rendered him, in the estimation of the insurgents, worthy of holding a conspicuous place among them; nor was it longY after the commencement of those ravages, to which their fury at this time drove them, that he appeared among the most distinguished. of their leaders. He left no means -untried in order to prevail on the negroes to abandon the service of their masters; and having collected a considerable number into one body, placed himself at their head, and
REIGN OF DESSALINES. 123
then caused them to lay waste the plantations, to destroy the mansions which had been erected on them, and to massacre their unprotected proprietors without distinction. Particular instances of his cruelty, during this period, may not, from the difficulty of establishing their truth, be confidently produced. But his siibsequent proceedings tend to confirm the assertion, often made at Cape Franqois respecting him,
-that he was ever prepared to perpetrate deeds of the most atrocious and unprovoked barbarity.
After the declaration of freedom, by the French, Dessalines joined their forces in en deavouring to expel the English. He engaged in this contest with his accustomed activity and fierceness; and his exertions were considered as an atonement for his previous misconduct ; so that, before the close of the war, he had risen to considerable rank among the negro soldiers. The service to which he was called, during this period, fitted him to act the firm and courageous part which lie took, when the attempt was made to re-establish slavery. Although marked by the same cruelty, which had distinguished his early career, it must not be forgotten that the cause for which he fought was most just in itself; and most important to
24 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND
those whose interests it involved ; and that the designs of the French, together with their injustice and cruelty, naturally appeared, in the judgment of all the negro chiefs, to warrant the most barbarous measures they could adopt. Dessalines, in particular, turned a deaf ear to
-all the dictates of pity and humanity ; and regarding the French as the relentless enemies of his race, bent on enslaving or annihilating them, he treated all who were so unfortunate as to fall into his hands, with excessive rigour and barbarity. At the same time, his attachment to the cause of freedom, the feats of valour which he achieved in its defence, the coolness with which he met danger, and the firmness of his resolution to conquer or die, were exceeded by none of the other intrepid negro leaders in this terrible and decisive contest.
Had the sole aim of Dessalines been the acquisition of power, he could not have been more successful. Previously to the seizure of Touissaint, he was second in command; and ,on the removal of that distinguished negro from the Island, he succeeded to his authority, as the commander-in-chief of all the black forces. For although deficient in military skill, his zeal, activity, and courage, supplied, in some
REIGN OF DESSALINES. 2 5
measure, what he wanted in this respect; and with his violent hatred of the French, rendered him the most popular of all the negro generals. Thus from the condition of a slave, fie rose, in the course of a few years, to rank and distinction; till he at length found himself the chief of the negro population, in possession of a rich and extensive colony, and at the head of a people who, being effectually emancipated from slavery, were entering on the enjoyment of their freedom and independence.
On the expulsion of the French forces, a considerable number of residents remained at Cape Francois, and the other towns of the colony; some from a vain hope of securing at least a part of their property ; and others compelled, against their wishes, to prolong their stay, from having lost the opportunity of returning to Europe with the remains of the army. Shortly after the entrance of Dessalines at the Cape, he invited these men to continue in the Island, and assured them that their persons and property should be protected as long as they felt disposed to remain. Partly from necessity, and partly from the hope of repairing the losses they had experienced, the majority accepted this unexpected offer.
But it soon appeared that Dessalines was as
26 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND
destitute of veracity, as of forbearance or generosity; and if these unfortunate men, forgetting his character, placed any confidence in his assurances, a short time served to convince them how seriously they were mistaken. A few weeks only ha elapsed, when he issued a proclamation of so inflammatory a nature, as astonished even his own officers, and suddenly deprived the French residents of every hope. It is not enough," he says, to have driven from our own country the barbarians who, for ages, have stained it with our blood.-It is become necessary to ensure, by a last act of national authority, the permanent empire of liberty in the country which has given us birth.
-Those generals, who have conducted your struggles against tyranny, have not yet done. The French name still darkens our plains ; every thing reminds us of the cruelties of that barbarous people.-Wbat do I say ) There still remain Frenchmen in our Island.-When shall we be tired of breathing the same air with them; What have we in common with that bloody-minded people ;-Citizens men, women, young and old, cast round your eyes on every part of the Island ; seek there your wives, your husbands, your brothers, your sisters:-What did I say seek your children
REIGN OF DESSALINES. 2
-your children at the breasts; what is become of them ? Instead of those interesting victims, the affrighted eye sees only their assassins,tigers still covered with their blood ;-whose frightful presence upbraids you with your insensibility, and slowness to avenge them. Why then do you delay to appease their manes ?
Dessalines was not the man to rest in mere threats. His endeavours to arouse the people to further deeds of vengeance, was the method he adopted for declaring his own villanous intentions :-for villanous they unquestionably were ; since whatever might have been the cruelties of the French, and however just the rage entertained against them as a nation, he was bound,. by his engagements, to protect the remaining residents Shortly after he issued the proclamation, he visited the towns in which they lived; and having secured them, either by fraud or force, caused his soldiers, contrary to his solemn pledges, to put them to the most violent death, and personally assisted in destroying them.
At Cape Francois his proceedings were marked by the basest treachery, and by modes of cruelty too shocking to describe. The scene it exhibited was more dreadful, --if possible, than
28 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND
any which even the severe struggle for emancipation had presented. With difficulty he prevailed on a party of the most ferocious of his troops to engage anew in this horrible service of blood and destruction ; and having carefully marked. the houses in which the helpless victims of his fury resided, as soon as the day was closed, he proceeded, at the head of his savage band, to execute his dreadful purposes. This was a night of horrors. The negroes themselves, accustomed as they had been to scenes of blood, shuddered at this renewal of massacres. The Americans, who had taken up a temporary residence at the Cape, sat in death-like silence in their houses, while they listened to the shrieks of the dying which issued from every quarter. Now were heard the bursting of doors, and the rush of the murderers :-now the cries and groans of these unfortunate victims of rage and cruelty :-an awful silence ensued: it was soon interrupted by a repetition of the signs of horror and death :-and the cold-blooded deeds of that night, hardly to be equalled in the annals of cruelty, left few to tell the dreadful fate of their countrymen.
The majority of the survivors were destined to experience a similar fate. Dessalines soon
REIGN OF DESSALINES. 29
ascertained that, notwithstanding the strictness of his orders and his search., several had escaped discovery. To these he now offered forgiveness and protection, provided they would publicly appear to receive his assurances. Many of them., hoping that some remains of sincerity might still exist in the heart of this savage; and knowing that t best, their lives were in continual danger, appeared on the appointed spot at the time specified. He was waiting their arrival, surrounded by the companions of his cruelty ;-when, instead of the promised assurance of protection and safety, he caused them all to be shot.
Happily few are called to be the witnesses of such deeds;-few could summon up sufficient resolution to endure the sight. The simple relation of such transactions must excite our sympathy for the sufferers, and the utmost detestation towards the author of their fate. But those who have visited the spots on which these murders were perpetrated, who have had occasion to reside in the houses in which they took place, and have heard the account of them related by the natives, must necessarily feel a deeper impression of their horror; while they regard the character of the man who planned and conducted them, with a degree of abhor-
30 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND
rence far beyond what others can possibly feel.
-The great body of the negroes, hover, were utterly averse to these proceedings. They had obtained their liberty, and as far as could be learnt, were satisfied; and had not the savage barbarity of their chief struck them with terror, they would not have hesitated to -defend the objects of his rage, and to assist them in escaping out of his hands. Some of his officers also, besides refusing him their assistance, arc said to have expostulated with him on his injustice and cruelty; and to have entreated him, for the sake of his own honour, to abstain from further violence. If such were really the case, the guilt and infamy of these massacres must fall on Dessalines alone.
He now proceeded to take such steps as appeared to him necessary for the permanent establishment of his authority; and his first question was, not what should be done tb promote the improvement and prosperity of his people, but what title, in his present exalted station, it would be most suitable for him to adopt. That of Governor of the Haytians he rejected, as indicating a degree of power more limited than that which he actually possessed. He determined therefore to assume -the title of Emiperor ; and on declaring his-inten-
REIGN OF PESSALINES. 31
tion, with little previous consultation, either with his officers or the people, he was hailed as such by the army, and conducted by them to the house which now became his palace, amidst their applauses and apparent good wishes for a long and prosperous reign.
In selecting this title, he consulted his vanity alone. The mere name could tend neither to increase his power, nor to confirm what he already possessed; and with the less imposing title of chief, he would have been equally respected, and equally powerful. Vanity indeed is a fault not confined to negroes; but it is seldom displayed in a manner so bordering on the ridiculous. For what can be more absurd than an uneducated, barbarous, though indeed successful negro, having authority over negroes as ignorant and as uncivilized as himself, and possessing but a part of a comparatively small Island, claiming the title of Emperor!
To men possessed of more prudence and penetration than Dessalines it would have appeared a matter of no inconsiderable difficulty to fix on a mode of government properly adapted to the state of negroes lately delivered from slavery. They had 'all fought bravely for their liberty, and had been successful. And should they not now bc permitted to enjoy it in its full extent.
32 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND
On the other hand, from their character, partly formed under the influence of the slave-system; and partly by the circumstances in which they had been placed during their struggle for freedom, they were yet unprepared to value and improve its advantages. Perfect liberty, such as they considered it, might in the course of a short time, be the means of rendering them perfect savages. Should they be permitted to act in all respects according to their own wishes and inclinations, (for this, it appears, was now their idea of liberty,) what could prevent the failure of every plan which might be adopted for their improvement? If, on the other hand, any disagreeable restraints, however necessary., should be imposed on them, it would probably be the occasion of general discontent, and might lead to more unhappy consequences.
These considerations, however obvious, do not appear to have occurred to the mind of Dessalines; or if they did occur, were allowed to have no weight. He was chiefly anxious for the establishment of the authority which he had been so successful in acquiring; and the mode of government which he selected was such as he thought best calculated for this purpose. The prerogatives to which he laid claim were fully secured ; but the rights and privileges of
REIGN OF DESSALINES. 33
the people remained undefined,-perhaps at the time of forming the government, unconsidered. Its declared principle was, indeed, that all should be free; by which was simply meant that slavery should not be permitted. Laws were also enacted, and numerous regulations proposed, for the improvement of the rising state ; but the emperor was allowed to possess unlimited power, and the right of using it in whatever manner he might think proper. He was empowered "1to make, seal, and promulgate laws; to appoint and remove at his pleasure all public functionaries ; to direct the receipt and expenditure of the state, together with the coinage; to make peace or war; to form treaties; to distribute at pleasure the armed force ; and to have the sole power of absolving criminals, or commuting their punishment." IThese prerogatives Dessalines claimed as his right ; and it may be easily conceived in what manner, and for what purposes, he employed them.
From the time of his being proclaimed emperor, he manifested great solicitude for the improvement of his army; for he saw that not only the security of the Island, but his own safety also, depended greatly on the character and
History of St. Domingo, p..322.
34 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND
discipline of his soldiers. He therefore thought it necessary to habituate them to military exercises, that they might be better prepared to defend his cause in case of rebellion,, and the Island against a foreign foe. But the discipline, if it may be called such, which he established, was intolerably rigorous, corresponding with his general character. His officers, some of whom were superior to, though less successful, because less barbarous, than himself, he treated with excessive severity; sometimes offering them the most unprovoked insults; at others, degrading them for the most trivial offences ; and, in some cases, subjecting them. to corporeal punishment.
But the private soldiers felt the effects of his savage disposition still more severely. He neglected to furnish them with proper clothing, and convenient dwellings ; so that it would hardly have been thought by a stranger, that the Tagged and dispirited troops that now formed his army, were the men who bad lately fought so successfully in defence of their liberty. At the same time., they were neither rewarded for their past exertions, nor even allowed to enjoy the rights which they hoped had bcen, effectually secured. They were also exposed to the severest punishments for the slightest
REIGN OF DESSALINES. 35
breach of duty; and the service required of them, if less arduous than that which they performed during the late contest with the French, was not less constant nor less fatiguing. Dessalines evinced in this, as well as in many other instances, his ignorance of the negro character, and of his own interests; and an utter disregard to the rights and happiness of the men on whom he depended for his safety. They, in consequence, soon began to regard their chief as their oppressor, and their actual freedom an object still to be obtained.
In the meantime, his employments were as trivial and absurd, as his treatment of the people was impolitic and tyrannical. Nor would they be deserving notice, were it not that they were the occupations of a self-named emperor, and serve to exhibit his character more perfectly. Passionately fond of amusement, and ignorant of the real dignity of his title, he indulged himself in the most trifling sports, and appeared most happy, and most disposed to be generous, when engaged in them. He was even delighted when, assuming some comic character, he endeavoured to represent it before his officers and the people. He was especially anxious to be considered an elegant and accomplished dancer; and would sometimes thus exhibit him.D 2
36 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND
self in public, and call on the spectators for their testimony to his abilities. On these occasions, he considered the applause of the multitude, a certain proof of his successful performance, and a sufficient reward for the exhibition of his skill.
It is obvious how little qualified such a character was to direct the affairs of a newly emancipated colony. Narrow in his views, tyrannical in his measures, and absurd in his conduct, be appeared altogether unfit for the important duties of his situation. Although from the tranquillity which now prevailed, there was the most favourable opportunity for organizing a constitution adapted to the condition of his people; he was either too stupid, and therefore could not,-or too anxious for his own authority, and therefore would not, make the attempt. He appeared to think that if the French could be effectually prevented from gaining a footing in the Island, all was done that was necessary for its safety and prosperity. In short, after his coronation, his proceedings presented one continued scene of folly and tyranny.
Subject to the authority of such a chief, it may be thought that the Haytians had benefitted little by their emancipation ; and that if they
REIGN OF DESSALINES. 37
had studied their interests, instead' of attempting to. obtain their freedom, they should have clung more closely to their chains. But this conclusion must not be too hastily drawn. Their present sufferings partly arose from the condition in which their liberty found them, and the circumstances under which it was- obtained. Had they been emancipated in the same gradual manner, in which the British government proposes to liberate the slaves of the West India colonies, their condition would unquestionably have been superior to that in which they now stood. Under such circumstances, it is not probable, that a negro,.possessing the brutality and savage fierceness of Dessalines, would have been found among them: it is less probable that one of his character should have succeeded in obtaining the power which he exercised :- and still- less., that in ease he did -so., he would have- been long permitted. to retain it.
Neither can it be admitted that the negroes of St. Domingo had hitherto derived no advantages from their emancipation. With all the tyranny of their chief, their liberty, and, therefore their actual enjoyments, were greater than any system of slavery can admit. Though subject to his caprices and cruelties, they were acknowledged to be free citizens, and possessed
38 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND
in consequence many advantages unknown to the slave. At the same time,, the tyranny of an individual could not last long; and it would be at all times less difficult for the Haytians to effect the overthrow of a single tyrant, whatever his resources or his power, than to escape from the rigours and degradation of the slave-system, when. the military force of a powerful nation was employed in supporting it. Nor should it be forgotten that at so early a stage of their independence, it would be unreasonable to expect from them a form of government possessing the regularity, mildness, and stability, of the governments of civilized countries; that the severity of Dessalines might, on the whole, be more advantageous in their present circumstances, than the unbounded liberty which they desired; that it was not likely another chief equally cruel and despotic would be his successor; that, in a word, tyranny would find among them its own remedy; but that laxity would lead to every species of licentiousness,,perhaps ultimately to utter barbarity.
These considerations., however, furnish no excuse for the tyranny exercised by this chief His ignorance may be pitied, as arising from the disadvantages of his original condition; his love of power may be considered as a fault that
REIGN OF DESSALINES. 39
attaches to men of otherwise great and exalted character; but his cruelty towards those of his own race., who had contributed to his success admits of no extenuation. The authority he possessed should have been exercised in promoting their happiness, not in effecting his own ambitious and despotic purposes. For his own sake, he ought never to have forgotten that his people could not long suffer his tyranny. But he was alike insensible to all the considerations of prudence, gratitude, and humanity. His vanity blinded him to his faults, and his success rendered him insufferably arrogant and despotic.
At length, his principal officers, convinced of his inability, disgusted at his follies, and wearied with his cruelties, resolved on cutting him off, and electing another chief in his stead. The manner of his death has been differently related. By some it has been said that he was privately murdered: by others, that a soldier employed by the officers engaged in the plot, riding near'him while he was reviewing a part of the army, aimed at him without his perceiving it, and shot him. Which of these accounts be the correct one it is of no importance to determine; but so universally was he hated by the people, and so violent were their detesta-
40 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND
tion of his character, and their aversion to his government, that his death was the cause ofgeneral rejoicing.
His reign lasted six years; and it is matter of surprise that it lasted so long. But the army and the people at first felt flattered at the idea of having one of their own race placed at their head as their emperor; and when they afterwards experienced the unhappy effects of his tyranny, this tyranny for awhile seemed to have awed them into submission. But there were among his officers men of colour, who from their education and enlightened views., must, from the beginning, have secretly, if not openly, condemned his proceedings, and despised his pretensions. For what reasons they submitted to him so long, it is difficult to say; unless they hoped that his own conduct would hasten his downfall, with greater effect and safety than any direct opposition they could offer.'
1 An Haytian writer thus expresses himself respecting this chief:-- With the will and the power to do good, the emperor Dessalines had not the knowledge, wisdom, and prudence indispensably necessary to sovereigns, in the management of public affairs. He was also unfortunately surrounded by a party of factious, int6-uing and corrupt men; who, incapable of thinking justly, or benefiting their country, deceived and led him astray.-Hence, instead of attention being
REIGN OF DESSALINES. 41
It must he granted that no leader among the negroes displayed greater zeal in the contest for liberty, nor evinced on any occasion greater contempt of danger, than Dessalines. With equal truth, it may be added, that his coldblooded barbarity towards his enemies, and
paid to the numerous and pressing wants of the state, its resources were lavished away in useless profusion. Not a single institution was established for the good of the people. Disorder prevailed in the administration of the government, and corruption spread among the troops."
A French politician having asserted, what indeed was the prevailing opinion, that Christophe was engaged in the plot against Dessalines, the same author thus answers the charge :
-" The honour and probity which form the basis of our sovereign's character, and of his private and public conduct, render him incapable of such an infamous action. He mourn ed over the errors of _the emperor, and the evils which threatened the country. But he would have preferred exile, and death itself, rather than have joined in an attempt against his person. And would to God," he adds, "that the emperor had listened to the sage councils of his majesty (Christophe), and his other friends ;--that he had followed their advice,reformed the dissolute manners of his court, -estalished order, morality, and justice,-and driven from his presence, those vile courtiers who knew only to flatter and deceive him ; and who, though prompt and fearless in advising, and in doing evil, had the cowardice to abandon him in the hour of danger "From what sufferings, what horrors, what calamities, would he have then saved his country. "-De Vastey, Reftexions polztiques.
41 LIFE, CHARACTER, AND
his excessive rigour towards those of his subjects who hesitated to obey his commands, have been seldom, if ever, surpassed. Perhaps his courage may be considered, not as the calm, undaunted resolution of a brave spirit, but rather a species of thoughtless, daring hardihood, caused by the desperate circumstances into which he was frequently thrown. His success in arms he owed more to the disadvantages of his opponents, than to his own military skill. But his ferocious barbarity was a native principle, cherished from his youth, strengthened by the innumerable acts of brutal violence and cruelty which he bad witnessed, sanctioned, and personally perpetrated ; till becoming at length ungovernable, it hurried him on to the repetition of those deeds which ended in his own destruction. It was permitted that his talents, such as they were, should be employed in promoting the emancipation of the Haytians; but it required also that his barbarity towards them, as well as towards the French, should receive its deserved punishment ; and it was as much an act of policy, in order to secure the permanent establishment of their liberty, as of justice, to avenge their wrongs, to rid themselves, by some decisive stroke, of this monster of cruelty. His praise, (for what he merited
REIGN OF DESSALINES. 43
must not be withheld) was that he fought daringly in defence of liberty: his good fortune, that he rose to rank and power: his disgrace, that he used both for the most cruel and despotic purposes: and his end, the common and deserved fate of all tyrants.
THE EARLY LIFE, AND CHARACTER, OF CHRISTOPHE.
THER, are two reasons for giving at length, the particulars which are known of this celebrated negro: the first is, that notwithstanding the conspicuous part which be acted in the cause of emancipation, and the benefit it derived from his talents and exertions., nothing has been published respecting him, but accounts too imperfect to furnish even an outline of the circumstances of his life, and expressed in terms too general to convey a definite or correct idea of his character. The second is, that these brief accounts have been given either by the party who, when he rose to power, became his opposers and enemies; or by others who appeared too favourably disposed to his cause, to speak with impartiality of his proceedings.
According to an official document, published by his own order, lie was born October 6,1767;
EARLY LIFE OF CHRISTOPHE. 45
but respecting the place and circumstances of his birth, different accounts have been given. By some it has been said that he was a native of St. Domingo, his father having been conveyed thither from Africa and sold as a slave: by others, that he was born in St. Christophers, from which Island he took his name : and another
-account states that his birth place was Grenada, which he quitted for St. Domingo in the year 1791. It hus been further asserted that at his birth, his father was a free negro, and consequently the son was free :-and on the other hand it has been affirmed, that the first years of his life were spent in the degrading condition of slavery.
It would seem impossible to reconcile statements so directly at variance with each other; nor can it be considered necessary. For although the important station to which he was raised during the latter years of his life, naturally excites our curiosity respecting his origin, it cannot be thought a matter of much consequence, if it remain enveloped in uncertainty. It may, however, be observed, that the first of the preceeding statements is justly considered the least probable ; for it is altogether unknown, and at any period of his life it would have been difficult to determine, the condition
46 EARLY LIFE AND
of his father. The mere resemblance of names, is the only reason assigned for supposing him to have been a native of St. Christophers; while the imperfect manner in which he spoke the English language, sufficiently shows that such a supposition is groundless. That he was originally a slave in Grenada, and in the early part of his life was brought to St. Domingo, is by far the most probable, and therefore the most generally received, account. In short, whichever was the place of his birth, the intimations respecting himself, contained in the proclamations and manifestos which he caused to be published, together with the testimony of all the Haytians with whom I conversed on the subject, render it in the highest degree certain that slavery was his original condition.
Christophe therefore knew by experience the manifold evils of this inhuman system; and previously to his becoming one of its most strenuous opposers, he bad submitted to its privations, undergone its rigours, and felt the demoralizing effects which it produces on the character. If the French planters themselves were not guilty of any excessive cruelties towards their slaves, neither were they distinguished for their clemency or kindness. And the men appointed by them to superintend the
CHARACTER OF CHRISTOPHE. 47
labour of the negroe8s, and to watch over their conduct, often inflicted on these unfortunate beings the severest punishments for the most trivial offences, without any regard to the claims of justice, the dictates of humanity, or even to the interest of their employers. Hence he who was destined to become the ruler of his race, was often compelled to submit to the hard-heartedness and cruelty of an inhuman slave-driver.
Of all the privations which Christophe suffered during this period, there was none which he more deeply felt and lamented in the subsequent part of his life, than his want of education. It has sometimes occurred that a slaveholder, from some favourable disposition towards a negro, and on account of his faithful services, has bestowed on him together with his freedom, the advantages of elementary education. Christophe had not this good fortune. He was not instructed even in the rudiments of knowledge. When raised to the rank of a general over the black forces, he learned to write his surname; and when afterwards he became one of the chiefs of the Island, and assumed the title of king, he learnt to sign his christian name also. More than this hie never acquired. The manner in which hie was
48 EARLY LIFE AND
engaged after he obtained his freedom, his occupations during the last struggle with the French, the critical situation in which he stood for some years after he was declared chief of the northern districts of the Island, and finally the splendour of royalty which he at length assumed, were sufficient to prevent his attempting to acquire that knowledge which, in his station, would have so materially served him.
The early years of a slave are not likely to furnish many incidents for the historian or biographer; nor have any particulars been preserved of the life of Christophe, during the period of his bondage. Whether he gave any proofs of the skill and courage for which he was afterwards distinguished; or whether he performed his daily task, unnoticed among his fellow-sufferers, is altogether uncertain. The latter is most probable,: for slavery is a condition in which it is impossible to achieve any thing great in its design, or. remarkable in its execution. It is the chief causc of that apparent. deficiency in intellect and sensibility which its advocates affirm to exist among negroes, and on which they endeavour to found an argument for its support. But for the emancipation of Hayti, the name of Christophe would never have been known, nor his talents have
CHARACTER OF CHRISTOPHE. 49
been called into exercise; but in the employments of his life, and the circumstances of his death, he would have been literally as the beasts which perish."
The insurrections among the negroes commenced shortly after Christophe's arrival in the Island :and when he 1earnt that they sought to redress their grievances, and to secure their rights ; that their object was to determine whether they should be liberated from their chains, or be held in a cruel and perpetual bondage, he felt it impossible to remain a silent and inactive spectator. He immediately joined their forces, and took an active part in their proceedings ; and by his superior skill, and undaunted courage, he soon became one of their most useful and distinguished leaders.. Nor is there any reason to. believe that he refrained from those acts of cruelty and blood-shed, which marked the progress of their endeavours. For although some of the less savage and exasperated of the negroes refused to join their companions in thcir more outrageous and barbarous conduct, the ungovernable nature of his temper, united to that sense of wrong and oppression which rouses the most inactive to resistance., must have easily over,
50 CHRISTOPHE DURING
come his scruples, silenced, for a time, the dictates of humanity, and have rendered him their willing and zealous associate.
A circumstance which lie once related to an English gentleman, and which occurred during this period, may serve to throw light on his character, and on the nature of his proceedings. At a moment when the French forces employed in quelling the insurrection, were gaining considerable advantages over the negroes in the interior of the Island, and had so completely surrounded them on every side, that it appeared impossible for them to make any resistance, or to move to a more advantageous position, it was thought necessary, in order to divert the attention of the French, to send a small party of the most brave and courageous of the negroes, to make an attack on Cape Fran~ois. Christophe was selected as the leader of this band; and as their object was chiefly to create such an alarm as would cause a part of the French troops to be called from the interior, he commenced his march with but a slender provision of arms and ammunition.
The most difficult and hazardous part of this undertaking was that of gaining a height near the town, where he might carry on his plans
THE EARLY CONTESTS.
without difficulty or danger. Unable, from the continual watch of the French, to take the accustomed route., the party was compelled to climb over mountains, and to penetrate woods and thickets, impassable to any but themselves. But though they had been accustomed to similar obstacles, the difficulties of the march, together with want of provisions, had, at length, a disheartening effect. They began to fear that the accomplishment of their object was, impossible; and that they must inevitably fall into the enemy 's hands; so that it required all the ingenuity and firmness of Christophe to raise their drooping spirits, and to prevail on them to persevere.
Thus encouraged, they at length succeeded in gaining the top of a mountain which overlooks the Cape, where they were perfectly concealed from the view of the inhabitants below. The day was far advanced before they could commence their operations; and Christophe, having divided the detachment into three small parties, and stationing them at short distances from each other, with a view to deceive the French respecting their numbers, prepared to give the alarm.
Though unseen themselves., they could witness every thing that was transacting in the
W1 CHRISTOPHE DURING
town. All was peaceable and tranquil; no apprehension of an approach by any of the insurgents appeared to exist: and the Governor, whose house was situated on elevated ground, was walking before it, in company with the commanding officer of the garrison, enjoying the cooling breeze of the evening. It was at this moment that Christophie, directing his fieldpiece towards the spot, fired: the musquetry from other parts of the mountain succeeded : in an instant all was consternation and uproar: the governor stood panic-struck,-concluding that no force would attack the place that was not well prepared to proceed: the inhabitants were seen running in every direction; alarm and terror were depicted in every countenance; and the fear that the town must be taken., and the inhabitants be indiscriminately massacred, soon became universal. Even the garrison, hastily concluding that it was impossible to withstand the enemy, at first made no preparation for resistance. 'The mountain they knew to be inaccessible by them ; and what force had collected, it was impossible to ascertain. As long as day-light remained, Christophe kept up a continual fire, and occasionally directing a party to descend towards the town, increased the terror which had been already excited.
THE EARLY CONTESTS. 53
Dispatches were instantly carried to the French commander in the interior, to apprize him of the supposed danger, and to urge him to send a powerful reinforcement without delay. From the strong terms in which this communication was conveyed, he was induced to send a considerable number of the most valiant of his troops to the Cape; and by the time they had reached that place, Christophe, having heard of this movement, had returned to the main body of the negroes. The enemy's forces being, by this means, considerably diminished, the blacks escaped the dangers which threatened them., and took possession of a spot which afforded them the greatest advantages.--Thus from the skill with which Christophe carried this scheme into execution, as well as from the cowardice and precipitation of the governor and the garrison, he succeeded most completely in the accomplishment of his original object.
We have seen that during a period of five years, the English, then at war with France, endeavoured to gain possession of St. Domingo; and that the French Commissioners, finding they were ill-prepared to cope with the British troops, who invaded the Island
54 CHRISTOPHE DURING
for this purpose, endeavoured to prevail' on the negroes to unite with their own forces, by a proclamation of immediate freedom. A considerable number refused to give any assistance, and retiring to the mountains, preferred a life of wild adventure, to the difficulties and hardships of war : but the greater part united with the French, among whom was Christophe. He felt that he had sufficient motives to induce him to take this part. The unexpected proclamation of freedom to the negroes on the part of the French; the probability that should the English succeed in accomplishing their object, they would reestablish a severe and permanent system of slavery, together with the delight which, from the beginning of his career, he appeared to take in war, proved sufficient to determine him in this choice ; and whatever might be his subsequent opinion of the English nation, he regarded the invaders as the common foe of the French and the negroes.
Whatever cause lie might at any time espouse, the impetuosity of his temper was always sufficient to urge him to make the most strenuous exertions in its defence ; and when he felt that justice was on his side, and feared that his liberty was in danger, as
THE ENGLISH INVASION. 55
he conceived to be the case in the present instance, his ardour became unconquerable, and his zeab such as no discouragement could abate. He, therefore, acted with the greatest bravery throughout the whole of this contest. It wasl in fact., a favourable opportunity for the display of those talents which had hitherto lain dormant; and became the means of drawing them forth into vigorous and successful action. The officers of the French forces, however skilful and brave, were unaccustomed to the mode of warfare to which they were frequently obliged to resort; and from the destructive effects of the climate on European constitutions, were incapable of enduring the privations and fatigues to which it frequently subjected them. A sagacious, active, and courageous negro was., on this account, no small acquisition; and as every man of this character was instantly promoted, the abilities of Christophe could not remain useless for want of opportunities to exert them. Such opportunities were now more frequent, from the state of the enemy; who, suffering from repeated defeats, and from the sickness that often prevailed among their troops, being sometimes in want of stores, and occasionally embarrassed by the inadequacy of their numbers, were continually
56 CHRISTOPHE DURING
compelled to vary their methods of attack and defence.
It was in this war, therefore., that Christophe first distinguished himself. While in the ranks, he has been represented as intrepid and -obedient. He felt conscious of his powers, and aspired to distinction. He was soon promoted to the rank of subaltern among the negro troops ; he speedily attracted the notice, and received the favour, of his superiors ; and he was, at length, numbered among those, in whose ability and integrity the utmost confidence might be safely placed, and who promised to be men of importance and eminence, whatever might be the ultimate fate of the colony.
It has been said by some, that during a part of the peaceful interval which succeeded the expulsion of the English, Christophe was employed in the capacity of a waiter at a coffeehouse at Cape Fran~ois. The inaccuracy of this statement is sufficiently evident from his recent promotion in the negro army, and the estimation in which his talents and exertions were held; and it probably originated with the party who, in their envy of his subsequent success, became strongly opposed to his pretensions, and sought every opportunity of circulating reports that
TOUSSAINT'S ADMINISTRATION. 57
would in any degree tend to lessen his credit, or weaken his influence. The consideration of Christophe's character alone, would render their account in the highest degree improbable. For although a situation of this nature may be thought superior to his original condition, he would now consider it far too servile for one who bad already acquired considerable distinction and honour; and rather than have submitted to this degradation,. he would have preferred abandoning all his prospects of future renown., and have instantly joined the wandering parties in the mountains.
He was not, however, reduced to this necessity ; for during the whole period of Toussaint's administration, he was variously and honourably engaged. Sometimes he was employed in giving directions and assistance respecting the estates which had suffered least from the ravages of the late war, and which therefore might be most readily prepared for cultivation; and at other times was assigned to him the duty of superintending the repair of those towns on the coast which had been partly demolished, but which were most con venient'for the purposes of commerce, and most important as it regarded the protection of the Island. A considerable portion of his time
58 CHRISTOPHE DURING
was also occupied in regulating and exercising 410
the black troops placed under his command, and in training them for future service;-a task which, although not a regularly bred soldier himself, he was nevertheless well qualified to perform. In addition to these engagements, he was often employed, in conjunction with other officers, in causing such defences to be erected on different parts of the coast., as were deemed necessary for the future security of the colony. Nor was this all. So high was the opinion entertained of his abilities, that he was even permitted to take part in the proceedings of the colonial assembly; and at several of its sittings, he addressed its members with such fluency and propriety of language, and displayed in his speeches so much penetration and judgment, as to induce them to regard him as equally qualified for the senate and the field.
This was the most favourable5 and perhaps the happiest, period in Christoplie's life. From associating with European officers and merchants., the majority of whom were men of education., and some of them persons of rank, he could not fail to derive numerous and important advantages. The most natural effect of this open and frequent intercourse with men
TOUSSAINT'S ADMINISTRATION. 59
from whose society he had been hitherto excluded, was an improvement in his disposition and conduct. He learnt to moderate the impetuosity of his temper, became agreeable and even polished in his manners., and at the same time acquired a degree of information on subjects of general interest which, however imperfect, proved highly advantageous in the subsequent periods of his career.
Above all, this interval afforded him favourable opportunities for extending his knowledge of political subjects; and thus it happened that in this instance at least, he was enabled, in some degree to repair the disadvantages he experienced from the want of an early education. The colony was now in a state of tranquillity, and the French residents, especially the army officers, possessing much leisure, frequently met to discuss republican principles, which were the popular topics of the day ; and in private companies, as well as in places of general resort, introduced them as the leading subjects of conversation. A few only among them remained 'attached to the ancient system, or ventured to question the utility of the changes which the government of the mother-country had recently undergone; but they supported their opinions with great warmth
60 CHRISTOPHE DURING
of feeling, and by every argument which their reading could furnish, or their earliest prejudices could suggest. The republican party, who were by far the most numerous, contended for the rights of men, pointed out what they deemed the defects and abuses of monarchies, and explained what, in their view, were the peculiar advantages of democratically governments, with all the eagerness and vehemence with which French republicans were accustomed to converse on political subjects.
In the course of these discussions, Christophe had frequent opportunities of hearing the principal arguments on each side of the question ; and from the peculiarity of his genius, his past success, and the hopes which his ambition inspired, together with the circumstances of the times., he had become too solicitous to gain an acquaintance with subjects of this nature, to allow these opportunities to escape unimproved. He listened to the disputants with the utmost attention ; and being endowed by nature with a ready apprehension and a penetrating judgment, he soon grew familiar with their leading arguments, learnt to form his own opinion of the points at issue, and occasionally joined in the dispute.
Imperfect as this method of acquiring in-
TOUSSAINT'S ADMINISTRATION. 61
formation may appear, especially on questions of a political nature, it served to instruct him more correctly in the knowledge of his own rights, and in the nature and advantages of civil government; and, at the same time, it furnished him with arguments calculated to settle his opinions on the subject of personal freedom, and to confirm the resolution which those opinions had inspired. Of all other means of procuring information on subjects in which he felt his own interest involved, in common with that of his brethren-, he was wholly destitute; but from the few sources of intelligence which he possessed, he knew well how to derive the utmost advantage; and thus in the scantiness of his means were more distinctly displayed the depth of his wisdom, and the extent of his abilities. In short, the benefits which he derived, during this period, from his intercourse with men of larger attainments, were conspicuous throughout the whole course of his life ; and while his general conduct established the high opinion which had been already formed of his talents, his advancement to posts of greater honour and responsibility was more rapid than even his ambition had led him to anticipate.
THE EARLY LIFE AND CHARACTER OF CHRISTOPHE.
WE have now to contemplate Christophe in an important, critical, and, to him, an untried situation. On the arrival of the expedition from France, under the command of General Le Clere, for the purpose of suabduingr and enslaving the negroes, he was commander- in-chief of the black forces stationed at Cape Francois. He therefore was the first to act at this important moment; and the suspicions he entertained of the designs of the French government, induced him to proceed with the utmost caution and firmness. For what could be its object in sending to the Island such a numerous and powerful army ? Was it for the purpose of defending it from invasion ? For this it could not be necessary; since England was now at peace with France, and there was nothing to be dreaded from any other power. Was it to subdue those who were thought to be opposed
to the authority of the mother-country, and were only waiting an opportunity to declare their independence ? If there were any who entertained sentiments of this nature, they could be but few; and the native and European forces already in the Island, were well able to keep them in awe. Was an attempt to be made to deprive the black population of their liberty, and to restore that system of injustice, tyranny, and oppression which had been happily abolished ? It was thus that Christophe reasoned, till he arrived at the conclusion that for no other object than that of re-establishing slavery, could so formidable an expedition be designed.
He therefore immediately dispatched a messenger to Toussaint LV Ouverture, who was then in the interior of the Island, to inform him of its arrival, to communicate his opinion of its- object, and to suggest such plans as he thought most advisable in this emergency. He then sent a mulatto officer to Le Clere to announce, that no permission could be granted him or his forces to land, till the dispatches which were expected from the general-in- chief should arrive; accompanying this message with a threat, that should Le Clere attempt to land his forces, the white
inhabitants would be considered as hostages for his conduct; or should he make an attack on the town, it would be followed by its immediate conflagration.
So decided a step on the part of Christophe, surprised and enraged the French general; and he answered by letter, in a tone partly conciliatory and partly threatening, but which had no other effect on Christophe than that of fixing him in the resolution he had formed, and producing a firm and manly reply. Although Le Clere had not yet declared his intentions, so that it was unknown whether they were friendly or hostile to the freedom of the negroes, the uncertainty respecting this point, together with Christophe's responsibility as cornmander-inchief at the Cape, and his regard for the interests of his brethren, fully justified him in adopting these measures. At the same time, the absence of the civil and military chief, without whose knowledge and consent no step of importance could be taken, left no doubt on his own mind with regard to the course he should pursue. And as soon as he learnt from Toussaint, that his views respecting the object of the expedition corresponded with his own, and received his commands to continue to oppose its landing till his return, he determined on resis-
tance as his imperious duty, collected together all the native troops of that district, and called on them to stand prepared to act on the defensive the moment an attack should be made.
In the mean time, Le Clerc, disregarding the message of Christophe, and refusing to await dispatches from Touissaint, had effected a landing a few miles west of the Cape, and had directed his troops to proceed towards that place with all possible haste. The negro leader, hearing of these movements, and knowing that the French troops were too numerous, and too well disciplined, to afford him any reasonable hope of making a successful resistance, reluctantly gave orders to set the town on fire in various places, and then retreated in good order, carrying off with him more than two thousand of the white inhabitants as hostages. As to the sanguinary threat of massacring them, which he is said to have issued, it must be mentioned to his honour, that he never gave any orders to that effect, nor manifested the smallest indication of a design to perpetrate such an outrage.
What the French general felt himself unable to accomplish by force, he endeavoured to effect by stratagem and hypocrisy ; and though the firmness of Touissaint had baffled his atF
tempt to ensnare that chief, and to prevail on him to abandon the cause of the negroes, he still hoped, either by false promises or bribery, to get the principal leaders of the black forces into his power. Having, at the conclusion of a truce, received an additional supply of troops from France, he instantly renewed hostilities, and proceeded to declare general Touissaint and general Christophe to be put out of the protection of the law, and to order the citizens to pursue them and treat them as enemies of the French republic." Nothing had tended to enrage Le Clere more than the determined opposition of Christophe; and he hoped by this means to secure his person, and thus to deprive the cause he had espoused of his assistance. But the negroes were at this moment too warmly attached to their leader, to be induced by promises or threats to betray him into the enemy's hand ; and the only effect which this measure produced on Christophe himself was to render him more vigilant and more active in guarding against the treachery, and in opposing the designs, of the foe.
But a short time only had elapsed before he was called to witness what appeared sufficient to shake his firmest resolutions, and to deprive him of every hope of success. By the grossly
CHRISTOPHE. G 17
false pretensions of Le Clerc, and his diligence in communicating them to the negroes, not only great numbers of the soldiers, but several of the black officers also, became disposed to desert the standard of Christophe, and to join the French army. Alarmed at this unexpected change among his troops, he employed every argument in his power, to convince them of the Frenchman's baseness, and villainous intentions. But argument producing no visible effect, he was compelled to entreat that, if they valued their honour, their liberty, or their lives, they would not now abandon a cause for which they had so long and so valiantly contended. When both argument and entreaty failed, he threatened to make a terrible example of the first in whom he should discover the slightest disposition to go over to the enemy. But all his efforts proved ineffectual; and the number of his troops continued to diminish daily.
Christophe, however, remained firm to his original purpose, and like the other black generals, with whom he was acting in concert, retired with the remains of his forces, to the mountains; resolved, if there was little probability of defeating the enemy, to harass and distress them by every means in his power.
He would not hastily conclude that all was lost, and therefore under these discouraging circumstances, hie did not abandon himself to despair. He still indulged the hope that the difficulties presented to the French, by the nature of the country and the destructive effects of the climate, might gradually lessen their forces, and eventually compel them to abandon their enterprize: or that some circumstance might occur which would discover their real designs to the negroes who had deserted to their standard, and induce them to refuse their assistance. Le Clere, meanwhile, encouraged by the whites, and by the numerous desertions from the negro generals, publicly declared his intentions, and directed the planters to resume their former authority over the negroes. So premature a step must have defeated its own object, had he not, in order to repair his error, immediately published a proclamation, in which he proposed a neworganization of the colony, the basis of which was to be liberty and equality to men of all colours. This fraudulent proclamation, containing the most hypocritical professions of sincerity, effectually answered its purpose; and by silencing the fears of the negroes, enabled him to proceed without any increased opposition.
During these transactions, Christophie, whose troops were now so greatly diminished that hie could scarcely number three hundred as his followers, wandered about in the mountains and interior parts of the Island, harassed on. every side, and doubtful what measures it would be most safe and honourable for him to pursue. So powerful were the forces of the enemy, strengthened by the addition of several thousands of negroes, that however determined to resist their designs, he plainly perceived that any opposition which he or his fellow chiefs were capable of offering, would now be of little avail. At the same time, the few negroes that yet remained in his service, began to grow weary of the contest, and to wish for repose from their exertions, and deliverance from the dangers which surrounded them. Still undaunted himself, he endeavoured to cheer and animate their nearly exhausted spirits, and to encourage them to persevere in their opposition. He reminded them of their rights as men, on the one hand ; and represented to them the unjust designs of their enemies, on the other: he assured them that their persecutors must be ultimately defeated, if not by the force of arms, yet by the unhealthiness of the climate; and that therefore what they now en-
dured would eventually contribute to their triumph. 6" W~hat! said he, shall we, after all our exertions and sufferings' despair of success at last? No: we fight in the best of causes: the object for which we contend is not only just and glorious, but dear as life itself: justice is on our side ; and notwithstanding our present difficulties, perseverance will ensure to us the victory."-But his troops were already too much disheartened to be influenced by these considerations ; and being frequently without provisions, vigorously pursued by a relentless foe, and always in difficulties and clangers, they seemed on the very verge of despair.
At this important crisis, the proclamation of Le Clere, proposing a new organization of the colony on the basis of liberty and equality, reached them; nor could it have fallen into their hands at a moment more favourable to his present designs. They considered that it provided for their freedom, the great object for which they were contending ; and forgetting the duplicity of the French general, giving full credit to his professions, and hoping that compliance with his proposals would effectually put an end to their trials and sufferings, they were unanimnously of opinion that they should lay down their arms, and cheerfully accede to his wishes.
Such was now the situation of this brave and intrepid negro. He at length became disposed to enter into a treaty for suspending or terminating hostilities, provided it could be effected on safe and honourable terms; and though he still resolved never to abandon the cause of liberty, he made a law of necessity, and submitted to existing circumstances. Tfhe conditions of his compromise were of the most honourable nature, both as it respected himself, and the cause in which he was engaged. He required a general amnesty for his troops, the preservation of his rank and that of his officers, and the extension of the same terms to his colleague, Dessalines, and to Touissaint the general-in-chief. It was long before the French general could be prevailed on to grant these conditions ; but Christophe would submit to no other, and they were finally accepted.
Though compelled to this measure by the necessity of his affairs, Christophe had too much sincerity, and too high a sense of honour and justice, to make any mental reserves; or to form a secret intention of violating the conditions of his compromise, as long as they should be observed by the opposite party. At the same time, he placed entire confidence in the honour of Le Clere, never suspecting that
a treaty regularly formed and solemnly agreed to, would be violated without scruple, the first moment a favourable opportunity might present itself.
A circumstance, however, soon occurred, which served to convince him of the hypocrisy of the French general, and to show the negroes who had deserted their leaders, of the ultimate object of the expedition. Secretly enraged at having failed to accomplish his purpose, and considering Touissaint, on account of his abilities and influence, the main support of their cause, Le Clere determined to deprive them of their commander-in-chief, and by this villainous act, to ensure an easy and decisive conquest. He therefore lay in wait for him,-seized him while alone and unprotected,-bound him in chains,-and sent him to France as a prisoner.'
I The subsequent fate of this I truly great man" was such as might have been anticipated, from the character of those into whose hands he had fallen. On the voyage from St. Domingo to France, he was refused all intercourse with his family; he was confined constantly to his cabin, and the door was guarded by soldiers with fixed bayonets. On the arrival of the ship at Brest, no time was lost in hurrying him on shore. On the deck only was he permitted to have an interview with his wife and children, whom he was to meet no more in this life.-He was conveyed in a close carriage, and under a strong escort of cavalry, to the castle of Joux, in
The moment intelligence of this circumstance reached the cars of Christophe, astonished at its baseness, and no longer bound to observe the conditions of his late compromise, he determined to make one last desperate effort, either to crush the enemies of his race, or to
Normandy, where he was committed to the strictest confinement, with a single negro attendant."From the castle of Joux, Touissaint, at the approach of winter, was removed to Besan~on, and there immured in a cold, damp, and gloomy dungeon, like one of the worst criminals. This dungeon may be regarded as his sepulchre. Let the reader imagine the horrors of such a prison, to one who had been born, and lived near threescore years, in a West Indian climate; where warmth and air are never wanting, even in jails; and where the beams of the sun are only too bright and continual. It has been confidently asserted by re spectable authority, that the floor of the dungeon was covered with water. In this deplorable condition, without any comfort, or alleviation of his sufferings, he lingered through the winter, and died in the spring of the following year. "-History of St. Domingo, chap. viii. p. 270, 271.
It is well known that Touissaint was as distinguished for the excellence of his character, as for the superiority of his abilities. But there is one circumstance in his life, which places the former in an interesting point of view, and cannot fail to excite our admiration: I mean the manner in which he conducted himself, when Le Clerc proposed to him either to abandon the cause of liberty, or to lose his two sons. The latter were brought by Le Clerc from France, where they had becn sent for their education ; and the proposal was made
drive them from the Island. The indignity
and cruelty with which they treated Touissaint, previously to his removal, he considered a sufficient proof, that should they succeed in reestablishing slavery, the negroes would be subjected to greater rigours than they had ever suffered, and their leaders be executed as rebels. To stand still at this moment would be, he concluded, tamely to abandon the cause most dear to him; and he had long resolved
by their tutor, when he introduced them to their father on their return. Touissaint embraced them with the utmost tenderness, wept over them, and was for some time in extreme agony, apparently hesitating whether he should yield to his affection as a father, or follow his duty as a patriot. He at length wiped away his tears, delivered his sons to the tutor, saying, Take back my children, since it must be so. I will be faithful to my brethren and my God." (Vide list. St. Dom. c. viii. pp. 232-241.) The youths were brought back to Le Clerc, but what became of them afterwards could never be learnt.
Nothing can be more gratifying than to observe the manner in which the memory of Touissaint is cherished by the Haytians. They name their children after him, speak of himn with enthusiasm, and believe him to have been one of the greatest and best men that ever lived.
The universal testimony of the Haytians to his virtues and talents, especially of those who were personally acquainted with him, confirms the account given of his character in the History just referred to. Vide chap. vii, pp. 187-200.
rather to sacrifice his life, than to relinquish his own freedom, or to endanger, by his indifference or neglect, that of his brethren. These were, in fact, feelings common to all the negro leaders. They saw no alternative but that of submitting to be deprived of their liberty, or of shedding their blood in its defence; and they bravely and unanimously resolved on the latter. But Christophe was among the foremost in forming plans of revenge, and in urging an active and immediate resistance. He exerted all his powers of persuasion, in rousing those who were either insensible of the impending danger, or slow in their endeavours to avert it; and he laboured. to encourage those who appeared to contemplate it with terror, and to consider escape impossible. Every moment lost in delay, he thought, was yielding an advantage to their oppressors. He used his utmost diligence in collecting the scattered troops, and in organizing those who fled to his standard. He employed every argument that his indignation and desire of revenge could suggest, to revive their hatred of France, and of the agents she had appointed to accomplish her unjust purposes. The name of France, he declared, should never be mentioned but with execrations; nor her generals be spoken of but as
allied, in character and disposition, to the bloodhounds they employed in their service. In short, he left nothing undone, to determine the wavering, to animate the disheartened, and to prepare all for this last and desperate struggle ; and fearless himself of approaching dangers, lie confidently relied on the justice of his cause, for its ultimate and complete triumph. The subsequent cruelties of both parties, the dangers to which they were alternately exposed, their losses and sufferings, together with the result of the contest in favour of the negroes, have been faithfully narrated by others, and require not to be particularly noticed in this place. It is only necessary to describe the conduct of Christophe during this interesting period. And if what was frequently related of him at Cape Francois be correct, (and there is no reason to doubt it,) the feats of valour which he achieved were such, that had the cause he espoused been more popular, his name would have been blazoned forth as one of the first heroes of his day. Throughout the contest, he displayed that courage and hardihood of soul, which no dangers or sufferings could overcome. Neither the perils to which he was continually exposed, nor the frequent failures which he suffercd, from the defective discipline and scanty
numbers of his soldiers, ever rendered him less sanguine in his hopes, less determined in his resolution, or less active and daring in his conduct. Even when their losses were most severe, and their final success most improbable, his constancy remained unshaken, and his courage undaunted. He endured toils, wants, and sufferings, with a degree of fortitude which none but the bravest minds have ever evinced. He watched all the movements of the enemy so steadily, that no opportunity of gaining advantage over them escaped his observation, or was allowed to pass unimproved. Day and night he was on the alert, now encouraging his soldicrs,-now seeking out and pursuing the enemy,-now leading forth to battle. When engaged in actual conflict, he fearlessly exposed his person ; and by his example, as well as by his persuasions, animated his troops, and inspired them with invincible courage. They beheld their leader the first to face danger,the last to draw back. If they suffered a momentary defeat, he encouraged them still to hope and wait the event : when success crowned their arms, he assured them it was the earnest of approaching victory. His skill and caution provided against every emergency; his courage increased and his hopes brightened, as the con-
test grew more arduous, and the dangers more appalling; till at length he beheld the foe completely vanquished, and was gratified with the triumph of justice over oppression, and with the firm establishment of liberty and independence.
During the life of l)essalines, who continued to hold the supreme command, principlly on account of his long services, Christophe submitted to his government; and as actively engaged in promoting the good of the people, and the security of the Island, as his own limitted authority, and the caprices of his superior would allow. His extraordinary abilities, his past exertions, and his rank as second in commaud, marked him out as the man best qualified among them to succeed that chief; and immediately on the death of the Emperor, he prepared to take the reins of government into his own hands.
CONTESTS BETWEEN CIIRISTOPJIE AND POTION.
ON his succession to sovereign power, Christophe assumed the title of Chief of the government of Hayti, judging it more correctly expressive of his authority, and more becoming his pretensions, than that adopted by his predecessor. But scarcely had he taken
measures, to tranquillize the yet unsettled state of the Island, or to establish a constitution suited to the condition and character of the people, when a powerful rival appeared in arms against him. This was Petion, a mulatto of considerable distinction, and no less celebrated for his ablities, than for the rank which he had long held in the army, and for the influence he had acquired over the troops under his command.
His education alone gave him a decided superiority over the black generals. Like many other mulattoes, lie was sent to France in the early part of his life, and educated at the military academy at Paris ;-a circumstance
SO CONTESTS BETWEEN
from which lie could not have failed to real) thc most important advantages. The period during, which hie resided in that metropolis, was not, indeed, the most favourable for affording him correct ideas of liberty and of government; and he probably returned to his native island imbued with the political principles of thle dlay. But his natural good sense, and the knowledge which hie afterwards acquired of men in general, and of the negro, character in particular, had long enabled him to correct his views, andl to (discard those systems which, however plausible in theory, have hitherto been invariably found impracticable.
Petion was especially distinguished from Christophec, to whom hie now opposed himself, by a mildness of temper, and an amiableness of deportment, equally rare among negroes and mulattoes. A witness of the injustice of thle French, and exposed, during their possession of the colony, to thle oppressions of their governmnent, it cannot be supposed that lie would never avail himself of opportunities of revenge; or that, while defending his rights, he would always abstain from personally engaging in those cruelties which characterized the contest. Yet such was the benevolence of his disposition,
CHRISTOPHE AND PETION. 81.
his readiness to forgive injuries, and his aversion to measures of violence and destruction, that he rather discouraged than promoted them, and was never among the foremost to meditate plans of revenge, or to carry them into execution. He nevertheless evinced a degree of ardour, in espousing and maintaining the cause of freedom, not exceeded by any of the negro leaders. He had too deeply felt the unjust inferiority under which the mulattoes suffered, and had witnessed too many of the miseries attendant on slavery, to remain an inactive spectator of the contest waged in defence of liberty. As flr as his talents, his influence, and his exertions, could assist in promoting the common cause, they were cheerfully devoted to its interests; to the last, he manfully asserted the rights of men of his own colour, and as earnestly contended for the emancipation of the negroes; and by his ardour and perseverance, together with the importance which his superior knowledge and attainments stamped on his character, lie had, at this period, risen to be the third general in command.
During the life of Dessalines lie had succeeded, by his mild and conciliating manners, in inspiring his troops with the most enthusiastic attachment to him us their e leral. ltu
80. CONTESTS BETWEEN
had been equally successful with his officers, who, however desirous of promoting their own aggrandizement, hionoured his lwrsoil, respected his talents, and considered his interests and~ their own inseparably connected. In short, he had effectually won the affection of his soldiers, and was persuaded of their readiness to support him in whatever measure hie might propose. Under these circumstances, hie had been long meditating an accession of authority, and now aimed at sovereign power.
The unsettled state of affairs, also, at this moment, afforded a favourable opportunity to those whose ambition might induce them to aspire after the supreme command, and whose resources might justify their hopes of success. The system pursued by Dessalines partook too strongly of the cruelty of his character, to admit of its continuance after his death ; anid a niew constitution had not yet been formed :-he, therefore, who should endeavour to establish that mode of government most agreeable to the wishes and opinions of the people, if aided by the influence of some of the principal men, and supported by the army, stood the fairest chance of supplanting his rivals, and of obtaining the sovereignty. Christophe, it is true, had been already declared generalissimo of the
CHRISTOPHE AND PETION. 83
forces, and chief of the Haytian government; but his claims to succession were not such as to silence every pretender; his conduct, also, towards the soldiers had, in some instances, been marked with too much severity to admit of his becoming generally popular; and while his courage and military skill were universally acknowledged, his ability to govern so large a population yet remained to be proved.
Besides the influence which Petion had acquired over so large a portion of the army, he was, at the period of Dcssaline's death, commander-in-chief of the forces at Port-auprince ; the chief town in the southern part of the Island. This circumstance was more favourable to the accomplishment of his present designs, than any other that could have occurred. It furnished him with claims to the sole command, which, he readily persuaded his adherents, admitted of no dispute, and which, he determined, no opposition from Christophc, however vigorous or lasting, should induce him to relinquish: it gave him authority, not only over Port-au-prince and its immediate districts, but over several other towns also of considerable size and importance: and it provided him with resources sufficient to warrant the most sanguine hopes of a successful G 1
84 CONTESTS BETWEEN
enterprize. At the same time, his distance from Cape Frantois, the head-quarters of Christophe, precluded the possibility of information of his proceedings reaching that place, before he was fully prepared to support his pretensions; and he was thus enabled to arrange his plans with the utmost secrecy, and furnished with the means which lie thought necessary for their accomplishment.
Petion always affirmed that his reasons for separating from Christophe, and opposing his claims, were his cruelty and his inability to govern. Hence he caused relations of his oppression to be industriously circulated among the soldiers, and urged them as so many motives to attempt his overthrow; while lie represented his talents as of so inferior an order, as utterly to unfit him to stand at the head of affairs. But whatever may have been Christophe's real character, the proceedings of Dessalines would have hardly allowed him an opportunity of evincing cruelty towards his fellow-negroes; and in those instances in which he had assisted, during the life of that chief, he might be considered as having acted solely in obedience to the commands of a sanguinary tyrant. At the same time, his elevation to the first generalship of the army, from
CHRISTOPHE AND PETION. 85
the time that the French quitted the Island, was some indication, at least, of his ability to undertake its government.
Petion urged his own pretensions with greater appearance of reason. He considered that none, not even Christophe, possessed more just claims to sovereign power than himself; that although the latter might have been his superior in courage, he, on the other hand, equalled him in his attachment to the cause of liberty, and in his adherence to it, during the most eventful periods of the contest waged in its defence ; and that in other important respects, from his superior education, and his more extensive intercourse with men, he possessed advantages to which the negro general could lay no claim.
He also felt the weight of other considerations. Although the mulattoes had, from the beginning-of the comnotions, united with the negroes in asserting and maintaining their rights, and deemed the cause in which they were engaged as equally involving the interests of both ; yet the former, having been always free, had not so fully overcome their prejudices as to consider themselves, in all respects, on an equality with the blacks. The mulatto, though he was careful to conceal his thoughts, evidently