[Bob Corbett notes:] I was only able to acquire this one issue. In it there is a series which is unsigned but says it is to be a history of Haiti. This segment is on Jean Jacques Dessalines.
On the first day of the year 1804, soon after the evacuation of the island by the French, the generals and chiefs of the army, in the name, of the people of Hayti signed a formal declaration of independence, and took a solemn oath to renounce France forever, pledging themselves to each other, to their posterity, and to the universe, to die rather than submit again to her dominion. At the time, they appointed Jean Jacques Dessalines governor-general for life with power to enact laws, to make peace and war, and to nominate his successor.
One of the first acts of Dessalines was to encourage the return of negroes and mulattoes from the United States of America. In the early commotions, many wealthy planters had quitted the island and gone to the continent, taking with them a number of their slaves, whom the want of funds to support their former establishment had afterward obliged them to abandon: others had voluntarily emigrated thither at different periods, and many of both classes were now in circumstances of distress, without the means of returning to their country. Dessalines published a proclamation, offering to the captains of American vessels the sum of forty dollars for each individual native or black man of colour, whom they should convey back to Hayti. The general character of Dessalines will hardly permit this measure to be considered as the result of pure humanity. It seems to have originated in a wish to recruit his army, and to restore his exhausted male population.
Through on the evacuation of Cape Francois, the French inhabitants had leave and opportunity to depart with their armed countrymen, the insecurity of any attempt to remove their money and other moveable effects, determined almost all of them to remain behind. Seeing the British squadron cruising off the harbour, and knowing that whatever property they should embark would be captured and condemned as prize, they thought it better to stay, trusting to the faith and mercy of Dessalines, than to depart without the means of subsistence. Former experience of the mildness and humanity of the blacks, inspired a hope of forgiveness and good treatment, notwithstanding the remembrance of recent circumstances, which might seem to preclude all expectation of mercy from that insulted and injured people.
The astonishing forbearance Toussaint, and of all who had served under him, encouraged a persuasion that their humanity, was not to be wearied out by any provocation. All the white inhabitants who had been carried off as hostages by Christophe, on his retreat from Cape Francois, had returned in safety, when the peace was made with Leclerc: and it was known that, during the whole time of their absence, they had been well treated by Toussaint and his followers; though the French, during that period, were refusing quarter to the negroes in the field, and murdering in cold blood all whom they took prisoners. But Toussaint was now no more and Dessalines was of a very different disposition.
Whatever were the secret intentions of this sanguinary chief, when he was promising protection and security to these unfortunate people, but few weeks elapsed before he evidently contemplated their destruction. Just after his appointment to the office of governor for life, he published a most inflammatory proclamation, stating the enormous crimes of the French, and urging his countrymen to vengeance.
"It is not enough," says he. "to have driven from our country the barbarians who for ages have stained it with blood: it is not enough to have repressed the successive factions which, by turns, sported with a phantom of liberty which France placed before their eyes. 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. It is necessary to deprive all inhuman government which has hitherto held our minds in a state of most humiliating torpor, of every hope of enslaving us again. Those generals who have conducted your struggles against tyranny have not yet done. The French name still darkens our plains: ever thing reminds us of the cruelties of that barbarous people. Our laws, our customs, our towns, every thing bears the impression of France. -- What do- I say? There still remain Frenchmen in our island. Victims for fourteen years of our own credulity and forbearance! conquered not by French armies, but by the artful eloquence of the proclamations of their agents! When shall we be tired of breathing the same air with them? What have we in common with that bloody-minded people? Their cruelties compared to our moderation -- their colour to ours -- the extension of seas which separate us - our avenging climate - all plainly tell us they are not our brethren; that they never will become so; and it they find an asylum among us, they will still be the instigators of troubles and divisions. Citizens, men, women, young and old, cast round your eyes on every part of this island; seek there your wives, your husbands, your brothers, your sisters, what did I say? seek your children -- your children at the breast, what is become of them? Instead of those interesting victims, the affrighted eye sees only the assassins -- tigers still covered with their blood, and whose frightful presence upbraids you with your sensibility, and your slowness to avenge them. Why do you delay to appease their names? Do you hope that your remains can rest in peace by the side of your fathers, unless you shall have made tyranny to disappear? Will you descend into their tombs without having avenged them? Their bones would repulse yours. And ye, invaluable men, intrepid generals, who, insensible to private sufferings, have given new life to liberty by lavishing your blood; know, that you have done nothing unless you give to the nations a terrible, though just example, of the vengeance that ought to be exercised by a brave people who have recovered their liberty and are determined to maintain it. Let us intimidate those who would dare to attempt depriving us of it again: let us begin the French; let them shudder at approaching our shores, if not on account of the cruelties they have committed, at least at the terrible resolution we are about to make -- To devote to death whatever native of France dares to soil with his sacrilegious footstep this land of liberty."
In the month of February, Dessalines issued another proclamation, but so strongly were the people, and the army in general, disposed to moderation and clemency, that all his instigations, sufficient as they seem to have excited a popular massacre, wholly failed of producing that effect. -- Having for some time laboured in vain to make the people at large the instruments of his sanguinary purpose, he at length determined to accomplish it by a military execution. The various towns where any French inhabitants remained, were successively visited by him, and those unhappy people, with certain exceptions, were put to /the sword, under his personal orders and inspection, by the troops whom he appointed to this horrible service.
The work of blood was perpetrated most systematically, in exact obedience to the cruel mandate of the chief. Precautions were adopted to prevent any other foreigners from being involved in the fate of the French. In Cape Francois, where the tragedy took place on the night of the 20th of April, lest from mistake or some other cause any of the American merchants should be molested, a strong guard was sent in the evening to each of their houses, with orders not to suffer any individual to enter, not even one of the black generals, without the consent of the master, who was apprized of these orders that he might be under no apprehensions for his own safety. These orders were so punctually obeyed, that one of those privileged individuals who had given shelter to some Frenchmen was able to protect them to the last.
The French priests, and surgeons, and others who during the war had manifested humanity to the negroes, were spared, to the amount of about one-tenth part of the whole number. The massacre, in other respects, was indiscriminate. Neither age nor sex was regarded. The personal security enjoyed by the Americans did not prevent them form feeling it a night of horrors. At short intervals they heard the pick-axe thundering at the door of some devoted neighbor, and soon forcing it, piercing shrieks almost immediately ensued, and these were followed by an expressive silence. The next minute the military party were heard proceeding to some other house to renew their work of death.
There was one act in this tragedy which stamps the conduct of Dessalines with the character of most flagitious perfidy, as well as cruelty. A proclamation was published in the newspaper, stating that the vengeance due to the crimes of the French had been sufficiently executed, and inviting all who had escaped the massacre to appear on the parade and receive tickets of protection, after which, it was declared, they might depend on perfect security. As the massacre had been expected, many hundreds had contrived to secrete themselves; most of whom now came forth from their hiding-places, and appeared on the parade. But instead of receiving the promised ticket's of protection, they were instantly led away to the place of execution and shot. The rivulet which runs through the town of Cape Francois was literally red with their blood.
The vindictive, measures of the chief were far from being generally applauded, even by his brethren in arms. The disapprobation of Christophe was well known, though a regard to his own safety restrained him from any open opposition. Telemaque, and another officer, expressed their horror at such scenes, and were punished by being compelled to hang, with their own hands, two Frenchmen then in the fort. The military execution, with all its enormity, must be imputed to Dessalines alone. In an address "to the inhabitants of Hayti," with the publication of which he concluded the month of April, he ostentatiously claimed the procedure as his own, gloried in his superiority to the vulgar feelings which would have opposed such severity, and evidently laboured to reconcile his followers to his sanguinary conduct by insisting upon its justice and necessity; at the same time affecting to contrast his system with that of the mild and humane Toussaint, charging him with a want of firmness at least, if not of faithfulness, and warning his own successors against following the same conciliatory plan.
A small detachment of French troops still retained possession of the city of St. Domingo; add the Spanish inhabitants of the eastern part of the island, who, until evacuation of Cape Francois, had acknowledged the new government, had since, under the influence of their priests, withdrawn their promised obedience, and espoused the cause of the French. The first objects which engaged the attention of Dessalines, after the massacre in the month of April, were the subjugation of the Spaniards, and the expulsion of the French from the last of their strong holds. He determined also on proceeding all round the coast, to examine every station, and enforce, where it should be necessary, all the regulations he had established.
On the 14th of May, Dessalines set out from Cape Francois, by the way of the Mole, Port Paix, and Gonaives, employing himself at the different places in repairing the injuries of war, and settling every thing that required his interference and authority. After going through the western and northern provinces, he proceeded on his march to the Spanish part of the island, with a confidence of success which no circumstances warranted his entertaining. His recent cruelty, notwithstanding the attempt in his proclamation to prevent its being turned to his prejudice with these Spaniards, could not but have inspired them with horror; and they were not, like Europeans, inferior from the influence of the climate. They were chiefly descendants of negroes, and a mixture of the African race, and their numbers, according to the best accounts, at the time of Toussaint's conquest of their country, were above a hundred thousand free persons, and about fifteen thousand slaves. The species of slavery there was so mild that the subjects of it were generally and strongly attached to their masters; and both masters and slaves inherited a national prejudice against all the inhabitants of the other part of the island.
Dessalines laid siege to the city of St. Domingo, which appears to have made a more vigorous resistance than he anticipated. He would probably halve persevered in the attempt, but the arrival of a French squadron with a reinforcement of troops leaving him little hope of a speedy conquest, he raised the siege, and matched back again without having accomplished either of the objects of his expedition.
The return of Dessalines from his expedition to the Spanish part of the island was soon followed by his exchange of the title of governor for that of emperor; and on the 8th of October, he was crowned with of great pomp. The imperial dignity, and its investment in the person of Dessalines were further recognized and confirmed by a new constitution for the island, which was promulgated on the 8 of May, in the following year.
Full text of the Constitution is available
The preamble of this constitution, which purported to have been framed by twenty-three men, who professed to have been legally appointed by the people as their representatives, decreed the erection of the empire of Hayti into a free, sovereign and independent state; the abolition of slavery forever; the equality of ranks; the equal operation of laws; the inviolability of property; the loss of citizenship by emigration; and the suspension of' it by bankruptcy; the exclusion of all white men, of whatever nation, from acquiring property of any kind, excepting only such whites as had been naturalized, and their children.
The empire of Hayti, one and indivisible, was divided into six military divisions, with a general over each, who was to be 'independent of the others, and to correspond with the head of the government. The government was vested in a first magistrate, to be called Emperor and Commander-in-chief of the Army: and JEAN JACQUES DESSALINES, "the avenger and deliverer of his fellow-citizens," was appointed to this office. "The title of Majesty" was conferred upon him, as well as upon "his august spouse, the Empress." Their persons were declared inviolable, and the crown elective; but the emperor was empowered to nominate his successor, for whom a suitable provision was to be made. An annual income was to be assigned to the empress for life; and " to the children acknowledged by his majesty;" and his sons were to pass successively from rank to rank in the army. The emperor was to make, seal, and promulgate the 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. The generals of division and brigade were to compose the council of state.
No predominant religion was admitted. Freedom of worship was tolerated. The state was not to provide for the maintenance of any religious institution.
The condition and treatment of the cultivators were the same as under the system of Toussaint. They worked for wages which were fixed at one-fourth the produce. Provisions of all kinds were abundant. There were no whips, not even for punishment. Idleness was treated as a crime, but was, only punished by confinement., They worked in general very regularly and contentedly, about two-thirds as-much as in the days of slavery. lt was expected that they should work on the estates to which they had been formerly attached; but if they had any plausible reason for changing, the commissary, or commanding officer of the district, gave them leave. Most of the estates were in the hands of the government, as confiscated, but were let at an annual rent.
The sugar plantations having been mostly destroyed, and the necessary works, and buildings for its manufacture not having been rebuilt, very little sugar was made. The chief produce was, coffee; the crop of 1805 exceeded thirty millions of pounds, which would load about fifty ordinary ships. There was also in the island a considerable quantity of mahogany and other valuable timber.
In a census, taken in 1805, of the inhabitants of the part of the island under the government of Dessalines, the returns were about 380,000; of these the adult mates constituted a very small proportion. The slaughter had fallen chiefly upon them. The majority of cultivators were women. Marriage, solemnized according to the rites of the Roman church, was almost universal and its duties were in general well observed.
There was a sufficient number of priests, not only from the French clergy who remained and were spared in the massacre, but from a considerable supply of Spanish ecclesiastics, who had been brought, or induced to migrate, from the other divisions of the island, to render the celebration of religion very general. On all public days, as well as Sundays, prayers or mass began and ended the solemnities of the day. Whether from policy or any better motive, Dessalines protected the clergy, and paid a decorous attention to the exterior forms of the church. All children were, brought to the font; and such religion as popery amounts to was an object of public and general interest.
Considerable attention was paid to the subject of education. Schools were established in almost every disquiet. Seeing the ascendancy of those who had been educated the negroes were exceedingly anxious for the instruction of their children; and the young Haytians were very generally taught to read and write.
The plan for defending their liberty and lives in the event of another invasion, had been deliberately settled by Dessalines and the other. chiefs, and the requisite preparations were made for carrying it into execution. On the first appearance of an invasion force,. the towns which were all on the coast were to be destroyed and the negro army to retreat to forts built in very strong positions in the interior of the country. The position's they had chosen were well selected and strongly fortified. The artillery of the Cape, which consisted chiefly of brass cannon, and was in great abundance, had been removed to these hill forts, where great magazines of ammunition were also collected. The sides of the hills, and ravines, connecting them, were all cleared and planted with bananas, plantains, yams, and other native provisions, which flourish so much and were so quickly reproduced, that they calculated on the garrison's being subsisted without foraging beyond the reach of their guns. Many of the hills were of a conical form, with an agreeable ascent, on the summit of which the forts were constructed, so as to sweep the sides to the utmost range of cannon-shot, and as they believed, to make it impossible for an enemy to cut off their communication with these native magazines. These positions were also well supplied with water.
Dessalines, at the time of the insurrection in 1791, was slave to a negro, who lived to see him become his sovereign. He was short in stature, but strongly made; of great activity and undaunted courage. His military talents were thought superior to those of Toussaint; but in general capacity he was very inferior to that ill-fated chief. He commanded great respect, but it was chiefly by the terror he inspired. He could not read, but he employed a reader and used to sit in a most attentive attitude to bear the papers that were read to him. He was distinguished by some strange caprices, evidently the effect of personal vanity. He was fond of embroidery and other ornaments, and dressed often with much magnificence, at least according to his own taste: yet sometimes he would exhibit him- self publicly in the meanest clothes he could find. But what was still more singular and ridiculous, he had a great ambition to become an accomplished dancer, and actually carried about with him a dancing-master in his suite, to give him lessons at leisure hours. Nor was it possible to pay him a more acceptable compliment than to tell him that he danced well, though, different from the negroes in general, he was very awkward at that exercise.
He had daughters by a former wife, but no son. His last wife-had been the favourite mistress of a rich planter, at whose expense she had been well educated. She was one of the most handsome and accomplished negresses in the West Indies; her disposition was highly amiable, and she used her utmost endeavours to soften the natural ferocity of her husband, though unhappily with little success.
His cruelties were not confined to the whites. Suspicions and jealousies constituted a sufficient inducement to him to deprive of life many of his own subjects and officers, without even the formality of a trial: and every attempt thus to terminate danger and suspicion, tending, in the natural order of things, only to increase them, his conduct was at length distinguished by all the caprices and atrocities of tyranny. These crimes inevitably suggested projects for their counteraction. He was conspired against by his army, and arrested most unexpectedly at the head-quarters, on the 17th of October, 1806, when, in struggling to escape, he received a blow which terminated his tyranny and his life.
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