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Following the steps of Numa and the great Alfred, Henry took upon him the care of forming institutions, and giving us wholesome laws.
The form of government we have adopted, the internal regulations we have established in the different departments of the state, are sufficient proofs that we were not quite strangers to the study of legislation.
If any person reflect, for an instant, on our state of barbarism 25 years ago, and compare it with our present condition, he may form an idea of the exertions we had to make, unaided, abandoned, and relying only on our own resources, in order to extricate ourselves from the dark and melancholy abyss into which we had been plunged by slavery.
Is there an instance of a people more unfortunate and degraded ? Were any people ever more persevering or intrepid in the assertion of rights of which they had been plundered? Were any people ever more ready to make generous sacrifices in order to secure liberty and independence ? Did any people ever discover more capacity for arts and sciences, or more zeal in the acquisition of them, than the people of Hayti ? '
1 To form a just idea of our progress in civilisation, arts, and sciences, we ought never to lose sight of what we were, and what we now are.
We were sunk, 25 years ago, in slavery, and the most profound ignorance. We had no idea of human societies, no thought of happiness, no kind of energy. Our physical and moral faculties were so completely depressed under the weight of despotism, that I, who am writing this, imagined that the world terminated with the horizon. Su contracted in my notions, that, I could not conceive the most simple idea. All my countrymen were as ignorant as myself, and, if it were possible, even more so.
The civil, executive, and military offices of the kingdom, are now sustained by Haytians only, since foreigners are rendered incapable of holding public situations in the kingdom. Necessity overcame ail obstacles: almost every one acquired learning by the help of bouks. I was intimately acquainted with many of them, who learned to read and write, of themselves, without an instructor. They walked about with their books in their hands, inquired of persons whom they met, whether they could read: if they could, they were then desired to explain the meaning of such a particular sign and such a word. In this way many of the natives succeeded, without the help of education, though already advanced in years. They became notaries, attorneys, barristers, judges, statesmen, and astonished every one by the solidity of their judgment. One may readily conceive what such men would have been, had they been trained with the care and method of a classical education. Some became painters and sculptors, self-taught; and surprised foreigners by their productions : others architects, mechanics, weavers; and all were successful.' Others extracted brimstone from the mines, and manufactured saltpetre and excellent gunpowder, by means of mills and estahlishments similar to those in Europe; having derived assistance from a few books, merely, on chemistry and mineralogy!
But the science in which we have made the greatest proficiency, is that of
If, as soon as we had established our independence, we had been wise enough to establish national schools and colleges for the diffusion of knowledge, we should possess, at this time, a much greater number of able men, and be infinitely more advanced in civilisation than we now are.
We have only, then, to deplore bitterly the loss, the irretrievable loss of time. Fifteen years of independence and application, all thrown away! How severe a loss, and how deeply to be regretted ! What a number of great and learned nen we might now have possessed ! Had I been so fortunate as to have received a regular education, I should have possessed, at an early period, the knowledge so indispensably necessary to a statesman, magistrate, and writer, who abandons himself to the storms and tempest of war; nor can it excite surprise, when it is recollected that ever since the year 1790, we have been constantly in arms.
In the infancy of our independence, the ideas we had of war were extremely confined. We were unskilled in the use of fire-arms; and fought in confusion and disorder, with iron sticks, wooden sabres, spits, and hoops of hogsheads, which we had turned into a kind of sabre. "We rushed violently and in masses upon the enemy's cannon; and thousands of Haytians fell victims to a desperate courage.
But we made an effort also to procure artillery. We were in hope of being able to make cannon of bamboos, which, as we had no frames, were placed on cabrouets drawn by oxen. But at every explosion, the cannon burst into a thousand pieces, which injured us infinitely more than the enemy. I relate this fact, merely to convey an idea of the extent of our knowledge as to military tactics.
By degrees, and to our cost, we acquired a knowledge of war. Our different engagements with the planters, Spaniards, English, French, and, more: than all, our civil wars, advanced us considerably in the science. So that all the old men had been originally soldiers, and few were to be found who were not covered with honorable scars.
From the numerous calamities entailed upon us by the French, some advantages resulted, as a compensation for them. The army of Leclerc contained an infinite number of military men endowed with great talents; men who perfectly well understood manæuvres and marshalling, officers of artillery, all of them experienced and able. We did not all derive the same advantage from their instructions, while we fought either in conjunction with or against them. Our experience, joined to the fruits of the experience of others, make us incomparably more powerful, in every respect, than we formerly were. The art of war is grown familiar to us. The sieges, in which we were engaged, actively or passively, and the citadels and castles we built, sufficiently evince our progress in the attack and defence of fortified towns.
We cultivate mathematics, and have now a royal foundry for cannon, bombs, and bullets, regularly established.
Our artillerymen, bombardiers, and gunners, are in a state of great perfection. The grenadiers and chasseurs may be compared with the best troops in the world. In surprising by ambuscade, and harassing the enemy, it is, , impossible to find better soldiers, than our light troops and royal Dahomets. The cavalry is well mounted, and kept in strict discipline; and whenever occasion requires it, can charge with as much impetuosity as vigor.
public affairs. I should not have felt the cruel necessity of entering on an unknown career, in order to repel the envenomed shafts of the enemies of my country and mankind. I should not, in fine, have felt myself embarrassed, as I have been, in attempting to reply to the arguments of able politicians; and in encountering, more particularly, the varied learning, and conclusive reasonings of that witty, most acute, and profound philosopher, M. Le Borgne' de Boigne.
But we should have imperfectly performed our task, if, while we undertook the education of men, we were to be negligent of the education of women. We are not to train men to virtue, and women to vice; the one to learning, and the other to ignorance. The benefits of education ought to be extended alike to both sexes. Shall young ladies of a
ladies of a distinguished rank, who are one day to appear at court, continue in their father's house without the means of receiving an education fitted to prepare them for the rank they must occupy
in life? Domestic morals are the source of public morals. Children imitate the example oftheir mothers : they inherit their weaknesses, vices, or virtues. The education of women is more nearly connected than one might be led to imagine, with the education of men; and it will be in vain for us to wish for good mothers of families, prudent economists, active and indefatigable, without the help of education, religion, and morals.
The education of the softersex was always greatly neglected at Hayti, as it was in all the islands which were inhabited by slaves. To this cause alone might be attributed the licentious, ness and depravity, so universal in the colonies. Under the government of the colonists, some of the women were condemned to groan under the weight of slavery and coercive labor ; while the rest were doomed to satisfy the impure and brutal propensities of the ex-colonists. Mothers, without a blush, brought up their daughters to the same kind of life with themselves. From the earliest infan. cy, their heart and mind were corrupted by examples and lessons which prepared them to live, without scruple or remorse, in a degrading, illicit, and criminal commerce.
These wretched victims, destined to gratify the caprice and libidinous pleasures of haughty tyrants, and to be their servants, received no kind of moral education, but were merely taught to practise with dexterity the vile arts of prostitution. Always immured in their rooms, they knew only how to sew, embroider, and tie their handkerchiefs with grace. They were not instructed in
'The French scholar understands, of course, the ju de mots of the Baron de Vustey; as the word Borgne signifies one-eyed. (Transl.)
reading or writing ; could not be received into any society, nor admitted to the table of the ex-colonists. They were to be dull, submissive, tractable, conformable, and ever ready to fulfil the will and caprices of their tyrants.
Girls who had been educated in such principles, greatly preferred a state of concubinage with a white man, who despised them, to a legal marriage with a native living in abject slavery, and whom, after the example of their masters, the women had also learned to despise.
Now and then, but very rarely, were some instances to be ob. served in Hayti, of families who, in opposition to the prejudices of the time, endeavoured to cultivate a regard for morals and religion. But they could not long withstand the power and influence of the colonists, who abandoned themselves with impunity to the grossest debaucheries, seduced married women and their daughters, violated without fear or remorse every law of morality and justice : the laws of nature herself, (I blush at the relation,) were disregarded ; and natural children were exposed to the brutal propensities of their parents ! 2
The dark abyss of immorality could not be closed on a sudden,
· When the commissioners chosen by the French government for the department of the south, composed of Le Borgne de Buigne, Rey, Kerverseau, and Desfourneaux, arrived at the Cayes, a young girl lived in the town whose name was Marie de Villeneuve. She was betrothed to General Rigaud by her parents, and became his wife after the event we are about to relate.
During the residence of M. Le Borgne at this place, he saw the young lady accidentally; and though he knew she was engaged to the general, he determined, notwithstanding, to seduce her, and break off the marriage. To accomplish his design, he procured Rigaud to be sent from the Cayes to fight the English, posted at the time, near the Irois. In his absence, Le Borgne made proposals to the young lady, which were indignantly rejected. He had then recourse to the young lady's mother, who lived with a man of white color. This abandoned woman, assisted by her husband, employed violence to effect the prostitution of her own daughter! Rigaud, after his return from the army, paid a visit to Le Borgne; who, after some general conversation, said to him, “ Rigaud, I will show you the finest girl in the Cayes; but you must promise me you will keep it secret." He made the promise. Judge what his indignant feelings were, when, de Boigne having drawn aside the curtain, the person of his intended wife stood before him! Rendered furious, he seised Le Borgne, and would have thrown him from the balcony, had not the wretch cried out, and summoned his servants to his assistance, who rescued him from the hands of Rigaud.
Such was the conduct of this man in the south, when invested with a public character. The anecdotes we have already related, coupled with this last instance of depravity, give a just idea of his character and inorals.
2 We could here give the names of a great number of planters who have committed incest, and were guilty of crimes against nature. But horror prevents our giving to the world that disgraceful calendar,
From all that has been advanced before, it is sufficiently apparent to what height of depravity they had attained. Such have been the fruits of slavery.
in places where the people were corrupted by prejudices, slavery, and ignorance of many centuries' duration.
Since our political regeneration, a change for the better has been gradually and strongly felt in manners and social habits. Marriages are become more frequent ; prejudices have been by degrees effaced; we have thrown away the chains of bondage. But some time must elapse before all traces of it in our manners disappear. They cannot undergo an active change, without the aid of time, laws, and education. Even amongst the most enlightened nations of Europe, the vestiges of feudal rights, of glebe-slavery, and other laws and customs, are visible, which still retain the stamp of the barbarous times in which they were instituted.
The various governments of Hayti have successively proclaimed themselves the asserters of morals. They have endeavoured to purify them, by the encouragement and protection of marriage; and by affixing a stigma on licentious behaviour. But the means thus used, though very powerful in themselves, did not completely answer the end proposed; for they were productive, in some measure, of greater disorders in society. Instead of corrupt and profligate mothers, we saw adulterous wives, and often cruel mothers. In our anxiety to punish enormities, we witnessed the appearance of fresh crimes : and as we have not struck at the root, but only lightly touched the evil, concubinage still prevails.
The vices of a nation can only be corrected by degrees. In your solicitude to stifle them prematurely, you invariably give birth to greater abuses; because the most wise and salutary laws prove ineffectual, without the help of religion and morals. He who is already virtuous, who knows and loves the performance of his duty, will not find it difficult to follow and comply with the law.
A moral and virtuous education ought therefore to be given to the children of both sexes, if we would secure a change and radical reform in our manners. It is in our public schools that young ladies will be taught the principles of religion and virtue, learn from their infancy
to respect themselves, and to dignify the sacred titles of wives and mothers. They will begin to know their duties towards the authors of their existence, their husbands, and children : and as mothers are the first instructors of children, they will make them imbibe with the milk of the breast, the seeds of social virtue, and teach them how to discharge, at some future period, the most sacred and first of all duties.
Thanks be to God we no longer live in those dreadful times, when our unfortunate children saw the light only to become slaves, and live and die in ignominy! They are now destined to reflect credit and glory upon their country. They will constitute the happiness and comfort of our days, and adorn them by their presence,