Imágenes de página

what was their recompense? Lacroix confirms, to the letter, what King Henry has stated in his able manifesto of September 1814.

'Maurepas, a man of mild and gentle manners, esteemed by his fellow-citizens for his integrity, had been one of the first to join the French, and had rendered them the most signal services; yet this man was suddenly carried off to Port de Paix, and put on board the admiral's vessel, then at anchor in the roads, where, after binding him to the main-mast, they, in derision, with nails such as are used in shipbuilding, fixed two old epaulettes on his shoulders, and an old general's hat on his head. In that frightful condition, these cannibals, after having glutted their savage mirth, precipitated him, with his wife and children, into the sea. Such was the fate of this virtuous and unfortunate soldier!'

Toussaint, however, had under his immediate command a well disciplined army; and Dessalines, one of the most courageous, enterprising and skilful of all the negro generals, held the strong fortress of Crete-pierrot, which had been built by the English. The French army laid siege to this place, which, after a brave defence, was evacuated by Dessalines, who carried off every thing that was valuable, leaving a small detachment to follow him in the morning. Intoxicated with the successful issue of the siege, the French committed all maimer of cruelties on the unfortunate negroes who fell into their hands; and Le Clerc, with equal baseness and folly, publicly restored to the proprietors of estates all their ancient authority. The consequence was such as might have been foreseen; all the blacks who had adhered to the French now deserted them, and again took up arms. Le Clerc perceived his error, and had once more recourse to the delusion of proclaiming 'liberty and equality to all the inhabitants of St. Domingo, without regard to colour;' with the reservation, however, of the approval of the French government. The negroes, tired of the war, again deserted their leaders; and at length Christophe negociated in behalf of himself, his colleague Dessalines, and Toussaint the general in chief, a general amnesty for all their troops, and the preservation of the respective ranks of all the black officers. Le Clerc was too happy to grant these conditions; and a peace was accordingly concluded, by which the sovereignty of France over the island of St. Domingo was acknowledged by all the constituted authorities.

Toussaint had liberty to retire to any of his estates which he might please to make choice of. He selected that called by his own name, L'Ouverture, situated at Gonaives; there, in the bosom of his family, he entered upon the enjoyment of that repose of which he had so long been deprived. The secret instructions however of Buonaparte were now to be obeyed; and Le Clerc

lost lost no time in putting into execution an act which has entailed everlasting disgrace on his memory. In the dead of night, a ship of the line and a frigate anchored near Gonaives, and landed a body of troops; they surrounded the house of Toussaint, when Brunet, a brigadier-general, entered the chamber where he slept, with a file of grenadiers, ordered him to surrender without resistance, and hurried him and his whole family on board the Hero of seventy-four guns, which proceeded immediately with them to France. Two negro chiefs of the neighbourhood, who attempted to rescue him, were taken, and Le Clerc ordered them to be shot. He then caused about one hundred of the confidential friends of Toussaint to be arrested, and sent to the different ships of the squadron: none of them were ever heard of afterwards; and it is supposed that they were thrown overboard.

Toussaint on the passage was kept a close prisoner, and separated from his wife and family; and on the arrival of the ship at Brest, he was merely allowed to see them once and take leave of them for ever. He was conducted to the castle of Joux in Normandy, with a single negro to attend on him; his wife and children were conveyed to Bayonne, and nothing more was ever heard of either. On the approach of winter, Toussaint was subsequently removed to Besangon, and there immured in a cold, damp, gloomy dungeon, which became, as doubtless was intended, his sepulchre, —the floor being actually covered with water. Thus did this great and good man perish, by the foul machinations of that remorseless and bloody tyrant who, instead of expiating his numberless cruelties in a living sepulchre, like that to which he consigned the negro chief, is now (amidst the wailings of Opposition) enjoying his angry gods on the salubrious and romantic heights of St. Helena! It would appear from Lacroix, that the story of Toussaint's buried treasure had been transmitted to France; for he tells us that Buonaparte sent Cafarelli repeatedly to question the prisoner— most probably by the torture—as to the place where it was concealed; but that the only answer he could ever get from him was, 'The treasures I have lost are very different from those which you seek.' Lacroix does justice to the character of Toussaint L'Ouverture, as a general and politician; but he accuses him of hypocrisy in matters of religion and morality: he may be correct; but he brings no proof of it: and it is certain that Toussaint never publicly outraged either the one or the other. We are not disposed to quarrel with his observation, that, ' in the fate of the first of blacks, as in that of other powerful men who have since fallen, we may recognize the finger of Providence, which is pleased sometimes to humiliate the idle dreams of human pride.'

The atrocious outrage on the person of their favourite chief vol.. xxi. No. Xlii. F F opened opened the eyes of the blacks to the real designs of the French government. Dessalines, Christopbe, Clerveuux, and other negro generals, finding themselves deceived and betrayed, flew to arms will a determination to expel the invaders, or perish in the attempi Charles Bellair, a chief of the Congo race, with his heroic wife, spread slaughter and devastation among the French; who were prevented from offering any effectual opposition by the excessive heal of the summer of 1802. Le Clerc and most of his officers were attacked with disease; and all the reinforcements sent from France caught the pestilence in succession. Yet they continued to exercise the most horrid barbarities against the unhappy negroes. Many thousands of them, lest their putrid carcasses should infect the air, were taken on board the ships in the road, bound together, and thrown into the sea. 'Some of these atrocities were committed so near the land, that multitudes of the corpses were driven in by the tide, and cast upon the shore.' A pack of blood hounds was procured from the island of Cuba, with which the blacks were hunted down with unrelenting fury; and sometimes, it is confidently slated, publicly thrown to them alive.

In the midst of these scenes of horror General Le Clerc died, and the command devolved on General Rochambeau, who fought several battles with the blacks with varied success; but the losses sustained in these actions, and the still greater by disease, reduced the French to the necessity of shutting themselves up within their strong holds, while the forces of the blacks were daily- increasing in numbers and confidence. It is said that not fewer than 40,000 Frenchmen had perished by the end of the year 1802, which may well be, as we are told by Lacroix that reinforcements to the amount of twenty thousand men had arrived from time to time.

Dessalines, now commander-in-chief of the negro army, advanced to the plain of the Cape, with a view to lay siege to the head-quarters of the French army. Rochambeau determined to give him battle. A dreadful encounter took place, in which neither could claim the victory, but multitudes were killed, and many prisoners taken on both sides. The French are said to have tortured their prisoners, and then put to death about five hundred of them. As soon as this was known, Dessalines caused five hundred gibbets to be erected, and after selecting all the French officers in his custody, ordered the number to be made up with private soldiers, and the whole to be hung up at break of day in sight of the French army. The breaking out of the war in May, 1803, between Great Britain and France; the arrival of an English squadron before Cape Francois; and the blockade of the town by Dessalines, completed the misery of the remnant of the French army. Rochambeau, in describing its wretched condition, says, 'they are pressed almost to death by

absolute absolute famine, and striving to appease the desperate calls of hunger by feeding on their horses, mules, asses, and even dogs'— those very dogs which they had procured for hunting down and devouring the negroes!

Towards the end of the year, Rochambeau capitulated; but as he appeared to be meditating some act of treachery, Dessalines threatened to sink the whole squadron (with the troops on board) which was yet in the roadsted; and would have carried his threat into execution, had not the English commander, into whose hands the ships had fallen, with the greatest difficulty prevented it. Dessalines immediately declared the independence of St. Domingo, and promised protection and security to the inhabitants of every complexion; at the same time permitting all who were disposed to follow the French army to do so. A general proclamation, signed by him, Christophe, and Clerveaux, thus commences : ' In the name of the black people and men of colour—The independence of St. Domingo is proclaimed. Restored to our primitive dignity, we have asserted our rights; we swear never to yield them to any power on earth. The frightful veil of prejudice is torn in pieces; be it so for ever. Woe be to them who would dare to put together its bloody tatters!' This is not in the best style; what follows however is more to the purpose: they invite the return of those proprietors who had left the island in times of trouble, and took no part against their brethren; but as for those (say they) who in the pride of their hearts foolishly imagined they were ' destined by heaven to be our masters and our tyrants, let them not approach the land of St. Domingo; should they venture hither, they will meet only with chains or deportation.'

On the 1st of January 1804, the generals and chiefs of the army signed a formal declaration of the independence of the people of Hayti; and bound themselves by a solemn oath to renounce France for ever. At the same 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.

The first act of Dessalines was to encourage the return of those negroes and men of colour, who, with their masters, had taken refuge in the United States of America; he also offered the merchants of Jamaica to open his ports for slave-ships. The object was, no doubt, that of recruiting his forces, which, by his own account, had been greatly reduced in the long and arduous contest. He asserted that, in the inhuman massacres of the French, 'more than sixty thousand of his brethren had been drowned, suffocated, shot, hanged and otherwise put to death.' To excite the blacks to avenge these murders on those whom he describes as having ' delighted to bathe themselves in the blood of the innocent children of

Ff2 Hayti,' Hayti,' he pronounced a frantic discourse, in which he proved but too well how he had profited by the bloody instructions which k had received. It led (as the orator probably intended it should) to a horrible massacre of the whites, which took place on the GSlk April, and was followed by another act of the most flagitious pertid; as well as cruelty. A proclamation was issued stating, that justi« had now been satisfied for the crimes committed by the French, and inviting those who had escaped to appear on the parade to receive tickets for their future protection. Many hundreds made their appearance, and were instantly led away to the place of execution, and shot.

Having thus got rid of all whom he conceived to be his enemies, Dessalines, on the 8lh of October, 1804, procured a Capuchin missionary to crown him Emperor under the name of Jacques I. On this occasion he signed a constitution, declaring the empire of Hayti to be a free, sovereign, and independent state. It then proceeded to decree the abolition of slavery—the equality of rank— the equal operation of the laws—the inviolability of property, the adoption of the general name of Blacks for all Haytian subjects, whatever might be their colour. It further declared that no one should be considered worthy of the name of Haytian who vns not a good father, a good son, a good husband, and a good soldier. The powers of the emperor were very extensive, restricted however by a code of laws apparently well suited to a people just emerging from a state of slavery and barbarism. All religious worship was tolerated; marriage was declared a civil contract; and the houses of citizens were to be held inviolable. The estates belonging to French proprietors were confiscated to the state; but such mulattoes as could trace their relationship to white proprietors were admitted as heirs. The labouring slaves, as under Toussaint, received one-fourth of the produce of the estates on which they worked, and confmement was the only punishment for idleness. Under these and other regulations, the island rapidly advanced to a state of great prosperity. Dessalines, with all his crimes, had many good qualities. He encouraged the ministers of religion, and enforced a general attendance on public worship. He established schools in most of the districts; and the negroes, seeing the ascendancy of their countrymen who had received the advantage of education, were exceedingly anxious for the instruction of their children, so that the young Haytians were very generally taught to read and write.

This encouragement was the more meritorious, as Dessalines himself could do neither. At the time of the insurrection, in 1791, he was the slave of a negro, whose name he took in addition to that of Jean Jacques. This man, who was a tiler, lived to see his former slave become his sovereign. Dessalines retained

« AnteriorContinuar »