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commissioners had a hand in it; and sometimes, in allusion to the place where it was issued (the Cape) the Proclamation of the North. The result of it was, that a considerable number of slaves came in and were enfranchised.
Soon after this transaction Polverel left his colleague Santhonax at the Cape, and went in his capacity of commissioner to Port au Prince, the capital of the West. Here he found every thing quiet, and cultivation in a flourishing state. From Port au Prince he visited Les Cayes, the capital of the South. He had not, however, been long there, before he found that the minds of the slaves began to be in an unsettled state. They had become acquainted with what had taken place in the north, not only with the riots at the Cape, but the proclamation of Santhonax. Now this proclamation, though it sanctioned freedom only for a particular or temporary purpose, did not exclude it from any particular quarter. The terms therefore appeared to be open to all who would accept them. Polverel therefore, seeing the impression which it had begun to make upon the minds of the slaves in these parts, was convinced that emancipation could be neither stopped nor retarded, and that it was absolutely necessary for the personal safety of the white planters, that it should be extended to the whole island. He was so convinced of the necessity of this, that he drew up a proclamation without further delay to that effect, and put it into circulation. He dated it from Les Cayes. He exhorted the planters to patronize it. He advised them, if they wished to avoid the most serious calamities, to concur themselves in the proposition of giving freedom to their slaves. He then caused a register to be opened at the Government house to receive the signatures of all those who should approve of his advice. It was remarkable that all the proprietors in these parts inscribed their names in the book. He then caused a similar register to be opened at Port au Prince for the West. Here the same disposition was found to prevail. All the planters, except one, gave in their signatures. They had become pretty generally convinced by this time, that their own personal safety was connected with the measure. It may be proper to observe here, that the proclamation last mentioned, which preceded these registries, though it was the act of Polverel alone, was sanctioned afterwards by Santhonax. It is, however, usually called the Proclamation of Polverel or of Les Cayes. It came out in September 1793. We may now add, that in the month of February 1794, the Conventional Assembly of France, though probably ignorant of what the commissioners had now done, passed a decree for the abolition of slavery throughout the whole of the French colonies. Thus the Government of the mother-country, without knowing it, confirmed freedom to those
upon whom it had been bestowed by the commissioners. This decree put therefore the finishing stroke to the whole. It completed the emancipation of the whole slave population of St. Domingo.
Having now given a concise history of the abolition of slavery in St. Domingo, we shall inquire how those who were liberated on these several occasions conducted themselves after this change in their situation. It is of great importance to us to know, whether they used their freedom properly, or whether they abused it.
With respect to those emancipated by Santhonax in the North, we have nothing to communicate. They were made free for military purposes only; and we have no clue whereby we can find out what became of them afterwards.
With respect to those who were emancipated next in the South, and those directly afterwards in the West, by the proclamation of Polverel, we are enabled to give a very pleasing account. Fortunately for our views, Colonel Malenfant, who was resident in the island at the time, has made us acquainted with their general conduct and character. His account, though short, is quite sufficient for our purpose. Indeed it is highly satisfactory*. "After this public act of emancipation," says he, (by Polverel,) "the Negroes remained quiet both in the South and in the West, and they continued to work upon all the plantations. There were estates, indeed, which had neither owners nor managers resident upon them, for some of these had been put into prison by Montbrun; and others, fearing the same fate, had fled to the quarter which had just been given up to the English. Yet upon these estates, though abandoned, the Negroes continued their labours, where there were any, even inferior agents to guide them; and on those estates, where no white men were left to direct them, they betook themselves to the planting of provisions; but upon all the plantations where the Whites resided, the Blacks continued to labour as quietly as before." A little further on in the work, ridiculing the notion entertained in France, that the Negroes would not work without compulsion, he takes occasion to allude to other Negroes, who had been liberated by the same proclamation, but who were more immediately under his own eye and cognizancet. "If," says he, " you will take care not to speak to them of their return to slavery, but talk to them about their liberty, you may with this latter word chain them down to their labour. How did Toussaint succeed? How did I succeed also before his time in the plain of the Cul de Sac, and on the Plantation Gouraud, more
* Mémoire historique et politique des Colonies, et particulièrement de celle de St. Domingue, &c. Paris, August 1814. 8vo. p. 58.
† Pp. 125, 126.
than eight months after liberty had been granted (by Polverel) to the slaves? Let those who knew me at that time, and even the Blacks themselves, be asked. They will all reply, that not a single Negro upon that plantation, consisting of more than four hundred and fifty labourers, refused to work; and yet this plantation was thought to be under the worst discipline, and the slaves the most idle, of any in the plain. I, myself, inspired the same activity into three other plantations, of which I had the management."
The above account is far beyond any thing that could have been expected. Indeed, it is most gratifying. We find that the liberated Negroes, both in the South and the West, continued to work upon their old plantations, and for their old masters; that there was also a spirit of industry among them; and that they gave no uneasiness to their employers; for they are described as continuing to work as quietly as before. Such was the conduct of the Negroes for the first nine months after their liberation, or up to the middle of 1794. Let us pursue the subject, and see how they conducted themselves after this period.
During the years 1795 and 1796 we hear nothing about them, neither good, nor bad, nor indifferent, though we have ransacked the French historians for this purpose. Had there, however, been any thing in the way of outrage, we should have heard of it; and let us take this opportunity of setting our readers right, if, for want of knowing the dates of occurrences, they should have connected certain outrages, which assuredly took place in St. Domingo, with the emancipation of the slaves. The great massacres and conflagrations, which have made so frightful a picture in the history of this unhappy island, had been all effected before the proclamations of Santhonax and Polverel. They had all taken place in the days of slavery, or before the year 1794, or before the great conventional decree of the mother-country was known. They had been occasioned, too, not originally by the slaves themselves, but by quarrels between the white and coloured planters, and between the royalists and the revolutionists, who, for the purpose of reeking their vengeance upon each other, called in the aid of their respective slaves; and as to the insurgent Negroes of the North, who filled that part of the colony so often with terror and dismay, they were originally put in motion, according to Malenfant, under the auspices of the royalists themselves, to strengthen their own cause, and to put down the partizans of the French revolution. When Jean François and Biassou commenced the insurrection, there were many white royalists with them, and the Negroes were made to wear the white cockade. We repeat, then, that during the years 1795 and 1796, we can find nothing in the History of St. Domingo, wherewith to reproach the emancipated Negroes in the
way of outrage*. There is every reason, on the other hand, to believe, that they conducted themselves, during this period, in as orderly a manner as before.
We come now to the year 1797; and here happily a clue is furnished us, by which we have an opportunity of pursuing our inquiry with pleasure. We shall find, that from this time there was no want of industry in those who had been emancipated, nor want of obedience in them as hired servants: they maintained, on the other hand, a respectable character. Let us appeal first to Malenfant. "The co lony," says het, "was flourishing under Toussaint. The Whites lived happily and in peace upon their estates, and the Negroes continued to work for them." Now Toussaint came into power, being general-in-chief of the armies of St. Domingo, a little before the year 1797, the year to which we are now come, and remained in power till the year 1802, or till the invasion of the island by the French expedition of Buonaparte under Leclerc. Malenfant means therefore to state, that from the beginning of 1797 to 1802, a period of six years, the planters or farmers kept possession of their estates; that they lived upon them, and that they lived upon them peaceably, that is, without interruption or disturbance from any one; and, finally, that the Negroes, though they had been all set free, con. tinued to be their labourers. Can there be any account more favourable to our views than this, after so sudden an emancipation?
Let us appeal next to General Lacroix, who published his “Memoirs for a History of St. Domingo," at Paris, in 1819. He informs us, that when Santhonax, who had been recalled to France by the Government there, returned to the colony in 1796,“ he was astonished at the state in which he found it on his return." This, says Lacroix, "was owing to Toussaint, who, while he had succeeded in establishing perfect order and discipline among the black troops, had succeeded also in making the black labourers return to the plantations, there to resume the drudgery of cultivation."
But the same author tells us, that in the next year (1797) the most wonderful progress had been made in agriculture. He uses these remarkable words: "The colony," says he, "marched, as by enchantment, to its ancient splendour; cultivation prospered; every day produced perceptible proofs of its progress. The city of the Cape and the plantations of the North rose up again visibly to the eye." Now we are far from wishing to attribute all this wonderful improvement, this daily visible progress in agriculture, to the mere act of the emancipation of the slaves in St. Domingo, We know that many other circumstances which we could specify, if we had There were occasionally marauding parties from the mountains, who pillaged in the plains; but these were the old insurgent, and not the emancipated Negroes. Mémoires, p. 311. § Ibid. p. 324.
+ P. 78.
room, contributed towards its growth; but we must be allowed to maintain, that unless the Negroes, who were then free, had done their part as labourers, both by working regularly and industriously, and by obeying the directions of their superintendants or masters, the colony could never have gone on, as relates to cultivation, with the rapidity described.
The next witness to whom we shall appeal, is the estimable General Vincent, who lives now at Paris, though at an advanced age. Vincent was a colonel, and afterwards a general of brigade of artillery in St. Domingo. He was stationed there during the time both of Santhonax and Toussaint. He was also a proprietor of estates in the island. He was the man who planned the renovation of its agriculture after the abolition of slavery, and one of the great instruments in bringing it to the perfection mentioned by Lacroix, In the year 1801, he was called upon by Toussaint to repair to Paris, to lay before the Directory the new constitution, which had been agreed upon in St. Domingo: he obeyed the summons. It happened, that he arrived in France just at the moment of the peace of Amiens; here he found, to his inexpressible surprise and grief, that Buonaparte was preparing an immense armament, to be commanded by Leclerc, for the purpose of restoring slavery in St. Domingo. He lost no time in seeing the First Consul, and he had the courage to say at this interview what, perhaps, no other man in France would have dared to say at this particular moment. He remonstrated against the expedition; he told him to his face, that though the army destined for this purpose was composed of the brilliant conquerors of Europe, it could do nothing in the Antilles. It would most assuredly be destroyed by the climate of St. Domingo, even though it should be doubtful, whether it would not be destroyed by the Blacks. He stated, as another argument against the expedition, that it was totally unnecessary, and therefore criminal; for that every thing was going on well in St. Domingo. The proprietors were in peaceable possession of their estates; culti vation was making a rapid progress; the Blacks were industrious, and beyond example happy. He conjured him, therefore, in the name of humanity not to reverse this beautiful state of things. But, alas! his efforts were ineffectual. The die had been cast: and the only reward which he received from Buonaparte, for his manly and faithful representations, was banishment to the Isle of Elba.
We have now carried our examination into the conduct of the Negroes after their liberation to 1802, or to the invasion of the island by Leclerc; we must now leave a blank for nearly two years, or till the year 1804. It cannot be expected during a war, in which every man was called to arms to defend his own personal liberty, and that of every individual of his family, that we should see plan