Haiti 1801

The Expedition to Saint-Domingue

Source: Victor Schoelcher, Vie de Toussaint Louverture. Paul Ollendorf, Paris, 1889;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitch Abidor.

In 1801 Bonaparte decided to put an end to Toussaint’s — and Saint-Domingue’s — independent conduct by sending an expeditionary force to the island.

(November 18,1801)

Citizen General:

The peace with England and all the European powers, which has established the Republic in the highest degree of power and grandeur, now allows the government to occupy itself with the colony of Saint-Domingue. We are sending there Citizen Leclerc, our brother-in-law, in his quality as General to serve as first magistrate of the colony. He is accompanied by a considerable force in order to ensure the respect of the sovereignty of the French people.

It is in these circumstances that we hope that you will prove to us, and to all of France, the sincerity of the sentiments that you have regularly expressed in the letters that you wrote to us.

We hold you in esteem, and we are happy to recognize and proclaim the great services that you have rendered the French people. If its banner flies over Saint-Domingue it is to you and the brave blacks that this is owed.

Called by your talents and the force of circumstances to the leading position of command, you have done away with civil war, put a brake on the persecution by several ferocious men, and returned to its place of honor the cult of God, from which everything emanates.

The constitution you made, while including many good things, contains some that are contrary to the dignity and sovereignty of the French people, of which Saint-Dominigue forms only a portion.

The circumstances in which you found yourself, surrounded on all sides by enemies without the metropole being able to either assist or revictual you, rendered articles of that constitution legitimate that otherwise would not be. But today, when the circumstances have changed for the better, you should be the first to render homage to the sovereignty of the nation that counts you among its most illustrious citizens thanks to the services you have rendered it and by the talents and the force of character with which nature has graced you. A contrary conduct would be irreconcilable with the idea we have conceived of you. It would have you lose the many rights to recognition and the benefits of the republic, and would dig beneath your feet a precipice which, in swallowing you up, could contribute to the misfortune of those brave blacks whose courage we love, and whose rebellion we would, with difficulty, be obliged to be punished.

We have made known to your children and their tutor the sentiments that animate us. We are returning them to you.

Assist the General with your counsels, your influence and your talents. What could you wish for? Freedom for blacks? You know that in all the countries we've been we have given it to people who didn’t have it. Consideration, honors, fortune? After the services you have rendered us, that you can yet render us, and the particular sentiments that we have for you, can you possibly be unsure about your fortune and the honors that await you.

And General, think that if you are the first of your color to have arrived at such a great power, and to have so distinguished himself for his bravery and military talents, you are also before God and ourselves principally responsible for the conduct of the people of Saint-Domingue.

If there are evil ones who say to the individuals of Saint-Domingue that we arrive to investigate what they did during the time of anarchy, assure them that we are informing ourselves only of their conduct in those circumstances, and that we are only investigating the past in order to learn of the traits that distinguished them in the war they carried out against the English and the Spaniards, who were our enemies.

Count without any reservation on our esteem, and conduct yourself as should one of the principal citizens of the greatest nation in the world.

The First Consul, Bonaparte.