Toussaint Louverture 1795

A Warning to Rebels

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

The war in Saint-Domingue was really many wars, with rebel blacks, mixed-bloods, whites, and English and Spanish troops uniting in a dizzying number of combinations against the French or each other. In February 1795 Toussaint’s French troops prepared to attack a group of rebels in the area of Artibonite. He issued the following warning.

In the name of the French people, Toussaint-Louverture, commanding General of the cordon of the West and the army of the French republic, to the French in a state of error camped on the Motet habitation.

Frenchmen, the tocsin is sounding. Arise, return from the too fatal errors in which you were plunged. The occasion is offered to you for the last time. The irons of the despot of England are not made for you; take up again your dignity as French citizens, take up again your national character. The heroic trumpet must have taught you of the great feats of your fatherland, which has covered itself with glory in the eyes of the universe. I have been sent by Laveaux, Governor General of this colony, to bring you words of peace. If, cured by time and experience, you will return to the humane laws of the Republic, just say the word and nothing will be forgotten in preserving you from the deplorable fate that awaits you if you persist in your horrible rebellion.

I exhort you to return to the fatherland, in the name of the Governor General. Like all republicans, I am animated by the ardent desire to find only brothers and friends wherever I march the troops confided to my command. Humanity is one of the sacred obligations that will make us surpass all the other peoples. Saving brothers from their straying and lending them a helping hand also enters into our principles.

Let your property not cause you to hesitate in becoming French again; they will be sheltered from any attack, and I vow that the law will executed against anyone who makes the least attempt on it.

In keeping with these words from the heart, I call upon you, in the name of the Republic, to rally to me within the hour. Once this time has expired, I shall deploy force against you, and I will be victorious. But I declare to you that in forcing me to this violent measure all prisoners, without any distinction, will then be run through with the sword.