Haiti 1799

Proclamation on Saint-Domingue

Source: Victor Schoelcher, Vie de Toussaint Louverture. Paul Ollendorf, Paris, 1889;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitch Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2004.

Less than two months after seizing power on the 18th Brumaire, Bonaparte addressed a proclamation to the citizens of Saint-Domingue, the key elements of which he was to soon violate.

Paris, 4 Nivose, Year VIII (December 25, 1799)

Citizens, a constitution that wasn’t able to sustain itself against multiple violations has been replaced by a new pact destined to solidify freedom.

Article 91 states that French colonies will be ruled by special laws.

This disposition derives from the nature of things and the differences in climate.

The inhabitants of French colonies located in America, Asia, and Africa cannot be governed by the same laws.

The differences in habits, in mores, in interests; the diversity of soil, crops, and goods produced demands diverse modifications.

Far from being a subject of alarm for you, you will recognize here the wisdom and profundity of vision that animate the legislators of France.

The Consuls of the Republic, in announcing to you the new social pact, declare to you that the SACRED principles of the freedom and equality of blacks will NEVER SUFFER among you the least attack or modification.

If there are ill-intentioned men in the colony, if there are those who still have relations with enemy powers, remember BRAVE BLACKS, that the French people alone recognize your freedom and the equality of your rights.

The First Consul, BONAPARTE

The same day as this proclamation, Bonaparte issued a decree saying that the words “Remember, brave blacks, that the French people alone recognize your freedom and the equality of your rights” should be inscribed in gold letters on all the flags of the battalions of the National Guard of the colony of Saint Domingue. Toussaint refused to follow this order, saying: “It is not a circumstantial freedom conceded to ourselves alone that we want. It is the absolute adoption of the principle that any man born red, black or white cannot be the property of his like. We are free today because we are the stronger party. The Consul maintains slavery in Martinique and Bourbon; we will thus be slaves when he will be the stronger.”