Графични страници
PDF файл

Hayti,' he pronounced a frantic discourse, in which he proved but too well how he bad protited by the bloody instructions which he had received. It led (as the orator probably intended it should) to a horrible massacre of the whites, which took place on the 28th April, and was followed by another act of the most tlagitious perfidy as well as cruelty. A proclamation was issued stating, that justice 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 8th 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 rankthe 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 was 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 confinement 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

a great


a great affection for him, and appointed him to the office of his chief butler, which, he said, was that of all others the old man wished for; and in this capacity he made up for the abstemiousness of Dessalines, who drank nothing but water. This first sovereign of Hayti was short in stature, but strongly made ; of great activity and undaunted courage. In military talent he was considered superior to Toussaint, but in all other respects far below him. His personal vanity led him to a ridiculous splendour in his dress, and he wished to be thought an elegant dancer. His wife was one of the most handsome and accomplished negresses in the West Indies; she had been the favourite mistress of a rich planter, at whose expense she was educated; her disposition was highly amiable, and she used on all occasions her best endeavours to soften the natural ferocity of her husband, though, unhappily, not always with suc

This transatlantic Robespierre proceeded in his career of blood till the 17th October, 1806, when he perished by the hands of the mulatto soldiers of Petion. Christophe was now called to the head of the government, and to introduce a constitution which should guarantee the safety of persons and property. A proclamation at the same time denounced the crimes of which Dessalines had been guilty; and among other things, accused him of having robbed the public treasury of twenty thousand piastres for each of his twenty mistresses. Christophe, however, deplored the fate of Dessalines, who, he said, had been put to death by the men of colour without inquiry into his conduct. The blacks, always jealous of the men of colour, attacked Petion, who, with his people, narrowly escaped into the southern and western destricts, where a new constitution was prepared; and on the 27th December, 1800, Petion was proclaimed president of the republic of Hayti. A civil war now sprang up between the partizans of the two chiefs, till at length, by a sort of tacit agreement, the mulatto -president fixed himself in the south and west, while Christophe established himself in the north, where, on the 2d June, 1811, the royal crown was placed on his head, and he was proclaimed Henry I., king of Hayti.

We have now advanced to that part of the narrative in which we propose to give some account of the character of the two chiefs, under whose rule this beautiful island was divided, and the present state and condition of the people, under their opposite governments. Petion, the president of the republic of Hayti, a native mulatto of St. Domingo, was educated at the Military Academy of Paris, where he distinguished himself as a man of very considerable talents, but of shy and reserved manners. His disposition, however, was gentle and conciliatory, and such was the confidence of his own caste in his ability and integrity, that, almost without exertion, FF 3


he had not only the merit of keeping together and thus saving the remains of the people of colour, but of establishing with about ten or twelve thousand of that caste, a complete controul over a population of 250,000 blacks; more, it is said, by the seasonable application of the two fascinating words, liberty and equality, than by the introduction of them into real practice.

The death of Petion, which took place in 1818, was uviversally lamented; and his funeral was attended by almost the whole population of Port-au-Prince, all exclaiming that they had lost a father and a friend; and when his successor, General Boyer, pronounced his funeral oration, the whole multitude burst into tears. An English merchant residing at Port-au-Prince, says, ' I have been on intimate terms with the President for years, and a more virtuous and amiable man I never knew. He is the idol of the people, and their confidence in him is unbounded. It was supposed that he was a Frenchman in his heart, and would betray that part of the island over which he ruled to the emissaries of Louis; but his conduct on that occasion shewed his sincerity. The moment he heard of the mission, he caused every preparation to be made for setting fire to all the houses on the coast, and torches to be placed in all the arsenals ready to be lighted. If,' says the English merchant above alluded to, 'a suggestion is whispered at the government-house as to the policy of the measure, the answer is, “ Look at Moscow.” It would appear, if Lacroix be correct, that he just died in time to save his reputation; that, disgusted with the things of this world, he had fallen into an absolute apathy, and no longer possessed that activity of mind, so necessary for the founder and the director of a political system; that, finding he could not advance the fabric he had reared according to his philanthropic views, annoyed at the idea of being fixed to a spot of the earth where the surrounding mass was so barbarous as not to comprehend those views, he launched forth into the imaginary world of Plato; and, in the aberration of his faculties, had nevertheless preserved a sufficient degree of firmness to suffer himself to die of hunger.

Christophe, now Henry I., king of Hayti, was born a slave in that island of the West Indies from which he takes his name, and was still a slave in St. Domingo in the year 1791. The early friend and the faithful adherent of Toussaint, he bore a considerable resemblance to him in character. His military talents were very respectable, and his courage unshaken; his disposition humane and benevolent. In the exercise of all the social virtues he has been eminently distinguished; he is a good husband, a good father, a steady friend, and strict in the observance of all the duties of religion and morality. Contrary to the common custom among his



black countrymen, he attached himself in early life to one woman, whom he never forsook; and that woman is now queen of Hayti, beloved by all ranks and conditions. Henry is said to possess a propriety and dignity of manner seldom attained by an uneducated

Gifted with strong natural talents, he soon acquired the habit both of speaking and writing well. His proclamations, said to be generally dictated by himself, are compositions of which the most civilized cabinets of Europe might not be ashamed. Of his good faith and moderation, the British merchants resident under his protection have had frequent and ample proofs. Even Lacroix, who bears no great affection to him, admits that his manners are engaging, and his morals pure. His colour and features are completely negro; but his countenance is represented as very intelligent, agreeable and expressive. In person and appearance, he is said to bear a strong resemblance to our venerable sovereign, and the respect felt for him by the British merchants is not, on that account, diminished; his common dress, which is that of the Windsor uniform, but without lace or star, adds to the likeness.

When commander-in-chief of Cape François, he used to give public dinners, to which the officers of the British navy were frequently invited; and on these occasions his conversation was in the English language, in which he expresses himself with great ease. At the head of all his public institutions be is ambitious to place Englishmen, professing his cordial detestation of every thing French. Dr. Stuart has the care of his military hospital, which is constantly visited by the king, who goes round daily and talks with the patients, most of whom he knows by name and character: to some he gives good advice, others he scolds, and with others he laughs and jests, and they all appear happy to see him. His goodhumoured disposition is manifested by the number of orphans, children of deceased officers, whom he keeps in his palace, and whoin he suffers to run about him and feel his pocket for bonsbons, which he carries with him for the gratification of the little urchins.

The two governments, under the superintendence of the negro king and the mulatto president, have proceeded in very different ways, and without any common principle, in the progress of civilization, the cultivation of their respective territories, and the general improvement of the people. Petion, the late president, endeavoured to adhere to the revolutionary government of France, under which he received a part of his education. While every thing was apparently carried on by tribunals or departments, the president in fact was invested with absolute power; he was the Buonaparte of Hayti, surrounded by inefficient and useless machinery. The lands in the republic are partitioned among the officers and publie

F 7.4


functionaries, according to a fixed scale; and the negroes may work on hire, or live in idleness, as they feel disposed. Henry, on the contrary, lays claim to all the vacant lands, and partitions them out among his generals and other officers as he thinks fit; and a kind of feudal system is established, each having on his estate a set of retainers, who receive one-fourth of the produce for their labour, and are generally soldiers by profession. The administration of affairs in the republic is conducted by a president, three secretaries of state, thirty representatives in the commons, and twenty-four senators. These affect to ridicule the acts of Henry, by saying, that his hands are less fit to wield the sceptre, than the frying-pan at the inn of the Cape,' where he was formerly a slave; while Henry contents himself with publishing every year the whole organization of the two governments in the · Royal Almanack' of Hayti, and tempts the republicans by shewing the vacancies he has to dispose of in the civil and military functions of the monarchy. All honours flow from the crown, which is hereditary in the family of Christophe, who affects to trace his pedigree to the house of Dahomey in Africa. His hereditary nobles consist of two princes, exclusive of the blood royal, eight dukes, eighteen earls, thirty-two barons, and eight chevaliers. Six grand marshals of Hayti, eight lieutenant-generals, fifteen field-marshals, six major-generals, and one hundred field officers, compose the staff of the army. There is besides a royal and military order of St. Henry, which confers personal nobility on those who are decorated with it: in 1818 it consisted of six grand crosses, sixteen knights-commanders, and 165 knights-companions.

The staff of the army of the republic is less numerous, consisting only of six generals of divisions, and nine brigadier-generals; there are of course no honours or distinctions but what are conferred by offices. Lacroix seems to think that the republic is more firmly established, because property is more divided, and because there are more points of contact between authority and obedience, and consequently a greater number interested in maintaining the present government. Both, however, depend solely for internal tranquillity and repelling external attack on force of arms. If you will preserve yourselves free, said Toussaint, be careful to preserve your arms.

Petion inculcates the same sentiment; and the Baron de Vastey re-echoes it, in lamenting the fate of the ancient inhabitants of the island, who were exterminated because ignorant of their use. The following energetic invocation to their arms is no bad specimen of negro eloquence, from the pen of a self-taught slave,

O terre de mon pays! en est-il un sur le globe où les malheureux habitans aient éprouvé plus d'infortunes? Partout où je porte mes pas,

« ПредишнаНапред »