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Toussaint Louverture LS on Haiti: "the blacks have received their former masters with open arms"

5pp with an additional blank sheet, measuring 7.25" x 11.5", No place, dated July 18, 1798. A lengthy letter signed "Toussaint Louverture" as the General in Chief of the Army of Saint-Domingue. Addressed to "Citoyen Vincent", the Director of the Engineering and Fortifications of Saint-Domingue, on printed "Toussaint Louverture" letterhead. Written in French in an unknown hand. The letter has been bound with paper at the spine, and has minor edge and corner wear. Light, uneven toning and foxing throughout. With a large and bold signature.

In this letter to Haiti's French director of fortifications, Louverture discusses continued opposition from the remaining French officials in Haiti, singling out the French-appointed commissioner Gabriel comte d'Hédouville for personally stirring up dissent. Writing in part (translated): "…I had sorrow to see him acting in a way entirely opposite to what his good qualities seemed to announce the most perfect concord reigned upon his arrival and already germs of divisions are manifesting, he carries a suspicious mind against all the men who served the republic best, he dreams only conspiracy, gathering, and uprising…As I am persuaded that his wishes are not suitable to consolidate the order that he found established upon his arrival, on the contrary, I will be able to see only with the most lively sorrow that I will be forced to become the instrument of false measures that one suggests to him… I don't know where it was found that General Hédouville had a pacifying character." Despite his concerns about Hédouville, he concludes the letter by arguing that Haiti's formerly enslaved population has joyously embraced the French rule of law and begs the message be conveyed back to France, writing (translated): "the Blacks received their former masters with open arms, and will always be good, humane and friends of the law". 

François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture (1744-1803) was a Haitian general and the most prominent leader of the Haitian Revolution, known as the "Father of Haiti." During his life, Louverture both fought for and against the French in pursuit of Haitian independence. As a revolutionary leader, Louverture helped transform the fledgling slave rebellion into a movement that could not be ignored. He worked to improve the economy and security of Saint-Domingue and orchestrated trade agreements with both the United Kingdom and the United States. Around the time this letter was written, Louverture and Haitian general André Rigaud met with French commissioner Gabriel Hédouville to discuss treaties with the British for the evacuation of any remaining British troops in Saint-Domingue and Port-au-Prince. In an attempt to cause a rivalry that would undermine Louverture's power, Hédouville displayed a strong preference for Rigaud, while treating Louverture with near distain. Louverture's relationship with Hédouville would eventually reach a breaking point when a rebellion led by Louverture's adopted nephew turned into a full insurrection and Hédouville was threatened with being arrested for mishandling the situation. Hédouville finally fled, sailing for France in October 1798.

A translation of the letter, curated by the consigner, has been furnished for our use. While the text is not a direct translation, nor the text fully confirmed, it provides a strong baseline for the letter's meaning. As follows:


I am sending to France, my dear fellow citizen, citizen Guybre, my secretary to carry my dispatches to the government to request my retirement to the Directory. The disgust which one seeks to give me to reward me for the services which I rendered to the Republic, of which the cause of this resolution and as I am well convinced that it is impossible to an inferior officer to operate the good if he does not have the confidence of his government.

I prefer to finish my public career than to expose myself to become a victim of the traps which are set for me and which would be impossible for me to avoid. As much as I had had pleasure in seeing General Hédouville arrive in this colony, I was no longer able to give him my confidence because the good reputation with which he had been crowned according to what was published about his pacifying and conciliatory character, as much I had sorrow to see him acting in a way entirely opposite to what his good qualities seemed to announce the most perfect concord reigned upon his arrival and already germs of divisions are manifesting, he carries a suspicious mind against all the men who served the republic best, he dreams only conspiracy, gathering, and uprising; he takes for reality all the reports that all enemies of freedom and the orders that my personal enemies are going to give and behaves accordingly. I have sought on various occasions to make him return from his errors and give him advice dictated by my ardent love for the good of the colony and by my experience, he has created a knowledge arriving that men who have long inhabited this colony have operated with some success and he closed my mouth. As I am persuaded that his wishes are not suitable to consolidate the order that he found established upon his arrival, on the contrary, I will be able to see only with the most lively sorrow that I will be forced to become the instrument of false measures that one suggests to him.

I prefer to withdraw, as the colony is unfortunate to be constantly delivered to the ignorance or prejudice of new administrators. An intimate trust existed between Commissioner Raimond and me. Convinced of my good intentions, he left me the choice of dispositions against the external enemy and for the surveillance of the internal order; on his side his gentle and conciliatory character maintained the concord and he took care of the measures suitable to activate the culture which advanced with great step towards the restoration to this order of things which only needed to be maintained to produce the happiest results succeeded systems, changes, discontents of which the consequences that I foresee already afflict me.

I am speaking to you with an open heart, citizens and friends, to establish the new regime in Saint-Domingue you need men without prejudices, without passion, you need cold and peaceful men and I don't know where it was found that General Hédouville had a pacifying character.

If it were possible for me to communicate my correspondence, it would prove to you that I do not lightly advance my opinion. All my steps are bitterly censured, all my actions blamed and if he does not yet openly accuse my intentions I feel that he is very willing to go as far as he can. The same for all the soldiers who like me have served the Republic well and without your attachment to France, to liberty and to the order so solidly established many of them would also have already given their resignations because discouragement is in all the armée.

However, what can we be reproached for? It is because of our care, our courage, our patriotism that the colony is today totally purged of enemies, that divisions are annihilated, that order is established, that culture has made great progress.

You, my dear fellow citizen, who had witnessed the situation of the colony at the arrival of the commission and who knew what had happened before under General Lavaux, could judge of the pains of the privations and the solicitations that we had to experience to obtain the happy changes that have taken place, you will be able to decide if we deserve for our reward all the inconveniences that we are given.

After the departure of Sonthonax, my first concern was to carry out a project that I had been meditating on for a long time, all my ideas were directed towards the expulsion of the English from the colony; Sonthonax had divided all the spirits and it was necessary to be conscious of the will and the forces to carry out this great work.

But as soon as I was assured of the intentions of all the generals and all the chiefs of corps, after having submitted my plan to the commissioner Raimond, obtained approval and received orders, I entered the campaign on the thirteenth pluviose and before the first prairial, the time of my first interviews with the agent, the army of the republic had conquered the Mirebalais, the big woods, the Spanish part in the power of the English, the mountains of slavery and took possession of the places of Saint Marc, slavery and Port-Republican.

Quiet in the west I marched all available forces to Jérémie, and the Mole, but the English having not deemed it appropriate to wait for us, made us proposals to evacuate. We have since entered Jeremie and in six days the troops of the republic will enter the Mole.

All these places are in better condition than when they were delivered to the enemies of France; more than fifteen thousand blacks have entered the colony and have been spread out over their former homes. A very large part of the army is going to be dismissed and I have already begun this operation by sending back more than three thousand soldiers to their respective homes, without this dismissal producing the slightest sensation, nor the least complaint.

Here is my dear fellow citizen, the good news that you can give to France, I found the colony dismembered, delivered to all the horrors of the civil war, ruined, burned, ransacked, that makes France purged of external enemies, quiet and its culture having made great progress. Although the conduct of General Hédouville is likely to make me fear that I will be paid for ingratitude, my last wish will be for France, my last breath for liberty.

You know, my dear fellow citizen, how relentlessly the blacks were accused of barbarism and atrocities; they wanted to be free, It was said that they were the enemies of the whites and that they would never want to receive them in the colony, and now that the blacks have received their former masters with open arms and have departed from the laws, they have been able to press these unfortunate people against their chests. They come to call them aristocrats, protectors, immigrants. However, let us remove the impartial men who have witnessed the good harmony that reigns in Port-Republican and in the other places conquered between the new and the old children of the Republic, and we will be able to persuade that the blacks did not deserve more the conscious slander spread against them, than the new ones and that they will be good human beings and friends of the laws."

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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