« PreviousContinue »
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
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 frequevtly 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 he 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
functionaries, according to a fixed scale; and the negroes may work on hire, or live in idleness, as they feel disposed. Henry, on the çontrary, 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
, 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 tran
, quillity 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,
où je fixe męs regards, je vois des débris, des vases, des ustensiles, des figures qui portent dans leurs formes l'empreinte et les traces de l'enfance de l'art; plus loin, dans les lieux écartés et solitaires, dans les cavernes des montagnes inaccessibles, je découvre en frémissant des squelettes, encore tout entiers, des ossemens humains, épars et blanchis par le tems; en arrêtant mes pensées sur ces tristes restes, sur ces débris qui attestent l'existence d'un peuple qui n'est plus, mon cæur s'émeut, je répands des larmes de compassion et d'attendrissement sur le malheureux sort des premiers habitans de cette île! Mille souvenirs déchirans viennent affliger mon cæur, une foule de réflexions absorbent mes pensées, et se succèdent rapidement. Il existait donc ici avant nous des hommes ! Ils ne sont plus ! Voilà leurs déplorables restes ! Ils ont été détruits! Qu'avaient-ils fait pour éprouver un aussi funeste sort?–Ces malheureux n'avaient point d'armes, ils ne pouvaient se défendre; à cette pensée, je saisis les miennes.....O armes précieuses ! sans vous, que seraient devenus mon pays, mes compatriotes, mes parens, mes amis ? Fils de la montagne, habitans des forêts, chérissez vos armes, ces clefs précieuses, conservatrices de vos droits ; ne les abandonnez jamais, transmettez-les à vos enfans avec l'amour de la liberté et de l'indépendance--comme le plus bel héritage que vous puissiez leur léguer.'--Système de Colonisation, par de Vastcy, p. 533.
The regular army of King Henry consists of about 25,000 men, of which 4,600 form the royal guard: they are of all arms, exceedingly well, indeed splendidly, dressed and equipped in all respects, and in an excellent state of discipline. According to the testimony of several British officers, no European troops are better trained than the black regiments of Hayti. Among them are about 4,000 blacks from the coast of Africa, formed into separate companies, which bear the name of Royal Dahomeys. They are placed under officers of tried attachment to the king, and are in fact the national guards, to whom the general police of the country is entrusted; and such, according to Lacroix, is the strictness of this police, that the cultivators are not permitted to leave their houses without a written permission from the commanding officer of the Dahomeys.
The army of the republic is also about 25,000 men, of which 3,600 men compose the president's guard. They are not so well dressed nor disciplined as the king's army, and the greater part are placed in cantonments among the planters. The police of the towns is not so strict in the republic as in the monarchy; the people of colour, who are chiefly in power, are more difficult to bring under subordination than the blacks. They are more loose in their morals, particularly the women, who transact almost all the business of the towns. The bonds of marriage can scarcely be said to exist in the republic. Henry, on the contrary
, compels bis soldiers to marry, and woe be to him that violates the nuptial tie!
Aware that much depends on appearances, Henry suffers no one to appear before him who is not decently clothed; and the consequence is that, instead of naked blacks of both sexes strolling about the streets as heretofore, every one now puts on a becoming habit. The republicans are less attentive in this respect; but here too the natural vanity of the blacks has induced them to clothe themselves better than heretofore. Petion himself affected an indifference to dress, but his great officers made as brilliant an appearance as those of Henry. By a singular fate,' says Lacroix, dresses of velvet magnificently embroidered, which not long ago arrayed the senators of the most powerful empire of the world, have found their way to Hayti, and now clothe the senators of this little republic.' This circumstance,' he adds, insignificant in itself, is a new example of the nothingness and the decay of human grandeur in the age
of revolutions in which we live.' The population of the two governments, according to Lacroix, consists of 480,000 blacks, 20,000 persons of colour, and 1,000 whites, chiefly Germans, making all together 501,000 souls ; of whom 261,000 are republicans, and 240,000 royalists. Each may be considered to consist of three classes: The first embraces all the civil and military officers, who possess a great part of the property of the island. The second class is composed of those who exercise the various mechanical arts, the trades-people of the towns, and the soldiers. The third is composed of the actual labourers of the estates, or the husbandmen, who are mostly blacks. These people are in fact but a little removed from their former condition of slavery, being completely at the mercy and caprice of the civil and military authorities of the two governments.
The finances of each are stated to be so flourishing that, after paying all expenses, there is a surplus of at least fifteen millions of livres, entirely disposable by the king and the president. The system of policy is the same. The king and the president have both declared, that on the first appearance of an enemy on the coast, every town shall disappear, and the whole nation take up
• The last of the Haytians,' says King Henry in his manifesto, ' will breathe out his last sigh sooner than renounce his independence. Free by right, and independent in fact, we will never renounce these blessings ; nor witness the subversion of the edifice which we have raised and cemented with our blood. Faithful to our oath, we will rather bury ourselves beneath the ruins of our country than suffer the smallest infringement of our political rights.'
The sentiments of Petion were strictly in unison with these of the king. We have strong suspicions, however, of the integrity of bis successor, Boyer; he is lavishly praised by Lacroix as a good