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THE ECLECTIC REVIEW,
For JUNE, 1806.
Art. I. An (A) Historical Account of the Black Empire of Hayti,
comprehending a view of the Principal Transactions in the Revolution of Saint Domingo, with its Ancient and Modern State. By Marcus Rainsford, Esquire, late Captain, Third West-India Regiment, &c. 4to. pp. 467. Price 21. 25. Chapple, Pall-Mall, 1805.
THE great events and desolating wars which have arisen out I of the French Revolution, will be contemplated with wonder by succeeding ages; and, while they interest curiosity, will, almost stagger belief. The abolition of Royalty; the ruin of a numerous Nobility; the torrents of blood spilt by contending factions; the abrogation of Christianity; the enthusiastic rage for the establishment of a fanciful and impracticable equality, the rapid and endless round of new constitutions; and, lastly, a stern and severe military despotism-all these objects, in their causes and consequences, will be calmly reviewed, and the evils they have occasioned will be fairly weighed against the good they have produced. Posterity will be better able than we can be, to decide on this important question. The happiness of mankind, upon the whole, has not yet received any increase from the French Revolution; nor, with the views of its present rulers, do we think it likely to be very soon augmented. But while we deplore the mischiefs which no human sagacity seems equal to prevent, we are confident that good may ultimately issue from this mass of evil. That All-powerful hand, which presides in political, as well as in physical convulsions, can, when it pleases, calm the waves on this turbulent ocean of conflicting passions, and bid them communicate prosperity, while they repose in peace.
Amidst the astonishment excited by such tragical scenes, a new object strikes the sight, unparallelled in the annals of history, big with terror to the inhabitants of the Antilles, and the subject of just alarm to those countries of Europe, that are interested in their fate. A fertile Island in the centre of their sugar colonies, furnished with excellent harbours, and peopled
by above half a million of blacks inured to arms, is suddenly :, become a free and independent state. - Jainaica, situated at a Yol. II. .
small sınall distance from it, possesses a population of 300,000 slaves, and not 10,000 men of all descriptions besides, to keep them in subjection. In the smaller windward islands, belonging to Great Britain, the disproportion of white inhabitants to the rest is still greater. The consequences of this have been long foretold; and though we sincerely deplore the condition of the slaves, we are not without hope, that its amelioration will one day be such as may disappoint these prognosticators, and leave no occasion or pretext for importing Negroes froin Africa. . Our author's, professed intention, is to assign the causes which led to the establishment of the Empire of the Blacks in Saint Domingo; Hayti, the name which it now assumes, was its ancient denomination, when first discovered in 1492, by Columbus. The first chapter is wholly occupied in reciting the settlement and subsequent conquest, by the Spaniards, whose cruel and pernicious policy in the destruction of the ancient inhabitants, forms a prominent feature of the work. In this part of it, the accusation frequently brought against the Spaniards, of employing blood hounds, in the dreadful work of extermination, is fully proved. Eighteen years after Columbus had founded the colony, only 14,000 out of one million of Indians remained alive; the rest having perished in the gold mines, by famine, or through grief and despair, for the loss of their liberty. It is remarkable, that Las Casas, the humane Bishop of Chiapa, and the indefatigable friend of the Indians, is considered as the first, who proposed the introduction of African slaves, a race which was destined 300 years afterwards, to avenge the wrongs of Hispaniola, and rescue it from the fetters of Europe. · The failure of the gold mines, in the working of which torrents of blood had been shed, and numberless barbarities committed, soon reduced the Spanish colony in Saint Domingo to a low and feeble condition; but the peace of Utrecht in 1714, by placing the crown of Spain on the head of one of the French princes, produced a reciprocal interest between the two nations, the effects of which were soon visible, and hence arose the most flourishing colony ever founded by Europeans. The French had gained a footing some years before, in consequence of the peace of Ryswick, for it was the policy of Colbert, the enlightened minister of Louis XIV: to found his master's Empire on colonies, “commerce and shipping. As the French colony prospered in one part of tlie island, so proportionally did the Spanish decline in the other.
In 1717, the latter contained but 18,418 persons of all descriptions, of wtion only 2000 were natives of Spain; though more than 200 years before, it had 14000 Castilians, and ten times that number of slaves and peoplc of colour. Cruelty, religious intolerance, indolence, and the pride and ignorance of
the government, had produced this rapid diminution of numbers and prosperity.
In 1754, the French colony exported produce to the amount of 1,261,4691; and imported from France to the amount of · 1,777,509). The colony then contained of white inhabitants, 14,000, people of colour, 4000, and Negroes 172,000.
From this time to the unfortunate period of the revolution, the colony presented a display of brilliant success, prosperity, and opulence, most creditable to the French character. In 1764 the population of the white inhabitants had increased to 20,000. People of colour and Negroes to 206,000.
• From this period, to the commencement of revolutionary activity in 1789, when those principles which had long been concealed in a smouldering flame, were about to have vent through the world, the French establishment in Saint Domingo reached a height superior, not only to all other colonial possessions, but to the conception of the philosopher and politician; its private luxury, and its public grandeur, astonished the traveller; its accumulation of wealth surprized the mother country; and it was beheld with rapture by the neighbouring inhabite ants of the islands of the Antilles. Like a rich beauty surrounded with every delight, the politicians of Europe, sighed for her possession ; but they sighed in vain ; she was reserved for the foundation of a republic as extraordinary as it is terrible, whether it ultimately tend only, to the ascertainment of abstract opinions, or unfold a new and august empire to the world, where it has heretoføre been deemed impossible to exist.'
p. 64. • The cultivated land in the colony amounted to 2,289,480 English acres, which was divided into 793 plantations of sugar, 3117 of coffee, 789 of cotton, 3160 of indigo, 54 of cocoa or chocolate, and 623 smaller settlements for raising grain, yams, and other vegetable food.'
p. 85. "To describe the productions of the French colony of Saint Domingo, would be enumerating those of the whole of the Antilles. Their principal were, however, as have been before described, sugar, coffee, cotton, indigo, and cocoa, or chocolate. To these may be added a little tobacco.
In return for the useful droves of cattle for slaughter and labour, smoked beef, bacon, skins, and the greatest part of the money seceived from Spain, they supplied their neighbours with wearing apparel, harda ware, and guns.
The population was considered (in 1789) at about 40,000 whites, 500,000 negro slaves, and 24,000 free people of colour; and the avea rage exports, as stated by M. Marbois, the intendant of the colony, amounted to 4,765, 1291. sterling. p. 91.
* The women of colour are often elegant, if not sometimes really beauza.. tiful. The Mulattoes were frequently opulent and respected... The freeman of colour had the command of his own property, without any re. striction, both in life and death ; he could bear testimony even against the whites; he could marry as he pleased, and transmit freedom to his
children ; and he might embrace a liberal profession ; but prejudice frequently darnped his efforts, and precipitated him below what an hostile law could have done. The meanness of birth was never forgotten in his own land. p. 88, 89.
The author reprobates the weak and voluptuous character of the profligate Colonists as corrupting the manners of the Negroes, and consequently as one of the leading causes of their ruin, and remarks, that the effects of vice in undermining public virtue, is the sure basis of revolt. He has certainly a strange way of expressing himself; but the reader may often discover amidst Hibernianisms, obscurity, and bombast, much acute remark, and judicious reflection.
In 1789, the project of Brissot, and the society called The Friends of the Blacks, at Paris, began to unfold itself, and to the white inhabitants, of St. Domingo, every motion of the court · and kingdom, became a subject of debate. Provincial and
parochial meetings produced violent resolutions, and at length · the election of 180 members, to form a national assembly for
the island. The Mulattoes were not silent in asserting their supposed rights. The friends of the blacks were not idle; their eloquence assisted to rouse into action, that spirit of revolt, which only sleeps in the enslaved African, or his descendant, and which has produced on both sides such horrors as would make even angels weep. Had the planters, instead of endless disputes among themselves, rather calined than provoked the discussions of those around them ; allowed the Mulattoes a portion of that freedom, for which all were clamorous, and which few understood; and conciliated the affections of those, from whose labours all their wealth and consequence were derived ; · many subsequent miseries would have been avoided, and they , would have deserved the approbation of mankind : at the same time they would have laid à foundation for the happiness of their posterity, far more lasting than the bequest of inordinate wealth, or imaginary freedom.. • The 3d chapter treats of the progress of the revolution, and
the accomplishment of the independence of St. Domingo. It is a history of horrors, exceeding the most dreadful enormities of the Buccaneers of America, so long the execration and abhorrence of all civilized nations; and but for the authenticity
of its, vouchers, would set credulity itself at defiance. Through , every stage of the French revolution, the proceedings of the national assembly were viewed by the proprietors of the estates
in this great colony, with a jealous eye, and the declaration • of the Rights of Man, was no way calculated to remove the · impression. The negrocs were not inattentive spectators of the · scenes that were acting both in France and on the island, when the Mulattoes took up arias, excited to it by the reluctance which the colonial assembly lad manifested, to allow them an equal participation of rights with the white inhabitants. The sacred name of liberty here, as in the mother country, was the signal for deeds of blood, and the first insurrection of the people of colour, was not quelled without the loss of many lives, together with the barbarous executions of the ringleaders. It is worthy of remark, that the co.onial assembly bad been elected, and had exercised its legislative powers without any authority from France; but the meinbers finding themselves unequal to the task of quieting the distractions that were daily increasing, suddenly resolved to embark for the parent country, and plead the cause of the colony at the bar of the national assembly. On their arrival at Paris, they were suddenly arrested, and the news of this event involved St. Domingo in more confusion than ever. The Mulattoes rose a second time in arms; the king's troops, in a manner as cowardly as it was base, inurdered their commander ; and scenes of ferocious cruelty were daily acted on the island which could only be parallelled by the horrors of Paris. French soldiers, who had once bowed to their grand Monarque, and worshipped honour as a deity, be. came traitors and assassins, while the friends of the blacks in Paris fanned and cherished the desolating flame. Robespierre, Brissot, Gregoire, and Condorcet, were the prime actors in the dreadful scenes that ensued, and may be justly considered as having: caused the loss of St. Domingo 19 France, and as the real founders of the black empire of Hayti.
The people of colour were decreed to have equal rights withi the whites, and the blacks now began to think that, amidst this scramble for liberty, it was high time to put in their claim. Rising suddenly, in all quarters of the island against the proprietors, as it by general consent, they began with burning the plantations, and destroying the inhabitants, without regard to age, sex, or condition. In two months, two thousand persons had thus perished; ten thousand of the blacks had fallen in battle, and hundreds had been cut off by the hands of the executioner. More than 1000 plantations of sugar, cocoa, coffee, and indigo, with all the buildings, were laid in ashes. The tortures inflicted on the blacks when taken, served. to irritate, rather than to terrify: their defection from their masters now became general, and the capital itself was threatened with a siege. Afflicted with so many calamities, the colony in vain turned its eyes upon France for assistance. Chiefly intent on delusive theories of liberty, distracted by cruel and sanguinary factions, and engaged in war with all her neighbours, she could afford no relief to St. Domingo. The war with England had destroyed the little remaining trade of