Étienne Polverel

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Étienne Polverel [sometimes erroneously spelled Polveral] (1742 Beam, France - 1795 Paris) – Arrived in Le Cap aboard the America as a Civil Commissioner to Saint-Domingue on September 17, 1792, along with Léger Félicité Sonthonax and Jean-Antoine Ailhaud. (Dubois, p. 142) Polverel was given charge of the West, and when Ailhaud abandoned his post, he took responsibility for the South as well. (Fick, p. 315 n3)

When Polverel's son was seized as a hostage, General Galbaud proposed to exchange the boy for the general's brother, César Galbaud, who had been taken prisoner by the Commissioners. (Heinl, p. 56) Polverel replied: "I adore my son, but he cannot be exchanged for the life of a traitor. Please do not refer to this matter again." (Parkinson, p. 68)

Polverel followed his fellow commisioners Sonthonax August 29, 1793 proclamation abolishing slavery in the North of Saint-Domingue (French text) two weeks later, in September 1793, by a similar decree, thus abolishing slavery in the rest of the colony.

Étienne Polverel was a lawyer, and was appointed a French public prosecutor in 1791. He died in April 1795, shortly after the beginning of a trial in which he and Sonthonax were accused by white colonists of treasonous activities in Saint-Domingue. The long trial ended in August, and the Commissioners were exonerated of this charge.

See also


  • Dubois, Laurent. (2004). Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-01304-2.
  • Parkinson, Wenda (1978). This Gilded African. London: Quartet Books. ISBN 0-7043-2187-4
  • Fick, Carolyn E. (1990). The Making of Haiti: The Saint Domingue Revolution from Below. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 0-87049-667-0.