Charles-Humbert-Marie de Vincent

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Charles-Humbert-Marie de Vincent also Colonel Vincent (March 21, 1759 Bourg en Bresse, France - 1831) was a French engineer posted to Saint-Domingue almost without interruption from 1786 to 1800. He married a settler’s daughter but became the friend of Toussaint Louverture. Vincent opposed slavery, but favoured the colony trading exclusively with France. Here he differed with Toussaint who traded with the United States and who in 1801 had prepared a constitution for Saint-Domingue. Charged with taking the text to the First Consul, he attempted in vain to deter him from giving marching orders to General Leclerc. Hostile on the one hand to independence and on the other to the return of slavery, he opted for restraint, a course which was not put to the test, but whose validity Napoléon was to recognize at Saint-Helena. (Schneider)

Wendell Phillips in a lecture given in 1861 attributes the following quote to Colonel Vincent: “Sire, leave it alone; it is the happiest spot in your dominions; God raised this man [Toussaint Louverture] to govern; races melt under his hand. He has saved you this island [Saint-Domingue]; for I know of my own knowledge that, when the Republic could not have lifted a finger to prevent it, George III offered him any title and any revenue if he would hold the island under the British crown. He refused, and saved it for France.” (From the letter to Napoléon, which accompanied Toussaint's 1801 constitution.)

"Vincent, a colonel who had earlier been sent to Haiti as a peace commissioner, tried in vain to stop Napoléon Bonaparte. "At the head of so many resources is a man the most active and indefatigable that can possibly be imagined" he wrote to the First Consul. "No man of the present day has acquired over an ignorant mass the boundless power obtained by General Toussaint over his brethren in Saint Domingo; he is the absolute master of the island." (Kim)

"Vincent was a colonel, and afterwards a general of brigade of artillery in St. Domingo. He was stationed there during the time both of Santhonax and Toussaint. He was also a proprietor of estates in the island. He was the man who planned the renovation of its agriculture after the abolition of slavery, and one of the great instruments in bringing it to the perfection mentioned by Lacroix. In the year 1801, he was called upon by Toussaint to repair to Paris, to lay before the Directory the new constitution, which had been agreed upon in St. Domingo. He obeyed the summons. It happened, that he arrived in France just at the moment of the peace of Amiens; here he found, to his inexpressible surprise and grief, that Buonaparte was preparing an immense armament, to be commanded by Leclerc, for the purpose of restoring slavery in St. Domingo. He lost no time in seeing the First Consul, and he had the courage to say at this interview what, perhaps, no other man in France would have dared to say at this particular moment. He remonstrated against the expedition; he told him to his face, that though the army destined for this purpose was composed of the brilliant conquerors of Europe, it could do nothing in the Antilles. It would most assuredly be destroyed by the climate of St. Domingo, even though it should be doubtful, whether it would not be destroyed by the Blacks. He stated, as another argument against the expedition, that it was totally unnecessary, and therefore criminal; for that every thing was going on well in St. Domingo. The proprietors were in peaceable possession of their estates; cultivation was making a rapid progress; the Blacks were industrious, and beyond example happy. He conjured him, therefore, in the name of humanity, not to reverse this beautiful state of things. But alas! his efforts were ineffectual. The die had been cast: and the only reward, which he received from Buonaparte for his manly and faithful representations, was banishment to the Isle of Elba." (Clarkson)

"...Vincent was banished to the island of Elba, where years later he was on hand to greet Napoleon. (Kim)

Colonel Vincent on Toussaint Louverture

"At the head of all is the most active and indefatigable man one can imagine. One can definitely say that he is everwhere and above all in the place where sound judgement and danger lead him to believe that his presence is the most essential. His great sobriety and the ability given only to him of never resting, the advantage he has of going back to office work after a tiresome journey, of replying to a hundred letters a day and of habitually exhausting five secretaries." - Colonel Vincent, in a note to Napoléon Bonaparte. (Parkinson, p. 84)

See also


  • Clarkson, Thomas Esq.. (1823) Thoughts on the Necessity for improving the Condition of the Slaves in the British Colonies, with a view to their ultimate emancipation; and on the practicability, the safety, and the advantages of the latter measure. London: Richard Taylor. (Project Gutenberg Online text)
  • Kim, Caroline. The Soul of a Free Man, Toussaint-Louverture. (2003) Humanities, November/December 2003, Volume 24/Number 6. [1].
  • Parkinson, Wenda (1978). This Gilded African. London: Quartet Books. ISBN 0-7043-2187-4
  • Phillips, Wendell. (1861). 'Toussaint L'Ouverture'. Lecture given in New York and Boston.
  • Schneider, Christian. Le colonel Vincent, officier du génie à Saint-Domingue. Annales Historiques de la Révolution Française, 329, Numéro 329.AHRF, Sommaires et résumés 1998-2004. [2]