Toussaint Louverture's 'Dictatorial Proclamation' (1801)
Since the revolution, I have done all that depended upon me to return happiness to my country and to ensure liberty for my fellow citizens. Forced to combat internal and external enemies of the French Republic, I made war with courage, honor and loyalty. I have never strayed from the rules of justice with my enemies; as much as was in my power I sought, to soften the horrors of war, to spare the blood of men ... Often after victory I received as brothers those who, the day before, were under enemy flags. Through the overlooking of errors and faults I wanted to make even its most ardent enemies love the legitimate and sacred cause of liberty.
I constantly reminded my brothers in arms, general and officers, that the ranks to which they'd been raised were nothing but the reward for honor, bravery and irreproachable conduct. That the higher they were above their fellow citizens, the more irreproachable all their actions and words must be; that scandals caused by public men had consequences even more dire for society than those of simple citizens; that the ranks and functions they bore hadn't been given to them to serve only their ambition, but had as cause and goal the general good. ...
It is up to officers to give their soldiers with good lessons good examples. Every captain should have the noble goal of having his company the best disciplined, the most cleanly attired, the best trained. He should think that the lapses of his soldiers reflect on him and believe himself lowered by the faults of those he commands. ...
Having always regarded religion as the basis of all virtues and the foundation of the happiness of societies, in one of my proclamations, at the time of the war in the south, I laid out the obligations of fathers and mothers, their obligation to raise their children in the love and fear of God.
Nevertheless, how negligently fathers and mothers raise their children, especially in cities. They leave them in a state of idleness and in ignorance of their principal obligations. They seem to inspire in children contempt for agriculture, the first, the most honorable, and the most useful of all states.
Barely are they born than we see these same children with jewels and earrings, covered in rags, their clothing filthy, wounding the eyes of decency through their nudity. Thus they arrive at the age of twelve, without moral principles, without a skill, and with a taste for luxury and laziness as their only education. And since bad impressions are difficult to correct, it is certain beyond any doubt that they will be bad citizens, vagabonds, thieves. And if they are girls, then they are prostitutes all of them ready to follow the prompting of the first conspirator who will preach murder and pillage to them. It is upon such vile mothers and fathers, on students so dangerous, that the magistrates of the people must ceaselessly keep an open eye.
The same reproaches equally apply to cultivators on the habitations. Since the revolution perverse men have told them that freedom is the right to remain idle and to follow only their whims. Such a doctrine could not help but be accepted by all the evil subjects, thieves and assassins. It is time to hit out at the hardened men who persist in such ideas.
As soon as a child can a child walk he should be employed on the habitations according to his strength in some useful work, instead of being sent into the cities where, under the pretext of an education that he doesn't receive, he goes to learn vice, to add to the horde of vagabonds and women of evil lives, to trouble by his existence the repose of good citizens, and to terminate it with the final punishment. Military commanders and magistrates must be inexorable with this class of men. Despite this, they must be forced to be useful to society upon which, without the most severe vigilance, they will be a plague.
Since the revolution, it is evident that the war has made perish many more men than women. In addition, many more of the latter, whose existence is based on libertinage, can be found in cities. Entirely given over to concern for their attire, a result of their prostitution, they want to do absolutely nothing that is useful. It is they who receive harbor all the evil subjects, who live on the products of their crimes. It would be all to the honor of magistrates, generals, and commandants to not leave a single one in the cities. The least negligence in this regard would render them worthy of public lack or esteem. ...
As for domestics, each citizen should only have as many as are necessary for indispensable services. The persons in whose homes they reside should be the first overseers of their conduct and should not tolerate anything in their conduct contrary to good morals, submission, and order. If they are thieves they should be denounced to military commandants so they can be punished in conformity with the law. And since under the new regime all labor deserves a salary, every salary demands work. Such is the invariable and firm will of the government.
An object worthy of its attention is the surveillance of foreigners who arrive in the colony. Some among them, knowing only through the reports of enemies of the new order of things, of the changes that have taken place, make statements which are all the more dangerous in that they are avidly listened to by those who, basing their hopes on the troubles, ask only for pretexts. Such straying must be severely punished. The carelessness of public functionaries in this regard will harm the confidence of which they are in need and will have them looked upon, with justice, as accomplices of the enemies of freedom!
The most holy of all institutions among men who live in society, that from which flows the greatest good, is marriage ... Thus a wise government must always occupy itself with surrounding happy couples with honor, respect and veneration. It should only rest after having extirpated immorality to the last root. Military commanders, and especially public functionaries, are inexcusable when they publicly give themselves over to the scandal of vice. Those who, while having legitimate wives, allow concubines within their houses, or those who, not being married, live publicly with several women are not worthy of command: they shall be dismissed.
Idleness is the source of all disorders, and if it is allowed with one individual I shall hold the military commanders responsible, persuaded that those who tolerate the lazy and vagabonds are secret enemies of the government.
In keeping with his faculties, no one under any pretext is to be exempt from some task. Creole mothers and fathers who have children and properties should go there to live and work, to make their children work or to oversee their labor; and in moments of rest they should, either themselves or through instructors, teach them the precepts of our religion.
It is through these means that useful and respectable citizens will be formed, and we will distance forever from this colony the horrible events whose memory should never be effaced from our minds.
Consequently, I decree the following:
The present proclamation shall be printed, transcribed on the registers of administrative and judiciary bodies, read, published and posted wherever needed, and also inserted in the Bulletin Officiel de Saint-Domingue. A copy shall be sent to all ministers of religion for it to be read to all parishioners after mass.
All generals, military commanders and all civil authorities in all departments are enjoined to maintain a firm hand in ensuring the full and complete execution of all of these dispositions on their personal responsibility and under penalty of disobedience.