Toussaint Louverture letter to Jean-Jacques Dessalines (1802)

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Jean-Jacques Dessalines
In February of 1802, just months before he would be betrayed by the French, Toussaint Louverture, wrote this letter to Jean-Jacques Dessalines, He asks to burn down Port-au-Prince, to stop the advance of General Leclerc's troops, sent by Napoléon Bonaparte to re-establish slavery.

Dessalines was the Commander in Chief of the revolutionary Haitian army in the West of Saint-Domingue at the time. The West, as a department in Haiti/Saint-Domingue, includes the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area.


The Governor-General [Toussaint Louverture] to General Dessalines, Commander-in-chief of the army of the West.


There is no reason for despair, Citizen-General, if you can succeed in removing from the [French] troops that have landed the resources offered to them by Port Republican [Port-au-Prince]. Endeavor, by all the means of force and address, to set that place on fire; it is constructed entirely of wood; you have only to send into it some faithful emissaries. Are there none under your orders devoted enough for this service? Ah! my dear General, what a misfortune that there was a traitor in that city, and that your orders and mine were not put into execution.
Watch the moment when the garrison shall be weak in consequence of expeditions into the plains, and then try to surprise and carry that city, falling on it in the rear.
Do not forget, while waiting for the rainy season which will rid us of our foes, that we have no other resource than destruction and flames. Bear in mind that the soil bathed with our sweat must not furnish our enemies with the smallest aliment. Tear up the roads with shot; throw corpses and horses into all the fountains; burn and annihilate everything, in order that those who have come to reduce us to slavery may have before their eyes the image of that hell which they deserve.

Salutation and Friendship,


Source: (Beard, p. 186f)

See also


  • Beard, J. R. (John Relly) (1863). Toussaint L'Ouverture: A Biography and Autobiography. Chapel Hill, NC: Academic Affairs Library, UNC-CH. Online Publication