Jean François Papillon

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Jean-François Papillon was an Africa-born slave that had worked in the Papillon plantation, in the North Province of Saint-Domingue. He escaped the said plantation some years before the revolutionary outbreak in Saint-Domingue, living as a maroon until 1791. So when the Haitian revolution started, he had already enjoyed a previous experience of liberty and he was one of the "slave leaders" that led that historical process.

Role in the Haitian revolution

Though the mythic vodou ceremony at Bois Caïman, in the night of 21 August 1791, has been usually regarded as the origin of the slave insurrection, some preeminent scholars, significantly David Geggus, have argued that there is no almost no historical evidence for it. For that reason, Geggus states that the slave leaders planned the black revolution one week before, on 14 August 1791, when they gathered in the plantation of Lenormand de Mézy and agreed to rise up in rebellion to conquer freedom exclusively for themselves. As they knew that they needed the support of the slave masses, crucial for the triumph of the insurrection, they pretended to fight for universal emancipation. Nevertheless, none of the leaders of the insurrection believed in that principle; in fact Jean-François himself declared to the North American agents, present in Le Cap François at the time, 'that he had not created himself General of the negroes, that those who had that power had confered [sic] upon him that title; that in taking up arms, he never pretended to fight for General Liberty, which he knew to be an illusion'.