Letter by the French Minister of the Marine to the Fort de Joux Commandant (1802)

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Admiral Denis Decrès
Toussaint Louverture arrived at the French prison Fort de Joux in August of 1802, and the French Minister of Marine and the Colonies, Admiral Denis Decrès 1 (1761-1820), following Napoléon Bonaparte’s orders, ensured that Toussaint’s conditions of imprisonment would be as difficult as possible, by giving these instructions to the Commander Amyot. Toussaint died at Fort de Joux on April 7, 1803.

Minister of the Marine to the Commandant at Fort de Joux
5 Brumaire, Year X (October 27, 1802)

I received your letter of 26 Vendémiare relative to the prisoner of state Toussaint Louverture. The First Consul charged me to make known to you that you will respond with your head for his person. Toussaint Louverture has no right to any consideration other than that demanded by humanity. Hypocrisy is a vice as familiar to him as honor and loyalty are to you, Citizen Commandant. His conduct since his detention is such as to have fixed your opinions on what one should expect of him. You have seen yourself that he sought to fool you, and you were in fact fooled by the admission to his presence of one of his satellites disguised as a doctor.

You should not restrict yourself to what you've done in order to assure yourself that he has neither money nor jewels. You must search everywhere to assure yourself and examine to make sure that he hasn’t hidden or buried any in his prison. Take his watch from him. If this is agreeable to him, this need can be met by establishing in his room one of those cheap clocks that are good enough to show the passing of time. If he is sick, the health officer best known by you must alone care for him and see him, but only when it’s necessary and in your presence, and with the greatest precautions so that these visits don’t in any way go beyond the sphere of what is most indispensable.

The only way Toussaint would have to see his lot improved would be for him to set aside his dissimulation. His personal interests, the religious sentiments with which he should have been penetrated for the expiation of the evil he has done, imposed on him the obligation of truthfulness. But he is far from fulfilling it, and by his continual dissimulation he approaches those who approach him with interest in his lot. You can tell him he can be tranquil concerning the lot of his family; its existence is committed to my care and they want for nothing.

I presume that you have put away from him everything that could bear any relation to a uniform. Toussaint is his name; it’s the only denomination that should be given him. A warm garment, gray or brown, large and comfortable, and a round hat should be his apparel. When he brags of having been a general he does nothing but recall his crimes, his hideous conduct, and his tyranny over Europeans. He merits then, nothing but the most profound contempt for his ridiculous pride.

I salute you.

Source: Schoelcher, Victor (1889). Vie de Toussaint Louverture. Paris: Paul Ollendorf. (Available online: Google books) 1882 reprint: Karthala. Paris ISBN 2-86537-043-7

Translated by Mitch Abidor marxists.org
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2004.

Note 1: Also: Denis duc Decres.
Admiral Decrès was the French Minister of Marine and the Colonies from October 3, 1801 to April 1, 1814. He was assassinated in 1820.

See Also


  • Schoelcher, Victor (1889). Vie de Toussaint Louverture. Paris: Paul Ollendorf. (Available online: Google books) 1882 reprint: Karthala. Paris ISBN 2-86537-043-7
  • List of Naval Ministers of France. (2005, September 22). Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 14:50, December 13, 2005 f[1].