Napoléon Bonaparte Proclamation on Saint-Domingue (1799)

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Napoléon Bonaparte
The same day as this proclamation (December 25, 1799), Bonaparte issued a decree saying that the words “Remember, brave blacks, that the French people alone recognize your freedom and the equality of your rights” should be inscribed in gold letters on all the flags of the battalions of the National Guard of the colony of Saint Domingue. Toussaint Louverture refused to follow this order, saying:
It is not a circumstantial freedom conceded to ourselves alone that we want. It is the absolute adoption of the principle that any man born red, black or white cannot be the property of his like. We are free today because we are the stronger party. The Consul 1 maintains slavery in Martinique and Bourbon; we will thus be slaves when he will be the stronger.”

Napoléon Bonaparte would soon show that he in fact had no regard for people of African ancestry in the colonies. Just about two years later, in 1802 he would send troops, commanded by his brother in-law General Leclerc, to re-establish slavery in France's greatest source of wealth: the colony of Saint-Domingue.

Paris, 4 Nivose, Year VIII [December 25, 1799]

Citizens, a constitution that wasn’t able to sustain itself against multiple violations has been replaced by a new pact destined to solidify freedom.
Article 91 states that French colonies will be ruled by special laws.
This disposition derives from the nature of things and the differences in climate.
The inhabitants of French colonies located in America, Asia, and Africa cannot be governed by the same laws.
The differences in habits, in mores, in interests; the diversity of soil, crops, and goods produced demands diverse modifications.
Far from being a subject of alarm for you, you will recognize here the wisdom and profundity of vision that animate the legislators of France.
The Consuls of the Republic, in announcing to you the new social pact, declare to you that the SACRED principles of the freedom and equality of blacks will NEVER SUFFER among you the least attack or modification.
If there are ill-intentioned men in the colony, if there are those who still have relations with enemy powers, remember BRAVE BLACKS, that the French people alone recognize your freedom and the equality of your rights.

The First Consul, BONAPARTE

Note 1: Napoléon Bonaparte a.k.a. The First Consul

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
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2004.

See also