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Hispaniola 1 topography map
Map showing Saint-Domingue boundaries.
Saint-Domingue (also called La Perle des Antilles in French; Engl.: The Pearl of the Antilles; Kreyòl: Sendomeng) is the name given to the French colonial portion of Hispaniola 1 prior to 1804. Saint-Domingue, located in the Caribbean Sea, was a French colony from 1697 to 1804 and is today the independent nation of Haiti.

Note: For Saint-Domingue after the Haitian Revolution, see the entry: Haiti.

Variants of the Name Saint-Domingue

Newspaper announcing the name change of Saint-Domingue.
Among its spelling variations in various reference works are S. Domingue, St. Domingue, San-Domingue, Santo Domingo, San Domingo, St. Doming, Saint Dominique, and St. Domingo. After the successful Haitian Revolution - and upon declaring independence under the leadership of Jean-Jacques Dessalines - on January 1, 1804, the former French colony was renamed Haïti (or Hayti in the 19th century) and Ayiti in Kreyòl, the name originally used by the natives of the island, the Taíno.

Saint-Domingue sometimes refers to the whole island of Hispaniola.
In the past U.S. and British authors often referred to Saint-Domingue as St. Doming or San Domingo, which may then be confused with what is today the Dominican Republic; the Dominican Republic is to this day referred to as Saint-Domingue in French.

Economy of Saint-Domingue

Indigoterie in Saint-Domingue.
The economy of Saint-Domingue in the period leading up to the Haitian Revolution, was entirely based on slavery.

By the late eighteenth century, Saint-Domingue had thousands of profitable plantations: 800 produced sugar; 3,000, coffee; 800, cotton; and nearly 3,000, indigo. Haiti became France's most lucrative overseas possession. (A Country Study: Haiti)

In his classic 1776 publication, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, economist Adam Smith declared Saint-Domingue "the most important of the sugar colonies of the West Indies." (Smith)

Rulers of Saint-Domingue

See; List of Rulers

Political Divisions of Saint-Domingue

Provinces and Districts of Saint Domingue

Map showing the districts and provinces of Saint-Domingue
"The French colony was divided into three Provinces,--that of the North, that of the West, and that of the South. At the beginning of the French Revolution of 1789, these provinces were transformed into three corresponding Departments. The three Provinces, or Departments, were subdivided into twelve Districts, each bearing the name of its chief city.

The twelve Districts were, --in the north, the Cape, or Cap-François, Fort Dauphin, Port-de-Paix, Môle Saint Nicholas;
in the west, Port-au-Prince, Leogane, Saint Marc, Petit Goave;
and in the south, Jérémie, Cape Tiburon, Cayes, and St. Louis.

  1. The District of the Cape comprised the Cape, La Plaine-du-Nord, just above the Cape, Limonade, between the two; Acul, west of the Cape, and on the coast, Sainte Suzanne; with Morin, La Grande Rivière, Dondon, Marmelade, Limbé, Port Margot, Plaisance, and Borgne,--thirteen parishes.
  2. The District Fort Dauphin, in the east of the Northern Department, comprised Fort Dauphin itself, Ouanaminthe, on the south of it, Vallière, Terrier Rouge, and Trou,--five parishes.
  3. The District of Port-de-Paix comprised Port-de-Paix, Petit-Saint-Louis, Jean Rabel, and Gros-Morne,--four parishes.
  4. The District of the Môle Saint Nicholas comprised Saint Nicholas and Bombarde,--two parishes. There were thus four-and-twenty parishes in the northern department.
  5. The District Port-au-Prince comprised Port-au-Prince, Croix-des-Bosquets, on the north, Arcahaye on the northwest, and Mirebalais on the northeast,--four parishes.
  6. The District of Léogane was identical with the parish of the same name.
  7. The District of Saint Marc comprised Saint Marc, Petite Rivière, Gonaïves,--three parishes.
  8. The District of Petit-Goave comprised Petit-Goave, Grand Goave, Baynet, Jacmel, and Cayes-Jacmel,--five parishes. Fourteen parishes made up the western province.
  9. The District Jérémie comprised Jérémie and Cap Dame-Marie,--two parishes.
  10. The District of Tiburon comprised Cape Tiburon and Coteaux,--two parishes.
  11. The District of Cayes comprised Cayes and Torbeck,--two parishes.
  12. The District of Saint Louis comprised Saint Louis, Anse-Veau, Fond-Cavaillon, and Acquin,--five parishes.

There were eleven parishes in the South." (Beard p16-17)

Former French départements in Saint-Domingue

For current Haitian departments see: Departments of Haiti

Département In existence
Département du Sud (1795 - 1800)
Département de l'Inganne 2 (1795 - 1800)
Département du Nord (1795 - 1800)
Département de l'Ouest (1795 - 1800)
Département de Samana 3 (1795 - 1800)

Measurements in Saint-Domingue

Measurements used in the French colony:

  • 1 carreau (square) = 1 hectare (ha), 13 ares (a), 7 centiares (ca)
  • 1 arpent = 34 a, 18 ca, or approximately 1 acre
  • 1 lieue (league) = 2000 toise = 3.89 Kilometers (km)
  • 1 toise (fathom) = 1.949 meters (m), or approximately 1 fathom (6 feet)
  • 1 pied (foot) = 12 pouces = 144 lignes = 0,3248 m, or approximately 1 foot
  • 1 pouce (inch) = 0,027 m
  • 1 ligne (line) = 0,225 cm
  • 1 ell = 1,188 cm
  • 1 livre (pound) de Paris = 0,489 kg or approximately 1 pound

(Moreau de Saint-Méry)

Saint-Domingue Troops in 1802

Revenge by the black troops for cruelty of French soldiers.
According to Jomini, in his book from the mid 19th century Histoire critique et militaire des guerres de la Révolution, the Saint-Domingue troops, under the command of General Toussaint Louverture in 1802, were composed as follows:

Toussaint-Louverture, Général en Chef

Brigade General Agé, Chef d'état major général

Division du Nord

Northern Division:
Général de Brigade Christophe (Commandant at Cap)

Brigade Commanders Vernet and Maurepas.
  1. Second Colonial 1/2 Brigade - 1,200 troops at Cap and at Limbé
  2. Fifth Colonial 1/2 Brigade - 1,200 troops at Fort-Dauphin
  3. Ninth Colonial 1/2 Brigade - 1,200 troops at Fort-de-Paix [This Brigade was instrumental in defeating the French in the Battle of Vertières]
  4. Guides des généraux - 300 troops
  5. Artillery and police - 900 troops

Total: 4 800 troops

Division du Sud et de l'Ouest

Battle scene of the Haitian revolutionary war as imagined by the painter Suchodolski.
Southern and Western Division:

Jean-Jacques Dessalines (Commandant in Saint Marc)

Brigade Commanders Belair (Charles) [husband of Sanite Bélair] and Laplume
  1. Third Colonial 1/2 Brigade - 1,200 troops in Port au Prince
  2. Thirteenth Colonial 1/2 Brigade - 1,200 troops in Port au Prince
  3. Fourth Colonial 1/2 brigade - 1,200 troops in St Marc and in Jérémie
  4. Seventh Colonial 1/2 Brigade - 1,200 troops at Archahayes
  5. Eighth Colonial 1/2 Brigade - 1,200 troops at Cayes
  6. Eleventh Colonial 1/2 Brigade - 1,200 troops at Cayes
  7. Twelfth Colonial 1/2 Brigade - 1,200 troops at Cayes
  8. European Batallion (bataillon européen) - 250 troops Cayes
  9. Honor Guard, mounted and foot soldiers (Gardes d'Honneur à pied et à cheval) - 1,800 troops
  10. Artillery and police - 900 troops

Total 11 650 troops

Division de l'Est

Eastern Division:
Clervaux (commandant at Sant Yago)

Brigade Commanders Pajot and Paul Louverture
  1. First Colonial 1/2 Brigade - 1,200 troops at Samana
  2. Sixth Colonial 1/2 Brigade - 1 200 troops at Sant Yago
  3. Tenth Colonial 1/2 Brigade - 1 200 troops at Santo Domingo
  4. Guides des généraux - 200 troops
  5. Artillery and police - 400 troops

Total: 4,200 troops

Total combined number of soldiers: 20,650 troops

Included in this number were between 700 and 800 whites, the rest of the army was composed from blacks and mulattos. A battalion of 250 whites...(Jomini, Vol. 4)

"Dans ce nombre il y avait 7 à 800 blancs, tout le reste de l'armée était composé de mulatres ou de noirs. Un bataillon de 250 blancs était tout ce qui restait de 12 000 soldats envoyés dans la colonie depuis dix ans. Outre cette force soldée, [[Toussaint Louverture}Toussaint]] pouvait armer tout les cultivateurs noirs."

Saint-Domingue and slavery

Colonial letterhead st domi.jpg

See: Slavery in Saint-Domingue

Note 1: A Taíno name for Hispaniola, still used in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, is Quisqueya (Kreyòl: Kiskeya) meaning: 'the cradle of life'. This name is preferred by many, since Hispaniola is the name given by the colonizers that nearly destroyed the native people and their culture and also established slavery on the island.

Note 2: Comprised of the eastern part of Saint-Domingue, most of what is today the Dominican Republic.

Note 3: An area along the current border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic; on the Dominican side.

See also





  • Hispaniola - The island on which Haiti is situated.
  • Maps - Current and historical maps relating to Saint-Domingue and Haiti.



  • Beard, J. R. (John Relly) (1863). Toussaint L'Ouverture: A Biography and Autobiography. Chapel Hill, NC: Academic Affairs Library, UNC-CH. Online Publication
  • Jomini, Antoine-Henri. (1842). Histoire critique et militaire des guerres de la Révolution. Brussels.
  • Metz, Helen Chapin (editor). (1990). A Country Study: Haiti. Washington, DC: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. Library of Congress Call Number F1934 .D64 2001 [Accessed on January 30, 2006] Online publication. ISBN 0844410446
  • Moreau de Saint-Méry, Médéric-Louis-Élie. (1789). Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie Française de l'isle Saint-Domingue. Revised edition. Edited by B. Maurel and E. Taillemite. 3 vols. Paris: Société de l'histoire des Colonies Françaises et Librairie Larose, 1958.
  • Smith, Adam. (1776) An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Project Gutenberg. [Accessed on January 30, 2006]. Online publication.
  • Wikipedia contributors (2006). Département in France. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 00:45, January 19, 2006 [1].

External links