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2 - The 1791 revolt and the borderland from below

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 July 2017

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Summary

Récit Historique sur les Évenemens qui se sont succédés dans les camps de la Grande-Rivière, du Dondon, de Ste.-Suzanne et autres, depuis le 26 Octobre 1791 jusqu'au 24 Decembre de la même année. Par M. Gros, Procureur-Syndic de Valière, fait prisonnier par Jeannot, chef des Brigands, augmenté du Récit historique du Citoyen Thibal, Médecin et Habitant de la Paroisse Sainte-Suzanne, détenu prisonnier, par les Brigands, depuis 16 mois et de la Déclaration du Citoyen Fauconnet, faite à la Municipalité le 16 Juin 1792 (1793), Victor Hugo, Bug-Jargal (1819 and 1826) and ‘The Saint Domingue Revolt’ (1845), Jean-Baptiste Picquenard, Adonis, ou le bon nègre (1798) and Zoflora, ou la bonne negrèsse (1801), Madison Smartt Bell, All Souls’ Rising (1995)

As we have seen in the previous chapter, Moreau de Saint Méry's snapshot of the two sides of Hispaniola covers the status quo up to 18 October 1789. Four days later the National Assembly accepted for consideration the petition of rights of ‘free citizens of color’ from Saint Domingue: they demanded an end to racist discrimination against them, the right to vote in Saint Domingue's local assemblies, and to have representatives in the National Assembly. Saint Méry, who was a representative for Martinique in the National Assembly, was against the petitioners’ requests, as he considered segregation the only way forward for the colonies. Saint Domingue's welfare, he insisted, could be guaranteed only if the National Assembly kept itself out of the colony's business and left the power firmly in the hands of the white plantocracy; it was too dangerous, he warned, to give the blacks the impression that there was a power above their white masters to which they could appeal to change their condition. The Colonial Committee set up by the initially sympathetic Assembly was responsive to the arguments put forward by the likes of Saint Méry and a decree inspired by these views was proposed and approved on 8 March: it sanctioned that the colony would be governed by special laws unconstrained by the Declarations of the Rights of Man but did not establish whether free-coloured people should be granted the title of ‘citizens’ and therefore be admitted to the vote. Obviously, there was going to be trouble ahead.

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Publisher: Liverpool University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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