« ForrigeFortsæt »
Thou didst, thou didst, my daughter deare;
Ere yet the early dawn was clear.
That ebbe swept out the flocks to sea:
To many more than myne and me: But each will mourn his own (she saith), And sweeter woman ne'er drew breath Than my Sonne's wife, Elizabeth.
I shall never hear her more
I shall never see" her more
Where the reeds and rushes quivei,
CVI.—TOUSSAINT'S LAST STRUGGLES FOR HAYTI.
IT was 1801. The Frenchmen who lingered on the island described its prosperity and order as almost incredible. You might trust a child with a bag of gold to go from Samana to Port-au-Prince without risk. Peace was in every household; the valleys laughed with fertility; culture climbed the mountains;' the commerce of the world was represented in its harbors. At this time Europe concluded the Peace of Amiens, and Napoleon took his seat on the throne of France. He glanced his eyes across the Atlantic, and, with a single stroke of his pen, reduced Cayenne and Martinique back into chains. He then said to his council, "What shall I do with St. Domingo?" The slaveholders said, "Give it to us."
2. Colonel Vincent, who had been private secretary to Toussaint,* wrote a letter to Napoleon, in which he said: "Sire, leave it alone; it is the happiest spot in your dominions; God raised this man to govern; races melt under his hand. He has saved you this island; for I know of my own knowledge that when the republic could not have lifted a finger to prevent it, George IIL offered him any title and any revenue if he would hold the island under the British crown. He refused, and saved it for France."
3. Napoleon turned away from his council, and is said to have remarked, "I have sixty thousand republican soldiers: I must find them something to do." He meant to say, " I am about to seize the crown; I dare not do it in the faces of sixty thousand republican soldiers: I must give them some work at a distance to do." He resolved to crush Toussaint, and sent against him an army, giving to General Leclerc thirty thousand of his best troops, with orders to re-introduce slavery.
4. Mounting his horse, and riding to the eastern end of the island, Toussaint looked out on a sight such as no
* Pronounced Too-?&nt/.
native had ever seen before. Sixty ships of the line, crowded by the best soldiers of Europe, rounded the point. They were soldiers who had never yet met an equal, whose tread, like Caesar's, had shaken Europe,—soldiers who had scaled the pyramids and planted the French banners on the walls of Rome. He looked a moment, counted the flotilla, let the reins fall on the neck of his horse, and, turning to Cristophe, exclaimed: "All France is come to Hayti; they can only come to make us slaves; and we are lost!" He then recognized the only mistake of his life,—his confidence in Bonaparte, which had led him to disband his army.
5. Returning to the hills, he issued the only proclamation which bears his name and breathes vengeance: "My children, France comes to make us slaves. God gave us liberty; France has no right to take it away. Burn the cities, destroy the harvests, tear up the roads with cannon, poison the wells, show the white man the hell he comes to make;" and he was obeyed.
6. When the great William of Orange saw Louis XIV. cover Holland with troops, he said, " Break down the dikes, give Holland back to ocean; "and Europe said, "Sublime!" When Alexander saw the armies of France descend upon Russia, he said, " Burn Moscow, starve back the invaders;" and Europe said, "Sublime!" This black saw all Europe marshaled to crush him, and gave to his people the same heroic example of defiance.
7. It is true, the scene grows bloodier as we proceed. But, remember, the white man fitly accompanied his infamous attempt to reduce freemen to slavery with every bloody and cruel device that bitter and shameless hate could invent. Aristocracy is always cruel. The black man met the attempt, as every such attempt should be met, with war to the hilt. In his first struggle to gain his freedom he had been generous and merciful, saved lives and pardoned enemies, as the people in every age and clime have always done when rising against aristocrats. Now, to save his liberty, the negro exhausted every means, seized every weapon and turned back the hateful invaders with a vengeance as terrible as their own, though even now he refused to be cruel.
8. Leclerc sent word to Cristophe that he was about to land at Cape City. Cristophe said, " Toussaint is governor of the island. I will send to him for permission. If without it a French soldier sets foot on shore, I will burn the town and fight over its ashes."
9. Leclerc landed. Cristophe took two thousand white men, women, and children, and carried them to the mountains for safety, then with his own hands set fire to the splendid palace which French architects had just finished for him, and in forty hours the place was in ashes. The battle was fought in its streets, and the French driven back to their boats. Wherever they went they were met with fire and sword. Once, resisting an attack, the blacks, Frenchmen born, shouted the Marseilles* Hymn, and the French stood still; they could not fight the Marseillaise.* And it was not till their officers sabered them on that they advanced, and then they were beaten.
10. Beaten in the field, the French then took to lies. They issued proclamations, saying, "We do not come to make you slaves; this man Toussaint tells you lies. Join us, and you shall have the rights you claim." They cheated every one of his officers except Cristophe and two others, and finally these also deserted him, and he was left alone. He then sent word to Leclerc, "I will submit. I could continue the struggle for years,—could prevent a single Frenchman from safely quitting your camp. But I hate bloodshed. I have fought only for the liberty of my race. Guarantee that, I will submit and come in." He took the oath to bo a faithful citizen; and on the same crucifix Leclerc swore that he should be faithfully protected, and that the island should be free.
11. As the French general glanced along the line oi his splendidly equipped troops, and saw opposite Toussaint's ragged, ill-armed followers, he said to him, " L'Ouverture,*
* Pronounced Miir-salz. Pronounced Mar-sal-yaz'. I.oo-vOr-ture'.
had you continued the war, where could you have got arms?" "I would have taken yours," was the Spartan reply.
12. He went down to his house in peace; it was summer. Leclerc remembered that the fever months were coming, when his army would be in hospitals, and when one motion of that royal hand would sweep his troops into the sea. He was too dangerous to be left at large. So thev summoned him to attend a council; he went, and the moment he entered the room the officers drew their swords and told him he was prisoner.
13. They put him on shipboard, and weighed anchor for France. As the island faded from his sight he turned to the captain and said, "You think you have rooted up the tree of liberty, but I am only a branch; I have planted the tree so deep that all France can never root it up." He was sent to the Castle of St. Joux,* to a dungeon twelve feet by twenty, built wholly of stone, with a narrow window, high up on one side, looking out on the snows of Switzerland. In this living tomb the child of the sunny tropic was left to die.
14. From the moment he was betrayed the negroes began to doubt the French, and rushed to arms. Then flashed forth that defying courage and sublime endurance which show how alike all races are when tried in the same furnace. The war went on. Napoleon sent over thirty thousand more soldiers. But disaster still followed their efforts. What the sword did not devour the fever ate up. They were chased from battle-field to battle-field, from fort to fort, and finally the French commander begged the British admiral to cover the remnant of his troops with the English flag, and the generous negroes suffered the invaders to embark undisturbed.
15. Hayti is become a civilized state, the seventh nation in the catalogue of commerce with this country, inferior in morals and education to none of the West Indian isles. Foreign merchants trust her courts as willingly as they do
* Pronounced Sax-Zhoo.