Haitian Slave Uprising in 1791
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Rueful account of the bloody first month of the only successful slave revolt in the history of the Western Hemisphere. “At this moment that rich city is now one heap of ashes … From Port a Poix [Port-Au-Prince] to the Petit Anse was entirely destroyed & as many white people murdered as they could get as many white people murdered as they could get …” [HAITIAN REVOLUTION]. I. H. WATMOUGH.
Autograph Letter Signed, September 17, 1791, New London, Connecticut. To John G. Wachsmuth of Philadelphia. 1 p.
The other morning in stepping in to the stage my surprise was great at a meeting Faurés’s servt & hearing from him that his master & Mrs, were in N London, I was obliged to go down to New London immediately instead of proceeding home - on meeting Faurés my heart fairly bled to hear the melancholy details of the horrors committed by the Negroes in the Hispaniola. They have destroyed the finest and richest part of the colony and continued their ravages. The Cape was in danger & no saying, but at this moment that rich city is now one heap of ashes. however we must not give vent to the most gloomy ideas but rather hope for better news. A general embargo has taken place probably you have no intelligence of this disastre. From Port a Poix [Port Au Prince]to the Petit Anse was entirely destroyed & as many white people murdered as they could get -- It is supposed The Quarters Morin & Lemonade [the Royal Palace?] was destroyed the next day – you must excuse brevity - Vansise is gone to Havannah, but must return to the Cape [François] Mr. Faurés & his lady come with come on with us to Philadelphia we shall proceed on as fast as possible / on Tuesday we leave this -- I have consined Mr. Carmick to purchase me two beds in case he Should Want the money to pay for them, pray advance it for me. I shall sail from your city immediately after my arrival to the Cape-no business done there at present. We are all well. I embrace you My Dr Wachsmuth & am assuredly
New London 17 Sepr 1791
The French colony of Saint-Domingue (the western half of the island of Hispaniola) was devoted to sugar production and dependent on slave labor. Africans outnumbered the white population by 10 to 1. In 1790, a year before this letter was penned, the natives of Saint-Domingue had received news of the French Revolution. It had a powerful impact on the island and the long restless slave population. French soldiers had given the Negroes and Mulattos the fraternal embrace, and announced that the National Assembly in France had declared all men free and equal. It did not take long for the ideas of Enlightenment philosophy to percolate through the island. When the promises made by the Declaration of the Rights of Man were denied to the colored population, it served to instigate widespread slave uprisings. Over the next three weeks, the Haitian slaves burned every plantation throughout the fertile regions of Haiti and executed all Frenchmen they could find. Those who could escape fled to the seacoast towns, with many emigrating to North America – Philadelphia became a center for Haitian émigrés.
I. H. Watmough, was a merchant from Cape François. He had a short-lived and painful partnership with F. L. Faurés under the firm name of Faurés, Brothers & Watmough, beginning in January 1, 1791. That May, Watmough came to the United States on business. After the start of the slave rebellion in August, Faurés also arrived in America, and was accused by Watmough of also bringing with him “all the cash of the house, and circa two thousand dollars the property of Messrs. Edward Hallam and Co. of New London.” Over the next two years, the two men accused each other of stealing the company’s money and battled over the percentage split in profits, as evidenced by exchanges published in the Philadelphia General Advertiser in 1793. Both stated that they had turned the other out of the house; it is not known today which man was telling the truth. However, Faurés became involved with the Consul of the French Republic in Philadelphia shipping supplies to the French forces of Saint-Domingue, and also continued his business credit with Edward Hallam & Co. An 1806 Philadelphia will shows that one of Watmough’s children went by the name “Mr. Laisgne.” John G. Wachsmuth was a merchant in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia General Advertiser, March 7, & May 10, 1793.