George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Assembly of the Northern Province of Saint Domingue, 7 November 1790

From the Assembly of the Northern Province of Saint Domingue

Au Cap française le 7. 9bre [November] 1790.

Messieurs Le président et les respectables membres de L’Auguste congrez des États unis de L’Amerique.

La position veritablement allarmante ou nous nous Trouvons Nous prescrit imperieusement de recourir a Votre puïssance. Les mulatres et négres libres viennent de faire le 28. du mois passé une insurrection dans un quartier desus montagnes a six lieuës de notre ville, ou ils selivrent a tous les exuz de dévastation, pillage et assassinats sous le commandement du nomé Ogé J[eun]e carteron libre de cette Colonie qui a été introduit au cap sur le batiment du Capitaine Jone Brown de Wilmenton le 17. du mois dernier, avec trois autres passagers que le Dit cap[itain]e a présentés a notre bureau de police, retenu le Dit ogé J[eun]e caché, et l’a débarqué ou fait débarquer furtivement.1 Voila Messieurs L’état ou nous nous Trouvons, par la négligence ou la mauvaise volonté du cap[itain]e Jone Brown. nous avons envoïé sur le champ un Corps de troupes patriottes et de ligne pour détruire cet atroupement séditieux.

Nous sommes de plus instruits que nombre de mulatres se trouvent actuellement dans vos états ou ils cherchent a se procurer des embarquments pour ce pays: on nous assure même qu’il y en a qui offrent jusqu’a cent portugaises.2

Le Danger est pour nous, Messieurs, plus imminent que nous ne pouvons le Dire: vous pouvez en interposant votre authorité, nous donner des marques éclatantes de Votre haute protection que nous implorons, en défendant à tous les capitaines qui s’expédiront de Vos portes, d’embarquer aucuns mulatres pour quelqu’endroit que ce soit, ou bien leur intimer L’ordre expres, deles conduire a leur arrivée a nos bureaux commis a cet effet dans toute la colonie, et nous promettons de leur payer une somme capable deles satisfaire.

Nous vous prions aussi, Messieurs, de Vouloir bien faire toute défense d’embarquer pour cette Colonie aucunes armes ny munitions de guerre, amoins qu’elles ne soient adressées a quelques maisons de Commerce, et a la charge par eux d’enfaire déclaration détaillée a nos bureaux avant débarquement; et de porter a Vos cours d’amirauté ou autres le certificat qui constate qu’ils ont satisfait ici a Vos ordonnances, sur Les pénes qu’il vous plaira prononcer contre les contrevenants.

Nous osons esperer, Messieurs, que sans nous permettre de plus longs détails qui n’ajouteraient a notre détresse que le Désagrément de Vous en entretenir plus long tems, il vous plaira vous y interesser, et prendre en consideration nos vives sollicitations et nous joindrons les sentiments de la plus vive reconaissance a ceux de respect que ne cesseront d’avoir pour vos hautes puissances. Messieurs le président et les respectables membres de L’Auguste congrez des états unis de L’Amerique Vos Tres humbles et tres respectueux serviteurs les membres de L’assemblée provincialle du nord de St. Domingue3

Bouynouse Coüet De Montarand4
Secretaire President

LS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters, docketed, “Received February 25. 1791” and misdated, “File Sept. 7. 1790.”

GW received the above letter the third week of December and sent it to the Senate unopened, as it was addressed to the president and Congress. In a memorandum on legislative proceedings dated 17 Dec. 1790, Tobias Lear noted that GW had presented it to the Senate “with a request that if it contained anything of an Executive Nature it might be communicated to the President.” The Senate returned it unopened to GW “as being more proper, in their opinion, to be opened by him and such parts as he might think best communicated to the Senate.” Upon opening and reading the letter, the president decided it contained nothing requiring it to be laid before Congress and instead referred it to his secretary of state (see Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 19:87).

1Vincent Ogé (1768–1791) was the son of a well-off white Cap Français butcher and a mulatto woman. At the age of ten or eleven he was sent to live with relatives at Bordeaux, where he was educated. At the outbreak of the French Revolution, he agitated for the civil rights of free blacks in the French West Indies, especially after the March 1790 decree of the French National Assembly stated that the right to vote and hold office be accorded all property owners older than twenty-four years of age who met a two-year residence requirement and paid the requisite taxes. Despite the vigilance of the absentee planters in France who wished to prevent his return home, Ogé left France under the assumed name of Poissac in July 1790. The details of his subsequent voyage remain obscure. In London he did meet with abolitionist Thomas Clarkson, who provided him with financial assistance before sending him on his way. Ogé next either landed in New England or sailed directly for Charleston, S.C., where he communicated with French consul Jean-Baptiste Pétry, who publicized Ogé’s plans. Ogé returned to Saint Domingue, possibly stopping at Havanna, sometime in mid-October, disembarked clandestinely, and eluded provincial authorities who had been warned of his arrival. He made his headquarters at his widowed mother’s coffee plantation near Dondon in the Northern Province near the mountainous border of Spanish territory, where he was joined by his elder brother Jacques, a younger brother, and mulatto Jean Baptiste Chavannes, who had fought under d’Estaing at Savannah during the American Revolution. The men enlisted an insurgent army of two or three hundred irregulars that advanced to Grande-Rivière and took over the city without incident. On 29 Oct. Ogé delivered to the provincial government his demand that the civil rights of free persons of color be respected. The first body of troops sent against his men retreated after a brief skirmish, but a second force of 1,500 men and artillery scattered the insurgents. The rebel leaders fled to Spanish territory but were later extradited, tried, and executed (see Gazette Nationale ou Le Moniteur Universel [Paris], 25 Dec. 1790; Carolyn E. Fick, The Making of Haiti: The Saint Domingue Revolution from Below [Knoxville, Tenn., 1990], 81, 82–84; Thomas O. Ott, The Haitian Revolution, 1789–1804 [Knoxville, Tenn., 1973], 36–37).

2The portague was a sixteenth-century gold coin worth between £3 and £4.

3For the political consequences of the French Revolution on the royal government of Saint Domingue and the troubles between the colony’s general assembly and its three provincial assemblies in the north, south, and east, see Nathaniel Cutting’s reports to Thomas Jefferson in Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 17:3–7, 299–309, 327–29.

4Jean Baptiste Louis Augustin Couët de Montarand (1756–c.1824) was born at Cap Français and educated in France where he studied law. Louis XVI appointed him counselor-assessor at Cap Français in 1778 and counselor to the High Council in 1780. He fled Saint Domingue for France during the slave revolt of 1791. In 1793 the revolutionary government banished him from France for his earlier royalist views, and he sought refuge in New York.

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