George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Saint Domingue Refugees of Wilmington, Delaware, April 1794

From the Saint Domingue Refugees of Wilmington, Delaware

[April 1794]

To The President of the United States, the Petition of Sundry Persons late of the Island of St Domingo, now residing at Wilmington in the Delaware State respectfully sheweth

That on the fourth day of October last, when Cape Francois was abandoned finally to the revolted Negroes, more than two hundred wretched French Inhabitants, of which number are your Petitioners, embarked for Wilmington in Delaware, where they arrived during the Month of November.

That after having escaped from the conflagration of the Cape, & the pillage of their slaves, they fell into the Hands of the Providence Privateers,1 by whom they were entirely stript of the slender remains of their Fortunes.

That, being informed of the noble & generous resolution of Congress to grant fifteen thousand dollars for the relief of the wretched fugitives from St Domingo, the disposal of which sum they have confided to your Wisdom & Humanity,2 We the Subscribers, being equally destitute with others, who have taken refuge on this Continent, beg leave, & most earnestly sollicit to be considered as proper objects of the publick Bounty.3 Signed

La Bigne tans pour ma Seure Laurant que pour
mais deux neuveux Et mes deux niece

⟨Vve S⟩aurÿ

Madame Dulue et Ses Deux fille

Veve desCoin Bellair Et trois Enfants Et Sophie Pothiey

veuve Gué et huit enfan

DeLouville et sa fille

Ve. Baqué et ses deux fille

Borie pour son Epouse et Son fille

Ve. Souchay

Ve. Albre⟨pris⟩

Veve garés

Mad[am]e ⟨robin⟩ et son marÿe et sais sinque enfans


houard Desrochers




Lehuédé et Son Epouse4

Marilouise et ces deux enfan⟨ts⟩

Nanons et ces quatre enf⟨ants⟩

Sophie et un anfant

adelaide et quatre enfan⟨ts⟩

Modeste et sa sœur

Reine et deux enfans

Sannitte et une enfan

jusethine et trois yinffant

Laurette & Ces deux Enfants


LS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters. Filed with this petition at the end of 1794 is a certification signed by Charles Henry Wharton, Nicholas Way, George Bush, John Dickinson, and Gunning Bedford: “We whose names are underwritten have every reason to believe that the several Subscribers to the foregoing Petition are destitute of the means of present Subsistance, and are suffering accordingly.” There are also three lists of “the French now destitute in Wilmington”—one in English and two in French. The English list tallies 53 “Whites” and 30 “Mulattos” or “Persons of Colour,” and one French list agrees; the other French list records 54 whites and 30 mulattos. One of the French documents also gives the age of each individual. The lists consist mostly of the signatories and their families.

1The petitioners were referring to British privateers sailing out of New Providence Island in the Bahamas.

2The petitioners were referring to “An Act providing for the relief of such of the inhabitants of Saint Domingo, resident within the United States, as may be found in want of support,” 12 Feb. (Stat description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends . 6:13).

3On 1 May, Secretary of State Edmund Randolph wrote to William Hemphill of Wilmington, who was supervising the distribution of relief money in Delaware, that “Mr John Dickinson and some other Gentlemen of your town have represented to the President of the United States, that there are many of the unfortunate inhabitants of St Domingo, now in great distress in Wilmington. Be so good as to inform me, whether they come within the description of the law. If any of them wish to return to that island, and they can procure vessels without expense to the United States . . . passports will be furnished for them. I shall also give into the first safe hand going from hence an hundred dollars, for supplying of necessaries. You will oblige me by saying, whether a larger sum may be necessary for this object” (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

4The remaining signatures were placed in a second column and belong, according to the lists of refugees, to persons of color.

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