Proclamation. In the Name of the Republic. We, Léger-Félicité Sonthonax, Civil Officer of the Republic, Delegate in the Islands of the French West Indies to Re-establish Law and Public Order


In August 1791, slaves in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) staged a massive revolt, setting in train the chain of events that ultimately led to the founding of independent Haiti in 1804. In 1792, the de facto government of revolutionary France sent Etienne Polverel and Léger-Félicité Sonthonax as civil commissioners to the colony for the purpose of enforcing a decree by the National Assembly, which enfranchised free blacks and mulattoes but did not yet free the colony’s slaves. Presented here is a broadside with the text of a proclamation issued by Sonthonax on August 21, 1793, concerning the marriage rights between a free man and an enslaved woman, whose master would receive compensation paid by the Republic. Under growing pressure from the revolt and threatened by invading British forces, on August 29, 1793, Sonthonax issued a decree freeing the slaves in the northern part of the colony, for which he was responsible. Polverel followed two weeks later with a proclamation freeing all slaves in the west. The document is from Les imprimés à Saint-Domingue (Imprints from Saint-Domingue), a collection held by the Bibliothèque Haïtienne des Pères du Saint-Esprit that includes approximately 150 texts printed in Saint-Domingue before independence in 1804. The books were produced between 1764 and 1804 at presses in Cap-Français, Port-au-Prince, and Les Cayes and were digitized in 2006 with the support of the L’Agence universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF).

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P. Catineau Printing House, Cap-Français


Title in Original Language

Proclamation. Au nom de la République. Nous Léger-Félicité Sonthonax, Commiʃʃaire Civil de la République, délégué aux Iles françaiʃes de l'Amérique ʃous le vent, pour y rétablir l'ordre & la tranquillité publique

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Last updated: December 29, 2015