General Whyte's Proclamation to the People of Haiti: 8 June 1794
While the efforts of Napoleon to reestablish French control over its former colony of Saint Domingue (Haiti) is well-known, less well-known is the effort by the British to gain the island, the jewel of France's colonial crown, and reestablish plantation slavery there, that had been abolished by the French that year. Ultimately the British effort to maintain control of the island led to the loss of thousands of British troops, just as Napoleon's later attempt was to do.
Whyte's proclamation suggests that if the "negroes" (i.e., the slaves) would lay down their arms and return to the plantations within eight days of the promulgation of the order, they would be pardoned "and enjoy the advantages of a life devoted to industry," all others would be put to death. The question is raised whether the former slaves would have been aware of the proclamation, much less be able to read it.
Proclamation of his excellency brigadier general Whyte, commanding his Britannic majesty's forces in St. Domingo.
The commissioner and their agents, in order to carry into execution those perfidious designs, which have proved so fatal to the lives, the laws, the liberty, and the happiness, of this once flourishing colony, have every where calumniated the British government.
General Whyte, who has the honour to represent his Britannic majesty. Assures the inhabitants of Port au Prince, and its vicinity, that the object of his majesty and of his government is to restore peace among every class of inhabitants.
Those parts of the colony, which have already placed themselves under his majesty's protection, can bear a faithful testimony that there is nothing oppressive in the behaviour and laws of the English.
A considerable part of the people of St. Domingo has been seduced from its duty; these persons are hereby invited to return to their occupation, to lay down their arms, and to forget every cause of resentment.
The English government demand, and will obtain, by force if necessary, that peaceful obedience which is due to its mild and just laws.
The mulattoes will find in the general and the government every disposition to favour their interests; they are considered by the English, who are and will continue to be their friends.
The negroes, who have been so long the dupes of the vile artifices of the commissioners, will soon be convinced that the English disdain falsehood and deceit.
Let them, relying with confidence on the generosity of the British people, return to their matters, lay down, and enjoy the advantages of a life devoted to industry; their present sufferings will soon be relieved, and the laws will protect them against cruelty and oppression.
The forces, which are now in this colony to support the happiness of the inhabitants, and the glory of the English nation, are but a part, even a small part, of the army destined for its service; it being his majesty's resolution to punish in a manner as certain as severe, those who will not accept the offers of this and of the preceding proclamations.
All persons who shall repair to Port au Prince, and to the English general, within the delay of eight days from the date of this proclamation. Except those who have been guilty of murder, or of taking a part in the insurrection, will be received and pardoned; but all those who are taken in arms after the above-mentioned period, will be put to death as traitors.
Done at Port au Prince, the 8th of June, 1794.
John Whyte, Brigadier-general commandant.
The Annual Register, or, A View of the History, Politics, and Literature for the Year 1794. London: Printed by R. Wilks for W. Otridge and Sons, etal. (Publisher varies by year.) Published for the years 1758-1837 in 80 vols.; illus., maps; 21-23 cm. Alternate titles for some years include: Annual Register, or, a View of the History and Politics of the Year... and New Annual Register, or General Repository of History, Politics, and Literature, for the Year... Succeeded by: Annual Register of World Events.
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