« IndietroContinua »
once made such honourable inention) who were prepared to hew him down with their sabres. On the fatal spot, the unfortunate youth endeavoured to prevail upon the soldiers to mitigate his sufferings by changing the manner of his death, into skooiing. To gain, their consent, he gave them his watch, hat, money and clothes, but to no purpose, for the inhuman viliains, after promising to grant him this poor last favour, forfeited their words, and cut the ill-fated victim into pieces. It may not be unworthy of remark, that upon occasions where the death of a. prisoner has been decreed, and where a mock trial is intended merely as a scheme of deception, the emperor appears in public with a red kerchief about his head. The bloody signal is so well known, that the officers who sit upon a trial, know full well before the evidence is given, what must be the judgment of the court. An American gentleman who was at Marchand upon business with the emperor, informed me, that he saw his majesty on the day of Decoudré's trial in this peculiar dress; not indeed whilst in the execution of his judicial functions, (for spec. tators are not admitted within the walls which surround the fatal tribunal,) neither in the performance of his public duties, for at such periods, murder and destruction, entirely engross his attention, and take place of all othor considerations. Such transactions as these, you may well suppose, are not of so pleasing a nature as to excite sentiments of entire confidence in a people, a great portion of whom are of a character equally ferocious with the villain who conspired, the chief who directed, and the base slaves who executed this sanguinary deed.
The next occurrence I shall notice, produced considerably more alarm than the preceding one. About the middle of last. month, two American schooners, well armed, were lying at Gonaives. The captain of one of them, in a dispute one day with the ordonnateur, an important civil officer, proceeded to blows, and gave the man of colour a complete flogging. As was to be expected, a complaint was immediately preferred to the emperor, who ordered the American to be brought before him at Marchand. The captain not being disposed to take so distant a ride into the country, under the existing appearance of affairs, weighed anchor, and with the other schooner, the commander of
which was implicated in the same quarrel, put to sea. The wind being favourable, and there being no means of stopping them, unless the guns of the fort were adequate to the task, a fire was immediately commenced upon them, but without effect. The vessels briskly returned the salute, a short fight ensued, and the fort was soon silenced. During this transaction, the spirit of the populace which had already been excited by the indignant treatment shown to the ordonnateur, became roused to so furious a height, that they swore vengeance upon all the Americans in the place. A riot of an alarming nature now threatened our countrymen, and as a means of safety, most of them retreated on board the ships in the harbour, many of which were strongly fortified with guns.
Several however remained on shore, and had it not been for the prudence of the commanding general, Magny, the lives of some would in all probability have been sacrificed. That officer, as soon as he perceived the danger to which the Americans were exposed from the rage and fury of the mob, who had actually almost killed one, ordered the soldiers to seize them all and bring them to his house; and whilst the infuriated rabble were calling aloud for vengeance, they were appeased by being told that the Americans would be punished after a regular trial. By these means our countrymen were preserved, and as soon as the popular phrenzy had subsided, they were rereleased from their confinement; those who were in the fleet returned to shore, and tranquillity was restored. The affair terminated much more satisfactorily than was at first apprehended, for indeed at one stage, it was seriously alarming. Batteries were actually constructed on the shore and furnished with cannon, to be in readiness to fire upon the fleet. Had this hostile operation been commenced, the fire from the shipping would soon have , been severely felt, for the Americans were prepared for the worst, and had assumed a warlike attitude. In this state of things, however, a flag of truce from the shore with amicable propositions rendere any further continuance of these belligerent appearances unnecessary. As you may not perhaps in this relation see any cause for uneasiness to those Americans who were resident in other parts of the Island, I will state to you the circumstances under which the first account presented itself to us at the Cape.
a great de
An American who was at Gonaives when the riot commenced, fearful of the consequences which were likely to result from so violent a proceeding, fled out of town, and concealed himself among the mangroves in the vicinity, until his servant brought him a horse. He mounted and rode post haste, until he reached the Cape, where he arrived on the following day, under the sull impression that some of our countrymea had been killed in the aifray, and that probably some of the Indigenes had been destroyed by the fire of the departing vessels. As was usual upon cccasions of apparent danger, a number of us assembled cil to hear the particolars of the story, that we might be enabled to form some opinion of the effects which might possibly be produced from this unpleasant occurrence. One of the gentlemen immediately waited upon the general in clief, Christophe, and communicated the statement to hiin. The impressions made upon the mind of his excellency on hearing a recital of the conduct of the American captains in firing upon the fort, were by no means of an agreeable nature, but his reply gree removed our apprehensions. He said that she could not pretend to say what measures the emperor might adopt in relation to the Americans on the spot where the affair happened, but as it would be unjust to punish the innocent for the guilty, those at the Cape might rest assured of perfect security.” After a few days anxiety as to the fate of our friends at Gonaives, we relieved from our uneasiness, by learning that the cause which had occasioned it had been removed by an amicable termination of the dispute.
A few days after this, an entertainment was given by the collector of the port, at which the general in chief and many distinguished officers
present, were also several Americans. Before dinner, whilst two of us were standing on the balcony conversing with Christophe, and viewing a vessel which had just entered the harbour, Sangos, the captain of the port, presented himself before his excellency with his hat in his hand, and bowing submissively, thus addressed him: “General, when I was about boarding that vessel which has just now arrived, two American captains went along side of her in a boat and called aloud to those on board don't give your letters and papers to these black rascals.'' It seems that the captain of
the port understood English well enough to catch the expression. He was excessively enraged, and no doubt expected to create a corresponding feeling on the part of Christophe. Such an effect too, it was natural to expect; and when I watched the general's countenance to observe the expression of his anger, I was surprized at the cool and stern manner in which he replied to Sangos. “Sir," said he harshly, "this is to be attributed solely to your negligence-Had you performed your duty by visiting that vessel as soon as she entered the port, you would have had no cause for this complaint. I myself saw her at anchor before you were alongside of hermallez allez.” The severe and peremptory style of his excellency, frightened the poor captain to such a degree, as to make him tremble, and he immediately decamped, as he had been ordered. You will understand that in this country, a quarrel between a native and a stranger, is not, as in other places, regarded as a mere matter which concerns only the parties themselves, but is considered as a national affair, in which all are interested. If a white man were to strike a negro, he would be in danger of the resentment of the whole populace, who would at once consider the blow as an insult upon the nation. Thus in the case just related, the expression of Black rascals was considered as of so outrageous a character, as to be the subject of a complaint to the highest authority in the place, and it was evident to us, who were present that the thing would not be suffered to pass unnoticed. The general however was not disposed to disturb the harmony of the company by any display of passion, and when some of us suggested to him the probability that the persons who had thus misbehaved themselves were not captains, he calmly replied “ do not be uneasy about it, it is an affair of little consequence which can be easily arranged.” This I believe was the light in which Christophe himself regarded it, but there were others whose pride was so excessively injured, that nothing but the punishment of the offenders would satisfy them. Amongst these was Richard, commandant of the place, who with others prevailed upon Christophe on the following day to summon the captains before him. Their names were ascertained and they were accordingly sent for and examined, and as the charge was substantiated to the satisfaction
of the court, they were ordered to prison; at that moment, two American merchants who had attended the trial, interceded with the general, and pledged themselves for the correctness of the future deportment of the captains. A reversal of tie senterice was hereupon obtained, and before the guard had taken the prisoners into custody, they were discharged, to the no great gratification of the commandant and the rest. However trivial such occurrences as these would be esteemed in most countries, here they are of considerable importance, and what renders them more unpleasant, is, that they leave behind them impressions which are by no means favourable to that harmony between us and the natives which is requisite to make our residence here comfortable.
Besides the murder of Decoudrés which has been mentioned above, several others have taken place in various parts of the island, accompanied by circumstances equally flagitious. A Frenchman named Thomas Thuat and two Italians, who were established as merchants in the south, I believe at Aux-Cayes, were of the number. In the case of Thuat a correspondence was said to have been detected between him and the French general Ferrand, and in that of the Italians some other pretext perhaps equally false, was raised up against them. If a man here has enemies it is no difficult matter for them to put him out on
Let him be charged as a spy, and very slender testimony will convict him-A young Dutchman, who lately came to the Island as a supercargo of an American vessel, had a very narrow escape. He paid a visit to the forts in the neighbourhood of the city of Dessalines, and being very particular in his observations and minute in his inquiries, he was suspected, arrested, and imprisoned for a few days, when his innocence was manifested by his youth and inexperience.
In addition to the circumstances related above, our apprehensions were once seriously excited by a report which was in general circulation among the females, by whom it was communicated to us, that on a certain day all the Americans were to be put to death.
This terrifying prediction has not yet been veri., fied, and the day appointed has passed over. Still however we cannot but suspect that the report originated from some foun