Nov 17, 2016 - Sale 2432

Sale 2432 - Lot 344

Price Realized: $ 1,750
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 1,500 - $ 2,500
"IF A WHITE IS FOUND . . . HIS THROAT IS CUT WITHOUT PITY" (HAITI.) A doomed merchant's letter on the eve of the Haiti Massacre. Autograph Letter, author unknown, to Martin Foäche. 4 pages, 13 x 7 3/4 inches, on one folding sheet; early paper repairs along two folds partially obscuring some text, minor soiling, worn along all edges and center fold with slight loss of text. Au Cap [Cap-Français, now Cap-Haïtien], Haiti, 6 April 1804

Additional Details

In November 1803, French troops left Haiti, bringing the long Haitian Revolution to a close. Haiti declared independence on 1 January 1804 under governor-general Jean-Jacques Dessalines. One of his first acts was to order the genocide of the remaining white Frenchmen on the island, as retribution for the long legacy of slavery, and to prevent them from orchestrating a return of French rule. Dessalines personally oversaw the killings, which moved systematically from town to town.
Martin-Pierre Foäche (1728-1816) was a major slave trader in Havre, France with substantial investments in Haiti. This letter was written by his agent in Cap-Français, two months into the massacre. The unidentified author reports: "I fear some catastrophe involving all whites indiscriminately. In a circumstance so critical the most prudent course will surely be to leave the country. The difficulty is precisely there. The hindrances multiply every day and the most recent events seem to confirm the project of the black chief of keeping all whites under his thumb, as a response to the attempt the French made upon the colony. There are people who brave all danger to escape this cavern, they are the victims of it. There are some barges in the port and they watch strictly all who leave and if a white is found on board without a passport (and no one is given one) his throat is cut without pity. Another means remains to those who wish to leave, that is to board one of the English frigates that at present come to our ports from time to time. An English captain having thus received some thirty persons from Port-au-Prince has given occasion to extraordinary precautions to prevent more emigration; a dozen persons have been arrested trying to take advantage of this opportunity and they were all shot" (translated from the French).
He also attempts to report on the Foäche business concerns, but as all property of absentee owners has been confiscated, he no longer had access to the account books. He concludes, "We no longer have any institution, not public, nor civil, nor political, nor religious; no constitution, no laws, no courts; all is done by arms, and decisions are made a la grenadier, at the point of a saber." Dessalines soon finished his work in Port-au-Prince, and arrived in Cap-Français on 18 April, twelve days after this letter was written. The approximately 2,000 French residents of the city were killed, very likely including the letter writer. Provenance: sold by the University Place Book Shop to the consignor.