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#1164: comparative brutality: The case of Pierre Chazotte
Just two weeks ago I added a rather rare book to my library,
Pierre Etienne Chazotte's THE BLACK REBELLION IN HAITI. It was written
in 1804 in Philadelphia by a former St. Domingue planter. It wasn't
published until 1840.
However, the version that I have is a somewhat abridged version done
by his grandson in the 1850s. He summarizes some and quote a great deal.
Like Young, I had always relied on C.R.L. James as one of the sources
I found convincing and have cited it often. I was utterly astonished to
read in Charles Platt's edited account of his grandfather's work, the
"The history of Haiti has not the simplicity of the current texts -- the
horrid oppression by the French and the righteous uprising of the abused
blacks -- instead, we find a complicated relation of British agents
and French royalists operating in a field prepared for disorder by the
ignorance and incompetence of the French revolutionary representatives.
The primitive ferocity of a simple people was skillfully and fearfully
aroused for political ends -- a reckless philanthropy assisting."
Corbett notes: Recall the strong elements of "plot theory" which we
have discussed on this list in relation to Madison Smartt Bell's novel,
and which also is portrayed in the Marlon Brandon film, Burn. There are
other documents that are from the period itself which also suggest this
Chazotte continues: (This is the grandson's summary of the opening)
"From its beginings the French colony on the island of St. Domingo had
enjoyed peace and prosperity....(follows economic figures of production)
And these were the figures for France alone -- there was, in addition,
a considerable commerce with the United States and 'a very considerable
contraband trade' with the British island of Jamaica. There was a general
peace. The CODE NOIR of 1685, with its many articles, was everywhere
enforced and oppression of the slaves was practically impossible. The
large and rich plantations were wisely administered, and the slaves were
secure in their health and contentment."
Needless to say, I was astonished. My first reaction was: Ah consider
the source: a planter in Philadelphia who certainly had lost what he
had before the revolution. And this is a fair worry. But, having been
a planter is a grounds for suspicion, not of dismissal.
I haven't read the book, only the opening pages, so I don't have any idea
of what the account is that follows. I do know that the book was an
important on Edna Taft's book A PURITAN IN VOODOO LAND. And on p. 127
of the first edition of Heinl's WRITTEN IN BLOOD, the Heinls cite
Chazotte as a worthwhile source.
What are the sources that historians regard as the best and most
reliable original 18th century sources on treatment of the slaves?