Louisiana and her Caribbean parent colony developed
intimate links during the eighteenth century, centered on maritime trade,
the exchange of capital and information, and the migration of colonists. From
such beginnings, Haitians exerted a profound influence on Louisiana's politics,
people, religion, and culture. The colony's officials, responding to anti-slavery
plots and uprisings on the island, banned the entry of enslaved Saint Domingans
in 1763. Their rebellious actions would continue to impact upon Louisiana's
slave trade and immigration policies throughout the age of the American and
These two democratic struggles struck fear in
the hearts of the Spaniards, who governed Louisiana from 1763 to 1800. They
suppressed what they saw as seditious activities and banned subversive materials
in a futile attempt to isolate their colony from the spread of democratic
revolution. In May 1790 a royal decree prohibited the entry of blacks - enslaved
and free - from the French West Indies. A year later, the Haitian Revolution
The revolution in Saint Domingue unleashed a massive
multiracial exodus: the French fled with the bondspeople they managed to keep;
so did numerous free people of color, some of whom were slaveholders themselves.
In addition, in 1793, a catastrophic fire destroyed two-thirds of the principal
city, Cap Français (present-day Cap Haïtien), and nearly ten thousand people
left the island for good. In the ensuing decades of revolution, foreign invasion,
and civil war, thousands more fled the turmoil. Many moved eastward to Santo Domingo (present-day Dominican Republic) or to nearby Caribbean islands. Large
numbers of immigrants, black and white, found shelter in North America, notably
in New York, Baltimore (fifty-three ships landed there in July 1793), Philadelphia,
Norfolk, Charleston, and Savannah, as well as in Spanish Florida.
Nowhere on the continent, however, did the refugee movement exert as profound an influence
as in southern Louisiana.
|Maryland, The Laws of Maryland, with the Charter, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution of the State, and Its Alterations, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution of the United States, and Its Amendments; with a General Index. Rev. by Virgil Maxcy., vol. II
|Memoir of Pierre Toussaint, Born a Slave in St. Domingo
by Hannah Farnham Sawyer Lee
|Freedom certificate of Pierre Toussaint from from Pierre Toussaint papers, 1793-1853, bulk (1822-1853)
Between 1791 and 1803, thirteen hundred refugees arrived in New Orleans. The authorities
were concerned that some had come with "seditious" ideas. In the spring of 1795,
Pointe Coupée was the scene of an attempted insurrection during which planters' homes
were burned down. Following the incident, a free émigré from Saint Domingue,
Louis Benoit, accused of being "very imbued with the revolutionary maxims which have
devastated the said colony" was banished. The failed uprising caused planter Joseph
Pontalba to take "heed of the dreadful calamities of Saint Domingue, and of the germ
of revolt only too widespread among our slaves." Continued unrest in Pointe Coupée and
on the German Coast contributed to a decision to shut down the entire slave trade in
the spring of 1796.
In 1800 Louisiana officials debated
reopening it, but they agreed that Saint Domingue blacks would be barred from
entry. They also noted the presence of black and white insurgents from the
French West Indies who were "propagating dangerous doctrines among our Negroes."
Their slaves seemed more "insolent," "ungovernable," and "insubordinate" than
they had just five years before.
That same year, Spain ceded Louisiana back to
France, and planters continued to live in fear of revolts. After future emperor
Napoleon Bonaparte sold the colony to the United States in 1803 because his
disastrous expedition against Saint Domingue had stretched his finances and
military too thin, events in the island loomed even larger in Louisiana.