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A Tale of Two Brothers: Haiti’s Other Revolutions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 February 2015

Vanessa Mongey*
Affiliation:
Rhodes College, Memphis, Tennessee

Extract

Sévère Courtois's modest ambition was to revolutionize the world. “It is man's holy cause and duty to protect and aid the defense and to establish Independence in all the Universe,” he instructed his brother Joseph in October 1821. At the time, the Courtois brothers were a mere hundred miles apart; Sévère had set up an independent government on Providencia Island, in the western Caribbean, and Joseph was embarking on a political career of his own in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Though the two brothers were born in the French colony of St. Domingue, the tumults of the Age of Revolutions had swept them away from their native island. At the time Sévère penned the letter urging his brother to support his universal liberation enterprise, Joseph had just come back from fighting in the Napoleonic wars in Europe. Sévère had participated in multiple revolutionary coups and moved from New Orleans to Cartagena, and from there to Texas and then Florida.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Academy of American Franciscan History 2012

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References

I would like to thank Kathleen Brown, Daniel Richter, and Katie Paugh, the members and participants in the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Cultures colloquium, and the Association for Caribbean Historians, as well as the reviewers and editors of The Americas for their comments, criticism, and advice on this piece.

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7. The study of the importance of military service for the construction of citizenship and male political participation, for whites and blacks alike, remains underdeveloped for the postrevolutionary periods. Exceptions are Sheller, Mimi, “Sword-Bearing Citizens: Militarism and Manhood in Nineteenth-Century Haiti,” Plantation Society in the Americas 4 (1997), pp. 233278;Google Scholar and Heuer, Jennifer, The Family and the Nation: Gender and Citizenship in Revolutionary France, 1789–1830 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2005).Google Scholar

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14. “Arrêté portant défense aux Noirs, mulâtres et autres gens de couleur d’entrer sans autorisation sur le territoire continental de la République,” July 1802, reprinted in Bénot and Dorigny, 1802: rétablissement, p. 564.

15. These words were reported by one of the pensionnaires, Blaise Lechat, to Placide and Isaac L’Ouverture, July 10, 1814, and reproduced by Le Gorgeu, G., Étude sur Jean–Baptiste Coisnon (Vire: A. Guérin, 1881), p. 67.Google Scholar

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31. In France, an ordinance of April 1833 gave political and civil rights to free blacks (a reinstatement of the April 4, 1792, decree that had granted full citizenship to free blacks, but was reversed by Napoleon).

32. Notable among contributors to the literature are Blanchard, Peter , “The Language of Liberation: Slave Voices in the Wars of Independence,” Hispanic American Historical Review 82:3 (2002), pp. 499523;CrossRefGoogle Scholar Vincent, Theodore G., “The Blacks Who Freed Mexico,” The Journal of Negro History 79:3 (1994), pp. 257276;CrossRefGoogle Scholar Helg, Aline, Our Rightful Share: The Afro-Cuban Struggle for Equality, 1886–1912 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995);Google Scholar and Ferrer, Ada, Insurgent Cuba: Race, Nation, ana" Revolution, 1868–1878 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999).Google Scholar See also Vinson, Ben III and King, Stewart R., “Introducing the ‘New’ African Diasporic Military History in Latin America,” Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 5:2 (2004), pp. 122.Google Scholar

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37. Sévère Courtois to General Santander, May 30, 1823, cited in Verna, Pétion, p. 295.

38. War of 1812 service records, 2 Batt’n [D’Aquin’s] Militia, National Archives, Service records of volunteer soldiers who served during the War of 1812 in the state of Louisiana, Washington, D.C., roll boxes 47 and 87.

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50. “Relación reservada del Coronel L. Peru de Lacroix,” January 20,1822, SGM, torn. 343, fol. 1020, AGNC.

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53. Courtois to Mademoiselle Mimi Florette, October 19, 1821, SGM, torn. 343, fol. 1038, AGNC.

54. For biographies on these three figures, see Garrigus, John D., “Opportunist or Patriot? Julien Raimond (1774–1801) and the Haitian Revolution,” Slavery and Abolition 28:1 (2007), pp. 121;CrossRefGoogle Scholar and “‘Thy Coming Fame, Ogé! Is Sure’: New Evidence on Ogé’s 1790 Revolt and the Beginning of the Haitian Revolution,” in Garrigus and Morris, Assumed Identities, pp. 19—15.

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68. Gaceta de Cartagena, January 4, 1823.

69. Sévère Courtois accused one of Lacroix’s followers of calling him a mulatto. Deposition of JeanLouis Dutrieu aboard the Amazon, August 9, 1822, SGM, fol. 1041, AGNC.

70. “Acusación documentada que hizo al tribunal de censura el día 26 abril de 1823, Severo Courtois del artículo firmado ‘El Censor’” (Cartagena: Imprenta del Gobierno, 1823), Archivo Histórico Restrepo, fondo II, vol. 51, fol. 106–107.

71. República, Hoja de Servicios, tom. 19, fol. 1019, AGNC. Jealousy might have played a role, since Guillot started his military career at a higher rank: he was a captain in the War of 1812 while Sévère was a sergeant major. At the time of the petition to Jackson, Guillot is listed as “Capt. Gers,” Courtois as “Ensign 2nd Bon.” Courtois’s career took a turn after meeting Aury. He became commandant and owned three ships. Guillot also rose through the ranks but was “merely” a colonel on Providencia. Aury’s settlement of estate, August 30, 1820, Luis Aury Papers, folder 9, U.S. Library of Congress. Marcelin Guillot signed the petition sent by the officers of the St. Domingue battalion requesting Andrew Jackson’s protection from Louisiana discriminatory legislation: “From Savary et al.,” Papers of Andrew Jackson, p. 315.

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75. Lacroix, Relación.

76. Copia de la declaración de Tiburcio López, June 6, 1817, New Orleans, in Cuba 1900, Archivo General de las Indias.

77. The Weekly Recorder, November 12, 1817.

78. Alexandria Gazette, December 28, 1819.

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