"La Société des Amis des Noirs" soon extended its mighty support to the lawful claims of those who hitherto were treated like pariahs.
The "affranchis" became more and more conscious of their importance. In 1779, responding to the call of the Comte d'Estaing, 800 blacks and mulattoes left their families and their homes, and went to fight side by side with the soldiers of George Washington. At the siege of Savannah the colored sons of Haiti fearlessly shed their blood for the independence of the United States. After fighting for the liberty of others was it possible that they would willingly tolerate slavery for their mothers, their brothers, and their sisters? Could they be content under the arbitrary rule of a system which had despoiled them of their rights?
But, blinded by their prejudice, the wealthy planters would not make the slightest concession in their favor. They founded in Paris the "Club Massiac," which became henceforth the centre of action of their coterie. Yet at that time the pretensions of the "affranchis" were very moderate. What was it they were claiming? Simply the equality of political rights which was granted to them in 1685 by the Black Code.
By yielding to their requests the colonists would have saved their property, and Saint-Domingue might perhaps have remained a part of the French territory.
- The Society of the Friends of the Blacks.
- Among the volunteers from Saint-Domingue were Beauvais, Rigaud, Chavannes, Jourdain, Lambert, Christophe, Morné, Villate, Toureaux, Cangé, Martial Besse, Leveillé, Mars Belley, etc. (E. Robin, History of Haiti, p. 47.)
- "At the siege of Savannah," says Mr. T. G. Steward, quoted by Mr. Benito Sylvain at page 102 of his book (Du sort des Indigènes dans les colonies d'exploitation; Paris, 1901), "the colored militiamen from Saint-Domingue, numbering 800, saved the Franco-American army from total disaster by heroically covering its retreat, which was very near being cut off by Lieutenant-Colonel Maitland." However, some years later one of these militiamen, Martial Besse, then a French general, was not allowed to land at Charleston (South Carolina) without giving bail, on account of his color. The French consul had to interfere in order to secure proper respect for him. (American Historical Association, 1905, Vol. II, p. 1020, Lettre de Létombe, consul à Philadelphia, à Delacroix, Ministre des Relations Extérieures de France.)