Page:Haiti- Her History and Her Detractors.djvu/172

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
Haiti: Her History and Her Detractors

island and a quasi-protectorate. The request was denied; and Admiral Duckworth, angered by the failure of his scheme, threatened to capture the Haitian guard-ships. In the event of this Dessalines declared that he would at once prevent the English merchant ships from entering the ports of the island. This threat produced the desired effect; for just at that time the United States frigate Connecticut was at Gonaives and on board there was an agent sent to renew with Dessalines the commercial relations which had formerly been carried on with Toussaint Louverture. The Governor-General of Haiti was thus turning all his efforts toward safeguarding the dignity and the interests of his country.

In accepting the title of Emperor he was not prompted by mere foolish vanity. The Agents sent by France to Saint-Domingue had been known as Governors-General; the continued use of this title might therefore leave the impression that the Haitians were still dependent on the former mother country; thus it was thought proper to adopt another name more suited to the chief of a sovereign State. Bonaparte had just been proclaimed Emperor of the French. This seemed to be a particularly fit occasion to affirm once again the independence of the country. Accordingly Dessalines decided to assume the same title with which the ruler of France had been invested. In September, 1804, the army acclaimed him Emperor of Haiti. This new appellation added nothing to the dictatorial power with which he was already clothed. And Dessalines gave the best evidence of his great common sense by refusing to create a nobility. He avoided establishing any discrimination of rank; he even refused to allow any special privileges to be conferred upon his children: the equality of all citizens was to be the prevailing feature of the new State.

In becoming Jacques, first Emperor of Haiti, Dessalines did not lose sight of the necessity of making provision for the future good and tranquillity. The French were still in possession of the Spanish portion of the