With cries of “how beautiful is this day,” the Mayor of Port-au-Prince wedded white citizens and citizens of color in his speech on October 23, 1791. His speech optimistically lauded progress while simultaneously erasing all history of past offenses. Following the Mayor’s lead, the delegation swore to unite as one in the name of the all citizens with promises of faithfulness and friendship to all, and vows to condemn anyone who disturbs the city’s peace. Addressing white colonists, free people of color, and military men, the Mayor hereby eliminated all distinction between race and social status, naming every man simply “citizen.”
In May of the same year, property holding Free People of Color in Saint-Domingue born to free parents were declared full citizens. The decree of May 15, 1791 sent non-citizen Free People of Color and whites who rejected the law into revolt. Three months after, in August, slaves in the Northern Province of Saint-Domingue came together and set fire to numerous plantations, signaling the beginning of the slave revolt that marks the beginning of the Haitian Revolution. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the Mayor of Port-au-Prince’s speech is that there is no overt recognition of the diffuse turmoil in the colony in the northern province and Saint-Marc.
(Discours prononcé le 23 octobre 1791, par M. le Maire du Port-au-Prince, à la suite du traite de paix entre les citoyens blancs & les citoyens de couleur de la province de l’Ouest de la partie française de Saint-Domingue)
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How beautiful is this day in which we may say that we are all brothers and friends!
How beautiful is this day in which two classes of citizens, divided until now, join and blend together in order to make one single future!
How beautiful this day finally is when an uncompromising, sincere, and loyal reconciliation brings all hearts together, extinguishes all memory of the past, and leaves ahead of us only peaceful days and happy pasts in the sweetness of faith and friendship!
We are thus from this day forth brothers and friends: we seal peace and reconciliation in this moment.
Let us all swear, let us all promise to support one another and protect one another mutually; to all be the guardians of orderliness and public security. Let us all unite for the commune and know no other enemies other than the enemies of the public good. Let us swear to consider and treat all those who break the present treaty as agitators of public tranquility. (Here all of the delegation cried: WE SWEAR.)
Citizens of color, my friends, here you lose this denomination. No distinction exists anymore, no more difference. We will only have in the future, all together, one identical title, that of CITIZEN.
May sincerity preside over such a solemn and sacred contract. May the mouth’s expressions not be deceived by the heart’s feelings. Let us all promise one another friendship, candor, and loyalty, and that the testimonies we give here be the pledge of one peace and one union everlasting. (All of the delegation said: WE SWEAR.)
And you brave soldiers from Normandy and Artois, from the Royal Artillery, from the Royal and Merchant Navy, from the crew from the ship le Borée; you all who are finally present here, share our satisfaction and blend your emotions with ours.
We are forever grateful to you for our condition. It is you who always rescued and supported us. You know at War how to show that you are courageous soldiers, like you know at Peace how to show that you are good Citizens. Receive here all our feelings of friendship and gratitude.
Only one thing is still missing from our happiness, which is to render it permanent, which is to divert all that can disrupt order and peace far from us; which is to disturb trust, tranquility, and public safety. May the Law be observed. May those who are in charge be obeyed. Here is our pledge to everyone; and so that it is well defined, let us conclude such a solemn act with a sacred oath, and let us all say: I swear to be faithful to THE NATION, TO THE LAW, AND TO THE KING, and to contribute to public tranquility with all of my power. (WE SWEAR.)