NAPOLEON I (Emperor of France, 1804-1821). Letter signed (as 1st Consul, 'Bonaparte') to 'Citoyen Toussaint-Louverture, General en Chef de l'Armee de Saint-Domingue', 'Paris au Palais du Gouvernment le vingt-six Brumaire an dix [18 November 1801], referring to the recent peace with England [the Treaty of Amiens], and announcing the appointment of his brother-in-law, General Leclerc, as Captain General and Chief Magistrate in the colony of Saint-Domingue, and that Leclerc will be accompanied by a military force, 'Il est accompagné de forces respectables pour faire respecte la souveraineté du peuple français', acknowledging Toussaint's achievement in ending the civil war in the island and his service to the French people, 'Si son pavillon flotte sur Sainte-Domingue c'est à vous et aux braves noirs qu'ils le doit'; ordering him to assist Leclerc, reminding him of the liberation of other peoples by France and that only French citizenship ensures liberty, and assuring him that fortune and honours await him: 'Et, Général songez que si vous êtes le premier de votre couleur qui soit arrivé à une si grande puissance, et qui se soit distingué par sa bravoure et ses talents militaires, vous êtes aussi devant Dieu et nous le principal responsable de la conduite du peuple de Sainte-Domingue', signed at foot, countersigned by Hugues Maret, manuscript in ink on vellum, one membrane, 480 x 625mm, elaborate tassels in gold thread pendant from plaited cords in gold, green and pink silk, threaded through inner margin (slight fading of ink without loss of legibility, discolouration caused by gold thread, tear in inner margin at foot).
Napoleon's letter despite its hollow assurances of goodwill announces the French expedition designed to crush the black republic in Saint-Domingue, where Toussaint Louverture had proclaimed a constitution in July 1801, effectively giving himself the powers of a military dictator. Napoleon did not reply to the despatch in which Toussaint sought the agreement of France for the constitution after it had been announced on the island. The present letter was to be conveyed to Toussaint by General Victor Leclerc (recently married to Pauline Bonaparte) who set sail from Brest on 1 December 1801 with 54 vessels and 23,000 men, mostly drawn from the Army of the Rhine. The expedition arrived on the island on 6 February 1802, as Toussaint retreated to the mountains. In April Henri Christophe surrendered, and on 1 May Toussaint Louverture and Dessalines followed suit. Toussaint died as a prisoner in Fort de Joux the following spring (1803), protesting his innocence against charges of treason. The present letter was never delivered to him by Leclerc, who regarded him as no more than a rebel, and fulfilled Napoleon's intention of crushing the leadership of the revolt.