Assassination of Jean Jacques Dessalines

In January 1804, Dessalines, preferring Napoleon’s style rather than the more liberal yet vulnerable type of political government of the French Republican Radicals (see liberalism and radicalism in France), proclaimed himself Emperor Jacques I. Yet two of his own advisers, Henri Christophe and Alexandre Pétion, helped provoke his assassination in 1806. The conspirators ambushed him north of Port-au-Prince at Pont Larnage, (now known as Pont-Rouge) on October 17, 1806 en route to battle rebels to his regime.

After the Dessalines coup d'état, the two main conspirators divided the country in two rival regimes. Christophe created the authoritarian State of Haiti in the north, and the Gens de couleur Pétion helped establish the Republic of Haiti in the south. Christophe attempted to maintain a strict system of labor and agricultural production akin to the former plantations. Although he did not establish slavery strictly speaking, he imposed a semi-feudal system, fermage, in which every able man was supposed to work in plantations (similar to Latifundios) to produce goods for the fledging country. His method, though undoubtedly oppressive, produced the most revenues of the two governments.

For the slightest causes, both blacks and mulattoes were put to death without mercy and without the forms of trial. The sight of blood awakened within him his desire of slaughter, and his government became at length a fearful despotism, against the devouring vengeance of which none, not even those of his own household, was safe. The generals Clervaux, Greffard, and Gabart died suddenly and mysteriously; and the aggressions of Dessalines, directed particularly against the mulattoes soon awakened the Vengeance of that jealous class, who were already displeased at their insignificance in the State, and at the exaltation of the black dynasty which seemed about to become permanent in the country. A secret conspiracy was accordingly planned against the black monarch, and when, on the 17th of 0ctober, 1806 he commenced a journey from St. Marks to Port-au-Prince, the occasion was improved to destroy him. A party of mulattoes lying in ambuscade at a place called Pont Rouge, made an attack upon him, and he was killed at the first fire.

Thus closed the career of Dessalines, a man who had commenced life as a slave, and ended is an emperor.