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A Roving Commission by G. A. Henty

While giving rights to the mulattoes


"Unhappily the news is true," Monsieur Duchesne said. "There have already been several fights, in some of which we have got the best of it, in others we have been driven back to the towns. It is impossible for the look-out to be darker than it is. It seems to us that our only hope is that England will consent to take over the sovereignty of the island, and send a force large enough to put down the insurrection. Some of the planters here have already lost heart, and have sailed for Jamaica, Bermuda, and other British ports. I have no intention of following their example at present. I am, as you know, a merchant as well as a planter, and although, of course, all trade is at an end now, it must spring up again in time. Fortunately, we feel confident that this town can resist any assault. The French man-of-war that came in after you sailed landed a dozen of her guns, and we have erected four batteries. There were, too, a good many old guns in the town, which have also been put into position; and as we have half a French regiment here, and fully five hundred whites who can be relied on, we have small fear of being overpowered. I am glad to say that before the man-of-war left, the great majority of the negroes were expelled from the town and their quarter burnt down, so that we have no fear of being attacked from within as well as from without. That was really our greatest danger, and has been hanging over us night and day ever since the beginning of the rising."

"Are the mulattoes and negroes acting together?"

"In some cases, but as a rule they keep apart. There is no love lost between them, and the only bond of union is hatred of us. The blacks, curiously enough, have declared against the republic, and call themselves the royalist army. They consider, and very naturally, that the republic, while giving rights to the mulattoes, has done nothing for them, and therefore, as the republic has declared against the king, they have declared for him. Do you think that the English government will accept our offer to transfer ourselves to British rule?"

"I do not see that they could do so, sir. At present we are nominally at peace with France, although everyone sees that war must come before long, but until it is declared we could scarcely take over a French possession; nor do I think there are anything like troops enough in our islands to undertake such a serious operation as this would be. Your people could not give us much help. The negroes, though calling themselves royalists, are fighting only for liberty, and would gain nothing by a mere change of masters, knowing as they do that the slaves are certainly no better treated in our islands than in those of France."

"That is what I thought," Monsieur Duchesne said. "Certainly nothing short of an army of thirty thousand strong could hope for success, and I doubt, indeed, whether in so large and mountainous an island even that number could do much. Of course fully half of it is Spanish, which complicates matters a great deal; but we may be sure that if the negroes of this end are successful, those under the Spaniards will very soon follow their example. If the worst comes to the worst, I shall of course leave the island. Whether I should settle in one of your islands or make England my residence I cannot say. Some of my countrymen have gone to America, but I should put that out of my mind. I think I should prefer England to remaining out here, for there might be similar risings in Jamaica and elsewhere; as to France, it is out of the question.


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