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The Hour and the Man, An Historical Romance   By: (1802-1876)

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The Hour and the Man, by Harriet Martineau.

The following is taken with acknowledgements from Chambers Dictionary of Biography, about the subject of this book.

Pierre Dominique Toussaint l'Ouverture (1746 1803). Haitian black revolutionary leader (the surname derives from his bravery in once making a breach in the ranks of the enemy). Born of African slave parents in Haiti, he was freed in 1777. In 1791 he joined the black insurgents, and in 1797 was made commander in chief in the island by the French Convention. He drove out British and Spaniards, restored order and prosperity, and about 1800 began to aim at independence. Napoleon proclaimed the re establishment of slavery, but Toussaint declined to obey. He was eventually overpowered and taken prisoner, and died in a prison in France.

Harriet Martineau wrote this book in 1839, during which year she also wrote "Deerbrook", and published an analysis of her tour of America, from which she had returned in 1836.




The nights of August are in Saint Domingo the hottest of the year. The winds then cease to befriend the panting inhabitants; and while the thermometer stands at 90 degrees, there is no steady breeze, as during the preceding months of summer. Light puffs of wind now and then fan the brow of the negro, and relieve for an instant the oppression of the European settler; but they are gone as soon as come, and seem only to have left the heat more intolerable than before.

Of these sultry evenings, one of the sultriest was the 22nd of August, 1791. This was one of five days appointed for rejoicings in the town of Cap Francais festivities among the French and Creole inhabitants, who were as ready to rejoice on appointed occasions as the dulness of colonial life renders natural, but who would have been yet more lively than they were if the date of their festival had been in January or May. There was no choice as to the date, however. They were governed in regard to their celebrations by what happened at Paris; and never had the proceedings of the mother country been so important to the colony as now.

During the preceding year, the white proprietors of Saint Domingo, who had hailed with loud voices the revolutionary doctrines before which royalty had begun to succumb in France, were astonished to find their cries of Liberty and Equality adopted by some who had no business with such ideas and words. The mulatto proprietors and merchants of the island innocently understood the words according to their commonly received meaning, and expected an equal share with the whites in the representation of the colony, in the distribution of its offices, and in the civil rights of its inhabitants generally. These rights having been denied by the whites to the freeborn mulattoes, with every possible manifestation of contempt and dislike, an effort had been made to wring from the whites by force what they would not grant to reason; and an ill principled and ill managed revolt had taken place, in the preceding October, headed by Vincent Oge and his brother, sons of the proprietress of a coffee plantation, a few miles from Cap Francais. These young men were executed, under circumstances of great barbarity. Their sufferings were as seed sown in the warm bosoms of their companions and adherents, to spring up, in due season, in a harvest of vigorous revenge. The whites suspected this; and were as anxious as their dusky neighbours to obtain the friendship and sanction of the revolutionary government at home. That government was fluctuating in its principles and in its counsels; it favoured now one party, and now the other; and on the arrival of its messengers at the ports of the colony, there ensued sometimes the loud boastings of the whites, and sometimes quiet, knowing smiles and whispered congratulations among the depressed section of the inhabitants... Continue reading book >>

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