From Wed Jan 7 18:45:07 2004
Date: Wed, 7 Jan 2004 17:03:37 -0600 (CST)
From: Bob Corbett <>
To: Haiti mailing list <>
Subject: 17653: slgafi: Boyer ? Norwich’s Haiti Connection (fwd)


Norwich has tie to early Haiti history

By Francis McCabe, Norwich Bullein, [7 January 2004]

It’s a small world after all. And the city once again plays a role, albeit small, in modern news about world history.

If you are keeping up with the news about Haiti, then you would know the Caribbean country has marked its bicentennial Jan. 1, commemorating the day in 1804, when it won its independence from France.

And if you have really been paying attention, the Haitian government, with guidance from French and U.S. lawyers, is suing France for nearly $22 billion.

The money is restitution for payments extorted by France from Haiti, for its freedom. Plus some interest.

And somewhere in the middle of all of this a former guest of Norwich plays an important role.

In the midst of the slave revolt in Haiti in September 1800, the USS Trumbull returned to New London from the Caribbean with the captured ship Le Vengeance and 140 prisoners who were attempting to flee the violence.

Among them was a 24-year-old Haitian aristocrat named Jean-Pierre Boyer. Boyer spent six months under the care of the Norwich community, learning English and earning the affection of his captors, according the History of Norwich, Conn. by Frances Caulkins.

When the prisoners were released, Boyer pledged to keep in touch with his hosts.

He went to France, where he served under Napoleon in the French Army. Learning that the French would not abandon slavery, Boyer joined the slaves in their 1804 victory in Haiti.

Boyer, through military victories was elected president of Haiti in 1818.

In 1825, France, still infuriated by Haiti’s victory and its own loss of land and money, refused to recognize the poor country. Instead, employing cannon diplomacy, France sent a fleet of warships to Haiti.

Unless Haiti’s government led by President Jean-Pierre Boyer, paid a ransom 150 million francs for the country’s independence, the ships would reduce the capital to rubble.

In 1838, France agreed to reduce the debt to 60 million francs, which Haiti paid off over the next 45 years.

Boyer never forgot his time in Norwich.

Nearly 20 years afterward, Caulkins writes, President Boyer, then at the head of the Haitian Republic, made inquiries of certain Norwich shipmasters respecting his former friends, and sent a handsome gratuity to the two families in which he had been treated with special kindness.