1796 · Port-au-Prince
St. Domingo, the French part of Haiti, was a highly prosperous sugar, coffee, and cotton slave-estate island whose produce was described as exceeding that of the whole of the British Leeward and surrounding islands. In 1789 it was said to consist of 10,000 white people, 24,000 free mixed-race people, and 455,000 negro slaves. Although free, local laws decreed that mixed-race individuals could not accept any office or employment other than as planters. As news spread of the revolution, this group revolted but were roundly defeated. Part of the white response to the uprising was to create their own local assembly which excluded those of mixed race and resolved to transfer the island's allegiance to Great Britain, whereupon France sent Commissioners who according to some reports recruited negroes to fight the whites.
Starting in August 1791, the slaves revolted in many towns, implementing major massacres and destruction of estates and establishing free communities of their own. They were led by Touissant Louverture, an ex-slave who later joined the French army after the country abolished slavery in 1793. Louverture swiftly rose to the rank of Commander in Chief of the French forces in Haiti, and proved to be an effective leader. In 1794, the British army, under the pretense of the Napoleonic war, sent a force from Jamaica that occupied Port-au-Prince and some other towns, a welcome development for the remaining white population on the island. This British force was commanded by General Sir Thomas Maitland of the 62 Foot Regiment, for whom Wigglesworth was the army agent.
In the end, the British were not successful. By 1798, the British army had been virtually wiped out by yellow fever, and in April of that year, Maitland withdrew the British forces from Haiti under a guarantee from Louverture that the remaining pro-British whites would be protected. In May 1801, Touissant established St. Domingo as an independent republic. This alarmed the French so badly that they subsequently sent an army of 25,000 that recaptured the island within a year, and by a ruse conveyed Louverture to France where he soon after died in prison. (Inventory #: WRCAM52305)