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Sonthonax, Léger Félicité (1763–1813)

Sonthonax, Léger Félicité (1763–1813)

Léger Félicité Sonthonax (b. 17 March 1763; d. 28 July 1813), French politician and lawyer. Sonthonax, a native of Oyonnax, France, was a controversial figure whose actions led to profoundly important but unintended results. Appointed commissioner of Saint-Domingue by Louis XVI in June 1792, with the mandate to halt revolutionary activity in the French colony, he implemented the 1792 decree that gave civil rights to coloreds (persons of mixed black and white heritage) and outlawed slavery. The decree had been designed to quell the frustration of blacks and win their support against the British. Instead, revolutionary momentum continued to increase. In 1794 irate white landowners and the revolutionary leader Toussaint L'ouverture forced Sonthonax out of Saint-Domingue and into the hands of the British. He returned to France but two years later was sent back to Haiti, where he undertook an unsuccessful campaign to eradicate voodoo (vodun) culture. Sonthonax retired to France in 1797 and died at Oyonnax.

See alsoHaiti .


Gérard Mentor Laurent, Le commissaire Sonthonax à Saint-Domingue, 4 vols. (1965–1974).

Robert Louis Stein, Léger Félicité Sonthonax: The Lost Sentinel of the Republic (1985).

Michel Laguerre, Voodoo and Politics in Haiti (1989).

Additional Bibliography

Dorigny, Marcel. Léger-Félicité Sonthonax: La premiére abolition de l'esclavage: La Révolution française et la Révolution de Saint-Domingue. Saint-Denis: Société française d'histoire d'outre-mer; Paris: Association pour l'étude de la colonisation européenne, 1997.

                                             Anne Greene

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