by M. Edgar la Selve, Professor of Rhetoric at
the National Lycee of Petion, in P-au-P.
1871 - Original text and drawings.

Translation by Brian D. Oakes
A couple of notes on the translation:



I was in a very original looking port.

Before me was a mass of fir planks threaded inextricably together forming a large raft; behind me, ships of various nations anchored within touch of the shore. To the left and right, single story wooden houses were glued together the length of the straight road. On a hill, the church, in a position that reminded me of that of Notre-Dame de la Garde in Sainte-Adresse, a suburb of Havre. A circle of hills, that appeared everywhere above the roofs of the houses, made the town look like it was encircled by fortifications.

Thus is Miragoâne.

A few usefully spent hours are enough to discover it. First it was the landing point for the Parish of Fond-des-Nègres or, more precisely, Saint-Michel, little by little it became a town. Its major expansion dates from 1812. There where big ships anchored, houses were built on ground taken from the seas, thanks to fill that forces the sea back. Nothing simpler. You buy a part of a hill and a part of the bay. You tear down the hill and the bay is filled. The rapid development of Miragoâne was stimulated by the opening of its deep port, which faces only northern winds, to foreign commerce. At the harbor entrance is a fresh and shady island, Frégate, that is the site of Sunday walks.

I spent eight days in Miragoâne, going out day and night. I also briefly visited Cérou, where, in 1868, Cacos and Piquets were executed (shot); Fort Malette, in which an Indian General is buried; Fort Bréa, Fort Réfléchi, the Carénage, the Spanish springs, the Circle or Detour, that runs the length of the coast, leading to the salt springs where I went to bathe before sunrise; Miragoâne bridge; and lastly, six kilometers from the town, the lake; a brilliant steely mirror framed by a border of mountains, that the first inhabitants of Haïti called Caguani, and where the river, digging a passage through the thick soils of the hills, empties into the Carénage.

Changing methods of transport, I leave Miragoâne on horseback, February 18th, at five o'clock in the morning, in the company of several of my students.

The day promised to be magnificent and bright. The road, which runs along the sea, is flat and easy. Having passed Trou-Forban, we arrived at Rivière-Froide two hours later, on the banks of which were two rows of washers, with nothing on except a scrap of cloth around their hips, conscientiously beating their cloths between two stones under the bright sun.

We forded the river, and our noisy and dusty cavalcade entered into the port of Nippes at noon, which was once called Petite-Rivière-du-Rochelois or simply Rochelois.

Nippes is the embarkation point for all of the surrounding areas.

A second stage of three lieues (13 km.) brought us to Anse-†p-Veau, administrative center of Nippes county that has nothing to recommend it.

I then resolved to get to Jérémie by sea. I negotiated a price with the captain of a small sailboat carrying at its prow this promising name: Dieu merci (Thank God). The next day, February 19th, he set the sails and we left Anse-à-Veau, which is only accessible to small boats. A coral bank is exposed each day and blocks the entrance, while the sand, carried by the small river that runs into the bay, blocks the entrance from inside.

The sea was calm and the wind favorable. The scissored sails gave the boat the appearance of a large albatross gliding over the water with its' wings spread. Towards six o'clock, we found ourselves in an inlet on the coast called Petit-Trou. Then Dieu merci crossed the Baradères bay created by the Bec-du-Marsouin Porpoises' Snout). This peninsula, joined to the mainland by the Etroits (Narrows), is called this because it looks like the fish of the same name.

After that we entered into a narrow strait. On the ocean side are the two Caïmites, islands covered with construction wood and, the largest of which, is nine square kilometers. The smaller Caïmites faces Pestel, a town which has kept the name of a colonist of the area.

The second town, that is opposite the Grand-Récif (Big Reef), is Corail, whose port, protected by many islets, serves as a dry-dock for the ships from Jérémie.

On the road, three lieues (13 km.) before Jérémie, is Petit-Trou-des-Roseaux, once called Petit-Trou of Grande-Anse, a very important passenger embarkation point during the revolt of Goman that lasted almost fourteen years.

Towards the evening, we were in Grande-Anse (Big Cove). It started to rain torrents and the darkness prevented us from seeing the dangers of the coast that we were passing.

I started to get weary of the ocean, at one time a tiring monotony, at another in a raging mood. At last, at four o'clock, the storm passed, the day reappeared, the waves ceased boiling, the sky was clear, and we saw, in the first rays of the rising sun, Jérémie, the town we were wishing for. Its appearance is at once bright and friendly. Behind her lifts, like a rampart, a hill surmounted by two block-houses built by Salnave. It is a charming city. Its women have a well merited reputation of being the most beautiful in the island.

The first town site, found between the Voldrogue and Grand rivers, still exists under the name Vieux-Bourg (Old Town). The present city, that before 1756 was called Trou-Jérémie after the name of a local fisherman, is divided into two parts: upper and lower. The first, an agreeable location, is in the shape of a rectangle. The second follows the shore of the cove that serves as the port.

This port offers no protection from the winds of the north; it is also not frequented by the American schooners, that don't have to stay very long to sell their cargo.

Above the city is Calvaire (Calvary). They say that Darbois had a permanent funeral pyre built there into whose flames he threw the black and yellow prisoners that were sent to him.

But what most interested me, and what I wanted to see at all cost, was Guinaudraie, the plantation where, in 1762, the Marquis of Pailleterie was born of a colonist and an African slave, Alexandre Davy Dumas, the Horatius Cocles of Tyrol, the father Alexandre Dumas Ist, the inexhaustible romantic.

Guinaudraie, it must be said, like all the other plantations, is shamefully abandoned.

I also went up to Fort Mafranc, built in 1804. After an hour of climbing, I saw the adjacent mountains getting lower and the landscape unfolding as we gradually got higher. From the fort you see the entire Grande-Rivière. Around me were all the mountains that form the Macaya chain and run from east to west, parallel to those of the Hotte chain. You have to see this convulsed region to get an idea of the incredible effects of past volcanic action. All these monstrous humps greatly resemble the backs of a group of giant camels. Grande-Rivière, on of the most important rivers in Haïti, springs from the sides of the Cahouane mountain, descends grinding and sliding, over twenty-five lieues (110 km.) between the mountains, like an immense silver scaled serpent.

I left on the 27th of February for Trou-Bonbon, on a rented horse.


I followed the road all morning without seeing a single hut or person. Around me, the bananas seemed to be ripening for the birds and the sky. The orange and mango trees, bending under the weight of their golden fruit, offered themselves to my hand.

One lieue from Jérémie, I entered into Trou-Bonbon, a small village situated at the bottom of a cove much frequented by canoes and where I found many boats. I paid my guide, who took care of returning my mount to its owner, and I went aboard the Bout-de-Macaque, leaving for Cayes.

I first saw Anse-du-Clerc, a town that owes its growth to the Goman insurrection. The people of the district had established a military post there. They met together in the block-house to repel the insurgents. Anse-du-Clerc is part of the District of Jérémie and its port is as secure as that of Trou-Bonbon.

After Abricots Point, here is the town of this name that comes from the prodigious quantities of apricots that were found in the area, at the time of its founding. The Indians, first inhabitants of the island, had placed, according to Moreau de Saint-Méry, their paradise in these forests. At the approach of death they were taken there, and, cradled by the breezes, in a hammock suspended from the trees, close to the nests of small birds, they breathed their last breath in the middle of this calm and solitude. In this way their happy souls went peacefully in the delicious shade of the mameys (?). The manchineel tree grows there as well. Souls of bad people, the islanders thought, fed on their poisonous sap. These children of nature, therefore, believed in the immortality of the soul!

But here already is Seringue Point, the Trou-d'Enfer, Cape Dalmarie.

A small town is there, Petite-Rivière de Dalmarie, named so due to its proximity to the river, less important than that which passes at Dalmarie. The boatmen prefer it to the latter, as their boats are protected and hold better to the shore.

One lieue further can be seen Dalmarie, its Indian name has been corrupted to Dame-Marie. This town dates to 1776. Before it was nothing more than an embarkation point serving the inhabitants that had obtained, as of 1737, concessions in the area. On December 3 1849, Dominican pirates pillaged and burned Dalmarie. Not far away, at the foot of a mountain whose summit is surmounted by a crest of rocks, there are mineral waters that remain unexploited.

Once past Pointe-à-Bourg we found ourselves within sight of Anse-d'Eynaud, administrative center of Tiburon District and residence of the Commander, raised up above a cove that, when the English evacuated it in 1798, took the name of a colonist who's plantation was close by, in the place of that of the island at Pierre-Joseph (?). This town developed gradually when its port, where the Baleines (mountains) create a protective belt of stone, was opened to foreign commerce.

We spent four days at Anse-d'Eynaud.

Bout-de-Macaque was taking a load of tafia (freshly distilled rum). The morning of the fifth day, arriving at the sea shore with other passengers, I no longer found the boat. Was he gone? No. The keel needed refitting.

It was necessary to think of another mode of transport. The District Commander was kind enough to lend me a horse so I could get to Tiburon, where I could get aboard another ship going to Cayes.

I arrived at eleven o'clock in Irois, a town built, like almost all those on the coast, at an embarkation point. In the past they distinguished by the above name, in the Antilles, the Irish who religious persecution pushed out of their country. The English fortified it. Rigaud expelled them.

Guided by the soldier that the Commander of Anse-d'Eynaud had provided for me, I passed through this indescribable mish-mash of hovels, huts with deformed facades, supporting unlikely roofs, amongst a crowd of chickens, goats, and pigs, amongst which were mixed black girls dressed in rags, combing their rebellious hair with toothless combs and black boys naked as worms, with stomachs like calabashes, playing in the dust and the heat of the sun.

One lieue further, at the end of a green plain imprisoned between the sea and the Hotte mountains and spotted with groups of palms and coconuts, I saw Tiburon, that carries the name by which the Indians designated a shark, buron, and where the port is of some importance due to the closeness of the cape that carries the same name, that is a narrow stait.

It had rained. The road was very wet. I didn't meet anyone there, except a young beautiful black complexioned woman of the plain, who, a canary on her head, sang in a clear voice, fresh and pure, in a soft tone, plaintiff and sad, this very popular creole song:

Maman, mété moé dehors; (Mama, put me outside Maman, poussé, ni allé. Mama, push me, neither go).

At Tiburon, no boat. All of them had left that morning. I could only leave on the seventh day, March 13, on a boat belonging to a captain from Cayes, Mr. Jabouin, who had come to Tiburon to get coffee.

We first went around Pointe-Burgau, and, following a coast bristling with reefs, we crossed Anse-du-Milieu, we doubled Pointe-des-Aigrettes, and we entered into Anse-Salée, at the back of which rises, in the small Les Anglais (The English) plain, called this because the crews of the ships of this nation frequently disembarked there before the revolution, the town of the same name, on the site of the old Gravier sugar plantation is next to a small river that is full of fish.

A lieue further on, we find ourselves at Chardonnières, a town on the road from Tiburon to Coteaux, and carries the name of its embarkation point, because of the sea otters, commonly called chardons, that are found there in large numbers.

Hardly had we passed the Tapion (?) of Chardonnières, when we saw Port-à-Piment, which should not be confused with that in the North.

We were, at ten o'clock, within sight of Coteaux (Slopes), a pretty town, so named because it sits, in a way, at the foot of a chain of mountain slopes that are superimposed one on top of another, like the steps of a stairway to heaven, climbing from the coast up to the Hotte, and where, at each stage, you see the tops of the mountains. In the river that runs close by, you can fish for beautiful mullet, and its small port is deep enough for large ships.

We have a ship on our left, I tell the captain when we enter into the Anse-à-Juifs (Cove of the Jews).

-- Qué coté ou oué li? (What side do you see him on?)
-- There, and I point in that direction.

The captain started to laugh.

That's Roche-au-Bateau (Boat Rock), he tells me. Seen from far and from certain angles, it has the appearance of a sailboat. In the area there is a landing where small boats find an excellent anchorage.

Having crossed Anse-au-Drick, you run into the town of Port-Salut, founded in 1784 on a bay in which boats are protected from all the winds.

Having doubled the Points of Gravois and Abacou, taken from the Indian name bocao, we saw Diamant, and, behind this island, Ile-a-Vaches, that owes its name to the large number of cows that the buccaneers found there. It is four lieues (18 km.) long by about one kilometer wide. Once it was a refuge for pirates; up to this day, an agricultural company, at the head of which is Mr. Girard Labastille, of Cayes, undertakes large scale culture of bananas, that have become so expensive due to their absence in the market. To the north-west of Ile-à-Vaches, you find many islands surrounded by coral reefs, Caye-à-l'Eau, Ile-au-Grand-Gosier, Ile-à-la-Boure, La Folle, on which the Bouvet, a French war ship, split apart in 1868.

At one o'clock we passed in front of the town of Torbeck and the Platons mountains, where the gorges serve as refuge for fugitive negros.

We could at last contemplate the bay of Cayes, that, at three lieues (13 km) long, on a good day, is comparable to the bay of Naples; it is the same blue sky, the same blue waters, and for further resemblance, at the back of the misty horizon, emerges, like another Ischia (Naples' volcano), Ile-à-Vaches, whose sides appear covered in frizzy vegetation like the hair of a negress.

In debarking we almost sank. Our coralin was taking on water like a sieve. Ten strokes of the oars further and we would have foundered in the middle of the port.

Barely had I put my foot on the wharf when I saw a young, extremely worthy headmaster, Mr. Lassègue, who I had met in Port-au-Prince. He had come to meet me as soon as he recognized me. I had found my guide and I followed him.


The next day, I was awakened by the noise that was being made beneath my windows. They opened on the square invaded by merchants displaying their wares. Their temporary shops are both simple and bizarre. They plant a length of bamboo into the ground to which is attached an immense mat that they turn with the sun, in such a way that it looks like a flotilla of boats setting sail.

The first information about Cayes is provided by Moreau de Saint-Méry.

Situated at the edge of the Fond plain, this city, that is more than one and a half centuries old, has grown since 1804. She has never suffered from significant disasters, fires or earthquakes, such as have so often affected Cap-Haïtien and Port-au-Prince. On the other hand, the flooding of the Ilet and Ravine du Sud rivers often cause damage. Hurricanes are frequent there.

The most terrible unleashed itself on the night of the 12th to 13th of August, 1831. The wind blew with such violence that it took away a large number of houses. The sea undertook an assault against the city, and, in certain areas, there was five feet of water. The flooding reached the plain. Several hundred inhabitants drowned. The ships, that could find no safety in the port during the winter season, having gone to anchor in the Mesle and Flamands bays, were thrown up on the coast and were destroyed.

The land entrance to the city is unique and picturesque. A raised road, fifteen hundred meters long and bordered by ditches, leads from Quatre-Chemins (Four Roads) to the bridge that crosses the Ravine du Sud river. On the lands crossed by this road are houses with gardens, that would offer, if they were well kept, the pleasures of the country right next to the city. To facilitate communications with the Reynaud district many wooden bridges were built over the Ravine du Sud river.

During the administration of General Marion, commander of the District, who died in Cayes the 20th of November 1831, all of the public buildings were restored and fortifications were built to defend the port, the construction of a fountain was started on the market square and others at Arsenal and Hopital squares. Today almost all of them have disappeared. What is left is badly tumbled down.

The National Monument, on Place d'Armes, is surrounded by tombs.

Once I knew the city in detail, Mr. Lassègue organized a cavalcade and we left for the plain, that is twenty lieues (90 km.) square. Horseback rides there are wonderful. The plain is traversed by good roads, straight and large, that remind one of those in the North during the time of Henry Ist.

We first visited Platons Fort, built by Geffrard in 1804 and that has an underground barracks protected from bombs; Camp Gérard, where, in 1803, Dessalines undertook the execution of warrants sent by Lamour Dérance to the officers of the South and replaced them; next, Camp Prou, another historic site.

A few kilometers further you find Camp Périn, Camp Boudet, an excellent position defended by a double rampart. During the civil uprisings of 1868 President S. Salnave had established a forward posts there.

In the Fond Plain is the town of Salva Tierra de la Zabana, founded in 1503 by Ovando and abandoned in 1606. Close by, in the Plain at Jacob, is an iron mine.

I only register memories of the towns of the plain that all travelers see when passing through; but, for the short time that one enters into the savanna and the mountains, you find towns that also have their own memories.

The air of Cayes, already very humid, is rendered more unhealthy by infection from the swamps that surround it. When it rains, the water, not finding any drainage, remains in the streets. Rheumatism, pneumonia, consumption, and anemia are common diseases there. During the month that I spent there, I had a continuous cold. Also the day of the arrival of the Ester, that was going to Jacmel, was the day of my deliverance, and I embarked very quickly with my joyous friend, Captain Cantin, April 15th at five o'clock in the morning, only regretting one thing, my canoe sorties on the Ravine du Sud river.

The steamer, quickly crossing the bay of Flamands, soon entered that of Saint-Louis, the safest and most beautiful of the South, long called Cromwell Bay, because the fleet sent by the famous Protector to conquer Jamaica, anchored here in 1655. The name she carries today was given in 1677. It is that of the town built along its' shores in 1698, the year of the creation of the Saint-Domingue Company. After the closing, in 1721, of this company, that had made the town its principle settlement, a more regular street plan was laid out. It is backed against a mountain five hundred and thirty-four meters high, it spreads along the shore in a rectangular form measuring four hundred and sixty meters on its largest sides, two hundred and sixty on its smallest, and divided into thirty-three blocks separated by large streets twelve meters wide and each divided into four housing lots.

The church is made of brick.

In the bay itself, on Grand-Ilet, is Vieux-Fort (Old Fort) in the process of deteriorating, whose purpose was to protect the city, inaccessible until the English bombarded it in 1748. To the east of the city are large lagoons that make one's stay very unhealthy.

Entering you find Henri island near the coast, Teigneuse, Caye-à-Rats, Caye-d'Orange and Grosse-Caye, towards noon the steamer, passing between the latter and Diamant, entered into the bay of Aquin, the Yaquimo of the Indians, where C. Columbus landed in 1494.

Aquin is renowned for its sheep, oysters, and truffles.

The fort built by Jean-Louis-François on the summit of Morne-Rouge was beyond my view. Grazing the point of Morne-Rouge, the steamer entered into Flamands Bay and was, after one hour, at the level of Cotes-de-Fer, a town situated on a river that separates the Department of the South from that of the West, and is named after the boulders that are found along the coast.

At three-thirty, having crossed Anse-à-Gaigne-à-Gauthe, and recognizing Cape Raymond, Petite-Anse, and Cape Bainet, we passed in front of Bainet, which rises at the back of a bay having an opening to the sea of three hundred meters and a depth of eighteen hundred and sixty meters, without any reefs, on a coast that is very rugged, a particularity that has contributed to its name, whose spelling does not agree with its origin: Baie Nette (Clean Bay)

Five sea lieues (22 km) further on, after Anse-à-Canot and Pointe-à-Meunier, the Ester, lifted by the surging swell, rolled along like an acrobat (tumbler).

At Jacmel or Jaquemel, according to the old spelling, you debark on a small wharf edged with railings. To enter into the town, you must climb a set of worn irregular stairs, wobbling underfoot.

This town, very commercial, is divided into two parts: upper and lower. In the first, called Bel-Air, you have a splendid view over the surrounding countryside and the sea. In the second, the houses, elegant and well aerated, have large courtyards.

Jacmel had no fountains at this time. You went to draw water at the Grande-Rivière, that runs on the West side of the town.

Jacmel is primarily famous for the memorable siege during which the courage of the soldiers of the Western legion was tested in the foot by foot fighting for the land against Dessalines, against Christophe, against Toussaint-Louverture. Isolated forts form a defensive line around the town.

A boat, resembling that which had taken me from Léogane to Miragoàne, and piloted by a certain Lindor-Lindor, took me from Jacmel to Cayes-de-Jacmel.

This village, that dates from before 1714, the time at which a church was built, is named after the reefs, cayes, that are scattered about the opposite shore. Not far away we discover remains of Indian settlements, that lead one to believe that the area was inhabited by a large tribe, and two mines exploited by the Spanish. Iron and copper ore are abundant. Spathe and quartz show above the surface of the soil.

From Jacmel to Cayes-de-Jacmel, is four lieues (18 km.), and from Cayes-de-Jacmel to Marigot, three lieues (13.5 km.) of green and cheerful coast.

One hour after passing Marigot we saw Cap-Rouge.

At dusk we entered into the cove that serves as a port for Sale-Trou (Dirty Hole), very well named, is a village that dates from 1791. There is wild game and fish in abundance there. The District of Anses-à-Pitre and its surrounding area produce coffee that is sold in Jacmel.

Behind Sale-Trou the eye sees a background of sky and finds there the high summits of Bahoruco pleated like a wrinkled brow. It is in these mountains that, at various times, the kacik Guarakuya, kinsman of the unfortunate Ana-Kaona, the kacik Enrique and the nègres marrons (outlawed negros) found refuge from one or the other colonies.

Sale-Trou is four lieues (18 km.) from the river Pedernales, that empties into the Anses-à-Pitre and separates, at this point, the Republic of Haïti from the Dominican Republic.

Lindor-Lindor having delivered his casks of tafia and taken on a cargo of coffee, we returned to Jacmel on May 1, 1873.

I was impatient to return to Port-au-Prince, the distance from Jacmel by land not being more than ten lieues (45 km.). You make this trip across the mountains in one day easily.

The next day, I had the pleasure of seeing again at one o'clock in the afternoon the unique scene of the streets of Port-au-Prince.

In ending I should make a short observation that makes necessary the question so often asked me: What is the future of the Republic of Haiti?

Mistress Beecher Stowe, whom one can not suspect of being hostile to the race who's rights she defends incontestably and that are today uncontested, in the magnificant political and social plea entitled the Case of Uncle Tom, given by Georges Shelby says: Where is the nation of black people? I look around me. It is not in Haïti; there are no elements; the rivers do not flood their banks. The race that formed the Haïtian character was debased, drained, allanguie (?); it will require centuries before Haïti becomes something.

Is this judgement not absolute and therefore contestable? Without depending on the undertaking of the hypothesis of a confederation of islands and the states of Central America, an hypothesis that I take from the Civilisateur of August 10, 1873, we can hope that Haïti, not needing to envy the Republic of Liberia, founded in 1821 by American abolitionists on the east coast of Africa for free slaves, will again become as prosperous as that time when it was a French colony. The fertility of its still virgin soil that is still barely cleared of trees and is so large, its location so advantageous, that the day that a government strong enough to try it, should erase article 7 of the Constitution, the day when the grand-children of Dessalines and Toussaint-Louverture, remembering the fraternal words of the Bible, will repeat to foreigners: Live with us: the land is our strength, cultivate there, do business there, and own it, that day, Haïti will again be la Reine des Antilles (the Queen of the Antilles).


Brian D. Oakes is translator of this document Mail him to comment

A couple of notes on the translation:
Comments in ( ) are my own or question words for which I have no
translation or do not know the meaning of. If anyone else can
help me with these it would be much appreciated.

Comments in { } are footnotes of the author that I have
introduced into the body of the text.

Comments in [ ] are La Selve's text comments in parentheses.

I would very much appreciate any comments or suggestions anyone
has on the translation job. Would anyone be interested in editing
this text into readable English once it is completed?

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