Vincent Ogé c.1790
Saint-Domingue (later Haiti)
|Died||6 February 1791
|Known for||Rebellion Leader|
Vincent Ogé (c.1755–1791) was a wealthy free man of color and the instigator of a revolt against white colonial authority in French Saint-Domingue that lasted from October to December 1790 in the area outside Cap-Français, the colony's main city. The Ogé revolt of 1790 foretold the massive slave uprising of August 1791 that began the Haïtian Revolution.
Ogé was a wealthy and educated free man of colour born in Saint-Domingue, probably of one-quarter African descent and three-quarters French ancestry (a "quadroon"). He was the third son of Jacques Ogé, a white man and Jacqueline Ossé, a free woman of color. With eight children, the Ogé family was large, and Vincent is often confused with his older brother Jacques, who was also involved in what as known as the Ogé revolt. The family owned a coffee plantation in Dondon parish and his mother later held a contract to supply meat to the town's butchers. Educated in Bordeaux, Ogé returned to work with his uncle and namesake Vincent Ogé, a merchant in the major colonial city of Cap Français (today's Cap-Haïtien). Vincent Ogé jeune (the younger), as he was called for most of his life, eventually took over his uncle's business. He leased valuable urban properties, traded coffee and imported French products to the colony.
In 1789 he was in Paris on business when the French Revolution broke out. By August of that year he had approached a group of colonial planters living in Paris to propose changing racial laws in the colony that discriminated against light-skinned men regardless of their wealth and education. Independently Julien Raimond, from a similar background in Saint-Domingue, spoke to the group of planters about the same time. When the planters (called grands blancs) rebuffed their ideas, Ogé and Raimond began to attend meetings in Paris of a group of headed by Étienne Dejoly, a white lawyer. He was a member of the Society of the Friends of the Blacks (Société des Amis des Noirs), an anti-slavery society founded in 1788 in Paris by Jacques Pierre Brissot.
Together with Dejoly, Raimond and Ogé quickly became the leaders of this group. They began to pressure the French National Assembly to give them representation and to force the colonists to allow voting rights for wealthy free men of color. Like others of their class, both men owned slaves in Saint-Domingue, and they claimed they did not intend to weaken slavery. Instead, they said, making free men of color equal to whites in political rights would strengthen their devotion to France and make the system of slavery more secure.
In October 1790 Ogé returned to Saint-Domingue determined to obtain voting privileges for free men of color, whether by persuasion or force. He believed that an amendment passed by the General Assembly of France in March of that year asserted the equality of free men of property. It read "all the proprietors... ought to be active citizens." Ogé believed this gave him the right to vote in upcoming colonial elections. He put pressure on the colonial governor and other authorities to guarantee the voting rights of wealthy free men of color; the colonial governor Count de Blanchelande refused. While free men of color had become educated and some were wealthy property owners, colonial laws excluded them from voting and holding office, and limited them in other ways.
After his return to Saint-Domingue, Vincent Ogé sent this letter from Grande Rivière, his camp in the Department of the North, to the President of the Assembly of that department:
GENTLEMEN:—A prejudice, too long maintained, is about to fall. I am charged with a commission doubtless very honorable to myself. I require you to promulgate throughout the colony the instructions of the National Assembly of the 8th of March, which gives without distinction, to all free citizens, the right of admission to all offices and functions. My pretensions are just, and I hope you will pay due regard to them. I shall not call the plantations to rise; that means would be unworthy of me. Learn to appreciate the merit of a man whose intention is pure. When I solicited from the National Assembly a decree which I obtained in favour of the American colonists, formerly known under the injurious epithet of mulattos, I did not include in my claims the condition of the negroes who live in servitude. You and our adversaries have misrepresented my steps in order to bring me into discredit with honorable men. No, no, gentlemen! we have put forth a claim only on behalf of a class of freemen, who, for two centuries, have been under the yoke of oppression. We require the execution of the decree of the 8th of March. We insist on its promulgation, and we shall not cease to repeat to our friends that our adversaries are unjust, and that they know not how to make their interests compatible with ours. Before employing my means, I make use of mildness; but if, contrary to my expectation, you do not satisfy my demand, I am not answerable for the disorder into which my just vengeance may carry me.
— VINCENT OGÉ TO THE MEMBERS COMPOSING THE PROVINCIAL ASSEMBLY OF THE CAPE
With support Ogé obtained from the British abolitionist Thomas Clarkson in London, Ogé returned to Saint-Domingue via Charleston, South Carolina. Though planters accused him of purchasing firearms in the United States, there is no evidence of this. In October 1790, he arrived in Saint-Domingue. Meeting with Jean-Baptiste Chavannes, another free man of color, militiaman, and veteran of the American Revolution, Ogé soon gathered a force of about 250 to 300 free men of color. This group men successfully defeated or frightened away several detachments of colonial militia sent out from Cap Français.
Ogé and his rebels were flushed out by a larger force of professional soldiers and forced across the border into the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo. On 20 November 1790, Ogé and 23 of his associates, including Jean-Baptiste Chavannes, were captured in Hinche, then part of the Spanish controlled part of Hispaniola. They surrendered after receiving guarantees of safety, but the Spanish authorities nevertheless returned Ogé and his men to the colonial government of de Blanchelande in Le Cap.
Vincent Ogé was brutally executed by being broken on the wheel in the public square in Le Cap on 6 February 1791. Dozens more of his men were severely punished in February 1791. Their treatment served only to heat up the already boiling cauldron of dissatisfaction among free men of color and slaves in the colony. Ogé became an important symbol of the injustices of a colonial slave society that wanted to restrict the benefits of the French Revolution to whites only.
- Beard, J. R. (John Relly) (1863). Toussaint L'Ouverture: A Biography and Autobiography, Boston: James Redpath, Archived by Academic Affairs Library, University of North Carolina
- Garrigus, John D. (2010). "'Thy Coming Fame, Ogé! Is Sure': New Evidence on Ogé's 1790 Revolt and the Beginnings of the Haitian Revolution", pages 19–45 in John Garrigus and Chris Morris, eds., Assumed Identities: The Meanings of Race in the Atlantic World (Texas A&M University Press, 2010) ISBN 978-1-60344-192-6
- James, C.L.R. (1989). The Black Jacobins. Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution, New York: Vintage Press, (2nd Ed., Revised) ISBN 0-679-72467-2
- Kennedy, Roger G. (1989). Orders from France: The Americans and the French in a Revolutionary World, 1780–1820, New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-394-55592-9
- Rainsford, Marcus (1805). An Historical Account of the Black Empire of Hayti: Comprehending a View of the Principal Transactions in the Revolution of Saint-Domingo; with its Ancient and Modern State, London (first published in 1802)
- Lacroix, Pamphile & Pluchon, Pierre (1995) La Révolution de Haïti: texte intégral de l'édition originale, Paris:Karthala Editions. ISBN 2-86537-571-4 (originally published as Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire de la Révolution de Saint-Domingue, Paris : Pillet aîné, 1819)
- Langston, John Mercer. (1858) "The World's Anti-Slavery Movement: Its Heroes and its Triumphs", (Lecture, Xenia and Cleveland, Ohio, 2 and 3 August 1858), Oberlin College, (retrieved 2009-01-09)
- Rogozinski, Jan (1999). A Brief History of the Caribbean (Revised ed.). New York: Facts on File, Inc. p. 167. ISBN 0-8160-3811-2.
- Stewart King Blue Coat or Powdered Wig: Free People of Color in Pre-Revolutionary Saint-Domingue Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 2001, 208 discusses Ogé's ancestry. His mother was mixed-race and his father was French.
- "The Haitian Revolution of 1791–1803". Retrieved 3 August 2007.
- Beard, p. 46-47
- Kennedy, p. 136
- James, pp. 73–74
- The Louverture Project: "Vincent Ogé"
- "Motion Made by Vincent Ogé the Younger to the Assembly of Colonists, 1789", Center for History and New Media, George Mason University