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Miscellanies: An Eighteenth-Century Plan to Invade Jamaica: Isaac Yeshurun Sasportas - French Patriot or Jewish Radical Idealist?

Zvi Loker

<plain_text><page sequence="1">An eighteenth-century plan to invade Jamaica; Isaac Yeshurun Sasportas - French patriot or Jewish radical idealist? ZVI LOKER Isaac Yeshurun Sasportas, a Portuguese Sephardi, was tried on a charge of espionage by Special Court Martial at Kingston, capital of Jamaica, in November 1799. He was found guilty, sentenced to death and publicly hanged on 23 December 1799.1 We know a certain amount about the events that led up to this. The French, in their sector of the neighbouring island of Hispaniola, which was called Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti), aimed to instigate a rising of slaves in British-ruled Jamaica and to invade the island with French forces. The Directoire in Paris thus hoped to harness one of the recurrent slave insurrections in Jamaica and, by propagating the Revolution's egalitarian ideas, to gain popular support in detaching Jamaica from the British crown. This would help the French, ultimately, to put an end to British naval rule in the Caribbean and to ensure France's continued presence in Saint-Domingue, which was already in a state of ferment and on its way to throwing off French sovereignty and attaining Negro-Haitian independence. Instructions from Paris along these lines found a ready hearing in Cap Frangais (now Cap Hai'tien), capital of Saint-Domingue. Officially ruled by the Directoire's 'Special Envoy to Saint-Domingue', Philippe Roume,2 the col? ony - or the western half of it as least - was in fact controlled by the French general of Negro-Haitian birth, Toussaint Louverture, former slave, architect of Haitian independence.3 In the aftermath of the 1791 slave insurrection in the colony, Louverture had proved the dominant personality and was appointed by France to be governor-general and commander of the armed forces. Philippe Roume was responsive to the idea of invading and annexing Jamaica, but he possessed only the scantiest information on events there. Plans of dubious worth were prepared by Isaac Yeshurun Sasportas (based on unverified assumptions) and by a French officer named Dubuisson (who hoped, incredibly, to enlist officers from among the French refugees in Jamaica who had served with him under the British). His contact with the British had begun when they conquered part of Saint-Domingue in 1783. They had held most ports and long stretches of the southern and western coasts until mid-1788, when a secret agreement to evacuate was signed between General Sir Thomas 132</page><page sequence="2">An eighteenth-century plan to invade Jamaica 133 Maitland and Toussaint Louverture with the knowledge and consent of the Americans. Roume certainly hated the English. Perhaps this drove him to the ill-considered decision to put the invasion under the leadership of a mulatto general named Martial Besse, who submitted an invasion plan of his own, based on a technical elaboration of Sasportas' project.4 According to the project finally adopted, Sasportas and Dubuisson were to prepare the ground in Jamaica by securing information and fomenting revolt among the slaves and the Maroons - runaway slaves hiding in the forests. A force of 400 men would conquer the island under the command of Martial Besse. Roume naturally had his plans ratified by General Louverture, who appeared to agree to the scheme. But in fact he so strongly opposed it that he passed on details to the British and the Americans. Perhaps he thought the operation had no chance of succeeding, or maybe he feared that the move would interfere with his consolidating a hold on the southwest of the colony, where his rival, the mulatto General Andre Rigaud,5 who similarly rejected the plan, had concentrated his forces. Whatever the case, in the unlikely event of the operation being crowned with success, French influence would be greatly strengthened, which Louverture did not want. Sasportas' involvement requires some explanation. The Jamaica affair was far from his first attempt at revolutionary activity. Some months before his voyage to Jamaica he had gone to the Dutch island of Curagao with a French officer, Urbain Devaux,6 with plans for liberating slaves there. The two French agents, apostles of freedom, were soon caught by the Dutch authorities and simply expelled.7 This setback did not discourage Sasportas from further revolutionary plans on his return to Saint-Domingue. It was his view that Jamaica was ripe for revolt, since clashes had taken place there since 1793 between the army and the Maroons who held out in some mountainous areas. But the 'Blue Mountains Revolt' was repressed swiftly and completely in 1798, proving Sasportas' evaluation wrong. He had intended to send a slave named Charles, who had belonged to his father but had joined the fugitive Maroons, to make contact with the masses. These were to have responded to the tidings of freedom and equality by deposing their British rulers and turning in gratitude to the French Republic. As we have seen, Sasportas was soon arrested in Kingston. The authorities were already in possession of his general and operational plans and his memoranda, and were anyway on the lookout for further slave uprisings.8 His partner in the operation, Dubuisson, had informed on him and made a full confession the moment he was caught, turning king's evidence to secure his own release.9 Sasportas, not knowing this, offered a credible and apparently</page><page sequence="3">134 Zvi Loker reasonable story in his own defence. He said he had come to Jamaica to trade; he had intended to purchase a ship and had paid a certain sum in advance. Sasportas recounted how, after arriving in Jamaica, he had met an innkeeper named Paul Gavias and two local Jews, Louis Garcia and Alexander Lindo. Only Garcia and the Frenchman were called to give evidence at the trial. Garcia confirmed his knowledge that Sasportas wanted to buy a ship,10 corroborated the accused's statement that the Jews of the West Indies swore allegiance to the Spanish crown,11 and said that he knew two brothers of the accused, Benjamin and Elias. The Frenchman testified that Sasportas had in fact deposited a sum of money with him as he claimed at the trial. They could not, however, influence the now inevitable outcome. His interrogation was practically unnecessary, so it was brief.12 The British governor, the Earl of Balcarres,13 receiving the legal opinion on the matter, appointed a court martial of sixteen officers, presided over by General George Churchill. The court soon completed its task and ordered the death sentence to be carried out in a manner 'as public and disgraceful as possible', in the hope of rendering the example 'most striking and effectual to those concerned in like practices'. Sasportas was accordingly maltreated by his guards and prison warders until, the day before Christmas eve, he was led out to execution with placards on his chest and back inscribed with the word 'SPY wrote in large characters', as directed by the court. Eye-witnesses relate that Sasportas was calm, despite the ill-treatment he had received, and that, standing before his black coffin prior to his execution, he managed to cry out, 'Vive la liberte, vive la Republique!'14 The two men in the vanguard of the invasion plan differed considerably in their motivation. Dubuisson was an officer in the regular French Army, unemployed after his service in the Desources regiment which had collaborated with the British during their years of occupation. He explained at his interrogation how the English officer in charge of the British evacuation from the port of Jeremie had refused to let him board the last ship that set sail. He had later tried his hand at trade. Dubuisson was recommended to Roume by General Kerverseau, a fellow-officer from the regular army, who was then French representative in the eastern, Spanish part of Hispaniola. Kerverseau was not only in favour of the invasion and believed in its success, but also wished to help Dubuisson to redeem himself by a clearly patriotic act. If Dubuisson really wished to prove his renewed loyalty to France, he was not fully successful. But at least he achieved his personal aim - which may have been his only one - of reaching Kingston in British territory. It is possible that he considered this sufficient, and had never intended to carry out reconnais? sance work. Perhaps he found it convenient, when he was arrested, to make</page><page sequence="4">An eighteenth-century plan to invade Jamaica 135 much of his military past and to boast of his loyalty to the British. He gave the names of two British officers who he said would testify on his behalf, and he even claimed to have 'saved' the British from the French on Saint-Domingue. He was rewarded for his second betrayal of France, and this time of his accomplice too, by being given his freedom, while leaving the other man to be hanged. The Sasportas family was well known in the Portuguese communities of the Caribbean. Rabbi I. S. Emmanuel's view that Isaac Sasportas was directly related to Haham Rabbi Yaakov Sasportas, however, is unlikely to be correct.15 As to his age, Emmanuel relates that a Jew named Isaac Yeshurun Sasportas reached Cap Frangais as early as 1758,16 while Kerverseau states that Sasportas was only 22 or 23 in 1799. He knew Spanish, French and English (this last acquired in Charleston, South Carolina, where there already existed a Portuguese Sephardi community). The Family of Isaac Yeshurun Sasportas (Near Relations) According to evidence at and in connection with the trial Name Relationship Where settled Sources of information/Remarks Yaakov Father Jamaica, Curacao (a) Evidence of Louis Garcia at the trial farm-owner and agent on Exchange (b) Emmanuel (see note 7) 628 et seq. Moshe Uncle Charleston, (a) G. Debien (see note 1) 6 S. Carolina (b) In Curacao, Emmanuel (see note 7) 762 1792 - agent on Exchange Unknown Uncle Hamburg Unknown Uncle Bordeaux Unknown Aunt Bordeaux in 1798 Yosef Brother Letter to his brother of 29 March 1798 (Balcarres Papers) Elias Brother Mentioned by Garcia at the trial Avraham Brother Jamaica (in 1798?) Wolffand Witheman, History of the ship's captain Jews of Philadelphia, p. 166 Yaakov Brother Procured ships to seize British vessels Benyamin Brother Mentioned by Garcia at the trial</page><page sequence="5">136 Zvi Loker Laurent Brother Europe Aharon Brother Cap Frangais (Saint-Domingue) Rachel Sisters Saint-Thomas Unmarried and two others Yitzhak Cousin Saint-Thomas Voyaged between Saint Thomas and Saint-Domingue Other members of the Sasportas family 1620-1698 Name Where settled Sources of information/Remarks 1 In France Aharon Sasportas Avraham Sasportas A widow Sasportas Avraham Sasportas 2 Curacao Aharon Sasportas Yaakov ben Aharon Yitzhak Yeshurun Rafael Yeshurun Moshe Yeshurun 3 In Amsterdam Yaakov Sasportas 4 In England Shmuel Sasportas Yaakov Sasportas Yosef Sasportas Shmuel Sasportas Sarah (de Soto) Sasportas In Bordeaux at the beginning of the 18th century In Bordeaux at the beginning of the 18th century His wife, Dvorah, died in 1762 In Bordeaux in 1730 In Bordeaux. Member of the Consis? tory in 1808 (Grandson of Haham Sasportas) Died in 1783 (husband of Rachel) Died in 1748. (His wife, Leah, died in 1762.) (Son of Rafael, above). Died in 1794. Rafael, son of Moshe, was ship's captain in 1796 Rabbi in London (1664-5) and Amsterdam; taught in Talmud Tor ah; opposed the adherents of Shabbatai Zvi. Died 1698. (1664-81) Agent on Exchange. Naturalized on 16 Dec. 1687. Innkeeper 1772 In London in 1812 Emmanuel (see note 7) (Details from Emmanuel, Precious Stones of the Jews of Curacao, [1957] and Emmanuel [see note 7].) G. Scholem 'Sabbatai Sebi - The Mystical Messiah 1626-1676' (1973) 546-7.</page><page sequence="6">An eighteenth-century plan to invade Jamaica 137 We know of Sasportas' views only through his memorandum and the declaration made in the course of his interrogation. For Sasportas, the Jamaica affair was his last attempt at revolution.17 A man of considerable means, he travelled from island to island in the Caribbean trading in textiles.18 He had connections all the way from Danish Saint Thomas in the south,19 Curagao in the west and Saint-Domingue, Cuba and Jamaica in the east. He wished to buy a ship. He was said to be a card-player who could take heavy losses. From these fragments of information it is reasonable to deduce that he was not motivated by gain. He had been recommended to Roume by Urbain Devaux, the officer who accompanied him on the earlier unsuccessful effort in Curagao. In a memorandum of 11 April 1798, Sasportas stated, It is my wish to serve my country with distinction and honour and to aid progress'. He went on to say that he had become 'enthused with the idea of liberty' and was ready to go to Jamaica and 'plant the tricolour flag or die'.20 At this point, it will be of interest to quote verbatim the sentence in this affair, including the orders for its execution (as copied from the 'Royal Gazette [of Jamaica]' XXI, No. 51, from 14 December to 21 December 1799). GENERAL ORDERS Head Quarters, St. Jago de la Vega, 18th December, 1799 The Military Court, held by virtue of a Special Commission under the Broad Seal of this Island, consisting of Fifteen Commissioners, assembled at St. Jago de la Vega, on Monday, the 16 instant, and proceeded to the trial of Isaac, alias Joseph Sas Portas, on the following CHARGE: 'For Entering the Island of Jamaica, during war as a Spy, hired and employed by the enemy for hostile purposes'. On Tuesday, the 17th instant, the Court pronounced sentence, in the following words: Sentence: On mature consideration of the evidence adduced on this trial; the Court is of opinion, that the charge against the prisoner, Isaac, otherwise called Joseph Sas Portas, has been clearly substantiated, and that he is guilty thereof; The Court, therefore, adjudges, that the prisoner be hanged by the neck until he be dead, at such time and place as the Commander in Chief shall think fit. But the enormity of the crime induces the Court to hope, that, to render the example most striking and effectual to those concerned in like practices, the execution of this Sentence will be made as public and disgraceful as possible. Signed: Geo. Churchill, M.G., President; Geo. Fead, Col.; M. Noble, Lt. Col. 67th Regt.; Cha. M. Murdo, Lt. Col.; J. Grant, Lt Col., 46th Regt.; Tho. Phil. Ainslie, Lt. Col.; R. R. Gillespie, Major, 20th L.D.; Col. Campbell, Capt., 60th Regt.; Edw. Codd, Capt.,</page><page sequence="7">138 Zvi Loker 6oth Regt.; C. de la Housaye, Capt., ist Bat., 6oth; G. Valmont, Capt., ist Bat., 6oth; Thos. Walker, Capt., 4th Bat., 6oth; Thos. Fellowes, Lt., 20th Drag.; John O'Brien, Lt., 6oth Regt.; F. Smith, Deputy Judge Advocate N.B.: Captain Maxwell, absent from sickness. The Commander in Chief approves and confirms this Sentence, which he orders to be put into execution at Kingston, on Monday the 23 instant, between the hours 4 &amp; 5 o'clock p.m. on the square in front of the barracks. The Garrisons ofthat town, and of New Park, as also the Militia of Kingston, will form on the square, one 1/4 of an hour before Four o'clock, to witness the Execution. The whole to be under the disposition of Maj. General Churchill, who will assume the command in that melancholy occasion. Sergeant-Major Gibes, of the 4th Batalion, 60th Regiment, is appointed Provost-Marshal. The Kingston Barracks Guard is to become the Provost-Guard, until the 24th instant. The Military Court, of which Maj. Gen. Churchill is first Commissioner, is hereby dissolved and the commission cancelled. (sgd) J. Grant, D.A.G. G.A.O. H.O., December 18th, 1799 The Provost-Guard to be of such a strength, as to afford a double sentinel to be placed over the prisoner, who must be secured in irons, and every other means of precaution used, as occasion may require. The prisoner is to be marched to Execution having a Label fixed on his breast, and the word SPY wrote in large characters. Such persons may have access to the prisoner as he shall choose, for the purpose of assisting him in his devotions. The prisoner to be conveyed, early tomorrow morning, from St. Jago de la Vega [nowadays Spanish Town] to Kingston Guard-House, properly secured, and under an escort of 1 Sergeant, 1 Corporal, and 6 Dragoons, who will deliver him to Capt. Campbell, or Officer commanding in the Barracks, which Officer will give him over to the Provost-Marshal. The awful order of this day to be communicated to the prisoner, on his arrival at the Kingston Guard-House. J. Grant, D.A.G. After his death, he received praise for his conduct following his arrest by two official French representatives, one of whom was General Kerverseau, patron of his betrayer.21 Unfortunately, very little is known of Sasportas' life. French historians direct well-deserved criticism at Roume for his lack of judgment, pointing out that he made no attempt to inform himself about Sasportas' past. They affirm that Sasportas was born at Cap Frangais and was apparently French. His mother-tongue, and that spoken by his family was French; but he sometimes claimed to be Spanish. He resided in Jamaica,22 and had an uncle in Charleston,</page><page sequence="8">An eighteenth-century plan to invade Jamaica 139 South Carolina.23 Another uncle was in trade in Hamburg, and other relations were in Bordeaux.24 General Kerverseau wrote, weakly excusing himself for his part in the 'Jamaica plan', that Sasportas was 'une espece de juif errant... dans les Antilles . . . connu que par ses inconsequences et par sa passion de jeu' (a despicable wandering Jew ... in the West Indies ... known only for his erratic behaviour and his passion for gambling). Why he considered Sasportas merely an adventurer he does not explain. This stylized portrait, characteristic of Jews in the Caribbean, endows the episode with special interest. As regards the motives that impelled Sasportas to volunteer for the mission, all the available information seems to indicate that this peripatetic trader, who was familiar with most of the islands of the region, their languages and customs, had been inspired by the ideas and spirit of the French Revolution. He probably acted less as a French citizen than as a radical idealist who was carried away by the intoxicating watchwords of liberty and equality, for which he was ready to fight and die. Insurrections of African slaves took place in Jamaica from the end of the 17th century onwards. The first large-scale rising was led by a man named Cudjoe, or Codjo, who was never caught. Though it had never actually endangered British rule in the colony, the event became something of a legend. Other risings took place in the first half of the 18th century, in 1730 and in 1739-40. Then a truce was agreed between the administration and the Maroons, who contented themselves with their relative freedom in the forests and more or less refrained from attacking estates and townspeople. But after 1793, risings again took place in the Montego Bay area and in the Blue Mountains near the capital, Kingston. These were put down so firmly that Englishmen were afterwards to be found voicing their reservations about the cruelty employed. Following the successful insurrection in Saint-Domingue at the beginning of the 1790s, the Jamaican authorities were rightly afraid of similar conspiracies originating from the same source. The Jamaican garrison, moreover, had been weakened by wars in Europe and was reduced to no more than two to three thousand soldiers. But the island defences were well organized, based on British control of the sea by warships and merchantmen alike. The British also had the benefit of American backing, in return for freedom of trade and merchant ships sailing under the US flag.25 Saint-Domingue had been in a difficult situation ever since the insurrection began, both because of the intermittent fighting and the erratic nature of supplies from France. The two-fold rule on the island - on the one hand the military commander and governor, Toussaint Louverture, and on the other the Directoire's Special Envoy representing the mother country - promoted neither</page><page sequence="9">140 Zvi Loker unity nor stability. The country was beginning to recover and reorganize after the British occupation of the western ports which lasted from 1793 to August 1798, but there were already fears of the coming civil war between Louverture, governor and leader of the black masses, and the mulatto General Andre Rigaud, who established himself in the southwest, mainly round the town of Jacmel. At the same time there were changes within the white minority, some of them promoted by royalist opponents of the revolution, not a few of whom had abandoned their estates and emigrated together with the British or soon after. There were few French soldiers, and the partly-armed organized forces were under the command of the local French rival generals: Louverture and Rigaud. Under such circumstances a foreign expedition would seem to be ill-judged. Yet Roume, a native of Grenada, which had been in turn Spanish, French, then jointly Anglo-French and finally English, thought otherwise. He no doubt calculated that if the British naval blockade could be broken, supplies would arrive from nearby Jamaica even when those from further away were delayed. It would simultaneously serve to weaken the authority of Louverture, whose loyalty to France was already suspect. Louverture's intentions were clear and on the face of it seem more sensible than Roume's. He knew that his soldiers were a political trump card that secured him power and influence. He had decided to end the internal struggle on the island with his rival, Rigaud, and to work for independence.26 There would be little point in his becoming involved in a foreign war where success was doubtful and where even a victory, by redounding to the glory of France and her power in the region, would interfere with his own ambitions. Louverture therefore deceived Roume, by appearing to support the Jamaica initiative while actually making sure of its utter failure. In this, as in other matters during his rule as governor, Louverture gave proof of a single-minded and realistic approach which finally won his country its independence. The United States of America were inevitably interested in events in the Caribbean because of the need to keep their sea routes open for trade. As regards Saint-Domingue, however, the American attitude was coloured by fear of a regime run by freed slaves and of its possible influence on the southern states.27 But the Americans had little choice but to recognize the success of the Haitian insurrection against France, although they later stood by the British and supported the British-Haiti agreement signed by Maitland and Louverture. As for their attitude to Louverture himself, the US consul-general, Dr Edward Stevens, recognized his strength and talents and recommended that the State Department give him its backing. Stevens' main considerations were the preservation of local and regional stability and the continuation of free trade</page><page sequence="10">An eighteenth-century plan to invade Jamaica 141 ensured to the Americans under Louverture's rule. It was most doubtful that this freedom would be maintained under white French-metropolitan sover? eignty. Historians have shown little curiosity about Sasportas. In a book on the Saint-Domingue revolution, the German historian Erwin Ruesch refers to Sasportas as 'a Cuban Jew',28 although Cuba remained under Spanish rule until 1829. He adds only that he was 'a cloth merchant'. The Anglo-Jamaican historian, Clinton Black, who also referred to this episode briefly, from the Jamaican point of view, relates only that 'two spies' were caught, that they were French agents, and that Dubuisson 'saved himself by turning King's evidence' while Sasportas was hanged. He went on to say that as a result of this affair, a number of French refugees and their slaves were expelled from Jamaica, for fear of Negro risings.29 The modern French historians, Debien and Pluchon, while harshly criticizing the French representatives, express reservations about the character of Sasportas ('inconsequent and unstable'). Only the Jewish historian, Emmanuel, concludes from Sasportas' earlier activities in Curagao that he was 'an ardent revolutionary' and judges him at all favourably.30 Although Sasportas unquestionably acted as a Frenchman and to further French aims, all historians refer to his having been a Jew. The minutes of the Jamaican governing council's deliberations contain the marginal note: 'Sasportas a Jew'. The interrogators of the witness Louis Garcia felt the fact that he was a Jew told against him. That his contemporaries regarded Sasportas with contempt and revulsion is hardly surprising, for it was more than two generations before Jews obtained civil rights in France, England and their colonies.31 No doubt this partly explains why an idealist was hanged, while a French soldier was freed, for committing one and the same crime. Sasportas was an alien. Sapienti sat. Summary of events A Before the capture of Dubuisson and Sasportas 1795-8 Uprisings of fugitive slaves in Jamaica in Montego Bay and the 'Blue Mountains' where they assembled. 1798 Instructions from Paris to the Special Envoy of the Directory to organize an insurrection in Jamaica. 9.2.1799 Decision of US Congress to open trade routes to Saint-Domingue. 7-3-1799 Letter from Toussaint Louverture to John Adams, President of the United States, on the subject. April 1799 Suggestion to General Rigaud that he prepare the invasion. He refuses. It is then decided that Martial Besse will command the action. 11.4.1799 (22 Germinal) Officer of Operations, Urbain Devaux, presents Sasportas to</page><page sequence="11">142 Zvi Loker Roume, who spoke to Toussaint Louverture about the plan on that same day. 14.4.1799 Philippe Roume, Representative of France, receives the Memorandum. 25.4.1799 Meeting of Roume, Louverture and Sasportas. End May 1799 A white emissary is sent to Jamaica (no indication of his name or of the results of his mission). May 1799 French mission to Curacao - Devaux and Sasportas. 13.6.1799 Secret agreement between Toussaint Louverture and General Maitland (20 Prairial an VII) concerning the evacuation of British forces in return for economic cooperation. 19.7.1799 Roume frames instructions to the two agents about their leaving for Jamaica. 25.8.1799 General Toussaint Louverture transmits the plans for the invasion of Jamaica to the Americans and English on the British ship Ark'. End August 1799 Jamaican government receives additional details on the invasion plan. 8.9.1799 General Kerverseau presents Dubuisson to Roume. 10.9.1799 Sasportas deported from Curacao on board the 'George'. 2 5 ? 9 ?179 9 Operational plan prepared by General Martial Besse, designated the officer in charge of the operation, submitted to Roume and Toussaint Louverture. 30.9.1799 US Consul-General, Dr Edward Stevens, informs Secretary of State Pickering of the details of the French invasion plans. 2.10.1799 Sasportas reports to General Toussaint Louverture. B After the two agents' arrival in Jamaica 18.11.1799 Arrest of Dubuisson and Sasportas. 19-21.11.1799 Interrogation before the Council of Government. 29.11.1799 Limitations on the stay of French refugee officers in Jamaica. 4.12.1799 Legal discussion in the Jamaican Government and decision re Special Court Martial already constituted on strength of opinion of Legal Adviser P. Redwood and of Edmond Lion. The Government confirms the judicial powers of the Court Martial. 5.12.1799 Interrogation of Dubuisson and grant of authority to the Governor to appoint the members of the Court Martial. 10.12.1799 First session of the Court Martial, presided by General Churchill. 17.12.1799 Publication of the death sentence passed on Sasportas. 18.12.1799 The Court lays down the manner of execution; the Commander of the Forces confirms the sentence; the Commander of Police issues his instructions on the arrangements for the hanging. 22.12.1799 The Jamaican Parliament decides to request military reinforcements, 'in the light of the prospective dangers and the rumours concerning liberation of the slaves'. 23.12.1799 Sasportas is hanged in the central square of Kingston, 'having a Label fixed to his breast' (and another on his back) 'and the word SPY wrote in large characters'. NOTES i The episode is described by G. Debien and P. Pluchon, 'Un plan d'invasion de la Jamaique en 1799 et la politique anglo-ameri caine de Toussaint Louverture', Quarterly of the Haitian Historical Society (Port-au-Prince, July 1978) no. 119, reprinted in G. Debien (ed.)</page><page sequence="12">An eighteenth-century plan to invade Jamaica 14 3 Notes d'Histoire Coloniale CLXXXVI (Paris) 73 pp. They relied on documents in the French National Archives; the Public Record Office in London; on the papers of the Earl of Balcarres, governor of Jamaica 1795-1801, in the John Rylands Library, Manchester; on the letters of Edward Stevens, US consul-general in Saint Domingue; and on those of Toussaint Louver? ture, in the National Archives in Washington, and published in the American Historical Review XVI (Oct. 1910-July 1919). The authors utilized the French translation by Laqueur (Port-au-Prince 1935). The authors claim that the Haitian leader did not at this time act in a manner befitting a French general or serve French interests faithfully. 2 On him, see 'Un plan ...' (see n. 1) 6, n. 6. 3 Much has been written on him (see bibliographies on Haiti). But see, Edner Brutus, Revolution dans Saint-Domingue 2 vols (Les Editions du Pantheon, undated, printed in Belgium), and the recent research of Pierre Pluchon, Toussaint Louverture - de Vesclavage au pouvoir Paris and Port-au-Prince 1979. Pluchon mentions Louverture's secretary: 'Nathan, Juif interprete' (p. 243), but we have not been able to trace him further. His being a Jew is stated in preference to his family name. 4 'Un plan . . . ' (see n. 1) 7, n. 8 et seq. 5 'Un plan . . . ' (see n. 1) 7, n. 7. After a protracted struggle, Rigaud was defeated by Louverture and left for France. 6 'Un plan . . . ' (see n. 1) 9, n. 15. 7 The incident was first related by the Dutch historian, M.D. Tenstra, De Nederlansche West-Indische Eilanden in derselver tegenwoor digen toestandll (Amsterdam 1837) 83-5. The Emmanuels utilized Teenstra and also the archives of the Dutch West Indies Company, which contain a document stating th^t Sas? portas wanted to overthrow the local govern? ment in Curacao and demand a ransom of half-a-million francs to be paid by the rich, once the island came under French sover? eignty. Isaac S. and Suzanne A. Emmanuel, History of the Jews in the Netherlands Antilles I (American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati 19 71) 284-5. 8 The minutes survive in the island's archives in Spanish Town, Haiti. 'Un plan (see n. 1) gives some quotations and a partial summary (p. 39, n. 62) in a French trans? lation. 9 'Un plan . . . ' (see n. 1) passim. Apparently, on his return to Saint-Domingue he was drowned at sea, perhaps with assist? ance. 10 He once voyaged on a French ship of which he was part owner. For Jewish ship? owners in Curacao, see Emmanuel II (see n. 7) 681-738. 11 The minutes record that Sasportas told his judges, T swore an oath of allegiance to the King of Spain and not the King of England'. On his voyages to Cuba he may have pretended to be a Christian subject of Spain, but there is no proof that he was a permanent resident of Cuba. He must have tried to use this to escape a British trial. 12 It is characteristic that the governor presented his council with a legal opinion to the effect that he was empowered to convene a Special Court Martial, and that it was already constituted in October 1799, before the spies even reached the shores of Jamaica. 13 Alexander Lindsay, sixth Earl of Bal carres (1752-1825), served as governor from 1795 to 1801. See F. Cundall, FSA, Biographi? cal Annals of Jamaica (1904) who emphasizes that he was responsible for cruelly suppressing the Maroons' insurrection in 1795 in contra? vention of the terms of the armistice concluded with them. 14 Referred to by Teenstra (see n. 7) 85, and by Emmanuel (see n. 7) 284, and in greater detail in the report of Pothier (the French consul in Sant Iago de Cuba), quoted in 'Un plan . . . ' (see n. 1) 46-7. 15 See Emmanuel I (see n. 7) 284, where he is stated to have been 'most probably a descendant of Haham Jeshurun'. 16 See Emmanuel II (see n. 7) 828. De? scribed as one of four Jews who set sail from Curagao to Saint-Domingue. It may concern an older man, member of the same family. 17 See 'Unplan...' (seen. 1) 14-15, and Emmanuel (see n. 7). 18 Cited by government officials and French officers as an insult. In Jewish terms (but not among Christians) the textile trade was an honoured occupation even before the expulsion from Spain, and draperos enjoyed fairly high social status.</page><page sequence="13">144 Zvi Loker 19 Danish territory until the First World War. Because Denmark, was neutral, the port of Charlotte-Amelie, the capital, served as a trade zone. In the 18th century there were Portuguese Jewish communities there and on Ste-Croix. A Portuguese synagogue survives in Charlotte-Amelie. The history of these com? munities still has to be recorded. 20 'Un plan . . . ' (see n. 1) 11, appendix. 21 Consul Pothier reported that during the entire period after his arrest, the accused acted 'with cool composure' and 'defended himself in successful fashion' despite the com? plicated and debasing ceremony on the eve of the execution. See 'Un plan . . . ' (see n. 1) 46. In Roume's report to Paris, Sasportas is called 'un excellent republicain' (ibid. 51). 22 'Un plan ...' (see n. 1) 12-14. See n. 1 above. 23 The 'Holy Community of the House of God' (Kehilla k'dusha Beit Elohim), the second Jewish community in America, was founded by 'individuals' of the Spanish dispersion com? ing from the Caribbean region. In most of the early communities in the United States, an important role was played by Portuguese such as Sasportas' uncle in Charleston. The trading connections between these and the communi? ties in the Caribbean constituted an important source of support for the communities in both the north and the south of the Caribbean. 24 On the establishment of the Bordeaux community and its history in the 18th cen? tury, see Zvi Loker, 'From Con verso Congrega? tion to Holy Community: The shaping of the Jewish community of Bordeaux during the 18th century', Zion XLII (1977) 49-94. 25 At the Jamaican government council on 22 November 1799, a proclamation was adopted permitting American ships to sail from Jamaica to the Straits of Honduras carrying cloth and other merchandize for a period of one year. This is just one example of the economic cooperation between England and America at the time. Louverture was also interested in peace and free trade, and wrote to President John Adams of the United States as early as 8 November 1798 offering to renew maritime trade connections with America. It seems that this influenced the favourable view taken of him by the American authorities. Louverture's letter was published in the American Historical Review XVI (Oct. 1910-July 1911) 66-7. 26 This emerges from the reports of the American representative in Saint-Domingue. See the protracted correspondence between the American consul-general, Dr Edward Stevens, and the State Department, in the National Archives, Washington. Stevens, a physician, was called upon to fill this delicate diplomatic mission because he knew French well, was a native of the Caribbean (he was born in Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands, then a Danish possession) and was well acquainted with the whole region. His well supported recommendations tended to side with Louverture, in whom he saw the national leader of Haiti. Parts of these reports were published in the American Historical Review (see n. 23) 64-101. 2 7 See The Great Republic: A History of the American People (Boston and Toronto 1977) 314: 'By the 1770's, the South was living with a growing fear, fed by the Negro insurrections in Santo Domingo, of the newly invigorated American presumption that people every? where, white or black, yearned for freedom.' 28 See n. 16 above. Erwin Ruesch Die Revolution von Saint-Domingue VI (Hamburg 1930) 120. The one paragraph is based on Stevens' diplomatic reports, and the reference to the American Quarterly is inaccurate. 29 Clinton V. Black, The Story of Jamaica (London 1965) 118-19. The names of the spies are wrongly given as 'Duboison' and 'Sas Portas'. 30 See Emmanuel I (see n. 7) 284. 31 French colonies had been closed to Jews since 1685 under the so-called 'Code Noir', the very first clause of which imposed this ban. Nevertheless some Jews did enter, whether as Jews or as conversos. Agitation by Jesuit missionaries, however, led to their expulsion from Martinique as early as 1683. Some settled in south Saint-Domingue.</page></plain_text>

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