Georges Bissaou: The Black Spanish General Whose Slave Revolt Sparked The Haiti Revolution In 1700s

Photo credit: Alchetron
Photo credit: Alchetron


In Haut du Cap, then-colonial Haiti’s capital, Georges Biassou worked as a slave driver on the Jesuit Sugar estate. Carlos and Diana, two slaves who lived in the French colony of Saint Domingue, were his parents. His mother was a Fathers of Charity employee at Cap-Francais’ Providence Hospital.

According to the Enslaved, Biassou gained widespread recognition when he emerged as the leader of the Haitian revolt in the late 1700s.

On August 14, 1792, at the Lenormand de Mézy Plantation in Haut du Cap, he met a group of slave owners, sparking the start of the revolution against slavery.

However, thousands of slaves stormed their farm in Northern Haiti and set their buildings and fields on fire before their uprising got going. After the death of the revolt’s leader, Boukman Dutty, Biassou and another leader, Jean-Francois, assumed control of the slave army.

Toussaint Louverture is frequently credited as the founder of the Haitian revolution, but the revolt Biassou and Jean-Francois planned was actually what gave rise to the uprising.

Biassou and his fellow leaders forced the Haiti Colonial Assembly to sign a peace treaty in court in 1791.

The uprising’s original goal was to seek the release of the slaves, but as the conflicts went on, the uprising’s objectives altered. As the slaves returned to the plantations, Biassou and the other leaders pleaded with the slave owners to release the slaves and their families. Their plea and other offerings were rejected by the French government, which sparked the uprising.

Biassou and Jean-Francois, the revolt’s two commanders, each launched a separate attack on a city under French rule.

While Jean-Francois focused on the border towns between Spanish Santo Domingo, Biassou targeted Cap-Francais.

The French National Assembly agreed to enable freed slaves to vote in national elections as a result of pressure from the uprising and the abolitionist movement in France. However, in Haiti, where the Colonial Assembly created favorable conditions for slavery to flourish, the situation was different. Following the toppling of the French King Louis XVI in August 1792, this attitude changed.

Due to the assassination of King Louis, the Crowns of Spain and England engaged in war with France. In an effort to take control of Haiti, Spain and England reached out to the rebellious slave leaders. In 1793, Biassou and his fellow leaders continued their uprising against France by making a deal with the Spanish Crown.

However, a power struggle between the two rulers for control of the Spanish troops engaged in combat with the French army erupted in 1794. When the French Assembly outlawed slavery that year, one of the leaders, Toussaint, sided with the French army. The Spanish Crown is pledged the allegiance of Biassou and Jean-Francois. However, the army commanded by Biassou and Jean-Francois was disbanded as a result of a peace agreement between Spain and France in 1795.

On December 31, 1795, the authorities in Havana forbade the troops under Bissaou from setting up camp in Cuba. Bissaou made the decision to take ship for Spanish Florida, where he made St. Augustine his home alongside his wife, her mother, siblings, and 17 of his former warriors.

He was given the title of Spanish General when he arrived. He was given command of Florida’s black militia. In the 1700s, he was one of the most senior black officials. As he traveled to Spain, Jean-Francois sought refuge there as well.

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