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Hugues Victor
(1761—1826)

Hugues Victor (1761—1826)

Victor Hugues was a French politician and colonial administrator during the French Revolution, who governed Guadeloupe from 1794 to 1798, emancipating the island's slaves under orders from the National Convention.

Hugues was born in Marseille and was a colonist in Saint-Domingue in the late 1780s and early 1790s. He returned to France and became an official in La Rochelle through his activity in the local Jacobin Club. After the emancipation decrees of Léger-Félicité Sonthonax and Étienne Polverel during the Haitian Revolution, the National Convention declared the end of slavery in all French territories in February 1794, and named Hugues civil commissioner to Guadeloupe.

The island was under British control when he arrived in the Caribbean, as planters and other Royalists had called in France's rival as a way of rejecting revolutionary events. But by rallying slaves and gens de couleur, Hugues was able to retake the island by 6 October 1794, when Victor Hugues obliged the English general to surrender in his camp of Barville with his whole force, in which were comprised 800 French emigres and 900 colored soldiers. He ruled for four years before being recalled to France. During that time, he purged the island of counter-revolutionaries, using a guillotine brought from France, and also worked to create a viable post-slavery regime, in which the islands farms and plantations still functioned. Hugues is perhaps best known for authorizing privateers to attack shipping through the Caribbean, which brought great wealth to the island but also was part of the tensions between France and the United States (known as the Quasi-War in American history). With an army composed of White, Mulatto and ex-slave soldiers, Hugues worked to export the revolution to neighboring islands, including Dominica, Saint-Martin, la Grenade, Saint-Vincent and Saint Lucia.

In 1799, Hugues was envoyed to French Guiana by the French Consulate, where he was responsible for legislating unfree labour, and then slavery itself. He remained an administrator under the early years First Empire, but was forced out by a provincial maneuver of the Napoleonic Wars, when Portugal invaded the colony. Upon his return, he was prosecuted for treason and conspiracy with the enemy. Acquitted in 1814, he returned to Guiana in 1817, served as governor and then stayed on as a mere citizen. He later left for France, and died in Bordeaux.


Guadeloupe, 1935, Victor Hugues and Corsairs

Guadeloupe, 1935, Victor Hugues and Corsairs

Guadeloupe, 1935, Victor Hugues and Corsairs

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