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This prostitute was hanged by the French in 1802 for spying for the Haitian revolutionary army

May 20, 2019 at 01:00 pm | History

Elizabeth Ofosuah Johnson

Elizabeth Ofosuah Johnson | Staff Writer

May 20, 2019 at 01:00 pm | History

Portrayal of Henriette Saint Marc

Henriette Saint Marc died some 217 years ago in 1802. Although she was popular as a prostitute, she gained more popularity after she became a strong ally of Haitian revolutionaries by using her influence on the French and access to their plans, weapons and secrets to support Toussaint L’Ouverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and the War of Independence.

Born to a slave mother who raised her after being neglected by the white official who impregnated her, Henriette grew from humble beginnings with the advantage of being a mulatto woman which came with the freedom to do as she pleases.

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Depiction of free mulatto women of influence with an enslaved African

At the time of slavery, mixed-race children, known as mullatos enjoyed the privilege of freedom thanks to the fact that many of their fathers were top white officials. While some were forced to work as slaves, many of them were able to form their own class and live better lives than that of the enslaved community. They could own their own property, access education and even work with the French to earn a living. While some became assistants to plantation owners, others worked in administrative roles, however, they were not given the opportunity to rise above the white community.

Although many mullatos lived within the black community because they were mainly raised by black parents, several of them isolated themselves and identified as white. This gives Henriette’s story more cause for a celebration after risking her life for an independent Haiti.

By the late 1700s, she was living in Port-au-Prince where the war was on-going between French and the freed slaves who had joined an army led by Toussaint L’Ouverture.

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Potrayal of Henriette with a French Official

By all standards, Henriette was a beautiful woman. She was described as a striking young lady with a beautiful body and skin who was wanted by all men, especially those who could afford to have her. Being Mulatto gave her the advantage of having affairs with some of the French soldiers and eventually the topmost French officials. After a while, she was known as a high-class prostitute who had access to several French and white elites than many other people in Haiti.

Henriette was not just a pretty face who used her beauty and charm to enjoy the luxuries in life, she was also very intelligent and attentive to things around her so after a while of fraternising with the French elites, soldiers and officials, she soon understood the need for Haiti to gain independence. Her sense of duty scored her an alliance with Toussaint L’Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines and became a secret spy.

Between 1800 and 1802, Henriette leaked whatever information that she could retrieve from the French to Toussaint and his men which put them at an advantage aside having a strong military. Not only did she leak information, but she also stole arms, gun powder and several other documents for the Haitian army which helped them immensely.

According to several sources, Henriette lured lower French Officials into the bush where she would seduce them, extract information and wait for the Haitian soldiers to finish them off.

After a while, the French began to realize a number of their men had gone missing as well as the fact that the Haitian army was gaining access to their top secrets, plans and weapons. It was then that both Henriette and
Toussaint L’Ouverture became suspects.

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Toussaint L’Ouverture

In June 1802, Toussaint L’Ouverture was arrested by French General Jean-Baptiste Brunet who had pretended to invite Toussaint L’Ouverture for peace talks. He was sent to France and died in prison. After realising that there was still heavy leakage of weapons and information, it was ordered that Henriette be arrested and persecuted of arms smuggling after her latest mission of stealing gunpowder to the revolutionaries of Arcahaie.

Before she could be helped by Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the French sentenced her to death by hanging. She was marched to the market square in Port-au-Prince which is now the capital of Haiti where she was hanged in broad daylight in front of the Church of Croix-des-Bouquets. She was executed at ten in the morning.

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Haiti gained independence two years after her death. Although the Haitian army had no spy to their advantage, they had by then gained enough arms and information through Henriette which they used to win the war.

There are no actual photos of her and every existing picture remains a depiction of what she could have looked like.

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