Academic journal article Journal of Haitian Studies

A Letter from Jean-Pierre Boyer to Greek Revolutionaries

Academic journal article Journal of Haitian Studies

A Letter from Jean-Pierre Boyer to Greek Revolutionaries

Article excerpt


Many scholars have detailed the impact of the Haitian revolution in the New World.1 As this letter indicates, however, this impact spread far beyond that. This letter, written by Jean-Pierre Boyer in 1822, provides interesting insight into how the Haitian president viewed the role of Haiti in the world. At the same time, it highlights the allure Haitian revolutionaries had among contemporary Greek revolutionaries thousands of miles away.

The four recipients of Buyer's letter were Greek expatriates living in France, who had assembled themselves into a Committee which was seeking international support for the ongoing Greek revolution, an ultimately successful movement for independence from the Ottoman Empire that had broken out in March 1821. Among the recipients of the letter, most prominent was the chairman of the committee Adamantios Korais, who was living permanently in France after receiving his MD from the University of Montpelier in 1788. Christodoulos Klonaris, the fourth member of the Committee, a lawyer who studied in France, went on to play a major role in the new Greek state: he served as the first Chief Justice of the Areios Pagos, the Supreme Court of Greece, which took its name from a similar institution in the ancient city-state of Athens. Korais had lived in France during the revolutionary years, as had other members of the committee as well, and therefore they would easily have had access to news about the revolution in Haiti. They seem to have seen Haitian independence as an example and inspiration for their own struggle. Boyer, in his response, also clearly articulated the idea that the two struggles were connected.

The letter was retrieved by the Greek journalist-turned-historian, Ioannis Filemon (1789-1873) in his four-volume memoir,2 a copy of which was deposited with the Greek National Library. Filemon worked as chief secretary3 to Demetrius Ypsilanti, Prince and Officer of the Russian Imperial Army, and a leading figure and Commander-in-Chief during the Greek Revolution. It was in this capacity that Filemon gained access to the Boyer letter.

Boyer expressed his support for the Greek Revolution and compared the struggle underfoot across the Atlantic to the struggle for independence in his own land. He apologized for being unable to support the Revolution in Greece financially, though he hoped he might be able to in the future. But he articulated his moral and political support for the revolution, notably by filling his letter with references to classical Greek history, demonstrating a detailed knowledge of this history and powerfully evoking the contemporary revolutionaries as the rightful heirs of their ancestors.

The letter, obviously written originally in French, is presently translated to English from the Greek translation cited in the memoirs of Ionnis Filemon.

The Letter



President of Haiti

To the citizens of Greece A. Korais, K. Polychroniades, A. Bogorides and Ch. Klonaris

In Paris

Before I received your letter from Paris, dated last August 20, the news about the revolution of your co-citizens against the despotism which lasted for about three centuries had already arrived here. With great enthusiasm we learned that Hellas was finally forced to take up arms in order to gain her freedom and the position that she once held among the nations of the world.

Such a beautiful and just case and, most importantly, the first successes which have accompanied it, cannot leave Haitians indifferent, for we, like the Hellenes, were for a long time subjected to a dishonorable slavery and finally, with our own chains, broke the head of tyranny.

Wishing to Heavens to protect the descendents of Leonidas, we thought to assist these brave warriors, if not with military forces and ammunition, at least with money, which will be useful for acquisition of guns, which you need. …

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