Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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SONTHONAX, Leger Felicite, French commissioner, born in Oyonnax, Ain, 17 March, 1763; died there, 28 July. 1818. He practised law at Bourg, and going to Paris at the beginning of the French revolution, to become a member of the noted club, "Les amis des noirs," lectured and issued pamphlets in advocacy of the enfranchisement of the slaves in the French dominions. The negroes having rebelled in Santo Domingo, Sonthonax, Etienne Polverel, and Jean Ailhaud were appointed high commissioners to the Leeward islands. They sailed from La Rochelle in July, 1791, with an army of 6,000 men, and landed at Cape Francais on 19 September Ailhaud soon returned to France, and Sonthonax and Polverel, after a brilliant campaign, divided the colony into two governments. General Galbaud arrived from France in June, 1798, to assume the command of the French forces, but was opposed by Sonthonax and removed from office. Galbaud then attacked Cape Francais, and, securing possession of the arsenal, compelled Sonthonax to take refuge in the interior. But the latter made his junction with Polverel, and, returning, issued his famous decree of 29 August, 1793, which enfranchised the slaves forever. Through the help of the negroes Galbaud was finally defeated, and sailed for the United States. Sonthonax's opposition to the whites continued meanwhile, and they asked succor from the authorities at Jamaica. An English expedition landed at Mole Saint Nicholas, and soon occupied the principal parts of the colony ; Sonthonax retired to Jacmel, and sailed in 1794 for France, where he had been indicted for his conduct. But he easily justified himself before the convention, and was again appointed in 1796 high commissioner to Santo Domingo. After removing General Rochambeau he was compelled to appoint Toussaint L'Ouverture commander-in-chief, and finally left the island in July, 1797, having been elected a deputy to the assembly of the five hundred by the colony. He was exiled after the coup d'etat of 1799, and again in 1803 for having criticised the appointment of General Rochambeau as commander-in-chief in Santo Domingo. Napoleon forbade him to remain in Paris after 1810, and he retired to his estate at Oyonnax.
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