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Persecutions At Port Au Prince








The following extracts from the journal of Mr. St. Denis, and letters of
Mr. Pressoir, members of the Methodist Society at Port au Prince, we
copied from the Wesleyan Magazine. The first extracts are from the
journal of Mr. St. Denis.

On Sunday, Feb. 2d, our assembly was held at Belair. During the morning
service several stones were thrown.

Feb. 4. Whilst we were singing, a shower of stones was thrown, but no
one received any injury.

That evening (Feb. 7th) we had a small assembly of thirty-two persons. A
plan had been laid for apprehending us, which was put in execution. We
had time to sing a hymn, read a chapter, and a homily; but whilst
singing the second hymn, the noise of the soldiers was so great in
approaching our house of prayer, that we were obliged to cease singing.
Wishing, however, to continue our meeting, an officer of the police
said, "In the name of the law, leave off that prayer!" Then we left off.
Not finding J. C. Pressoir, they made me his second. We were taken to
general Thomas's, who pretended to be ignorant of the matter. Colonel
Victor pretended to be ignorant also. When we reached the house of the
Juge de Paix, we were ordered to halt for a moment. Colonel Victor
knocked at his door, the Juge de Paix asked who we were, and was
answered, "A band of methodists." The Juge de Paix said, "Ha! ha! take
them to the jail!" Col. Victor replied, "Yes!" We were led to prison,
and each of our names was taken. The sisters were put in the debtor's
place, and the men were shut up in close confinement.

The next morning, the person who keeps the keys of the prison under the
jailer told us, that the Juge de Paix would not allow our door to be
opened; but the jailer went and spoke respecting it, and our door was
opened about nine o'clock. A moment after the Juge de Paix came to visit
us, and addressing himself to me in anger, I wished to reply: he would
not listen to me; but began to blaspheme religion, despising the Lord.
He withdrew in anger, without being able to do any thing with us. A
moment after he left us, we were taken into the debtor's prison, near to
the sisters, in a separate chamber.

When Mr. Pressoir heard of this event, he visited his brethren at the
prison. The following extract is from one of his letters.

I would not run into prison of my own accord, but having waited, and
finding nothing was said to us, I went to see my brethren and sisters. I
found there were thirty-two, and St. Denis preparing to write to the
president, which he did, and I carried this letter to his excellency, by
which we requested him to cause us to be judged, and punished, if we
were found guilty by the law. When I arrived under the piazza of the
palace, I asked an officer on duty if I could see the president, who
answered, Yes. I entered the hall, where I found the president seated,
and surrounded by a circle, as well of officers as civilians. After
saluting them, I presented the letter to the president, who asked me
from whence it came. I replied, "From the methodists who are in prison."
His good humour was immediately changed. "Methodists," said he, "I did
not know that." Colonel Victor, who was present, thinking that through
fear I would wish to conceal myself, addressed himself to the president,
saying, "President, this is a methodist," as if the president did not
know it. Immediately the president replied, "You are fanatics." "Pardon
me, president, we are not." "Why, you have changed your religion." "If I
have changed my religion, president, it is the government which has made
me do it." "How is that?" said he. "It was the late president who sent
for the missionaries. I heard the letter read, and saw the late
president's signature: this is what I can tell you." "Enough, enough,"
said he, "I will send an answer." I went to the prison and waited till
it was late; but hearing nothing, and being ill of the fever, I returned
to my mother's.

The next day orders were given for the brethren and sisters to appear
before the chief judge. A dollar was demanded of each on leaving prison,
and they were conducted by a single serjeant. On their arrival the chief
judge forbade them, in the name of the president, to assemble together
again. "No one can hinder you from worshipping God as you please; but
let every one abide at home, for as often as you are found assembled you
shall be put in prison; and if you unhappily persist, I have received
orders to disperse you every where." Several wished to reply, but he
refused to listen, saying, "It is not from me; it is not my fault; these
orders are given me." All our brethren and sisters went out, animated
with a holy zeal, determining not to abandon their assemblies. The next
day we were assembled. After an exhortation we sung a hymn which being
finished, we kneeled down to pray: a shower of stones came, as if they
would have demolished the house, and have stoned us like Stephen. With
one accord we commended ourselves to our faithful Creator, and continued
in prayer till they had ceased.

In a subsequent letter, dated July 31st, he writes:--

Since the Lord has granted us the favour of meeting again, we have
continued our assemblies without intermission, although forbidden to do
this under pain of prison and exile. The only interruption we meet with
is bad words, and a few stones now and then; and I am become so marked,
that I cannot go out without people crying after me, "Methodist!
Parson!"--with a contemptuous sneer, and a thousand other things not fit
to write, but which serve only to strengthen my faith in the promises of
Him who is faithful; till last Sunday some foolish young women came to
revile us; and on Tuesday evening, whilst reading, stones were thrown,
and whilst we were at prayer a great number rushed in, armed with
sabres, sticks, and, if I mistake not, with stones, crying out, "In the
name of the law," as if they had been authorized by the heads of the
people to arrest us. This band consisted of boys, led on to commit
disorders by a set of idle, good-for-nothing persons, of the worst
class, who had armed themselves with sabres, and were disguised with old
cocked hats; trying thus to show their bravery over those who would make
no resistance. But the hairs of our head are all numbered; nor have they
been permitted to hurt any of us to the present. It would be useless for
us to ask or hope for the protection of the law; and we are thus led to
place all our confidence in God, who can and will deliver us in his
time. And if the Lord is for me, of whom should I be afraid? He that
spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for me, will he not with
him freely give me all things? I have already experienced that all my
sufferings for his name are great blessings to me. All my care is about
His church; and what wisdom does it require to conduct so many persons
of such different dispositions! I feel new wants daily.

The following brief view of the persecutions of the methodists, in
Hayti, is taken from "Missionary Notices," published by the Wesleyan
Missionary Society. This account gave some particulars in addition to
those narrated in the details inserted above:

We regret to find,--say the committee of that society,--from the
following letter received from Mr. Pressoir, that our poor persecuted
society at Port-au-Prince, so long the object of popish rancour, has
again had to sustain the brutal outrages of an ignorant mob, incited it
would seem, in another place, by persons calling themselves
"respectable," and without experiencing any protection from the local
authorities. The committee have endeavoured to obtain for them the
common protection of the laws of their own country, by applications
through various quarters, and hope they may be ultimately successful. In
the mean time this excellent and suffering people are entitled to the
special sympathies, and earnest prayers, of the friends of missions. We
trust that they may yet, by their meek and patient suffering, and heroic
perseverance, obtain that liberty of worship which they so earnestly
desire.

The letter from Mr. Pressoir is dated about a year since. The following
extracts describe the violence of the mob:

I have read of many instances of martyrdom for the testimony of Jesus
Christ, but I have not yet read a passage which relates that the people
of a city rose up like murderers, with a very few exceptions, to stone a
few persons met together in a house, as our fathers, mothers, brethren,
and children have done unto us not long ago. O cruel people! They began
to throw stones at us at five o'clock in the afternoon, and continued
their assaults till ten o'clock, committing all kinds of violence. They
broke down the doors, broke open the windows, destroyed the first and
second partitions in the upper chambers; in a word, every thing that was
in the house, and beat with their cowskin-whips the brethren and sisters
there, without showing compassion for either age or youth or even
infancy. I believe I suffered the least of any. Only a great emissary of
Satan, seized my left hand, and lifting up his whip declared he would
knock me down, if I did not say "Almighty God, the Virgin Mary." My only
answer was, turning my back. Several times he even brought his whip to
my neck, and afterwards laid it on my shoulder, raging and abusing me
with all the fury of Anti-christ. But he that numbered my hairs did not
allow one of them to fall to the ground. Thanks be to him for confidence
in his holy word, which is firmer than heaven on earth. When the
populace entered to knock down our sisters I was in the first chamber,
and hearing their cries, I tried to force my way to them, to try if I
could render them any assistance; then the tyrant persecutor struck me
several times on my hat, but I received no injury. But we were in great
danger; those who wished to go out were stoned, beaten, torn, outraged,
and brought back to the house, where they exercised their dark cruelty.
It appeared as if Satan was unchained, and had come forth to make war
against those whom the truth of the gospel had made free, and to crush
those who had believed the testimony of the Son of God.

I ask, then, by whom have we been protected, and delivered unto this
day? Was it by magistrates, judges, and police officers? Or by the other
guards appointed to appease riots and defend the law? It is true, they
were present in great numbers, but it was rather to advise and direct
others. Some brought barrows full of stones, and others threw them, and
said to the cruel populace, that, since we were so obstinate, the
government had given us into their hands, and they might do to us
whatever they pleased; and they did treat us with inhumanity and the
greatest violence.

It was impossible to go out without being beaten, stoned, dragged,
abused, and covered with dirt, and in the end we could neither buy nor
sell without being dragged before a magistrate, beat, and covered with
spitting and mud, and all kinds of outrages. They went beyond Porte
Marchant to brother Floran's, sister Claire's, and J. P. J. Lusant's. At
brother Floran's they destroyed every thing in the garden, and treated
his wife, already broken with age, with the greatest inhumanity;
dragging sister Claire by her feet out of the house, as also her
god-daughter. And at J. P. J. Lusant's what disorders have they not
committed amongst those poor persons, who have fled from the town to
have some tranquility. I must tell you one circumstance which J. P. J.
L. told me, to show you the cowardice of persecutors; five or six of
them entered his gate, concealing their swords, making up to him with
loud vociferations; seeing them coming, he went into his house, took an
old rusty musket without flint, and levelling it at them, they all
instantly fled with all speed, saying, "The Quakers don't carry arms,
and see this old Quaker hero intends killing us."

Alluding to the letter of Mr. Pressoir, above noticed, and to other
communications received about the same time, the Wesleyan Committee
remark, in their publication for July, 1824.

In a recent number we laid before our readers some extracts of letters
from our afflicted and persecuted society at Port-au-Prince, Hayti; from
which it appeared that several of them had again been called to suffer
bonds for the cause of Christ; that the house in which they were in the
habit of assembling for religious worship was demolished; and that they
themselves were delivered up to the will of a blind and infuriated
populace, the magistrates refusing to afford them any protection against
the outrages to which they were daily exposed. From later communications
we learn, that, on an appeal being made by letter to the president,
those in prison were set at liberty; and that a proclamation was made
by his excellency's orders, forbidding any one to stone, injure, or
otherwise persecute the methodists, but at the same time prohibiting all
meetings of our society for religious worship; on pain of being
arrested.

Notwithstanding the above proclamation, our people have still to suffer,
in various ways, the insults and persecutions of the rabble. They
continue, as they are able, and can find opportunity, to meet together
for prayer, &c.

The letter to president Boyer shows very clearly the pacific character
and object of these protestants. It is too important a part of these
documents to be omitted.

President,--You are acquainted with our society, formed here six years
ago. The end of our meeting together is, to invoke the blessing of God,
not only on ourselves, but also on the government, its magistrates, and
even on those who evil entreat us without cause; for we do not hate
them, nor render evil for evil. This is what our religion commands. It
is not that we wish by our meetings to disobey our president; but our
desire is to obey God our sovereign, and his law requires that we should
love the head that he has placed over us.

We know that your excellency will not approve the conduct of those who
have stoned and evil entreated us without cause. We have been treated as
enemies to the government, yet are not such. Yesterday we were arrested
and put in prison, by order of general Thomas, who at once without
examination, pronounced our sentence. And we know this was not by order
of the president, which renders it our indisputable duty to give you
information thereof.

President, let our society be narrowly examined, and if fault is found
in us, we are willing to suffer the punishment we merit.

Confidently expecting your favourable reply, we have the honour of
saluting you most respectfully.

To this letter the president did not reply, but ordered those, who had
been arrested, to be set at liberty. Ten days after the date of the
letter to the president, a letter was written, from which the following
paragraphs are taken. The concluding sentences open the way for putting
a favourable construction on the intentions of the president.

A proclamation was made in the name of general Thomas, commandant of the
place, to prevent any one from throwing stones at the methodists,
forbidding every one to evil entreat them, or to go before their houses
to insult them. But by that proclamation we were also forbidden to meet
together, and informed that should we meet, the police is ordered to
arrest us; but as for the people, they ought not to interfere, nor throw
stones, because we are citizens of the republic. This is the substance
of the proclamation.

Although this proclamation was made, yet the people did not cease to ill
treat us, and cry after us, as we went along. General Thomas gets out of
that affair by saying, that they only made use of his name when he had
nothing to do in it. "But, take care," said he, "if that continue, that
it do not cost the life of some one."

One of our sisters visited the president, to whom she made her
complaints, and informed him that it was said, that it was by his order
that these things were done. He received her very politely, assured her
that this was not so, but that he was exceedingly sorry that we should
be improperly treated, and that he had written to general Thomas to that
effect, and if the general did not attend to his orders he could not
hold any command in the republic. In consequence of this the general
made the above proclamation. The president also told her, that he could
not allow us to hold our meetings, because we were not in peace; that
France was proposing to march upon us, &c. &c. Since the last
persecution, we enjoy, by the grace of God, the means of praying, when
several of us meet together.





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Previous: Persecutions Of The Wesleyan Methodists In St Domingo



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