Secret History

Or, the Horrors of St. Domingo, in a Series of Letters

Secret History

Leonora Mary Hassal Sansay (b. 1781), also known as Mary Hassal, was U.S. Vice-President Aaron Burr's niece. This work, first published in 1808, takes the form of a series of letters to her uncle, describing the events which she witnessed between 1802 and 1805 in the French colony of St Domingo, which became the Republic of Haiti in 1804 after a fierce revolution. A large French army under General Leclerc was sent by Napoleon to retake the colony from the ex-slave Toussaint Louverture and his army. Hassal depicts life under the French occupation, and also in Cuba and Jamaica, to which many settlers from St Domingo fled. She comments particularly on the position and occupations of women, but regrets their subjection to and dependence on men. The tone is anecdotal, but the volume will be of interest to social historians as an eyewitness account of a turbulent period.

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