Letter: ‘Live free or die’

Sunday, November 05, 2017
‘Live free or die’

In all the debate about the origins of the “Live free or die” motto, I am surprised not to have heard the following: Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the Haitian independence leader who was born a slave, is said to have used the slogan to galvanize his troops in the revolt against France.

On Jan. 1, 1804, when Dessalines proclaimed Haiti’s independence, he said “Jurons de combattre jusqu’au dernier soupir pour l’indépendance de notre Pays!” (“Let us pledge to fight to the last breath for the independence of our country”). The crowd responded, “Vivre libre ou mourir” (“Live free or die”). Whereupon Dessalines declared himself governor-general for life and shortly thereafter was crowned emperor for life by the Haitian army.

Dessalines reigned for just two years before being hacked to death in November 1806 by opponents of his autocratic rule.

Food for thought.