Epistle to General Haldimand

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Appeal to the Justice of the State

Epistle to General Haldimand.

This is a translation of the Épitre au général Haldimand that is part of the collection of letters entitled Appel à la justice de l'État (Appeal to the Justice of the State) by Pierre du Calvet, published in London in 1784. You can read the original French language edition here.


Frederick Haldimand, Governor of Quebec from 1778 to 1786

The reign of a tyranny exerted in the distance and by delegation cannot last: it is the sceleratess of a perfidious representative that gives birth to it: a general surprise allows its existence for a few moments; but the cries of the oppressed soon strike the Master's ears. His moved heart appeals to his justice, which awakens, and the defeated prevaricator soon offers nothing for the frightened eyes to see but the hideous spectacle of an humiliated, confused and punished victim.

Read, Sir, in my case, the lamentable story of your relentlessness against my person, of which I draw a new picture in my letters to the King and Lord Sidney: The best of the princes and the worthiest of the ministers, resemble no General Haldimand. In this difference judge yourself, and presume the disastrous catastrophe that awaits you.

The communication that I liberally give you here of my ways of attack is an authentic monument to the nobility and the elevation of my sentiments: it invites you to prepare your means of defense, it even indicates you their steps: what could you better hope than generosity, frankness, uprightness from a person you have oppressed without frankness, uprightness and generosity? I do not know if I flatter myself in the parallel I make between you and me; but at least I believe I know myself enough to be able to ensure you on my honour that secret intrigues, plots, and gloomy practices do not tally with the free and ingenuous manner in which I think and act; and I would scorn a victory I would owe only to surprise.

These are, I am not without knowing, the poisoned weapons which are today being sharpened against me in Quebec: lie, imposture, perjury, leagued in a common plot, join the party against the interests of the truth and the justice of my rights. This substitute, this instigator in chief of your furies, who, lancet in hand, (instrument of his primitive profession) is charged to explain us by authority the oracles of French jurisprudence; I see him, says I, magistrate in disguise, covertly preparing and arming his legions against me; but what do I care of his cabals? Innocence by itself suffices to its own triumph; and for the triumph of mine, I only want the lights of the judges, the equity of the juries, and the authenticity of my rights. Humanity violated and in tears, all the divine and human laws trampled under foot, in the face of a whole province, plead my cause rather eloquently; I need but the publicity of the facts. You confined me without pity, during 948 days, to the horrors and the burning pains of an infamous prison: you delivered to plundering the brilliant fortune which I enjoyed, to the glory of my uprightness, as the well-deserved fruit of my industry and my work: you pulled all kinds of strings to damage and destroy my honour, though without success and to your shame: in vain the honest people of the province offered their fortunes and their persons as guarantors of my past and future innocence; in vain I juridically claimed my judgement; in vain I loudly insisted to be transported to England, to be delivered there to the full rigour of the laws if I had violated them. No; your barbaric heart showed itself inexorable to any judicial request. It is not justice nor my justification that your passions wanted; they breathed only my destruction; and my prolonged captivity could alone be its sad prelude and its incontestable surety.

This captivity has finally ceased; but it was only when accumulated infirmities made it suppose that they would by themselves and without glare dig my own tomb: at least in ceasing was it marked with the same dark traits, which its beginnings had announced. My offended honour demanded that the voice of Justice pronounce my release: I therefore insisted to remain in irons: one was reduced to kick me out of prison. Violence had imprisoned me and violence released me: the process is uniform from beginning to the end: tyranny did not contradict itself in its furies.

The irritated laws claim your presence and await in London, to call you to account for these horrors, which they proscribed by their justice and their humanity, of which, in your capacity as governor, that is to say as representative of the justest, most human of the Princes, you were to be the first defender and the guardian in chief. If from the beginning, on your arrival, they do not avenge my long captivity by yours, you will owe it to your sureties: prepare them, Sir; I invite you to do it and I consent to the proceeding. Judges, more human and more faithful to law than you, will accept them: I subscribe to it in advance; because the example of your inhumanity toward my person, could not, in my court, be a reason to justify inhumanity toward you. I pride myself to have nothing in common with you in my way of thinking and acting. Good-bye, Sir, we will see each other at the foot of the courthouse. You will then no longer be this imperious Governor of Quebec who resounded so loudly the name of absolute Master, who erected his will as the sole law of the province, and who boasted to be justiciable only to himself. No, this despot will no longer be. The entrance of the courthouse will have overthrown this colossus from atop his usurped throne: there you will only be Mr. Haldimand, that is to say a small isolated individual, an ordinary person just like me: this equality, or rather this superiority that I will have over you, (because it will be me talking in chief and you answering in justification, that is to say that I will have over you the superiority which oppression gives to the oppressed over the oppressor); this superiority, says I, will be the first justice granted by the law to the province of Quebec and me, for the heights which your tyranny assumed over it and over me. Here is the least part of the faith that awaits you, unless you escape it by a clandestine, cowardly, and shameful flight, in a word assorted to the fabric of your methods. It is then that His Majesty would recognize with indignation the mistake of choosing you to represent the of best the princes; It is then that the horror of all the honest people would follow you in your shameful retreat: you would then appear as a miserable refugee, less odious even by his embezzlements, than by the treason made to the laws responsible of their punishment. The coming events will soon decide who you are and all that you shall be once down in your tomb.

From the heart of my dungeon, I had given you announcement, through the monachal superior of my military prison, who, under a religious frock resembles you a great deal; I had, says I, given you announcement of the vigorous defense which I contemplated against your violence. I kept my word: I am now free of my engagements toward you: you only have to leave [the province]; I await you.

I am as much as on my honour I can be,
your very humble servant,

Pierre du Calvet

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