Memory of Etienne Maynaud de Lavaux in Digoin-Cormatin-Ameugny (Saône-et-Loire)

“Is it not wanting to totally lose Santo Domingo to slander Chiefs who, in the greatest shocks and the most serious dangers, have saved this colony and the citizens who remain there”
Speech of the General Lavaux at the Council of Five Hundreds in 1797 defending the policy conducted in Santo Domingo.

The Château de Cormatin

Sent in Santo Domingo at the time of the general insurrection of the slaves, Etienne Lavaux played a determining role in the evolution of the events of Santo Domingo, contributing as governor general of the colony to the ascent of Toussaint Louverture, whose action he defended with the Directory before being retired after Bonaparte took power.

Etienne Maynaud Bizefranc de Lavaux was born in Digoin in Saône-et-Loire, on 8 August 1751. Lieutenant colonel in 1791, he arrived in Santo Domingo in 1792 with the civilian Commissioners Sonthonax and Polverel, and was in charge of the northwestern part of the colony, with Port-de-Paix.

Map of the French colony of Santo Domingo and scene of the war of independence

He was appointed interim governor of Santo Domingo on 14 October 1793 and general of division on 25 May 1795. At the request of Sonthonax, he entered into relations with Toussaint Louverture, to rally him to the Republic. He was appointed in Cap-Français, principal city of the colony. On 20 March 1796, the mulattoes imprisoned him with his aide-de-camp. Toussaint marched to the city to deliver him, and in return Lavaux appointed Toussaint Lieutenant general to the Government of Santo Domingo.

The latter made him elected in September 1796 deputy at the Council of Elders for the Department of Saône-et-Loire. He will sit there until 1799, defending the policy of Toussaint Louverture. He will be sent to Guadeloupe as commissioner but quickly arrested for his positions too negrophile.

General Etienne Mayneaud de Lavaux in the TV movie Toussaint Louverture and his grave in the cemetery of Cormatin

In the history of the slave insurrection of Santo Domingo that was to lead to the first victory of a slave revolt leading to the creation of the first black republic in history with Haiti on 1 January 1804, the general Lavaux played a key role. He allowed the rise of Toussaint Louverture who sent him back to mainland France and was thus able to assert his control and his total power over the colony. He ensured the process of the abolition of slavery proclaimed on 4 February 1794 and organized the integration of former slaves into the republican society of Santo Domingo.

He paid dearly for being at the side of Toussaint Louverture and for defending the cause of the blacks of Santo Domingo. The First Consul Bonaparte dismissed him from his positions in 1801. He vegetated under the Empire. On the return of the Bourbons, he was elected deputy of Sâone-et-Loire from 1820 to 1824, defending progressive ideas.

It was during his forced retirement in Saône-et-Loire that he acquired the Château de Cormatin which he got renovated and where he died on 12 May 1828.

Commemorative plaque affixed at the entrance of the Château de Cormatin