The Pennsylvania Gazette: White Refugees (17 July 1793)

Many American cities met the emergency needs of an influx of white refugees who fled the uprising.


BALTIMORE, July 12th.

On Wednesday the committee appointed to examine the situation of the French fleet arrived in this harbor, and ascertain the number of passengers and the relief necessary to be given them, made the following report:

That they visited thirteen of the vessels that arrived on Tuesday, and found on board 351 passengers, (exclusive of people of color and negroes), of which number about 100 are women and children—That the passengers in the other ships, arrived and expected, are probably equal to the above number, of which they have advised an accurate report to be made to the Consul of the French Republic—That the distresses of those unhappy people have not been exaggerated, or perhaps equalled, by the information already given to the public—That an exertion of great humanity is indispensably necessary in the town of Baltimore, to supply their immediate town of Baltimore, to supply their immediate wants, and provide for their comfortable accommodation, until the inference of the French Minister, or the General Government, can be engaged—That the passengers and crews in general appeared to be healthy.

The committee, actuated by motives of pity for the helpless part of the passengers, have, of their own authority, ordered a supply of fresh provisions and vegetables to several of the ships; of which articles they had been totally destitute during the voyage.—This part of their conduct, they trust, will be approved of by their Fellow Citizens.—The business of a future supply, the committee conceive, ought to be conducted on some regular system.

Subscriptions have been opened, and nearly eleven thousand dollars have been already subscribed; many of the inhabitants have generously relinquished a part of the strangers and politely furnished them with the participation of their tables; such is the ardor which inspires every bosom, that no doubt can exist but every comfort will be provided for the unfortunate exiles, until the peace may again visit their native shores.

From a Correspondent.

The liberality which has so eminently distinguished the citizens of Baltimore on many former distressing occasions, still shews [sic] itself as resplendent as ever. The unfortunate inhabitants of St. Domingo have found an alleviation of their distress by taking refuge in this port; but it is much to be regretted that there are among us too many of a disposition to take advantage, even of the misfortunes of their friends. Our markets are shamefully raised; and the exorbitant prices of provisions are severely felt as well by the honest, but poor laborer of our own country, as by the plundered people who have fled the Cape to save the relicts of their families; many of whom have been in a moment reduced from affluence to want: That soul, who would on such terms acquire wealth, must be debased indeed. Some measures should be pursued to blast this evil: Our country is blest with stores, not only to support its own inhabitants, but also to furnish to the needy of other countries more than enough to gratify all their wants. The pretext therefore, that a scarcity enhances the value of provisions truly poor: It is the ignorance of the French strangers, with respect to our language and to the usual prices of food, which actuates the wretches of America to impose upon them.

Philadelphia, as well as this town, is a refuge for distressed allies; the same enthusiastical generosity is there displayed to soothe the misfortunes of the empoverished inhabitants of a lavished isle. The same shameful imposition by the vendors of provisions, on the ignorance of distressed guests began to shew its hideous face. The citizens nobly combined to crush this horrid monster, to efface this stigma from their name, and refused to accede to the knavery: They resolved to suppress it by depriving themselves of necessaries rather than indulge the imposition of unfeeling minds. Let our citizens do likewise, and meet with merited success. The powers of conception are too feeble to give an adequate idea of the sufferings of those who have escaped the horrors of the Cape.—The murderous fury of the insurgents did not afford leisure to preserve the property or clothes: Happy are they who seeing their wealth for ever lost, their friends, their dearest relations fall the hapless victims or more than savage barbarity. Happy were they to elude their unfeeling murderers and escape with life; in this condition they fled their native spot. Wives separated from their husbands lost or murdered; husbands as unhappily situated; children snatched from the devouring flames, and rescued from their parents' corpse; crowded in vessels, unexpecting any such event, and unprovided with provisions to support the crowd, and flying to the happy shores of America, to which they look up for clothes to cover nakedness, and food to preserve their miserable existence.

Their wants are liberally relieved by our generous citizens, and the severity of their afflictions greatly mitigated; their most sanguine hopes, during their gloomy passage, could not have surpassed the events which have occurred since their arrival: They have now only the pensive retrospect to dwell on, which gives to their sorrowing view, the horrors of their dear, their native isle: And great indeed is the consolation; that there are not super added the tortures of famine and houseless state. It is a happy reflection, that the severities of winter did not prevail, to render the unhappy occurrence more affecting, the little infants, who are now smiling on their nakedness, would have then given more horror to the scene, as they sink beneath the chilling grip of poverty and death.

Source: The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), 17 July 1793; available on cd-rom (Accessible Archives: Wilmington, Del., distributed by Scholarly Resources, 1998).