“Jacques-Jules Bonnaud, the First Haitian Jesuit in Colonial Saint-Domingue-Haiti”

“Jacques-Jules Bonnaud, the First Haitian Jesuit in Colonial Saint-Domingue-Haiti”

As I continue to work on Haiti’s colonial religious history, I discovered an interesting Haiti’s religious gem of colonial legacy: Jacques-Jules Bonnaud, the first Haitian Jesuit.

Father Bonnaud was born in Cap-Francais/Cap-Haitian/Okap in October 27, 1740–only three years before Toussaint Louverture was born in May 20, 1743/Bréda, Cap-Francais– to a French Father and an African mother; hence, he was a mulatto child.

As it was customary in Saint-Dominguan interracial relationships, at an early age, his parents sent the young Jacques-Jules to study in France. He attended La Flèche, a Jesuit High School, associated with the Compagnie de Jésus. In December 20, 1758–the same year Jean-Jacques Dessalines was born in Africa–, he entered the Jesuit order in Paris (des Jésuites de la Province de Paris) as a young seminarian; he was fifteen years old at the time.

The Jesuit Order appointed him as Professor at the Collège de Quimper in Bretagne (Brittany), France’s north-westernmost region. He taught there for two years until the King’s order to close the Compagnie de Jésus in 1762–the same year Britain entered the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) against Spain and Naples. It was also in April in 1762 that Louis XV passed a decree for all black and mixed-race (mulatto) Frenchmen residing in France to register in the local municipal and with the offices of the Admiralty Court. On the government’s form, blacks and mulattoes had to declare their age, full name, religion, and reveal the purpose they were living in France. They were also to inform the government their place of birth and the name of the ship that transported them to France.

Jacques-Jules Bonnaud was ordained as Priest at the Grande Séminaire de l’archidiocèse de Paris. Due to unfortunate circumstances associating with the French Revolution, he was assassinated in 1792 at the Séminaire des Carmes in Paris. In 1926, the eleventh year of the American military occupation in Haiti (1915-1934), Pope Pius XI beatified Father Jacques-Jules Bonnaud rendering him the first Haitian Catholic Saint. Nonetheless, St. Martin de Porres is the first Black Saint in the Americas.

Arguably, Father Jacques-Jules Bonnaud, the first Haitian Jesuit, was a victim and martyr of the French Revolution.

***Consulted Sources:

Kawas Francois, “Sources Documenaires de l’Histoire des Jésuites en Haiti auc XVIIIe et XXe Siècles” (2006).

Henri Fouqueray, “Un Groupe de Martyrs de Septembre 1792” (1926)

José Luis Saez, “Un Màrtir Broto del Cabo, Santo Domingo” (1978).

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