Thursday 11 August 2011

The Count Lopinot

Lopinot in the foothills of the Northern Range was once the retreat of one of the most respected and prominent persons of British Trinidad. While the existing building is not the actual dwelling house of the French Count Loppinot, it was however built upon the site and is not far from his grave in the valley of Lopinot, where his earthly remains have been buried in 1819.

Charles Joseph Comte Loppinot de la Fresillière was a reactionary royalist of the ancien regime. He left France in 1781, eight years before the revolution, and via Louisiana he arrived in St. Domingue (Haiti), where he was appointed commandant at Port-au-Prince.

He must have been a very charismatic person. So much so that when the slave revolt in what is now Haiti came to pass, his slaves smuggled him and his family onto a ship to Jamaica, hidden in barrels and declared as a cargo of sugar. In that way, he was able to survive the uprising.

In 1793, Loppinot was appointed Governor-General of St. Domingue and Commissioner for all the Windward and Leeward Islands of America by the future King Louis XVIII. In compensation for the loss of his estates in Haiti, Loppinot was granted a parcel of land in Trinidad, and he arrived here in 1800 with his family and slaves. At least that is what the count thought. Trinidad’s Governor Thomas Picton, however, had not been informed of Loppinot’s grant, so that when the count arrived in Trinidad, he found himself landless. He had to borrow money and purchased half share in a sugar estate in Tacarigua at a heavy loss.

His rank and military experience earned him good positions with the British administration of Trinidad.

When the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s army was defeated at Waterloo and the Emperor himself was banished to Elba, Loppinot lost no time and from 1814 onwards he tried with much royalist fervour to win back St. Domingue for the restored King Louis XVIII. He believed that after he would resume the Governor-Generalship of St. Domingue, the people would “prefer slavery under a benign monarch to freedom under a black tyrant”, as Michael Pocock writes in his book ‘Out of the Shadows of the Past’.

Loppinot always remained a patriotic Frenchman, inspite of the fact that he had lived under British protection and generosity for several decades. When in 1814 the news reached him that the recapture of St. Domingue was impossible, he was deeply disappointed. Much more embittered he was, however, that the restored Bourbon Kings in France did not even so much as acknowledge all his many corresponcences, politely and courtly written. An old world had definitely come to an end, and the Count, who came out of the whole affair with much to his credit, lived out his last years in the verdant slopes of Lopinot.