A Dying Madame Nicolas Gives Venerable Pierre Toussaint His Freedom

June 22, 2023

But not all this affectionate solicitude, nor the cares of a kind husband, for such was Monsieur Nicolas, could stay the approach of death. Her strength rapidly declined, and every day Toussaint perceived a change. At length she was confined to her bed. One day she said to him, “My dear Toussaint, I thank you for all you have done for me; I cannot reward you, but God will.” He replied, “O Madame! I have only done my duty.” “You have done much more,” she said; “you have been everything to me. There is no earthly remuneration for such services.”

A few days before her death, she called Toussaint to her bedside, and giving him her miniature, told him she must execute a paper that would secure to him his freedom. Monsieur Nicolas, who was present, said, “Save yourself this exertion—everything you wish shall be done.” She shook her head, and replied, “It must be done, now.

Her nurse from infancy, Marie Bouquement, had accompanied her mistress to New York. She was aunt to Toussaint. Free papers were given to this faithful domestic by Madame Bérard and her sisters in St. Domingo, in which we find this sentence: “We give her her freedom in recompense for the attachment she has shown us, since the troubles which afflict St. Domingo, and release her from all service due to us.”

This woman, whom she tenderly loved, she committed to Toussaint’s care in a most touching manner. “As you love my memory,” she said, “never forsake her; if you should ever leave the country, let her go with you.”

The deed was legally executed which secured to Toussaint his freedom, and which she had strength to sign. She then desired him to bring a priest, made her confession, received her last Communion, and died at the age of thirty-two.

Hannah Sawyer Lee, Memoir of Pierre Toussaint: Born a Slave in St. Domingo, 2nd rev. ed. (Sunbury, Penn.: Western Hemisphere Cultural Society, 1992), 32–33.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 883


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