Here are letters written by King Behanzin to the French president about his kingdom, his land, and French attacks to force him into war. The originals can be found in French archives, and Benin Archives; the translations from French to English are by Dr. Y., afrolegends.com . Enjoy!
“Our desire is that you have the kindness to send us an officer of your house to deal with litigation issues. As for Cotonou, my father never signed it away, and never will we sign it away. It is impossible for us, because if we do, it will be a great prejudice to us, and thunder will crush anyone who would dare dwell on that territory.”
Behanzin, to the President of the French Republic, 30 April 1890, Archives of the Marines, Paris.
“I have just been informed that the French government has declared war on the Dahomey (…). You could start on all the points you want (…) I, too, will do the same. About what happened at the Ouémé River, you caused it (…). If you had not come to start war against me on the Atchoupa way, I would not have done anything to you first (…). Now, I come to tell you that, if you remain calm, I too will remain calm and we will have peace(…).
The first time I did not know how to fight a war, now I know. If you start war, I have troops ready. My men are as numerous as works coming out of the earth. I am the king of the Africans and the Europeans have no say in what I do. The villages you are talking about do actually belong to me, they belong to me and wanted to become independent (under your influence), so I gave orders for them to be destroyed (…).
I desire to know how many independent French villages were destroyed by me, King of Dahomey. Remain calm, so your trade in Porto-Novo, this way we will always remain in peace as in the past. If you want war, I am ready. I will not end it even if it lasts a hundred years or kills 20,000 men.”
Behanzin, to Victor Ballot in Porto-Novo, 10 Avril 1892, Archives of the Popular Republic of Benin.
2 thoughts on “Behanzin’s Letters to the French President”
That’s a powerful letter. Talk about speaking truth to power.
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