|Fig.1: "Turn around, the revolt is
Sources credit Toussaint's father, Gaou Guinou, as being a prince in West Africa before being captured in war and sold into slavery (talk about a fall from grace). He was brought to the French colony of Saint-Domingue, which, like most colonies in the Caribbean, relied on forced labor to cultivate the money-making but bad-for-your-teeth crops of sugar, coffee, and tobacco. Sometime in the 1740s, he fathered a son who was named François-Dominique Toussaint by the happy French planters who were super excited about having a nice strong boy do all the work for them for the next ten to fifty years. Though rare for a slave, Toussaint was given a pretty decent education by another slave, Pierre Baptiste, and later demonstrated an acute understanding of the French language, political theory, Greek philosophy, and square dancing from that one week in gym class. Without specifying why, records show that he became a free man around 1776, and continued to work as an overseer on the plantation for actual money (that's a nice thing to receive in return for one's services). Toussaint appears to have gained a decent bit of wealth by 1790, and strangely might have had slaves of his own! It's like we're swimming in irony here!
|Fig.2: The island was divided into the French colony of Saint-Dominque on the left,
the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo on the right, and the small Pig Latin
settlement of Aintsay Ominicday on the southeast coast.
|Fig.3: Looking at Sonthonax's figure,
accents weren't the only thing he was
Things were now looking up for Toussaint. While Saint-Domingue was still a French colony, he basically had free reign over the land, and was made president for life. He scored favorable treaties with both Great Britain and the United States in 1798, who promised recognition in return for more teeth-rotting sugar. In 1801, he invaded the Spanish Santo Domingo side, and soon brought the entire island under his rule. To top it all off, Toussaint claimed he had fathered sixteen children with a bunch of different women by this time, proving he was adept at playing more of the field than just the battlefield. But the tables turned with the rise of a little-known historical figure named Napoleon Bonaparte. He announced he would making small changes to the laws of France and its colonies, and dropped tiny hints that slavery might be reintroduced in the Caribbean. Toussaint countered this by appointing an assembly to write a new constitution, which reaffirmed the colony's position in the French Empire but proclaimed that, "There can be no slaves in this territory, servitude is therein forever abolished. All men are born, live and die free and French" (I could get behind the free part, but you can keep the French). Of course, Napoleon got a bit annoyed by this, and let loose his short temper by sending 20,000 soldiers to the island.
|Fig.4: It was a lot less confusing when they fought
battles in straight lines.
In overthrowing me you have cut down in Saint Domingue only the trunk of the tree of liberty; it will spring up again from the roots, for they are numerous and they are deep.While initially laughed off with calls of, "Is this guy serious?" Toussaint's words were backed up by massive epidemic of yellow fever that killed many Frenchmen, including Leclerc. Soon, a coalition of former slaves under the command of Toussaint's lieutenant, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, achieved a final victory at the Battle of Vertières in November 1803 (fig.4). With Napoleon's invasion proving quite stunted in growth, French forces fled the island, and Saint-Domingue became the independent nation of Haiti. And so Toussaint Louverture's dream of permanent freedom and independence for his people was finally accomplished.
|Fig.5: Toussaint always presented
his book reports with confidence.