Books on Toussaint
Hubert Cole. Christophe: King of Haiti. New
York: The Viking Press, 1967.
The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution
Caribbean Doscourse (2004)
/ Barbara Harlow.
Resistance Literature (1987)
Josaphat B. Kubayanda.
The Poet's Africa: Africanness in the Poetry of Nicolas Guillen and Aime
Paul Laraque and Jack Hirschman.
Gate An Anthology of Haitian Creole Poetry
David P. Geggus, ed.
The Impact of the
Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World.
University of South Carolina Press, 2001.
* * *
Not Die . . ."
Toussaint's Final Days at Fort de
“. . . Yet die not; do thou
Wear rather in thy bonds a cheerful brow.”
Heros dropped anchor
off Brest on July 2, 1802.
Police swarmed all over the quay when Toussaint was set
ashore. The unusual
spectacle of a Negro dressed up as a general drew the jeers and
catcalls of the excited crowd which thronged the landing-stage
to catch a glimpse of the prisoner.
Toussaint was calm, dignified, and sad.
Along with his valet, Mars Plaisir, he was thrown into a
dungeon in the fortress of Brest, overlooking the sea.
Toussaint’s family, with the exception of Placide, were
sent to Bayonne and kept under the surveillance by the military
for having served as one of his father’s staff officers, was
transferred to the brig Naiade
and conveyed to Belle Isle en Mer, where he was imprisoned.
July 25, Napoleon ordered that Toussaint Louverture, together
with his manservant, was to be moved to Fort de Joux, in the
Jura Mountains. Why
did he not have Toussaint tried immediately by a court-martial
and summarily executed? There
were three reasons: he wanted to extract the secret of the
Negro’s negotiations with the English; he wanted him to
disclose where he had hidden his reputedly fabulous fortune;
and, finally, he was acting on advice sent him by Leclerc: “In
the present state of affairs, to judge and execute him would
merely exacerbate the Negroes out here.”
the prison at Brest, Toussaint had sent a dignified protest to
the First Consul, complaining of Leclerc’s treachery and of
the treatment inflicted on his family: “A mother of a family
may well, at the age of 53, merit the indulgent benevolence of a
generous and liberal nation.
She is guilty of nothing.
I am alone responsible for my conduct.”
But this protest was met with silence.
dawn on August 13, Toussaint and Mars Plaisir were taken from
their dungeon and conveyed by launch to Landerneau.
There they were put in a carriage and, escorted by two
companies of cavalry, taken to Morlaix, which they reached by
nightfall. The next
morning the journey continued to Guingamp, where a group of
soldiers showed themselves to be chivalrous sons of France in
the presence of brave adversary.
happened that the garrison at Guingamp was supplied by the 82nd
regiment, which had fought under General Toussaint’s orders in
Saint Domingue; and the officers begged the escort commander to
allow the carriage to halt, so that they could pay a last
tribute to the conquered general.
The escort commander granted their request, and then, one
by one, these brave soldiers went up and embraced the old Negro.
They then lined up, presented arms, and paid him the full
military honours of his rank, while their eyes shone with tears.
procession continued on its way to Paris, reaching the capital
in the evening of August 17.
Toussaint was lodged for the night in the Temple prison.
next morning he was sent to Besançon, which he reached three
days later. Fame
had carried his name throughout the length and breadth of
France, and the streets of the ancient town, where Victor Hugo
had been born a few months previously, were thronged with people
anxious to see for themselves Toussaint Louverture, whom they
had nicknamed “the Moorish King.”
midday on August 23, Toussaint, half starving and worn out with
fatigue, found himself facing the entire populace of Pontarlier
gathered together outside the Hotel de la Poste, where the
procession had halted. All the grief and sorrow in the world seemed to gaze out of
his eyes. Baille,
the commander of Fort de Joux, was already at Pontarlier,
waiting to receive his famous guest.
Relay horses had been provided.
feudal citadel of Fort de Joux, facing towards Switzerland and
set high amid the snow-covered peaks, stands like an eagles’
nest on the rugged height.
It had been the residence of a cruel old hypochondriac,
whose name it still bears.
Mirabeau, in the course of his many disputes with his
father, had been imprisoned there.
And Fort de Joux was now Napoleon’s favourite prison,
where he confined his most redoubtable opponents.
Several of his foes had already known its cells, among
them d’Andigne and Suzannet, who had succeeded in escaping.
fort is little better than an inhabited block of ice, save for a
few months of spring and summer.
As soon as the autumn begins, the whole region is
enclosed by a thick hard wall of snow, and the steep winding
pathways are quite impassable. The few inhabitants of the region are virtual prisoners in
their own houses throughout the winter.
Even inside the fort there is barely any warmth; the
mighty walls ooze and drip all the time, and a cruel frost
adorns them with grotesque patterns.
then, in the coldest, and most uncomfortable cell, they
confirmed the “centaur of the savannahs.”
His cell is little better than a
trench,” wrote his faithful valet, “barely nine
yards long and less than four yards wide.
The lowness of the ceiling seems to weigh down
heavily upon our shoulders.
At the opposite end from the door, three-quarters
of the loop-hole which serves as a window is blocked up.
We can see only a tiny rectangle of sky, and even
that is partially cut off by a corner of the roof
us and the sky there are also heavy iron bars.
The cell was so damp when we came in that the
water covered the floor completely. For the furniture—a bed, a chest of drawers, a little
table, and two chairs.
To the left, a crude little fireplace.
malignity of Baille far surpassed that of Napoleon’s gaoler,
Hudson Lowe, at Saint Helena.
Baille, a despicable person, redoubled the cruel orders
of his superiors in order to curry favour with them.
There was no kind of moral torture to which he did not
subject his hapless prisoner.
Toussaint had been addressing numerous memoranda to
Napoleon, justifying his conduct both before and after the
events, and emphasizing the treachery of Leclerc.
This correspondence soon exasperated the First Consul,
and suddenly the order was passed on to Fort Joux: The prisoner
is not to write any more letters to the Government.
With zealous haste Baille sped to Toussaint’s cell and
removed all his paper and writing materials.
the regional authorities, the perfect, and the police were daily
reminded by the Government to maintain the utmost vigilance over
their captive. During
the night Toussaint would be woken up as many as four times by
the guards on duty. The
little money his wife had been able to convey to him on board
the Heros was taken
from him on the threat of ‘searching his trousers if he did
not hand over all he had, and on one occasion Toussaint was
Baille, however, was
by no means satisfied with his searches.
For example, he burst into the cell at midnight, followed
by one of his officers. “What
do you want now?” asked Toussaint wearily from his bed.
“I am certain,” replied Baille, “that you have not
handed everything over. Have
you any papers of importance here?”
Toussaint sat up and took from the inside pocket of his
jacket three letters which he held out to the gaoler: one was
from Leclerc requesting him to confer with Brunet; the second
made the appointment for the fateful meeting; and the third was
from Pesquidoux, a commander of the Ennery garrison, requesting
the commander-in-chief to dismiss his national guard.
The first two letters
were invaluable to Toussaint, for they were the only proof of
the trap into which the two French generals had lured him.
As he gave them to Baille he said: “You will give them
back to me when I leave.”
Leave? Had misfortune upset the balance of Toussaint’s mind?
To be sure, he was one of those who never despair in the
most hopeless situations, who rely on the courage and genius
finding an eventual way out of somehow; but in this icy narrow
cell, where he had been thrown in the hope that he would soon
die, what hope could Toussaint still have that one day he might
By heaping vexations
and privations on Toussaint Napoleon was hoping to break his
spirit; hence, hearing of the great solace Toussaint derived
from the presence and tender solicitude of his valet, Mars
Plaisir, he ordered him to be removed.
Baille and Amiot entered the cell, cruel enjoyment illuminating
their faces. Mars
Plaisir, kneeling down, was busily massaging his master’s
right leg which was badly swollen from rheumatism.
The cold was so intense that Toussaint was shivering from
head to toe, and his teeth were chattering.
“Pick up your
belongings,” said Baille to Mars Plaisir, “and get out.”
cried Toussaint bitterly, “would you take him from me?”
“By order of
the Government,” replied the jailer curtly.
Plaisir began sobbing passionately.
His piteous grief might have moved the very stones.
He clung to his master’s knees, and Amiot had to drag
him away and throw him out.
Chained, he was taken on foot to Nantes, whence he was to
sail for Saint Domingue to reveal the secret place where
Toussaint had buried his treasures; his captors believed Mars
Plaisir was the only person to share this knowledge.
make Toussaint’s imprisonment even harder to bear his food
ration was now severely curtailed.
Every day his diet, like the vigilance to which he was
subjected, received another turn of the screw.
Had Baille been able to sew up his prisoner’s lips, he
would undoubtedly have done so. He wrote to Decres: “Up to now the Guard Officer could see
him, though not talk to him, and then only when taking him his
food. I alone see
him now. When it is
necessary to enter his cell I make him move into the adjoining
one, previously occupied by his servant.
I have expressly forbidden Toussaint to utter a single
was still another humiliation to inflict on the prisoner, to
complete his demoralization.
Everything connected with his military uniform was to be
Baille hastened to the cell to carry out this latest order.
When he gave Toussaint the news the Negro general
replied: “I am treated this way because of the colour of my
skin. But has it
ever prevented me from serving France?
Is it any reflection on my honour, my reputation or my
his general’s uniform, his trousers, and his plumed hat into a
bundle, he threw it at the jailer’s feet, saying in sudden
fury: “There, you lackey!
Take that to your master!”
September 9, 1802, Napoleon judged that his prisoner’s
resistance must be completely undermined as the result of the
rigorous treatment to which he had been subjected.
He therefore considered that the moment was ripe to send
to Toussaint a special agent, charged with the task of
extracting from the captive the information desired.
For this mission he appointed one of his aides-de-camp,
General Cafarelli, renowned for his subtlety and harshness.
paid Toussaint three visits, but neither threats nor promises
could move the man of iron to utter more than he was willing to
evasive and restrained, Toussaint referred to nothing but the
events of his resistance, haughtily assumed responsibility for
them, and said no more.
agent found himself talking to a man ravaged by wretchedness but
still strong enough to rise above his misfortunes.
Toussaint speak for himself:
I have done has been for the good of the Colony, to
guarantee the freedom of my people.
If Leclerc had not announced his arrival in Saint
Domingue with cannon-shot, all the evil consequences
would not have ensued.
When Henry Christophe set fire to Cap Francais in
answer to Leclerc’s attempt to force his way into the
city, he was carrying out my orders; so also were
General Mareupas, at Port de Paix, and Dessalines, at
was exasperated by Leclerc’s imprudent and impolitic
the face of his unwarranted aggression I could not
forget that I carried a sword.
It was necessary.
I admit that I did wrong in promulgating it, but
my desire to make the Colony prosper, and the hope that
it would be approved by the Government, decided me.
for England, I only dealt with her twice.
Once was when I had defeated her and it was
necessary to arrange the terms of evacuation.
The other time was when it was vitally urgent to
obtain supples for the Colony.
France was quite cut off from Saint Domingue.
I refused to become King of Saint Domingue so that I
could remain loyal to the Republic.
In the course of his second meeting with me at
Gonaives, General Maitland did everything in his power
to persuade me to grant his country exclusive trading
rights, and to place the island under English
protection; but I fooled him and all the representatives
with whom he surrounded me.
conditions of the second treaty were never carried out
because Admiral Forker, of Jamaica, said that Maitland
had allowed himself to be fooled by a Negro.
Apart from a horse’s trappings and a set of
gold plate presented to me as a personal gift from King
George—which I was at first reluctant to accept—I
have received no gifts from England.
In the end I accepted these items at the personal
insistence of General Maitland.
Americans sold me ten thousand rifles, gunpowder sent in
flour barrels, and sixteen four-pounders.
These things were necessary to me for the defence
of the Colony.
for the treasures of which you talk so persistently, I
have none. Observing
that those who deal with public monies are rarely
completely upright, I have always made it a strict rule
to leave the public monies severely alone . . .
assertion that I had six Negroes shot who had buried my
treasures, and that I have sent other riches to England
and the United States, is a slanderous invention.
you had money invested in business?”
have never been interested in business, Monsieur: I work on the
land,” replied Toussaint proudly.
say in your Memorandum to the First Consul that you had 648,800
francs before the Revolution: what have you done with it all?”
that time the Colony was ruined, and France was sending no
supplies. I spent
my money to pay the army. .
. . Saint
Domingue is a treasure-house, but to find the treasure a man
must work, and the Negroes must have peace, and freedom.”
dialogue was interrupted by Baille who, coming into the cell,
said to Toussaint:
are the clothes they’ve made for you.”
They were the grey garments worn by convicts.
Negro was so overcome that Cafarelli noted: “Seeing him so
shaken, I reminded him that there was still one way whereby he
could win some favour with the Government—by frankly telling
everything . . . This appeared to disconcert him, and he thought
for a moment. Then
he began again reiterating his protestations of loyalty to the
Republic . . . I visited him again the next morning and found
him ill and trembling with the cold.
He seemed to be suffering greatly and could scarcely
interrogated him again, and urged him to trust me, since I would
not [I assured him] abuse his confidence.
He then picked up the memorandum [already quoted], begged
me to take it away, and told me that I would find in it all I
wished to know.”
concluded his report to Napoleon in the following terms: “It
was obvious that the man had made up his mind to confess nothing
. . . Stubbornly dissembling, always master of himself, subtle
and adroit, giving an air of great frankness to everything he
said, he yet said what he wanted to say.
He often speaks of his family, above all of his son
Placide. I was
unable to tell him where they were.
His prison is cold, healthy, and very secure.
He has communication with no one.
Toussaint believes that his only misdeed was the
proclamation of his Constitution.’
precautions were now taken against the prisoner’s escape,
because a stranger, pretending to be a doctor, had already
succeeded in piercing the cordon which encircled Toussaint.
This person had not only approached him, but had spoken
to him: true, this had been in the presence of the jailer, but
nevertheless, the impossible had happened.
audacious interviewer was a certain unfrocked priest, Abbé
Dormoy, a notorious adventurer who did not know the meaning of
fear. One morning in October he had appeared at Fort de Joux, and
after showing Baille a false permit, had announced that, as a
doctor, he wished to see Toussaint.
Completely deluded by Dormoy’s self-assurance, Baille
duly led him down to the cell, where the pseudo-doctor gravely
sounded the prisoner, asked him several questions, spoke about
the state of his health, and said that he would call in and see
seems certain that Dormoy was the emissary of a religious
organization which attempting to save Toussaint, who, it will be
remembered, had done much to help and favour the clergy during
his government in Saint Domingue.
It is not unreasonable to suppose that the Jesuits should
have sought to rescue a man who had rendered them such
invaluable assistance with their religion was persecuted and
hunted down. At any
rate, the Abbé exploit made a multitude of
officials—ministers, prefects, and jailers—frantic with
fury. But the
police did not succeed in laying hands on Dormoy, and the
mystery of his visit was never explained.
his jailers, the dying prisoner was now becoming an obsession,
making them ill in their turn.
Sheer fatigue and exhaustion affected Baille so seriously
that he was no longer able to sleep, and he resigned his
was succeeded by Amiot, whose cruelty far exceeded that of his
predecessor: he even refused to grant Dr. Tavernier of
Pontarlier permission to see the dying man.
vision of the future was his consolation for everything else.
He could see, among the wild rugged rocks and gullies and
the flaming plains, the men whom he had reared carrying his
great work to its glorious conclusion in the struggle to the
death. His body
might be destroyed, but his work lived on.
winter was growing more cruel now, and its icy needles pierced
through the poor swollen flesh of Toussaint Louverture.
Every day he moved nearer to his end with a dignity that
compelled the respect even of his brutal jailers.
From time to time Toussaint swallowed down his sobs.
To sustain his courage he would painfully push the table
towards the fireplace, open his book of prayers, crouch back on
his chair, and, by the faint candle-light, comfort himself with
the beauty of the Psalms. But
eyes would cloud over so that he could not read; and the holy
book would fall unheeded to the floor.
though to make men forget the rigours of the winter, spring came
swiftly and suddenly in the year 1803 with radiant loveliness. April, glorious in her flowers and fragrance, smiled
throughout the length and breadth of France, but the unhappy
prisoner knew nothing of the vernal sweetness: the cell in which
he lay dying retained the wintry cold and darkness.
For the past three days he had been given no wood at all
and could not stop shivering.
the night of April 6 Toussaint was taken violently ill.
His chest burned, he vomited blood, he broke into a cold
sweat, and a thousand daggers stabbed at his lungs.
His throat was on fire, blood trickled from the corners
of his lips . . .
Great scenes came
flooding back into his mind . . . Saint Domingue . . . its blue
mountains . . . its turquoise skies . . . Breda . . . the family
cabin . . . his wife . . . his children . . . Mars Plaisir . . .
the red plume given to him by Laveaux . . . Napoleon’s sword
of honour . . . Maitland . . . the celebrations at the Mole . .
. And the bitter memories—the young body of Moise Louverture .
. . Rochambeau . . . ‘Snake Gully’ . . . the red roses of
Sesnay . . . and then a whole army of Negroes. . . .
“Free at last!” groaned the dying man, his proud
smile twisted in pain.
Suddenly the breathing
lessened, and a choking sound came from the throat.
Toussaint Louverture had died, sitting in his chair.
at eleven o’clock, Amiot entered, smiling at the thought of
the joke he would play on the prisoner sitting motionless in his
chair beside the fireplace.
Toussaint! Lots of food today!”
answer. He went up
to the Negro general; the body was stiff.
He shook it brutally, and then he understood.
The jailer stepped back awkwardly, baring his head with
instinctive respect for the dead.
Then he went out; but you could never tell, he thought,
with these black princes . . . To make quite sure, he went back
and carefully locked the door.
* * * * *
The Impact of the
Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World
Reviewed by Mimi Sheller
The Impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World explores the
multifarious influence—from economic to ideological to psychological—that a
revolt on a small Caribbean island had on the continents surrounding it. Fifteen international scholars, including
eminent historians David Brion Davis, Seymour Drescher, and Robin Blackburn,
explicate such diverse ramifications as the spawning of slave resistance and the
stimulation of slavery's expansion, the opening of economic frontiers, and the
formation of black and white diasporas. Seeking to disentangle the effects of
the Haitian Revolutionfrom those of the French Revolution, they demonstrate that
its impact was ambiguous, complex, and contradictory.—Publisher,
University of South Carolina Press
Slave Revolution in the Caribbean, 1789-1804
A Brief History with Documents
Dubois and John D. Garrigus
This volume details the
first slave rebellion to have a successful outcome, leading to
the establishment of Haiti as a free black republic and paving
the way for the emancipation of slaves in the rest of the French
Empire and the world. Incited by the French Revolution, the
enslaved inhabitants of the French Caribbean began a series of
revolts, and in 1791 plantation workers in Haiti, then known as
Saint-Domingue, overwhelmed their planter owners and began to
take control of the island. They achieved emancipation in 1794,
and after successfully opposing Napoleonic forces eight years
later, emerged as part of an independent nation in 1804. A broad
selection of documents, all newly translated by the authors, is
contextualized by a thorough introduction considering the very
latest scholarship. Laurent Dubois and John D. Garrigus clarify
for students the complex political, economic, and racial issues
surrounding the revolution and its reverberations worldwide.
Useful pedagogical tools include maps, illustrations, a
chronology, and a selected bibliography.—Publisher,
* * *
* * * * *
1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus
By Charles C. Mann
a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous
New Revelations of the Americas Before
Columbus, in which he
provides a sweeping and provocative
examination of North and South America
prior to the arrival of Christopher
Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched
but so wonderfully written that it’s
anything but exhausting to read. With
1493, Mann has taken it to a
new, truly global level. Building on the
groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby
The Columbian Exchange and, I’m
proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer),
Mann has written nothing less than the
story of our world: how a planet of what
were once several autonomous continents
is quickly becoming a single,
Mann not only talked to countless
scientists and researchers; he visited
the places he writes about, and as a
consequence, the book has a marvelously
wide-ranging yet personal feel as we
follow Mann from one far-flung corner of
the world to the next. And always, the
prose is masterful. In telling the
improbable story of how Spanish and
Chinese cultures collided in the
Philippines in the sixteenth century, he
takes us to the island of Mindoro whose
“southern coast consists of a number of
small bays, one next to another like
tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how
the spread of malaria, the potato,
tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar
cane have disrupted and convulsed the
planet and will continue to do so until
we are finally living on one integrated
or at least close-to-integrated Earth.
Whether or not the human instigators of
all this remarkable change will survive
the process they helped to initiate more
than five hundred years ago remains,
Mann suggests in this monumental and
revelatory book, an open question.
* * *
The Persistence of the Color Line
Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency
By Randall Kennedy
Among the best things about
The Persistence of the Color Line
is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the
positions about Mr. Obama staked out by
black commentators on the left and
right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel
West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley.
He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr.
Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism
regarding whether blacks should back
Obama” . . .
finest chapter in
The Persistence of the Color Line
is so resonant, and so personal, it
could nearly be the basis for a book of
its own. That chapter is titled
“Reverend Wright and My Father:
Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”
Recalling some of the criticisms of
America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s
former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with
feeling about his own father, who put
each of his three of his children
through Princeton but who “never forgave
American society for its racist
mistreatment of him and those whom he
most loved.” His father distrusted
the police, who had frequently called
him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr.
Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad
Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never
called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places
his father, and Mr. Wright, in
sympathetic historical light.
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
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Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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