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.
* * *
Than Just a Man"
Toussaint's Early Years
Pauline Gaouguinou walked slowly and heavily
out of the chapel of Haut du Cap.
She had been to Mass, and a stream of slaves moved past
her along the highway. They
talked noisily of the happy days they had known in their native
land and about the miseries of their present lives.
One group hummed a strange, sad melody, filled with all
the unhappiness of slavery.
An old Bambara Negress named Pelagia, who was said to be
able to foretell the future, went to Pauline, touched the
girl’s stomach with a spray of red laurel, and said solemnly:
"Your womb is sharply pointed, Pauline.
You will bring forth a male child, and he will be a great
You think so, Pelagia?" replied Pauline wistfully.
"If it happens as you say, the boy shall
be your godchild."
On the night of May 20, 1743, she gave birth
to her child, Francois Dominique Toussaint, a boy who was so
sickly that it was thought he would not live.
Yet Pelagia had not been mistaken, for Pauline’s son
was destined to become, in Lamartine’s phrase, ‘more than
just a man—a nation’.
Pauline’s husband, Prince Gaouguinou, was
the second son of the king of the Arada tribe.
He had been brought from Africa by a Portuguese trader
among a batch of slaves acquired at the famous Wydah market in
Dahomey, and sixty days later, after a terrible voyage, had been
sold in the market-place at Cape Francais, in Haiti. The prince’s new master, Comte de Noe, a kind and
chivalrous man, owned the beautiful estate of Breda, about three
miles from the Cape. One
day he noticed Gaouginou’s noble bearing, and on questioning
him learned that he was of royal blood.
He at once granted the Negro prince what was known as liberte
de savane, a status which gave him both freedom and the
protection of his liberator.
Nor did the owner of Breda stop at this, for he also
presented the prince with a gift of land and five Negroes.
Gauguinou was received into the Catholic
faith. In due
course he had married Pauline, a young woman of his own tribe,
who was, according to one chronicler, ‘both beautiful and
Gaouguinou’s wedding day the Comte de Noe gave his slaves a
holiday, and the countryside was filled with the sounds of
songs, games, and dances.
Their child Toussaint grew up a peculiar,
sickly lad, not particularly presentable, and invariably
godfather, an old Negro called Pierre Baptiste who worked at the
hospital of the Fathers of Charity, passed on to the child what
the Jesuits had taught him of reading, writing, and arithmetic.
Young Toussaint was often in and out of the hospital, and
it was thus that the Superior, Father Luxembourg, struck by the
boy’s evident intelligence and aptitude, took charge of his
religious education. For a time he lived with the Fathers, working as a servant in
Prince Gaouguinou contributed towards
Toussaint’s education by teaching him the Arada language and
the science of medicinal herbs.
Later, the former accomplishment won him the support of
the Arada slaves, all of them first-class warriors; the latter
invested him, in the eyes of the Negroes, with the reputation of
being a great sorcerer who was able to commune with the ‘good
also told his son stories of his African ancestors.
With suppressed excitement the boy listened to tales of
the forest and the bush, and heard of the stratagems employed by
his forefathers in their tribal wars.
Little by little he began to realize the importance of
his ancestry, and grew to consider himself superior to his
playmates, from whom he stood aloof more and more as the years
When Toussaint was fifteen something happened
that was to fire his spirit and turn his whole mind to the
single aim of setting free his fellow Negroes.
One afternoon in January 1758 he was in Cap
Francais when a famous Negro by the name of Macandal was to be
put to death in the Place Royale.
Macandal had succeeded in poisoning several of the
settlers and overseers, but had at last been caught and
sentenced to be burnt alive.
Having run away from his master eighteen years earlier,
he had waged a relentless war against the landowners and had
poisoned a number of the settlers and even some of the more
valued Negroes. Macandal
had accomplices among house slaves, and he had given them his
poisons to be mixed with the food and drink of their masters.
In this way whole families had died in agony.
Standing among the crowd of spectators in the
Place Royale, Toussaint saw Macandal twisting and writhing in
the flames. He
watched the white men jesting and mocking at the martyr’s
helpless contortions; the innocent Negroes breathless before the
horrid sight; the wretched victim, forced into crime and murder
by the vilest of all human institutions, now groaning and
cursing as the fire flickered greedily up his body.
All these sights filled Toussaint with the ambition to
rid Saint Domingue of slavery, but how was he, a
poverty-stricken youth, to fight against these mighty white men?
A sudden shout of horror from the crowd burst
in on Toussaint’s meditations.
The victim, ‘after making exertions beyond those of
other men’, had freed himself from the iron chain which bound
him to the stake, and was now running across the square, his
body scarred with burns. Confusion
reigned until the mounted guards caught their prey once more.
The Negro onlookers were scattered by savage sword blows.
As the slaves fled in all directions they cried out:
‘Brother Macandal, you were right when you said that no human
being could ever kill you!’
Yet his hands and feet were bound again, and he was
thrown back into the fire.
Heart and mind filled with bitterness,
Toussaint returned to Breda, accompanied by a young friend
called Biassou, a slave who worked at the hospital of the
Fathers of Charity. From
that day his melancholy became even more marked—the melancholy
of a young slave whose heart had been hardened and who viewed
life and men alike with bitterness.
Meanwhile, the bonds of slavery lay lightly
on Toussaint, for the landowner of Breda entertained kind
feelings towards the Gaouguinou family.
His parents owned a few cattle, and they were able to
sell the surplus from their garden. Negroes who were hungry knew they could always be sure of a
bite to eat at the ‘good Gaouguinous’.
Sometimes Toussaint would go with his mother
to the market at Cap Francais, where he would marvel at this
‘Paris of the Antilles’, with its glittering shops and
stately mansions. But
his eyes never lost their sadness.
His days were passed in dreaming, and he became more and
more taciturn. Sometimes
he was to be seen scaling the steepest rocks with the agility of
a goat; and when he reached the top he would sit down and gaze
for hours at the horizon. As
an athlete he had no rival, but notwithstanding his aptitude his
young friends dubbed him fatras
baton (weedy stick) on account of his sickly appearance. He had, however, a finely shaped head, a lofty brow, and a
clear-cut triangular face.
His large, close-set eyes seemed to stand out of his
face; with small but thick lips, a resolute chin, and sharp
white teeth, there was a suggestion of sardonic cruelty about
When the time came for Toussaint to take up
his duties as a slave the factor of Breda, M. Bayon de Libertad,
took him under his wing, impressed by his serious looks and
natural intelligence. He
put in charge of the livestock, in which capacity he did his
work conscientiously and showed great initiative.
His life was one of work, suffering, and
pride—the secret pride of humble folk.
He was saddened by all the servile, mechanical tasks
which the Negroes had to perform, and which the Negroes had to
perform, and which filled the bright sunlit land with unbounded
night the voices of his brothers would come to Toussaint,
echoing across the countryside, as they called ingenuously on
their gods in distant Africa to aid them in their distress.
Day after day he would watch the slaves at work on the
sugar plantations, toiling under the sugar plantations, toiling
under the constant threat of the lash.
But he hid his feelings, smiled at the overseer, and gave
the impression that he was a contented youngster, in whom the
seed of rebellion could never germinate.
He played a role so well that his masters were completely
deceived forty years, every day holding him up as an example to
the other slaves. He
was M. Bayon de Libertad’s favourite, and the expression as
wise as Toussaint’ became proverbial.
He had an instinctive knowledge of
horse-breeding, and soon learned the art of taming wild horses
and mules, proving so skilful that he was nicknamed "the
centaur of the savannah."
In all weathers he was out in the open, toughening his
body, and perhaps dreaming of what the future held in store for
him and the huge masses who languished in slavery.
During these lonely journeys Toussaint would allow his
ambitions to have free rein; but as soon as Breda came in sight
again he was once more the smug, contented slave.
About this time Toussaint suffered a great
personal sorrow in the death of his mother.
Pauline was survived by her five children, of whom
Toussaint was the eldest. The
youngest, Jean, who was said to be the image of his royal
grandfather, the African king, died in childhood. The other three children were Pierre (who was to die fighting
at the side of his brother Toussaint), Paul, and Marie Noel.
Gaouguinou himself, overcome by grief, did not long
survive his wife.
Toussaint was thus left as head of the
family. The family
sense was highly developed in him, and he watched his brothers
and sister with the greatest solicitude, making sure that they
won the favour and esteem of their master.
As a reward for his high merits, and a further testimony
to his irreproachable loyalty, M. de Libertad made Toussaint his
personal coachman, a position of great trust, since it naturally
brought him into close touch with the master and his family.
Retiring, serious, and industrious, Toussaint
made splendid use of his position.
Soon after his promotion by M. de Libertad he was
appointed steward of Breda.
Before this appointment no slave had ever held such an
important position in Saint Domingue.
His qualities as an administrator and leader of men, seen
now in the exercise of his new duties, made a lively impression
on Toussaint’s master, for under his stewardship the estate of
Breda became the most prosperous in Cap Francais.
The revenues were trebled.
It was as though Toussaint were not acting for somebody
else, but in his own interests.
And indeed it was not really the owner’s interest which
he had at heart; it was a proud desire to display his abilities
to the full. Although
inwardly grieving, he would sometimes severely punish lazy or
rebellious slaves and be hated by them in consequence; they were
quite unable to understand why one of their fellows should show
such an immoderate zeal for work when the profits would go to
The years passed by, and outwardly
Toussaint’s life was tranquil.
Yet working for his master in the fields or in the
stifling sugar-mills, he knew profound melancholy, as he
reflected on the plight of his fellow slaves, but kept to
himself. Sometimes they would see him at night walking alone through
the woods, musing in an undertone.
Many of the slaves already regarded him as
their natural leader, and in their admiration and fear of him
they would say to one another that he was "the beloved of
the African gods, with whom he was in communication."
Toussaint was well aware of these rumours,
but did nothing to discourage them, as they served to enhance
his prestige in the eyes of the innocent and superstitious.
His triangular-shaped face with its prominent eyes
reminded them of their ancestral African idols.
He would take no part in their dances or other simple
pleasures, keeping himself aloof, yet free from arrogance,
another proof of his instinctive sense of leadership.
In 1777, when he was thirty-four, Toussaint
was solemnly liberated by Bayon de Libertad.
About this time he became a prey to violent passions, and
there were few beautiful Negresses at Breda who did not come to
know his embraces. Although
he was remarkably discreet, his excess came to the ears of
Pierre Baptiste, who reproached him and advised him to take a
wife and settle down. His
patron also spoke to him, and even recommended an Arada girl
renowned for her beauty and liveliness.
But Toussaint rejected the suggestion with a
smile: he would only marry a woman of his own choosing, and his
observations are recorded:
I have chosen my wife myself: M.
Bayon de Libertad wanted me to marry a vivacious,
high-spirited young Negress. But I have always been able to withstand people who thought
they were doing me a good turn, when their endeavours
ran contrary to my own inclination.
So I married Suzanne, because I preferred to have
a wife who was already familiar with the cares and
worries of running a house.
His wife, Suzanne Simone Baptiste, had been
the mistress of a freed mulatto called Seraphin Clerc, and she
had borne him one child, Placide.
Suzanne was modest, gentle, and pleasing to look at.
During the first years of his married life Toussaint
appeared to be perfectly happy
He continued to give the impression to his master of an
apathetic slave who had achieved his ideal and wished for
nothing more. But already he was shaping in his mind the broad outlines of
the strategy he would employ in what was to be his phenomenal
accent to power. He
would lull his adversary into a false state of security, and
then, at the right time, turn and crush him utterly, swiftly,
Suzanne bore her husband two sons, Isaac and
Saint Jean. With an unusual sensitivity Toussaint made no distinction
between his own sons and his stepson, and appeared equally fond
of all three. As a
husband he was always kind and cheerful.
He and his wife followed a truly Biblical way of life.
Here is Toussaint's delightful frank account of
On Sundays and on feast days my wife,
my relatives, and I went to Mass.
On returning home we would have a pleasant meal
together, and after remaining in one another’s company
for the rest of the day, we would conclude with family
the outbreak of the Revolution I had never been
separated from my wife for any length of time.
We would work side by side in our
little garden, holding hands as we went to and from our
always blessed our labours, for not only did we lack for
nothing and were even able to save, but we also had the
pleasure of giving food to the Negroes who worked on the
estate when they were in need of it.
Toussaint now had a good home, and his
position of authority at Breda satisfied to some extent his
desire for power; but events in Europe were beginning to bring
grave expressions to the faces of his master, and, with his
secret ambition in mind, he lent a joyful ear to the disturbing
rumours from Paris.
Source: J. Brown, M.D. History and Present Condition of St.
Domingo. Philadelphia: Wm. Marshall, 1837.
* * * * *
The Impact of the
Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World
Reviewed by Mimi Sheller
Slave Revolution in the Caribbean, 1789-1804
A Brief History with Documents
Dubois and John D. Garrigus
* * *
* * *
Triumphs and Tragedies in the Founding of
Joseph J. Ellis
This subtle, brilliant
examination of the period between the War of
Independence and the Louisiana Purchase puts
Pulitzer-winner Ellis (Founding
Brothers) among the finest of
America's narrative historians. Six stories,
each centering on a significant creative
achievement or failure, combine to portray
often flawed men and their efforts to lay
the republic's foundation. Set against the
extraordinary establishment of the most
liberal nation-state in the history of
Western Civilization... in the most
extensive and richly endowed plot of ground
on the planet are the terrible costs of
victory, including the perpetuation of
slavery and the cruel oppression of Native
Americans. Ellis blames the founders'
failures on their decision to opt for an
evolutionary revolution, not a risky
severance with tradition (as would happen,
murderously, in France, which necessitated
compromises, like retaining slavery).
Despite the injustices and brutalities that
resulted, Ellis argues, this deferral
strategy was a profound insight rooted in a
realistic appraisal of how enduring social
change best happens. Ellis's lucid,
illuminating and ironic prose will make this
a holiday season hit.—
American Creation (Joseph Ellis
* * *
The Revolution: A Manifesto
By Ron Paul
Republican Presidential candidate and author Paul (A
Foreign Policy of Freedom) says "Let the revolution
begin" with this libertarian plea for a return to "the
principles of our Founding Fathers: liberty,
self-government, the Constitution, and a
noninterventionist foreign policy." Specific examples
demonstrate how far U.S. law has strayed from this path,
particularly over the past century, as well as Paul's
firm grasp of history and dedication to meaningful
debate: "it is revolutionary to ask whether we need
troops in 130 countries . . . whether the accumulation
of more and more power in Washington has been good for
us . . . to ask fundamental questions about privacy,
police-state measures, taxation, social policy." Though
he can rant, Paul is informative and impassioned, giving
readers of any political bent food for thought. With
harsh words for both Democrats and Republicans, and
especially George W. Bush, Paul's no-nonsense text
questions the "imperialist" foreign policy that's led to
the war in Iraq ("one of the most ill considered, poorly
planned, and . . . unnecessary military conflicts in
American history"), the economic situation and rampant
federalism treading on states' rights and identities
("The Founding Fathers did not intend for every American
neighborhood to be exactly the same"). Though his policy
suggestions can seem extreme, Paul's book gives new life
to old debates.—Publishers Weekly
* * * * *
King of the Mountain
The Nature of Political Leadership
By Arnold M. Ludwig
“People may choose to ignore their animal heritage by interpreting their behavior as divinely inspired, socially purposeful, or even self-serving, all of which they attribute to being human, but they masticate, fornicate, and procreate, much as chimps and apes do, so they should have little cause to get upset if they learn that they act like other primates when they politically agitate, debate, abdicate, placate, and administrate, too."—from the book King of the Mountain presents the startling findings of Arnold M. Ludwig's eighteen-year investigation into why people want to rule. The answer may seem obvious—power, privilege, and perks—but any adequate answer also needs to explain why so many rulers cling to power even when they are miserable, trust nobody, feel besieged, and face almost certain death. Ludwig's results suggest that leaders of nations tend to act remarkably like monkeys and apes in the way they come to power, govern, and rule. Profiling every ruler of a recognized country in the twentieth century—over 1,900 people in all, Ludwig establishes how rulers came to power, how they lost power, the dangers they faced, and the odds of their being assassinated, committing suicide, or dying a natural death. Then, concentrating on a smaller sub-set of 377 rulers for whom more extensive personal information was available, he compares six different kinds of leaders, examining their characteristics, their childhoods, and their mental stability or instability to identify the main predictors of later political success. Ludwig's penetrating observations, though presented in a lighthearted and entertaining way, offer important insight into why humans have engaged in war throughout recorded history as well as suggesting how they might live together in peace.
* * * * *
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
* * * * *
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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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