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.
* * *
Treachery and Surrender
Negotiates End of Hostilities
advantage of the lull in the heavy fighting to thank Napoleon
for his letter. Although
he did not believe a word of it, he surpassed himself in his
expressions of gratitude, and reassured him of his loyalty to
France and his respect for her authority.
He pointed out, however, that he was at the moment quite
legitimately engaged in self-defence: he could not very well
cross his arms resignedly in face of Leclerc’s criminal and
stupid act of aggression.
twilight of his meteoric career, when he was an exile on Saint
Helena, Napoleon eventually realized that his downfall had been
one of Toussaint’s aims.
Turning over in his mind his own part in the affairs of
Saint Domingue, Napoleon said to Baron de Las Cases, who was
taking down his memoirs: ‘I am sorry about my attitude towards
Saint Domingue at the time of the Consulate.
It was a bad mistake to try and force it into submission.
It should have contented myself with letting Toussaint
With the idea
of negotiating, Toussaint sent two French officers, Brigadier
Pascal Sabes and Lieutenant Gemont, whom he was holding as
prisoners-of-war, to General Boudet.
As soon as the latter received the message he seized the
opportunity of initiating peace talks. He considered that negotiations were now imperative, since
the situation of the French army was deteriorating daily, and
yellow fever was now spreading its sickly mask over the
having received the necessary authorization, dispatched Bernard
Chancy, his prisoner-of-war, to Toussaint.
Chancy took with him a letter filled with protestations
of friendship and peaceful intentions.
Toussaint, only too willing to re-establish relations
with France provided the Negroes would not suffer, sent him back
to Boudet declaring once more that he was not guided by ambition
but by honour and that he was ready to make any further
sacrifice to prevent the damage from spreading any further,
provided the freedom of the Negroes was guaranteed.
reason which led Toussaint to favour negotiations was the fact
that Leclerc and other French Generals were achieving no small
measure of success in undermining the loyalty of some of
Toussaint’s lieutenants. French emissaries were continually trying by every means in
their power to separate Toussaint from his principal assistants.
Leclerc had, in fact, already proved his sympathy with
them by deporting Andre Rigaud from the Colony.
His deportation was bitterly received by his followers,
for it showed only too clearly the official French attitude
towards the mulattoes: it provided a lesson which was to guide
their future conduct.
Negro general who was most favourably impressed by Leclerc’s
perfidious insinuations was Henry Christophe, who commanded the
first Northern division. Christophe
was a Negro from Saint Christophe Island, and have been born of
free parents. In
1791 he had joined up with a mulatto company to fight the
slaves. After this
Christophe took to sea as a pirate, boarding and pillaging
mercilessly all the rich galleons that came his way in the
Caribbean. When Toussaint declared for France, Henry Christophe joined
his organizing and military qualities, his chief appointed him
to the command of Petite Anse.
After the war in the south, the commander-in-chief
promoted Christophe to the rank of brigadier; and when Moise
Louverture was shot Henry Christophe took his place as northern
win him over, Leclerc sent to Petite Anse a man called Vilton,
with whom Christophe was on friendly terms.
Vilton told of all the advantages he would reap if he
went over to Lectern. Just
when they were on the verge of a meeting Leclerc said in a
letter confirming and guaranteeing Vilton’s
promises, ‘if you intend
to submit to the Republic, think what a great service you
would be rendering her by securing for us the person General
was then so far advanced in his negotiations with Leclerc that
the Frenchman thought it feasible to make him a proposal of this
nature. It must be
recorded to his credit that he replied to Leclerc’s ignoble
suggestion in the following terms: ‘This degrading suggestion
shows me that you object to crediting me with the slightest
sentiments of delicacy or honour.
He is my commander and my friend.
How can friendship be compatible with such cowardice?’
hastened to send another letter, suitably filled with flattering
urged the Negro general to ignore his earlier communication and
proposed a meeting at Haut du Cap ‘to clear everything up’.
now proceeded to La Marmelade, where he informed Toussaint of
Leclerc’s proposals. He
showed him the letters he had received, but tactfully kept
Leclerc’s proposals about Toussaint to himself.
The commander-in-chief, who had already been considering
a cessation of hostilities, authorized Henry Christophe to go
and hear Leclerc had to say.
meeting between Leclerc and Christophe took place on April 26,
Captain-General exerted all his charm to win over Toussaint’s
lieutenant once and for all, and he was completely successful.
By the end of the conversation the Negro general had,
without Toussaint’s authority, surrendered to Leclerc, and
undertaken to hand over without delay one hundred pieces of
cannon, twelve hundred men from the reserve, all his ammunition,
French prisoners-of-war, the Limbe, and all his strategic
positions. It was a
stab in the back for Toussaint.
gave Henry Christophe a cordial message of greeting to
Toussaint, and the negotiator returned to La Marmelade.
He was careful to refrain from telling Toussaint of his
complete submission to Leclerc: he merely handed over the
Frenchman’s letter which Toussaint placed on his table without
for the moment reading it.
Christophe did not stay long at Toussaint’s
headquarters, but hastened back to his own command at the
conclusion of the audience.
As soon as his lieutenant had gone, Toussaint turned to
read Leclerc’s letter, and was astonished to find that his
lieutenant had concluded an armistice.
Furious, Toussaint swiftly dispatched his chief of staff
in pursuit of Christophe, telling him to return forthwith and
give and explanation of his action.
Needless to say, Christophe did not obey the imperious
at once summoned a council of war and informed his officers of
the treachery of Henry Christophe one of the mainstays of his
military power. There
was general consternation.
His whole plan of a strong, honourable capitulation was
disintegrating, and he must now meet Leclerc almost in the role
of a conquered man; but the conqueror was not his enemy, it was
his own favourite, Henry Christophe.
had concluded his letter to Toussaint in the following terms:
‘It would be happy day for me if you would undertake to come
to an agreement with me and submit to the Republic.’
Toussaint replied that he had never ceased to be faithful
to France, and that if he, Leclerc, had behaved towards him in
accordance with the military code, and as befitted the services
Toussaint had rendered France, not a single shot need have been
fire in Saint Domingue. He
ended with an acid criticism of Christophe’s action, which
was, he said, contrary to the most elementary principles of
military loyalty and discipline.
a good gambler, Toussaint accepted the unfortunate situation
with his accustomed calm. In
order to determine the peace clauses, he proposed a personal
meeting with Leclerc at Henricourt near Cap Francais.
Leclerc refused to agree to this.
Toussaint then deputed two aides-de-camp to confer with
meeting lasted for three hours, at the end of which the
delegates had agreed with the Captain-General that a peace
should be drawn up on the following lines: (1) inviolable
liberty for all Negroes of Saint Domingue; (2) all Negro
officers to remain in full enjoyment of their ranks and
dignities; (3) Toussaint Louverture to retain his staff of
officers, and to retire at his convenience to one of his
was delighted with this arrangement, and he expressed his
pleasure in a most generously worded letter.
Here are a few extracts from it: ‘Today we must not our
time in going over the evils of the past—I shall devote myself
solely to the task of restoring the Colony to its former
splendour . . . You, and the Generals with you, need have no
fear that I shall investigate past conduct, for I draw a veil
over all that has happened here in Saint Domingue . . . In this
I emulate the example set by the First Consul in his attitude to
France after Brumaire 18th . . . I shall distinguish
in future only between good citizens and bad citizens.
Your generals and your troops will be treated and used
like the rest of my army.’
now expressed a desire to see his former enemy, and it was
arranged that the two men should meet at Cap Francais.
The re ensued great anxiety throughout the city, for
everyone knew that Toussaint would rarely trust anyone; and they
wondered if he would appear after all.
But he went. It
was as though Toussaint, in the events through which he had
lived, had seen the emptiness of human prudence; and now yielded
once more to impulse as if reverting to the inherent fatalism of
his race. Almost
indifferent to what might happen, he set out for his meeting
with Leclerc on May 5, accompanied by a glittering escort of six
hundred horse, under the personal command of Morisset.
the amazement of the French Army, which had not expected him,
Toussaint Louverture appeared at the gates of Cap Francais. At the well-known sound of his trumpets the whole city
flocked into the streets, while General Debelle and Hardy
hastened to greet him. As
he entered Cap Francais, Negro men and women knelt down before
him. He was
conducted to Leclerc’s residence near the harbour, and was
taken into the salle
d’honneur, which was adorned with a portrait of himself.
Leclerc was absent, lunching on board Rear-Admiral
Maguy’s frigate. Suddenly
all the artillery of the forts were fired in honour of the Negro
general, and the warships anchored in the roads echoed the shore
salutes. In the
twinkling of an eye Leclerc’s residence was invaded by a
multitude of French officers eager to behold their legendary
enemy. Leclerc hastened ashore.
was conversing amicably with Debelle and Hardy when the
Captain-General hastened to embrace him.
He complimented Toussaint on the mark of confidence he
had shown by visiting him in the way in the midst of the French
reconciliation.’ he went on, ‘will bring prosperity once
more to this wonderful island which owes so much to your great
work of restoration.’ ‘I
never thought,’ replied Toussaint, ‘that I would one day
have to offer resistance to France, our natural protector.
If only news had been sent ahead of you the cannon would
never have been fired as our welcome to the envoy of a great
power; instead, you would have been received with bonfires of
joy and happiness. General
Christophe requested you to grant him a few days in which to
receive my orders and you should have acceded to his request.’
‘I knew of your absence,’ said Leclerc, ‘but as the
commander-in-chief of a French army, and therefore superior to
Christophe in rank and authority, I considered it would be an
affront to my dignity to wait upon the wishes of a Brigadier.’
yet, General, you did wait four days; and you will surely
concede that a few more days more could have made no difference,
cast no slur upon your honour?
For according to your brother-in-law’s letter your
mission was a peaceful one.’
doubt I was over-hasty,’ admitted Leclerc.
‘Let us forget the past, however, and it will be the
sooner mended. Let
us rejoice in our reunion, General!
Each of us has done wrong; but now your sons, your
officers and my officers, must bear witness to our
as he spoke, Leclerc threw open the doors of the room and the
multitude from the salle d’honneur poured in on them.
Leclerc then, in the presence of all, received from
Toussaint the renewal of his oath of loyalty, and himself
reiterated that Toussaint’s lieutenants would all retain their
rank and honour with the exception of Dessalines.
is contrary to our agreement,’ flashed out Toussaint, and his
expression contracted with sudden fury.
well, we shall not except Dessalines,’ amended Leclerc
fell on Cap Francais, lit up like daylight in honour of
Toussaint Louverture. Leclerc
gave a state reception: all the vast salons of the Carenage
Palace were filled with red roses, the favourite flower of the
played softly and rich perfumes filled the air.
Pauline Bonaparte wore a snowy white gown that seemed
ready to slip off her shoulders; her gloves reach up to them,
and she negligently carried a cashmere scarf embroidered with
gold thread. It was
noticed that she was particularly gracious towards the
handsomest man present—General Henry Christophe, dazzling in a
uniform of scarlet and gold.
the commander-in-chief found himself surrounded by French
generals, who, in a corner of the great salon, were arguing
about the vicissitudes of the recent campaign.
Some of them could not stomach the tremendous
self-confidence apparent in Toussaint’s attitude, only
partially concealed by an air of studied modesty. In particular General Debelle was exasperated at the
superiority complex of the former slave, and with a view to
humiliating him said abruptly:
‘I have serious
doubts, General Toussaint, of your loyalty to Bonaparte:
sincerity does not strike me as being a Negro virtue; which is
scarcely surprising, since nobody can transform a sack of coal
replied Toussaint with heat, stung by the innuendo; ‘but that
sack of coal can produce capable of destroying not only flour,
but bronze as well.’
discourteous insinuation had cast a cloud over the
commander-in-chief’s mood, and he was annoyed with himself for
having replied in a way which betrayed, only too clearly, his
true state of mind. He
made to leave the reception, but Leclerc managed to dissuade
As he left
Leclerc’s reception Toussaint realized that despite all the
honours paid him, despite the honourable peace he had obtained,
he was by no means satisfied with the course of events, nor with
his own part in them. He
was one of those men who can never really be content to
Toussaint was not a conqueror and able to dictate his own terms,
he felt that he was conquered; and he knew in his heart; that he
was so now. Moreover,
he discerned the hypocrisy and felt fragility to Leclerc’s
undertaking and guarantees.
Nor for his part did Leclerc place any trust in the
continued loyalty of his former foe.
Thus the two generals felt that their entente own more to the force of circumstance than to any real
desire for peace, and the germ of mutual distrust made their
relationship a hazardous thing.
* * * * *
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,
* * *
(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)