Toussaint L'Ouverture


Toussaint L'Ouverture was the Leader of the Haitian Revolution, a leader who's political strategies and fighting abilities earned him eloquent nicknames such as:

" The Black George Washington, The Black Napoleon Bonaparte, The Black Spartacus. 
The Greatest negro that the world has ever known, before and since his time;
Father of Democracy, Artisan of Liberty and Equality. The Precursor of Freedom; Man of the Millennium"

  Over 250 books in more than 10 different languages have been published about the greatness of Toussaint L'Ouverture. Some of the books are of over 600 pages. There are no disagreements among Historians about the fact that Toussaint L'Ouverture was a far greater leader than George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte, because of his Human Freedom and Equality ideals, a view that neither Bonaparte nor Washington shared, since they were both supporters of slavery. Till today books and movies are still being made about Toussaint L'Ouverture. A book was published by Alain Foix, a Guadeloupean philosopher,  in 2008, about Toussaint L'Ouverture in comparison to the current President of the United States. Barack Obama. The book is titled:

"Noir, de Toussaint L'Ouverture à Barack Obama" in English."Black, from Toussaint L'Ouverture to Barack Obama".

In our commitment and continuous efforts to bring the best of Haiti to the world, we present you, the story of one of the most fascinating and important figures in world's history.  The astonishingly brilliant man, the Great Toussaint L'Ouverture, Father of The Republic of Haiti.

Toussaint L'Ouverture was the leader of the Haitian Revolution, his date of birth is not known for certain. But as Toussaint himself acknowledged in his writings, that he was 50 years old when the Haitian Revolution begun in 1791, we can conclude then that he was born in the years of 1741. His father, Gaou Guinou was the son of the King of Arrada (modern day Benin), who had been captured by the French and sold into slavery in the French colony of Saint Domingue, today Haiti.
Toussaint has received a rare gift for a black kid at the time, the privilege of learning how to read and write. He received his education from his god-father, an old freed slaves name Pierre Baptiste.

So small in stature and weak led to people calling him "Fatras Baton" although he would be known later in life for his stamina and prowess. Toussaint L'Ouverture was one of the marginal privileged slaves, not only to have been taught how to read and write, he was fortunate to have as master, the kind-hearted French planter 
François-Antoine Baillon de Libertat. François-Antoine had a great affection for Toussaint L'Ouverture; he always had been  impressed by his intelligence and quick learning abilities. Unlike the rest of the slaves, he gave Toussaint L'Ouverture the responsibilities of overseeing the plantation and taking care of the horses, instead of working in the rough conditions of the sugar cane fields, where ants alone, which are attracted to the sugar canes' roots, could almost eat you alive. He made him his coachman, a very important role, since coachmen usually carried messages for their masters, alone and on their own responsibility. Toussaint's love for horses, made him a notable equestrian; he would ride horses throughout Cap-Haitian at the admiration of his master and all the slaves, Toussaint had also acquired famous skills in veterinary medicine from the other African slaves who were Vodou practitioners, therefore very knowledgeable of the medicinal power of plants. Although Toussaint L'Ouverture was well off in contrast to the rest of the slave population in Saint Domingue, he was still a slave; another man's property. Something that Toussaint L'Ouverture was determined to change. He famously quoted. 

                                                   " I was born a slave, but nature gave me the soul of a free man."

At the age of 33, Toussaint L'Ouverture earned his freedom from his master. He got a small plot and some slaves, as was the norms when freeing a negro. He became the owner of a property consisted of sixteen
"Carreaux" or 64 acres; most of it planted in coffee and staples, and became the master of 13 slaves. Not only was Toussaint thankful for the treatments he had received from his master growing up, but also for granting him freedom. In a letter sent to the French directory in 1797, Toussaint credits Bayon de Libertat with having set him free.

" 20 years ago, the heavy burden of slavery was lifted from me by one of those men who think more of their duties to fulfill toward oppressed humanity than the product of work of an unfortunate being, here I speak of my former master, the virtuous Bayon." 

Toussaint's wealth quickly expanded, within a year he established contacts in the United States, England and Spain; got himself a wife and had a couple of  children. 
Contrary to what many believe, Toussaint L'Ouverture was a rich man. He owned properties all over Cap-Haitian. He was able to pay for his 3 sons Placide, Isaac and Saint-Jean's education, at the Military Academy of Paris. Aside being successful in business, he continued to do what he loved the most. Reading and riding horses. One book in particular, had a profound impact on him. A book that will change the entire course of his life. The book written by Abbé Raynal, which talked about the enormity of human rights violation of the slave population in Saint Domingue, was powerful and hit an intelligent man like Toussaint L'Ouverture like a rock. Over and over did he would read this particular paragraph, in which the book foreseen: 

"If self-interest alone prevails with nations and their masters, there is another power. Nature speak in louder tones than philosophy or self interest. Already are there established two colonies of fugitive Negroes, whom treaties and power protect from assault. Those lightnings announce the thunder. A courageous chief only is wanted. Where is he, that great man whom nature owes to her vexed, oppressed and tormented children? Where is he? He will appear doubt it not; he will come forth and raise the standard of liberty. This venerable signal will gather around him the companions of his misfortunes. More impetuous than the torrent, they will everywhere leave the indelible traces of their just resentment. Everywhere people will bless the name of the hero who shall have reestablished the rights of the human race; everywhere will they raise trophies in his honor."

"The Rise of a black Spartacus among the slaves in Saint Domingue, who will have the mission to avenge his race."

Many thought that Bookman, the Voodoo priest who sparked the Slave Revolution, was the one prophetised by the wise Abbé Raynal, but after the decapitation of Bookman by the French soldiers for advocating revolution, all hopes were lost. Fortunately, the book foresaw another leader, another great man; that man was Toussaint L'Ouverture, and no book could have been more predictable.
Nearly 50, Toussaint abandoned everything. Wealth, family, residence and moved to the mountains, rejoining his African slaves brothers to fight for the abolition of slavery. Although being free for many years, the plights of the other slaves inflicted him deeply. No one could have understood the true meaning of freedom than Toussaint L'Ouverture, a former slave himself.  The slaves maroons were disorganized, they were fighting for the freedom of individual maroons clan, but Toussaint L'Ouverture  had a better picture of what freedom was, he had a larger vision. Freedom for not just a handful, but all.

" Brothers and friends. I am Toussaint L'Ouverture; perhaps my name had made itself known to you. I have undertaken vengeance, I want Liberty and Equality to reign in Saint Domingue. I am working to make that happen. Unite yourself to us, brothers and fight with us, for the same cause. Your very humble, and obedient servant Toussaint L'Ouverture.

With no previous military experiences whatsoever, Toussaint L'Ouverture engaged in what would be the greatest challenge of his life and his time. He found it unfair, that the prosperity of the rest of the world depended on the murderous labors of Africans. Yes, Saint Domingue was the world largest exporter of coffee and sugar by a ratio of 5 times greater than the rest of the world combined, it also had a monopoly in cotton, indigo, starch, spices, precious wood and numerous other commodities. It supplied France with over half the wealth it derived from all its other colonies combined, and kept the entire navy of France, the most powerful in the world, in business. Saint Domingue's export as early as 1788 reached 214 billion Francs, making it the richest colony in the world. The powerful empires of England and Spain, were at war with France in Europe, and thought the only way to destroy France, was to gain control of Saint Domingue, and keeping slavery. 
These were the odds that Toussaint L'Ouverture, this ugly and untrained negro, who could barely say two words of french had to fight against, and would ultimately win.

Just weeks after Toussaint introduction to the escaped slave maroons, one of the most important uprising in the Haitian Revolution happened; Bois Caiman. It was previously believed that the Vodou ceremony of Bois Caiman was organized by Bookman, but although Bookman was the one who presided over the ceremony, it was Toussaint L'Ouverture who instigated the idea among the slaves. One of the reason for Toussaint absence during the actual ceremony, was because he was known to be a devout Catholic, and did not want people to associate him with Vodou. The French General Kesserveau who was in charge for the investigation of the massacre that resulted from Bois Caiman, where nearly 2.000 french masters were killed by stabbing, beheading, beating and poisoning, made the following accusation against Toussaint L'Ouverture:

"Shaped by long slavery to the merry-go-round of flattery and dissimulation, he knew how to mask his feelings and disguise his steps and for that he was only a more terrible tool in the hands of disorganizers. It was he who presided over the assembly where he had proclaimed as chiefs of the insurrection Jean Francois, Biassou, and some others whose size, strength and other physical advantages seemed to point toward command. For himself, weak and frail, known to his comrades by the name Fatras Baton, he found himself too honored by the position of secretary to Biassou. It's from this obscure post, where he had placed himself, that hidden behind the curtain he pulled all the strings of intrigue, organized the revolt and prepared the explosion."

 "...Vastest, cruelest and best organized conspiracy of which history can provide an example." 

Toussaint L'Ouverture was an exemplary mastermind; a potent but invisible presence. Not only did he nominated two other soldiers from the men he was training to higher posts then himself, he chose to be their secretary. He pretended to be illiterate and never signed a document himself. He always had someone in charge of that task. A role as a deeply secret co-conspirator would help to explain how Toussaint was able to remain quietly and calmly unmolested at Bréda, where many died after the eruptions, including Bookman, the voodoo priest who presided over the ceremony.
After helping his former master fled to the eastern part of Hispaniola, known as Santo-Domingo at the time, he returned to the mountains, where he would spend the next couple of months, teaching both himself and the slaves, the art of fighting. Among them were soldiers that would be critical in the years to come. Such as Jean Jacques Dessalines and Capois La Mort. 

A few months later, Toussaint L'Ouverture, with his men, crossed the border and went to Santo-Domingo. The part of Hispaniola that the Spanish occupied, but were still having trouble keeping the English completely away. Toussaint made them an offer, the freedom,           munitions and protection of his small army for his help in fighting off the English that still occupied portion of Santo Domingo; Toussaint also instigated the idea of reclaiming the French part of the island for Spain. He did not ask for the liberation of all slaves in Saint Domingue, he figured that Spain would reject his offer on the accounts of who would work the plantations if their get successful on reclaiming the eastern French part of Hispaniola, it was no secret that the wealth of the French occupied half of Hispaniola was the result of slaves labor.They rejected the offer anyways, without their approval, Toussaint decided to engage his soldiers in many fights against the English, of which he had won many. Something that the Spanish were trying to do for years, was done by the former slaves under the command of Toussaint L'Ouverture in about a month. Impressed, the Spaniards not only agreed to help him trained his soldiers and provided him with supplies, they also made him a General of an important garrison in the Spanish Army!!!
The news spread like wild fire across the entire Island.
The very next day something enormous happened in French Saint Domingue. Félicité Léger Sonthonax,
A very kind white frenchmen who was appointed governor of the colony even though he had alway been against the brutal treatments of the slaves, But When the news broke that France had freed the slaves, Sonthonax was quick to order a public announcement to make this grand official announcement.

"Do not believe that the freedom you enjoy is a state of laziness and idleness. In France, everyone works and everyone is free. In Santo Domingo, subject to the same laws, you will follow the same example. Tuck in your workshop or at your former owners, you will receive the salary of your sentences, you are no longer the property of others, you will remain the masters of your own and you will live happy. Freedom takes you from nothingness to existence, show yourselves worthy of it, abjure forever indolence as robbery, have the courage to want to be a people and soon you will equal the European nations."


overnor General of Saint Domingue, declared the emancipation of all the slaves!
The parliamentary of the French Government in Europe, in a declaration proclaimed the freedom of the slaves, after the passage of "La D
éclaration des Droits de L'Homme et du Citoyen" (The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen). And it is that declaration that truly turned Toussaint L'Ouverture into the man that he eventually would became.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was a significant moment in human history, and

"Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good"

After the passage of the Declaration of Man, Toussaint immediately abandoned his post as general in the spanish army, and paid allegiance to the French Republic.

 On December 1791, Toussaint led his men into their first mission. They successfully captured over 100 powerful white businessmen in the city of Cap-Haitien. The slaves were quick to demand the killing of them all , butToussaint forbade the idea and reminded his soldiers that they were fighting under him, and therefore will not let them undermine his authority. Alone, He rode his horse to the colony's governor general, Philibert François Rouxel viscount de Blanchelande's
headquarter and made him an offer.

 The release of the captures, in exchange for a ban on the use of whips on slaves, an extra non-working day besides Sunday, and freedom for a handful of leaders.

The Governor General, laughed at him, and vehemently opposed such frivolous ideas. The fact that Toussaint L'Ouverture, a former slave, had enough courage to come up with such a demand  from the governor General, was outstanding. Even though the Governor, declined such an offer, he was impressed by Toussaint L'Ouverture character. The next day, with his soldiers and the 100 French prisoners, Toussaint again went to the Governor General's headquarter. Seeing the prisoners might help the Governor change his mind, he thought. But he was quick to realize that he didn't have a chance, when the guards, refused to even let him in. Affronted, Toussaint soldiers' again demanded the killings of the prisoners. Despite the growing dissatisfaction towards him, Toussaint ordered the release of all 100 captured. Now this time, the former slaves were convinced that Toussaint L'Ouverture was not really for the abolition of slavery, and expressed their desire to walk away. Toussaint L'Ouverture knew, that the killing of the prisoners, will certainly triggered a violent response from the French, and he wasn't  militarily  prepared for that at all.
This was the thinking of a true leader. A leader capable of making tough decisions, in spite of the discontentment of his followers. He was a visionary; one who makes decision, not on impulse, but rational thinking that will benefits not just a handful, but all. Again, he was able to convince his men, to continue fighting along his side for the common goal that he did not fail to mention during his introduction to them.
So in conclusion, Toussaint L'Ouverture, eventually became to be known as the first person to abolished slavery and forming an Independent State; of Black People, former slaves; and the fact that this man who abolished the thousands of years of this despicable system, was black and former slave himself shifted the course of humanity forever, paving the way for the abolition of slavery throughout history, and sent a shock-wave to rest of the world!"

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