Title of Course: Black History 201: The History of Haiti

Instructor: Mba Mbulu

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Class #14: Toussaint L'Ouverture

Read the Essay below. Be able to answer and expound on the following questions.


(1) Did the intransigence of the whites prove that the Haitian Revolution was more about race than human equality?
(2) What did Toussaint L'Ouverture do when he joined the San Domingo Revolution? How important was his army to what he was able to accomplish?
(3) What would Toussaint wave in the air while he told his People, "Here is your liberty!'?
(4) What two things did Toussaint want for his people more than anything else?
(5) Why didn't Toussaint abolish the slave trade when he assumed control of San Domingo?

Class #14 Essay

Throughout the French Revolution and the Haitian Revolution, the whites remained intransigent. The little whites were more intransigent that the others. Because so many elements were becoming intimately intertwined, it is no wonder that many researchers and historians began to define the Haitian Revolution as a social fight that took on a racial appearance. But the opposite is just as true, probably moreso than the former. The Haitian Revolution, more than anything else, was a racial fight mired in an abusive economic system that took on a social appearance because of events associated with the French Revolution. However, the French Revolution did not define the Haitian Revolution. The Haitian Revolutioin pre-dated the French Revolution and maintained its core reason for being even after the French Revolution surged to the political forefront. White intransigence probably resulted in insurrections led by Blacks like Jean Francois y Biassou and Hyacinthe, a slave, in the north. These Blacks destroyed property of mulattoes and small whites. Among the followers of Biassou was a man that some called Pierre Dominique Toussaint. Others called him Francois, but he became known to the world as Toussaint L'Ouverture.

Toussaint L'Ouverture was a driver on a plantation in Breda, close to where Boukman had begun the final stages of the Haitian Revolution in 1791. He was well known, respected, accustomed to exerting authority and knew how to impose discipline without being brutal. Because Toussaint was so well respected, he was able to keep the slaves on the Breda plantation from participating in the insurrection led by Boukman. Later, when Toussaint could no longer deny how brutal the whites were, he and the Blacks from his plantation joined Biassou and the revolution. Toussaint became Biassou's assistant and was later put in charge of a column that operated in the north of the colony.

In early 1792 Toussaint began to organize an army out of the thousands of ignorant and untrained Black rebellers. He drilled them repeatedly and taught them the art of war, recognizing all the time that revolutionary troops, not talk, would be the deciding factor in their struggle for freedom. By the end of 1792, he had developed the core of a fighting Black army that would, within the next decade, defeat the Spanish, British and French armies , the three most powerful armies in the world at the time. He knew whites were determined to recolonize San Domingo.

With his army as the instrument of his power and the masses as its foundation, Toussaint scored some impressive victories on the battlefield and gained the allegiance of other Black and mulatto rebellers. He then made some early moves toward independence. He proposed a plan to the Spanish that would eliminate the French and grant freedom to all of the Blacks. When the Spanish refused, he proposed a similar plan to the French. When the French refused, Toussaint rallied his people, made his army more powerful than ever and went on the offensive militarily. Within four years, Black People were in complete political control of San Domingo, and Toussaint L'Ouverture was their undisputed leader.

Recognizing that political power is only a means to an end, Toussaint began to institute measures that would bring about the two ends he desired most-- permanent freedom for his people and the development of Black People as a race. He armed the laborers and would wave a gun up in the air while shouting, "Here is your liberty!" He created a constitution that abolished slavery, kept the church subordinate to the state, barred French officials and authorized the slave trade (The slave trade was authorized because the colony needed laborers. As soon as slaves landed in San Domingo they automatically became free people). And, even though he knew that the owners of property were without principles, he refused to persecute them because they had the knowledge and expertise he felt was needed by the colony to return to prosperity.

But Toussaint did not declare that San Domingo was an independent nation. That glory was left to his successor, Jean Jacques Dessalines.

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