Jackie Lermond 11/17/14
Toussaint Louverture was a man born in Saint Domingue. He grew up a slave, managed a plantation, and ended up owning some slaves of his own before becoming an important person in the history of Saint Domingue. During his lifetime, Toussaint Louverture was a great military commander and ruler of Saint Domingue, but most importantly Toussaint Louverture was a liberator of slaves.
One of Toussaint’s many accomplishments was being a fantastic military commander. He made smart decisions that would benefit his people. He even put his personal life behind the safety of his people, like when “...Toussaint ordered Moyse’s [his nephew’s] arrest and had him confined in the fort of Port de Paix.” (Doc E) Along with making decisions with his head, not his heart, Toussaint was also a very clever commander. When the French ships were approaching the harbor to come and reinforce slavery, he came up with a plan so that when the French landed all they saw was “...nothing but smouldering ruins, where once stood splendid cities.” (Doc F) Although he was a smart and clever commander, it is not how we should remember him.
Along with being a diligent commander of the Military of saint Domingue, Toussaint was also named the leader of Saint Domingue in its Constitution. According to Article 16 of the Saint Domingue Constitution, “...Toussaint Louverture, Chief General of the army of Saint-Domingue and… he is entrusted the direction thereof for the remainder of his glorious life.” (Doc C) Toussaint ruling of Saint Domingue was to last for as long as he lived. There were pros and cons to this idea. The people already trust him as the General of the Army, so it would be easy for him to become their ruler, but if he starts to make bad decisions, then they are stuck and can’t get rid of him. A short 3 months after the Constitution was made and Toussaint was put into power, he made a proclamation to ensure the smooth running of the country. In this proclamation he stated that “Any individual… tending to incite sedition [actions against the authority of the nation] shall be brought before a court martial [military court] and be punished in conformity with the law.” (Doc D) He was trying to make sure that there was fair punishments and prevent people from forming any kind of rebellion against him. He sets up these boundaries because he cares about his people and wants to keep them out of trouble.
All of Toussaint’s actions as a military commander and ruler all had one thing in common: freeing the people of his country from slavery. In 1794 Toussaint and his troops stop their revolt and ally with the revolutionary government of France (Doc A). Toussaint sometimes fought against the French and was allied with them at other times depending on what their goals were. If the French were against slavery then he would join forces, but when the government wanted to enslave Toussaint’s people he would fight for them. All of his allies depended on what their goals were. For example, when the French Directory was trying to reestablish slavery in Saint Domingue, Toussaint wrote them saying that “...if they [people of Saint Domingue] had a thousand lives, they would sacrifice them all rather than to be subjected to slavery….” Toussaint wrote this very strongly worded letter to the French Directory on behalf of his people. He threatened the Directory saying that the people would fight them if they continued with their plans. His army would fight against the French instead of with them because the French were for slavery at this time. Toussaint’s allies depended on how their goals worked for his people, not him.
While Toussaint Louverture may have made many mistakes throughout his life he was definitely a good leader and commander for Saint Domingue. Even though he was great at those occupations, he was even better at liberating slaves and fighting for their freedom. He stood up for their freedom even though it eventually led to his death. People can say all they want about the choices he made, but nobody can argue that he did everything in his power to free the slaves of his country. Sadly, Toussaint didn’t live to see the day when Saint Domingue became the independent country of Haiti.
Doc A: Created from Various Sources
Doc B: Toussaint Louverture, “Letter to the French Directory, November 1797.”
Doc C: The Saint Domingue Constitution of 1801. Signed by Toussaint Louverture in July 1801.
Doc D: Toussaint Louverture, “Proclamation, 25 November 1801.”
Doc E: Madison Smartt Bell, Toussaint Louverture: A Biography, 2007.
Doc F: William Wells Brown, “A Description of Toussaint Louverture,” fro The Black Man, His Antecedents, His Genius, and His Achievements, 2nd edition, 1863, Engraving of Toussaint Louverture, 1802.