Though the revolution was warmly enough greeted in Saint-Domingue, not least by Toussaint, the old monarchy, which had been trying to reform its colonies for years, still seemed like a kindlier alternative to the Committee of Public Safety. Little is known about François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture before his role in the Haitian Revolution. Elimination of rivals Though he worked well with Laveaux, Toussaint eased him out in 1796. In addition, he wasn't partial to any religious faith. In the course of masterminding and leading the Haitian Revolution—the only successful slave revolt in history, which ended with Haitian independence in 1804—Louverture climbed to the top of the political and military hierarchy of colonial Haiti, then known as Saint-Domingue, defeated Spanish royal forces in neighboring Santo Domingo present-day Dominican Republic , and repelled a large British invasion force.
But his position was more precarious. His wife survived him, living until 1816. Deeply researched and bracingly original, Toussaint Louverture is the definitive biography of one of the most influential people of his era, or any other. An overwhelming majority went either to Brazil or the Caribbean. The author reminds us also that there was always some level of slave resistance in the Caribbean.
He had a tireless energy, and a was constantly reading and dictating letters to his subordinates. Winning the favour of the plantation manager, he became a handler, healer, coachman, and finally. There are things to admire about the man such as his refusal to let anyone, of any class or color, disrespect him as a man. I found that quite odd. He was at times violent in subduing his political rivals, but overall he helped the island achieve a degree of peace and prosperity. Although he slept little, his energy and capacity for work were astonishing. The leader of the Haitian Revolution, Louverture has been alternately depicted as a Spartacus-like figure who avenged the victims of slavery, or a calculating politician who intended to hold the slave system in place while reengineering it to benefit a new black elite.
He even purchased slaves of his own. His death was quiet — probably a heart attack — and unheroic. By 1801, he was general and governor of Saint-Domingue, and an international statesman who forged treaties with Britain, France, Spain, and the United Statesempires that feared the effect his example would have on their slave regimes. Saint-Domingue, like mother France, was slipping into chaos. He intimidated French government officials from the mainland, staging mock protests, and even going so far as to subject them to mock executions, to show who was in charge.
The slaves of Saint Domingue believed and not without good reason that the King was their best shot for labor reform, and in the planning stages Toussaint implied that the insurrection against the restless colonists was authorized at the royal level. From a military standpoint, Louverture clearly proved himself to be a capable general. He may have also received training from Jesuit missionaries and from West African medicinal traditions. Louverture was isolated and starved in a fortress in the Jura mountains, where he died in April 1803. By 1801, he was general and governor of Saint-Domingue, and an international statesman who forged treaties with Britain, France, Spain, and the United States-empires that feared the effect his example would have on their slave regimes. When the war for independence arrived in 1791, Louverture had positioned himself to be at the forefront of it and the self appointed leader of the place of his birth. Toussaint Louverture s life was one of hardship, triumph, and contradiction.
He helped free Saint-Domingue's slaves yet immediately restricted their rights in the interests of protecting the island's sugar production. He desired the recognition and respect of Europeans and attempted to reach agreements with them on equal terms rather than seeking vengeance at all costs. He may have also received training from Jesuit missionaries and from West African medicinal traditions. His father, Hippolyte, or Gaou Guinou, had been an aristocrat. He exercised brutal countermeasures against rivals, but also offered forgiveness for many of his most hated enemies, including former plantation managers.
Girard's depiction of the life of perhaps the most famous revolutionary in the history of slavery is refreshingly original, and fearless, as it draws a portrait of the complex life of its subject without regard for conventional interpretations and political correctness. Louverture was freed from slavery in his 40's, possibly due to his close connection and friendship with his plantations managers. His words and deeds do not betray any particular motive outside securing his own power which has often been the case with revolutionary leaders. Abroad, tragedy would befall him. After hesitating a few weeks, he helped his former master escape and then joined the black forces who were burning plantations and killing many Europeans and mulattoes people of mixed African and European ancestry. This book is destined to be debated, just as it is destined to be hailed as a major work of biography. He was born a slave and became a world leader; even in his own time biographers reached back to the Romans, to Spartacus, for a comparison.
The leader of the Haitian Revolution, Louverture has been alternately depicted as a Spartacus-like figure who avenged the victims of slavery, or a calculating politician who intended to hold the slave system in place while reengineering it to benefit a new black elite. In death, Louverture quickly passed into legend, his memory inspiring abolitionist, black nationalist, and anti-colonialist movements well into the 20th century. Biographers describe Louverture as a man filled with contradictions. Born a slave and dying as a disgraced general and politician, he definitely made the most of his life. The general practice was branding for a first offense, hamstringing for a second, and death for a third.
The colonists had a reputation for being cruel and engaging in debauchery. Though he didn't live to see Haiti become truly independent, Haiti owes its independence in part to Louverture's legacy. After his death, Haitian revolutionaries, including Louverture's lieutenant, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, continued to fight for independence. Just one year after Louverture's death, the Haitian Revolution was reinvigorated. He started first as a normal slave - planting and processing sugar cane, but soon came to be recognized as a skilled animal handler. Toussaint Louverture: a revolutionary life. Learn at the Basic Books website.