In the late eighteenth century, Toussaint Louverture, headed a revolution, which led to the liberalization of Saint Domingue of the Caribbean from colonialism and emancipated slavery. Toussaint Louverture drove the English, French and Spanish forces off the island of Saint Domingue and freed the country from slavery and imperialistic domination . Since then, the island received the name Haiti and became the first republic in the world to declare all men and women equal and free to lead their lives. Toussaint, born on the Breda plantation in Saint Dominigue in the year 1744 was a devout catholic. He received neither a formal education nor military training for the first fifty years of his life. However, Toussaint’s father Pierre Bapiste Simon taught Toussaint how to read, write and speak French, along with the local language called Creole . In spite of a poor family and educational background, Toussaint became the Governor General of Saint Dominigue and the Commander-in-chief of the Haitian army. Toussaint’s character, political sagacity and military leadership were outstanding in the annals of his race.
Toussaint is the man, whom not only the Haitian people, but also the Negroes consider to be a pride of the nation. Several writers created a legendary of Toussaint in their literary works. General Pamphile de Lacroix declared Toussaint as a man of perfect integrity . Haiti’s detractor, Sir Spencer St. John mentioned Toussaint as the grandest figure of the cruel war. Napoleon Bonaparte’s biographer de Norvin described Toussaint as a man of genius. August Compte placed Toussaint among the great personalities Washington, Plato and Buddha. While Toussaint was a slave on the plantations of Saint Dominigue, his patience and amiability attracted the manager, who promoted him to the position of a coachman, which was a dignified position for a slave. Toussaint’s keen judgment, alert mind, gentleness and native insight made him an ascendant among the fellow slaves on the plantation . After being aware of the misery of slavery, Toussaint could not tolerate the crime of slavery with the teaching of the Christian religion, which he embraced with great ardor.
In the year 1789, Saint Dominigue was one of the richest countries in the colonized world. France earned more profits from Saint Dominigue when compared to the profits earned by other European nations from their colonies in Africa, Asia and America . The slavery of the African negroes contributed to the richness of the nation. Saint Dominigue supplied cotton, coffee and sugar to almost half of the European continent. The slave system in Saint Dominigue gradually deteriorated the political economy and social condition of the slaves. Every year, 100,000 African men, women and children arrived into Saint Dominigue to work as slaves . The slaves led an unbearable life, which Toussaint could not tolerate anymore. Toussaint considered freedom to be an ideal and decided to lead the slaves in defending their liberty against the armies of Napoleon, British and the Spaniards.
On July 14, 1979, when a mob in Paris captured Bastille, the government felt that the best way to cure the white colonists from their yearning of independence is to organize a planned slave insurrection. Toussaint became the head of the insurrection. He labored with immense energy for the abolition of slavery; however, he insisted the policy of non-retaliation to those who oppressed the slaves . His attitude on slavery, manifested in the wars of Saint Dominigue illustrates the humanitarian nature of Toussaint’s contributions to the anti-slavery movement. Gradually, Toussaint became the commander of a part of the army. Toussaint never favored a wholesale massacre as the means to achieve freedom; he rather punished several blacks who were guilty of the atrocities towards the whites. When the French tried to issue an emancipation proclamation, Toussaint’s vision and insight saved him from making any cheap compromise .
Four days before the French issued the emancipation proclamation; Toussaint issued his own proclamation, asking people to join him against the French in order to enjoy the rights of the freemen. Finally, on 7th July 1981, Toussaint declared the Constitution and established his authority over Hispaniola . Toussaint’s appeal portrays his resolution to achieve real freedom and his determination not to allow the whites to claim the honor of freeing the slaves. Fighting under the French standard, Toussaint continued his resistance to ruthless retaliation. Despite of the policies, he maintained his anti-slavery fight in an unflinching manner. Toussaint’s complete devotion to the cause of freedom impressed the French enemies too. In addition to being a rebel, Toussaint was also a genius in social and economic administration . Restraint of discipline was one of his greatest triumphs. Toussaint took strong measures to prevent the disturbance of public order.
Toussaint was not only a ruler, but also a leader who served the good of his countrymen. His efforts brought happiness in the lives of the Haitians. Though Toussaint was a strict employer and patriarchal in nature, he never tolerated ill-treatment towards the families. Toussaint was not only a liberator, but also an outstanding statesman on the political stage . He used dissimulation while dealing with the clever diplomats of Europe. Toussaint never compromised with his principles, but cooperated with men who possessed varied temperaments and ideas. Toussaint’s moderation gained him power as an administrator. To conclude, Toussaint’s valuable contribution as a liberator, as a social and economic planner, as a military genius and as statesman won independence for Haiti and consequently freed the slaves of the nation .
Beard, J. R. (2007). The Life Of Toussaint L'Ouverture: The Negro Patriot Of Hayti. Kessinger Publishing.
Nesbitt, N. (2008). Toussaint L'Ouverture: The Haitian Revolution. Verso.