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History of Haiti (Ayiti, Hayti)


General Toussaint L'Overture

The one who has all the power of the saints to open the way

 May 20, 1743 – April 7 1803



“It is not a circumstantial liberty conceded to us that we wish, but the unequivocal

 adoption of the principle that no man, whether he be born red, black or white,

can become the property of his fellow-men”

 Toussaint L’Overture


In the interim Toussaint was made Governor of Haiti in 1796. Events in Paris however change significantly by 1799 as the revolution lurches to the right, a move that culminates in the appointment of Napoleon Bonaparte as head of state. The official declaration to restore slavery in 1802 effective killed off any possibility of rapprochement. A break with Napoleon seemed inevitable despite Toussaint’s hope for a negotiated settlement. The die was cast when the French despatched an invasion force of 20,000 to engage Toussaint and his generals in a number of battles such as Battle of Ravine-a-Couleuvres. Even though they inflicted huge losses on Leclerc’s army, Toussaint’s forces weaken from the onslaught of the heavily armed French forces. 


Acting on Napoleon’s instructions to make promises that they would never keep, the head of the French invasion force, General Charles Leclerc, tricked Toussaint when he was asked by the French to come to their headquarters for peace talks. Persuaded by a Catholic priest, Toussaint became convinced that he would come out safely. At his arrival at the French headquarters he was arrested and sent away on a ship to France, followed the next day by his wife Suzanne Simone Baptiste Louverture and their three sons (Isaac, Saint-Jean and Placide Louverture). Suzanne was a strong family woman, she was fiercely loyal to and deeply in love with Toussaint and he likewise.

Even though Toussaint was seemingly removed from the picture, he had already placed everybody in his or her place and so was assured that the revolution was already won. Toussaint uttered prophetic words before he left Haiti forever. He turned to the French whom he had loved dearly and warned them that the rebels would not make his mistake. He said “In overthrowing me you have cut down in Saint Domingue only the trunk of the tree of liberty, it will spring up again from the roots, for they are many and they are deep.

On April 27, 1803 after spending nine months in a French dungeon Toussaintdied of apoplexy, pneumonia, and starvation. Toussaint was commander in chief of Haiti at the time of his death. Suzanne Toussaint survived her husband and youngest child, Saint-Jean, who died a year after his father. However the pain of separation, injustice and ill treatment lived with Toussaint’s wife continually. Unable to overcome her unbearable grief, she died in 1816, in the arms of her sons, Placide and Isaac.



                                                  Toussaint's Death Certificate


In Toussaint’s memoirs, written by Toussaint he expresses his love and concern for his family:



“I am separated from all that I hold dearest in the world .

..from a dearly-loved wife, who, I fear, separated

from me, cannotendure the afflictions which

overwhelm her,  and from a cherished family,

who made the happiness of my life.”


“Government should do me more justice: my wife and childrenhave done nothing and have nothing to answer for; they shouldbe sent home to watch over our interests. Gen. Leclerchas occasioned all this evil; but I

 am at the bottom of a dungeon, unable to justify myself.

 Government is too just to keep my hands tied,

 and allow Gen. Leclerc to abuse me thus,

without listening to me.”

 Toussaint L’Overture Addition to the Memoirs


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Next: Emperor Jean Jacques Dessalines [click here]