Pierre Toussaint l'Ouverture
Leader and Statesman
of the West Indies
West Indies Campaigns
rebel leaders in history have ever been as successful as Pierre
Toussaint L'Ouverture, the son of a slave who took his island of
San Domingo (now Haiti) to independence under a constitutional government.
urbane and blessed with considerable military and political skills,
Toussaint took advantage of the internal turmoil of revolutionary
France and the subsequent pro-royalist revolt
on San Domingo in 1791 to became one of the leading players
in deciding his country's future.
initially turned his support to Spain, which ruled the eastern portion
of San Domingo, but the promise of the abolition of slavery in French
possessions in 1793 saw him return professed loyalty to France.
1798 he helped oust a British expeditionary force to San Domingo,
but soon afterwards expelled French officials.
emerged victorious from another civil war between San Domingo's
blacks, coloureds and whites and then in 1801 took advantage of
Spain's withdrawal from the island to occupy its possessions before
French troops could.
victory brought stable government and peace to San Domingo, and
he set about restoring the Catholic Church to its pre-revolutionary
position and reintroduced the Gregorian Calendar.
independent policies annoyed Napoleon
Bonaparte, but that mood turned to fury when, in 1801, Toussaint
had himself proclaimed governor-for-life. The French First Consul
ordered a large expeditionary force under his brother-in-law General
Charles Leclerc to take back San Domingo.
followed was a bloody war in which military fortunes swung one way
then the other and atrocities were committed by all sides. As the
war moved towards France's favour and with his army disintegrating
with the defection of some of his commanders, Toussaint accepted
an offer to meet with Leclerc.
Leclerc had not intention of allowing Toussaint to leave and had
the black leader seized, placed in chains and sent to France.
elderly Toussaint was imprisoned in the fortress of Joux, on the
border of France and Switzerland, where he was maltreated and starved.
Suffering tremendously from the cold, Toussaint died in 1803.