The Project Gutenberg eBook of St. Domingo, its revolution and its hero, Toussaint Louverture.

This ebook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this ebook or online at If you are not located in the United States, you will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this eBook.

Title: St. Domingo, its revolution and its hero, Toussaint Louverture.

Author: Charles Wyllys Elliott

Release date: March 13, 2023 [eBook #70281]

Language: English

Original publication: United States: J. A. Dix, 1855

Credits: Bob Taylor, deaurider and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)











Printed for the uses of the Committee.


Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1855, by
In the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern
District of New York.

Corner Centre and White Streets, N. Y.

[Pg 3]


V. THE MAN. 23
X. PEACE. 44


I have thought that a short life of Toussaint Louverture might be desirable for two purposes:—one is, that it may, in some degree, weaken that bitter prejudice of color, which denies the blacks the rights of citizens—which drives them away from the Communion-table—and will not let them enter an omnibus, nor, if it can prevent it, into Heaven.

The other is, that it may encourage the blacks to deserve respect and honor—as he did—by growing industrious, and rich, and intelligent, and brave, and noble, and strong, and so prove their manhood against all infidels, north and south—in the Church and out of it.

It should be borne in mind, that Toussaint was a negro, and that he was not more ashamed of being black than he should be of being white.

[Pg 4]


Columbus called the Island of St. Domingo “The Paradise of God.” The beauty of its valleys, the wildness of its mountains, the tropical luxuriance of its plains, confirm his opinion. But the Spaniards who followed him cared not for beauty or fruitfulness; they were hungrier then than now for gold, and plunged into the bosom of the beautiful island for that: a million of the simple natives was sacrificed without mercy or care, to discover and dig the yellow metal. Las Casas only was moved to pity, and he said, “Might not the grosser and hardier African be made to take these burdens, and spare this destruction of the mild Indians?”

To steal, to seduce, and to buy negroes from the[Pg 5] African coasts, and to sell them to this island, soon became a great and profitable traffic, yielding large returns to the Lisbon merchants. Kings and emperors participated in it, and bishops did not always condemn. Three hundred slave ships, every year, spread robbery, conflagration, and carnage along the African coasts.[1] Eighty thousand creatures, torn from their homes, crowded their holds, and were carried to market. “The laws and usages of Africa forbade this,” but those of Europe did not.[2]

As early as the year 1503, the importation of men from Guinea began, blessed by the Pope, encouraged by the State. At that time, too, it was no disgrace, and not rare to sell white slaves;[3] but they were poor creatures apt, too soon, to break down. The true sources of wealth in the island were found to be in the fruitful earth, not in the unexplored mines, and after the settlement of the western part by the Buccaneers, and the supremacy over it of France, emigration became the rage. It was found to be profitable—plantations were opened; the cry of “Sugar!” was heard; thirty per cent. profit seduced capital; the importation of black slaves was stimulated.[4] In the year 1790, their numbers had come to be 480,000, while that of the whites was some 35,000, and of the free people of color, about 25,000.

All these 480,000 were worked to purpose. They were not there to seek their own good, but to raise sugar and coffee for others—and they were made to do it. So the island exported, in 1788, some 5,000,000[Pg 6] pounds sterling[5] worth of these things, and the mercantile world was exultant. None asked if the men of St. Domingo were steadily advancing in intellect, and conscience, and strength, and manhood. Who demanded schools? Who built hospitals? Who thanked God for a new idea in St. Domingo? Literature and the Arts were unknown and unheeded; not these, but “Sugar! sugar! more sugar!” was always heard.

The returns per negro were greater in St. Domingo than in Jamaica, owing to one or both of these causes: 1st, that the land was more fruitful; or, 2d, that the men were harder worked.

St. Domingo was, then, a tropical paradise, about the year 1790! The planters were deeply in debt[6]—nigh every estate heavily mortgaged—yet they got large returns and paid heavy interests—the merchants freighted their ships, and made rich commissions; France found places for her favorite courtiers, and a ready market for her wares. Travelers were delighted with the balm of the atmosphere, the hospitality of the planters, and the heedlessness of the negroes. Humboldt was charmed—he said: “Every evening the slaves of both sexes were to be seen dancing in festive circles—and the sound of music and the voice of gladness were heard on all sides.” Happy slaves! simple traveler.

’Tis true, some remembered that, away in the past (1522,)[7] the slaves had risen, slain their overseers, and[Pg 7] been hung by scores: this was but the beginning. Other daring, desperate men had headed them in 1702. Again, Polydor (1724), at the head of his brigands, had ravaged and assassinated. Macandal, the one-handed negro, had been burnt alive at the Cape, in 1758, and a superstitious memory of the desperate chief lived among the negroes. He had proved his brotherhood to the Borgias by his use of poison; with his Maroons behind him, for years he had been the terror of the whites. The Chief Kebinda had filled the mountains with his fame, as Rob Roy has the hills of Scotland.


[1] Lacroix, Mem., etc., v. 1., p. 17.

[2] Brown’s Hist., p. 36.

[3] B. Edwards, p. 202.

[4] Edwards, p. 143.

[5] Dalmas says 135,768,000 francs. Pref., p. 9.

[6] “For enormous debts were due to the commercial towns of France from the planters.”—Brown’s Hist., p. 227. [Brown detested the Revolution, and had no faith in the negroes.]

[7] Brown, p. 38.

[Pg 8]


The mulatto yet holds a doubtful place in the history and destiny of man. It is urged by many, that he has lost that pure and unlimited sensuous nature which, in the black, will be the basis for a new and surprising development, and that he has not gained the force of will and nervous intellectual power which, in the present time, gives the Caucasian race the control of the world. If this be so, we can look in them but for an imitative civilization and a temporary existence, and their large production in slave countries is then, at least, a waste. We will look at them for a moment as they existed in St. Domingo, where they nearly equaled the whites in numbers.

When the Revolution broke out in France, lavish luxury abounded among the planters in the colony of St. Domingo; but the poor whites, “the petits blancs,” were poor and discouraged, as they are in all slave communities, and were envious of the rich planters.

The whites set up the tree of liberty, and shouted over the rights of man, as they did in Paris. The poor whites (the petits blancs) were bitter, the mulattoes[Pg 9] discontent, and the slaves reckless, or sullen, or indifferent. The planters did not believe themselves fools or mad! When the mulatto Lacomb presented his petition to the authorities, asking the rights and privileges of a man, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, he was only hanged for doing it. When a respectable planter, Beaudiere, at Petite Goave, presented a petition, asking for rights for the mulattoes, he was simply derided, and then torn in pieces.[8] The temper of the times was hot.

Many of the mulattoes were rich, many educated, with the tastes and manners of well-bred men. The whites hated them from the moment that it appeared that the “rights of man” included them, and that they knew it. The self-constituted General Assembly of the whites declared “that they would rather die than participate their political rights with a bastard and degenerate race.” Both parties knew who had made them bastards; and the injurers always hate the injured.

The mulattoes were by thousands the slaves of their own fathers—often freed, and favored, but all despised. The murder-spots would never out; no time, no talent, no wealth, no virtue, no genius, could wash away the stain. African blood, even if of princes, “tainted the character for ever!”[9] Their condition was worse, “in truth, much worse,” than the same class in the British Islands.[10]

They could hold no public office—no mulatto could[Pg 10] be a priest, or a physician, or lawyer, or schoolmaster. He could not even take the surname of his father. They were as the Tiers Etat of ancient France, which at last drowned the noblesse in their own blood. By a law (not often enforced) a mulatto who struck a white man, upon any pretext, was to have that hand struck off; a white man who struck a free mulatto was dismissed with a small fine.[11]

By law, the free mulattoes were at the mercy of the King’s army officers—they could be compelled to serve indefinitely in the army, as horse or foot, without pay, to provide themselves with arms and to defray their expenses. They were free mulattoes, truly, but the slaves of the State.

They could acquire property—the pursuit of wealth alone was free. Many were, therefore, immensely rich. The presence of cultivated and manly fellows, such as some of these mulattoes were, in Paris, increased the zeal of the extreme Republicans in their favor, and the society of “Amis des Noirs”[12] (formed in 1787) comprised some of the best and most brilliant men of France. These asserted, with power and eloquence, that the civil rights of this class of “free men” in the French Colonies were guaranteed by the Declaration of Rights.

To this class belonged Vincent Ogé, the son of a rich coffee-planter of St. Domingo. Educated in Paris, accustomed there to the society of the first men, the equal of Brissot, Lafayette, Gregoire, and others, he felt keenly, saw clearly, and at last determined rashly to seize what the rights of man and the French[Pg 11] nation asserted and admitted, what only a few blinded planters and slave-drivers refused and denied him.

His plans were known in St. Domingo before he reached there. He landed from an American sloop on the north side of the island, on the 23d of October, 1790,[13] freed and armed his mother’s slaves, drew to his cause a small number of mulattoes, (some 300 in all)—was defeated, driven into the Spanish part of the island, was given up by the Spaniards, brought to Cap François, the chief town of the island, and executed speedily and without mercy. The sentence ran thus:[14]—“The court condemns the said Vincent Ogé, a free quarteron of Dandon, and Jean Baptist Chavanne, a free quarteron of La Grande Rivière, to be brought by the public executioner before the great door of the parish church of the city, and there, uncovered, in their shirts, with ropes about their necks, on their bare knees, etc. * * * This being done they are then to be taken to the Place d’Armes, and to the opposite side to that appointed for the execution of white people, and have their arms, legs, thighs, and ribs broken, alive, upon a scaffold erected for that purpose, and placed by the executioner upon wheels with their faces turned towards heaven, there to remain as long as it shall please God to preserve life; after this, their heads to be severed from their bodies and exposed on stakes, their goods to be confiscated, etc.”[15]

How long it pleased God(!) to preserve their lives we are not informed. His brother and one other[Pg 12] suffered the same fate,—twenty-one were hanged and thirteen condemned to the galleys for life. Thus was the devil worshiped in the year of grace 1790.

These judicial massacres sent a thrill of horror through earth and heaven. The deeds were done—not by savages—not by slaves—not by beasts—but by enlightened men of a most civilized nation—which had heard the name of Jesus for centuries. The vibration reached across the ocean and shook the heart of France. The friends of the blacks were eloquent, the friends of slavery dumb. The question was pressed, and on the 15th of May, 1791,[16] the National Assembly passed the famous decree which declared that the people of color born of free parents—not the blacks—were entitled to and should be allowed all the privileges of French citizens. The sufferings of the Ogés had sanctified them martyrs. Deep in the hearts of the mulattoes was their memory cherished, and they vowed vengeance; they seized their arms, for the whites threatened. This decree, raising them to a civil equality, roused the scorn of the whites and aggravated the irritation to a fierce fever. Dissension had weakened the whites: during the year (1790) a struggle went on between the officers appointed by the Crown and the Colonial Assemblies, and now their hour was coming, and they knew it not. “Yes,” said Mirabeau, “they sleep on the verge of the volcano, and the first convulsions do not waken them.” They tore off the tricolor cockade and trampled it under foot—they determined to resist the foul indignity of sitting in the assemblies side by side with colored men (even if their own[Pg 13] sons) at all hazards. They forced Blanchelande (the Governor) to promise to suspend the operation of the obnoxious decree. They derided the idea of danger from the slaves; the free mulattoes were to be guarded against. “I know,” said M. Odeluc, “I know the slaves; they love their masters; experience has taught me that they confide in those who feed and govern them.”[17] M. Odeluc was a fool, and too soon met a fool’s fate. He left a large posterity, who believe to rule men, white and black, by fear. All despotism rests upon that principle. Despotism is infidelity systematized; its principle is a lie; its companions ignorance and degradation, and its fruits revolution and destruction.


[8] Lacroix, vol. i., p. 20.

[9] Browne’s Hist. and Present Condition, p. 3, Philad., 1837.

[10] Bryan Edwards, p. 9.

[11] Edwards, p. 12.

[12] Lacroix, vol. i., p. 16.

[13] Brown. Lacroix, p. 55. Edwards says. 12th Oct., p. 46.

[14] Lacroix, vol. i., p. 64.

[15] Quarterly Rev., No. 42.

[16] Edwards, p. 65. Quarterly Review, No. 42.

[17] The Hour and the Man.

[Pg 14]


But now, when all was prosperity, much sugar ground out, when the slaves of both sexes were seen dancing every night, when “Liberty!” and “To arms! To arms!” were on every tongue, who could fear or suspect the blacks! The happy, careless creatures who loved their masters.

“Not a sparrow falls to the ground without the knowledge of God,” has been truly said—not a pebble rolls from its mountain-bed, but the relations of matter in the whole creation are changed: for the laws of gravitation are universal, and sustain the worlds. Nor is mind less universal or less mighty than matter. No thought is thought, no word is spoken, no act is acted, but it thrills the mind of the universe. We may not be conscious of this, yet it must be so; and it is well, therefore, for every man to see to it, that his secret thoughts are noble, not base.

The innate necessity for freedom had found expression in France, and the loftiest aspirations and most earnest hopes went, like the lightning, from mind to mind, from man to man, from nation to nation, and lighted even the benighted mind of the slave in St. Domingo.

Thus matters stood in 1789. The Third Estate, the slaves in France had risen, and grasped the handle of the whip. Centuries of political and[Pg 15] ecclesiastical misrule and profligacy had exasperated the people to a state of frenzy. The battle of liberty and despotism was begun; the Bastile had fallen! The principles of manhood had been asserted and seized; the petit blancs in St. Domingo felt the impulse, and aspired to self-government. The whites were rent into parties[18]—for the king and against the king—but all against the men of color “les sangs melées.”

The free mulattoes claimed their rights, and had presented Ogé as their bloody sacrament. Their rights were declared by the French nation;—their rights were resisted by the whole body of the planters. Arms were in every hand; all was combustible, and a spark might start the conflagration.

The whites and mulattoes stood upon the thin crust of the crater; under their feet were four hundred and eighty thousand negro slaves.

On the 25th of August was the feast of St. Louis.

For the week preceding, the planters gathered at Cap François, to concert measures against the mulattoes—against the National Assembly and—to dine. The great men, and the rich, and the brave, were there. It was not a time to drive the slaves; and during that week they “danced” more than before. On the evening of the 22d August,[19] the best dishes of the cook Henri (a born prince, whose future no one could suspect) tempted the palates of the born whites. In brave counsels, in denunciations of the mulattoes, in songs for Blanchelande and Liberty, the[Pg 16] time passed, the wine flowed, and hearts swelled—so the shadows of the night stole on. Light! more light! was called for; they threw open the jalousées; curious black faces swarmed about the piazzas—but what meant that dull glare which reached the sultry sky! The party was broken up—they rushed to the windows—they could smell the heavy smoke—they could hear the distant tramp of feet. The band, unbidden, struck the Marseillaise; it was caught up in the streets; and from mouth to mouth, toward the rich Plain du Nord, passed along the song:

“Le jour de gloire est arrivé!
Aux armes! aux armes! pour Liberté!”[20]

Consternation followed the feast—each man grasped his arms—into the midst of the company rushed a negro covered with dust, panting with heat. He sought his master. Pale with fear, and excited with wine, he received him on the point of his sword. As the life and blood flowed, he gasped, “Oh, master! Oh, master!” Murmurs of disapprobation filled the room, but it was too late—the hour had come! the slaves had risen. This poor creature had wished to save the man that owned him.

The rebellion broke out on the plantation of Noe, nine miles from Cap François. At midnight the slaves sought the refiner and his apprentice, and hewed them in pieces—the overseer they shot. They then proceeded to the house of Mr. Clement—he was killed by his postillon. They proceeded from plantation[Pg 17] to plantation, murdering the whites; their ranks swelled by crowds of scarred and desperate men, who had nothing to lose but life; and life with slavery was not so sweet as revenge. Everywhere, they applied the torch to the sugar mills (those bastiles, consecrated to the rites of the lash and to forced labor, dumb with fear), and to the cane fields, watered with sweat and blood.

Towards morning, crowds of whites came pouring into Cap François, pale, terror-stricken, blood-stained! Men, women, and children, found the day of judgment was come—none knew what to do—all was confusion—the signal gun boomed through the darkness, warning of danger—and every man stood to his arms. The inhabitants of the city were paralyzed with fear. They barred their doors and locked up their house-slaves. The only living objects in the streets were a few soldiers marching to their posts. Panic ruled the hour. The Assembly sat through the night. Touzard was sent out to attack the negroes, but was driven back. Guns were mounted, and the streets barricaded.

The morning dawned, and with the rising sun came rising courage. “It is nothing!” said some—“Burn and hang a few negroes, and all will go on as before.” The exasperation against the mulattoes, who were charged with having fomented the rising, resulted in hatred, insult, bloodshed, and murder, in and around Cap François; and a butchery was only stayed by the vigorous opposition of the governor. Whatever negroes were seized were tortured and massacred. “Frequently,” says Lacroix, “did the faithful slave[Pg 18] perish by the hands of an irritated master, whose confidence he sought.”

The maddened negroes had tasted blood. They seized Mr. Blen, an officer of police, nailed him alive to one of the gates of his plantation, and chopped off his limbs with an axe.

M. Cardineau had two sons by a black woman. He had freed them, and shown them much kindness; but they belonged to the hated race, and they joined the revolt. The father remonstrated, and offered them money. They took his money, and stabbed him to the heart. If they were bastards, who had made them so! “One’s pleasant vices aye come home to roost.” Horrors were piled on horrors—white women were ravished and murdered—black were broken on the wheel—whites were crucified—blacks were burned alive—long pent-up hatreds were having their riot and revenge. M. Odeluc was wrong, then? The slaves did not seem to love their masters. What could it mean? Pork and bananas—slavery and ignorance, with some dancing and the free use of the whip seemed to be producing surprising results. The whites could not understand it. Much sugar was raised, and yet the negroes were not satisfied, and now seemed to have gone mad. Destruction hung over the whites, and they concluded to try hanging and burning in their extremity, having no faith in justice and honesty for the blacks. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, owed their safety to the kindness of their house-slaves.[21]

[Pg 19]

Mons. and Mad. Baillou, with their daughter, her husband, and two white servants, lived about thirty miles from Cap François, among the mountains. A slave gave them notice of the rising; he hid them in the forest, and joined the revolt. At night he brought them food, and led them to another place of safety. He did this again and again, led them through every danger and difficulty till they escaped to the sea. For nineteen nights they were in the woods, and the negro risked his life to save theirs. Why repeat instances? This was one of hundreds.

Mr. Odeluc was the Superintendent of the Gallifet estate, the largest on the Plain:—“As happy as one of Gallifet’s negroes,” was a saying in the district. He was sure of his hands, and regretted the exaggerated terror of the whites:—with a friend and three or four soldiers, he rode out to the estate, and found his negroes in arms, with the body of a white child for a standard. Alas! poor Odeluc! He believed the negroes were dogs, and would lick the hand that struck the blow. It was too late—he and his attendants were cut down without mercy—two only escaped to tell the tale.[22] Four thousand negroes were in arms, and they were everywhere successful; the Plain was in their possession; the quarters of Morin and Limonade were in flames, and their ravages extended from the shore to the mountains. Their recklessness was succeeded by regular organization and systematic war. In the first moments of their headlong fury, all whites were murdered indiscriminately. This did not last—they soon distinguished their enemies,[Pg 20] and women and children were saved. The blacks were headed by Jean François and Biassou, generals not to be despised. Brave, rapid, unscrupulous, vain of grandeur, greedy of plunder, they were not far from the marshals of France.

This, then, was not a revolt, but a revolution![23] Success would decide. Never could the whites believe that the blacks were men. Ogé had revealed a wide-spread conspiracy, headed by well-known slaves. The whites concealed this. They did not believe him; they believed only that the blacks were their born slaves, fit for the whip, incapable of courage, or honor, or martyrdom. Experience only was to teach them there and elsewhere.

At first, the whites acted upon the defensive. The Assembly was rancorous against France in the midst of this destruction, and effaced from behind the Speaker’s chair, the motto “Vive la Nation, la Loi, et le Roi:” even when destruction was over them they heeded not: their bickerings continued. The negro generals declared that they were fighting for their king, and against slavery—for a rumor had reached them that Louis favored emancipation. They had the strongest party and the strongest side. At length, the whites determined upon a war of extermination. The blacks responded. Heads of whites were stuck on poles around the negro camps. Bodies of negroes swung on gibbets in the white encampments, and on trees by the roadside. Within two months 2,000 whites and 10,000 blacks perished. Te Deum was sung in both camps, and daily thanksgivings were said[Pg 21] for what was done. Pale ghosts hovered over them, and sighed in the tropical groves—but they could not speak for pity or for justice. The insurrection spread to the southwest, and two thousand mulattoes, headed by Rigaud, rose to revenge the death of the Ogés. Many negroes joined them, and they threatened Port au Prince. The colonists were now thoroughly alarmed, and proceeded to try reconciliation. The inhabitants of Port au Prince and Rigaud agreed upon a truce, and the whites admitted that the death of Ogé was “infamous,” and agreed that the civil rights of the mulattoes should be allowed them. At last! Was it not too late?[24]

The Governor, Blanchelande, issued a proclamation, earnestly entreating the revolted negroes to lay down their arms and return to their duty. It was too late. They laughed in derision at his small request. What! to slavery, and work, and degradation, and cruelty, even! They had burst their fetters, and stood with arms in their hands. “Will you,” they replied to the Governor, “will you, brave general, that we should, like sheep, throw ourselves into the jaws of the wolf? It is too late. It is for us to conquer or die!”

On the 11th Sept., 1791, the whites at Port au Prince had consented to the civil rights of the mulattoes. On the 23d of October, the “Concordat” had been signed; the whites and mulattoes had walked arm in arm through the City, and peace seemed possible,[Pg 22] when word came, that on the 24th of September, the National Assembly at Paris had reversed the decree of the 15th of May. The mulattoes at once flew to arms, and the struggle between them and the whites went on with increased carnage and cruelty. This continued, with varied results, through 1792. “You kill mine and I’ll kill yours,” was the cry. As it had been from the outset, so it continued among the whites—open war between the colonists and the governors—between the people of the North and the South; contention and bitterness—intrigue—treachery. They made head nowhere against the mulattoes, nowhere against the negroes. And, in Dec., 1791, three commissioners arrived from France, to distract the confusion. They accomplished nothing, and were succeeded, in Sept., 1792, by Sauthonax, Polverel, and Ailhaud;[25] ordinary men, not sufficient for so extraordinary a state of things as this.


[18] Lacroix, vol. i., p. 83.

[19] Brown and Martineau. Lacroix, vol. i., p. 90.


“The day has come—the glorious day!
To arms! to arms! for Liberty!”

[21] Let it be remembered, that nine in ten negroes were strangers to their owners. They were worked in the field in gangs during the day, and folded into barracks at night.—Rainsford, p. 139.

[22] Edwards, p. 75.

[23] Louis XVI., and Liancourt. French Rev., vol. 1, p. 200.

[24] Two hundred negroes who were with Rigaud were paid for by the State, and landed clandestinely in Jamaica: they were sent back by the English. The Colonial Assembly sent them in irons on board a hulk at the Môle St. Nicholas. Sixty of them were butchered in one night, and the rest left to perish.—Quarterly Review, No. 42.

[25] Bryan Edwards, p. 117.

[Pg 23]


The hour had come, but not the man: the world waited for him, but none knew where to look, for none believed him to be among the degraded negroes. The old custom of master and slave was broken in pieces, and a nation of men, with no cultivation, with no education in self-government, with none of the conservative strength which hangs about privileges and possessions, and long-honored habit, were now up, inspired only with a hatred of slavery and vague aspirations for that which they knew not how to name. In this chaotic hour, the man who could express this longing for freedom, this need of growth, this aspiration for infinite good, not only in words, but in deeds and in life, was needed: without him all would come to nothing, and the struggle of the blacks would be but a spasm, to end in exhaustion and discouragement; for successful revolutions have been secured by developing from among the unknown the known man, around whom the elements of the new State could gather for new Order.

Among the half million blacks there must be one—and more than one—who could redeem his race; to whom the outcast and despairing might look, and take courage, and say, “Such as he is, I may try to be.” This man was longed for—consciously or not, the[Pg 24] blacks yearned for their king, could they but see him. The presentiment existed, for had not the Abbé Raynal long before predicted a vindicator for the race? No man can save another, and no nation. Each race must look for its salvation and its leaders in its own comprehensive soul. The Moses who will lead the blacks out of bondage must be a black! and he will come.

Let us go back for a moment. On the arrival of the first commissioners, Mirbeck, Roume and St. Leger,[26] the mulattoes in the West were in arms under Rigaud—the blacks in the North under Jean François and Biassou. They were a ragged crowd—pikes, muskets, cane knives, axes, whatever the hand could find, were their arms, and they fought without order or discipline, inspired by revenge and hatred to slavery. Jean François, if vain and ostentatious, was sagacious and full of resource. Biassou was bold, fiery, and vindictive. The blacks had slaughtered and been slaughtered—hanged and been hanged—plundered and been plundered. There seemed no end to it and no object. They heard that the Commissioners were placable, so they wished to make terms. But who would dare to venture among the whites? We’re not all outcasts, hunted beasts—fugitive slaves. Raynal and Duplessis (mulattoes) at last took the hazard. The Governor sent them to the Commissioners, they to the Colonial Assembly. The Assembly that day was in an exalted state—it emulated the gods. It replied loftily:—“Emissaries of the revolted negroes, the Assembly established on the law and by the law[Pg 25] cannot correspond with people armed against the law. The Assembly might extend grace to guilty men, if, being repentant, etc., etc.,” and Raynal and Duplessis were ordered sharply to “withdraw!”

They did withdraw, amid the hootings of the mob. They returned to Grande Rivière. The army and the people came out to meet them wishing peace—they told their story and peace was turned to war, love to hatred. Biassou, in a rage, ordered all the white prisoners in the camp to be put to death. “Death to the whites” went along the lines and among the people. The insane pride of the whites worked its own punishment, and now a hundred more were to be slaughtered. No white was there to save them, and no God to wrest them away. Then a man, black as Dr. Pennington, indifferent in person, unpleasing of visage, meanly dressed, makes his way among the crowd to Biassou swelling with rage; he speaks to him a few words, quietly, calmly; they are to the purpose. The General’s face is composed; he listens, he countermands his orders, and the whites are saved.[27]

The negro who saves them is Toussaint Breda, afterward called Louverture.

The son of an African chief, Gaou-Guinon, with no drop of white blood in his veins, he had been the born slave of the Count de Breda, and had been well treated by his Manager, Bayou de Libertas. He was the husband of one wife, and the father of children. With religious aspirations, an inflexible integrity, an[Pg 26] inquiring mind, he had been a valuable slave, and had been raised from a field hand to be M. Bayou’s coachman. Toussaint was never hungry while a slave; he was not whipped. His hut was comfortable, vines grew around his door. Bananas and potatoes luxuriated in his garden. The sky was serene over his head, and the birds sang to him, too, as at evening he sat among his children. What more could he wish in such a fool’s paradise? Is, then, a full belly all? Thomas Carlyle—he knew what you do not; what Sterne said, “Disguise thyself as thou wilt, still, slavery, thou art a bitter draught!” Toussaint, it seems, was not a beast of burden. To make sugar, he was worth no more than a Bozal just stolen, but with these rare virtues—Patience, Courage, Intelligence, Fidelity—he might have sold for five hundred dollars and might be trusted to drive horses. When the rebellion broke out, he did not join it, but assisted M. Bayou with his family to escape, and shipped a rich cargo to the United States for his maintenance.

Toussaint was then fifty years old. None knew the day of his birth; the records of stock then and there were not carefully kept. For fifty years this negro had lived the life of a slave, his only occupations the hoeing of cane and the grooming of horses. What thoughts, what struggles, what hopes had taken shape in that black brain no man knows, for Toussaint was a man of few words, and he left no writings. It was late in life to begin a new trade; late to begin to find out his own powers and strength; late to trust himself to freedom, he who had always had a master; late to speculate upon the destinies of the black race;[Pg 27] late to attempt to shape them. But in revolutionary times men learn fast; great men need only the opportunity, they rise to the emergency. Cromwell was not a born or trained general or ruler, nor was Washington, nor was Tell. Toussaint had bided his time. This slave was ignorant, knew nothing. He learned to read when approaching the downward years; then he studied—Raynal, Epictetus, Cesar, Saxe, Herodotus, Plutarch, Nepos, these were the books and lives he knew.[28] But the great book of his own life was before him. Nature, the page of God, was open at his feet, before his eyes, and over his head. Human beings were about him revealing the Infinite, and, more than all, through his own soul God spoke the voice of truth. Books are well, but are not the only educators.

He decided to join his race, and having some knowledge of simples, was made physician of his forces by Jean François. Here he served well as he always did, and learned the trade of war. Shocked at the cruelties of whites and blacks, he took the side of mercy and saved lives from the sword as well as from disease. He saw the vanity of François, the rashness of Biassou, the cruelty of Jeannot. But he retired disgusted to no stupid monastery—he returned not to the ease and degradation of slavery, but was equal to the facts of life, however hard, and grappled with them and mastered them as a MAN should. He was then loyal to the King, and he was loyal to the Church, a devout Catholic. But he came to be the servant and King of the blacks, loyal to his race, and to speak his prayers in deeds more than in words.


[26] December, 1791.

[27] Lacroix, p. 303. Life of Toussaint, by John E. Beard, D. D., of Leipsic. London, 1853.

[28] Rainsford.

[Pg 28]


In 1792, the three Commissioners, sent out from France to “settle” the affairs of the colony, had been thwarted and finally driven away-by the whites. In Sept. (1792), Santhonax, Polverel, and Ailhaud, had arrived with troops, money, and instructions, and a new governor (Desparbes) in place of Blanchelande. He soon became disgusted, alarmed, and he fled. The Commissioners distributed themselves to settle the commotion. The rich planters were for the King; the Petits Blancs were for the Directory; the mulattoes, under Rigaud, ravaged the west; the revolted negroes under Jean François, Biassou, and others, hung upon the north. France herself, that ancient kingdom, was now fermenting; struggling (yet with hope) to realize in the State her unformed faith in Democracy—with the energy of despair, to beat back the waves of bayonets which bristled on her borders. The dynasties of Europe were against her, for, on the 21st of January, 1793, the people of France, determined no more to be taxed, shot, and despotised by a dynasty, had, as Danton said, “flung at their feet, as wager of battle, the head of a king!” Thus matters stood in France—thus in St. Domingo. The slaves in both countries had risen, and rushed to arms. Their remedy was desperate; so was their disease.

[Pg 29]

General Galbaud, a new governor, arrived from France in May, (1793). The Commissioners were engaged in the west, in fighting Rigaud. They returned to Cap François to fight the governor, whose authority they disputed. Galbaud held the ships and the arsenals, and determined to assert his authority. His soldiers and sailors entered the town and abandoned themselves to drunkenness, pillage, and brutality. (21st June, 1793). The Commissioners armed the slaves in the town, promised them freedom, and sent for aid to the negro generals. Jean François and Biassou refused; but a chief, Macayo, at the head of three thousand blacks, entered the town, and the conflict raged—the whites were driven into the sea and slaughtered. Madness ruled—none were fiercer than the mulattoes. Galbaud fled, and half the city was destroyed by fire.

At last—for a while—the whites gave up the hope of recovering their slaves. Thousand fled (some suppose nine-tenths),[29] and found refuge along the American coasts. Gentlemen they mostly were, certainly, (as far as their back teeth), but quite useless, a spectacle to gods and men, of those who, having lived so long on the forced labor of others, must now live on charity or die.

Famine had more than once increased the misery during these three years—yet the island was fruitful, and cultivation, here and there, went on. The sagacious Jean François had initiated cultivation along the mountain-sides, and among their valleys; and he enforced it. He thus secured an unfailing magazine.[Pg 30] Rarely the songs of labor now were heard, those sounds with which the negroes are wont to lighten their weariness. Small parties were to be seen at work; but no man’s life was safe, nor was he secure of the produce of his labor; and the men and women scattered like frightened partridges at the tramp of feet. They lay hidden among the canes, or in the ravines, till the danger passed.


[29] Edwards, p. 153.

[Pg 31]


Toussaint, meanwhile, continues his duties with the negro troops. Steadily and surely, if not rapidly, he gains strength and influence, and knowledge of war. He has measured himself with Jean and Biassou, and is not wanting. His prudence, patience, silent will, and courage, make him useful to them, and his justice, and determination, and mercy, make him the idol of the men. The last are often imposed upon by demagogues, but give them time to know a true, brave, and wise man, and axes cannot hew them away. The Marquis Hermona, governor of the Spanish part of the island, made advances to the negro chiefs. Santhonax, in his extremity, after the destruction of Cap François, sent Macayo to propose an alliance. They distrusted him—Louis was beheaded. They said, “We have lost the king of France, but the king of Spain esteems us and gives us succors.” They declined the proposals of the Commissioners, and threw themselves on the side of Spain. Toussaint was loyal to the memory of the king, and followed François and Biassou. Hermona saw that Toussaint was a man; and while Jean François was advanced to the first rank, Toussaint was raised to that of colonel in the Spanish army. He at once applied himself to his duties, and what he did was always well done. His troops became, as if by a[Pg 32] word, the best disciplined in the army. The reason was plain—he knew what men ought to do, and what they can do; and the men knew that he was upright and wise. So these ragged, ignorant, roving hordes became efficient troops. Confidence begat confidence—the commander trusted his men, and they relied on him: together they were strong. Idleness was not Toussaint’s policy. The insurgents, under Jean François, Biassou, and Toussaint, held strong positions in the mountains south of Cap François. Brandicourt, the general of the French troops, was at once trapped and compelled to order his troops to lay down their arms. Grande Rivière, Dondon, Plaisance, Marmalade, and Ennery, the most important places in the north, quickly fell into Toussaint’s hands.

The French Commissioners were getting into straits. The Spanish troops were against them, the blacks were against them, the remaining whites were divided—some wore the black cockade, others the white; the troops and friends of the commissioners, the tricolor; the mulattoes, the red; war was everywhere, and no man was safe but with arms in his hands, and in the strongest party. But this was not enough; some of the planters mounted the English hat and sent to the English for succor. Even “Perfide Albion” was welcome, if they might but reëstablish slavery and get again their estates. In this extremity, Santhonax decided to make friends with the blacks, and proclaimed at Cap François universal freedom (20th Aug., 1793). Polverel repeated the proclamation at Port au Prince.[30] The enthusiasm among the[Pg 33] negroes was great, but not universal. Their leaders were not moved; they distrusted the Commissioners, and they doubted the stability of the French Republic; so the war went on.

In September, the English landed at Jeremie, in the extreme southwest. They took possession of St. Nicholas, in the extreme northwest, and during the year 1794, the whole western coast was in their possession—St. Nicholas, St. Marc, Jacmel, Tiburon, Jeremie; and at last, on the 4th of June, Port au Prince, the capital, yielded. “Twenty-two top-sail vessels,” with their cargoes, worth 400,000 pounds sterling, were a part of the spoil. The mulatto chief, Rigaud, had taken the side of France. Educated in Bordeaux, he had followed, in St. Domingo, his trade of a goldsmith, which the whites thought “too good for a nigger.” He was a brave man, mild in peace, terrible in war, and, aided by Petion, he kept up a harassing fight against the English. Shortly after the fall of Port au Prince, a ship arrived with a requisition for the Commissioners to return to France; they must answer for their doings there, and General Laveaux was left as provisional governor. His case, and that of the French, was desperate. Shut up in Port de Paix, the last stronghold of the French, he wrote, (24th May, 1794):—“For more than six months we have been reduced to six ounces of bread a day, officers as well as men; but from the 13th, we have none whatever, the sick only excepted. If we had powder we should have been consoled. We have in our magazines, neither shoes, nor shirts, nor clothes, nor soap, nor tobacco. The most of the soldiers mount guard barefoot:[Pg 34] we have not flints for the men. But be assured, that we will never surrender; be assured, too, that, after us, the enemy will not find the slightest trace of Port de Paix.”[31] Dark was the outlook, but brave was the heart of General Laveaux.


[30] Brown’s Hist., v. i, p. 255.

[31] Beard’s Life, p. 82. Brown’s History.

[Pg 35]


Let us look at France: she had grown desperate in her revolutionary fever; had risen en masse against the powers of Europe, and had beaten them back. Dugommier even had carried the war across the Pyrenees, and his soldiers, like demons, shouting the ça-ira, threatened Spain. The Convention at Paris on the 4th of February, 1794, confirmed and proclaimed the FREEDOM of all the slaves![32]—news of which came slowly across the Atlantic, and reached the ears of Toussaint upon the heights of Dondon.


[32] Biographie Universelle. Art. Toussaint L.

[Pg 36]


The hour was nigh! The hands advanced on the dial plate of time. Events, which no man could have foreseen or controlled, had gathered for judgment, and at last a great nation had decreed freedom to a poor, debauched and servile race. But who should lead them, who should now defend them against themselves—give shape and system to their undisciplined wishes—carry them safely through the anarchy of unbounded liberty, and crystallize them into a STATE, whose only sure basis is the Rights and Duties of Labor, Thought, Speech and Worship, the Rights and Duties of Manhood?

The Hour has come and the Man. Toussaint Breda, from his eyrie near Dondon, sweeps the horizon. In the East he sees the decadent power of Spain—it has spoken no word of freedom for the blacks. In the West he sees the white sails of England—she is hand and glove with the planters to reëstablish slavery. In the North France and Laveaux are nigh death. France only has proclaimed liberty to the blacks. Toussaint sees the “opening” for his race and for himself, and from this day he is Toussaint Louverture—the first of the blacks. Bone of their bone and skin of their skin, he alone knows their needs, their capacities and their hearts. With the clear glance of[Pg 37] inspiration he sees the moment, with the firm grasp of talent he seizes it.

General Laveaux saw that this was the man, and through the Priest La Haye made advances to him. Toussaint is wise and he is wary, he keeps his own counsel—he consults not Jean François, who had once cast him into prison, nor Biassou, nor the Marquis Hermona. As usual, he performs his duties; as usual, he partakes of the communion; as usual, his troops look to him, and Hermona said “there exists on earth no purer soul.”[33] He has placed his wife and children in safety—he has ordered his affairs—his horse stands saddled and bridled: then, tearing off his epaulettes, he casts them at the feet of the Spanish officers, flings himself on his horse and rides like the wind out of the camp. The Spaniards are for a moment paralyzed—they pursue him; but neither hoof nor pistol can reach him. Toussaint is not to be caught. On the 4th of May (1794), he pulls down the Spanish and hoists the French colors. Marmalade, Plaisance, Ennery, Dondon, Acul and Limbé submit to him. Confusion and fear prevail among the Spaniards. Joy exalts the negroes. Laveaux is saved, and the colony not yet lost to France. Toussaint is a power in the State—the negroes everywhere respond to the sound of his voice—they look to him as their hero, defender, guide, and guard.

Did he deceive or sacrifice them? The mulattoes and whites have called him treacherous, ambitious and unscrupulous. It is easy to do so, and so to account for the power and success of this singular man—but the[Pg 38] explanation is not satisfactory. No brave man will seek for a base motive, even in his enemy, when a noble one is patent and suffices better. Toussaint’s talent, courage, and honor were inspired by the lofty hope of redeeming his race; and the negroes, fanatic in their hatred of slavery, became invincible. The electric spark which fired his soul fired theirs. Great is he who spends his blood and his life, fighting for liberty—but base is the man who kills and destroys for fame or plunder.

Toussaint sets himself to his work. The whole province of the North soon falls into his hands, and he drives the Spanish ally, Jean François, westward along La Montaigne Noire. Then he hastens into the rich valley of the Artibonite, attacks and beats back the English, and besieges the strong fortress of St. Marc; but neither forces nor ammunition are sufficient and he retires to the mountain fastnesses of Marmalade to recruit his troops. On the 9th of October (1794), he carries the fortress of San Miguel by storm. Laveaux and Rigaud cannot withhold their admiration at his skill and prowess. His horse and he are as one. This black centaur carries success at his saddlebow. His troops love and admire, while his enemies fear him.

Toussaint determines to drive away the English, and he falls with fury upon General Brisbane in the Artibonite, and compels him to retreat. But Jean François hung over him in the heights of La Grande Rivière. Again he retires to Dondon and organizes his forces to repel the Spaniards—in four days he takes and destroys twenty-eight positions—but Jean[Pg 39] François with a superior force threatens his rear, while the English are in front: again he is baffled; he returns to Dondon. Toussaint is no longer the leader of marauding bands, but the head of an army. His troops are mostly raw and ignorant, badly clothed, armed, and fed, but they trust in him and have courage. He seeks for efficient officers, and finds Dessalines, Desroulaux, Maurepas, Clervaux, Christophe and Lamartinière: these he must command with discretion—his troops he must provide with arms, ammunition and food—he must watch the forces of the Spaniards, the movements of the English—intrigues abroad and treachery at home: henceforth he must organize campaigns. He has now little time for the pleasures of sense—the enjoyment of books—the rest of home. Rarely can he snatch an hour for his wife and children from the life of ceaseless care. But does he, then, sigh for the hut and the bananas and the careless slavery of M. Bayou? Human nature is one; no one would have changed the life of a man, every faculty in action, for the repose of a dog: not the black Toussaint.

The treaty of Basle had secured the cession of the whole Spanish part of the island to France. Jean François was, therefore, at liberty to retire to Spain, to enjoy his honors. There remained but the English now to distract the plans of Toussaint and the French. One more disturbing element yet existed. The mulattoes felt themselves superior to the blacks, and the rightful successors to the whites, in the honors and government of the island. Jealous of Toussaint and the favors shown the blacks, headed by Villate, they rose against Laveaux, the governor at the Cape, and[Pg 40] threw him into prison; his danger was extreme.[34] Toussaint descends on the town with ten thousand blacks and saves him. Laveaux appointed him his lieutenant, second in command in the island, and declared that he was the “Spartacus” foretold by Raynal, who should avenge the sufferings of his race.[35] Confidence grew now, between the blacks and the whites, and Lacroix, who is no way friendly to the blacks, admits that “if St. Domingo still carried the colors of France, it was solely owing to an old negro who seemed to bear a commission from Heaven.”[36] The French continued to send commissioners (Santhonax among them), but Toussaint was the moving mind; and when Laveaux, having been elected delegate to the Assembly, sailed for France, Santhonax finally appointed him Commander-in-chief.[37]

This history will, for a short time, be more simple. Toussaint has filled the “Opening;” he is “Louverture.” A strong hand and a clear head, though black, direct the affairs of the island. Daily he gains strength, and the confidence of the negroes. They flock to his army—they listen and obey his words. Christophe, in the North, had encouraged cultivation. Toussaint throws his powerful influence into the work—his maxim, “that the liberty of the blacks can never be solid without agriculture,”[38] passes from mouth to mouth among the negroes, and rouses in them the desire for lands and wealth—for the first time now[Pg 41] possible. He wishes that Cap and the towns along the North should be rebuilt. It is done; they rise from their ashes. All hopes are centered in the General-in-chief: HE can restore peace and prosperity: he alone.[39]

The English now were sore bested. The French pressed them in the West; Desfourneaux in the North; Rigaud in the South; Christophe had carried the heights of Vallière, the Vendée of St. Domingo. Louverture again attempts to take St. Marc: thrice he storms it, thrice he deserves success; but again he fails to clutch this strong fortress. He turns now to Mirebelais, an interior Thermopylæ, strongly fortified by the English: his lieutenant, Mornay, intercepted Montalembert, who was advancing with 700 men and two pieces of artillery. The next day he drives in all the English troops, invests the village of St. Louis, carries the forts by assault, and in fourteen days totally defeats the English, taking 200 prisoners, eleven pieces of cannon, and military stores. The efforts of the English are nearly at an end—weak and weary, their strength is spent. Whitlocke, Williamson, Whyte, Horneck, Brisbane, and Markham, have tried to subdue these rebels and to wrest the colony from France: they have bitten a file. Millions of pounds have been wasted; Brisbane and Markham are killed; thousands of soldiers slain; the yellow fever, too, has done its work. Poor fellows! The “bloody ichor” has been bloody tears. “Condemned to fall without a conflict, and to die without renown!”[40] If the ghosts[Pg 42] of the dead hover about us, as some love to think, heavy must be the air of St. Domingo—pale shades of black and white still carrying on their conflict, or sighing over the past.

General Maitland at last decided to leave the island, and between him and Toussaint there went on a struggle of diplomacy; but Louverture was more than his equal: he accepted his honors, but refused his bribes. They made terms, and Maitland evacuated Port au Prince and St. Nicholas. One incident illustrates General Maitland’s confidence in Toussaint. Before the disembarkation of his troops, he determined to return Louverture’s visit. He proceeded to his camp, through a country full of negroes, with but three attendants. On his way he heard that Roume, the French commissioner, had advised Toussaint to seize him; but he proceeded, and when he reached the camp, after waiting a short time, Toussaint entered, and, handing him two letters, (Roume’s and his reply), said: “Read; I could not see you till I had written, so that you could see that I am incapable of baseness.”[41]

Gen. Lacroix has written that he saw, in the archives at Port au Prince, the offers made to Toussaint, securing him in the power and kingship of the island, and liberty to his race, with a sufficient naval force on the part of England, provided he would renounce France and form a commercial treaty with England.[42] The event leads one to regret that Toussaint’s ambition was not superior to his loyalty to France.

[Pg 43]

During these proceedings with the English, Santhonax had departed for France, partly at his own request, partly because he was in the way of Toussaint’s plans for the restoration of the island. With him, Toussaint sent his two sons to receive some education in France, and to show, as his letter stated, “his confidence in the Directory * * * at a time when complaints were busy against him:” he said, “there exist no longer any internal agitations; and I hold myself responsible for the submission to order and duty of the blacks—my brethren,” etc.

Rochambeau and Santhonax had both found that Toussaint’s power was superior to theirs. The planters and the mulattoes in Paris were ever busy against him: he had much to fear. But the Directory sustained him, and sent Gen. Hedouville (who at once betrayed his distrust) to watch and control him. This was not an easy thing to do, for Louverture knew more than they all about St. Domingo.


[33] Lacroix, vol. i., p. 301.

[34] Biog. Universelle, T. L.

[35] Quarterly Rev., No. 42.

[36] The Commissioner Polverel exclaimed: “Comment! mais cet homme fait ouverture partout!” Everywhere he opens his way.

[37] Brown, vol. i., p. 294.

[38] Lacroix, vol. i., p. 324.

[39] Brown, vol. i., p. 205. Quarterly Review, No. 42. Beard’s Life, p. 92.

[40] Rainsford. Moseley’s Account in Tropical Diseases. Bryan Edwards.

[41] Quarterly Review, No. 42.

[42] Biog. Universelle, T. L. Lacroix, vol. i., p. 346.

[Pg 44]


Peace was at last come to this distracted island. The Halcyon bird, rocked by the gentle billows, could now hatch its young, and men might pray that the new births would be harbingers of prosperity.

Toussaint rests in the bosom of his family on the estate Deschaux, among the mountains of the Artibonite. He knows himself to be the first man in St. Domingo; the people everywhere accept him as such. This “old negro with a commission from Heaven”—the “maggot rolled in linen,” as some of Hedouville’s followers called him—this “chattel,” prized at 500 dollars, has come to strange places. His praises, even, are chanted in the “Conseil des Anciens,” and Europe wonders about this black.[43][Pg 45] In the face of the example of civilized nations and the orders of the Directory, he proclaims an amnesty for all political offenders—and keeps it! He invites whites and blacks to return to their pursuits; he orders Te Deum to be sung in the churches, and that all officers shall have morning and evening prayers read to their respective corps. Of course his enemies said this was hypocrisy.[44]

The sword is sheathed, and Toussaint applies his whole powers to the restoration of confidence and industry. The country is traversed by parties of black troops, engaged in restoring the whites, the owners (when they could be found), to their estates, and the blacks to their labors. Hedouville proclaimed the expulsion of those who had taken part against France, the confiscation of their estates and universal liberty to the blacks. Toussaint pronounces an amnesty, and places the slaves at an apprenticeship of five years, giving them a share of the productions. The blacks obey him rather than Hedouville, and the whites are lost in wonder. Many who, in the evening, had looked upon him as a brigand, in the morning knew him as their beneficent deliverer.

The negroes were stimulated to exertion, by the prospect of wealth and manhood, and were sustained in it by the determination of Louverture: no man but the drunkard is wholly indifferent to worldly good. His justice and moderation taught the whites to confide in him, and his wisdom, strength, and heroism, rendered him potent with the blacks.[45] His soldiers[Pg 46] were subject to an iron discipline—each officer was supreme, but let him beware lest he be unjust or cruel. Lacroix, who was an eye-witness, says:—“It was strange to see naked Africans giving an example of the strictest discipline, and making a campaign with nothing to eat but bananas and a little maize.” Property was respected and life was safe, while Toussaint guided these naked blacks. One class only was discontented—the mulattoes. They could not forgive the blacks for taking the preëminence, and, brave as he was, Rigaud was not superior to envy. Hedouville, deeply mortified at Toussaint’s superiority, plotted mischief with the mulattoes; uneasiness prevailed, and insurrection again lifted its head. The whites attempted to disarm the blacks under Gen. Moyse, at Fort Dauphin. The tidings spread, and over the plain of Cap François the negroes were roused. Toussaint appeared at Cap, and all again became quiet. Hedouville hastily embarked for France—but he threw from the deck of his ship the apple of discord to the shore. He issued his proclamation, charging that Toussaint was sold to the English, and he gave to Rigaud authority over the South. Toussaint now expressed his wish to retire from power, and his quarters were thronged with deputations, whites, yellows, and blacks, praying him to continue their protector and father. Two kings cannot sit on the same throne: Louverture was the hero of the blacks, Rigaud the chief of the mulattoes—both were superior men. Roume, the remaining French commissioner, entered into the large plans of Toussaint, and pronounced him “a philosopher, a legislator, a general, and a good[Pg 47] citizen.” Rigaud, in a sullen humor, departed for the South; there the mulattoes flocked to his standard, and enrolled with them many of the blacks. The idea of black supremacy was hateful to them; the FACT was intolerable, and occasions were not wanting, so the war—a war of races—once more broke out. It is not necessary to dwell upon it—it was one of terrible and bloody ferocity: no man asked or received quarter; on both sides, hecatombs of victims were sacrificed. The vindictiveness of Rigaud was surpassed by the ferocity of Dessalines, and through 1798 and ’99 this destruction continued—the fields could not be tilled, and gaunt famine stalked over the South. The energy and perseverance of Toussaint were too much for the skill and desperation of Rigaud. He was reduced, step by step; undone, he staggered to his fall, and at last, with Petion, sailed for France.

On the 1st of August, 1800, Toussaint makes his triumphal entry into Aux Cayes. The mob shouts, of course, for the mob worships success, and the mulattoes are at his feet—one word of his, and they are exterminated. Toussaint is either merciful, or he is wise, or he is very crafty. He assembles them together, he ascends the pulpit, firm, sad, perhaps severe. What might those firm lips not express? He says:—“I have published a proclamation—‘Forgive us our transgressions as we forgive those who transgress against us.’ I have ordered all citizens to return to their parishes, to enjoy the benefits of this general amnesty. Citizens, not less generous than myself, let your most precious moments be employed in causing the past to be forgotten; let all my fellow-citizens swear never[Pg 48] to recall the past; let them receive their misled brethren with open arms, and let them, in future, be on their guard against the traps of bad men.”[46] Peace now is possible—his task is done! Alas, his task is not ended! During the confusion, a brisk slave trade had sprung up in the eastern end of the island. At the city of St. Domingo, vessel after vessel sailed with a living freight, to the English islands and elsewhere, stolen, captured, and sold from St. Domingo. Toussaint determines that such an anomaly shall not exist, and that the Spanish towns, secured to France by the treaty of Basle, shall be given up. Napoleon having assumed the powers of first consul, had confirmed Toussaint in his position. He now remonstrates with commissioner Roume, upon the continuance of the outrageous traffic. Roume was indifferent, perhaps guilty of complicity; and Toussaint sets about this new work. He marches a body of troops into the Spanish end of the island, and, in January, enters the ancient city of St. Domingo, and hoists the French colors upon its ramparts. In February, he announces the pacification of the colony.

The star of Louverture has culminated; from the Bay of Samana on the East to Cape Tiburon on the West his power is everywhere acknowledged and established—a French colony, but controlled by a black, the only man who can order the incoherent elements.

Through ten long years, war has desolated this island: distracted counsels have discovered small wisdom: the French had no other idea than to retain it as a rich colony for France, and to strip its breasts[Pg 49] of soft down for her luxurious head. The mulattoes wished to share in the spoil. The blacks had an indistinct but obstinate aversion to being plucked at all! This took shape in the brain of Toussaint Louverture: founded, as this idea was, upon the profoundest instincts of human nature, it could not be driven out of these men, not even by whips or bayonets. Toussaint knows what ought to be done, and he alone knows how to do it.

He declares, that no State can be prosperous, but with agriculture as its material basis.

That men of all colors must be secure in their lives, and in the enjoyment of the products of their own labor.

That good morals and measures are necessary to the State.

That churches and schools must be restored and sustained.

That, to preserve their liberties, the blacks of St. Domingo must be ready to defend them with arms in their hands.


[43] Biog. Universelle, T. L.

[44] Lacroix thinks so, vol. i., p. 350.

[45] Rainsford, p. 228. Lacroix, vol. i., p. 348.

[46] Proclamation, Beard, p. 128.

[Pg 50]


Generals Christophe, Dessalines, and Moyse, his nephew, were appointed to the command of the troops (in three departments), and to the superintendence of the labors of agriculture. The mulatto Clervaux commanded in the Spanish portion. The whites were invited to resume their estates, allowing a proportion of the proceeds to the laborers; and, where the owners had disappeared, the estates were worked by the State, the same proportion, one-fourth or one-third, being allowed the cultivators—industry was everywhere encouraged, idleness rigorously suppressed. In so fruitful a land the results were like enchantment. The hoe replaced the sword—prosperity smiled upon the neglected fields—the songs of labor were heard on every hand—contented and hopeful negroes thronged the path of Toussaint.[47] Vessels under the flag of the United States crowded the ports—the whites looked to him as their deliverer and protector—whites, blacks and mulattoes were appointed to offices of trust—the duties of morality and religion were enforced—the decencies and refinements and arts of life were cultivated—the drama revived—men of science and learning were encouraged.[48] There is abundant evidence,[Pg 51] from friends and enemies, to prove that, under a system of justly paid labor, the island was rapidly advancing to a degree of prosperity which it had never reached.[49] Time and a just, firm hand, like that of Toussaint, only were necessary to steady the new State, and to solve the problem of the capability of the blacks. So far the white race has degenerated in the enervating and seductive air of the tropics. The capacity of the blacks to develop there is an interesting question, not yet settled.

Toussaint is now proud of his color. He says:—“I value myself for being black.”[50] He has reason. His public levees are marked by the strictest propriety, and his private parties are not stupider than those of white men. In the midst of luxury this “old negro” practices his simple tastes, only indulging in splendor upon state occasions. Unlike most men, he does not, with success in his hand, deserve to forfeit it. Luxury and sloth do not beguile him, for he knows that stability alone is success. His activity is untiring—his correspondence exhausts five secretaries—he trusts to the eye of the master and his vigilance is everywhere. He works! for his soul is steel and his body iron. Relays of fast-pacing horses are stationed at proper points; on these he rides, outstripping all but his two trumpeters. Fifty leagues, without stopping, it is said he rode.[51] The whole energies of his life are devoted to the realizing of a great idea—the liberty and elevation of the blacks. Neither[Pg 52] he nor any sagacious man doubts that he is the chief to secure these, if they are yet to be. He says:—“I have taken my flight in the region of eagles; when I alight it must be on a rock, and that rock must be a constitutional government, of which I shall be the head so long as I shall be among men.”[52]

This is clearly the next step: government must be firmly established and order consolidated.

France had decreed the liberty of all its subjects, whites, blacks, and mulattoes. It had authorized the election and action of the colonial Assemblies; the island was, therefore, legally capable of self-government: the only question was, how far it was dependent upon France?

Toussaint calls together a council, for the consideration of the question of a constitution. It was headed by Borgella, once mayor of Port au Prince, and composed of eight whites and one mulatto, and no blacks, not even Louverture himself.

In May (1800) they presented him a carefully-prepared draft, which he approved.[53] Assuming that slavery was abolished and could never more exist in St. Domingo, it made no distinction in the political rights of citizens—it established the Roman Catholic religion as that of the State—it required that agriculture should be especially encouraged—it declared commerce free (this was in 1800)—it entrusted the executive to a governor appointed for five years.

“In consideration of the important services rendered the colony by General Toussaint Louverture, he is[Pg 53] appointed Governor for life, with power to choose his successor.”

This constitution was provisionally established, and a copy forwarded to “Citizen Buonaparte, First Consul of the French Republic,” by General Vincent, July 16th, 1800. Toussaint wrote:—“I hasten to lay it before you for your approbation and for the sanction of the government I serve.” On the island it was made public and accepted with solemn formalities and universal joy. The blacks were not only ready but enthusiastic in their obedience to Toussaint Louverture.

The “old negro” had proved his commission to be from heaven, and Lacroix’s phrase had become a fact.


[47] Biog. Universelle. T. L. Rainsford, p. 240. Lacroix, vol. i., pp. 324, 397.

[48] Rainsford, p. 222. Lacroix, Brown, Beard, Quarterly Rev., No. 42.

[49] Lacroix said:—“Under his system ten blacks would do more than twenty slaves.”

[50] Lacroix, vol. i., p. 404.

[51] Ib., vol. i, p. 407.

[52] Beard, p. 141.

[53] Lacroix, vol. ii., p. 22.

[Pg 54]


The great man, who has proved himself, knows himself; unconsciousness is the condition of ignorant genius. Toussaint had expressed in deeds, in ACTIONS, the dumb aspirations of his race for freedom, self-development and manhood; he had given them a chance to rise, and they felt it in every throb of their susceptible hearts, and they told him so in their love and loyalty to his person and commands. He was a leader of men, and he accepted his position with its powers and its cares.

He who retires from men, and dreams in the serene solitude of his hermitage, may solace himself with great thoughts, and poetic ideas and vague hopes—he may be a philosopher.

But such is not the fullest manifestation of God. It is when Thought is crystallized into Action; for a good deed is greater than a good word.

Nebulous, undefined, shadowy, matter floats in space till God speaks his thought in Act—then the vague, misty mass comes into harmonious order, and goes on its certain way through the boundless sky, a brilliant, beautiful star—a guide to the uncertain mariner, and the wandering fugitive, and the home for unknown life.

Creation is the speech—the Word of God.

[Pg 55]

Whoever, therefore, brings Order out of Chaos, Life and Action out of Thought and Aspiration, approaches to God, and such are the men whom the world (in the past) has deified: such were Hercules and Osiris, Confucius and Budha, Mahomet and Thor: these were godlike men.

Such, also, were Oberlin, Cromwell, Winthrop, Penn, Oglethorpe, and Washington.

Such, too, was Toussaint Louverture.

[Pg 56]


This is the place to stop; from this point to watch with solicitude, but without fear, the development of this enfranchised people, under the direction of their chief. It cannot be—history does not stop; its march in the past cannot be changed—only the present and the future are plastic.

At this point, the horizon in St. Domingo is clear and serene; no man can see signs of a coming tornado. Only in the heart of Toussaint Louverture does the mercury tremble, indicating “change.” The convulsions which had shaken Europe are spent. Napoleon is the master of France, and the treaty of Amiens (1801) has secured a treacherous peace. Toussaint watched, with feverish solicitude, the movements of Napoleon. Dull flashes streaked the eastern horizon, and muttered threats hardly moved the air. Repeatedly he wrote to Napoleon, once addressing him as “The first of the blacks to the first of the whites”—repeatedly he urged his own loyalty, and that of his race, to France. Napoleon’s vanity was touched—Toussaint was talked about in Europe—in Paris.[54] He was another star—a black Napoleon! The Corsican stomach was quick.

What cared Napoleon, for France? What cared he[Pg 57] for a St. Domingo negro? Napoleon Buonaparte was Napoleon’s god, and him he worshiped.

He received Toussaint’s suggestions and requests with contempt. This neglect moved Toussaint more than all other things; for, in the distance, Napoleon seemed to him a magnanimous and god-descended hero, a lover of liberty—as, indeed, at that time he did to many men in France—as he does to one Abbott at the present time. If we look for weakness in Louverture, we shall find it here; he trusted France, he trusted Napoleon, and he trusted the planters of St. Domingo. He believed that, by his justice and magnanimity to them, he could move them from their insane purpose of reënslaving the blacks. If he had brayed them in mortars he could not have got it out of them. Knowing the experience, education, resources, and power of the whites, and the ignorance and weakness of the blacks, he sought support in his work from the whites. He, in a degree, dimmed the prestige of his greatness, in the eyes of the blacks, by concessions made to the whites. So desirous was he of the confidence of the whites, and of a character for strict impartiality, that when the blacks in General Moyse’s district, in their sensitive fears of reënslavement, rose and murdered some of the whites, and were not hindered by General Moyse, he had him court-martialled, and allowed him to be shot, and he a superb officer and his own nephew. He disarmed his troops and sent them back to the labors of agriculture. But all these availed nothing.

Peace in Europe foreboded war in St. Domingo. Exasperated planters gathered in Paris; they clamored[Pg 58] as ever for their old wealth and rights—they said:—“No slavery, no colonies!” Napoleon’s counselors recommended force. “What do you think of the matter?” said Napoleon, to the Abbé Grégoire. “I think,” said he, “that if these counselors were to change color, they would change opinions.” He never said more truth with less words. Make the blacks white, and to-morrow negro slavery would be ended. The restoration of slavery was resolved on in the Legislative body, by a vote of two hundred and twelve against sixty-five![55] This was in Republican France, under a Republican Consul, who shouted the words, “Peace” and “Liberty” till he was hoarse, and the world became sick of them and him. On the 20th May, 1801, Buonaparte issued the decree restoring the colonies to their condition previous to 1789—this authorized the slave-trade and abrogated liberty. But, perhaps, he had gone too fast? He afterwards decreed that St. Domingo and Guadaloupe should be excepted—for how long, he omitted to say. When General Vincent presented to him the draft for the Constitution sent by Toussaint, he caught his opportunity—“Here,” said he, “is a revolted slave whom we must punish—the honor of France is outraged.” Vincent pleaded; the minister, Forfait, attempted dissuasion—he was silenced by this answer:—“There are sixty thousand men that I want to send to a distance!” Old soldiers of the Republic—some of whom believed “Liberty” to be other than a shout.

The expedition was resolved on—man could not hinder it. The whites interested in this island were exultant;[Pg 59] their joy vibrated in the hearts of some whites and mulattoes in St. Domingo. They reckoned that the blacks would at once pass under the yoke—created by God, as they were, for slavery; they forgot what twelve years of struggle and liberty might have done for the negro.[56] Yet, why is this great army sent? The colony is not in rebellion; it has not denied the authority of France—indeed, has not Toussaint driven out the Spaniards and English—those enemies of France—and refused liberty and protection from England? For what, then, is this mighty armament! these fifty-six warlike ships, this General Le Clerc, this Admiral Joyeuse, these 30,000 veteran soldiers—are all these needed to restore to France the island which she has never lost? If not for that, then for what are they intended?


[54] Biog. Universelle, T. L.

[55] Beard, p. 154.

[56] Lacroix, vol. ii., p. 71.

[Pg 60]


Not more sensitive to the breath of the evening air is the tender mimosa, than is Toussaint to the suspicion of danger—he who has suffered and hoped so many years, for the liberty and improvement of the blacks. He who has done so much for his own race and for the whites, who has shown mercy, when others were blood-thirsty, who has steadily looked to a great end, and has had faith that, in all his good purposes and hopes, he should be sustained by that generous nation, which had poured out its blood like water for freedom—he now hears, with dismay, that that great nation had resolved on something, and the whites said to restore him and his race to slavery; that all the blood, and toil, and suffering, were to be as[Pg 61] nothing, and that, directed by the greatest captain of the age, these soldiers and these ships were approaching for his destruction.

Toussaint stands on the heights which overlook the wide and beautiful bay of Samana[57]—he, alone with Christophe. (Jan.) Sail after sail whitens the horizon and gathers to the rendezvous; and they count ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty-six! The mercury in the heart of Toussaint sinks from sight: he sees the hopes of his life made havoc, and destruction again driving away peace. He turns from the vision, and, with heavy steps, seeks his place.

From the ships went up the Te Deum and songs of thanksgiving, that Heaven had smiled on the speedy and prosperous voyage—the gods were propitious and success seemed certain. The ships were furnished with every munition of war. They bore Le Clerc as the leader of the expedition; and, with him, his wife, Pauline, the fascinating bacchante venus victrix, sister of Napoleon—for, was not this a holiday affair? With him were Admiral Vallaret Joyeuse, General Kerverseau, Rochambeau, Boudet, and Hardy. Were there not the mulatto chiefs, Rigaud, Petion, and Boyer? sagacious and brave mulattoes who may live to repent this suicidal act. It was clear that the blacks must again clasp their chains, that Toussaint must return to the grooming of Bayou’s horses, and a peaceful banana life. But not yet had Toussaint accepted the meanest existence possible to man. With his troops scattered over the island, (less than 20,000 men), what might yet be done? To die at least! “I[Pg 62] took up arms for the freedom of my color,” said Toussaint; “it is our own—we will defend it or perish.”

The fleet had gathered in the Bay of Samana—in four divisions it had sailed away. On the mountain-range of Artibonite Louverture awaits the shock. Christophe is in the North, Dessalines in the South. The armaments approached the island at Fort Dauphin and Cap François on the North, at St. Domingo on the South, at Port au Prince on the West. No declaration of war, no negotiations preceded them. Christophe, at Cap François, waited the approach of the division led by Le Clerc and General Hardy. Large-hearted, prudent, active and daring, Christophe felt himself equal to the emergency. Lebrun, the aide-de-camp of Le Clerc, landed, and was conducted through the streets of the city to Christophe. He admired its well-built houses and its air of wealth, and he dropped along his route proclamations addressed to the inhabitants, breathing peace and liberty.

General Christophe received him—replied that the Commander-in-chief, Toussaint Louverture, only could receive his dispatches, that the fleet could not be allowed to enter the harbor, nor the troops to land except at his order. Lebrun whispered to Christophe, that Le Clerc had for him great marks of favor from the First Consul. Christophe turned from him and said:—“I know no chief but Toussaint.”[58]

The proclamations scattered by Lebrun made no mention of the chief of the blacks, and threatened[Pg 63] conflagration and destruction in case of disobedience: they but increased the distrust of Christophe. He assembled his troops in the Place d’Armes, and administered an oath that they would conquer or perish, if force should be used against Toussaint, or the liberty of their race. The inhabitants of the town were distracted with conflicting fears; on the one hand was new, untried white dominion, with possible or probable slavery—on the other, the destruction of their beautiful town, desolation, and again the horrors of war. These doubts did not last long, Rochambeau had landed, driven the blacks before him, breached and carried Fort Dauphin, slaughtered his prisoners, and was marching on Cap. War was begun!

Disorder and panic spread on the Plain du Nord, and the frightened blacks came pouring into Cap, crying for arms. Christophe ordered all the unarmed inhabitants to leave the town; he took under his protection 2,000 whites, men, women, and children, and sent them to the interior. He steeled his heart, he was inexorable, he prepared for desperate measures:—“Go, tell your General,” he said, “that the French shall march here only over ashes, and that the ground shall burn beneath their feet.” Le Clerc feared delay; he put his ships in motion, and the noise of his cannon spread tumult and alarm. Christophe knew he could not successfully resist the combined attack, so he furnished his soldiers with torches, took one in his hand, and, raising it to Heaven, called God to witness, that he was driven to extremity! His own house, costly and beautiful, was his first sacrifice; then burst over the city an ocean of flame: it revealed the dismay[Pg 64] of the whites, the bitter and silent fury of the blacks. They retired to the hights above Cap, the French marched over the burning ashes, and the explosion of the magazine completed the work of despair.

Port au Prince came nigh sharing the same fate. General Agé (a white), to whom it was entrusted, was not proof against persuasion or fear; but in Lamartinière, a quarteron, there was a determined soul. When Lacomb, who insisted upon admitting the French, refused to give up the keys of the magazine and arsenal, Lamartinière shot him through the head; such was his power of persuasion in extreme cases. “If the French land before we can be informed of the resolution of Toussaint, three cannon shot shall be the signal for destruction!” That was his reply. They did land, and the three cannon boomed over the plain. Flames arose on every hand and frightful disorder—the infuriated blacks fell upon the whites, and slaughtered them even to the gates of the church. The French charged up, rushed into the city and stayed the conflagration. Lamartinière fell back towards General Dessalines, afflicted at his failure to destroy the city rather than at his defeat.

In the East, the city of St. Domingo, under Paul Louverture, yielded to Kerverseau.

In the South, the seat of Rigaud’s triumphs and defeats, La Plume, the mulatto leader, had been treacherous to Toussaint; so had Clervaux. The principal towns were thus in the hands of Le Clerc: but was the island won? Toussaint, with Dessalines and Christophe, now retired toward the mountains, burning whatever might be a solace to the French. He knew, and[Pg 65] the blacks now knew, what they were to look for from the invaders: the mask was torn away. There would be small chance for the blacks, when once they were disarmed; small chance, with a powerful French force in all the strongholds of the island, and with them, Rigaud, Petion, Boyer, and Chanlette, vindictive opponents of Toussaint. In the mountains, therefore, Toussaint gathered his shattered forces; but, the island was not yet won.


[57] Famous, now, for Mr. and Mrs. Cazneau’s two-horse diplomacy, 1854.

[58] The cajoling of Le Clerc and the manliness of Christophe, are sufficiently apparent in their published correspondence.—See ap. to the Hour and the Man.

[Pg 66]


New tactics now seem necessary, and Le Clerc has them at hand.

Inland among the mountains, two days distance from Cap François, is the village of Ennery; there Toussaint has stationed his family. The quiet of the place is moved by an unwonted stir—what can it mean, for the sounds are not those of troops? Towards nine o’clock at night messengers bring word to the wife of Toussaint that her sons, they who had been so long absent in France, are coming. With a few friends, she goes with torches into the highway to meet them. In the midst of that great crowd, hushed to silence in the serene night, she greets them with joy and tears. Towards midnight of the next day Toussaint arrives; he presses his sons to his breast, and tears once more water the furrows of his worn face.

The young men present their tutor (M. Coisnon), who, after receiving the warm thanks of the father, hands him a golden box containing a letter from Napoleon. Toussaint reads it. Highly complimentary to him, it objected to the Constitution already formed, but suggested no other; it advised submission to the new Captain-General Le Clerc, and threatened punishment for disobedience; it spoke of their liberties as due to France (Toussaint is grave—he does not even[Pg 67] smile here); it did not promise anything on this score, but pointed to the liberty France had given to other nations, and stated that they could only enjoy liberty as French citizens, and asked submission, co-operation, and peace.[59]

Toussaint turns to M. Coisnon, and says—“Three months after the date you bring me a letter which announces peace; the action of General Le Clerc is war. I had established order and justice here; now all is confusion and misery. Take back my sons, M. Coisnon, I cannot receive them as the price of my surrender.” The children were again sent to him; they threw themselves into his arms with entreaties. Toussaint remained inflexible. “My children,” he said, “make your choice—whatever it is, I shall always love you.” Placide alone said—“My father, I am yours; I fear the future—I fear slavery.”


[59] Beard’s Life, p. 174.

[Pg 68]


Le Clerc was indignant; and declared he would take Toussaint before he had his boots off! He issued his proclamation—almost as grand—brief as Napoleon’s, and declared Toussaint and Christophe outlaws, etc., etc., Toussaint reads it to his soldiers; with one voice they cried—“We will die with you!” His plan now is to harass the French continually, to leave them no rest, never to meet them in open warfare, but to cut them off in detail—to destroy all before them, houses, food and water; “throw corpses and horses into the fountains, burn and annihilate everything in order that those who come to reduce us to slavery may have before their eyes the image of that hell which they deserve.” “Do not forget while waiting for the rainy season, which will rid us of our foes, that we have no resource but destruction and flames.” Such are his instructions—the fierce Dessalines more than obeyed them. He drove the whites before him and destroyed their towns, and left dead bodies lying in heaps to tell the French of their desperation and ferocity. The “horrors” again were abroad—fear began them, the French seconded them; blacks again murdered whites—whites again slaughtered blacks. All the blacks, however, were not[Pg 69] savage, nor all the whites bloodthirsty, for the heart of man returns to mercy.

The strong redoubt of Crête à Pierrot, built by the English, defends the entrance to the wild mountains of the Artibonite; there a small army can fight against numbers. Thither Toussaint collects his beaten forces, thither came Dessalines and Lamartinière, their leaders. He strengthens Crête à Pierrot, and charges them to defend it.

The French drew near under Debelle, Rochambeau, and Hardy; they were the troops of Italy and the Nile, twelve thousand strong, before whom this rabble of blacks were to fly like sheep. When they appeared Dessalines opened his gates and called upon all who feared or favored the French to walk out of the fort. Some went, but the rest were the stronger. The French came on with their usual ardor; the firing began; the moment they were within reach of the blacks the batteries swept them down. Four hundred men went down that day, among them Generals Debelle and Devaux. Le Clerc heard and was chagrined; he hastened from Port au Prince with General Boudet’s division. Dessalines had improved the time to build another strong redoubt. The French again advanced, Rigaud and Petion among them, and drove in the blacks; again the well-manned batteries mowed them down, and Boudet was wounded. General Dagua brought in his division; he was struck and but one general officer (Lacroix) kept the field. The blacks then charged and beat the assailants, and Le Clerc himself received a slight wound. The French in this attempt lost eight hundred men.

[Pg 70]

Le Clerc was still obliged to wear his boots, for Toussaint was not taken, nor even Crête à Pierrot. The French then sat down before this fort to invest and besiege it in regular form, for the blacks fought like devils; they would not fly.

During this time, Toussaint is not idle—everywhere the master-spirit is at work. He goes like the wind—he counsels—he schemes—he fights—he dares—he goes into the churches of the island, and with few and manly words rouses his people—he strengthens Charles Bellair in the mountain of Verettes—he cheers Maurepas in the northwest—he comes with a small force to Ennery, and the French garrison fly before him—he appears before Gonaïves—he hastens to Marmalade, and sends a new plan of operations to Christophe in the North—he goes to Plaisance, captures a fort, marches his troops to meet Desforneaux, and beats him back. Learning, then, that the fort of Crête à Pierrot was in danger, he hastens with a small and resolute force, determined to surprise and carry off Le Clerc. It is too late! Lamartinière, to whom Dessalines had entrusted the defense of the fort, had done all that skill, and courage, and heroism, could do, and at last had cut his way through the French lines, leaving only the ruined fortress and the bodies of dead men to the French army—no more, not even glory![60]

The fortress of Crête à Pierrot had fallen, and five thousand gallant Frenchmen were disabled or dead! The black soldiers of St. Domingo had met the white soldiers of France, and had proved themselves men.

The fortress had fallen, but not Toussaint. The French army, in separate divisions, took different directions.[Pg 71] The country seemed to swarm with blacks, and they spared neither their own lives nor the lives of the French. General Hardy dragged his weary march towards Cap François, and five hundred of his men were destroyed before he reached it, yet no battle was fought. Boudet’s division returned to Port au Prince. Charles Bellair hung upon him—harassed him, and when he entered Port au Prince, a studied display was necessary to conceal his frightful losses. In the North, the war was kept alive by Christophe.

The blacks were everywhere beaten—but the situation of the French was one of extreme difficulty. Le Clerc had learned the truth of what Vincent had told Napoleon—“At the head of so many resources is a man, the most active and indefatigable that can possibly be imagined.” Though many of the blacks had joined the French, yet, fear of slavery, and hatred of white dominion, made the rest desperate—they were men to die. Of what use to fight against these? Victory was barren: ruined forts—burned cities—putrefying carcasses—desolate fields, were the rewards of the French. The climate was intolerable, the work of the soldiers severe, and they murmured; they said, “the Consul has sent us here to perish.” Twelve thousand of them were dead or in the hospitals. Le Clerc again tried diplomacy and persuasion, and with success.


[60] Lacroix, vol. ii., p. 170.

[Pg 72]


Into the recesses of Mount Cahos Toussaint retires with a few soldiers and friends, here for a few days to enjoy repose, once more in the bosom of his family. The future is dark! What has he not attempted, achieved, suffered, and lost? Liberty, development and manhood for the despised blacks. The struggle is against the French nation—no sympathy or aid from without is possible, for England and America are both committed to Slavery. Not only so, but treachery, and weakness, and weariness, are among the blacks—La Plume, Clervaux, and Paul Louverture had succumbed—another blow followed—the defection of Charles Bellair:—and yet another, Maurepas, one of the bravest of his generals. Dark as is the prospect, Toussaint determines to deserve success. He resumes his operations with active energy, seconded by Christophe, Dessalines, and Lamartinière—everywhere his blows are felt, though he is not seen. He draws near Cap François and threatens the city, when fresh troops arrive from France.

Le Clerc now made overtures to Christophe; he intimated to him that as the mother country would, no doubt, confirm the liberty of the blacks, nothing was needed to close the war but to seize Toussaint,[Pg 73] which, together, they might do. Christophe rejected the perfidy. He replied:—“Show us the laws which guarantee our liberty. How could we believe the Consul’s words, amid such demonstrations of war? Excuse the fears and alarms of a people which has suffered so much in Slavery—give it grounds of confidence if you wish to end the calamities of St. Domingo.”[61] An interview followed, and, relying on the protestations and oaths of Le Clerc, Christophe went over to the French—Dessalines followed him. The bad news spread fast. Toussaint stood alone: his indignation and his courage were roused. Every means were now put in action to move Toussaint; he replied:—“I am powerful enough to burn and ravage, and can sell my life dearly.” Le Clerc sent envoys—he said:—“I swear before the face of the Supreme Being to respect the liberty of the people of St. Domingo.” Toussaint listened—he wished for peace if he could have Freedom—he replied:—“I accept everything which is favorable for the people and the army; for myself I wish to live in retirement.”

Le Clerc now wished to meet Toussaint: he, wishing to beget confidence with confidence, comes down from the mountains to Cap, and is received everywhere with acclamations and tears. Four hundred horsemen came with him, and with drawn sabers sat in the court-yard while the interview continued. Le Clerc received Toussaint with honors—he had found him quite another than a “Chief of Banditti,” as he had once written to Napoleon. He now treated him with marked distinction. He lauded the good faith[Pg 74] and magnanimity of Napoleon; spoke of the happiness now about to dawn on the island, and asked his coöperation. Toussaint spoke with regret of the strange fact, that he should have been forced to take up arms against France. He said:—“Had explanation preceded your arrival, or after arrival had you waited to explain to me your pacific mission, you would have served equally well France and St. Domingo.” Le Clerc replied:—“Let us forget the past—all shall be repaired.” He asked:—“Where would you have got arms to carry on the war?” Toussaint replied:—“I would have taken yours.” He could not have said better if he had been a white man or a Roman.

Le Clerc renewed his oaths solemnly and in the presence of a large body of people, blacks and whites. Toussaint could then do no more: he retired to his estate at Ennery, determined to await the event.


[61] Letter of Christophe, Beard’s Life, p. 205. Rainsford, p. 312.

[Pg 75]


Twelve years have passed since at the door of his slave home Toussaint stood with his wife and his small children, and, as the fires reddened the sky, with prophetic fear said, “the slaves have risen!” Three score years are upon the head of the “old negro,” and once more he is to enjoy the repose of home and the satisfaction of his family. He has seen great things in those twelve years—he is to see more. To his present affairs he gives himself with interest; his coffee and orange groves flourish under his eye, briars and cactus thickets vanish, the rich juices of nature are turned to delights. In his district he is the one upon whom all eyes rest, to whom all come for counsel and assistance—everywhere he is equal to the demand, and he is visited by strangers and by natives—for he is the man of St. Domingo. Does he fear nothing? If he is too wise not to fear evil would proceed from pride, he is also too wise to urge pride into evil by distrust and reproaches. That he has small faith in the wisdom of the planters, who had so signally shown that they had none, or in the ultimate honor of the French, it is easy to believe. He knew that neither the French nor the planters would rule the island for the good of the blacks, and therefore[Pg 76] that their rule must be short. But he had the oaths of Le Clerc, and he is the man to wait the proof.

But did Le Clerc fear nothing? He feared everything. The French soon got into straits—their provisions failed them—their white officers would not be ranked by the black officers who retained their commissions—the black troops must be fed, or they must be disbanded to prowl the country and indulge in plunder, perhaps in worse. Le Clerc determined to disarm them, but they were wary and suspicious, for they yet feared slavery more than death. Le Clerc was perplexed. The heat increased, and the scourge of the foreigner came among them; it came silently but surely, this consuming fever of the Tropics—none could see it, feel it, touch it, smell it—it was impalpable but it was deadly. The weak went down before the yellow pestilence, and the strong were as grasshoppers. Then the French cursed the day that Napoleon sent them to St. Domingo—but they could not escape, they were doomed to die—and to die ingloriously. They rotted like sheep; five hundred a day were carted away, thrown into holes or into the sea, the living among them. Despair and dismay produced riot and revelry—drunkenness and songs were the companions of death. Through all the death, Pauline, “the Venus Victrix,” kept her court and her beauty. One after another of her courtiers or lovers was struck down; others came and she was not dismayed. Meanwhile the blacks were at home in St. Domingo, and were proof against the pestilence. Toussaint had foreseen that this must come, and only hoped to maintain the liberty of the island till[Pg 77] the fever should destroy the armies or drive them away. Now is his hour for vengeance; but he does not raise his standard—he yet waits.

The true sportsman gives his bird the wing. The true knight strikes not his unarmed enemy. The true man rests upon honor. The assassin strikes in the dark—the dastard deals in treachery—the base man knows not honor. The one was the black Toussaint—the other the white Napoleon!

Le Clerc believed the blacks must take advantage of his weakness; why should they not? If they rose, would not Toussaint be compelled to lead them? Might he not, even then, be plotting to do so? He suspected this, and he waited not for proof. He filled the district of Ennery with troops, which only excited the blacks. Toussaint sent a remonstrance for them. “This was exactly what was wanted,” said one who knew Le Clerc’s plans. General Brunet (7th June) wrote to Toussaint, inviting him to his house, to arrange the matter, saying:—“You will not find there all the pleasures I could wish, to welcome you, but you will find nothing but the frankness of an honorable man who desires only your happiness and that of the Colony.”[62] Toussaint at once agreed to meet him at the house Georges (10th June), on the road between Cap and Gonaïves.

With a few attendants Toussaint goes. The day is fine—Brunet and his companions charming. They confer as to the troops, they go over the maps; Toussaint is himself again; he knows the country thoroughly and the wants of the inhabitants—is ready[Pg 78] and proud to do what is in his power to suit their wants, and the requirements of the General. The shades of evening draw on—Brunet leaves the room. Colonel Ferrari enters it with twenty men, with swords drawn. He says: “The Captain General has given me orders to arrest you; your guards are overpowered; if you resist, you are a dead man: give me your sword!”[63]

The deed was done!

’Twas a wicked one in the annals of dynasties and despotisms. No earthquake yawned, no thunderbolt came down—yet the deed was not forgotten nor unexpiated. Toussaint was hurried aboard the frigate Hero, shut up from his family, who were also prisoners, and sent from the home and the island he knew and loved so well.

He stands in his manacles on the deck of the ship, and as she slowly parts from the island, he says: “They have in me struck down but the trunk of the tree; the roots are many and deep, they will shoot up again!”[64]

These were his last words! But he might in his destruction have thus recorded his accusation, before the throne of God, and in the face of men:—

1. I charge—That you white man, with no orders from God, stole the black man from Africa and subjected him to labor, to tyranny, and to the lash—for your ends, not for his benefit.

[Pg 79]

2. I charge—That for centuries you made a beast of him, and when he turned in desperation and rent you, you wondered that he was a beast.

3. I charge—That you have ever denied him all chance for improvement, all chance to be a Man.

4. I charge—That when I, Toussaint Louverture, “with a commission from Heaven,” triumphantly vindicated his manhood and mine, you ruthlessly trampled him and me down again into degradation and ruin.

5. I charge—That the misery, the blood and the “horror” of St. Domingo lie at your door, white man, for you sinned knowingly and willfully.

6. I charge—That you, white man—not God!—are the father and defender of Slavery, that you disgraced your Bible, corrupted your State, and depraved your soul to sustain and continue this great wrong towards me, and to entail unknown misery upon your children and the world.


[62] Brunet was what is called a gentleman, and had been baptized.

[63] Lacroix, v. ii., p. 203.

[64] The French have charged that, at that time, Toussaint was deep in plots for their destruction. If he had been, he would not thus have been trapped. This fact answers them.

[Pg 80]


A few words more, and the life is told. The deed of treachery vibrated through the island. Charles Bellair and Sanssouci at once seized their arms and headed the risings, but these were not universal. The negroes were astounded; they wanted leaders:—Christophe and Dessalines were yet loyal to the French, but the insurrection spread surely and certainly, and other leaders appeared; treachery produced fear—fear cruelty—cruelty revenge—revenge horror!—The ravages of the fever were now excelled by the ravages of the war—Charles Bellair and his heroic wife were betrayed and shot by black troops, forced to the deed. Maurepas, one of the first to join the French, was suspected, seized:—epaulettes were spiked to his shoulders; he was mocked, his wife and children were tortured and thrown to the sharks before his eyes—death was the end of all.

Slavery had been reëstablished in Guadaloupe. A shipload of refractories was brought to St. Domingo and sold; and Le Clerc had published an order, directing the proprietors to resume their authority over their slaves.[65] These things produced their proper results: Petion left the French, Clervaux followed, then Christophe, then Dessalines.

[Pg 81]

In the night of Nov. 1, 1802, died General Le Clerc, in fever and agony; regrets could not deliver his soul. Rochambeau succeeded to the command of a debauched and demoralized army, and an exasperated colony. He believed only in fear and terror[66]—and he tried them, with due consequences. What were they?—Desperation. Before the end of the year 1803[67] he was forced to eat the blood-hounds which had been brought from Cuba to hunt the blacks, and he and his fragments of troops were driven into the sea to become the prey of English cruisers.

On the 22d of Nov., 1803, Christophe, Dessalines and Clervaux proclaimed the independence of St. Domingo, and restored its name of Hayti.

French dominion and negro slavery were ended in the beautiful island, though the fear of them distracted it till 1820. General Buonaparte could not reëstablish it, and General Pierce, formerly of New Hampshire, now of Washington and hereafter of Alabama, will probably fail.


[65] Rainsford, p. 303.

[66] Sixteen of Toussaint’s generals were chained by the neck to the rocks of a desert island, and left there to die. Men were chained to the stones of the court-yard—blood-hounds tore their limbs asunder, and devoured their quivering flesh. The crowd looked on from the galleries with admiring horror.—Beard, pp. 257, 258. Qu. Rev., No. 42.

[67] Rainsford, pp. 339, 428.

[Pg 82]


On the 13th of August, a close carriage rolls rapidly away from Brest—rapidly through France, guarded only by a few dragoons. Few knew whom it contained, few remarked upon it; for such things were common enough in Napoleon’s day, as they were before and have been since. The Castle of Joux, in the high rocks which border Switzerland, receives the prisoner. Alone with his servant, he passes the weary days in inaction,—with crushed hopes, with lacerated affections. He sees his wife, his children, no more—no more the sunny hights of St. Domingo—no more the luxuriant valleys of Ennery. He knows he is doomed; yet his soul is too strong for despair. His letters to Napoleon are manly and simple; they meet with no reply but a visit from Caffarelli, to discover where he had buried his gold![68] Ten long months drag themselves away—the cold winds of the mountains pierce the sensitive body of the prisoner—the trickling water on the walls of his dungeon is turned to ice[69]—the single servant is taken away.[70] For three days the governor of the castle is absent, and none see the prisoner. When he returns, cold, hunger, and disappointment have done their work. The kind angel, Death, has carried the soul through the prison bars.

[Pg 83]

The Hero of the Blacks is no more. Toussaint is dead![71]

The first of the whites stands alone! A few short years, and Waterloo came, and then the unscrupulous victor of a hundred fights fretted out his diseased life, and cursed his angry gods, on the lonely rock of St. Helena.

The first of the blacks died at Joux; the first of the whites at St. Helena. Judge between them.

The following is Wordsworth’s sonnet, written during the disappearance of Louverture.

“Toussaint, the most unhappy man of men!
Whether the whistling rustic tend his plough
Within thy hearing, or thy head be now
Pillow’d in some deep dungeon’s earless den:
Oh, miserable Chieftain! where and when
Wilt thou find patience? Yet, die not; do thou
Wear rather, in thy bonds, a cheerful brow.
Though fallen thyself, never to rise again,
Live and take comfort. Thou hast left behind
Powers that will work for thee: air, earth and skies.
There’s not a breathing of the common wind
That will forget thee; thou hast great allies;
Thy friends are exultations, agonies,
And love, and man’s unconquerable mind.”


[68] Lacroix, v. ii., p. 208.

[69] Ibid., v. ii., p. 204.

[70] Rainsford, p. 324.

[71] Biogr. Universelle. Rainsford says that he died at Besançon. p. 323.

Transcriber’s Notes