Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution

These are my notes from Dr. Jessica Sheetz’ Oklahoma Council for History Education symposium presentation “Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution.” I got to this session late but am audio recording for a possible subsequent podcast… Dr. Sheetz is going to share her PPT with me. MY THOUGHTS ARE IN ALL CAPS. This is the link to the WikiPedia article for Toussaint Louverture.

Talking about how John Adams and Jefferson dealt with Toussaint in 1799 is fascinating
– Adams wanted an arrangement with Haiti, yet the US was a young, insecure nation
– in the alliance, Adams sent arms and ships
– Toussaint would stop the French from basing there

French and US revolutions inspired Toussaint
– some officers had fought with the French amry in US War for Independence

I would argue the US didn’t have a revolution, it had a war for independence

Jefferson referred to Toussaint’s army as cannibals
– very racist, class-based views
– as President he reversed what Adams had done

1799 Napoleon came to power
– saw Toussaint as a threat, wanted him out
– wanted to re-establish slavery

May of 1800 Toussaint becomes military dictator
– believed it was most efficient government form for the time
– worked on restoring order and productivity

One dialect from history is security v freedom
– this can be explored well in this context of

Toussaint re-imposed the plantation system
Oct 1, 1880, Secret treaty of San Ildefonso
– Spain ceded Louisiana

1801: Colonial Assembly approved the constitution
– Toussaint became Governor General-For-Life
– He “liberates” St. Dominique, but never formally severs bond with France

1801: Constitution gave Napoleon reason for sending French troops
– technically French colony
– acting as independent state
– it worried slave-holding nations such as Britain and US were left
– Napoleon regarding St. Dominique as essential to French exploitation of the New World

Napoleon is weakened
– Toussaint drained resources of the colony

1802: Toussaint surrenders
– taken to France
– Toussaint forbade his soldiers from retaliating against French soldiers

1802: French commander, Rochambeau, retreated
– multilated black prisoners
– left them to die slowly as they retreated, so Toussaint’s soldiers would come upon them
– so as a result, Toussaint’s troops had French prisoners hanged within sight of the French army

1802 US newspapers covered uprising with Toussaint as “black Napoleon”
– lots of propaganda there
– intensified US slaveholder’s fear of US slave revolt

Inspired British (on verge of abolishing slave trade) to keep it
– this was a big impact on William Wilburforce

2 step thing: abolish slave trade and THEN slavery

1802: Other blacks who had sided with the French now turned against them because of:
– betrayal of Toussaint
– Napoleon’s restoration of slavery in Martinique

Toussaint is sent to eastern France, the Alps, put in a little jail and is totally neglected
– he dies tragically, a man who has tried to do such great things is neglected and left to die

April 30, 1803
– Louisiana Purchase
– Napoleon needed money to fight British (began to consider sale on April 10)
– Revolution in St. Dominique crushd Napoleon’s hope of an American empire

– conclusion is, it wasn’t just money that Napoleon needed when he sold the US the Louisiana Purchase

May 12, 1803
– Britain declared war on France
– aided Haitian rebels
– gave French someone to surrender to other than Blacks (“a white face to surrender to”)

Nov 1803
– November, French commander in St. Dominique surrendered to the British because he had never gotten enough reinforcements and supplies

1 Jan 1804
– Haiti comes into being

No Portrait While Alive
– well known portrait of Toussaint was painted in 1832 by a Frenchman who had NEVER SEEN him
– that portrait looks like a monkey
– that was because he was painted by a Frenchman who hated him

William Wordsworth’s “To Toussaint…”
– quotations from other authors on Toussaint
– Korngold in “Citizen Toussaint” – “…but for the Negro general, the (Louisiana) territory might have remained a French colony.”

The sugar trade was HUGE
– Haiti was the the most profitable colony worldwide of france

Toussaint may have been the reason we don’t speak French in the U.S. if we want to play “what if” history

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