Toussaint L’Ouverture (c. 1743-1803) was a Haitian general and independence leader. He freed his people from human enslavement.
The Haitian Revolution was complicated because you had French, French-Americans, Africans, African-Americans and French-Africans all fighting each other. Plus there was fighting against the Spanish rulers of Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) and the British too.
Born a Slave
François Dominique Toussaint was born into human enslavement around 1743 in Bréda near Cap-Haitien on Haiti’s northern coast. He was a hard worker and very bright. Toussaint rose to plantation manager and was freed in 1776.
Toussaint L’Ouverture was Talented, Complicated Man
When the revolt that launched the Haitian Revolution began, L’Ouverture hesitated at first. After helping his plantation boss escape, L’Ouverture joined the Black forces fighting the landowners.
He was a capable military leader who built up a guerrilla army.
When France and Spain went to war in 1793, L’Ouverture joined the Spaniards against the French. When France abolished slavery, he switched allegiance back to the French and that made the difference. He was such a good fighter and politician that he eventually controlled the entire island of Hispaniola.
Like other first-generation Americans in the Colonial Period, Toussaint first tried to rebuild his country as an independent French territory with a mix of Africans, African-Americans and French-Americans.
In 1802, a French general invited L’Ouverture to a meeting, but captured him instead and sent the leader to exile where he died of neglect at Fort-de-Joux, France (near Switzerland) in on April 7, 1803.
L’Ouverture’s lieutenant Dessalines led the country to independence on January 1, 1804.
A Leader who Changed American History
The Haitian Revolution led to a Haitian diaspora which contributed to Carnival and Latin music and dance traditions which are still with us today.
Pushing the French out of Saint-Domingue (Haiti) ended one of the world’s most violent industrial slavery operations. It also pushed the French out of the Americas for a while and led to the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 which enlarged our country by one third and set the stage for the acquisition of the final third along the Pacific coast.