Today’s installment concludes Revolution in Haiti,
our selection from Santo Domingo: Its Revolution and Its Hero by Charles Wyllys Elliott published in 1855. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed a selection from the great works of five thousand words. Congratulations!
Previously in Revolution in Haiti.
On May 4, 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. 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 is sufficient and he retires to the mountain fastnesses of Marmalade to recruit his troops. On October 9, 1794, he carries the fortress of San Miguel by storm.
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 François with a superior force threatens his rear while the English are in front; again he is baffled and 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 treacheries at home; henceforth he must organize campaigns.
The treaty of Basel 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 now but the English 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 Nillate (Villate), they rose against Laveaux, the Governor of the Cape, and threw him into prison; his danger was extreme. Toussaint descended on the town with ten thousand blacks and saved 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. Confidence grew now between the blacks and the whites, and Lacroix — who is in no way friendly to the blacks — admits that “if Santo Domingo still carried the colors of France, it was solely owing to an old negro who seemed to bear a commission from Heaven.” 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.
Toussaint, now “Louverture”; a strong hand and a clear head, though black, now directs 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 endure without agriculture,” passes from mouth to mouth among the negroes, and rouses in them the desire for lands and wealth — for the first time now possible. He wishes that Cape 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.
The English now were sore bestead. 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 Santo Domingo. Toussaint 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 Mirebelois, an interior Thermopylae, strongly fortified by the English. His lieutenant, Mornay, intercepted Montalembert, who was advancing with seven hundred 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 two hundred 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.
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 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 until I had written, so that you could see that I am incapable of baseness.”
General 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. The event leads one to regret that Toussaint’s ambition was not superior to his loyalty to France.
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.”
This ends our series of passages on Revolution in Haiti by Charles Wyllys Elliott from his book Santo Domingo: Its Revolution and Its Hero published in 1855. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.
|src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/ANzfVeuNA-4″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>|
We want to take this site to the next level but we need money to do that. Please contribute directly by signing up at https://www.patreon.com/history