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The Haitian Revolution, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 635

Essay

A Short Analysis of Toussaint L’Ouverture’s Memoir in Toussaint L’Ouverture: A Biography and Autobiography by J. R. Beard

The leader of the revolt of almost half million enslaved Africans on the island of St. Domingue (modern-day Haiti); attained his people’s freedom and created the first independent country to rise out of the oppressions of slavery. The Haitian Revolution was the only successful revolution of slaves in modern time and struck fear in the hearts of imperialists and gave courage to the enslaved everywhere. In 1801, L’Ouverture set up an Assembly and passed a constitution which abolished slavery, removed the color barrier in employment and established municipal government. L’Ouverture was made governor-for-life. After Napoleon Bonaparte became the ruler of France he promised to restore slavery in Haiti and capture L’Ouverture. In February, 1802 Napoleon sent General Charles Leclerc to the island to retake the colony. Leclerc captured L’Ouverture and transported him back to France. Toussaint L’Ouverture was imprisoned in the notorious dungeons of Fort de Joux, located in the Jura Mountains of France. L’Ouverture died in the prison in April 1803, according to the French autopsy report, of pneumonia.[1]

In 1863, Toussaint L’Ouverture: A Biography and Autobiography was published. The version replaced Beard’s 1853 description of the Haitian revolution with an English version that included Toussaint L’Ouverture’s autobiography, the French autopsy report, tributes written by prominent public figures and some additional documents. Book IV of the new publication contains the letter written to Napoleon Bonaparte by Toussaint L’Ouverture, titled Memoir of General Toussaint L’Ouverture. It is L’Ouverture memoir that is analyzed herein.

Toussaint L’Ouverture wrote his autobiography during the time he was imprisoned at Fort de Joux. It offers the reader a unique perspective of the Haitian fight for independence through the eyes of one of its leaders.  L’Ouverture said that he wrote it,” in order to render to the French Government an exact account of my conduct and to acquit himself of treason in the conflict between his Haitian forces and those of French general Charles Leclerc”.[2] He states,” I shall relate the facts with all the simplicity and frankness of an old soldier, adding to them the reflections that naturally suggest themselves. In short, I shall tell the truth, though it be against myself.[3] He writes that as commander of the revolutionary forces that it was his duty to insure that enemies of Haiti would not penetrate the island. He ordered the commander of seaports to stop and ships from entering anchorage. When French General Leclerc’s forces arrived, the commanders refused him entry.  Leclerc grew impatient and attacked the harbor. The rebels responded by burning the city of Gonaïves. This caused Leclerc to begin an all-out war. After several months of fighting, L’Ouverture surrendered control of the island to the French and believing that he was safe from the French. He was captured and sent to the Fort de Joux, believing that he was betrayed by France.  

L’Ouverture’s memoir describes the beauty of the island and goes on to explain how the French consul promised peace by General Leclerc wanted conflict. He describes the hardship he and his family received on the voyage to France. The tone he uses is very to the point and describes, in detail, his actions that led up to surrender of the island to General Leclerc and his transfer to the Fort de Joux prison. Toussaint L’Ouverture’s memoir might silence his critics who blame him for the loss of the French colony.

References

Beard, J. R. Toussaint L’Ouverture: A Biography and Autobiography, Book IV. Boston: James

Redpath, 1863. http://www.marxist.org/reference/archive/toussaint-puventure/memoit/ index.htm. October 9, 2013.

[1] J. R. Beard. Toussaint L’Ouverture: A Biography and Autobiography, Book IV. Boston: James Redpath, 1863. http://www.marxist.org/reference/archive/toussaint-puventure/memoit/ index.htm. October 9, 2013.

[2] J. R. Beard. Toussaint L’Ouverture: A Biography and Autobiography, Book IV. Boston: James Redpath, 1863. http://www.marxist.org/reference/archive/toussaint-puventure/memoit/ index.htm. October 9, 2013.

[3] Ibid.

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