Atlantic History Toussaint Louverture
by
Philippe Girard
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 December 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 September 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0208

Introduction

Toussaint Louverture (b. c. 1743–d. 1803), also known as Toussaint Bréda and Toussaint L’Ouverture, was a slave, planter, revolutionary, general, and statesman from the French colony of Saint-Domingue (modern-day Haiti). He was born in bondage on the Bréda plantation in Haut-du-Cap c. 1743; both his parents had been imported from modern-day Benin as part of the Atlantic slave trade. Louverture was a prominent slave who cared for the plantation’s cattle and horses and who developed a close relationship with the Bréda plantation’s owners and overseers. After he was emancipated in the 1770s, he became a small-scale planter in the area of Cap-Français (modern-day Cap-Haïtien) and acquired at least one slave. He joined the Haitian Revolution when it began, in 1791, serving first with the rebel army of Georges Biassou and Jean-François Papillon, in 1791–1793, then with the Spanish army in Santo Domingo (modern-day Dominican Republic), in 1793–1794, and, subsequently, the French republican army, in 1794–1802, in which he eventually attained the rank of division general. After eliminating domestic and foreign rivals, he became the leading political figure in Hispaniola and proclaimed himself governor general for life in an 1801 constitution. But, First Consul Napoléon Bonaparte, convinced that Louverture might declare independence, sent an expedition to depose him in 1801–1802. After he was captured, in June 1802, Louverture was deported to France, where he died in captivity on 7 April 1803. Louverture was a secretive and controversial figure in his time, and historians continue to disagree on his political views. At one extreme, he was long portrayed as a heroic, idealistic figure whose lifelong goals were the emancipation of his fellow slaves, black pride, and independence for Haiti. Yet, other scholars have emphasized Louverture’s equivocations on the issue of free labor, his interest in white mores, and his deep ties to France. The idealist vision still tends to dominate popular interpretations of Louverture, but most late-20th- and early-21st-century scholarly works incorporate the revisionist approach, at least to some extent. Many aspects of Louverture’s life have not been adequately researched, however, so the scholarship remains in flux and may further evolve in the years to come.

General Overviews

Three distinct periods can be distinguished in the historiography on Louverture. Early French authors often vilified him for his brutality toward whites and treacherousness toward France, in an effort to justify Napoléon Bonaparte’s decision to remove him from office, whereas early Haitian authors saw him as unduly harsh toward his mixed-race rivals. But, after the mid-19th century, most authors, whether British, US, French, or Haitian, lionized Louverture as an apostle of freedom and a proud example of the potential of the black race. Groundbreaking articles published since the late 1970s, however, have shown that Louverture did not consistently oppose forced labor and the plantation system, so more recent biographies tend to emphasize his complexity, though a few popular works continue to embrace the heroic interpretations of years past.

Early Critical Overviews

The earliest biographical texts on Louverture appeared in France during his lifetime. They were not scholarly and were deeply influenced by the political context of their time. Pascal 1799), published at a time when Louverture was seen as a loyal servant of the republic, is laudatory, whereas the biographies Dubroca 1802 and Cousin d’Avallon 1802, published when Napoléon Bonaparte had decided to remove Louverture from office and to restore slavery in the Caribbean, are far more critical. Early Haitian works, such as Madiou 1847–1848 and Ardouin 1853–1860, are also surprisingly critical, partly because their authors, who were mixed race, fault Louverture for his reliance on both white and black supporters and his failure to overtly break with France. Later French works, such as Lacroix 1819 and Lepelletier de Saint-Rémy 1846, are written from the perspective of a French elite committed to imperialism and theories of racial inequality, yet they generally describe Louverture as a worthy foe: devious but far more gifted than his fellow black revolutionaries.

  • Ardouin, B. Études sur l’histoire d’Haïti suivies de la vie du général J. M. Borgella. 11 vols. Paris: Dézobry, Magdeleine, 1853–1860.

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    Like Madiou 1847–1848, this general history of Haiti, partly based on recollections from Haitian veterans of the War of Independence, includes some unique information on Louverture’s life, such as his alleged ties to French royalists during the August 1791 slave revolt.

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  • Cousin d’Avallon. Histoire de Toussaint-Louverture: Chef des noirs insurgés de Saint-Domingue; Précédée d’un coup d’oeil politique sur cette colonie; Et suivie d’anecdotes et faits particuliers concernant ce chef des noirs, et les agens directoriaux envoyés dans cette partie du Nouveau-monde, pendant le cours de la revolution. Paris: Pillot, 1802.

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    Published in 1802, shortly after Dubroca’s biography of Louverture (see Dubroca 1802), this book takes an even less flattering stance, not only accusing Louverture of being disloyal to France, but also concluding that the 1794 abolition of slavery had been a mistake.

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  • Dubroca, Jean-Louis. La vie de Toussaint-Louverture, chef des noirs insurgés de Saint-Domingue. Paris: Dubroca, 1802.

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    Published in early 1802, at a time when Bonaparte had decided to remove Louverture from office, this book toes the official line and portrays Louverture as an “enemy of the fatherland” (p. 1), ready to declare independence.

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  • Lacroix, Pamphile de. Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire de la révolution de Saint-Domingue. 2 vols. Paris: Pillet, 1819.

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    Written by a veteran of the Leclerc expedition, this book is more balanced than similar French works, such as A. P. M. Laujon, Précis historique de la dernière expédition de Saint-Domingue (Paris: Delafolie, 1805). The book’s portrayal of Louverture as a gifted individual who wanted to preserve much of the colonial system as long as his political ambitions were fulfilled anticipated modern-day scholarship. Reprinted in 1995, as La Révolution de Haïti (Paris: Karthala).

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  • Lepelletier de Saint-Rémy, R. Saint-Domingue: Étude et solution nouvelle de la question haïtienne. 2 vols. Paris: Bertrand, 1846.

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    Of low scholarly quality, this book is only notable as an example of the racist and procolonialist perspective in 19th-century French historiography. The author’s view of Louverture remained relatively complimentary: “[L]et’s acknowledge that Toussaint Louverture is a glorious exception to the inferiority of his race” (p. 172).

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  • Madiou, Thomas. Histoire d’Haïti. 3 vols. Port-au-Prince, Haiti: Courtois, 1847–1848.

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    Although old, this general history of Haiti remains an important chronicle of the Haitian Revolution and Louverture’s life because, like Ardouin 1853–1860, it relied on Haitian accounts (particularly oral histories) not readily available in the early 21st century. Madiou recognized Louverture’s qualities but faulted him for killing mixed-race civilians in 1800. Such massacres “turned most hearts against him, and thereafter he only ruled through terror” (Vol. 2, p. 40).

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  • Pascal. “Untitled.” Moniteur Universel, 9 January 1799, 585–586.

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    This two-page article, published in the French daily of record, gave the first detailed account of Louverture’s background, in an effort to defend his reputation in Parisian circles. The article, which depicts Louverture as a moderate figure inspired by the French Enlightenment, was possibly authored by Louverture’s secretary and lobbyist, Pascal.

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19th- and 20th-Century Overviews

Biographies of Louverture published from the mid-19th century to the 1970s are generally flattering, in keeping with their authors’ political agendas. Many of these books were written by Haitian nationalists eager to celebrate their country’s most famous son; some, such as Saint-Rémy 1850 and Pauléus Sannon 1920–1933, are solid works of history, whereas others, such as Scharon 1957–1959, veer into unscholarly hagiography. Still other biographies, such as Beard 1853 and Schoelcher 1889, were written by Anglo-American and French abolitionists who hoped to hold up Louverture as an example of the intellectual potential of black freedmen. The sycophantic tone of Gragnon-Lacoste 1877 can be explained by the author’s close personal ties to Louverture’s family. Finally, James 1938 and Césaire 1981 are representative of a black nationalist/Marxist school of Caribbean scholars eager to use Haiti as a template for the independence of other Caribbean islands.

  • Beard, John R. The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture, the Negro Patriot of Hayti; Comprising an Account of the Struggle for Liberty in the Island, and a Sketch of Its History to the Present Period. London: Ingram and Cooke, 1853.

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    Beard’s biography, reprinted in Boston in 1863 (see also Louverture’s Memoir(s)) was meant as an abolitionist tract and a counterpoint to previous Haitian biographies (which favored mulattoes) and French biographies (which favored whites): “The blacks have no authors,” laments Beard (p. 4).

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  • Césaire, Aimé. Toussaint Louverture: La Révolution française et le problème colonial. Paris: Présence Africaine, 1981.

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    This book is less notable for its scholarly contributions than as an example of black nationalist and Marxist thought: Césaire, a Martinique-born member of the poetic movement Négritude, lauded Louverture for turning an amorphous slave revolt into a coherent revolution with an agenda (black rule, emancipation) distinct from that of the French Revolution.

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  • Gragnon-Lacoste, Thomas Prosper. Toussaint Louverture, général en chef de l’armée de Saint-Domingue, surnommé le premier des noirs: Ouvrage écrit d’après des documents inédits et les papiers historiques et secrets de la famille Louverture. Paris: Durand et Pedone-Lauriel, 1877.

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    As the lawyer and legal heir of Louverture’s son Isaac, the author was able to include much original material on Louverture’s private life, particularly his youth and his African ancestors. Unfortunately, attribution and footnotes are often lacking.

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  • James, C. L. R. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution. New York: Dial, 1938.

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    This highly influential work introduced English-speaking audiences to the Haitian Revolution. The text’s factual content is outdated, as is its Marxist frame of reference, but James’s vision of Louverture as an heir to French revolutionary ideals continues to carry weight. Revised in 1963 (New York: Random House).

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  • Pauléus Sannon, H. Histoire de Toussaint-Louverture. 3 vols. Port-au-Prince, Haiti: Héraux, 1920–1933.

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    This biography, though typical of modern Haitians’ tendency to idolize Louverture, is also one of the more detailed and scholarly works on Louverture available and reproduces a variety of rare letters obtained by Pauléus Sannon in Haiti.

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  • Saint-Rémy, Joseph. Vie de Toussaint-L’Ouverture. Paris: Moquet, 1850.

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    Written by a naturalized Haitian citizen born in French Guadeloupe, this was the first major Haitian work to rehabilitate Louverture’s memory. Saint-Rémy also edited Louverture’s memoir(s) in 1853 (see Saint-Rémy 1853, cited under Louverture’s Memoir[s]).

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  • Scharon, Faine. Toussaint Louverture et la Révolution de Saint-Domingue. 2 vols. Port-au-Prince, Haiti: Imprimerie de l’État, 1957–1959.

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    This book is representative of the tendency in 20th-century Haitian scholarship to recycle secondary sources and to unquestioningly glorify Louverture as an idealist: “[L]iberty and equality for all: such were the great principles for which he fought without respite” (p. 12). In the same vein, see also Roger Dorsinville, Toussaint Louverture, ou, La vocation de la liberté (Paris: Julliard, 1965).

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  • Schoelcher, Victor. Vie de Toussaint-Louverture. 2d ed. Paris: Ollendorf, 1889.

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    Written by a liberal politician who drafted France’s 1848 abolition of slavery, this biography predictably celebrated the achievements of the former slave, with the exception of his proindependence leanings. The work relied on important primary sources assembled by Schoelcher, many of which are now housed at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (NAF 6864).

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Revisionist Overviews

Aside from some pioneering works by Gabriel Debien, serious scholarly inquiry into Louverture’s past only began in earnest in the 1970s, when French and American academics’ interest in the history of slavery took off. The groundbreaking articles Debien, et al. 1977 (cited under Prerevolutionary Life); Geggus 1978 (cited under Spanish and French General, 1793–1798); and Debien and Pluchon 1978 (cited under Louverture’s Diplomacy) showed that Louverture had not always been wholly committed to the ideal of emancipation and shattered the simplistic portrayals of Louverture’s views that had dominated for more than a century. As a result, some of the more recent biographies, particularly Pluchon 1989 and Bell 2007, characterize Louverture as a rather conservative individual. But, many works still embrace the traditional interpretation of Louverture as a single-minded apostle of freedom, notably, Parkinson 1978, Foix 2007, and Cauna 2012 and, to a lesser extent, Dubois 2004. Although his own research was partly responsible for the revisionist onslaught, David Geggus has embraced a careful, middle-of-the-road approach in his various works (e.g., Geggus 2007), concluding that Louverture was a pragmatic individual who occasionally was willing to make concessions but who never lost sight of his long-term goals and deeply held beliefs.

  • Bell, Madison Smartt. Toussaint Louverture: A Biography. New York: Pantheon, 2007.

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    This is the most widely used English-language biography and a well-written description of Louverture’s character (the author began his career as a novelist; see Bell 1995, cited under Television, Movies, and Fiction). Bell’s emphasis on Louverture’s political contradictions is in keeping with late-20th- and early-21st-century scholarship (particularly Pluchon 1989), but Bell’s scholarly apparatus is weak: the early chapters, on Louverture’s life, are almost entirely devoid of footnotes.

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  • Cauna, Jacques de. Toussaint Louverture: Le grand précurseur. Référence. Bordeaux, France: Sud Ouest, 2012.

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    Like Parkinson 1978 and Foix 2007, this book paints a flattering portrait of Louverture, but it is based on more solid archival work. Cauna pays particular attention to Louverture’s early life, his ties to southwestern France, and the parallels between his life and Napoléon Bonaparte’s.

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  • Dubois, Laurent. Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.

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    This widely read general overview did much to introduce English-speaking nonspecialists to the Haitian Revolution. Louverture and his fellow revolutionaries are seen as products of the Enlightenment who forced French revolutionaries to confront the issue of slavery.

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  • Foix, Alain. Toussaint Louverture. Folio biographies. Paris: Gallimard, 2007.

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    Like Parkinson 1978, this paperback, intended for a general audience and written in a flowery style, embraces an idealized vision of Louverture’s agenda at odds with most late-20th- and early-21st-century scholarship: “Toussaint Louverture . . . is liberty incarnated as a man” (p. 21).

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  • Geggus, David. “Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution.” In Profiles of Revolutionaries in Atlantic History, 1750–1850. Edited by R. William Weisberger, Dennis P. Hupchick, and David L. Anderson, 115–135. Social Science Monographs. Boulder, CO: Social Science Monographs, 2007.

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    This chapter distills three decades of Geggus’s research, particularly on Louverture’s youth and the early revolutionary era, to emphasize that a careful analysis of the documentary record shows how difficult it is to reach one-sided conclusions about Louverture’s motives regarding slavery.

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  • Parkinson, Wenda. “This Gilded African”: Toussaint L’Ouverture. London and New York: Quartet, 1978.

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    Written by an author known mostly for her travel guides, this book lacks much in the way of footnotes or scholarly rigor. But, Parkinson’s enthusiastic portrayal of an idealistic Louverture is typical of the way Louverture is described in popular works.

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  • Pluchon, Pierre. Toussaint Louverture: Un révolutionnaire noir d’Ancien Régime. Paris: Fayard, 1989.

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    This biography, the best available in the French language but often overly unsympathetic, was the third written by Pluchon (the previous two were published in 1979 and 1980). Pluchon characterizes Louverture as a planter and politician molded by the colonial legacy of the Ancien Régime who was more interested in taking over Haiti’s plantations and dominating the Haitian political sphere than in freeing his people.

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Digitized Secondary Sources

Many of the early works on Louverture, particularly those published in Haiti, used to be difficult to access outside specialized libraries, such as the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Library of Congress. However, public domain secondary sources are now increasingly available online, notably through Gallica and Google Books.

Primary Sources and Archival Collections

Primary sources on the Haitian Revolution and Louverture are quite plentiful, especially at the Archives nationales de France, in Paris, and the Archives nationales d’outre-mer, in Aix-en-Provence. Unfortunately, finding aids are incomplete, and only a few of Louverture’s letters have been published. But, digitization of archival collections should make primary sources more readily available in the future.

Finding Aids

French archival collections, which are the richest for the Haitian revolutionary era, are described in Favier 1978–1988 and Sibille 2007. Monti 1972 and the ArchiveGrid database are finding aids for US archival collections. Also useful is Geggus 1983, which lists the main archival resources on the Haitian Revolution.

Published Archival Collections

Because resources on Louverture’s life are numerous but geographically scattered, and because a definitive edition of Louverture’s papers has not yet been published (see Published Letters), the digitization and publication of rare primary sources is the best hope for cash-strapped researchers unable to visit every archive and library. Some Spanish-language archival collections have been published, notably, those from the Dominican Republic (Rodríguez Demorizi 1958) and Cuba (Franco 1954). Digitization remains a work in progress, but progressive archives, such as the John Carter Brown Library, the Archives nationales d’outre-mer, and the British National Archives, have already put some of their collections online, a process that will surely intensify as years pass. Online portals, such as the Digital Library of the Caribbean and, particularly, the Portal de Archivos Españoles (PARES), are also a useful point of entry.

Published Letters

There is currently no equivalent for Louverture to the multivolume editions of official and private papers that are standard for all the leading French and US statesmen of the revolutionary era. A small fraction of Louverture’s letters and publications are translated in Dubois and Garrigus 2006 and the Louverture Project. Originals that have been published pertain to his service in the Spanish army, in 1793–1794, and the French army, in 1794–1798 (Laurent 1953); his diplomacy with the United States, in 1798–1800 (Louverture and Stevens 1910); the Leclerc expedition, in 1802 (Roussier 1937); and his captivity in France, in 1802–1803 (Caffarelli 1902, Morpeau 1920). See also Louverture’s Memoir(s).

  • Caffarelli, Marie-François. “Toussaint-Louverture au Fort de Joux (1802): Journal du général Caffarelli.” Nouvelle revue rétrospective, no. 94 (1902): 2–18.

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    Detailed account by Bonaparte’s aide-de-camp, Marie-François Caffarelli, of Napoléon’s September 1802 visit to Fort de Joux, where he had lengthy discussions with Louverture during his captivity.

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  • Dubois, Laurent, and John D. Garrigus, eds. Slave Revolution in the Caribbean, 1789–1804: A Brief History with Documents. Bedford Series in History and Culture. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2006.

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    This slim but useful volume, intended for college students, includes a short summary of the Haitian Revolution, followed by an abridged English translation of key documents, several of them by or about Louverture.

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  • Laurent, Gérard M., ed. Toussaint Louverture à travers sa correspondance, 1794–1798. Madrid: Industrias Gráficas España, 1953.

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    Reproduces letters to and from Louverture and the French general Étienne Laveaux, who was Louverture’s direct superior after he joined the French army, in 1794. Many of the originals are in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, in Paris (fr. 12102-12104). Laurent also provides a few of the letters written to and by Louverture when he served in Santo Domingo, in 1793–1794, in his Trois mois aux archives d’Espagne (Port-au-Prince, Haiti: Presses Libres, 1956).

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  • Louverture Project.

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    This site, which contains a variety of open-source primary and secondary sources, is an easily accessible gateway. Because it is a participative project developed by Wikipedia, however, its content has not been vetted by traditional scholarly processes.

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  • Louverture, Toussaint, and Edward Stevens. “Letters of Toussaint Louverture and of Edward Stevens, 1798–1800.” American Historical Review 16.1 (1910): 64–101.

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    Reproduces letters, housed at the US National Archives, in College Park, that document Louverture’s diplomacy with the United States and, particularly, his relationship with the US consul general in Cap-Français, Edward Stevens.

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  • Morpeau, Louis, ed. Documents inédits pour l’histoire: Correspondance concernant l’emprisonnement et la mort de Toussaint Louverture. Port-au-Prince, Haiti: Sacré Coeur, 1920.

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    Offers many letters written by, to, and about Louverture in 1802–1803, a period that saw his deportation to France and his death in captivity. For more documents on Louverture’s exile, see also Nemours 1929 (cited under Louverture’s Demise).

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  • Roussier, Paul, ed. Lettres du général Leclerc, commandant en chef de l’armée de Saint-Domingue en 1802. Bibliothèque d’histoire coloniale. Paris: Société de l’histoire des colonies françaises, 1937.

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    Contains the correspondence of Victoire-Emmanuel Leclerc, the French general who overthrew Louverture in 1802 (originals are at the Archives nationales de France, in Paris, and the Service historique de la défense, in Vincennes). The book includes letters between Leclerc and Louverture as well as Napoléon Bonaparte’s instructions to Leclerc, asking him to deport Louverture to France.

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Louverture’s Memoir(s)

Of the various texts authored by Louverture, the memoir he wrote during his captivity at Fort de Joux, in 1802, has been the most widely reprinted and discussed in the early 21st century (the text is usually referred to as Louverture’s memoirs, as if it were an autobiography, but the original bears the title Memoir, because it was intended as a report or petition). At least four versions have survived in French archives. Only one of them was entirely in Louverture’s hand, yet editors originally relied on alternate versions written by a French secretary, as Louverture’s original was not in standard French. The version of the memoir drafted by a secretary was first published in 1853 (Saint-Rémy 1853) and later translated into English (Beard 1863). Modern editions include two French editions based on Louverture’s handwritten original (Cauna 2009, Desormeaux 2011). These different editions explore the historical and literary merits of the memoir, as does Jenson 2011. The memoirs of Louverture’s son Isaac are also available, in Métral 1825.

  • Beard, J. R. Toussaint L’Ouverture: A Biography and Autobiography. Boston: Redpath, 1863.

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    This volume reprints the Louverture biography Beard 1853 (cited under 19th- and 20th-Century Overviews), followed by an abridged English translation of Saint-Rémy 1853, which, despite its many flaws, was the only edition available until Philippe Girard’s 2014 (Memoir of General Toussaint Louverture, Oxford University Press).

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  • Cauna, Jacques de, ed. Mémoires du général Toussaint-Louverture. Guitalens-L’Albarède, France: Girandole, 2009.

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    Reprint of Saint-Rémy 1853, complete with original editorial notes as well as a new introduction by Cauna. Louverture’s original version is also included, but, unfortunately, with a modernized spelling.

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  • Desormeaux, Daniel, ed. Mémoires du général Toussaint Louverture. Bibliothèque du XIXe siècle. Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2011.

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    First edition to include an unedited version of Louverture’s handwritten memoir—one that did not correct his grammar and spelling. An analytical introduction reprises some of the material presented in Desormeaux’s article “The First of the (Black) Memorialists: Toussaint Louverture,” in Special Issue: The Haiti Issue: 1804 and Nineteenth-Century French Studies, edited by Deborah Jenson, Yale French Studies 107 (2005): 131–145.

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  • Jenson, Deborah. Beyond the Slave Narrative: Politics, Sex, and Manuscripts in the Haitian Revolution. Liverpool Studies in International Slavery. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.5949/UPO9781846316517Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    To show that English-language slave narratives are not the only printed sources on the history of slavery, this book analyzes three categories of early Haitian texts: Louverture’s writings (particularly his memoir), the writings of the Haitian revolutionary Jean-Jacques Dessalines, and love poems in Haitian Creole (Kreyòl).

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  • Métral, Antoine. Histoire de l’expédition des français à Saint-Domingue sous le consulat de Napoléon Bonaparte, 1802–1803: Suivie des mémoires et notes d’Isaac L’ouverture. Paris: Fanjat, 1825.

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    This standard history of the Leclerc expedition is followed by the memoirs of Louverture’s son Isaac (manuscript copies of which are in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, in Paris in the folder NAF 12409), which offer a biased but unique perspective on Louverture’s family background and the Leclerc expedition.

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  • Saint-Rémy, Joseph, ed. Mémoires du général Toussaint-L’Ouverture, écrits par lui-même, pouvant servir à l’histoire de sa vie. Paris: Pagnerre, 1853.

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    This edition, edited by a prolific Haitian author also known for his biography of Louverture (see Saint-Rémy 1850, cited under 19th- and 20th-Century Overviews), was long the standard French-language edition of Louverture’s memoir, even though it is based on a copy drafted by a French secretary, not Louverture’s handwritten original. Provides extensive editorial notes. Reprinted in Cauna 2009.

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Anthologies of Essays

Because many of the best-researched articles on Louverture’s life were published in Haitian and French journals that can be hard to obtain, anthologies of key articles, such as Geggus 2002 and Cauna 2004, are of great use. Because it can also be hard to adopt a truly Atlantic approach to the Haitian Revolution, given the wide dispersion of archives, David Geggus commissioned individual essays by relevant regional experts to explore slave revolt in the 1790s Caribbean (Gaspar and Geggus 1997), the impact of the Haitian Revolution (Geggus 2001), and the revolution’s various phases (Geggus and Fiering 2009).

  • Cauna, Jacques de, ed. Toussaint Louverture et l’indépendance d’Haïti: Témoignages pour un bicentenaire. Collection “Hommes et société.” Paris: Karthala, 2004.

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    Reprints a variety of essays on Louverture’s life, including Gabriel Debien, Jean Fouchard, and Marie-Antoinette Menier’s seminal 1977 article on Louverture’s emancipation (see Debien, et al. 1977, cited under Prerevolutionary Life), and Michel Roussier’s 1977 article on the education of Louverture’s sons (see Roussier 1977, cited under Spanish and French General, 1793–1798).

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  • Gaspar, David Barry, and David Patrick Geggus, eds. A Turbulent Time: The French Revolution and the Greater Caribbean. Blacks in the Diaspora. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997.

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    Contains essays by recognized scholars, such as Carolyn E. Fick, that analyze patterns of slave resistance in the 1790s, not only in Haiti, but in Louisiana, Saint Lucia, and the Spanish Caribbean as well.

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  • Geggus, David Patrick. Haitian Revolutionary Studies. Blacks in the Diaspora. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002.

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    Reprints many articles by the most respected Haitian expert in the United States. Unfortunately, some of Geggus’s articles on Louverture’s early life on the Bréda plantation are missing, but this anthology contains classics, such as Geggus’s 1978 article on Louverture’s volte-face (see Geggus 1978, cited under Spanish and French General, 1793–1798).

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  • Geggus, David P., ed. The Impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World. Carolina Lowcountry and the Atlantic World. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2001.

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    This collection ranges even more widely than Gaspar and Geggus 1997, with individual essays by Laurent Dubois, Paul Lachance, and others spanning Haiti as well as Germany, Brazil, the United States, and Colombia. The authors disagree on the worldwide significance of the Haitian Revolution, but Geggus concludes that its impact was more symbolic than tangible, given that slavery continued to expand in the Americas in the 19th century.

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  • Geggus, David Patrick, and Norman Fiering, eds. The World of the Haitian Revolution. Blacks in the Diaspora. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009.

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    This collection covers the run-up to, the unfolding of, and the reverberations and representations of the Haitian Revolution. Individual analyses were written by recognized French, US, and Haitian scholars, such as Yves Benot, John D. Garrigus, and Jean Casimir. An essay by Jacques de Cauna examines the architecture of sugar plantations such as the one on which Louverture grew up.

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Specific Episodes of Louverture’s Life

Many aspects of Louverture’s life have not yet been fully explored, particularly his prerevolutionary years, but much progress has been made since the 1970s. In the early 21st century it is known, for example, that Louverture was already free when the Haitian Revolution began; that he owned at least one slave and that his relatives owned Jean-Jacques Dessalines; that his volte-face from the Spanish to the French army, in 1794, was possibly motivated more by his ambitions than by France’s embrace of emancipation; that he was closely engaged diplomatically with British and US slave-owning statesmen in 1798–1801; and that he refused to export the Haitian Revolution beyond the shores of Hispaniola. Because these discoveries contradict the once reigning narrative presenting Louverture as an idealistic defender of freedom, scholarly articles have done much to bring about a revisionist paradigm that emphasizes the contradictions in Louverture’s political thinking and that is dominant in scholarly circles in the early 21st century (see Revisionist Overviews).

Prerevolutionary Life

Our knowledge of the prerevolutionary life of Louverture has advanced greatly in the late 20th and early 21st centuries but remains incomplete. Debien, et al. 1977 reveals that he was already free in the 1770s (though there remains some confusion regarding the exact date and circumstances of his emancipation) and that he established himself as a planter, a discovery whose ramifications Geggus 1985–1986 tries to downplay. Since these findings, information has surfaced on Louverture’s siblings (Bardin 1997), the family that owned Louverture and his relatives (Donnadieu 2009), and his extensive prerevolutionary kinship network (Girard and Donnadieu 2013). Rogers 1999, King 2001, and Garrigus 2006 provide more general works on the free population of color in prerevolutionary Saint-Domingue.

  • Bardin, Pierre. “Langlois de Chancy—Toussaint Louverture.” Généalogie et histoire de la Caraïbe, no. 92 (1997): 1944–1947.

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    Lists available genealogical information on Louverture’s half sister and her offspring, who settled in southern Saint-Domingue.

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  • Debien, Gabriel, Jean Fouchard, and Marie-Antoinette Menier. “Toussaint Louverture avant 1789: Légendes et réalités.” Conjonction 134 (1977): 65–80.

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    This seminal article reveals that Louverture was officially free by 1776, long before the onset of the Haitian Revolution, and that he owned at least one slave and leased thirteen others.

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  • Donnadieu, Jean-Louis. Un grand seigneur et ses esclaves: Le comte de Noé entre Antilles et Gascogne, 1728–1816. Tempus. Toulouse, France: Presses Universitaires du Mirail, 2009.

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    Retraces the life of prominent members of the Bréda family, who owned various plantations in Saint-Domingue, including the one, in Haut-du-Cap, on which Louverture was born and enslaved. Also presents available information on the various free people of color who gravitated around the Bréda plantations.

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  • Garrigus, John D. Before Haiti: Race and Citizenship in French Saint-Domingue. Americas in the Early Modern Atlantic World. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

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    Like King 2001, this book relies on notarial records to study the prerevolutionary free population of color. Garrigus contends that the rise in racist legislation after the 1760s was a political ploy by white planters to portray their mixed-race rivals as less valuable citizens of the French Empire. The introduction offers a useful overview of the historiography of the Haitian Revolution (pp. 9–16).

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  • Geggus, David. “Toussaint Louverture and the Slaves of the Bréda Plantation.” Journal of Caribbean History 20.1 (1985–1986): 30–48.

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    While acknowledging the discoveries of Debien, et al. 1977 regarding Louverture’s early emancipation and slave ownership, Geggus emphasizes the intermediate status of Louverture on the eve of the Haitian Revolution as a humble freedman whose family remained in bondage.

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  • Girard, Philippe R., and Jean-Louis Donnadieu. “Toussaint before Louverture: New Archival Findings on the Early Life of Toussaint Louverture.” William and Mary Quarterly 70.1 (2013): 41–78.

    DOI: 10.5309/willmaryquar.70.1.0041Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on French plantation and notarial records, this article describes the kinship network of Louverture before the Haitian Revolution (including his surrogate parents and a little-known first marriage), his life on the Bréda plantation, and the prerevolutionary ties between Louverture and the Haitian revolutionary Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who once belonged to Louverture’s son-in-law.

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  • King, Stewart R. Blue Coat or Powdered Wig: Free People of Color in Pre-revolutionary Saint-Domingue. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2001.

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    Drawing from the notarial archives in Aix-en-Provence, this book argues that there were two main groups within the free population of color of Saint-Domingue: a rural planter class aspiring to imitate white mores and an urban military class of ambitious young men. Although not fully explored in the book, the prerevolutionary Louverture fits the first model most closely.

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  • Rogers, Dominique. “Les libres de couleur dans les capitales de Saint-Domingue: Fortune, mentalités et intégration à la fin de l’Ancien Régime, 1776–1789.” PhD diss., Université Michel de Montaigne Bordeaux 3, 1999.

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    Rogers uses notarial records of business transactions (particularly among the women of Cap-Français) to assert that the growing legal racism emphasized in Garrigus 2006 and other works did not prevent free people of color from playing a growing economic and legal role on the eve of the Haitian Revolution.

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Early Haitian Revolution, 1791–1793

Louverture’s role in the August 1791 slave revolt that officially began the Haitian Revolution remains a matter of considerable debate. Some contemporaries and early historians variously argued that Louverture had played no role in the original uprising or that he had been its main organizer behind the scenes. Among those contending the latter, some thought his goal had been general emancipation, whereas others saw him as a tool of a counterrevolutionary royalist plot. The best evidence for and against each theory is summarized in Geggus 2007, whereas Hoffman 1990 and Geggus 1991 debate whether the August 1791 vodun (voodoo) ceremony in Bois-Caïman that preceded the general slave revolt was fact or fiction.

  • Geggus, David. “Le soulèvement d’août 1791 et ses liens avec le vaudou et le marronnage.” Paper presented at a conference in Port-au-Prince, 5–8 December 1989. In La Révolution française et Haïti: Filiations, ruptures, nouvelles dimensions. Vol. 1. Edited by Michel Hector, 60–70. Port-au-Prince, Haiti: Deschamps, 1991.

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    Written in response to Hoffman 1990, this essay asserts that the Bois-Caïman ceremony, however extensively mythologized, probably did happen (Louverture’s presence in Bois-Caïman, however, remains speculative).

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  • Geggus, David. “Toussaint Louverture avant et après le soulèvement de 1791.” In Mémoire de révolution d’esclaves à Saint-Domingue: La traite négrière transatlantique, l’esclavage colonial, la Révolution de Saint-Domingue et les droits de l’homme. Rev. ed. Edited by Franklin Midy, 112–132. Montreal: Centre International de Documentation et d’Information Haïtienne, Caribéenne et Afro-canadienne, 2007.

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    Originally published in 2006 (with a number of typos). This text presents the best evidence available on the exact role played by Louverture in August 1791: Was he the revolt’s main backer or a passive bystander? Geggus’s conclusion is cautious: “[A]fter more than twenty years spent debating the question, I am sorry to confess that I still cannot decide between one theory and the other” (p. 121).

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  • Hoffmann, Léon-François. “Histoire, mythe et idéologie: La cérémonie du Bois-Caïman.” Études créoles 13.1 (1990): 9–34.

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    This intriguing piece of literary archeology maintains that the August 1791 vodun ceremony in Bois-Caïman that preceded the general uprising and in which Louverture allegedly participated, according to some accounts, was largely a tale propagated by critics of the Haitian Revolution, who wanted to portray the slave rebels as pagan savages.

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Spanish and French General, 1793–1798

Following the outbreak of the Haitian Revolution, Louverture served in the Spanish army in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) in 1793–1794, then switched to the French army in 1794. His volte-face to the French side was long seen as an idealistic move inspired by the 1794 French law that abolished slavery, but Geggus 1978 and Popkin 2010 demonstrate that the attitude of Louverture and other black rebels toward emancipation was far more tentative than one might expect. More traditionally, Geggus 1982 shows how Louverture helped defeat a British invasion of Saint-Domingue, Dubois 2004 argues that Louverture made his the ideals of the French Revolution, and Roussier 1977 recounts how Louverture sent his sons to France in 1796, in a show of confidence in the French Republic.

  • Dubois, Laurent. A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787–1804. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

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    Focusing on the French Caribbean (particularly Guadeloupe) during the revolutionary era, this book describes how the egalitarian principles of the French Revolution were implemented in colonies founded on slavery and racism. In contrast to Popkin 2010, Dubois describes rebels such as Louverture as sons of the French Revolution inspired by Enlightenment philosophers, such as Guillaume Raynal.

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  • Geggus, David. “From His Most Catholic Majesty to the Godless Republic: The ‘Volte-Face’ of Toussaint Louverture and the Ending of Slavery in Saint-Domingue.” Revue française d’histoire d’outre-mer 65.241 (1978): 481–499.

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    This carefully researched article on Louverture’s switch from the Spanish to the French army, in 1794, presents the evidence supporting the two main theories on his motives: he was responding to the French abolition of slavery (which would make him an idealist), or his career in the Spanish army had simply reached a dead end (which would make him an opportunist). Reprinted and updated in Geggus 2002 (cited under Anthologies of Essays).

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  • Geggus, David Patrick. Slavery, War, and Revolution: The British Occupation of Saint-Domingue, 1793–1798. Oxford: Clarendon, 1982.

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    Drawing from French, British, and Spanish archives, this book is the definitive account of the disastrous British attempt to conquer Saint-Domingue in 1793–1798, which failed, in part, because of Louverture’s military exploits after he joined the French army, in 1794.

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  • Popkin, Jeremy D. You Are All Free: The Haitian Revolution and the Abolition of Slavery. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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    The best and most detailed English-language book on the French abolition of slavery in 1793–1794. Popkin provocatively attributes the emancipation process to political street fighting between French officials in Saint-Domingue, not the idealism of Parisian revolutionaries and black rebels such as Louverture. Emancipation, in this analysis, was the result of “historical accidents” (p. 21) in which Louverture played a limited role.

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  • Roussier, Michel. “L’éducation des enfants de Toussaint Louverture et l’institution nationale des colonies.” Revue française d’histoire d’outre-mer 64.236 (1977): 308–349.

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    Well-researched article on Louverture’s sons Isaac and Placide, who studied in France in 1796–1801, a time when France was trying to develop a pro-French, republican class of free officers of color. Reprinted in Cauna 2004 (cited under Anthologies of Essays).

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Louverture as a Statesman

Louverture’s political clout grew after the British evacuated their last troops from Saint-Domingue in 1798. He exiled or marginalized French representatives on the island (Schneider 2002), defeated his mixed-race rival André Rigaud in a civil war that has yet to be studied by modern scholars, took over the Dominican Republic (Schaeffer 1949), and passed a constitution in 1801 that made him governor general for life (for the text, see also Dubois and Garrigus 2006, cited under Published Letters). Aside from one-volume biographies (see General Overviews) and diplomatic histories (see Louverture’s Diplomacy), there are surprisingly few scholarly studies of Louverture at his apex. Rainsford 2013 (originally published in 1805) and Descourtilz 1809 are interesting firsthand accounts of Louverture’s rule by people who met him around 1799 and who emphasized his political acumen as well as his ruthlessness. According to Lacerte 1978, Louverture’s labor policies toward former slaves were strict and not fundamentally different from those of his white predecessors, which may be explained, as shown in Debien 1983, by his acquisition of many plantations of his own.

  • Debien, Gabriel. “Les biens de Toussaint Louverture.” Revue de la Société haïtienne d’histoire, de géographie et de géologie 139 (June 1983): 5–75.

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    Building on a 1946 article, Debien lists the numerous plantations bought or leased by Louverture and his wife, Suzanne, during his political ascent, which turned the once humble slave into a major landowner (on the same topic, see also Girard and Donnadieu 2013, cited under Prerevolutionary Life).

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  • Descourtilz, M. E. Voyage d’un naturaliste et ses observations faites sur les trois règnes de la nature, dans plusieurs ports de mer français, en Espagne, au continent de l’Amérique septentrionale, à Saint-Yago de Cuba, et à St.-Domingue, où l’Auteur devenu le prisonnier de 40,000 Noirs révoltés, et par suite mis en liberté par une colonne de l’armée française, donne des détails circonstanciés sur l’expédition du général Leclerc. 3 vols. Paris: Dufart, 1809.

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    This poorly written yet essential eyewitness account covers the rise and fall of Louverture in 1799–1803 and contains numerous revealing anecdotes about Louverture, along with lengthy digressions on the fauna and flora of Saint-Domingue and the author’s picaresque tribulations. Descourtilz emphasizes Louverture’s oppression of white planters, some of whom were Descourtilz’s relatives, which he attributes to Louverture’s greed and racial antipathy. Reprinted in 1935.

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  • Lacerte, Robert K. “The Evolution of Land and Labor in the Haitian Revolution, 1791–1820.” Americas 34.4 (1978): 449–459.

    DOI: 10.2307/981159Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article cites no groundbreaking archival documents, yet by covering a lengthy time period that spans the Haitian Revolution and its aftermath, Lacerte is able to show the surprising continuity of labor regulations before and after the abolition of slavery: the primary goal of Saint-Domingue’s rulers, whether white or black (including Louverture), was to force black laborers to stay on plantations, despite the formal abolition of slavery.

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  • Rainsford, Marcus. An Historical Account of the Black Empire of Hayti. Edited by Paul Youngquist and Grégory Pierrot. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013.

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    Rainsford, a British officer who briefly visited Saint-Domingue during Louverture’s heyday, presents him as a capable and idealistic leader and is far more sympathetic than Descourtilz 1809. According to Youngquist and Pierrot, Rainsford visited Saint-Domingue in 1796, 1797, and 1798, not 1799 as claimed by Rainsford. Originally published in 1805.

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  • Schaeffer, Wendell G. “The Delayed Cession of Spanish Santo Domingo to France, 1795–1801.” Hispanic American Historical Review 29.1 (1949): 46–68.

    DOI: 10.2307/2508293Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A traditional but solid overview of Louverture’s 1801 invasion of the Dominican Republic, which may be analyzed, depending on one’s understanding of his political profile, as an idealistic campaign to end the slave trade in a neighboring colony or as a naked power grab. Schaeffer does not fully explore an as yet unresolved issue: Did Louverture abolish slavery after conquering Santo Domingo? See also Rodríguez Demorizi 1958 (cited under Published Archival Collections).

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  • Schneider, Christian. “Le colonel Vincent, officier du génie à Saint-Domingue.” Annales historiques de la Révolution française, no. 329 (2002): 101–122.

    DOI: 10.3406/ahrf.2002.2600Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Well-researched article on a little-known but important French official who served as director of fortifications in Saint-Domingue and as official envoy between France and Saint-Domingue. The way Louverture used and abused Vincent is representative of the subtle methods he employed to claim political autonomy without overtly breaking with France.

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Louverture’s Diplomacy

Louverture’s foreign policy toward his neighbors, particularly England and the United States, has been researched with unusual depth, though, unfortunately, many US scholars have focused more on what Thomas Jefferson and John Adams’s Haitian foreign policy tells us about their views toward slavery than on Louverture’s own motives. Traditional diplomatic historians, such as Rayford W. Logan, emphasized US statesmen’s desire to protect the United States and further economic interests (Logan 1941), but revisionists, such as Tim Matthewson, stressed their racism and ties to slavery (Matthewson 2003); a postrevisionist shift back to a national security analysis is underway, as shown in Brown 2005 and Johnson 2011. Works that treat Louverture as an independent actor with his own agenda, notably, Girard 2009, are also available, as are published collections of his foreign policy papers (Lecorps 1935); by emphasizing the extensive compromises made by Louverture, especially in relation to a potential invasion of Jamaica (Debien and Pluchon 1978), these texts paint a portrait of a man who was more a seasoned practitioner of realpolitik than a revolutionary firebrand eager to export the Haitian Revolution overseas.

  • Brown, Gordon S. Toussaint’s Clause: The Founding Fathers and the Haitian Revolution. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005.

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    Based on US and French diplomatic archives, this book marks a shift back to the traditional interpretation of Logan 1941 and away from revisionist works such as Matthewson 2003. As indicated in the title, Louverture’s foreign policy is largely approached through US eyes, focusing, in particular, on a 1799 law, nicknamed Toussaint’s Clause, that ended a US embargo against Saint-Domingue. For a similar thesis, but far less readable, see also Arthur Scherr, Thomas Jefferson’s Haitian Policy: Myths and Realities (Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2011).

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  • Debien, Gabriel, and Pierre Pluchon. “Un plan d’invasion de la Jamaïque en 1799 et la politique anglo-américaine de Toussaint-Louverture.” Revue de la Societé haïtienne d’histoire, de géographie et de géologie 36.119 (1978): 3–72.

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    This article reveals that Louverture informed British authorities in 1799 of a plan by Isaac Sasportas to invade Jamaica and free its slaves. Additional details are available in Girard 2009 and Zvi Loker, “An Eighteenth-Century Plan to Invade Jamaica: Isaac Yeshurun Sasportas—French Patriot or Jewish Radical Idealist?” Transactions and Miscellanies (Jewish Historical Society of England) 28 (1981–1982): 132–144. For fictional takes on Sasportas, see also Teraoka 1986 (cited under Television, Movies, and Fiction).

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  • Girard, Philippe. “Black Talleyrand: Toussaint Louverture’s Secret Diplomacy with England and the United States.” William and Mary Quarterly 66.1 (2009): 87–124.

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    Relying on US, British, and French archives, this article argues that Louverture’s foreign policy was primarily motivated by domestic concerns, such as his rivalry with André Rigaud and the decline of the plantation system. The article downplays Louverture’s idealism and stresses his political acumen, comparing him favorably with Bonaparte’s minister of foreign affairs.

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  • Johnson, Ronald Angelo. “A Revolutionary Dinner: U.S. Diplomacy toward Saint-Domingue, 1798–1801.” Early American Studies 9.1 (2011): 114–141.

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    This article focuses on Louverture’s diplomacy with Adams, particularly the 1798–1799 mission by Louverture’s diplomatic envoy Joseph Bunel, who is also studied in Philippe R. Girard, “Trading Races: Joseph and Marie Bunel, a Diplomat and a Merchant in Revolutionary Saint-Domingue and Philadelphia.” Journal of the Early Republic 30.3 (2010): 351–376.

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  • Lecorps, Louis Marceau, ed. La politique extérieure de Toussaint L’ouverture: Nos premières relations politiques avec les États Unis; Lettres de Toussaint-Louverture et d’Edward Stevens, 1799–1800. Port-au-Prince, Haiti: Chéraquit, 1935.

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    This book is mostly notable for reproducing many of the primary documents pertaining to Louverture’s foreign policy in 1798–1801. See also Louverture and Stevens 1910 (cited under Published Letters).

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  • Logan, Rayford W. The Diplomatic Relations of the United States with Haiti, 1776–1891. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1941.

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    Although old and traditionally written, this book, like works by Charles Tansill (The United States and Santo Domingo, 1798–1873 [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1938]), Ludwell Montague (Haiti and the United States, 1714–1938 [Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1940]), and Alexander DeConde (The Quasi-War: The Politics and Diplomacy of the Undeclared War with France, 1797–1801 [New York: Scribner, 1966]), used US archival resources effectively to underline the centrality of Haiti in the national security and economic policies of early US statesmen.

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  • Matthewson, Tim. A Proslavery Foreign Policy: Haitian-American Relations during the Early Republic. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003.

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    Matthewson accuses US statesmen, such as Jefferson, of treating Louverture as a pariah because of their racial prejudices. In the same vein, see also Douglas R. Egerton, “The Empire of Liberty Reconsidered,” in The Revolution of 1800: Democracy, Race, and the New Republic, edited by James Horn, Jan Ellen Lewis, and Peter Onuf (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2002), pp. 309–330, and Gary Wills, “Negro President”: Jefferson and the Slave Power (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003).

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Louverture’s Demise

Shortly after Louverture proclaimed himself governor general for life, in 1801, Napoléon Bonaparte sent an army, led by General Victoire Emmanuel Leclerc, to topple him. The Leclerc expedition has been retraced in Nemours 1925–1928 and other works, but there remains some controversy on Bonaparte’s motives: Was Napoléon’s antipathy toward Louverture the result of Napoléon’s racism and opposition to free labor (Bénot and Dorigny 2003), or was he simply concerned by Louverture’s increasingly autonomist rule (Girard 2011)? Because Bonaparte’s instructions to Leclerc specified that all leading black officers should be deported, the expedition led to the exile of Louverture (Jenson 2005) and many other Caribbean rebels (Auguste and Auguste 1979). Louverture’s captivity and the fate of his family are detailed in Nemours 1929 and Nemours 1941 (see also Louverture’s Memoir(s)).

  • Auguste, Claude Bonaparte, and Marcel Bonaparte Auguste. Les déportés de Saint Domingue: Contribution à l’histoire de l’expédition française de Saint-Domingue, 1802–1803. Collection “Civilisations.” Quebec: Naaman, 1979.

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    A good overview of Bonaparte’s deportation policy, which aimed at arresting all leading officers of color in the French Caribbean and sending them to France. Many individual trajectories are mentioned, including that of Louverture.

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  • Bénot, Yves, and Marcel Dorigny, eds. Rétablissement de l’esclavage dans les colonies françaises, 1802: Ruptures et continuités de la politique coloniale française, 1800–1830; Aux origines d’Haïti; Actes de colloque international tenu à l’université de Paris VIII les 20, 21 et 22 juin 2002. Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose, 2003.

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    This collection of essays on France’s 1802 restoration of slavery portrays Bonaparte as a reactionary figure eager to bring down black officers such as Louverture and to restore the old racial order in the French Caribbean. Similar works, particularly Claude Ribbe, Le crime de Napoléon (Paris: Privé, 2005), did much to shatter Bonaparte’s public reputation, while raising Louverture’s profile in France.

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  • Girard, Philippe R. The Slaves Who Defeated Napoléon: Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian War of Independence, 1801–1804. Atlantic Crossings. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2011.

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    Based on extensive archival research, this book charts the Leclerc expedition, which removed Louverture from office. The book downplays the importance of race in French colonial policies and argues that all actors, Louverture included, were primarily guided by economic and national security motives. Translated as Ces esclaves qui ont vaincu Napoléon: Toussaint Louverture et la guerre d’indépendance haïtienne (Rennes: Les Perséides, 2013).

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  • Jenson, Deborah. “From the Kidnapping(s) of the Louvertures to the Alleged Kidnapping of Aristide: Legacies of Slavery in the Post/Colonial World.” In Special Issue: The Haiti Issue: 1804 and Nineteenth-Century French Studies. Edited by Deborah Jenson. Yale French Studies, no. 107 (2005): 162–186.

    DOI: 10.2307/4149316Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Outlines the arrest and deportation of Louverture, drawing parallels with the 2004 exile of the Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and colonial exploitation of Haiti. Louverture’s arrest is also covered in Philippe Girard, “Jean-Jacques Dessalines et l’arrestation de Toussaint Louverture,” Journal of Haitian Studies 17.1 (2011): 123–138.

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  • Nemours, Alfred Auguste. Histoire militaire de la Guerre d’Indépendance de Saint-Domingue. 2 vols. Paris: Berger-Levrault, 1925–1928.

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    The best Haitian work on the Leclerc expedition. Like Claude B. Auguste and Marcel B. Auguste’s L’expédition Leclerc, 1801–1803 (Port-au-Prince, Haiti: Deschamps, 1985), Nemours’s book relies on significant research in the French archives but tends to get lost in military minutiae and chronological back-and-forth. More critical of the French colonial role in Saint-Domingue than Girard 2011.

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  • Nemours, Alfred Auguste. Histoire de la captivité et de la mort de Toussaint-Louverture: Notre pélerinage au Fort de Joux. Paris: Berger-Levrault, 1929.

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    Detailed and compassionate account of Louverture’s captivity and death, which are overtly compared with the stations of the cross and the passion of Jesus Christ. Relevant primary sources are reproduced here and in Morpeau 1920 (cited under Published Letters).

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  • Nemours, Alfred Auguste. Histoire de la famille et de la descendance de Toussaint-Louverture. Port-au-Prince, Haiti: Imprimerie de l’État, 1941.

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    Like Nemours 1929, this is a detailed and sympathetic look at Louverture’s exile, here stressing the fate of his wife, sons, and nieces, who were deported alongside him. Reproduces many relevant primary sources, whose originals are in the Alfred Nemours Collection of Haitian History at the library of the Universidad de Puerto Rico, in San Juan.

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Television, Movies, and Fiction

Louverture’s life and the Haitian Revolution seem ready-made for a Hollywood epic, but there have been relatively few screen adaptations of his story, aside from a French television biopic (Niang 2012) and, indirectly, the movie Queimada (English title: Burn!) (Pontecorvo 2004). Louverture has cast a longer shadow in print, particularly in French literature, such as Hugo 1826 and Hoffman 1998 (first performed in 1850); the Caribbean works surveyed in Hoffman, et al. 2008; US literature, from Hassal 1808 to Bell 1995; and, more surprisingly, the German works considered in Teraoka 1986.

  • Bell, Madison Smartt. All Souls’ Rising. New York: Pantheon, 1995.

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    The first in a trilogy of novels inspired by Louverture’s life; followed by Master of the Crossroads (2000) and The Stone That the Builder Refused (2004). See also Bell 2007 (cited under Revisionist Overviews).

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  • Hassal, Mary [Leonora Sansay]. Secret History, or, The Horrors of St. Domingo: In a Series of Letters Written by a Lady at Cape François, to Colonel Burr, Late Vice-President of the United States, Principally during the Command of General Rochambeau. Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep, 1808.

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    This layered work, presented as an authentic set of letters written during the Leclerc expedition, was actually a work of fiction penned by a Philadelphian author named Leonora Sansay, as shown in Joan Dayan, Haiti, History, and the Gods (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995).

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  • Hoffman, Léon-François, ed. Toussaint Louverture/Alphonse de Lamartine. Textes littéraires. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter Press, 1998.

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    Originally published in 1850, as Toussaint Louverture: Poème dramatique (Brussels: Kiessling). A critical edition of Lamartine’s play, first performed in 1850, but written in 1840, a time when the second French abolition of slavery had not yet taken place, with the goal of relaunching the French abolitionist movement.

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  • Hoffman, Léon-François, Frauke Gewecke, and Ulrich Fleischmann, eds. Haïti 1804—lumières et ténèbres: Impact et résonances d’une révolution. Bibliotheca Ibero-Americana. Frankfurt: Vervuert, 2008.

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    This collection includes several essays on the Caribbean literature inspired by the Haitian Revolution, including the works of Daniel Maximin, Alejo Carpentier, and Édouard Glissant.

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  • Hugo, Victor. Bug-Jargal. Paris: Urbain Canel, 1826.

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    Written in 1818, this work, loosely based on the life of Louverture and the Haitian Revolution, is one of the earliest and least known of Hugo’s novels. Translated into English in 2004 by Chris Bongie (Peterborough, Canada, and Orchard Park, NY: Broadview).

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  • Niang, Philippe, dir. Toussaint Louverture, 2011. DVD. Boulogne-Billancourt, France: France Télévisions Distribution, 2012.

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    Flattering biopic developed for the public television channel France 2. This miniseries has been well received by movie critics but criticized by historians for its factual inaccuracies. Stars Jimmy Jean-Louis, as Louverture.

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  • Pontecorvo, Gillo, dir. Queimada, 1969. DVD. Rome: CDE, 2004.

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    This epic movie by an Italian director best known for his Battle of Algiers, is set on a fictional island inspired by revolutionary Haiti and Guadeloupe. Stars Marlon Brando, as a scheming British agent, and Evaristo Márquez, as a Toussaint Louverture look-alike.

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  • Teraoka, Arlene Akiko. “Der Auftrag and Die Massnahme: Models of Revolution in Heiner Müller and Bertolt Brecht.” German Quarterly 59.1 (1986): 65–84.

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    Explains that the German playwright Heiner Müller was influenced by the Haitian Revolution, particularly for his 1979 play Der Auftrag, which was loosely based on the story of Isaac Sasportas (on Sasportas, see also Debien and Pluchon 1978, cited under Louverture’s Diplomacy). Sasportas was also the inspiration for Anna Seghers, Das Licht auf dem Galgen (Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag, 1961).

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