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Toussaint L'Ouverture

Toussaint L'Ouverture (1743 - 1803) was one of the leaders of the Haitian slave revolt of 1791 and a major figure in the struggles that followed.

Toussaint was reputed to be of the western African Arradas tribe. His father, Gaou-Guinou, had been brought to Saint-Domingue and sold to the Count de Breda, Toussaint was the eldest son and his date of birth is given as either May 20 or November 1 (All Saints' Day procuring the name Toussaint), he took the surname Breda from his owner. De Breda was relatively humane and happy to encourage Toussaint to learn to read and write. He was already a noted horse rider and herbalist[?] before his subsequent militay and poltical career. He married a woman called Suzan and they had a son, named Placide.

The French Revolution of 1789 had a powerful impact on the island. Inspired by the new philosophies the French proclaimed the Rights of Man[?] to include all free men. When this promise was withdrawn under pressure from the plantation owners it sparked widespread slave risings. Toussaint did not participate in the campaign of Vincent Ogé who had arrived in October 1790. But he became an aide to Biassou in the insurgency of August in the following year. He rose rapidly, the black army proved to be surprisingly successful against the fever ravaged and poorly led European troops. In 1793 Toussaint briefly allied with the Spanish and gained the nickname L'Ouverture which he adopted as his surname. Later that year the British occupied most of the coastal settlements of Haiti including Port au Prince.

In 1793 the French government, now largely Jacobin, re-raised the slavery question and voted to abolish slavery in all French colonies. In 1797 the Haitian black army agreed to work with the French to defeat the British and Spanish forces. The British withdrew from Haiti in 1798, the army of Toussaint had won seven battles in one week against the British in January. Toussaint suppressed an uprising led by André Rigaud in 1799. The Spanish were defeated in 1800 and Haiti was declared independent in 1801.

When Napoleon came to power in France slavery was reinstated and the conflict in Haiti renewed. A French attempt led by Napoleon's brother-in-law Charles Leclerc to regain the island in 1802 failed and Toussaint was invited to negotiate a settlement. Attending a meeting under safe conduct he was seized and shipped to France, where he died in captivity in the Fort de Joux in Jura.

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