I posted this question to the Haiti List last night, and I think it’s at least an interesting question, if also nothing more than idle speculation…
I’m probably the last person in the world to get this, right? Am I the slow one? If so, forgive me. I’m new to this stuff…
I was reading a bit tonight from The Black Liberator, by Stephen Alexis, and was struck by this thought: did Aristide intentionally identify himself with Louverture in hopes of inspiring a populist uprising?
In his first speech from exile, Aristide is reported to have said:
“In overthrowing me, they have uprooted the trunk of the liberty. It will grow back because its roots are many and deep.” In the shadow of Toussaint L’Ouverture, the genius of the race. I declare in overthrowing me they have uprooted the trunk of the tree of peace, but it will grow back because the roots are L’Ouverturian.
Toussaint said these words when he was first taken in chains on board the ship that would carry him to France. As Alexis tells it,
”[On board the Heros he was received by General Savary, who told him, to add to his humiliation: ‘You won’t be able to play the Negro Napoleon any more now, will you?’ Toussaint gave the French officer a scornful glance, and then said, speaking slowly, as though he were reading the future: ‘By overthrowing me, you have merely succeeded in cutting the trunk of Saint Domingue’s Tree of Liberty: but it will grow again, for the roots are deep, and many.’”
So… Setting aside for a moment the question of whether he actually was kidnapped, in claiming that he was, is Aristide trying to send a coded message to his fellow Haitians? After all, Toussaint was betrayed, forcibly removed from the country along with many of his family and supporters, and left to rot in a prison cell in an isolated fort. His betrayal and Leclerc’s subsequent attempt to disarm the slaves turned the tide of opinion and led to the slaves’ ultimate victory.
Does anyone know if Aristide invoked sentiment from this stage of history at other points in his political career?
On a different note, I came across this quote in Wenda Parkinson’s This Gilded African: “The islands [of the Caribbean], geographically and historically, are vulnerable targets for commercialism, a free-for-all for astute foreign businessman and politicians whether under the guise of trade or aid.”
What do you think? Is that just the way it is?