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Korngold’s Toussaint

I’m reading Ralph Korngold’s Citizen Toussaint today. Uncle Jay says this book, published in 1944 seems to be the definitive book of Toussaint. The author certainly has good credentials and a chunky bibliography. Korngold was a French professor at one point and therefore was able to translate the French documents of the period.

On page 14, Korngold paints the picture of Le Cap as a bustling, transient village, with white men itching for the day they could leave and return to France. One wonders, if this is so, whether white planter’s hearts would be in revolution, or whether they were only interested in protecting their investments.

From page 15, ”...a free Negro would not have attempted to own a mulatto slave, who would have preferred death to such a humiliation.” I wonder if this dynamic came into play with Toussaint. What were the racial tensions he had to deal with, besides the obvious black/whte ones?

Follow the money, because It’s the economy, Stupid!
It’s all about economics. Always. Who stands to get rich? Who stands to lose money? The Colonial Pact kept France as Haiti’s exclusive trading partner, which made French merchants rich and Haitian plantation owners not as rich as if there had been free trade. Meanwhile, their neighbor to the North had declared independence and were free to develop their own trade policies. What a burr that must have been!

p 25 Haitian slaves were branded on the breast when they were purchased.

p 29 The original cause of the slave rebellion was the slaves’ desire to have one more day per week to cultivate their garden plots – their only source of food (plantation owners did not generally feed their slaves)!

p30 Korngold describes the physical punishments slaves endured. Imagine the difference between blacks who were marked and branded and those whose faces and backs were smooth and clean.

pp 34-35 Plantation owners did not mete out most of the actual punishment. They had managers do it for them. They could turn their heads and take their profits and get back to France as soon as possible. It made me think of modern corporations, where the CEOs have the luxury of living in an ivory tower and don’t need to confront the trials and tribulations of the line employee. Not close to a direct comparison, to be sure, but an interesting analogy.

pp 39-41 The voodoo rituals were not only vital religious events, they were where slaves of different plantations met and influenced each other towards revolution.