In early 1794, Laveaux was in a desperate situation. Officers and men alike were reduced to rations of six ounces of bread per day. Disease claimed his men, and he was running out of ammo, clothes, and other supplies. (p. 74) The British were sweeping easily through the country and had already taken much of the south and west, restoring slavery as they went. The Spanish also made no moves towards their promise of emancipation for all blacks. In defiance, Toussaint began “taking matters as far as he could into his own hands. Every town he took, every ‘habitation’ he passed through he assembled the slaves and proclaimed to them in stirring words that the Spanish king and he, Toussaint L’Ouverture were giving them their freedom.” (p. 75)
Though nominally subordinate to Biassou and Jean Francois, Toussaint’s power was only growing, and this was causing severe rifts in their relationships. In the midst of his decline into womanizing and drinking, Biassou wrote a letter to the Spanish Governor demanding Toussaint’s head. The Governor ignored the letter, but when Toussaint found out, he rather cleverly manipulated Jean Francois into ordering Toussaint to arrest Biassou. He had eliminated one impediment, but the French and Spanish officers were growing increasingly suspicious of him. Parkinson says they “were beginning to have an uneasy feeling that this quiet man but daring soldier’s ambition for his people was implacable.” (p. 76)
This seems to imply either some disconnect between what Toussaint was fighting for and what some of the officers thought they were fighting for, or that the officers had given lip service to the fight for emancipation, figuring that Toussaint couldn’t be serious or couldn’t succeed but at least their army could be effective against the French army. The French officers would have been Royalists hoping to restore the royal family to the throne, which Toussaint professed to want, as well, yet he was also freeing slaves at every opportunity. I wonder what the reaction was of the other officers who watched him do this. They must have been a bit dumbfounded, yet to Toussaint’s mind, the French king had promised to free the slaves, so he was well within his rights.
Spain’s refusal to back up their promise of emancipation led Toussaint to begin negotiations with Laveuax for another change of sides. Toussaint’s reunion with France had to be approached cautiously, as his family were still under Spanish protection. Parkinson describes Toussaint’s ride back into San Domingo, where he was greeted “as a conquering hero, and was created a General, presented with an ornamental sword and had pinned to his breast by the Marquis da Hermonas the medal of the order of Queen Isabella and the gold medal of Charles IV inscribed ‘El Merito’.” In what to anyone in the know must have looked like a comical scene, Toussaint was feted like a king. (p. 77)
Unfortunately, Don Garcia thought that perhaps da Hermonas was too in the thrall of Toussaint, whom he began to suspect. Don Garcia swiftly replaced da Hermonas with General Cabrera, “threw Moï¿½se into prison and placed Toussaint’s entire family under house arrest.” (p. 78) With great effort, Toussaint used diplomacy to convince Don Garcia to release his family. He then plotted a daring escape with his family and men, in the course of which he was ambushed by Biassou, whose men shot Toussaint’s brother Jean Pierre dead.
With a fury that made opposing armies so superstitious they would flee the battlefield rather than fight against him, he recaptured Dondon, Gonaï¿½ves, and the major Spanish ports in quick succession. But as fearsome as he was on the battlefield, what made Toussaint successful was his ability to establish order in the towns he conquered. (p. 79) Aside from the occasional unfortunate eruption of violence, whites generally felt safe enough to try to resume their former lives.
Laveaux and Toussaint met formally on July 27, 1794 in Dondon. They maintained an extremely close, brotherly relationship for the rest of their lives. (Parkinson, p. 81)