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This Gilded African to page 98

Sonthonax was recalled to France to face trail for treason, leaving Laveaux in charge of the colony. (p. 83) Toussaint gained a reputation for being an inexhaustable and unpredictable foe. Indeed, the quotes Parkinson includes on page 84 invoke a certain awe of the man.

Toussaint was betrayed by the mulattos at St. Marc, an event which would deeply damage his trust in members of that race. He suffered more mulatto defections at Petite Rivi�re and Verrettes; at these towns and in Mirebelais he succeeded in taking the victory, only to suffer a reversal of fortune. He fought for five months to retake Mirebelais, finally succeeding in June 1795. (pp. 84-5)

Parkinson describes a poignant scene between Toussaint and the Marquis d’Espinville, commander of the French emigrees which underscores Toussaint’s honor. Toussaint, in ill-fitting and horse-sweat stained uniform versus the marquis’ elegant refinement. Toussaint swore to treat d’Espinville’s forces honorably, and was true to his word, to the point of defending them against the bringing of a court martial. (p. 85)

Another incident illustrates an essential point. Toussaint’s soldiers surrounded a group of planters attempting to leave Mirebelais with their gold and possessions. For all the planters knew, the rumors of Toussaint’s vicious murderousness were true, but Toussaint immediately allayed their fears and offered them an escort to Port au Prince. As the author says, “there were always two motivations to his actions, the heart and the head, and he was looking to the future – he needed the whites.”

After the fighting in Mirebelais, Toussaint took the time to enjoy the comforts of the Administrator’s quarters in that city. He invited the nobles of the town to the grand house for parties. “So, for the first time in St Domingue, white, mulatto, and black met together for the purposes of pleasure.” Indeed, pleasure was apparently the right word. According to Parkinson, Toussaint’s sexual conquests were legion, though he was “puritanical” in public. (p. 88)

Two Catholic priests, Father Martini and Father Lanthenure were constant companions and great influences.

Independence meant different things to Toussaint and to his people. To the slaves (now ‘cultivators’), independence meant freedom from work. To Toussaint, independence meant the beginning of work – work to ensure continued exports and therefore the economic strength of the republic. The cultivators chafed at the idea of going back to work on the plantations, and Toussaint was shot in the leg in one such uprising. (Parkinson, p. 89) The challenge of transitioning from a slave economy to a new independent state was ahead of him.

“Toussaint fought on; he issued a proclamation: ‘O You Africans, my brothers, you who have cost me so many battles, so much labour and so much concern, you whose liberty was created with your own blood. How long will I have the shame of seeing my deluded children turn from the advice of a father who loves them.’ He told them ‘work is a virtue, it is a necessity. It is the general dignity of the State. All vagrant and idle men will be arrested and punished under the law.’” (p. 89)

He was also faced with the threat of British officers “infiltrating his army dressed in rebel uniforms and trying to persuade his men to join their forces.” (p. 91) This underscores the precarious nature of the loyalties at the time. White, black and mulatto were joining which ever force they felt furthered their interest, yet an unstable situation created enough question marks to make for unstable alliances. Perhaps this is why Toussaint could see his way to forgive officers who betrayed him.

In 1795, the Treaty of Basle with Spain ceded the eastern two-thirds of the island to France, which ended French/Spanish hostilities on the island and sent Toussaint’s former partners cum rivals Jean Fran�ois and Biassou to their respective retirements. (p. 92)

Parkinson reminds us that there were “factions in the Chamber in Paris who were pressing for the return of slavery.” (p. 93) Having now had a taste of independence, having spent blood in its pursuit, Toussaint must have seen that a return to slavery would have been disastrous. He was steeling himself for the task of securing Saint Domingue’s independence. To begin, Toussaint, Rigaud, and Beauvais launched simultaneous attacks against the British from Jeremie to M�le St. Nicholas.

The British were surprised by Toussaint’s skill on the battlefield. They expected to go to war against “a band of black bandits.” Instead, they met a highly trained army – disciplined, dignified, and devastating. Toussaint’s army managed seven victories in seven days with very little loss of men. General Maitland, on the other hand, saw his forces decimated, down to 2500 from 20,000. He had no choice but to plead for a truce. Though yellow fever certainly helped the natives’ cause, “Maitland himself conceded that Toussaint would have won even without the ravages of this terrible disease.” (p. 96)

“The military historian Fortescue writes that ‘the British Campaign in the West Indies .. cost England in army and navy little fewer than 100,000 men, half of them dead and half permanently unfit for service.’ He added: ‘the secret of England’s impotence for the six years of the war may be said to be in the two fatal words St Domingue.’ The cost in money in St Domingue alone had been �300,000 in 1794, �800,000 in 1795 and �600,000 in 1796, and all for nothing.” (p. 96)

After negotiating the British surrender, Toussaint marched his troops into Port au Prince where, despite the fears of the inhabitants, the men’s behavior was impeccable. In contrast, two British commanders scorched the earth as they left. “Toussaint had not only gained the day on the battlefield; the victory won, he now showed the enemy not only the calibre of himself but of his people.” (p. 98)