The story is about land (?)

This is an intriguing idea – that the meta-meaning of the revolution was less about freedom than about land. According to Carolyn Fick, freedom to the slaves in Haiti was meaningless without land ownership. Ironic, then, that the Louisiana purchase opened up just that possibility for millions of American citizens.

Read more of Corbett’s site today. The guy has done an amazing amount of research on Haiti. Came across some good books (including the Fick book). May purchase some from him.

First thing to do, though, is to evaluate Boswell, StickyBrain, and CircusPonies. I need something to help me organize as I go off on all these tangents. It may be that nothing will work any better than the blog, but we’ll see.

Toussint’s flaws; Napoleon’s designs

Toussaint made a fatal error in not confiding his plans in his generals. His weaknesses seem to include love of white culture and breeding, disdain for uneducated blacks, and isolation. Had he taken Moyse and Dessalines, for instance, into his confidence, had he educated them about the reasons behind his policies, they might have been loyal allies instead of undermining his policies.

It seems that Toussaint fell victim to the same sort of inertia that ensnares the greatest of men: the belief that what got you here will get you there. Toussaint�s habits of plotting and scheming in virtual isolation stood him in good stead while he worked to gather his forces. However, there came a time when he needed to draw on the resources of others in the country. He needed to address the fact that attachment to the old system still existed. He needed to address the economic incentives that Moyse and Dessalines found in the plantation system. He needed generals that understood the long term vision, the greater good. Not reaching out, not letting go of control, believing that he could do everything alone � this was Toussaint�s fatal flaw.

Korngold p. 232 � �[Napoleon] was to say: �I have to reproach myself the attack upon this colony. I should have contented myself with ruling the island through the intermediary of Toussaint.��

� The invasions of St. Domingo, Spain and Russia were Napoleon�s three capital blunders. From the historical perspective the invasion of St. Domingo surpasses the two others in importance. The setback to the Grand Army in Spain, its virtual destruction on the steppes of Russia, had important repercussions on the history of that time and hastened Napoleon�s downfall. But had Spain and Russia not been invaded, Europoe would still have emerged from the Napoleonic adventure the Europe of the Congress of Vienna. The invasion of St. Domingo, however, was responsible for the loss by France of its richest colony, and, as a result of that loss, for the sale of the Louisiana Territory to the United States. The sale of the Territory affected the future of the American Continent and of the world to an extent that cannot be overestimated.

� The Grand Army�s losses in St. Domingo were almost as serious as those it suffered in Spain � 70,000 were lost in Spain, 63,000 in St. Domingo. �

Compare the second paragraph here with what Professor Corbett says. Corbett makes the claim that Napoleon never had designs on the Louisiana territory, or rather that he only had such designs as would restore Haiti to its former economic importance (i.e., using New Orleans as a supply depot for St. Domingue). Either way, it seems that Haiti�s fate at the least hastened America�s acquisition of the Western territory

Would Napoleon eventually have sold or released the land to the US at some point if things in Haiti had gone otherwise? It’s hard to see why he would have, though given the disastrous campaigns in Russian and Spain, I’m not sure what use Napoleon could have made of the land. If, though, he had managed to secure Haiti and restore its economic importance, he may not have needed to sell the Louisiana Territories when he did. The land might have eventually been settled by the French, or ceded to the US or back to Spain.

[In this chapter, Korngold also lays out his theory of Napoleon�s thirst for world domination.]

Also � p. 233 � �Before the French Revolution two thirds of the French import and export trade had been with St. Domingo.� Two thirds! The loss of that trade is significant for both sides. No wonder Napoleon wanted it back. And no wonder Toussaint turned to Spain, Britain and especially the United States to make up the gap. He was covering his butt, economically speaking.

Surfing the waves of change.

Sometimes I can hardly believe that Toussaint accomplished what he did. His growth as a leader is nothing short of extraordinary. Once the Negroes had begun their revolt, once they had been armed and given hope, returning them to slavery would have been impossible. Toussaint must have seen that halting the revolution was impossible. He was like a surfer on a wave of change, clever and bold enough to stay just a few steps ahead and win important military and economic victories. Never mind that he was black, that he managed to establish himself as an almost universally loved leader of his country was miraculous. That he also maintained the highest moral and ethical standards throughout his campaign is a singular achievement.

I have seen references disparaging TL’s shifting alliances from France to Spain to Britain and the US. I see, though, why he did what he did. Haiti was at the mercy of other countries for their economic prosperity. When France tried to squeeze the island, Toussaint looked elsewhere for trade opportunities. When the Code Noir was under attack in France, Toussaint took the necessary steps to preserve the progress blacks had made.

Toussaint plays

Stumbled across references to a couple of Toussaint-related productions. Danny Glover starred as TL in a production at Carnegie Hall on May 23rd of this year. Also, I had been aware of the play For Love of Freedom, produced in 2001 at the Robey theatre in LA, but not that it was a trilogy! Apparently, “FOR THE LOVE OF FREEDOM;TOUSSAINT THE SOUL part I in the year 2001. Part 2 if the Haitian trilogy, DESSALINE; THE HEART, was produced in 2002, and part three is slated for 2004.”

Finally, Paul Robeson’s one-act about Toussaint, Lion in Captivity, was the subject of a casting call on October 29th.

RK for Sunday

Korngold p 101 – Speculates on Toussaint’s reason for choosing the name Louverture. I would prefer to avoid speculation on such things. Who knows whether Toussaint himself consciously knew the reason? Sometimes our psyches assimilate circumstances for us. Perhaps, though, Toussaint did see himself as a savior. Perhaps he was aware of himself as uniquely positioned to deliver emancipation.

P 110 – Toussaint claims to have spent 640,00 Francs of his own money. Korngold speculates this was given to Toussaint at the beginning of the revolution.

TL’s success in battle is often credited to the speed with which his army moved. Compare this with the successes of other great generals – including Napoleon – and to the OODA loop and the theories proposed by John Boyd.

P 112 – “The statesman Toussaint realized that surrounded as were the Negroes of St. Domingo by slaveowning powers, they could not hope to maintain liberty without building an economically powerful state able to supply them with modern weapons of warfare. To do this the cooperation of the whites was indispensable.”

Toussaint’s significant contributions to the liberation of Haiti included arming the Negroes and bending over backwards to treat whites humanely and without a trace of vindictiveness. By showing himself to be fair and just, he gained the cooperation of blacks AND whites.

Toussaint in from the beginning?

I got my new PowerBook today, so I can hardly concentrate, but here goes…

Korngold makes the astonishing claim that Toussaint was in on the revolution from the beginning in 1791! I’m stunned. I never heard this part before. According to Citizen Toussaint, the then-Governor of St. Domingue was convinced that the best way to quell any talk of independence among the plantation owners was to stage a slave revolt. The governor visited the Breda plantation, where Toussaint either volunteered or was suggested as a suitable candidate to organize the mock rebellion. Toussaint then set the wheels in motion for the events of 1791.

As I originally heard the story, Toussaint joined the rebellion at the age of 47 as a doctor, then rose to the ranks of General. This did in fact happen, but TL was involved long before that point.

More from Korngold

p 61 “[Toussaint} knew that the Negroes were oppressed not becase they were Negroes, but because they were weak. Epictetus and millions of other white men had been slaves. The chieftains who sold war prisoners and even their own subjects into slavery were of the same race as their victims. White planters were often cruel, but mulatto planters were said to be even worse.”

This quote is exactly what I’ve been looking for. For too long we have confused slavery as being a cruelty that only white people do to only black people. Slavery is a human embarrassment. It has nothing to do with race.

I’ve been thinking about presenting the Toussaint story much in the manner of a Shakespearean play that has been updated. What if his story could be told in today’s terms, placing him in today’s context, so that readers could relate to how respected he was and how important he was to his time? Do I have Clue One about how to pull this off? No really, but I really like the idea. Dispensing with the race issue might jar people’s understanding just enough to relate.

“Patience bat la force” = Patience overcomes strength.
“Doucement alle’ loin” = Gentleness goes far.

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?
Continue reading Korngold’s Toussaint