Toussaint Louverture, Pierre Dominique
Toussaint L’ouverture, Pierre Dominique
(also François Dominique Toussaint-Louverture). Born May 20, 1743, in St. Domingue (present-day Haiti); died Apr. 27, 1803, at Fort de Joux, France. Leader of the Haitian liberation struggle.
The son of a slave, Toussaint was sold to a Frenchman and worked as a coachman. In 1791 he participated in an uprising of Negro slaves in St. Domingue against French colonial oppression. In 1793 war broke out between France and Spain, which possessed the eastern part of the island. Toussaint sided with the Spanish, who had promised to abolish slavery. When the French Republic adopted a decree abolishing slavery in 1794, however, he turned against the Spanish and inflicted on them a series of defeats. As a result, Spain ceded its part of the island to France in 1795.
Toussaint attained the rank of general and in 1797 became commander in chief of the armed forces of St. Domingue. In 1798 he expelled the British troops that had been occupying areas in the west of the island since 1793. In January 1801, Toussaint proclaimed the abolition of slavery throughout the island, which had attained de facto independence. In July he became the island’s ruler for life. In 1802, Toussaint’s army offered stiff resistance to the French troops that were attempting once again to subjugate the island. In an act of treachery, Toussaint was arrested and sent to France, where he died at Fort de Joux.