Dessalines, Jean Jacques

Dessalines, Jean Jacques

(zhäN zhäk dĕsälēn`), c.1758–1806, emperor of Haiti (1804–6), born a slave. A shrewd general, he served under Toussaint LouvertureToussaint L'Ouverture, François Dominique
, c.1744–1803, Haitian patriot and martyr. A self-educated slave freed shortly before the uprising in 1791, he joined the black rebellion to liberate the slaves and became its organizational genius.
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 in the wars that liberated Haiti. His barbaric cruelty against the mulattoes whom Toussaint was unable to control led to a bitter struggle with the mulatto leaders André RigaudRigaud, André
, 1761–1811, Haitian mulatto general in the wars that liberated Haiti. Educated, but vain, he believed in the superiority of mulattoes. He sought (1798–1800) unsuccessfully to wrest the leadership from Toussaint Louverture.
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 and Alexandre PétionPétion, Alexandre
, 1770–1818, Haitian revolutionist. After taking part in the expulsion (1798) of the English from Haiti, he joined (1799) André Rigaud against Toussaint Louverture and commanded the heroic but tragic defense of Jacmel, a southern port.
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. In 1802 Dessalines fought brilliantly against the French, whose forces were led by Gen. Charles LeclercLeclerc, Charles Victor Emmanuel
, 1772–1802, French general. He served under Napoleon Bonaparte in the Italian campaign, married (1797) Pauline Bonaparte, and took part in Napoleon's coup of 18 Brumaire (1799). In 1801 he commanded the French expedition to Portugal.
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, earning the nickname of the Tiger.

After the decimation of the French army by yellow fever and the capture of Toussaint, Dessalines revolted and overwhelmed the invaders in 1803. Independence was declared Jan. 1, 1804, at Gonaïves and he was chosen governor for life. Later, attempting to emulate Napoleon, he had himself crowned emperor as Jacques I in an ostentatious ceremony. In attempting to reorganize the nation's shattered economy, the ambitious emperor instituted drastic measures, such as forced labor, and accompanied them with despotic and cruel acts. He was subsequently ambushed and killed; Henri ChristopheChristophe, Henri
, 1767–1820, Haitian revolutionary leader. A freed black slave, he aided Toussaint Louverture in the liberation of Haiti and was army chief under Dessalines.
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 succeeded him in power.


See C. Moran, Black Triumvirate (1957).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Dessalines, Jean Jacques


Born around 1760; died Oct. 17, 1806, near Port-au-Prince. One of the leaders of the rebellion of Haitian Negroes and mulattoes for independence from France.

A Negro, until 1790 he was the slave of one Dessalines, whose last name he adopted. In 1791, Dessalines took part in a rebellion of Negro slaves and mulattoes against the plantation owners and soon became one of the closest aides of the leader of the rebellion, F. Toussaint-L’Ouverture. After the capture of Toussaint-L’Ouverture by the French in 1802, Dessalines continued to lead the rebellion until the French were driven from Haiti and the country’s independence was declared (January 1804). At the end of 1804 he proclaimed himself emperor of Haiti under the name Jacob I. He began to distribute land among Negroes and mulattoes, evoking the wrath of the large landowners. Dessalines was killed by conspirators.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.