Toussaint L'Ouverture Machiavellian Ruler of Hispaniola

Toussaint L'Ouverture, born circa 1741, began life on a plantation in Saint-Domingue. In 1776 he became a freed slave. Once released from servitude, he acquired properties and became a rich man.


In 1791, he assumed a role as one of the military leaders of the Haitian slave revolt. He sought support from the Spanish in Santo Domingo, which sent provisions for his battles against the French. In a ruse, L'Ouverture co-opted the philosophy of the French Revolution, ingratiating himself with the government, influencing them to abolish slavery. By then the Spanish had become alarmed about L'Ouverture's assimilation of large tracts of land that threatened their sovereignty. These two events led L'Ouverture to switch alliances from the Spanish to the French.

But the French were not to be trusted, and rumors grew Napoleon would restore slavery in freed Saint-Domingue. To avert this threat, L'Ouverture authored creation of the Saint-Domingue 1801 Constitution, solidifying his control of Hispaniola and making him ruler for life. L'Ouverture put restrictions on trade policies with France, but declared himself a loyalist of the French government, when it suited his purposes. His ultimate goal was to manipulate the French into trusting him, and then drive them out of Saint-Domingue.

Eventually L'Ouverture realized his days in power were waning, and gave up sovereign-ship, retreating to his home in Ennery. Soon after General Jean-Baptiste Brunet arrested and deported him to France, where he later died. The freedom he had won for Saint-Domingue disintegrated under sequential dictatorships, which followed upon his exile and death.

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Read more: Toussaint L'Overture, Ennery, Slave, Saint-Domingue, Slavery, Hispaniola, Slave Revolt, History

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