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(en) France, UCL AL #318 - File Haitian Revolution: An intellectual portrait of the "black Spartacus" (ca, de, it, fr, pt)[machine translation]

Date Wed, 22 Sep 2021 08:50:44 +0300

Toussaint Louverture, a complex and reserved personality, wanted to control his image to make it stick to the role he felt he had to play in the face of history. His fundamentally revolutionary conceptions were marked by a marked conservatism. Where did they come from? ---- Humanity: The experience of slavery is inseparable from the formation of Toussaint, who was born in irons, of an Allada couple deported to Santo Domingo. He saw the humiliations, the mutilations and the death. When he himself was a coachman on the Breda house, then owner, he sought to limit the suffering of the slaves. And after a few months of insurrection, in 1792, he set himself the goal of abolition.
Enlightenment: The golden legend has it that Toussaint was a reader of Abbé Raynal, and in particular passages from his Philosophical History of the Two Indies threatening the colonists with the vengeance of a "black Spartacus" . It seems that it is about a construction a posteriori , his French allies thus making enter Toussaint in their republican grid of reading... The latter was careful not to contradict them, delighted by this gratifying image.

Catholicism: It is rather in Christian doctrine that he drew his refutation of the racial hierarchy. He would have learned to read from the Jesuits, whom he assisted in their offices. The Jesuits believed in their educational mission with the Blacks, which annoyed the colonists, and caused their expulsion from Saint-Domingue in 1763. Toussaint then linked up with their successors, the Capuchins, and worked for them in two hospitals in Cape Town. A register of the Bréda dwelling, in 1785, described it thus: "gentle", "bigot" and "likes to catechize" [1].

Toussaint Louverture reading Abbot Raynal, when he was a slave.
A lithograph commissioned by President Boyer in the 1820s.
Republic: In 1792, without renouncing his religious conceptions, and while still claiming to be the king, he assimilated at high speed the conceptions and the vocabulary of the French Revolution: freedom, equality of rights, homeland, virtue, public good ... After his rallying to the republic in May 1794, he mastered perfectly the game of new institutions, where he even had, in Paris, his own relays.

Science: Mocked in his youth for his puny constitution (he was nicknamed "Fatras-Bâton"), Toussaint compensated by his intellect and his valor which would have led him, on two occasions, to stand up to the Whites. Educated in medicinal plants (he was a "leaf doctor"), his first title in the armed bands of Biassou was that of "doctor".

Family: Very concerned about his extended family, Toussaint saw the family institution as a model for society, of which he had a paternalistic vision: the owner had to be "the father" of the plantation; the governor "the father" of the colony ...

Discipline: On the Bréda plantation, in the 1780s, Toussaint was the right hand of the manager, Bayon de Libertat. Together, they treated the slaves better, which reduced marooning and improved productivity. Hence, no doubt, Toussaint's faith in class collaboration, which runs through his "culture regulations" of 1800-1801.

Makandalism: Partisan of a multiracial society, Toussaint never adhered to the plan to eradicate white people. He was undoubtedly more seduced by the revolutionary messianism conveyed by the legend of Makandal - with which his supporters were able to identify him -, but also by his practice of concealment, specific to secret societies.

Guillaume Davranche (UCL Montreuil)

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