Toussaint’s Clause

Hello, and welcome to Revolutions.

So we left off last time with the reaffirmation by the Directory in January 1798, that liberty and equality would remain core pillars of colonial policy. But if you’ll recall, the third pillar to the Directory’s colonial policy was unity. The goal of the Thermidorian Republic was to totally integrate Saint Domingue and every other French colony into the French nation – one and indivisible. So that meant that they weren’t going to tolerate the kind of independent authority currently being wielded by André Rigaud and Toussaint Louverture. Since first word of the Estates-General had reached Saint Domingue way back in 1788, nearly ten years ago now, powerful factions in the colony have been bucking the Metropole’s authority. Whatever faction happened to be most powerful in the colony at any given moment always seemed to have an eye on independence. First it was the whites, then it was the coloreds. And now that Toussaint Louverture has ascended to power, he’s clearly not interested in Paris telling him what to do. Now, the Third Commission had tried and failed to bring the colony in line as so many others had in the past. But in the spring of 1798, the French government decided to give it another shot. 

Now, if you’re surprised to discover that Saint Domingue has been a hotbed of revolt and revolution for nearly a decade now, then this will really surprise you. We’re now approaching the fourth anniversary of Toussaint Louverture’s defection to the French. He’s now been a general of the Republic longer than he was a general in the slave insurgency. And in that time, he has been a loyal and faithful defender of the Republic. Lavaux never had to embellish the stories of Toussaint’s fidelity back in Paris, too much. It would appear that after the departure of Sonthonax, Toussaint had some expectation that the Directory would designate him, Toussaint Louverture, as the official representative of the French government in the colony. And it’s not like this would have been a bad idea. As we’ve seen, introducing French representatives who have never set foot in the colony has been a very dicey proposition. Toussaint was an able administrator. His vision for Saint Domingue was right in line with what the Directory wanted. He commanded the loyalty of the bulk of the armed forces. I mean, why bring in another blundering white man when I’m right here? I’m a brigadier general in your army, commander in chief of the colony. I’m not some random guy off the street. But instead, the Directory did send in another blundering white man who just blundered around. And amidst this blundering, Toussaint began to recognize that the interests of Saint Domingue and the interests of France might be permanently diverging. Which is both true, but also the conclusion that nearly every prominent leader in the colony had reached once they achieved local supremacy. It’s funny how that works. 

Of fundamental importance to the growing strain between Toussaint and Paris was the course of the revolutionary wars, which in 1798, saw two super important developments. First, the British will withdraw from Saint Domingue. And second, the Quasi War between the United States and France will erupt. Both would have a profound impact on Toussaint’s decision making, as these two developments offered an opportunity to stop being forever economically and politically tied to the French. 

So the British had begun their invasion of Saint Domingue back in the fall of 1793, with high hopes that they would be able to quickly pry the colony away from the French Republic, which was itself about to collapse anyway. When both the Republic and Saint Domingue proved themselves frustratingly resilient, the British settled in for an occupation that had now dragged on for years, with very little to show beyond the initial gains they had made. A renewed surge in 1796 saw more men and resources being sent to Saint Domingue, but they had yielded almost no tangible benefits. By the end of 1796, the Royal Ministry back in London was coming round to the idea that Saint Domingue might not be worth it. It was turning into a black hole for both money and soldiers. So, in early 1797, they dispatched a new general to take over and one of his key orders was to cut the cost of the occupation to the bones, to find local sources of revenue and recruit local troops, that is, black men to maintain the British occupation. 

Now, I probably shouldn’t get off on a tangent here, but I’m going to do it anyway, because the General who showed up to take over the operation in February 1797 was a guy named John Graves Simcoe. Simcoe had joined the British army in 1770, just in time to get shipped to North America, where he was amongst those soldiers besieged in Boston during the opening round of the American War of Independence. He then became a captain commanding a regiment of grenadiers as the British chased Washington through New York and New Jersey in 1776. And then he was wounded at Brandywine in 1777 and holds the famous little distinction of being the officer who ordered his men not to fire on some fleeing Continentals, one of whom just so happened to be George Washington (and this is just one of many of Washington’s near death experiences during the war). Simcoe wintered in Philadelphia and then fought at Monmouth Courthouse in the spring of 1778. Then he stayed in the north when the war turned south, but did march down to Virginia to meet up with General Cornwallis’s army. So he was there for the surrender at Yorktown in 1781. In short, Simcoe was involved in a ton of the principal engagements of the American War of Independence and he wrote a full account of his actions. That is an excellent primary source. And he is currently being portrayed as the principal villain in AMC’s revolutionary spy drama “Turn”, in case you happen to be watching it. 

But if Simcoe was just some British officer who served in the American War of Independence, I wouldn’t be going off on this tangent. But as it turns out, Simcoe was also an abolitionist. During the war, he tried to raise a company of blacks to fight for the British, but new orders took him elsewhere before he could see the project through. After the war, Simcoe briefly joined Parliament, but was then appointed lieutenant governor of the new colonial zone of Upper Canada, which is basically modern Ontario. Upper Canada was created so that British Canada could develop independently from French speaking Quebec. In this new role, Simcoe played a key role in passing the Act Against Slavery in July 1793, the first legislated emancipation decree anywhere in the British Empire, beating Sonthonax’s general emancipation decree in Saint Domingue by about six weeks.The Act Against Slavery allowed current slaves to be kept as slaves, but stipulated that no new slaves could be brought into Upper Canada and that children born to slave mothers would be emancipated at the age of 25. So General Simcoe already has his own little place in the slowly grinding wheel of history that eventually crushed slavery. 

After returning to England, he was finally posted now to Saint Domingue in February 1797, whereas I said, he was supposed to maintain the occupation on the cheap. And though official British policy was that slavery would be maintained in any areas they controlled, it’s not hard to see that Simcoe might be a more believable face for the British to be putting on their efforts as they tried to recruit more blacks to their cause. In the end, the British had about 6000 black men under arms, which was more even than André Rigaud had in his Legion of the South. With these forces, Simcoe made a play at retaking Mirebalais and he did succeed in temporarily displacing Toussaint’s forces. But they couldn’t hold what they had taken and Toussaint was able to move back in. And though the British did fend off a furious attempt by Toussaint to retake Saint-Marc, shortly thereafter, they lost their hold on Port-au-Prince and Republican forces retook control of the capital. 

So as the winner of 1797 set in, the British were like, this isn’t going anywhere, and they appointed a new new commander, one whose principal calling card was not that he was a friend of the blacks, but that he was incredibly skeptical of the British occupation and argued that it should be ended as quickly as possible. 

But just to finish up with General Simcoe, though, he went back to England and in 1806 was named Commander in Chief of India, a post that he was supposed to take over from the recently deceased General Cornwallis, but Simcoe died in England before taking up the post. General Simcoe is a super interesting guy, so thank you for indulging that little tangent. 

In the spring of 1798 then, two new generals arrived from Europe who would help define the next stage of the Haitian Revolution. The first was the aforementioned British General Thomas Maitland, who would bring with him a clever new British approach to the situation, which we’ll talk about at length here in a second. But first, I want to introduce our latest blundering white man from France: General Joseph de Hédouville. 

Hédouville was first of all, a noble. He joined the army of the Ancien Régime just before the Revolution, but had liberal enough notions that he stayed on as his brother aristocrats fled across the lines. He fought at Valmy and eventually became a brigadier general, but then spent 1793 bouncing in and out of the army as he was suspended, arrested, reinstated and arrested again, all due to his very suspicious nobility. He landed finally in jail once and for all and was likely on his way to the guillotine when Thermidor arrived and saved his life in July 1794. 

Now, one thing I’ve mentioned a few times now is the lack of care that the various French governments have taken in selecting the senior military officers who they were sending to Saint Domingue. Governor Blanchelande was diligent enough, but he was weak and in over his head. That old man, whose name I can’t remember, was outmaneuvered by the Second Commission and sent home, like, three days after he got off the boat. And then Galbaud. Galbaud got the job as a total afterthought and proceeded to trigger the destruction of Le Cap and mass emancipation. Not exactly what he had been sent there to do. Their only really good appointment was Lavaux. Lavaux was solid, but it’s entirely likely that he got the job just because he was there already. So now we come to Hédouville, and once again, the lack of care in the selection process is going to make a mess of things. 

Hédouville was nominated and confirmed by the Council of Five Hundred in April 1797, when colonial policy was being driven by the reactionary white planters, before they were all expelled in the Coup of Fructidor later in the year. But then after Fructidor, instead of reassessing the candidate chosen by the planters to impose French authority on the chaotic colony, the Directory just kept Hédouville on and let him go. They don’t appear to have ever wondered why the planters wanted Hédouville, nor if he was the right man to ensure that liberty and equality remained pillars of colonial policy. Because while Hédouville was liberal enough to have remained in the revolutionary army, he was totally retrograde on racial stuff and the small cadre of officers he brought with him shared his retrograde views. And you can just bet Toussaint Louverture is going to love that.

Hédouville’s explicit mission was to reassert central control of the colony that is rendered merely a Caribbean department, not an independent fiefdom. He was to restore property to white planters who had not been classified as emigrés. He was to make the colony economically productive again. But just to be clear about this, Hédouville is not coming in as a new governor general, even though he himself was a military officer. He was a civilian administrator because part of this reasserting of central control was putting the military under civilian administration. Now, Hédouville knew that putting the Saint Domingue military under civilian administration had been attempted by the Third Commission. And in the south, it had been a disaster that led to the massacre of the whites in Les Cayes in the summer of 1796. And we know that he knew this because Hédouville carried an arrest warrant for André Rigaud, who the Metropole blamed for the massacre, though he did also carry verbal instructions to use the arrest warrant as a stick to bring Rigaud into line and that if Rigaud played ball, Hédouville could cancel the warrant. 

So Hédouville’s first act as the Directory’s agent in the colony put both Rigaud and, even more, especially Toussaint Louverture on notice that they might have trouble with this new arrival. Rather than sailing into Le Cap directly, which was now run by Toussaint, Hédouville landed in Santo Domingo over on the old Spanish side of the island. Though it was still pretty much the Spanish side of the island – neither Spain nor France had spent much energy completing the colonial transfer. There was a small company of French officials led by Philippe Roume, who were now nominally in control. But in the main, life in Santo Domingo had not changed one little bit. It is generally supposed that Hédouville put in at Santo Domingo to get the lay of the land first and avoid immediately falling into the orbit of Toussaint Louverture. But while in Santo Domingo, he was given a very keen piece of advice by a French officer who had been serving on the island for years. Of Toussaint he said, “With him you can do anything. Without him, you are powerless.” Hédouville would learn that for himself soon enough. 

With the arrival of Hédouville on the island, the new British general in charge of the occupation, Thomas Maitland, who appears to have done very little before arriving in Saint Domingue – he’s just an aristocratic officer who rose up the ranks, got to work on his plans for the reorientation of British policy. In April 1798, he sent emissaries to Toussaint with some big news: “I want to discuss the terms of a British withdrawal from the colony.” 

Toussaint was obviously all ears, and even more so when he got the terms. All Maitland wanted was assurances that whites and coloreds who had been living in British occupied zones wouldn’t be punished as collaborators when the British pulled out. Since this was exactly the kind of generous reconciliation Toussaint was all about, these were almost flawless terms for him. And that was kind of the point: playing to Toussaint. What Maitland was trying to do most especially was snub Hédouville, who was, after all, the official representative of the French government, and deal straight with Toussaint. Maitland hoped to create a rift between the new French administrator and his commander in chief, and then also build up Toussaint’s ego a little bit. But Toussaint was nothing if not savvy, and he duly forwarded everything to Hédouville for consultation and approval. Hédouville said, “Yeah, this looks good. Keep negotiating and I’ll be over there soon to finalize the terms.” 

But Toussaint didn’t want to wait for that. So he turned back to Maitland and said, “Let’s make the deal, and frankly, I will do you one better. You’ve had Frenchmen actively fighting under your banner for the past few years. Tell those guys they can come back into the fold without fear of reprisal.” And Maitland said, “Hey, that sounds great.” And before Hédouville got to Le Cap, the British had pulled their forces out of Saint-Marc and a few other ports in the west and south. The only zones they still occupied were the original two ports they had seized, Jérémie and Môle-Saint-Nicolas. Marching into Saint-Marc in particular must have been a triumphant moment for Toussaint. Twice he had failed to take the city in brutal battles. And true to his word, Toussaint did not exact reprisals on anyone. 

When Hédouville finally got to Le Cap in June, he and Toussaint met face to face for the first time. Hédouville congratulated Toussaint for negotiating the British withdrawal. But when he found out the full details, he was pretty angry. Official government policy was that men fighting for the enemies of the Republic were classified as emigrés and forfeited their lands. They were liable to be executed, not rehabilitated. And this was to say nothing of the fact that Toussaint had closed the deal without him. But if Hédouville was angry with Toussaint, it was nothing compared to how angry Toussaint got with Hédouville and his staff. These guys apparently did very little to hide their disdain for blacks and coloreds. They were free and open with their slurs and insinuated that it sure was a good thing properly civilized white men were here to take over for the savages, playing dress up with military uniforms that they had probably found laying on the ground. They referred to Toussaint Louverture as, quote, “a monkey with a handkerchief on his head”. So unlike Sonthonax, who Toussaint had maneuvered to get out of the way while still basically agreeing with his principles, Toussaint started maneuvering to expel Hédouville while hating his guts at the same time.

In July 1798 then, we get a fateful moment in the history of the Haitian Revolution. As a part of a general conference of the republican leaders. André Rigaud came up to Port-au-Prince, and from there he and Toussaint traveled together to Le Cap. It was the first time that these two men, who have been the dominant Creole leaders in the colony since 1793 have met face to face. We know nothing about what they talked about. But the general supposition is that they agreed to back each other if Hédouville really tried to take over the colony. At the subsequent meeting, they must have said all the right things though, because, for example, we never hear anything more about the arrest warrant for André Rigaud. Though it’s also possible that Hédouville could see that he had no way at all to execute the warrant anyway, since between them, Toussaint and Rigaud controlled every soldier in the colony. 

After this meeting, Toussaint went back to the West Province in August to work with Maitland on the terms of the final final British withdrawal. And this time, Hédouville told him to stop negotiating with Maitland directly, and Toussaint just ignored him, much to Maitland’s evident delight. Maitland and Toussaint then held a personal conference at Môle-Saint-Nicolas. On the eve of the agreed British withdrawal, Maitland hosted a dinner and presented Toussaint with some parting gifts. And it was around the time of this meeting that Maitland and Toussaint talked real turkey, not the logistics of the British withdrawal, but what happens next. 

Now, both men had an agenda, but for the moment, their agendas lined up pretty well. Toussaint was well aware that aside from labor troubles, the single biggest obstacle to reviving the colony’s economy was the British naval blockade. He was also aware that one of the biggest boost to the economy would be if that blockade was not only lifted, but if Saint Domingue could sell to British merchants. Now, this would, of course, be like treason against the French government, so we’re only talking hypotheticals here, but that sure would be nice. And Maitland agreed that it would be a very enlightened course of action. Now, the one thing that Maitland really wanted was to make sure that General Toussaint didn’t try to export slave revolution over to Jamaica. Now, Toussaint never appears to have really pursued this idea, but British spies knew that back in Paris, the Directory had been in favor of this idea and that inciting a slave insurrection in Jamaica was a part of Hédouville’s secret orders from the Directory. So Toussaint and Maitland struck a side deal. Toussaint pledged not to allow the gospel of slave revolution to spread to Jamaica and in exchange, the British would lift the naval blockade. There may in all of this even been some direct promises to back Toussaint if he wanted to make a bid for political independence. But Toussaint did not trust the British that far just yet. But the seed was planted. 

So as Toussaint was cutting the beginnings of this independent foreign policy for Saint Domingue, Hédouville was going on an inspection tour of the provinces and was finding it very difficult to reestablish French authority. What he was trying to do at this point was take back direct possession of the lands that had defaulted to the state when their owners fled and restored that property to the original white owners, not counting those listed as emigrés. Now, I know what you’re thinking. What’s the problem with this? This has been Toussaint’s policy all along. And so it has been. But now a crucial wrinkle has been added. Land that had not yet been reclaimed was leased to Toussaint’s officers who now occupied and ran the plantations. And you can imagine their reaction when this cadre of racist French officers blundered in, trying to boot them out, bringing with them all the classic old racist tropes with them – that blacks are too lazy and dumb and shortsighted to run a plantation like a real civilized gentleman. 

So when Hédouville complained to Toussaint, Toussaint said, “Yes, yes, I’ll look into it.” He even issued papers confirming the rightful ownership of property by such and such an old family. But then he never lifted a finger to enforce those papers. So we’re seeing a change in Toussaint’s attitude. He had been happy to let the whites come back. He welcomed them with open arms. But the window on that was drawing to a close now, because if he had to pick between white planters who had still not yet claimed their property and his senior officers who had, Toussaint was going to support his officers. 

As a part of his economic revitalization program, Hédouville  also brought with him some pretty heavy new restrictions on the cultivators. His officers who were inspecting the plantations wrote mockingly of the cultivators, who focused on their garden patches rather than the cane fields, saying, “These animals only live for the moment. They can’t see the bigger picture.” – Missing, obviously, two key points. First, the economy of Saint Domingue was still in shambles and we actually do need food to eat. We can’t live on sugar. And then, of course, second bleep, you harvesting sugar stinks. We’re free citizens now and we don’t want to do it. If you want sugar so bad, you go harvest it, *bleep*hole. 

So to make sure that the cultivators kept working, Hédouville implemented new labor codes requiring cultivators to stay on their plantations for a minimum of three years and up to six years in some cases with stiff penalties for moving around. And this was greeted with angry shock by the black community. Remember when Sonthonax had decreed emancipation? He had said “You have to stay on your plantation for one year.” Well, that year has come and gone a long time ago and many blacks had taken the opportunity to move around, either in search of better conditions or to reunite with family. And now suddenly we’re supposed to get locked back down again? It wasn’t hard to see that this might be a prelude to re-enslavement which was the omnipresent fear of the poor black community. And as we’ve seen, Toussaint himself was pretty cool with forcing the cultivators to work at cash crop planting and there is some speculation that he was all too happy to have Hédouville issue the unpopular decree and take all the heat for it, while Toussaint reaped the ultimate rewards.

As Hédouville struggled to impose his will on a population and its leadership who were making it clear they did not care what he wanted, he also started to assert control over the military. Technically, he was the supreme authority in the colony and could promote and dismiss officers at will. So over the summer of 1798, when and where he could, Hédouville promoted white officers to replace blacks for a variety of pretexts with a focus most especially on securing the coastal garrisons. This attempt to take control of the military would prove to be his undoing. 

In October, Hédouville’s racist blundering finally caught up with him at what used to be called Fort Dauphin. That’s where Jean-François had once massacred those French auxiliaries. It was now called Fort Liberty, because of the French Revolution. The fort was pretty important and so Toussaint handed it over to one of his most trusted generals, Moyse. 

Now, I can find very little solid background information on Moyse (alternative spelling: Moïse, Moise), except that he was a former black slave who had joined the original insurrection in 1791 and had quickly attached himself to Toussaint and then stayed attached to Toussaint ever since. The two had become so closely linked that Toussaint adopted Moyse as his nephew, which I’m not exactly sure how that works, but that’s what they say happened. The other really important thing that is always reported about Moyse is that among the black generals he was the one most sympathetic to the black cultivators. He was very popular in the black community and seemed genuinely interested in their wellbeing, more so certainly than Toussaint himself, which will become an issue down the road. At the moment though, the issue was between Moyse and Hédouville suspected that Moyse was fomenting some kind of rebellion against the new labor laws and in mid October a scuffle at Fort Liberty broke out between black and white soldiers and Hédouville seized on it as a pretext to remove Moyse from command. In his place, he appointed a white officer to run the military garrison and a black civil officer to run the town. 

Now, whether Moyse was fomenting rebellion before this all happened is an open question. But after it happened, he definitely started to foment revolution, marching around the plantations of the Northern Plains and raising cultivators to help fight for him. He also sent an urgent dispatch to Uncle Toussaint, saying, “Hédouville is was making a power play. We have to stop him.” 

So Toussaint ordered one of his other key generals, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, to lead a strong force down to Le Cap and arrest Hédouville. Dessalines surrounded Le Cap and Hédouville  was like, well, that’s it for me. The only way he was going to avoid being taken into custody and then God knows what after that, was to leave the island. So that’s what he did. On October 23, 1798, Hédouville and his little cadre of racist officers got on a boat and sailed away. Also taking this opportunity to bolt was Julien Raimond. He had supported Toussaint since his return to Saint Domingue. But Toussaint was obviously moving in an autocratic direction. And Raimond got out before he became a casualty of Toussaint’s ambition, which will unfortunately be the fate of Moyse. 

Now once again alone to do his own thing without interference, Toussaint went back to charting his own course for Saint Domingue in the troubled international waters of the Western Hemisphere. Having secured a pretty good deal from the British, he now had to focus on Saint Domingue’s relationship with the United States. As we’ve seen, Yankee traders were just about the only merchants willing, or able, to do business with Saint Domingue, and they had been practically the sole conduit for colonial exports and imports since 1791. So you can just imagine how Toussaint felt when he found out about the XYZ affair, because that’s where we’re at now. We’re at Episode 3.48. Talleyrand has just demanded a massive bribe from the American ambassadors to do something about French attacks on American shipping, and the Puritanical Yankees have just gotten their panties in a bunch and walked out. This led to the Quasi War, which, as I mentioned, played out mostly between the two navies in the Caribbean, which means that this is all playing out right on top of Toussaint Louverture’s head and is really, really bad for business, because American merchants are now barred from coming to Saint Domingue ports. 

In the United States, attitudes towards the French in general, and then Saint Domingue in particular, had changed since the refugee crisis of 1793. Anger over the XYZ affair had hardened public opinion against the French. And so when a new exodus of whites fleeing Port-au-Prince, just before it fell in mid 1797, landed in Philadelphia, they were treated with hostility and suspicion rather than sympathy and charity. Frenchmen with connections to Saint Domingue were amongst those specifically targeted, when the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts were passed in the spring of 1798. But this anger at the French didn’t 100% transfer to Saint Domingue. The northern merchants were suffering badly from the loss of trade with the colony, and they lobbied Congress to let them keep going. Meanwhile, over in London, the American ambassador to the Court of St. James, Rufus King, started talking this all through with his British counterparts and then wrote home recommending that if the Americans really wanted to hurt the French and simultaneously lessen the threat posed by this island of armed blacks, they should keep trading with Saint Domingue. Give all those ex slaves an incentive to work, rather than forcing them in their desperation to take more drastic measures. This, of course, was great news for Toussaint Louverture and after expelling Hédouville, Toussaint was able to make his own case to the American government for maintaining trade. In November 1798, Toussaint made his first formal approach to the American government. He wrote a letter to President John Adams saying, “Look, this war has got nothing to do with me. We are not fighting you. We are not doing anything to you. In fact, all we are doing is being a great source of trade for your merchants. That is as lucrative for you as it is necessary for us. My goal will always be to protect American shipping, not attack it. Please lift the embargo.” 

As a follow up to this letter, Toussaint dispatched two agents to Philadelphia. One a white merchant from Le Cap named Joseph Bunel, the other, the resident American consul in the colony, a guy named Jacob Meyer, who was willing to vouch for Toussaint in the coming negotiations. These two met with Secretary of State Timothy Pickering, who was happy to receive them because Pickering was a staunch Federalist and very pro British who absolutely had visions of breaking Saint Domingue away from France. And this all seemed like a golden opportunity to do just that. In January 1799, Bunel then finally met with Adams in person and made the case for lifting the embargo on Saint Domingue. But while he pleaded with Adams, a bill was already being drafted to do just that. The recent election of 1798 had played out in the midst of anti French war fever, and the Federalists enjoyed their last happy election before being obliterated by the Jeffersonian Democratic Republicans in the years to come. But for the moment, the Federalists now controlled both the House and the Senate. So in February 1799, they passed a bill that first extended the trade embargo on the French, which was due to expire, and then second, allow the President, at his own discretion, to exempt certain regions from the embargo if those regions weren’t actively involved in the fighting. Everyone knew that this was all just code for Saint Domingue. And for the moment the bill was passed, it was referred to as Toussaint’s Clause. President Adams signed the bill into law, and American merchants were once again allowed to trade with Saint Domingue. Now, this is great news for Toussaint Louverture, though the deal was not without future dangers. In bilateral negotiations between themselves, the British and Americans concoct the plans to protect trade with Saint Domingue by not allowing anyone but British and American ships to come and go. So ultimately, Toussaint was still at the mercy of powers beyond his control. And then the British and Americans also secretly agreed that this would only go on so long as the war with France did. After that, they would reappraise their relationship with Saint Domingue which, after all, was a country run by insurrectionary slaves which was a very bad example to be setting for the rest of the Western Hemisphere. 

If Toussaint was planning to declare independence from France, he was off to a great start. He had the economic support now of both the British and Americans and was operating totally independently of the French government. He had secured his supply lines, he faced no foreign military threat for the first time since 1793 and he controlled the majority of the armed forces in Saint Domingue. So that can only mean one thing: it’s time for a final showdown with André Rigaud. 

Rigaud and Toussaint had been working as partners officially for years. But as we discussed back in Episode 4.9, they had been quietly rivals for the loyalty of the blacks from the beginning and Toussaint clearly had the upper hand. It was also pretty obvious that once Hédouville got back to France that the Directory would send along another delegation or another commission, probably a bigger one this time and possibly backed by armed forces. If they decided that Toussaint was a real threat they could sail round and land in Les Cayes and then combine with Rigaud’s Legion of the South and push north. None of this was implausible. And I don’t know if Toussaint knew this at the time but on his way out the door, Hédouville had written an official dispatch to André Rigaud that was designed to sow his own seeds of disharmony and pave the way for a possible future joint operation against Toussaint. Ever since Toussaint Louverture had been promoted to lieutenant governor, he officially outranked Rigaud. The dispatch sent by De Hédouvill absolved Rigaud of any subordination to Toussaint. It said Toussaint is not your superior. He cannot tell you what to do. And Rigaud was no doubt very pleased to see this officially confirmed because he had never had any intention of letting Toussaint Louverture tell him what to do. 

Next week, the final showdown for control of Saint Domingue will play out. Traditionally, the showdown has been described in strictly racial terms, that the blacks under Toussaint fight the coloreds under Rigaud. And while this is broadly true, it’s not really true. Rigaud had black supporters and allies. Toussaint had colored supporters and allies. And it’s not like Toussaint was fighting for black supremacy. He was still all about that tricolor vision for Saint Domingue. But we’ll get into all of that next week, when we delve into the War of Knives.

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