The Making of the Haiti Chapter Nine: From Civil War to Independence The French forces By 1802, five months after French expeditionary forces arrived, indigenous popular movements in the South had reemerged The French had come to restore slavery, and when this fact became unequivocally clear in the eyes of the people, their resistance proved to be the cornerstone of the struggle that was now a war for independence Toussaint requested permission from Roume to take a formal possession of Spanish Saint Domingue in accordance with France?s treaty rights, Roume refused During this time Toussaint sent Colonel Vincent to obtain government approval of his position in the civil war against Rigaud However by the time Vincent arrived in France, the Directory had fallen and France was now under the control of Napoleon Bonaparte Bonaparte sent a new commission composed of Vincent, Julien Raimond and General Michel to inform the population that then old constitution of Year 3 was abolished The new constitution of Year 8 established a set of ?special laws? that would govern the colonies and take into account the particularities of each colony Would not be governed by the same laws established in France The new constitution neither reconfirmed nor even mentioned general emancipation The commission didn?t arrive until May 1800 Toussaint Toussaint was concentrating his efforts on terminating the civil war in the South and arranged a temporary exile for Rigaud in France Once Rigaud left Toussaint reestablished the former limits of the South at Miragoane and divided the province into four military districts each to be commanded by an officer of his army les Cayes, Jeremie, Tiburon and Anse-a-Veau Toussaint also proclaimed a general amnesty for all those who had taken sides with Rigaud to fight him with the exception of Petion who had deserted the ranks of Bauvais Dessalines as chief military commander and therefore chief agricultural inspector of the South extended his rule over the undisciplined farm workers, to which he was even crueler than Rigaud With Rigaud gone, Toussaint was able to further consolidate his position with a military expedition into Spanish Saint Domingue Just prior to the Commissioners? arrival, a mass rising of armed black workers broke out in the North, numbering in the thousands they marched on le Cap and forced Roume to rescind his earlier refusal to authorize Toussaint?s taking of the Spanish colony, which for them was necessary to put an end to the ignominious slave trade He ordered Moise to march into Spanish Saint Domingue with ten thousand troops to take possession by force The Spanish ceded control of the territory to Toussaint Toussaint was now the supreme and only authority in the colony He called for the formation of electoral assemblies to choose deputies to a central assembly that would write a constitution for the whole island The constitution was promulgated in July The abolition of slavery was reconfirmed and consecrated in law Toussaint was named governor for life with the power to name his successor All laws would be proposed by the governor and merely executed by the assembly, although Saint Domingue was to remain a part of France?s colonial empire the constitution left no room for a French representative in the colony?s administrative structure Bonaparte?s immediate reaction was to remove Toussaint Foreign allies United States and Britain were now opposed to an independent Saint Domingue and were sympathetic to the reassertion of French Supremacy over the colony Both countries left the job to Bonaparte of reestablishing slavery and safeguarding slavery in their own territories France was now able to concentrate all her military efforts on Saint Domingue Internally Saint Domingue was a divided society The Constitution of 1801 left no room for the political and economic participation of the masses in the new social order The plantation system of large holdings was maintained at all costs Toussaint?s objective was to make the colony produce, to produce for an export market and to produce enough to place it back on the road to economic prosperity He believed this could be done by retaining and reinforcing the existing latifundian system and he therefore restricted the acquisition of land to lots no smaller than 50 carreaux Making the plantations either in the hands of reintegrated white émigré colonists, of the mulatto elite in the South or under the administration of the newly emerged black elite consisting of army generals and high-ranking officers Within such as system in which the vast majority of backs had no practical access to individual landholding and in this sense, no tangible evidence of their freedom Not only did the workers no longer have the option of changing plantations or end their contracts they were no longer able to change their occupation The authority of the conductors in work relations was now replaced by that of district inspectors who were themselves military officers Toussaint was forging a society with no real foundation The mass of black laborers stood in fundamental opposition to his own social and economic philosophy the workers were often errant and their work when they did perform it was slack and unproductive they were legally, physically and psychologically no longer slaver and Toussaint?s system deprived them of any means by which to give substance and real meaning to their freedom In the North toward the end of October 1801 the dissatisfaction and disaffection of the rural masses were channeled into an organized uprising of farm workers throughout the parishes of Dondon, Marmelade, Plaisance, Acul, Plaine du Nord and Port-Margot The victims were white colonists The leading spokesman of this revolt was Moise He refused the use of physical violence to force laborers to work and had also requested to Toussaint that he allow the parceling and sale of land to the lower-ranking officers, even soldiers Moise would make sure that the workers received their one-quarter share of the plantation revenue first before the owners or managers received theirs Toussaint charged Moise with inciting and propagating the revolt against his authority and had Moise shot By doing this Toussaint widened the breach and only further alienated himself from those he was leading Toussaint also wanted to ?import? workers from Africa, presumably by buying them from slaver traders and then freeing them in the colony Bonaparte?s plan for recapturing Saint Domingue First stage was to last no more than fifteen to twenty days during that time Leclerc would win over the black generals with assurances of his peaceful intentions and good will. Leclerc would tell them that the twenty thousand European troops had merely come to protect the colony, preserve its peace and tranquility and suppress any rebel elements that might emerge. This would enable the expeditionary forces to land and take possession of all major port cities. The second stage, they would wage an unremitting war against the black army generals in particular Toussaint and Dessalines This was to break the morale of the blacks and leave them leaderless By the third stage, the entire black population would be disarmed, forced back onto the plantations and the groundwork laid for the restoration of slavery On February 3, 1802 Leclerc arrived in le Cap harbor with a squadron of over five thousand troops Le Cap was nothing more than ashes, having been evacuated Toussaint dispatched instructions to Dessalines in the West to Laplume in the South and to Paul Louverture in command at Samona that the French had come to restore slavery, that they must meet them with open resistance and burn and annihilate everything, if they were forced to retreat. All these letters were intercepted by the enemy Laplume who was loyal to French readily succumbed to the solicitations a of a number of mulatto officers and of Celestin Other black commanders of the South followed suit leaving at Jeremie, Dommage completely isolated Forcing him to allow the French troops to enter Jeremie By mid-February the entire province of the South had fallen to the enemy Nearly half of Toussaint?s army was now fighting under the French His only hope was to be able to hold out long enough defensively with roughly ten thousand troops until the coming of the raining season, several months away when the French would invariably fall prey to sicknesses and diseases endemic to the tropical climate The black resistance forces in the West, roughly fifteen hundred were concentrate at Crete-a-Pierrot Dessalines held out against two successive attacks Within two weeks of Leclerc?s arrival two thousand European troops were already in the hospital, three-quarters of them sick and the rest wounded He would need another sex thousand troops By the end of April roughly one-third of his original army was incapacitated, not counting those killed in battle It would require no fewer than twenty-five thousand fighting troops to conquer and occupy the mountains of the North and West Leclerc?s first offer to negotiate with Toussaint had failed Each side had suffered great losses and now Toussaint was ready to negotiate a settlement with Leclerc Toussaint was lured into a conference with the French general Brunet who had his arrested on the spot, bound him as a criminal and placed him aboard a ship ready to leave for France. There he was incarcerated and left to die of Toussaint ?if in the past, his political judgments were so remarkably astute in relation to Sonthonax, in relation to the British, to Hedouville, and to the changing direction of the French government itself and the dangers of the emergent reaction, such political perspicacity now failed him altogether? pg 213 Toussaint ?had pursued a policy of power consolidation and a political vision of social conservatism that, rather than solidifying his forces, ended up dividing and weakening them. He fought a civil war to defeat the mulattoes in their bid for power but, once a, estranged them and the province, generally, by exercising brutal and bitter reprisals and by deporting rather than reconciling Rigaud. Effectively, to reanimate animosities between Toussaint and the mulattoes in the South, and to readily facilitate the fall of the province into French hands...? 213 Toussaint ?contributed to the alienation of the black laborers and reinforced their alienation with a rural code that emptied their freedom of any practical substantive meaning. Even worse, he executed the one leader they trusted implicitly, in whom they saw their own aspirations represented..? pg 214 All of the major black leaders were now either deported or outright incorporated into the French army Leclerc?s next step was to proceed with the general disarmament of the blacks However, in April one of the deadliest epidemics of yellow fever the colony had ever known broke out By June the European troops were dying in the hospitals at a rate of thirty to fifty per day By the end of July news arrived to the colony announcing that slavery had officially been restored in Guadeloupe by decree. In addition the French government had just passed a law reopening the slave trade From these sources, the black masses learned of the true purpose of the French expedition. From this the masses were left with one imperative objective: the unmitigated and permanent destruction of the French presence in Saint Domingue Popular resistance now began to coalesce into insurrectionary movements. While the rapid formation of massive maroon bands and strong centers of aggressive armed rebellion characterized the resistance of the blacks in the North, it was often concerted acts of resistance carried out by small numbers or groups of individuals that promoted the formation of similar movements in the South and the creation of a network of resistance whose aim it was to proselytize, to gather additional recruit and supporters, to call meetings and assemblies and to devise plans of action The reprisals were terrible, and yet such atrocities seemed only to reinforce the determination of the blacks as they made the political situation It would as Leclerc came to realize, the entire black population that would have to be annihilated in order to restore slavery and complete his mission Around the beginning of July the first outward signs of organized rebellion appeared in the Corail district near Jeremie The military had discovered a coordinated conspiracy between the town and the plantation workers of Corail to promote the general insurrection on all the plantations in the district and to kill off all the whites The chief organizer was an obscure black named Toussaint Jean-Baptiste, familiarly known as Lapaquerie, three others Lazare and Malbrouk and Claude Chatain were principle accomplices These and six other plantation workers among them Pierrot were arrested When dragoons were sent to arrest Pierrot he stabbed one of them in the chest and when Laplume arrived to investigate Pierrot was whipped with rods, enraged the workers started to revolt On July 6th all nineteen of the Corail investigators arrived in les Cayes to be sentenced Less than a week before the arrival of the Corail group, two blacks had already attacked and beaten up the Cayes military commander. The city breaking into revolt, allowed these men to break into prison, liberate their companions from Jeremie as well as others and set fire to the City The increasing desertion of plantation workers, the assassination of a white resident, followed by the total burning of a sugar plantation in Cavaillon, indicated growing tensions and simmering rebellion in an area that had up to now been relatively tranquil The French were in serious trouble. The effects of the disarmament program were already becoming evident, as many soldiers had deserted with their rifles before their units could be reorganized Desbureaux, the commander of the southern army, now found it necessary in order to discover their hideout and abort the plots they are conceiving to publish an ordinance forbidding all inhabitants of city and county to house or shelter a solider without a duly authorized leave, as it would be assumed they were sheltering deserters and would therefore be sentenced accordingly Although the black resistance forces were temporarily defeated at les Cayes, the movement in the Grande-Anse district continued to spread The blacks continued to circulate rebellious ideas, including threats to kill off the whites, to burn the city and destroy the plains Throughout the colony the innocent blacks were thrown in indiscriminately with the guilty. Day-by-day executions of the blacks were often conducted on the plantations to force them into complete submission In general however these executions tended to produce covert solidarity and encouraged the proliferation of the underground resistance movement The white inhabitants who had welcomed the expedition from the start now began to see gatherings, conspiracies and plots everywhere Desbureaux dismissed these whites as being paranoid White Desbureaux was still in Jeremie an armed rebellion broke out at Aquin and Saint Louis Taking advantage of the inadequate supply of European troops in the district a black militia lieutenant, Charles, and a number of deserters from various other units had captured the fort during the night and taken the city of Saint Louis on August 27 The Saint Louis and earlier the Cayes insurrection clearly indicated the increasing participation of black soldiers and lower-ranking officers Both Laplume and Nerrette were engaged in pursuing the fugitive insurgents in the mountainous areas around Cavaillion, Aquin and Saint Louis, while new troubles beset les Cayes The militia was badly organized, the national guard badly armed and the number of troops sorely insufficient A handful of blacks initiated an attempt at insurrection on September 4th but were unsuccessful It was enough to create panic and spread a general alarm throughout the city On September 8th nearly four hundred blacks armed as best that they could be and had gathered near Fort Islet located behind the house of Joseph Darmagnac, the black leader of the movement. Having fought off the first patrol sent to attack them, they made their way across a nearby plantation and began attacking the post protecting the city in order to make an inroad into the Plaine-des-Cayes and possibly spread the revolt to the plantations A week later the incessant pursuit of insurgent forces continued The French has no qualms when they spoke of exterminating the blacks who fought back and had developed a terminology of extermination Coup de filet- to drown two or three hundred individuals at one shot Monter en dignite- a person to die on a tree cross Cendre dans l?arene when someone was to be devoured by bulldogs Such atrocities were notoriously commonplace and they seemed to increase, not only in number, but in degree becoming ever more garish and heinous as the position of the French army progressively deteriorated, especially after the death of Leclerc later in November when Rochambeau would assumed command of the expedition What exacerbated the French the most was that the blacks mounted the scaffolds in stoic dignity. The encouraged each other to face their executions bravely After the Darmagnac revolt in les Cayes, harsher measure of repression accompanied the wholesale murder of hundreds whose only crime was to be colored. Aimed at breaking the resistance of the blacks, the measures indicated, at the same time, that the French were not only militarily on the defensive but were fighting a lost cause. On September 12th Desbureaux ordered that in the event of an alert anyone found in the streets who was not in the military would be exposed indiscriminately to military fire The following day he published another order whereby the plantation conductors were held personally responsible should disturbances occur among the workers The popular network of resistance that had emerged during the Darmagnac revolt was rapidly solidifying ?Those blacks who seemed docile and submissive one day could, and did, after witnessing the ruthless execution of friends and family members on their plantation or at the town square, become hardened rebels the next? pg 222 ?Freedom is a great revolutionary ideal, a watchword of the great revolutions in history and, in the hands of prominent and influential leaders, it can often be imbued with emotionalism and used as an effective propaganda piece, On one level, Toussaint used it to define and justify most of his own actions and ambitions, all in the name of his people. But even here, toward the latter years of his regime, general emancipation had, in many ways, become little more than a political abstraction with no meaningful substance in the daily lived of the greater mass of black laborers. For these blacks, freedom had little to do with bourgeois-democratic ideals. They were not once again living and experiencing the horrible realities of this life-and-death struggle.? Pg 222 Maroon activity Toward the end of September the Grande-Anse movement had resurfaced, not only in les Cayes but also in the region of Plymouth to the south of Jeremie The projected insurrection began on the 26th during a period of superficial calm in the Fond Rouge quarter of Jeremie. A band of maroons descended from their mountain retreat and succeeded in setting fire to five plantations. Armed badly they were forced to flee when a military detachment arrived to capture them The principle leader of these maroon rebels was Jean Panier, who was eventually executed Equally as numerous as Panier?s maroons, had already emerged and had been operating in the Western region of the South. At the head of these bands were the ex-slave leaders of the Platons in insurrections of 1792-93: Goman, Nicolas Regnier and the veteran Gilles Beneech Jean Panier took over the leadership of the band upon Panier?s death and by the end of the year had joined the forced with Gilles Beneech and Nicolas To the east, concentrated maroon activity continued in the Miragoane-Goaves area as insurgents there attacked enemy posts and swiftly retreated into the mountains, only to recognize their forced, by now five thousand strong, conduct expeditions on the plantations to gather additional recruits and return to attack again with greater force In October over a hundred black soldiers and officers that had been enlisted by the French into companies to protect Aquin deserted their arms and military equipment, now openly supporting the rebel movement The organizer of this mass desertion was a black by the name of Jean-Louis Louiseau, called Jeudy In less than a week, another band emerged in the Torbeck plain not far from les Cayes A group of workers on the Smith and Laplace plantations had revolted and assassinated their masters. This was led y Samedi Smith These then were the black masses who, alone for the past eight months had sustained the war against the French army in the South. The most sufficient feature of their efforts to organize and resist Bonaparte?s expeditionary forces is that there was no single leader around whom the movement united, but literally hundreds of them throughout the department and hundreds more throughout the colony for the most part obscure individuals Leclerc remarked that it wasn?t enough to have removed Toussaint: ?for here there are two thousand leaders that must be removed From diverse sources of resistance we may discern at least three sectors of the black population: the civilian, which included both urban and plantation blacks; the military, the black officers and soldiers of the French army that would desert with arms; and maroons, fugitives and deserters of recent or of long standing from both civilian and the military sectors, who organized into separate bands. At a certain point all three sectors become entirely interrelated, interconnected and interchangeable as spheres of revolutionary activity The blacks began by building networks of resistance, organized in clandestinity, often in maronnage and finally sustained by guerilla warfare Bonaparte himself wrote in his instructions ?Toussaint, Moise and Dessalines will have been eliminated and three or four thousand blacks, entrenched in the hills of the Spanish part of the colony will form what is known in the islands as the Maroons, whom we will with time, perseverance and a well-combined system of attack, finally destroy.? Pg 227 The revolution itself and the annihilative nature of the war against the French, had imposed a set of political and military realities in which maronnage, or desertion or flight, necessarily turned into an active military force Christophe realized that it was a recurrent popular strategy that would break the French army before he finally deserted the French and rejoined the black revolution It has generally been considered that the deflection of the black and mulatto generals form the French army marked the decisive turning point in this war for independence The defection of the generals could only be meaningful or militarily effective or even possible because the movements of popular resistance has reached not only an irreversible stage but a level that involved nearly the entire population Actually their defection was perhaps not even and of itself the turning point; it became a turning point because mass resistance had reached a level that made it clear the French were fighting a lost cause The masses had resisted the French from the very beginning in spite of their leadership Dessalines was not the recognized commander-in-chief of the indigenous army and it was a united black and mulatto army. The force of events, the assured knowledge that the French aimed at restoring slavery, the brutal acts of extermination from which the mulattoes and the blacks now suffered alike, even the earlier deportation of Rigaud, had buried old rivalries that led to the civil war and the racial animosities that accompanied it. Leclerc now had become one more victim of yellow fever and died on November 2nd Command of the French forces thus fell to Rochambeau, in whose name and by whose orders so many atrocities and mass-murders, ghastly acts unparalleled since the days of slavery, had been committed in the South and the West Upon assuming command he wrote that he would need thirty0five thousand troops to defeat the rebel forces, disarm the population and drive the blacks back on to the plantations. In January 1803 he requested special permission to proclaim immediately the restoration of slavery in Saint Domingue The French now only held le Cap, and Tortuga island in the North. In the West the rebel army held Archahaye and the entire Artibonite with the exception of Saint Marc. The South however was still dominated by French troops. To clear a passage for Nicolas Geffrard a talented mulatto leader, Dessalines entrusted Petion with the mission of wining over the independent blacks under the African leader Lamour Derance and his chief lieutenant, Cange a mulatto At Petit-Goave by the end of December it was the independent insurgent bands that infested this area, progressively increasing their numbers, munitions and military equipment with each attack, which had cleared the way for Geffrard?s first entry into the South On January 16th Geffrard?s troops had captured Anse-a-Veau Dessalines had promoted Geffrard to division general and chief commander of the forces in the South Laplume in command at les Cayes and still fighting for the French had immediately set out however to aid the French at Anse-a-Veau and force Geffrard to retreat temporarily to the West A massive and decisive popular insurrection was already under way and had broken out at Tiburon when Laplume returned to les Cayes Independent rebels, encamped in the Hotte and Macaya mountains and led by Gilles Beneech, Nicolas Regnier and Goman had devised a collective plan to attack Tiburon Two thousand strong, the three rebel leaders were secretly aided by two officers of the French army, both of them mulattoes, Desravines (in charge of Tiburon) and Ferou (in command at Cotteaux) Deravines had diverted into rebel hands two ships carrying abundant food and supplies Under the experienced guerilla leadership of Beneech, they had captured the city and held out until mid-February, then swiftly evacuated and made off with huge quantities of munitions as they forged their retreat Instead of setting out immediately for Tiburon Berger waited at led Cayse, one day too long. While on his way to Port-Salut to join with the national guard in the expedition against the rebel forces at Tiburon, a collective insurrection of plantation workers and national guard broke out right under his nose. They had prepared successive ambushes, pelting his troops with bullets, falling rock and debris forcing them back to les Cayes. At this point Ferou made his position unequivocally clear and led the revolt to Cotteaux. The insurgent blacks and their mulatto allies were now in armed revolt and sticking at all points throughout the interior from Tiburon to as far as Port-Salut. At the same time Armnd Berault the leader of the Platons slaver insurrections and later a regional agricultural inspector for the Plaine-des-Cayes under Rigaud along with Bazile another popular leader of these early struggles and ex-officer of the Legion, had been agitating amongst the plantation workers of the Plaine-des-Cayes, inciting them to revolt. By now the entire plain was in a state of insurrection as the black laborers began to raze the cane fields and set the plantations ablaze This was the situation at the beginning of March when Geffrard made a second entry into the South and it was the widespread insurrection of these black masses that made his entry practicable. Self-mobilized and independently organized, this latest insurrection had effectively begun with the attack of Goman and Beneech at Tiburon. Coordinated with the local mulatto and black officers who diverted arms and munitions and finally deserted their posts in the French army, it rapidly assumed the proportions of a generalized insurrection throughout the interior as the blacks of the Plaine-des-Cayes, under Berault, Bazile, Samedi Smith, Lafleur, and others simultaneously left the plantation workers to mass insurgency On March 5th Geffrard arrived in the Plaine-des-Cayes, where he met with Ferou, urging that they support and recognize Dessalines as commander-in-chief These two military leaders immediately combined their forces, completely encircled les Cayes, and kept the French immobilized The war was not yet over In the North and the West, a multiplicity of competing bands had emerged in armed resistance to Leclerc immediately following Toussaint?s deportation and in response to learning of the restoration of slavery in Guadeloupe, as well as the possibility of its imminence in Saint Domingue ?they practiced voodoo, organized their following on an independent basis with goals, cultural values and a world view that placed them outside of what has often unquestioningly been accepted as the ?national interest? and ?national unity?- pg 231 In the South, Goman, Gilles Beneech and Regnier were still separately organized in the mountains around Tiburon By now almost the entire black population was in arms, fighting at every point along with their mulatto allies. When Rochambeau received news of the critical state of the French army in the South, he sent twelve hundred of the freshly arrived European troops to Jeremie under the command of Sarrazin Some three thousand plantation workers armed vigorously attacked Sarrazin?s troops of the way in torrent of falling rocks Losing time and men, Sarrazin requested a temporary cease-fire and desperately proposed to Bazile a mutual agreement whereby the wining party arrange to care for the wounded and dying soldiers of the losing party, Bazile accepted The next three months spelled out utter defeat for the French The yellow fever which had subsided somewhat, resurged. Famine begun to take its toll in le Cayes where the French were without money, without medical supplies, without food. By mid-June, General Brunet, now in charge of the French army in the South, began evacuating the sick with great difficulty The last French stronghold was Grande-Anse, which now became the scene of a new insurrection The black plantation laborers around Abricots and Cap Dame-Marie had risen in rebellion with a few local officers leading twenty-five to thirty thousand black laborers. The mass of them burned and totally devastated the region between these two towns and carried their insurrection as far as a quarter of a league from Jeremie Atlas, a an unknown black and one of the rebel leaders along with over a hundred others had taken over the old fortress just below Cap Dame-Marie Dessalines arrived in the South on July 5th, after that the defeat of the French was a matter of course. Jeremie was evacuated in August and on October 17th Geffrard took possession of les Cayes In November Rochambeau finally capitulated at le Cap, ending the ill-fated expedition that had cost France the lives of over fifty thousand troops On January 1st, 1804 Dessalines published a declaration of independence and the nation was renamed Hayti
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