Page:Haiti- Her History and Her Detractors.djvu/80

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
Haiti: Her History and Her Detractors

celebrated representative of the black race turned the scales by the weight of his influence and of his sword: Toussaint Louverture[1] deserted the Spanish cause and took up that of France. The prestige of his name sufficed to expel the Spaniards from Gonaives Marmelade, Plaisance, Gros-Morne, d'Ennery, Dondon, and Limbé. The famous name of this great man should not be passed over without a few words as to his life and character. Born on the Bréda plantation[2] at Haut du Cap, Toussaint spent the first fifty years of his life in slavery; "and," says Placide Justin, "this humble condition did not prevent him from reaching the pinnacle of military honors and from rising, not only above the men of his own race, but above the haughty whites, who were compelled to acknowledge his superiority and wisdom."[3]

  1. It is said that Toussaint adopted the name of Louverture after the storming of Dondon when Polvérel had been heard saying, "Cet homme fait ouverture partout" ("This man makes an opening everywhere"). However, the widow of Sonthonax, who knew Toussaint when he was still a slave, says that he was called Louverture before the uprising of the slaves; that his nickname had been given to him on the Bréda plantation on account of his having lost his front teeth. If such were the case, why then did Toussaint sign his name as "Toussaint Bréda" in the first days of the rebellion? We have sought the reason of this change of name; and one of the companions of Toussaint, Paul Aly, told us that Toussaint assumed the name of Louverture because he was the first to receive the mission of preparing the uprising of the slaves in the North. (B. Ardouin, Studies of Haitian History, Vol. II, p. 226.)
  2. B. Ardouin gives May, 1743, as Toussaint's birthday. According to E. Robin (History of Haiti, p. 71), Toussaint was born in 1745; Placide Justin (History of Haiti, p. 277) is of the same opinion as Robin. But Dubroca (Life of Toussaint Louverture, p. 3) says that Toussaint was born in 1743, whilst Gragnon-Lacoste (Life of Toussaint Louverture) affirms that the right date of his birth was May 20, 1746.
  3. History of Haiti, p. 277. It would be well to quote here Wendell Phillips's interesting account of Toussaint Louverture: "If I were to tell you the story of Napoleon, I should take it from the lips of Frenchmen, who find no language rich enough to paint the great captain of the nineteenth century. Were I to tell you the story of Washington, I should take it from your hearts—you, who think no marble white enough to carve the name of the Father of his country. But I am to tell you the story of a negro, Toussaint Louverture, who has left, hardly one written line. I am to glean it from the reluctant testimony of his enemies, men who despised him because he was a negro and a slave, hated him because he had beaten them in battle. Cromwell manufactured his own army. Napoleon, at the ago of 27, was placed at the head of the best troops Europe ever saw. Cromwell never saw an army till he was forty; this man never saw a soldier till he was fifty. Cromwell manufactured his own army out of what? Englishmen, the best blood in Europe. Out of the middle class of Englishmen, the best blood of the island. And with it he conquered what? Englishmen, their equals. This man manufactured his army out of what? Out of what you call the despicable race of negroes, debased, demoralized by two hundred years of slavery, one hundred thousand of them imported into the island within four years, unable to speak a dialect intelligible even to each other. Yet out of this mixed, and, as you say, despicable mass he forged a thunder-bolt and hurled it at what? At the proudest blood in Europe, the Spaniard, and sent him home conquered; at the most warlike blood in Europe, the French, and put them under his feet; at the pluckiest blood in Europe, the English, and they skulked home to Jamaica. Now if Cromwell was a general, at least this man was a soldier. … "Some doubt the courage of the negro. Go to Hayti, and stand on those fifty thousand graves of the best soldiers France ever had, and ask them what they think of the negro's sword. I would call him Napoleon, but Napoleon made his way to empire over broken oaths and through a sea of blood. This man never broke his word. I would call him Cromwell, but Cromwell was only a soldier, and the state he founded went down with him into his grave. I would call him Washington, but the great Virginian held slaves. This man risked his empire rather than permit the slave-trade in the humblest village of his dominions. You think me a fanatic, for you read history, not with your eyes but with your prejudices. But fifty years hence, when Truth gets a hearing, the Muse of history will put Phocion for the Greek, Brutus for the Roman, Hampden for the English, LaFayette for France, choose Washington as the bright consummate flower of our earlier civilization, then, dipping her pen in the sunlight, will write in the clear blue, above them all, the name of the soldier, the statesman, the martyr, Toussaint Louverture."