Study Guide,

Bell, Toussaint L’Ouverture, Intro. and Ch. 1 ‘Opening the Gate’ pp. 3-56




Creole Terms

Haitian People



Les Invisibles

Les Morts et Les Mysteries
Orgun Ferraille

Ezili je Rouj





grands blancs

petit blancs

gens de couleur


nouveau libres





Vincent Oge

Boukman Dutty

Jean-Francois Papillon

Georges Biassou

Jeannot Billet


Andre Rigaud

Antoine Chanlatte


Blanc Cassanave

Joseph Flaville


General Beauvais

Jean-Louis Villate



Toussaint L’Ouverture



Charles Belair




Jean-Pierre L’Ouverture

Paul L’Ouverture

Placide and Isaac L’Ouverture
Bayon de Libertat



Pierrot and Macaya



Cap Francais

Bois Caiman

Breda Plantation

Fort Dauphin

Massacre River

Grande Riviere

Saint Michel

Saint Raphael


Morne Rouge

Port au Paix

Le Mole


Saint Marc


Cordon de l’Ouest


Gros Morne







Artibonite River


La Tanniere

Petite Riviere

La Crete a Pierrot

Port au Prince
Grande Anse


Grand Boucan

Les Cayes


Camp Barade

Cibao Mountains

Cul de Sac plain

Key Documents

French People


July ’92 letter from ‘Chiefs of Revolt’


Edmond de Saint-Leger

Frederic de Mirbeck

Saint Laurent
Philip Rose Roume

Jacques Brissott

Philbert de Blanchelande

Colonel Etienne Laveaux


Leger Felicitee Sonthonax

Etienne Polverel

Jean-Antoine Ailhaud

General Thomas Francis Galbaud

General Desparbes

Jacques Hébert

General Rochambeau

General Desfourneaux

General Hedouville

Joseph Bunel



decree of March 8

decree of May 15
the September 24 decree

law of April 4

Les Amis des Noirs

Ancient regime

First Commission

Second Commission

Third Commission



French Revolution


Major O’Farrell

Major Brisbane

General Maitland

The Tennis Court Oath

The French National Assembly

Declaration of the Rights of Man

The Declaration of Pillnitz

The French National Convention

The Committee of Public Safety

levee en masse

Cult of the Supreme Being

The Law of 22 Prairial

the Terror

The Directory

Constitution of the Year III

the Treaty of Basel


Jacob Mayer

John Adams

Albert Gallatin






Introduction (pp. 3-17)


(6-7)  What makes Hispaniola a tremendously important kalfou?


(5-8)  Describe the early history of the island. Why did the Arawak die out? When were African slaves first imported to the island? How did St. Dominique come into being as A French colony?


(8-9) Carefully outline the demographic profile of the island:


grands blancs-


petits blancs-


gens de couleur-




African slaves-








(10)  Who were the marechaussee?


(13)  What made Saint Dominique into the richest colony in the New World?


(15-16) Why did the French colonists need to import such large numbers of slaves on a yearly basis?


(14)  What events inspired Vincent Oge to lead his rebellion? What was its result?



Chapter 1 “Opening the Gate” (18-56)


(20-21)  Describe the ceremony which took place at Bois Caiman on August 14, 1791. How was this ‘declaration of independence’ different from the Declaration of the Rights of Man?


(22) What is the significance of the assaults on newborn and unborn children which took place during the subsequent massacres?


(23-27) Where was Toussaint during the first events of the uprising?  What was his position when he finally joined the rebellion? How does Bell attempt to prove that Toussaint played a far more significant role in the uprising from the outset?


(29-30) What were the initial reactions of the British, Spanish and Americans to the news of the slave rebellion?


(31) What was the situation in Paris in May 1791?


(31-32) What was the Decree of May 15? What was the response to this decree in Saint Dominique? What did the members of the French General Assembly do when they found out about the slave rebellion? Who did they believe was responsible for the uprising? 


(32-33) What were the demands of the slave leaders when they sought to negotiate an end to the rebellion? Why did the slaves look to Louis XVI to protect them? (What had happened to Louis XVI earlier that summer?)


(36-37) How did the slaves’ demands change during the winter of 1791?


(38) What was the law of April 4th? Who supported this legislation in the French General Assembly?


(38-40) Carefully read the July 1792 letter from ‘The Chiefs of the Revolt’. How is the hand of Toussaint evident in this declaration?


(43-44) What was happening in France during the fall of 1792?


(45) What immediate impact did the execution of Louis XVI have on the situation in Saint Dominique in early 1793? How had Toussaint spent the previous year?


(46-47) Describe the political pedigree of the new civil commission which arrived in Saint Dominique in September 1792.


(47-49) What was the result of the attempts by Sonthonax and the other commissioners to integrate the all white military with mulatto soldiers?


(48) What were the grand blancs landowners hoping for in the spring of 1793?


(50) What happened when they tried to integrate forces in Port au Prince?


(51-52) What was the goal of the new military governor Galbaud when he arrived in Saint Dominique on May 7th 1793? Which elements of the public supported him?


(53) How did Sonthonax stave off the rebellion in Le Cap in June 1793? What was the catastrophic result?


(55) What was the significance of Toussaint’s simultaneous proclamation with Sonthonax’s? What is the vodou meaning of ‘L’Ouverture”?



Chapter 2, “Before the Storm”  (pp. 57-83)


Here is a potential essay question: What aspects of Toussaint’s life up to the revolution made him uniquely prepared to assume a leadership role at this point in Saint Dominique’s history? Think about the political self image which Toussaint fashioned for himself? How do his choices reflect a coherent political philosophy?


Describe Toussaint’s education. Touch on the following:


1740?   Fatras-Baton, the stable boy



1750?   The Jesuit Mission slave at Providence Hospital



1772     Bayon de Libertat’s coachman



1776     Freedom and Freemasonry



1779     Real Estate speculation



1782    Suzanne and Placide




Chapter 3, “Turning the Tide” pp. 84-134


Possible essay question: Were the decisions made by Toussaint during the key war years of 1793-96 purely Machiavellian or do they reflect an overarching political ideology?


(84-86) Why did the rebel slaves choose to join with the Spanish military. (The Spanish sought the restoration of slavery in the island.)


Describe the situation in France during the summer of 1793. How does this situation help to explain Toussaint’s support of a royalist political strategy despite the execution of Louis XVI and the routing of Galbaud?


(98-99)  Note Jean-Francois response to the General Laveaux’s attempt to woo him to the Jacobin side in Fall 1794.


(92) (96) What was the royalist/ Spanish/ British/ grand blanc strategy for restoring slavery on Saint Domingue?  How were the slave leaders involved?



(88-) Describe the steps which led to Toussaint’s 1794 decision to embrace the Jacobin cause (and betray the Spanish).


(95) The English invasion in the West


(88) The capture of Vernet


(89-90) De Brandicourt’s surrender


(100)  February 1794 French National Convention abolishes slavery.


(94)  March 1794 Assassination attempt



(97) What was the situation of the French Jacobin government in Saint Dominique in April 1794? (What was the situation of the Jacobin government in France in 1794?) How did Toussaint see that he could exploit the situation?


(101-04) When did Toussaint (according to Bell) begin planning this move? What evidence exists to support this theory?


(106) When did Toussaint spring the trap against his Spanish superiors? How quickly did Toussaint gain control of Gonaives and the Cordon d l’Ouest?


(108) Who was fighting on the side of the British in the south? Who opposed them? How was Sonthonax driven from the colony?


(109-110) How did Jean-Francois exercise his rage after he was driven from the Cordon by Toussaint and Villate?


(110-115) Describe the campaign which Toussaint fought against British commander Brisbane. What tactics was Toussaint forced to adopt?


(115) What were the terms of the peace agreement between France and Spain in the Treaty of Basel?


(115- 119) Describe how Toussaint faced down and eliminated a succession of mulatto rivals for military leadership of the Jacobin forces in 1794-95:


Blanc Cassanave






Joseph Flaville





What was happening in France during 1794-95?


(122-131) Describe the ways that Toussaint used African leadership techniques to quell discontent and disorder among the rebel slaves within the Cordon. (the affaire Datty; the affaire Macaya)


Essay Question: What did he understand about the African social structure and psychology that the Europeans could not?


(125-126) What was Toussaint’s ultimate ambition for the Saint Dominique rebel slaves? How did he plan to accomplish this goal?


(131-34) How did Toussaint thwart the attempted mulatto coup organized by Villate in March 1796?



Chapter 4, “Closing the Circle”, pp. 135-192


(135-37) Describe how Sonthonax averted punishment when he was put on trial in France. What were his first actions when he returned to Saint Domingue, the head of the 3rd Civil Commission to the island?


(137-145) What were the economic, logistical, political and cultural challenges that Toussaint faced as he tried to govern the nouveau libres, the newly freed African slaves? How did he reassure the blacks of their power while convincing them to remain obedient to France? Why did he consider such obedience necessary?


How did Sonthonax seek to subvert his power? What was he offering instead? How was that message received by the blacks and the mulattos?


Essay Question: Which leader, Sonthonax or Toussaint, would US foreign policy support today? Which leader hews more to liberal ideological dogma?


(142-43) Describe the catastrophic results of Sonthonax’s diplomatic foray to Port au Prince to try to convince the mulatto General Rigaud to come over to the French Republican side.


(145-153) What was Sonthonax’s policy towards émigrés grands blancs? How did this policy damage Toussaint in the eyes of the nouveau libres? How did Toussaint seek to dispose of both Laveaux and Sonthonax in one peaceful move? How finally did Toussaint convince Sonthonax to leave the island?


(154) How had the political climate in Paris been transformed over the three years since Robespierre’s execution? What was the new policy towards the victorious rebels in Saint Dominigue?


(155-157) Who did the French send to Saint Dominique to bring the colony back in line with the new policy?


(157-160) What events finally convinced the British to give up their military adventure in Saint Dominigue?  What terms did Toussaint negotiate with the English General Maitland for the British withdrawal from the island?


(160-63) What was Hedouville’s strategy to reign in Toussaint’s power? How successful was this ploy?


(163-67) How did Toussaint succeed in driving Hedouville from the island?  What was Hedouville’s parting shot? How did Toussaint defend his actions with Laveaux and the other French authorities? Who did he draft to become the new French authority on the island? 


(168) Once Toussaint had consolidated control in the North, what labor policy was he able to enforce? Why did he believe that the slaves’ freedom was absolutely dependent on the success of this policy?


(169-174) What caused the deterioration of the French-American relationship in the 1790’s? How did Toussaint exploit this situation to the advantage of his new colony? How did he assuage the complaints of Thomas Jefferson? What were the key terms of the deal (including the secret ones)?


Essay Question: Could Toussaint have followed any other foreign and domestic policies and hoped to maintain both the relative independence and the economic viability of his colony?


(174- 176) What events precipitated the bloody civil war between blacks and mulattos in June, 1799? Was this conflict avoidable? Why did he need to defeat the mulattos as rapidly as possible? Could Toussaint have fought this war any differently?


(176-79) Essay Question: How did Toussaint rally his black troops while forcing the ex-slaves back on to the plantations to work the sugar cane fields? Who was put in charge of implementing Toussaint’s mulatto policy?


(180) What did Napoleon’s Constitution of the Year III say would be the policy towards governing the colonies in the French empire?


(183) How did Toussaint’s army finally break the siege of Jacmel?

(184) What did Napoleon promise the rebel slaves in his first messages to the island in 1800? What did he forbid Toussaint from doing?


(185) How did Toussaint order Dessalines to treat the defeated mulatto officers and soldiers? Did Dessalins comply?


(190-91) After defeating the Spanish in the east, Toussaint had achieved sovereignty on the island of Hispaniola and proclaimed the abolition of slavery throughout the colony. Why didn’t he declare independence from France at this moment?



Chapter 5, ‘The Last Campaign” pp. 193-265


(193-95) What political purpose was served by Toussaint’s claim that he was called to leadership by a secret voice? How does this belief complement his devout Catholicism? How might it also explain the extremity of his actions?


(195-96) Why did Toussaint outlaw the practice of Vodou?


(200-01) How did Toussaint both welcome and distance himself from Bayon de Libertat and other returning grands blancs? How did he signal to the blacks that they remained all powerful?


(202-03) How successful was Toussaint in restoring the island’s economy during the year of peace?


(204-05) How did his labor policies benefit his officer corps?


(205-06) What different socio-economic model was favored by Toussaint’s general Moyse?


(207-08) What eventuality prevented Moyse’s rebellion from achieving success? How did Toussaint punish the conspirators? How was Bayon de Libertat killed?


(210-11) Which articles of the Consitution gave Toussaint authoritarian powers beyond the scope of true democracy? Was this choice reasonable, or had Toussaint crossed the line into tyranny?


(212) Compare Toussaint’s actions with Napoleon’s at the same date.


(212-15) Why did Col. Vincent try to dissuade Toussaint from publishing the Constitution? Why did Toussaint feel it was necessary to make this gamble with the French?


(215-16) Carefully read the brief summary of Napoleon’s rise to power. How can it be compared to Toussaint’s own career?


(217-223) After Napoleon had finally been exiled to Elba, he wrote in his memoirs of his decision to invade Saint Dominigue and put down the slave rebellion. What was his other option? How might AMERICAN history have been far different if he had not chosen to depose Toussaint? Why, ultimately, did Napoleon choose to attack?


(223) How did Thomas Jefferson open the door to the French invasion of San Dominigue?


(228) How had Toussaint prepared for the coming fight?  What invasion strategy did Col. Vincent recommend that the French take?


(230-33) Why was there never a chance for Vernet’s diplomatic mission to succeed?


(236) What strategy did Toussaint pursue once the French troops had landed?


(244-50) How did Toussaint’s forces lure the various prongs of the French attack into the trap at La Crete a Pierrot?


(246-47) What was Dessalines’ special strategy as he fought his way from Port au Prince into the interior?


(252) What eventuality prevented Toussaint’s plan from succeeding?


(256-57) What was the military situation after the battle?


(258-59) Why, then, did Toussaint decide to surrender?


(261-65) Why did Toussaint walk into the trap that led to his capture?