Chronology of the Haitian
Bell, Madison Smartt. Master of the
Crossroads. New York, NY: Vintage, 2000. 691-710.
1801; 1802; 1803; 1804; 1805)
January, 1789: In the political context of the unfolding French Revolution, les gens de couleur, the mulatto people of
the colony, petition for full rights in Saint Dominigue.
June 17, 1789 In Paris, the Third Estate declares itself a National Assembly.
June 20, 1789: Tennis Court Oath
July 7, 1789: The French National Assembly votes admission of six deputies
from Saint Dominigue. The colonial deputies begin to sense that it will no
longer be possible to keep Saint Dominigue out of the Revolution, as the
conservatives had always designed.
July 14, 1789: Fall of the Bastille.
The Great Fear unfolds through the countryside.
When news of the storming of the Bastille reaches Saint Dominigue,
conflict breaks out between the petit blancs (lower
class whites of colonial society) and the land and slave-owning grand blancs. The former ally themselves
with the Revolution, the latter with the French monarchy.
August 4, 1789: The National Assembly abolishes feudalism.
August 26, 1789: The Declaration of the Rights of Man: “liberte,
equality before the law, freedom of religion, freedom of speech. Men paying
taxes are granted the right to vote.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man causes utter panic among all colonists
October 5, 1789: The Paris mob brings King
Louis XVI and the National Assembly to Paris from Versailles. The power of
the radical minority becomes more apparent.
October 14, 1789: A royal officer at Fort Dauphin in Saint Dominigue reports
unrest among the slaves in his district, who are responding to news of the
revolution leaking in. There follows an increase in nocturnal slave
gatherings and in the activity of the slave policing marechaussee. Mulattos claim the Rights of Man before the French
Assembly. Abbe Gregoire
and others support them. Deputies from French commercial towns trading with
the colony oppose them.
December 3, 1789: The French National Assembly rejects the demands of
mulattos presented on October 22.
October 28, 1790: The mulatto leader Vincent Oge who has reached Saint Dominigue from Paris by way of
England, aided by a British abolitionist society, raises a rebellion in the
northern mountains near the border, with a force of three hundred men,
assisted by another mulatto, Chavannes. Several days later a military
expedition from Le Cap defeats him, and he is taken prisoner along with other
mulatto leaders inside Spanish territory. Their rising is answered by
parallel insurgencies in the west which are quickly put down. The ease of
putting down the rebellion convinces the colonists that it is safe to deal
with internal dissensions on their own…. Oge and
Chavannes are tortured to death (broken on the wheel, in a public square at
April, 1791: News of Oge’s
execution turns French national sentiment against the colonists. Oge is made a hero in the theatre, a martyr to liberty.
Planters living in Paris are endangered, often attacked on the streets.
May 11, 1791: A passionate debate begins on the colonial question in the
May 15, 1791: The French National Assembly grants
full political rights to mulattos born of free parents, in an amendment
accepted as a compromise by the exhausted legislators.
May 16, 1791 Outraged over the May 15 decree, colonial deputies withdraw from
the National Assembly.
June 21, 1791 Louis XVI and his family are arrested at Varennes
while trying to flee the country in disguise.
June 30, 1791: News of the May 15 decree reaches Le Cap. Although only four
hundred mulattos meet the description set forth in this legislation, the symbolism
of the decree is inflammatory. Furthermore, the documentation of the decree
causes the colonists to fear that the mother country may not maintain
July 3, 1791: de Blanchelande, the governor of Saint
Dominigue writes to warn the Minister of Marine that he has no power to
enforce the May 15 decree. His
letter tells of the presence of an English fleet and hints that factions of
the colony may seek English intervention. The general colonial mood has swung
completely toward secession at this point.
Throughout the north and west, unrest among the slaves is observed.
News of the French Revolution in some form or other is being circulated
through Vodou congregations. Small armed rebellions pop up in the west and
are put down by the marechaussee.
August 11, 1791: A slave rising at Limbe is put
down by the marechaussee.
August 14, 1791: A large meeting of slaves occurs at the Lenormand Plantation at Morne
Rouge on the edge of the Bois Cayman forest.
A plan for a colony wide insurrection is laid. The hungan Boukman
emerges as the major slave leader. A secret meeting at Bois Cayman becomes a
delegates’ convention attended by slaves from each plantation at Limbe, Port Margot, Acul,
Petite Anse, Limonade, Plaine du Nord Quartier Morin, Morne Rouge and others. The presence of Toussaint Breda
is asserted by some accounts and denied by others. In the following days,
black prisoners taken from the Limbe uprising give
news of the meeting at Bois Cayman, but will not reveal the name of any
participant under torture.
August 22, 1791: The great slave rising in the north begins, led by Boukman and Jeannot. Whites are massacred with
all sorts of rape and atrocity: the standard of an infant impaled on a
bayonet is raised. The entire Plaine du Nord is set
on fire. By the account of the Englishman Edwards, the ruins were still
smoking by the time he landed there.
September 26, 1791. The mulattos of the plain also rise
under the leadership of Candy. There follows a war of extermination with
unconscionable cruelties on both sides. Le Cap is covered with scaffolds on
which captured slaves are tortured. There are many executions on the wheel.
During the first two months if the revolt, two thousand whites are killed ,
one hundred and eighty sugar plantations and nine hundred smaller operations
(indigo, coffee, cotton) are burnt, with twelve hundred families
dispossessed. Ten thousand rebel slaves are supposed to have been killed.
During the initial six weeks of the slave revolt, Toussaint remains
at Breda, keeping order among the slaves there, protecting the white manager
and his family, and showing no sign of any connection to the slave revolt.
August 27, 1791: The Declaration of Pillnitz: Austria
and Prussia threaten war on France, vowing to re-establish it to an absolute
In mid-August, 1791, news of the general rebellion in Saint Dominigue reaches
France. Reports of atrocities against whites produce a backlash of sympathy
for the colonial conservatives, and the colonial faction begins to lobby for
the repeal of the May 15 decree.
September 24, 1791: The National Assembly in France reverses itself again and
passes the decree of September 24, which revokes mulatto rights and once
again hands the question of ‘status of persons’ over to the colonial
authorities. The decree is called ‘an unalterable article of the French
Later in the month, the Englishman Edwards arrives in Le Cap with emergency
supplies from Jamaica and is received as a savior with cries of ‘Vivent les Anglais.’ Edwards
hears much about the colonists’ hopes that England will take over the
government of the colony.
October, 1791: Expeditions begin to set out from Le Cap against the rebel
blacks, but illness kills as many soldiers as the enemy does, so the rebel
slaves gain ground. The hill country is dotted with both black and white
camps, surrounded by hanged men, or skulls on palings. The countryside is
constantly under dispute, with the rebels increasingly in the ascendancy.
In France this month, radicals in the French Assembly
suggest that the slave insurrection is a trick organized by émigrés to create
a royalist haven in Saint Dominigue. The arrival of refugees from Saint
Dominigue in France over the next few months does little to change this
November, 1791: Early in the month news of the decree of September 24 (repealing mulatto
rights) arrives in Saint Dominigue, confirming the suspicion of the mulattos.
Toussaint arranges the departure of the family of Bayon
de Libertat from Breda, then
rides to join the rebels at Biassou’s camp on
Grande Riviere. For the next few months he functions as the general doctor to
the rebel slaves, carrying no other military rank, although he does organize
special fortifications at Grand Boucan and La Tanniere. Jeannot,
Jean-Francois, and Biassou emerge as the principal
leaders of the rebel slaves on the northern plain- all established in
adjacent camps in the same area.
November 21, 1791: A massacre of mulattos by petit blancs in Port au Prince begins
over a referendum about the September 4 decree.
Polling ends in a riot, followed by a battle. The mulatto troops are driven
out, and part of the city is burned.
For the remainder of the fall, the mulattos range around the western
countryside, outdoing the slaves of the north in atrocity. They make white
cockades from the ears of the slain, rip open pregnant women and force the
husbands to eat the embryos, and throw infants to the hogs. In Port au Prince
the petit blancs
are meanwhile conducting a version of the French Terror. The city remains under
siege by the mulatto forces through December. As at Le Cap, the occupants
answer the atrocities of the besiegers with their own, with the mob
frequently breaking into the jails to murder mulatto prisoners.
In the south a mulatto rising drives the whites into Les Cayes, but the whites of the Grande Anse
are able to hold the peninsula, expel the mulattos, arm their slaves, and
lead them against the mulattos.
November 29, 1791: The first Civil Commission,
consisting of Mirbeck, Roume,
and Saint Leger, arrives at Le Cap to represent the French revolutionary
December 10, 1791: Negotiations
are opened with Jean-Francois and Biassou,
principal slave leaders in the north, who wrote to the Commission a letter
hoping for peace. The rebel leaders’ proposal only asks liberty for
themselves and a couple of hundred followers, in exchange for which they
promise to return the other rebels to slavery.
December 21, 1791: An interview between the Commissioners and Jean-Francois
takes place at Saint Michel plantation, on the plain a short distance from Le
Toussaint appears as an adviser of Jean-Francois during these negotiations,
and represents the black leaders in subsequent unsuccessful meetings at Le
Cap, following the release of white prisoners. But although the Commissioners
are delighted with the peace proposition, the colonists want to hold out for
total submission. Invoking the
September 14 decree, the colonists undercut the authority of the
Commission with the rebels and negotiations are broken off.
March 30, 1792: Mirbeck, despairing of the
situation in Le Cap and fearing assassination, embarks for France, his fellow
commissioner Roume agreeing to follow three days
later. But Roume gets news of a royalist counter
revolution brewing in Le Cap and decides to remain, hoping he can keep de
Blanchelande loyal to the liberal French National Assembly.
April 4, 1792: In France the signature of a new decree by the National
Assembly gives full rights of citizenship to mulattos and free blacks, calls
for new elections on that basis, and establishes a new three man Commission
to enforce the decree, with dictatorial powers and an army to back them up.
April 9, 1792: With the Department of
the West reduced to anarchy again, Saint Leger escapes on a warship sailing
April 20, 1792: France declares war on
May 1792: War is declared between France and Spanish Santo Domingo.
May 11, 1792: News of the April 4 decree arrives in Saint Dominigue. Given
the nastiness of the race war and the atrocities committed against whites by
mulatto leaders like Candy in the north and others in the south and west,
this decree is considered an outrage by the whites. By this time, the whites
(except on the Grande Anse) have all been crammed
into the ports and have given up the interior of the country for all
practical purposes. The Colonial Assembly accepts the decree, having little
choice for the moment, and no ability to resist the promised army. The
mulattos are delighted, and so is Roume.
June 20, 1792: A mob invades the Tuileries Palace in Paris where they force the King to
don a Phrygian cap and drink a toast to the health of the nation.
July 8, 1792: National Guardsmen march into Paris singing the Marseillaise.
August 10, 1792: A Jacobin-led mob storms the
virtual deposition of the King, call for a National Convention in
September 2-7, 1792 Massacres of royalists and priests held in Parisian
September 18, 1792: Three new Commissioners arrive in Le Cap to enforce the April 4 decree. Sonthonax,
Polverel and Ailhaud are all Jacobins. Colonists
immediately suspect a plan to emancipate the slaves (which may or may not
have been part of Sonthonax’s original program). The Commissioners are
accompanied by two thousand troops of the line and four thousand National
Guards, under the command of Gen. Desparbes. But the commissioners distrust
the general and get on poorly with him because of their tendency to trespass
on his authority. Soon the Commissioners deport Blanchelande to France.
September 20, 1792: Battle of Valmy: General Dumouriez beats the Prussians and gives the
revolutionaries in Paris breathing space. Victory at Valmy
began the French attempt to spread the Revolution across Europe.
September 21, 1792: The new
legislature, the National Convention, elected by all universal male suffrage,
meets for the first time and declares France a Republic.
October, 1792: In the aftermath of a conflict between his troops and the petit blanc
Jacobins of Le Cap, General Desparbes is deported by the Commissioners to
France as a prisoner, along with many other royalist officers. This event
virtually destroys the northern royalist faction.
October 24, 1792: The Commission led by Sonthonax begins to fill official
posts with mulattos, now commonly called ‘citizens of April 4’. By this
tendency Sonthonax begins alienating petit
blancs Jacobins of Le Cap and creating a bureaucracy
of mulattos at their expense. Sonthonax closes the Jacobin club and deports
The Regiment Le Cap’s remaining officers refuse to accept the
mulattos Sonthonax has appointed to fill vacancies in the military left by
royalists who have either been arrested or resigned.
November, 1792: Brussels falls to the French
December, 1792: Young Colonel Etienne Laveaux mounts
an attack on the rebel slaves at Grande Riviere. By this
time, Toussaint has his own body of troops under his direct command and has
been using the skills of white prisoners and deserters to train them. He also
has gathered some of the black officers who will be significant later in the
slave revolution, including Dessalines, Moyse and
Toussaint battles Laveaux’s forces at Morne
Pele and La Tannerie, covering the retreat of the
larger black force under Biassou and Jean-Francois,
then retreats into the Cibao Mountains himself.
December 1, 1792: Laveaux is sent to try to recall the disaffected Le Cap
officers to the fold, but his efforts are ineffective.
December 2, 1792: The Regiment Le Cap, without cartridges, meets the new
mulatto companies on parade at the Champ de Mars in the center of the city.
Fighting breaks out between the two halves of the regiment. The mulattos flee
the town and capture the fortifications at the entrance to the city from the
plain. The threat of an assault from the black rebels forces the whites of
the town to capitulate.
In the aftermath Sonthonax deports the Regiment Le Cap en masse and
rules the town with mulatto troops. He sets up a revolutionary tribunal and
redoubles his deportations.
December 8: Sonthonax writes to the French Convention of the necessity of
ameliorating the lot of the slaves in some way- as a logical consequence of
the law of April 4.
January 21, 1793: Louis XVI is guillotined in
February 1, 1793: France declares war
against England, Netherlands and Spain. France was at war with all of Europe.
Toussaint, Biassou and Jean-Francais
formally join the Spanish forces at Saint Raphael. At this point, Toussaint
has six hundred men under his control and reports directly to the Spanish
general. He embarks on an invasion of French territory.
March 8, 1793: News of Louis XVI’s execution reaches Le Cap.
March 18, 1793: News of the war with England reaches Le Cap, further
destabilizing the situation.
March, 1793: Counter-revolts have broken out throughout France, particularly
in conservative Catholic areas, especially in the Vendee Province.
April, 1793: de Blanchelande is guillotined in Paris.
April, 1793: Dumouriez defects to Austria - aware he could
not restore monarchy in France.
April 6, 1793: The Committee of Public Safety is created by the National
May, 1793: Early in the month minor skirmishes begin along the Spanish border
as Toussaint, Jean-Francois, and Biassou begin
advancing into French territory.
May 7, 1793: Gen. Galbaud arrives in Le Cap as the new Governor-General,
dispatched by the French National Convention which sees that war with England
and Spain endangers the colony and wants a strong military commander in
place. Galbaud is supposed to obey the Commission in all political matters,
but he possesses absolute authority over the troops (the same instructions
given Desparbes). Because Desparbe’s wife is a
Creole, and he owns property in Saint Dominigue, many gran blancs colonists hope for support from
May 29, 1793: Sonthonax and Polverel, after unsatisfactory correspondence
with Galbaud, write to announce their return to Le Cap.
The Commissioners reach Le Cap with the remains of the mulatto army used in
operations around Port au Prince. Sonthonax declares Galbaud’s
credentials invalid and puts him on shipboard for return to France. Sonthonax
begins to pack the harbor for a massive deportation of political enemies.
Conflicts develop between Sonthonax’s mulatto troops and the white civilians
and three thousand odd sailors in Le Cap.
June 2, 1793: A mob of sans-cullotes demand
the expulsion of the Girondist members of the
National Convention. The Montagnards seize control
June 20-22, 1793: The sailors,
drafting Galbaud to lead them, organize for an assault on the town. Galbaud lands
with two thousand sailors. The regular troops of the garrison go over to him
immediately, but the National Guards and the mulatto troops fight for
Sonthonax and the Commission. A general riot breaks out with the petit blancs
of the town fighting for Galbaud and the mulattos and town blacks fighting
for the Commission. By the end of the first night of fighting, the Galbaud
faction has driven the Commissioners to the fortified lines at the entrance
to the plain. But during the night Sonthonax deals with the black rebels on
the plain, led by Pierrot and Macaya,
offering them liberty and pillage in exchange for their support. During the
next day, the
rebels sack the town and drive Galbaud’s forces
back to the harbor forts by nightfall. The rebels burn the city. Galbaud
empties the harbor and sails for Baltimore with ten thousand refugees in his
In the aftermath of the burning of Le Cap, a great many French
regular army officers desert to the Spanish. Toussaint recruits from these
and uses them as officers to train his bands.
July 13, 1793: Charlotte Corday assassinates Marat in Paris.
August 23, 1793: The levee en masse conscripts
ALL males into the army. A planned economy is implemented to supply the war as
well as aid the poor and keep their support. Maximum price rules established.
August 29, 1793 Sonthonax proclaims the emancipation of all the
slaves of the north.
This same day Toussaint issues a proclamation of his own from Camp Turel, assuming for the first time the name L’Ouverture.
September 3, 1793: Sonthonax writes to notify Polverel of his proclamation of
emancipation. Polverel, though angry at this step having been taken without
consultation among the Commissioners, bows and makes similar proclamations in
the south and the west.
On the same day, the Confederation of the Grande Anse
signs a treaty with the governor of Jamaica transferring allegiance to the
September 19, 1793: The British invasion begins with the
landing of nine hundred soldiers at Jeremie. The
surrounding area goes over to the British, but the eastern districts and Les Cayes are still held by mulatto General Rigaud who is
fighting for the French Republic.
September 22, 1793: Major O’Farrell of the Irish Dillon regiment,
turns over the fortress of LE Mole with a thousand men, including five
hundred National Guards, to a single British ship. The Peninsula goes over to
the British as far as Port au Paix.
October, 1793 : A thousand more British soldiers
land in the south, the mulattos of the Artibonite River Valley revolt, and a
new confederation of whites and mulattos invites the English into the west.
Similar events at Leogane mean that Polverel and
Port au Prince are surrounded by the British invaders. From Le Cap, Sonthonax
reacts by advising Polverel and Laveaux to burn the coast towns and retreat
to the mountains, but they refuse.
October 4, 1793: Laveaux, walled up with a small garrison at Port au Paix, is being encroached upon by the Spanish from the
east and the English from Le Mole, with his own force crippled by illness and
fewer than seven hundred men fit for service. He writes to complain to
Sonthonax of insubordination among the black troops.
Laveaux has left Le Cap under command of the mulatto
Villate who established control of the town after the rebels of the plain had
exhausted the plain and left it. Le Cap becomes the mulatto center of the
north during the next several months.
November, 1793: The National Convention outlaws the worship of God. The
Cathedral of Notre Dame is renamed the Temple to Reason.
December 6–7, 1793: Mass executions of counter revolutionaries take place in
December, 1793: At the end of the month, Sonthonax joins Polverel at Port au
Prince. Toussaint, fighting for the Spanish, occupies the central plateau
after a series of victories.
December 6–7, 1793: Mass executions (by drowning) of counter revolutionaries
February 3, 1794: A delegation
sent by Sonthonax, led by the black Bellay, is seated in the French
Convention in Paris. The next day, the French Convention abolishes slavery,
following an address from Bellay, in a vote without discussion.
February 9, 1794: Halaou, African born leader of
ten thousand marron and newly freed slaves on the Cul de Sac plain, parleys with Sonthonax at Port au
March, 1794: Halaou is
assassinated by mulatto officers during a meeting with the mulatto General Beauvais. Leadership of Halaou’s
men is assumed by Dieudonne.
Intrigue by Biassou and Jean-Francais
weakens Toussaint’s credit with his Spanish superiors. Toussaint removes his
wife and children from the Spanish to the French side of the island. Biassou lays an ambush for Toussaint enroute
to Camp Barade in the parish of Limbe.
Toussaint escapes but his brother Jean-Pierre is killed.
March 24, 1794: Jacques Hébert
and the other enragees who sought real economic
reform are sent to the guillotine by Robespierre.
April, 1794: Toussaint, who now commands about four thousand troops, the best
armed and disciplined black corps of the Spanish army, contacts Laveaux to
open negotiations for changing sides.
May 6, 1794: Toussaint joins the French with his four thousand
soldiers, first massacring the Spanish troops under his command. He conducts a
lightning campaign through the mountains from Dondon
to Gonaives, gaining control of the numerous posts he earlier established on
behalf of the Spanish.
May 7, 1794: Robespierre proclaims the Cult of the Supreme Being.
May 18, 1794: Toussaint writes to Laveaux explaining the error of his
alliance to the Spanish and announcing that he now controls Gonaives, Gros Morne, Ennery,
Plaisance, Marmelade, Dondon, Acul and Limbe on behalf of the French Republic. The Cordon de
l’Ouest, a military line exploiting the mountain range which divides the
northern and western departments of Saint Dominigue, is under his command.
May 30, 1794: The British and their French colonial allies attack Port au
Prince. A thousand whites under Baron de Montalembert
come from the Grande Anse, twelve hundred
confederates come from Leogane under Hans de Jumecourt, and a fleet with fifteen hundred British
troops attacks by sea. Commissioners Sonthonax and Polverel retreat to Rigaud’s position in the south.
After their victory, the English ranks are decimated by an outbreak of yellow
fever, which kills seven hundred men during the next two months and leaves
many more incapacitated.
June, 1794: An offensive led by British Major Brisbane fails to break
Toussaint’s Cordon de l’Ouest. Toussaint tries unsuccessfully to capture
Brisbane through a ruse.
June 8, 1794: Robespierre leads a massive public Festival of Supreme Being.
June 9, 1794 Sonthonax and Polverel are served with a recall order from the
French Convention; they sail to France to face charges derived from the many
disasters which have taken place under their administration, including the
sack and burning of Le Cap. Before his departure, Sonthonax gives his
Commissioner’s medal to the maroon leader Dieudonne and invests him with his
June 10, 1794: The Law of 22 Prairial: conviction
without evidence for capital crimes is now allowed.
July 7, 1794: Jean-Francois, having lost various engagements with Toussaint’s
force on the eastern end of the Cordon de l’Ouest, falls back to Fort Dauphin
where he massacres a thousand recently returned French colonists, with the
apparent collusion of the Spanish garrison.
July, 1794: The Height of the Terror in
July 28, 1794: Robespierre is guillotined in Paris. The Committee on Public
Safety is disbanded, the National Convention dissolved, and a new
governmental body, The Directory, assumes leadership.
September 6, 1794: Toussaint’s assault on the British at Saint Marc
penetrates the town. He occupies Saint Marc for two days but is forced to
retreat by a naval cannonade.
October, 1794: Brisbane begins an offensive in the Artibonite Valley,
disputing the natural boundary of the Artibonite River with Toussaint,
supported by a Spanish offensive in the east. Toussaint uses guerilla tactics
against Brisbane, drives the Spanish auxiliaries from Saint Michel and Saint
Raphael, and razes those two towns.
October 5, 1794: Toussaint attacks Saint Marc again, capturing the outlying
Fort Belair, and establishing a battery on Morne Diamant above the town.
His fingers are crushed by falling cannon. The British drive him from his new
positions, and he retreats to Gonaives.
November, 1794: Many
of Toussaint’s junior officers (including Moyse, Dessalines, Christophe, and Maurepas) are formally promoted by Laveaux. Laveaux tours
the Cordon de l’Ouest and reports that fifteen thousand cultivators have
returned to work in this region under Toussaint’s control, and that many
white colonists have returned to their properties in safety.
December, 1794: Rigaud attacks the British at Port au Prince unsuccessfully,
but succeeds in holding Leogane, the first
important town to the south.
December 27, 1794: Toussaint leads five columns to engage Spanish auxiliaries
in the valley of Grande Riviere.
January, 1795: Toussaint drives Brisbane from the town
of Petite Riviere and leads a successful cavalry charge against British
artillery at Grande Saline. Mulatto officer Blanc Cassanave continues work on
fortifications begun by the British at La Crete a Pierrot,
a mountain above the town of Petite Riviere and the Artibonite River.
January 7, 1795: Toussaint reports to Laveaux the success of his operations
in the region of Grande Riviere. Most of the Spanish force has been expelled
from the northern territory.
February 6, 1795: Blanc Cassenave, arrested
by Toussaint for a mutinous conspiracy with Le Cap commandant Villate, dies
March, 1795 - Peace is concluded with Prussia and Spain, but war continues
with Great Britain and Austria.
March 2, 1795 Brisbane dies of a throat wound he suffered during an ambush.
Toussaint besieges Saint Marc once again.
March 25, 1795: Laveaux informs the French Convention that he has promoted
Toussaint colonel and commander of the Cordon de l’Ouest.
June, 1795: The Spanish try to purchase the loyalty of Toussaint’s troops at Dondon.
Jean-Francois writes a contemptuous rejection of Laveaux’s attempt to
convert him to Republican principles. Toussaint accuses Jean-Francois of
Joseph Flaville, in a rebellion against Toussaint supposedly
sponsored by Villate, is defeated by Toussaint at Marmelade.
July 23, 1795: The French Convention names Laveaux Governor-General.
Toussaint, Villate, Rigaud and Beauvais are promoted to the rank of brigadier
August 6, 1795: Toussaint reports to Laveaux that he has gained
control of the interior town of Mirebalais and captured neighboring Las Cahobas from the Spanish.
August 22, 1795: Constitution of the Year III. In Paris the new constitution
establishes the Directory as the national governing body. This body specifies
that the colonies are integral parts of the French Republic and to be
governed by the same laws.
August 31, 1795: Toussaint reports his defeat of a
British assault on Mirebalais by the white Creole Dessources.
September 14, 1795: Toussaint reports an alliance made with Mamzel, leader of the Docko
maroons, a large band in the Mirebalais area.
Later this month the British regain Mirebalais, defeating Toussaint’s brother
Paul L’Ouverture, who was left in charge of the town.
October 13, 1795: News of the Treaty of Basel reaches Saint Dominigue. By
this treaty Spain ceded its portion of the island to France, deferring
transfer “until the Republic should be in a position to defend its new
territory from attack.” Jean-Francois retires to Spain. Most of his troops
join Toussaint’s army.
October 25, 1795: In Paris, after a
lengthy trial, Sonthonax is formally cleared of all charges concerning his
conduct in Saint Dominigue.
January, 1796: Having moved the seat of government from
Port au Paix to Le Cap, Laveaux finds his
relationship with Villate deteriorating and begins to suspect the latter of
plotting for independence. The mulattos of the north are roused to further
insubordination by the activities of mulatto pamphleteer Pinchinat, sent to
Le Cap from the south by Rigaud.
February 12, 1796: Toussaint sends a delegation to Dieudonne with a letter
meant to persuade him to join the French Republican forces. Dieudonne is
overthrown by his subordinate Laplume who turns him
over to Rigaud as a prisoner. Laplume bring’s Dieudonne’s men to join
March 20, 1796: Villate attempts a coup against Laveaux who is imprisoned at
Le Cap. Officers loyal to Toussaint engineer his release.
March 27, 1796: Toussaint enters Le Cap with ten thousand men. Villate nad his remaining supporters flee the town.
March 31, 1796: Laveaux, describing Toussaint as the ‘Black Spartacus’
predicted by Raynal, installs him as
Lieutenant-Governor of Saint Dominigue. On the same day Dieudonne dies a
prisoner in Saint Louis de Sud, suffocating under
the weight of his chains.
May 11, 1796: Emissaries of the French Directory arrive in Le Cap: the Third
Commission, led by a politically rehabilitated Sonthonax and including the
colored commissioner Raimond and whites Roume, Giraud, and Leblanc. The new Commission brings
thirty thousand muskets to arm the colonial troops, but only nine hundred
European soldiers, under command of Generals Rochambeau and Desfourneaux.
May 19, 1796 The Third Commission proclaims the colonists absent from Saint
Dominique and residing elsewhere than France are to
be considered émigrés disloyal to the French Republic, their property subject
June 30, 1796: Sonthonax proclaims it a crime to publicly state that the
freedom of the blacks is not irrevocable or that one man can own another.
July 5, 1796: Toussaint’s elder sons, Placide and
Isaac L’Ouverture, embark for France on the French warship Wattigny.
July 18, 1796 Unable, for want of European troops, to take possession of the
Spanish part of the island, Rochambeau is stripped of his rank and deported
August 17, 1796 Toussaint writes to Laveaux concerning his wish that the
latter stand as a delegate to the French legislature, representing the
August 27, 1796 Emissaries sent by Sonthonax to Rigaud and other mulatto
leaders of the south create such ill will that a riot breaks out in Les Cayes, in which many whites are killed. Rigaud parades Sonthonax’s
proclamations through the streets of the town tied to the tail of a donkey.
September, 1796: Sonthonax and Laveaux are elected, among others, as
representatives from Saint Domingue to the French legislature.
October 6, 1796: Members of the Third Commission write to the Directory about
their concern over the single-minded personal loyalty shown by the black
troops, toward particular leaders, especially Toussaint.
October 14, 1796 With further encouragement from Toussaint, Laveaux departs
from Saint Domingue to assume his position in the French legislature.
January 15, 1797: Battle of Rivoli: Napoleon
defeats Austrian and Sardinian Armies in Northern Italy. Success in Italy
made Napoleon popular at home but also gave him an independent way to support
and enlarge his army.
March, 1797: In France royalists, reactionaries, and proslavery colonists
make significant gains in new elections.
April, 1797: Toussaint successfully recaptures Mirebalais and the surrounding
area and uses the region as the base of an offensive against the British in
Port au Prince. British General Simcoe defends the coast town successfully
and attacks Mirebalais in force. Toussaint burns Mirebalais and makes a rapid
drive toward Saint Marc, forcing Simcoe to retreat to defend the latter town.
This campaign is the last British challenge to Toussaint’s control of the
May 1, 1797: Sonthonax arrests General Desfourneaux,
leaving Toussaint as the highest ranking officer in the colony.
May 8, 1797: The newly elected French Legislature convenes, with the
proslavery colonial point of view energetically represented by Vaublanc.
August 20, 1797: Toussaint writes to Sonthonax urging him to assume his
elected post in the French legislature.
August 23, 1797: Sonthonax consents to depart, in his words “to avoid
September 4, 1797: The Coup of 18 Brumaire: In
response to the election of 1797, which brings royalist parties into power,
the Directory stages a coup supported by Napoleon. Royalist and colonial
elements are purged from the government; the Vaublanc
faction loses its influence. The Consulate comes to power.
October 21, 1797: Toussaint informs the French Directory that after
successful negotiations with Rigaud, the Southern Department has been reunited
with the rest of the colony.
March 27, 1798: General Hedouville,
the pacificator of the Vendee, arrives from France as agent of the French
Directory to Saint Domingue. His orders include the deportation of Rigaud. He
lands in Spanish Santo Domingo to confer with Roume,
a survivor of the Third Commission stationed in the Spanish town.
April 23, 1798: British General Maitland begins to negotiate with Toussaint
the terms for a British withdrawal.
May 2, 1798: A treaty is signed by Toussaint and Maitland. The British will
evacuate Port au Prince and their western posts in return for which Toussaint
promises amnesty to all their partisans, acondition
which violates the French law forbidding the return of émigrés.
May 8, 1798: Hedouville arrives in Le Cap and summon both Toussaint and
Rigaud to appear before him there.
May 15, 1798: Following the British evacuation, Toussaint and his army make a
triumphal entry into Port au Prince.
June, 1798: Following his first encounter with Hedouville, Toussaint
indignantly refuses to obey the order to arrest Rigaud.
July, 1798: During interviews with Toussaint and Rigaud at Le Cap, Hedouville
seeks to weaken the power of both generals by turning them against each
July 1: Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt begins.
July 24, 1798
Hedouville proclaims that plantation workers must contract
themselves for three-year periods, arousing suspicion that he plans to
August 31, 1798
Toussaint signs a secret agreement with Maitland stipulating
among other points that the British navy will leave the ports of Saint
Dominigue open to commercial shipping of all nations.
October 1, 1798 Mole
Saint Nicholas, the port of the northwest peninsula, is formally surrendered by
Maitland to Toussaint. Following the transfer, Toussaint dismisses a number
of his troops from the army and returns them to plantation work.
October 16, 1798
Instigated by Moyse and Toussaint,
the plantation workers of the north rise against Hedouville’s
supposed intention to restore slavery.
October 23, 1798
Under pressure from the rising in the north, Hedouville departs
from Saint Dominigue, leaving final instructions which release Rigaud from
Toussaint’s authority. Commissioner Raimond, previously
elected to the French legislature, accompanies Hedouvile
October 31, 1798
Toussaint invites Roume to return
from Spanish Santo Domingo to assume the duties of French agent in the
November 15, 1798: Toussaint announces the plantation work will henceforth be
enforced by the military.
February 4, 1799: Roume brings Toussaint and Rigaud
together at Port au Prince for a celebration of the abolition of slavery,
hoping for a reconciliation between them. But Rigaud
leaves the meeting in anger when asked to cede to Toussaint control of the
posts he’d won from the British in the Western Department (Grand et Petit Goave, Leogane)
February 21, 1799: In an address at the Port au Prince cathedral, Toussaint
protests the insubordination of Rigaud and warns the mulatto community
June 15, 1799: Rigaud makes public Hedouville’s
letter releasing him from obedience to Toussaint,
June 18, 1799: Rigaud opens rebellion against Toussaint; his troops seize
Petit and Grand Goave, driving LaPlume
back from the area.
In the following days, the mulatto commanders at Leogane,
Petion and Boyer, defect to Rigaud’s
party. Mulatto rebellions break out at Le Cap, Mile, and in the Artibonite.
Toussaint rides rapidly from point to point to suppress them, placing Moyse and Dessalines in command at Leogane
and Christophe in charge at Le Cap. At Pont d’Ester
members of his entourage are killed in a night ambush.
July 8, 1799: Toussaint dispatches an army of forty five thousand men to the
south to combat Rigaud and his supporters.
July 25, 1799: Toussaint breaks the siege of Port de Paix
where his officer Maurepas was under attack from
August 4, 1799: Fifty conspirators at Le Cap are executed after a failure to
take over the town for the Rigaudins.
August 31: In the midst of suppressing the rebellion on the northwest
peninsula, Toussaint narrowly escapes assassination near Jean Rabel. Returning in the direction of Port au Prince, he
is ambushed, again unsuccessfully, at Sources Puantes.
September 23, 1799: Beauvais, mulatto commander at Jacmel
who had attempted to maintain neutrality in the Toussaint-Rigaud conflict,
sails for Saint Thomas with his family.
November, 1799: Dessalines’ offensive retakes Petit and Grand Goave from Rigaud.
November 9, 1799: In France, Napoleon Bonaparte
assumes power as First Consul of the French Republic.
November 22, 1799: Jacmel,
key to the defense of the southern peninsula, is besieged by Toussaint’s
December 24, 1799: Constitution
of the Year VIII adopted in France making Napoleon the supreme ruler
Napoleon the ruler. It was approved by plebiscite (3,011,077 to 1,567). The new constitution states that the
colonies will be governed by ‘special laws.’
January 18, 1800: Toussaint requests Roume’s
permission to occupy Spanish Santo Domingo according to the terms of the
Treaty of Basel, citing the urgency of stopping the slave trade which
continued to some extent on Spanish territory. Roume
denies the request.
January 19, 1800: Petion assumes command of Jacmel, entering the besieged town by stealth.
March 1, 1800: Petion evacuates the women of Jacmel.
March 11: Petion leads the survivors of the siege
on a desperate sortie from Jacmel and manages to
rejoin Rigaud with the shreds of his force, abandoning Jacmel
to Toussaint. Rigaud retreats on to the Grand Anse,
leaving scorched earth behind him.
April 27, 1800: Under pressure from Toussaint, Roume
signs an order to take possession of the Spanish side of the island.
May 22, 1800: Age, a white general loyal to Toussaint, arrives in Santo
Domingo with a symbolic force and is resisted by the population.
June, 1800: A new group of emissaries from the French Consulate debarks in
Santo Domingo, including General Michel, Raimond
and Colonel Vincent (the latter a white officer close to Toussaint.) Their
instructions are to keep the two halves of the island separate and to bring
the black/mulatto war to a close- while at ths same
time conciliating Toussaint. Both Michel and Vincent are arrested briefly by Toussaint’s
troops on their way into the French part of the island.
June 14, 1800: Napoleon defeats the Austrians
at the Battle of Marengo. (By 1806 he will control all of Europe.)
June 16, 1800: Roume rescinds his order of April
27, 1800 in the face of Age’s failure.
June 24, 1800: Colonel Vincent meets with Toussaint for the first time since
his arrival and informs him of the Consulate’s intention to maintain him as
Commander in Chief.
July 7, 1800: Rigaud is decisively defeated in by Dessalines at Aquin—last of a series of lost battles.
August 1, 1800: Toussaint enters Les Cayes, Rigaud’s hometown and the last center of mulatto
resistance. Rigaud flees to France by way of Guadeloupe. Toussaint proclaims
a general amnesty for the mulatto combatants, but Dessalines, left in charge
of the south, conducts extremely severe reprisals.
October 12, 1800: Toussaint proclaims forced labor on the plantations, to be
enforced by two captain-generals: Dessalines in the south and west and Moyse in the north.
November 4, 1800: French Minister of Marine Forfait
instructs Toussaint not to take possession of the Spanish portion of the
November 26, 1800: Roume, blamed by Toussaint for
Age’s failed expedition to Santo Domingo, is arrested by Moyse
and imprisoned at Dondon.
January, 1801: Toussaint sends two columns into Spanish Santo Domingo, one
from Ouanaminthe under the command of Moyse and the other from Mirebalais under his own
January 28, 1801: Toussaint enters Santo Domingo City, accepts the Spanish
capitulation from Don Garcia and proclaims the abolition of slavery.
February 4, 1801: Toussaint organizes an assembly to create a constitution
for Saint Dominigue.
July 3, 1801: Toussaint proclaims a new constitution, whose terms make him
governor for life.
July 16, 1801: Toussaint dispatches a reluctant Colonel Vincent to present
his constitution to Napoleon Bonaparte and the Consulate in Paris.
October 1, 1801: The Peace of Amiens ends the war between England and France.
Napoleon begins to prepare an expedition, led by his brother in law General Leclerc, to restore white power in Saint Dominique.
October 16, 1801: An insurrection against Toussaint’s forced labor policy
begins on the northern plain and in the coming weeks is suppressed with
extreme severity by Toussaint and Dessalines.
November 24, 1801: Moyse is executed at Port de Paix.
November 25, 1801: Toussaint proclaims a military dictatorship.
February, 1802: Leclerc’s invasion begins with a strength of approximately seventeen thousand troops.
Toussaint, with approximately twenty thousand men under his command, orders
the balck generals to raze the coast towns and
retreat into the interior, but because of either disloyalty or poor
communications the order is not universally followed. Black General
Christophe burns Le Cap to ashes for the second time in ten years, but the
French occupy Port au Prince before Dessalines can destroy it.
In late February and March, the French forces pursuing Toussaint
fight a number of drawn battles in the interior of the island, with heavy
casualties on both sides.
April 1, 1802: Leclerc writes to Napoleon that he
has seven thousand active men and five thousand in the hospital—meaning that
another five thousand are dead. Leclerc also has
seven thousand ‘colonial troops’ of variable reliability, mulattos but also a
lot of black soldiery brought over by turncoat leaders.
April 2, 1802: Leclerc subdues the northern plain
and enters Le Cap.
Early this month the black General Christophe goes over to the French
with twelve hundred troops, on a promise of retaining his rank in French
service. But Toussaint still holds the northern mountains with four thousand
regular troops and a great number of irregulars. Leclerc
writes to the Minister of Marine that he needs twenty-five thousand European
troops to secure the island—that is reinforcements of fourteen thousand.
May 1: Toussaint and Dessalines surrender on similar terms as Christophe. Leclerc’s position is still too weak for him to obey
Napoleon’s order to arrest and deport the black leaders immediately. While
Toussaint retires to Gonaives, with his two thousand life guards converting
themselves to cultivators there, Dessalines remains on active duty. Leclerc frets that their submission may be feigned.
May, 1802: A severe yellow fever outbreak begins in Port au Prince and Le Cap
in the middle of the month, causing many deaths among the French troops.
June, 1802: By the first week of this month, Leclerc
has lost a thousand men to fever. Both Le Cap and Port au Prince are plague
zones, with corpses laid out in the barrack yards to be carried to lime pits
outside the town.
June 6, 1802: Leclerc notifies Napoleon that he has
ordered Toussaint’s arrest. Lured away from Gonaives to a meeting with
General Brunet, Toussaint is made prisoner.
June 15, 1802: Toussaint with his family is deported for France aboard the
ship Les Heros.
June 11, 1802: Leclerc writes to the Minister of
Marine that he suspects his army will die out from under him—citing his own
illness (he had overcome a bout of malaria after his arrival), he asks for a
recall. This letter also contains the recommendation that Toussaint be
imprisoned in the heart of inland France.
In the third week of June Leclerc begins the tricky
project of disarming the cultivators—under authority of the balck generals who have submitted to him.
June 22, 1802: Toussaint writes a letter pf protest
to Napoleon from his ship, which is now docked in Brest.
July 6, 1802: Leclerc writes to the Minister of
Marine that he is losing one hundred sixty men per day. However, this same
report states that he is effectively destroying the influence of the black
News of the restoration of slavery in Gauadeloupe
arrives in Saint Dominigue in the last days of the month. The north rises
instantly, the west shortly afterward, and black soldiers begin to desert
August 6, 1802: Leclerc reports the continued
prevalence of yellow fever, the failure to complete the disarmament, and th growth of the rebellion. The major black generals have
stayed in camp, but the prtty officers are
deserting in droves and taking their troops with them.
August 24, 1802: Toussaint is imprisoned in Fort de Joux
in France near the Swiss border.
August 25, 1802: Leclerc writes, “To have been rid
of Toussaint is not enough; there are tow thousand
more leaders to get rid of as well.”
August/September, 1802: In his cell at Fort de Joux,
Toussaint composes a report of his conduct during Leclerc’s
invasion, intending to justify himself to the First Consul, Napoleon.
September 13, 1802: The expected abatement of yellow fever at the approach of
the autumn equinox fails to occur. The reinforcements arriving die as fast as
they are put into the country, and LEclerc has to
deploy tham as soon as they get off the boat. Leclerc asks for ten thousand men to be immediately sent.
He is losing territory in the interior and his black generals are beginning
to waver, though he is still confident of his ability to manipulate them.
As of this date, a total of twenty-eight thousand men have beed sent from France, and Leclerc
estimates that ten thousand are still alive, but only forty-five hundred are
fit for duty. Five thousand sailors have also died, bringing the total loss
to twenty-nine thousand.
September 15, 1802: General Caffarelli, agent of
Napoleon, arrives at Fort de Joux for the first of
seven interrogations of Toussaint.
October 7, 1802: Leclerc: “We must destroy all the
mountain Negroes, men and women, sparing only children under the age of
twelve. We must destroy half the Negroes of the plains, and not allow in the
colony a single man who has worn an epaulette. Without these measures the
colony will never be at peace…”
October 10, 1802: Mulatto General Clervaux revolts, with all
his troops, upon the news of Napoleon’s restoration of the mulatto
discriminations of the ancient regime. Le Cap has been garrisoned by
October 13, 1802: Christophe and the other black generals in the north join Clervaux’s rebellion. On the news Dessalines raises the
revolt in the west.
November 2: Leclerc dies of yellow fever. Command
is assumed by Rochambeau.
By the end of the month the fever finally beings to abate, and
acclimated survivors, now immune, begin to return to service. IN France,
Napoleon has outfitted ten thousand reinforcements.
March, 1803: At the beginning of the month, Rochambeau has eleven thousand
troops and only four thousand in hospital, indicating that the worst of the
disease threat has passed. He is ready to conduct a war of extermination
against the blacks and brings man-eating dogs from Cuba to replace his lost
soldiery. He makes slow headway against Dessalines in March and April while
Napoleon plans to send thirty thousand reinforcements in two installments in
the coming year.
April 7, 1803: Toussaint L’Ouverture dies a prisoner in Fort de Joux.
May 12, 1803: New declaration of war between England and France.
June, 1803: By month’s end, Saint Dominigue is completely blockaded by the
English. With Englsih aid, Dessalines smashes into
October, 1803: Early in the month Les Cayes
falls to the blacks. At month’s end, so does Port au Prince.
November 10, 1803: Rochambeau flees Le Cap and surrenders to the English
November 28, 1803 The French are forced to evacuate their last garrison at Le
Mole. Dessalines promises protection to all whites who choose to remain,
following Toussaint’s earlier policy. During the first year of his rule he
will continue encouraging white planters to return and manage their property
and many who trusted Toussaint do so.
December 31, 1803: Haiti declares its independence.
January 1, 1804: Dessalines, having overcome all rivals, crowns himself
emperor. A term of his constitution defines all citizens of Haiti as neg (black) and
all noncitizens of Haiti as blanc (white) regardless of skin color in both cases.
December 2, 1804: Napoleon crowns himself
January, 1805: Dessalines begins the massacre of all the whites (according to
the redefinition in the Constitution of 1804) remaining in Haiti.