Scars and Stripes: A Fictional Representation of the Haitian Revolution

Scars and Stripes: A Fictional Representation of the Haitian Revolution

“Forever will the citizens of Haiti remember the name – Touissant L’Ouverture. We will someday chant his name through these streets, in this colony, for he is our savior that led the cause to revolution. Long live Haiti! For it is my duty to take the reigns into battle, and fight in the legacy of this man who was devoted to Haitian independence!”

Part I: The Revelation and the Order

Ten years before these valiant words echoed across all of Haiti, Pierre was tending to the sugarcane on the farm, the heat piercing through his dark skin and weakening him by the second. The scar on his neck, obtained from the Middle Passage, was sweltering and swollen from the heat.[1] Pierre was just like any other slave in Haiti. Africa was his
homeland, but Haiti was the prison he was forced to live in. This was his home now,

Picture1
This map shows the route of the Middle Passage from Africa to different parts of the globe.

and fearing the consequences of a failed insurrection, Pierre was reluctant to join an uprising[2]  Slavery was his brotherhood. He loved his fellow slaves, but despised the     system. However, Pierre felt the closest relationship with a slave named Toussaint L’Ouverture. Toussaint was a noble man. Known throughout Saint-Domingue for his charisma and courage.

Dropping to the ground clutching his burning neck, Pierre, devastated by constant fear and humility, contemplated his journey through life. He had heard his friends mention arguments on equality which had arisen from the Declaration of the Rights of Man as Citizen in 1789.[3] He questioned these very notions himself.  After moments of deliberation, Toussaint ran over to his friend to help him to his feet.

“Thank you, my brother. You know, I have been thinking. Why has the white man always been the predominant ruler of society?[4] Why has he hunted us like animals, chained us like criminals, and shipped us like cargo for doing absolutely nothing to obstruct their daily lives? The Declaration is so intriguing to me for this point.” Pierre asked Toussaint through heavy breaths and scarred eyes.

“I don’t know my friend. I don’t know” replied Toussaint.

Three months later, Pierre was repeating his daily experience, his head pounding because of the heat and the scar on his neck burning with pain. He heard rumors of a noble Frenchman that wanted to abolish slavery.  That night, while looking for his friend Toussaint to ask him about the situation, he noticed all the slaves were in a joyous, celebratory mood. He turned to old man Garrett and asked “Have you seen Toussaint?” Old man Garrett replied with coyness and eagerness “My Pierre haven’t you heard? That ole Frenchman Sonthonax passed a decree to free the slaves! He wants as many as he can to fight with him against those English, but with my old age, I figured I’d be no use in battle.”[5]

Wondering why Toussaint did not awake Pierre from his slumber and tell him this great news, Pierre responded “Well where is he Garrett?”

“Toussaint took the calling, and is now a soldier for the French Army” said Garrett. “He had to le

Picture2
Toussaint L’Ouverture was the man who led the rebel cause and was devoted to Haitian independence. 

l do my best to keep in touchave immediately, and regrets not seeing you. He did leave a letter though, I will take you to it.”

Old man Garrett led Pierre through the field, the now free field, for this was now free land for a free black. Pierre suddenly felt a sense of rejuvenation. He was now free. All his life he was inferior to the abominable white man. He was taken from his homeland, imprisoned on this island, and beat and whipped solely for being a black man. What was once injustice and authoritarianism has shifted into freedom and opportunity. Now on the other side of the field, Garrett showed Pierre the letter.

My friend Pierre,

I regret leaving you so suddenly, however, I see an opportunity for Saint-Domingue and our black race to prosper, and I seek to achieve high prosperity and nobility for our people. This is my, our, opportunity to succeed. I do not hate the Frenchman; I just hope to expose their injustices toward our people. I sure hope you understand my leaving so suddenly. I wil

Your Dear Friend,

Toussaint L’Ouverture

 

Part Two: A Compromising Deception

10 years have passed since Toussaint joined the French cause against the British. He was able to rise through the military ranks, and gain the respect of French generals. The high-water mark of his military career came when he was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Saint-Domingue in 1796.[6]  He persevered through racism, rumors of slavery returning to Saint-Domingue, and some bad relationships. It was not the same for Pierre. He was hired as a “cultivator” back in Saint-Domingue.[7] Pierre was not subject to the same slavery torment he experienced earlier in his life. Militarily, Toussaint felt comfortable with his role in the French Army. Then a man named Gabriel Sacha[8] took the reigns in France.

Charles Jacques[9] and Mason Livoux[10] were talking privately with Gabriel Sacha.

Sacha, with a sense of worry in his eyes, tells the men, “Gentlemen, ever since the abolition of slavery in Saint-Domingue, agricultural production from this French territory has decreased. In addition, I fear that the Lieutenant Governor of this place, Toussaint L’Ouverture, will seek independence and be a threat to French safety and security.”[11]

“What is the plan you have in mind to extinguish this threat in our land” says Charles Jacques.

Picture3
Napoleon Bonaparte (known in the story as Gabriel Sacha) was the emperor and military leader in France during the Haitian Revolution.

Sacha replied “Gentlemen, it is now necessary to implement slavery back into Saint-Domingue and all of Haiti. The only person standing in our way is L’Ouverture, who, being a former black slave, will be reluctant to oblige to these demands.” Sacha continued, now facing Jacques “Charles, I want you to travel to Saint-Domingue. We need to do anything in our power to institute slavery again. If this means we have to capture and imprison L’Ouverture, then we will perform this duty in the name of France to return our homeland to absolute domination and superiority!”

Charles Jacques and Mason Livoux arrived in Haiti seeking utter domination and revival of old French ways. They intended to march into places occupied by L’Ouverture’s rebels in order to meet with the esteemed general. Thinking they could gather support from the locals because of L’Ouverture’s authoritarian policies, Sacha decided this was a necessary risk.

L’Ouverture was meeting with General Carbonneau[12] when he tells him “for the well-being of Haiti and for the African American race, I will meet peacefully with General Henry[13] to talk about the future of the Haitian state. I have received compromising letters from General Jacques and will submit to his desires of a peaceful meeting. I hope we can see eye to eye in bringing the matter to the attention of all.”

Days later, in the hopes of a peaceful meeting, something extraordinary happened to Toussaint L’Ouverture. His two children, who have been held as captives in France, were returned to him. Exhilarated and excited that the French government performed such duties, this was a significant reason as to why he was willing to compromise with the French.[14]

However, not knowing, L’Ouverture, the man who strived to achieve prosperity for all of Haiti, succumbed to deception and humility by the French government.

Part 3: Capture, Humility, and Heroism

“My beautiful wife, I am now going to meet with an aide of General Jacques, who will then take me to General Jacques for compromise” said Toussaint to his wife.

“Toussaint, you know I stay in all the time, so I will not accompany you on this journey”[15]

“Very well, I hope to be back shortly with great news about the future of our Homeland.”

Toussaint, with the accompaniment of two of his soldiers, set out for the peaceful meeting with Jacques. Confident that a nonviolent meeting would persist, Toussaint was hopeful for the future of Haiti. Toussaint arrived at the general’s house and was welcomed in. He handed Jacques the letter he received about a peaceful compromise. Jacques turned to Toussaint and said “Lieutenant Governor, I have never been made aware of this peaceful compromise, and, quite frankly, do not really care for it”

At this moment, a few of Jacques’ guards grabbed and detained Toussaint. Confused and humiliated, Toussaint screams “What is going on, sir? I have come for a peaceful meeting in which YOUR army said was possible! They said they would protect me from harm!”[16]

“Take him to the ship”[17] General Jacques told his guards.

Picture 5
Charles Leclerc (known in the story as Charles Jacques) was sent to Haiti by Napoleon Bonaparte to try to restore slavery.

Gabriel Sacha and the French Army used vile, crude deception to attempt to institute slavery back into Saint-Domingue. Approximately a month after imprisoning Toussaint, the French military decided to ransack cities and execute the people that were against French imperial rule. Some of these people happened to be cultivators.[18]

“Gentleman, some of these cultivators in our French colony refuse to be loyal to imperial France! All who are disloyal, we execute!” Charles Jacques said to his fellow French soldiers.

Minutes later, old man Garrett and Pierre, who have been cultivators for about 8 years now, see a mob of Frenchman ransacking nearby towns. Smoke rising, screams heard, families separated, Garrett and Pierre are now fearing the worst. They are loyal to L’Ouverture’s cause, and ever since his imprisonment, they were worried something like this would happen.

“Garrett look!” cried Pierre to his old friend as they see a mob of French closing in on their land. “Run!!!” Pleaded Pierre.

Pierre took off toward the woods, but with many people going for the woods, he now decided a different route. He ran over toward a burning house, picked up a twig, and lightly pokes the scar on his neck. A little blood poured out, and Pierre rubbed it around his neck and other parts of body. As a French soldier was scouting the land for survivors he could execute, he stops at Pierre’s motionless body. Pierre’s heart was beating so fast he thought the soldier could hear it. For what seemed like an eternity, the soldier stands over Pierre’s body, intently studying it. Finally, Pierre hears the soldiers footsteps walk past him, and into the woods behind him. Pierre takes off, heading into the direction of General Carbonneau, who was L’Ouverture’s replacement.

Shortly after invasion of Haiti and some vile acts toward villages, Charles Jacques wrote the following letter to Gabriel Sacha:

My friend Gabriel,

I am in a depressed state of mind. This place is not the same luxury as my homeland in France. All I have experienced and seen has been death and destruction. I’d rather see luxury than death. I also heard that my wife, my once dearest wife, is engaged in an affair with a friend of mine. However, I am your soldier, and I will do anything to make Haiti this place of luxury again.[19]

Your royal friend,

Charles Jacques

Old man Garrett was not as lucky as Pierre. His old age hindered his ability to escape, and he was captured rather easily. While being chained and bound as a prisoner along with many other Haitian rebels, Garrett cries out to a soldier “why do you wish to perform such atrocious acts to such innocent people? It is not our fault for this conflict, so why do you persecute us?”

The soldier replied “We act in the name of revenge. You rebelled against imperial rule, and for that, you are subject to detainment.”[20] The soldier pushed Garrett onto the crowded ship, where he awaited further persecution.

The journey on the ship was abysmal. Parents were screaming for their children, children for their parents, and shrieks and yells and cries of pain were heard above everything. Suddenly, the boat dropped anchor in the middle of the ocean. Garrett feared the worst.

Picture 4
This photo depicts a mass drowning committed by Leclerc (Charles Jacques).

“Stand up and line up!” commanded one of the French Cover ImageGenerals.

Garrett proceeded to stand, and was placed toward the front of the line. Garrett watched helplessly as hundreds of Haitian rebels were submersed in the water, gasping for air, calling out for their loved ones. He watched one by one as their bodies slowly sunk into the abyss of the deep ocean. Finally, Garrett was in the front of the line, staring down at death. Just before he is about to be pushed in, Garrett cries out “Long live Haiti. And God Bless us Rebels!”

Garrett joined his fellow comrades into the abyss of death.

Pierre made it to the rebel lines. Knowing the fate of old man Garrett and his friends, he vowed to serve valiantly under the new General Carbonneau.

Throughout the year and into 1803, Pierre has quickly worked his way up through the military rankings, much like his long-lost friend L’Ouverture. With Haiti now seeking independence, he was in charge of commanding an invasion of a French port. Just before he went into the battle, he heard the news that Toussaint, his dear and loving friend who fought bravely for his country, has died in prison. Pierre fought in the name of Toussaint. He went into battle with a ferocious attitude and intimidating demeanor. On the brink of war, he gave the following speech:

“Gentleman, Haitian independence is near. We need some motivation to push us through these final months. We can hold off the French, for they are weakening by the second. Perhaps I am to inform you that dear L’Ouverture has died. He was a good man. We fight in the name of him. Forever will the citizens of Haiti remember the name – Toussaint L’Ouverture. We will someday chant his name through these streets, in this colony, for he is our servant that led the cause to revolution. Long live Haiti! For it is my duty to take the reigns into battle, and fight in the legacy of this man, who was devoted to Haitian independence! It is now time gentleman. Godspeed!”

Pierre was determined. L’Ouverture his motivation. Now engaged in battle with the French, flashes of his friend Toussaint traveled through his mind. The scar on his neck was burning more than ever. Suddenly, a sword pierces his back. Falling to the ground, his men seize him and carry him away from the lines. He says to them through slow, soft gasps, “men, do not try to save me. I want to see my friend again. I am confident that the future of Haiti is in good hands. We will have independence. Goodbye my friends, I love all of you”

Pierre’s body lay to rest with a scar on his neck and a whole in his chest.

 

[1] The Middle Passage was the route in which slaves were transported from Africa to another country, typically across the Atlantic Ocean. The Middle Passage was known all the way up to the end of the 18th century. The ships that traveled across the Middle Passage were disease-ridden, and many slaves perished long before arrival in the new colonies. [Dubois, Laurent, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2004), 39-45.]

[2] Because of the realization that slavery was unjust through Enlightenment principles, numerous slaves in Haiti joined rebellions long before the Haitian Revolution. However, the punishment by slave owners for those slaves who were captured upon insurrection were severe, and even included death. The most famous slave insurrection in Haiti before the revolution was the burning of the city of Le Pac in 1791. (Dubois, Avengers of the New World, 91-100.)

[3] The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen was published by France in 1789. From approximately 1770-1840, people had different ways of expressing thought. These ideas spread from the elite class of citizens all the way down to the slaves, who used it for political reasons in attempts to gain freedom. The ideas stemming from the document were often passed through slaves by word of mouth. (Dubois, Avengers of the New World, 3.)

[4] Questions like this were expressed in different ways in the late 18th century, and they also stemmed from the Declaration of the Rights of Man as Citizen. Slaves preached these concepts to other slaves in order to gather support and actually make a relevant case. This specific idea arose from a pamphlet published by Julien Raimond in 1791. (Dubois, Avengers of the New World, 60.)

[5] Léger Félicité Sonthonax was a Frenchman committed to the abolition of slavery. He made Toussaint L’Ouverture the lieutenant governor of Saint-Domingue and was a fervent supporter of equal rights for slaves. [Knight, Franklin W., “The Haitian Revolution,” The American Historical Review 105.1 (2000): 103-114.]

[6] Because of a successful military career up until 1796, L’Ouverture was appointed Governor of Saint-Domingue in 1796 by Sonthonax. This was kept under the radar until 1798 when it became more public. [Pierrot, Gregory, “‘Our Hero’: Toussaint Louverture in British Representations,” Criticisms 50.4 (2008): 581-607.]

[7] The cultivator system was an alternative form of slavery formed by Toussaint L’Ouverture once he was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Saint-Domingue. L’Ouverture employed this system as a means of gaining economic prosperity and also as a sign of respect toward the French government. However, the system was known to be strict and vile as well. [Girard, Philippe R, “Napoleon Bonaparte and the Emancipation Issue of Saint-Domingue, 1799-1803,” French Historical Studies 52.4 (2009): 588-618.]

[8] Gabriel Sacha is the fictional representation of Napoleon Bonaparte.

[9] Charles Jacques is the fictional representation of Charles Leclerc.

[10] Mason Livoux is the fictional representation of Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau.

[11]Because slavery was abolished, it reasonable to understand why agricultural production decreased for the French. This is in part why the cultivator system was created; to restore France of its financial deficit caused by the abolishment of slavery. (Girard, “Napoleon Bonaparte,” 590.)

[12] General Carbonneau is the fictional representation of Jean-Jacques Dessalines.

[13] General Henry is the fictional representation of Jean-Baptiste Brunet.

[14] Toussaint L’Ouverture was shocked and exhilarated by the return of his children from France. Scholars argue that they were released in a deception tactic to get L’Ouverture to trust French officials when they were trying to re-implement slavery. His children often acted as runners between him and other officials. (Toussaint L’Ouverture, Memoir. . . Written by Himself, 1802, global.oup.com/us/companion.websites/9780195375701/pdf/SPD1_Haitian_Revolution.pdf.)

[15] Because of the roles of women at the time and for her general protection, Suzanne L’Ouverture, rarely left the home. General Brunet asked to also see Suzanne when Toussaint was coming to visit him, but Toussaint pleasantly refused the offer. (L’Ouverture, Memoir, 1802.)

[16] This is an actual account of what happened to L’Ouverture. He was deceived by the French without even knowing it. (L’Ouverture, Memoir, 1802.)

[17] The ship that L’Ouverture was placed on was called Créole.

[18] In order to follow the commands of Napoleon Bonaparte to institute slavery back into Haiti, Leclerc and Rochambeau were sent to Haiti to violently ransack cities, capture cultivators and former slaves, and fight the Haitian rebels. [Girard, Philippe R, “French atrocities during the Haitian War of Independence,” Journal of Genocidal Research 15.2 (2013): 133-149.]

[19] Scholars argue that it was this state of mind that forced Charles Leclerc to act in such a violent, grotesque manner. (Girard, French atrocities, 139.)

[20] Revenge was the justification for execution. The French believed that the people of Haiti were supposed to be loyal to the French hierarchy, and since they were rebelling against, the French acted with a vengeance. (Girard, French atrocities, 137.)

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