L'ouverture Promulgates the Haitian Constitution of 1801
The great hero of the Haitian Revolution and a man considered one of the great revolutionaries and generals in his own time throughout America and Europe, was François Dominique Toussaint L'Ouverture.
This man, whom all his European contemporaries compared to George Washington and later to Napolean Bonaparte, was not even part of the original revolution. When the war of independence broke out in August, Toussaint was fifty years old. Having spent his life in slavery, he was entering old age as a carriage driver. Like so many other slaves, though, the revolution fired his passion and he discovered within himself a greatness that fired the imagination of both his contemporaries and distant Europeans.
In 1801, L'Ouverture issued a constitution for Saint-Domingue which provided for autonomy and decreed that he would be governor-for-life. In retaliation, Napoleon Bonaparte dispatched a large expeditionary force of French soldiers and warships to the island, led by Bonaparte's brother-in-law Charles Leclerc, to restore French rule, and under secret instructions to later restore slavery. The numerous French soldiers were accompanied by mulatto troops led by Alexandre Pétion and André Rigaud, mulatto leaders who had been defeated by Toussaint three years earlier. During the struggles, some of Toussaint's closest allies, including Jean-Jacques Dessalines, defected to Leclerc.
L'Ouverture was promised his freedom, if he agreed to integrate his remaining troops into the French Army. L'Ouverture agreed to this in May 1802 but was later deceived, seized, and shipped off to France. He died months later while imprisoned at Fort-de-Joux in the Jura region.