Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Pierre-Dominique Toussaint Louverture

Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition
Pierre-Dominique Toussaint Louverture

From volume XXIII of the work.
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TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE, Pierre-Dominique (1746–1803), one of the liberators of Hayti, claimed to be descended from an African chief, his father, a slave in Hayti, being the chief’s second son. He was born 20th May 1746 at Breda, and was at first surnamed Breda, which was changed to Louverture in token of the results of his valour in causing a gap in the ranks of the enemy. From childhood he manifested unusual abilities, and succeeded, by making the utmost use of every opportunity, in obtaining a remarkably good education. He obtained the special confidence of his master, and was made superintendent of the other negroes on the plantation. After the insurrection of 1791 he joined the insurgents, and, having acquired some knowledge of surgery and medicine, acted as physician to the forces. His rapid rise in influence aroused, however, the jealousy of Jean François, who caused his arrest on the ground of his partiality to the whites. He was liberated by the rival insurgent chief Baisson, and a partisan war ensued, but after the death of Baisson he placed himself under the orders of Jean François. Subsequently he joined the Spaniards, but, when the French Government ratified the Act declaring the freedom of the slaves, he came to the aid of the French. In 1796 he was named commander-in-chief of the armies of St Domingo, but, having raised and disciplined a powerful army of blacks, he made himself master of the whole country, renounced the authority of France, and announced himself “the Buonaparte of St Domingo.” For further details of his career see Hayti (vol. xi. p. 545). He was taken prisoner by treachery on the part of France, and died in the prison of Joux, near Besançon, 27th April 1803.