- "In overthrowing me you have cut down in Saint-Domingue only the trunk of the tree of liberty; it will spring up again from the roots, for they are many and they are deep."
- ―Louverture after having surrendered to the French, 1803.[src]
François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture (1743 – 1803), formerly known as Toussaint Bréda, was the leader of the Haitian Revolution against the French colonists, and a member of the Saint-Domingue Brotherhood of Assassins.
- "I have brought this man into my Brotherhood. I see in him a raw talent for military tactics, which I can help augment. More importantly, he has a natural skillset for politics, which is something that I lack. And something that I think will be sorely needed if we are to be successful."
- ―Eseosa, on his recruitment of Toussaint.[src]
Born in 1743 to slaves from Dahomey, Toussaint Bréda was educated by his godfather and Jesuit priests, learning several languages and customs of both the French and the local Creole people. His knowledge of military tactics and politics caught the attention of the Assassin Eseosa, who recruited him into the Brotherhood.
In 1776, Eseosa secured Bréda's freedom, who continued to work on the Bréda plantation, although as a salaried employee. At the same time, and under Eseosa's direction, Toussaint began to purchase land near the plantation to be used as the base of operations for the Haitian Assassins in the coming years.
- "I want Liberty and Equality to reign in Saint-Domingue."
- ―Toussaint's declaration at Camp Turel, 1793.[src]
While Bréda stayed at his new plantation when the revolution first broke out in 1791, he soon joined his fellow Assassin Georges Biassou deep in the island's mountains, where he was appointed médecin-général and took command of the troops. He soon attempted to broker a peace between the revolutionaries and the French governor, but the negotiations went poorly, although the French emissaries did notice Bréda's mercy toward the white prisoners his men had captured. Meanwhile, his fellow commander, Jeannot Bullet, took a much different stance, launching vicious attacks on the island's whites and mulattoes, sickening both Bréda and Eseosa.
By 1793, the revolution had evolved into a full-scale war. Bréda's role became much more prominent, as he began to develop an autonomy from Biassou, the rebels' commander-in-chief, and had soldiers that answered only to him. As the war went on, Bréda fought and won a number of battles, becoming a hero to the slaves and notorious among the French. As news of impending emancipation grew, Toussaint took on a new name, "Louverture", a symbolic gesture that associated him even closer with the revolution.
In 1794, the French finally granted freedom to all slaves in its Empire and holdings, prompting Louverture to forego his alliance with the Spanish in exchange for one with the French. Becoming a French commander, Louverture soon defended the island from the invading British, who attempted to take Haiti. Eventually, Toussaint began to establish his own government and laws, operating alongside the one put in place by the French, which roused the alarm of the French mainland, itself rocked by a revolution of its own.
Governor of Haiti
- "I wonder if Toussaint is getting too sneaky for his own good. But he is a good man and I have faith in him."
- ―Eseosa, regarding Louverture's political maneuvers, 1801.[src]
While his fellow commanders Jean-François Papillon and Georges Biassou allied themselves with the Spanish, cutting off ties with Louverture and Eseosa, the two remaining Assassins fought to oust the Templar Jean-Louis Villatte from the island after he had attempted to name himself governor. With Papillon and Biassou gone, and with no governor present, Louverture became the supreme and absolute ruler of Saint-Domingue. He began taking secret steps toward the colony's independence from France, while still declaring loyalty to the Empire.
Meanwhile, Napoleon Bonaparte came to power in France, and although he maintained abolition, he warned Louverture not to overstep his bounds. Louverture ignored the Emperor's words and proceeded to conquer the neighboring Spanish colony of Santo Domingo, freeing its slaves. While Eseosa maintained faith in his friend, he began to worry that Louverture was becoming "too sneaky for his own good".
In 1800, Louverture crafted a constitution for the island, naming himself governor for life. This finally earned Bonaparte's disapproval, as it had circumvented his own powers as Emperor. The following year, he sent his brother-in-law, Charles Leclerc, to Hispaniola to remove Louverture from power. By May of 1802, the Frenchman was able to disarm the island's army and secure the surrender of its leaders, including Louverture.
Downfall and death
- "I could not free him. I wonder if he would have wanted me to."
- ―Eseosa, regarding Louverture's surrender, 1803.[src]
After a year of struggle against Leclerc, Louverture negotiated a treaty with the French, allowing himself to be arrested and sent to France, where he was imprisoned. Although Eseosa reached out to the French Assassins for any word of his well-being, he received no reply.
Eventually, the slaves of Hispaniola rose up once again, beginning another revolution; it ended when one of Louverture's former lieutenants, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, attacked and overwhelmed the French forces at Vertieres, forcing the French off of the island. Dessalines declared Saint-Dominque a free republic on 1 January 1804. Having witnessed the cruelty committed by the French colonists, he did not trust them, and began a violent extermination of the remaining white population living on the island, regardless of whether or not they were slave owners.
However, the declaration came too late for Louverture; he had died in a French prison the year before, with the fate of his body unknown even to Eseosa.
- Louverture's name translates to two different French words; "Toussaint" means "All Saints", while his symbolic name "Louverture" translates to "the opening", referring to his talent of finding openings in enemy formations.