Academic journal article The Journal of Caribbean History

Toussaint Louverture's Captivity at Fort De Joux

Academic journal article The Journal of Caribbean History

Toussaint Louverture's Captivity at Fort De Joux

Article excerpt

The pictorial images of Toussaint Louverture oscillate between interpretations with Westernized traits and portraits that denote prognathism. As the artistic representations of this historical figure vary according to the a priori conception of his legacy, the characterizations of the leader of the Haitian Revolution in popular culture and prevalent literary works tend to occidentalize him, to construct him as a savage being, or to insert him in the bank of Otherness that Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak criticizes.1 The tendency to trivialize this character is due to the fact that the analysis of his pertinence requires complex cogitation about the discourses in conflict during the historical juncture of the Haitian Revolution.

The main purpose of this investigation is to explore the power relations evidenced during Toussaint Louverture's imprisonment at Fort de Joux. This evaluation not only identifies how the primary sources in relation to this historical episode communicate the events that precede and provoke the captive's death, but also facilitates a rumination about the discursive paradigms that propel the vortex of the Haitian Revolution: race, colonialism, and modernity. This study is largely based on documents available in the Nemours Collection of Haitian History, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and the "Archives de l'armée de Terre et des organisms du Ministère de la Défense" in the Château de Vincennes.

This investigation narrates the most relevant events related to Toussaint Louverture's captivity at Fort de Joux: his passage through France, the treatment received in prison, and the antagonistic relationship with his jailer, while also inquiring into the historical pertinence of the accelerated deterioration of Toussaint Louverture's health, his death in captivity, and the subsequent enigma around his remains. The power relations evidenced during Toussaint Louverture's imprisonment at Fort de Joux evidence a centrality of corporeal punishment, psychological manipulation, panoptical surveillance, and pseudo-scientific observation. The episode also reveals an influence of contemporary racialist theories and the Western conception of the modern subject.

The Passage to his Cell and the Bureaucracy of Captivity

The tumultuous tale of the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) highlights how diverse social groups of the colony of Saint-Domingue seized the context of the French Revolution in order to articulate their long-lived desperate claims: the white colonists' demand for political autonomy, the longing for French citizenship by the free men of colour, and the enslaved's struggle for general liberty. Meanwhile, the French government strove to guarantee its sovereignty in the colony; the negotiations of power with the different social-racial groupings of Saint-Domingue and the persistence of slave insurrections led to the pioneer abolition of slavery in 1794. One of the leaders of the Haitian Revolution, Toussaint Louverture, even became governor of the colony as a method of pacification of the slave populations. In response to his military protection of the territory from foreign invasion, Napoleon Bonaparte hailed the former revolutionary leader in his correspondence as a man of "virtue", "wisdom", and "patriotism". Nevertheless, Louverture transgressed the negotiations of power with the French metropole when he implemented the Constitution of 1801, which permanently abolished slavery in the colony, innovatively prohibited racial discrimination, established a level of political autonomy of the territory, and named Louverture governor for life. The Napoleonic administration responded to this challenge with an aggressive expedition, the overthrow of Louverture, and the acceler- ation of the restoration of slavery. The declared war would eventually be won by the determination of the former slave population to protect their freedom and culminate with the independence of Haiti in 1804.

On 28 July 1802, the Minister of War of France offers specific instructions to the commanders of military divisions in the outlined route for Toussaint Louverture's relocation to Fort de Joux. …

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