The Château de Joux-Toussaint Louverture in Pontarlier (Doubs)
“By overthrowing me, only the trunk of the Tree of the Freedom of the Black has been cut down in Santo Domingo, it will grow back by the roots because they are deep and numerous”
Toussaint Louverture, Santo Domingo on 12 June 1802.
In the heart of the Jura Massif, at the Swiss border, the Fort de Joux holds the remains of Toussaint Louverture, leader of the insurrection of the slaves of Santo Domingo, initiator of the first abolition of slavery and precursor of independence of Haiti, first black republic. Locked up by order of Bonaparte, he died there on 7 April 1803.
By setting up the indivisible principle of freedom and equality, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen resulting from the French Revolution had an incalculable repercussion in the colonial society.
On the night of 22 to 23 August 1791, during the famous ceremony of the Bois Caïman, a few thousand slaves gathered under the authority of Boukman and voodoos officials. This is the beginning of the general insurrection of the slaves of the North. In November, the Negro Toussaint, descendant of a high dignitary of the kingdom of Allada in today’s Bénin, born in 1743 on the Bréda plantation and freed in 1776, joined the insurrectional movement. He began his career at the head of a troop of 3,000 men rallied to Spain.
Unable to subdue the uprising of slaves and in front of the new dangers opened on the borders of the colony by the war with England and Spain, on 29 August 1793 the Sonthonnax Commissioner proclaimed the abolition of slavery in the Colony of Santo Domingo to rally the blacks to the Republic. This decision was confirmed on 4 February 1794 by the National Convention, which extended it to all French colonies.
The disappearance of Toussaint did not restore calm. The situation of the French troops continued to worsen, the yellow fever more than the guerrilla had devastating effects in the expeditionary force.
The reconciliation of the black chiefs Pétion and Dessalines hurried the disaster of the French troops, who surrendered on 19 November 1803 in Vertières and left Santo Domingo forever. The leaders of the indigenous army replaced the name of Santo Domingo by the Caribbean name of Haiti and on 29 November 1803, “in the name of Blacks and men of colour, the independence of Santo Domingo was proclaimed. Returned to our primitive freedom, we have secured our rights; we swear not to yield to any power of the earth….”. It was confirmed on 1 January 1804.
Thus were born the first and only victorious revolt of slaves, the first independent indigenous colony and the first black Republic in the History of Humanity: Haiti, where “for the first time, the “negritude” stood up”, said Aimé Césaire.
Toussaint Louverture did not see this result. He was the posthumous winner. Undermined by the disease, isolated in a rigorous dungeon from the Fort de Joux, he died on 7 April 1803.
Napoleon knew his first great defeat in Santo Domingo. In 1817, in the Memorial in Saint Helena, he admitted his defeat: “The case of Santo Domingo was a great stupidity on my part. This is the biggest fault I have committed in administration. I should have dealt with the black chiefs as with the authorities of a province, and leave Toussaint Louverture as viceroy”.
Beautiful homage of the “White Napoleon” to the one called the “Black Napoleon” by Chateaubriand.
It is today a property of the Communauté de Communes of Larmont and is subject to a vast program of architectural restoration and of cultural and tourist valorisation in which falls the memorial Toussaint Louverture in honour of the one that the History called “the First of the Blacks”.