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.

Toussaint Louverture was born slave on 20 May 1743 on the Brédé plantation in Haut-du-Cap, in the colony of Santo Domingo, where he held various positions before being freed around 1776.

On the eve of the French Revolution, two-thirds of the turnover of the French colonies was made in Santo Domingo.

On the equivalent of three French departments, 30,000 planters managing 8,500 companies and 50,000 men of free colour exploited a flourishing economic situation where 500,000 slaves worked and were excluded from prosperity.

Map of Santo Domingo

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.

This decision brought back Toussaint Louverture in the camp of the Republic, who in a few weeks crushed the Spanish troops. In October 1795, the Directory appointed him General of the French Army and in 1797, General-in-Chief of the Santo Domingo Army. In 1798, the defeated English were forced to evacuate the island and the treaty signed between Toussaint Louverture and the English General Maitland was, as Aimé Césaire said, “the first act of the independence of Haiti”.?In January 1801, Toussaint Louverture occupied the Spanish part of the island and promulgated a constitution making Santo Domingo an autonomous colony, of which he was the governor for life.
In metropolitan France, the pressure of the slave lobby led to a return to the old order and the peace of Amiens allowed Bonaparte to send a expeditionary force of 25,000 men led by his brother-in-law the General Leclerc, to defeat the Louverture power, which arrived in January 1802.

The announcement of the reinstatement of slavery (20 May 1802) led to resistance to excess. A dramatic campaign then took place that put ports, cities and countryside on fire. Invited to a convention of peace and amnesty, Toussaint Louverture was arrested. Detained, he was embarked on the ship “le Héros” which sailed to France and arrived in the harbour of Brest on 9 July. On 13 August, he was transferred to Fort de Joux where he arrived on 23 August 1802.

Cell of Toussaint Louverture at the Fort de Joux

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.

Table of independence

“When the negro Toussaint emerges for the first time on the political scene, many emancipation movements were being born: movement of the white settlers towards autonomy and commercial freedom, movement of the mulattos towards social equality, movement of the blacks towards freedom. When Toussaint Louverture came, it was to continue, to unite and complete these movements, to show that there is no race of pariah, that there is no marginal country, that there is no people of exception. He had been left bands of slaves. He made an army of them. We left him a peasant revolt. He had made a revolution of it. He had been left a population. He made a people of it. He had been left a colony, he made a state of it, better: a Nation” (Aimé Césaire).

When Toussaint Louverture left the soil of his country to disappear forever, he had these prophetic words while embarking on the French ship that took him to the Fort de Joux:“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”

In the heart of the Jura Massif, the Château de Joux contains the remains of Toussaint Louverture. It is today a place of pilgrimage and one of the high places of the memory of the black world.

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”.