Sunday, March 14, 2010

C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Chapter 9, "The Expulsion of the British"

The British wanted out of their costly war in San Domingo, but they were still eager to cause France trouble and deny them the colony if possible. Maitland, their local commander, tried to entice Toussaint into declaring independence, promising that the British Navy would protect San Domingo from any French expeditionary force.

The Directory wanted to keep San Domingo for France, but with Sonthonax's deportation they suspected Toussaint of angling for independence. They sent Hedouville as the new governor to wrest control from Toussaint, and gave him a free hand to intrigue with the mulattoes under the unreliable Rigaud if necessary.

James portrays Toussaint's response as that of a well-informed and cautious statesman. He shows that Toussaint saw through the British offer, realizing that protection would last only as long as England's war with France. He negotiated the British departure from the West Province on favorable terms, and, fully understanding his position of strength, went on to extract full evacuation. James argues, moreover, that Toussaint understood the threat of intrigue with the mulattoes, and had done his best to forestall this by meeting and working with Rigaud. In the end, Hedouville won over Rigaud despite these efforts.

Hedouville forced a break with Toussaint over the latter's pardon of white planters who had fought for the British (and, not insignificantly, the black soldiers who had fought for them). Toussaint resigned rather than bringing on civil war. Hedouville moved aggressively to consolidate his power. He tried to impose limits on the liberty of black laborers and he began to replace black troops with white ones. Hedouville finally came to grief over dismissing one of Toussaint's old subordinates, Moise, from his command. Toussaint came out against Hedouville, and sent the troops under Dessalines to Le Cap to drive him out. Hedouville fled, but on his way out urged Rigaud to defy Toussaint's authority.