Born sometime in the mid-1740s, Toussaint L'Ouverture was a slave on Haiti (then Saint-Domingue) for most of his life. He was a personal servant to a humane master, who he actually helped to leave the island safely during the slave uprisings of the early 1790s.

After his master left, L'Ouverture joined some of the rebelling slaves and eventually rose to lead one faction. He chose to ally with the French rather than the other countries whose European wars were spilling into the Western Hemisphere, and after the French won was appointed lieutenant governor of the colony and then commander-in-chief of all forces on the island (since other black leaders had supported the Spanish). L'Ouverture then did his best to ensure autonomous black government of the island, and once the French commissioners had been expelled, to ensure the economic stability of the country.

Since Haiti's independence had not been agreed to by the French, Napoleon Bonaparte (who felt they needed control over Haiti to exploit the Lousiana Territory) sent over French troops who attacked the colony, forced L'Ouverture to surrender, and shortly thereafter took him as a prisoner to France, where he died less than a year later on April 7, 1803.

Francois Dominique Toussaint (1743-1803) was smart enough to figure out that his rag-tag army of nearly 60 thousand rebellious slaves wouldn't submit to a commander that used the same harsh methods as their slavers. To lighten the mood he was said to encourage jokes and singing during marches. He was also the master of Chevy Chase-like falls from his horse that would usually be met with thunderous laughter from his troops. Toussaint believed that establishing a bond of this nature with his army was essential if they were to defeat the better equiped European troops.

The slave revolt on Hispaniola began in late summer 1791. In a brief two month period over 1,000 plantations were destroyed. Toussaint fought side by side with his men and was injured numerous times, once taking a cannonball to the face. His victories against the French, Spanish, and Brits were impressive and he adopted the nickname L'Ouverture--French for "The Opening."

By 1801, he had overtaken the entire island, and he created a constitution that made him the lifetime leader of Hispaniola . Unfortunately Napoleon Bonaparte, didn't fancy allowing slaves to run a French colony. In 1802, he ordered an invasion , forced Toussaint to surrender, and incarcerated him in France until his death a year later.

His dream did not die with him however as the French part of Hispanola, won independence 1804, becoming the Haiti.

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