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The Life of Napoleon I (Volume 1 of 2) by Rose

Which Toussaint eagerly awaited


The means at the First Consul's disposal might have been considered sufficient to dispense with these paltry devices; for when the squadrons of Brest, Lorient, Rochefort, and Toulon had joined their forces, they mustered thirty-two ships of the line and thirty-one frigates, with more than 20,000 troops on board. So great, indeed, was the force as to occasion strong remonstrances from the British Government, and a warning that a proportionately strong fleet would be sent to watch over the safety of our West Indies.[197] The size of the French armada and the warnings which Toussaint received from Europe induced that wily dictator to adopt stringent precautionary measures. He persuaded the blacks that the French were about to enslave them once more, and, raising the spectre of bondage, he quelled sedition, ravaged the maritime towns, and awaited the French in the interior, in confident expectation that yellow fever would winnow their ranks and reduce them to a level with his own strength.

His hopes were ultimately realized, but not until he himself succumbed to the hardihood of the French attack. Leclerc's army swept across the desolated belt with an ardour that was redoubled by the sight of the mangled remains of white people strewn amidst the negro encampments, and stormed Toussaint's chief stronghold at Crete-a-Pierrot. The dictator and his factious lieutenants thereupon surrendered (May 8th, 1802), on condition of their official rank being respected--a stipulation which both sides must have regarded as unreal and impossible. The French then pressed on to secure the subjection of the whole island before the advent of the unhealthy season, which Toussaint eagerly awaited. It now set in with unusual virulence; and in a few days the conquerors found their force reduced to 12,000 effectives. Suspecting Toussaint's designs, Leclerc seized him. He was empowered to do so by Bonaparte's orders of March 16th, 1802:

"Follow your instructions exactly, and as soon as you have done with Toussaint, Christopher, Dessalines, and the chief brigands, and the masses of the blacks are disarmed, send to the continent all the blacks and the half-castes who have taken part in the civil troubles."

Toussaint was hurried off to France, where he died a year later from the hardships to which he was exposed at the fort of Joux among the Juras.

Long before the cold of a French winter claimed the life of Toussaint, his antagonist fell a victim to the sweltering heats of the tropics. On November 2nd, 1802, Leclerc succumbed to the unhealthy climate and to his ceaseless anxieties. In the Notes dictated at St. Helena, Napoleon submitted Leclerc's memory to some strictures for his indiscretion in regard to the proposed restoration of slavery. The official letters of that officer expose the injustice of the charge. The facts are these. After the seeming submission of St. Domingo, the First Consul caused a decree to be secretly passed at Paris (May 20th, 1802), which prepared to re-establish slavery in the West Indies; but Decres warned Leclerc that it was not for the present to be applied to St. Domingo unless it seemed to be opportune. Knowing how fatal any such proclamation would be, Leclerc suppressed the decree; but General Richepanse, who was now governor of the island of Guadeloupe, not only issued the decree, but proceeded to enforce it with rigour. It was this which caused the last and most desperate revolts of the blacks, fatal alike to French domination and to Leclerc's life. His successor, Rochambeau, in spite of strong reinforcements of troops from France and a policy of the utmost rigour, succeeded no better. In the island of Guadeloupe the rebels openly defied the authority of France; and, on the renewal of war between England and France, the remains of the expedition were for the most part constrained to surrender to the British flag or to the insurgent blacks. The island recovered its so-called independence; and the sole result of Napoleon's efforts in this sphere was the loss of more than twenty generals and some 30,000 troops.


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