Girard on Louverture the “International Statesman”

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Girard, Philippe R. “Black Talleyrand: Toussaint Louverture’s Diplomacy, 1798–1802.” The William and Mary Quarterly 66, no. 1 (January 2009). http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/wm/66.1/girard.html

First paragraph steal:

“Louverture’s record as an international statesman remains largely occluded, though he served as quasi-independent ruler of Saint Domingue for nearly four years (November 1798–February 1802). Atlantic historians studying the Haitian Revolution remain focused on the racial and social dimensions of the slave revolt, paying far less attention to the diplomatic ramifications of this dramatic event. What scholarship exists deals largely with Louverture’s relations with the United States (rather than England and Spain) and U.S. objectives and policies, not Louverture’s own goals. Books on England’s Caribbean policy in the 1790s—arguably not its finest hour—are far outnumbered by the outpouring of research on its abolitionist movement. Works on Louverture’s relations with Cuba and Santo Domingo are few and generally old. There is a greater array of solidly researched accounts of U.S. diplomacy toward Saint Domingue. By their very nature, however, these studies focus on U.S. policymakers’ motives (racism, security, or trade), leaving Louverture as the person on the receiving end of a policy rather than as an actor with his own well-developed agenda. A classic history of the Quasi War argues that Louverture was moving toward independence but does not elaborate on his motives for doing so; a recent tome on U.S.-Haitian relations concludes that as a “riddle” who “kept his own counsel,” Louverture’s views are ultimately unknowable; another essay is primarily interested in proving that John Adams’s policy was more idealistic than Thomas Jefferson’s.2 The disparity is reflected in the sources, heavily weighted toward French and especially U.S. diplomatic archives rather than collections that would illuminate Saint Domingue’s internal politics.”

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