The impassable mountains of Saint Domingue (Haiti). cut the island in two parts. The Spaniards occupied one part: the French took possession of tile We3tern part in 1630. With the use of Black Slave labour France made this colony the richest and most envied of all the other imperialist nations.
During the 17th Century there were 2,000,000 black slaves in Saint Domingue who toiled under the yoke of slavery, and their cruel slave masters to keep up a steady flow of "Sugar", cotton and Indigo to France and increase the wealth of the plantation owners and France. The cruel treatment by the white made the slaves more determined to free themselves from slavery.
Many slaves were escaping and using various means of taking revenge on the the whites — some used poisons, others tried to wreck the economy by burning the crops and killing the most valuable slaves. Macandal, a slave who had escaped and had succeeded in poisoning several slave masters, was caught and ordered to be burnt alive on a January afternoon in 1758. A boy of 15, Toussaint, watched Macandal twisting and writhing in the flames. At the same time the white people laughed, joked and mocked at Macandal’s agony. The slaves looked on in horror. This sight filled Toussaint with one ambition: to rid Saint Domingue of slavery and free his black brothers and sisters.
Toussaint Breda, as he was then called, was born on the night of May 20th, 1743 in Cap Francis. He was the son of two slaves who toiled on a plantation in Cap Francis. Toussaint was a sickly child but as he grew up his body hardened with the harshness of slavery. He was taught arithmetic, how to read and write French and Latin. His father taught him the Arada language and how to use herbs for medicine. Toussaint was aware of the importance of his African ancestry by the stories his mother and father told him about Africa and the tactics that were employed in war by the various African Kings, and warriors.
When Toussaint was old enough to take up duties as a slave he was put in charge of the cattle. He did his work well but was saddened at the menial mechanical jobs the Blacks were given. Daily he would watch his fellow slaves working on the sugar plantations, laboring under the lash of the whip. Toussaint was very clever, he hid his feelings: he smiled at the overseers and gave the impression that he was happy and contented; but always the sight of Macandal twisting in agony lingered in his memory, and the promise he made to free his people.
At the age of 12 Toussaint could jump on a horse at full speed and make it perform anything he wished. He could also swim across a dangerous river without being in danger of drowning. By the time Toussaint was 21 be had read quite a lot on military art, economics, and politics.
Slavery usually dulls the intelligence of a slave and degrades his character, but as we will see Toussaint was not dulled or marred by slavery in any way.