Toussaint’s Clause

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Toussaint’s Clause: The Founding Fathers and the Haitian Revolution

“[This] well-crafted and well-written narrative captures the failures and foibles, the successes and surprises for American diplomacy of [the Haitian revolution]. For amateurs and history buffs alike this is a book you shouldn’t miss and will not find easy to put down.”
Thomas R. Pickering, former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs

In Toussaint’s Clause: The Founding Fathers and the Haitian Revolution, former ambassador Gordon Brown relates how America’s early leaders and their diplomatic representatives dealt with the politically sensitive issue of the 1790–1810 slave rebellion in Haiti led by Toussaint L’Ouverture. Founding fathers George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison struggled with the dilemma of how to protect America’s highly profitable trade with the rich French colony while ensuring America’s national security and maintaining its beneficial position of neutrality among the warring European powers. Southern slaveholders eyed the revolution with fear and eventually obtained a reversal of the initially bold policy of intervention that had favored the rebels.

Brown’s well-researched and lively account tells how the issue of Haiti rapidly became a lightning rod in America’s increasingly fierce partisan politics. Questions addressed include:

  • How did the Founding Fathers view the black-led revolt in Haiti?
  • What brought about the U.S. Navy’s intervention in Haiti’s civil war?
  • How did the Haitians’ struggle help America purchase the Louisiana Territory?

Brown details the debates and the diplomacy of this crisis and the sometimes rancorous struggle between America’s early leaders. A misstep could have plunged the weak, new American republic into the maelstrom of the international struggle.

Before turning to historical and analytical writing, Gordon Brown served thirty-five years in the Foreign Service, mainly in the Middle East and North Africa, including assignments as ambassador to Mauritania and political advisor to General Norman Schwarzkopf in the first Gulf War. He is also the author of Coalition, Coercion and Compromise: Diplomacy of the Gulf Crisis, 1990–1991 (1997) and The Norman Conquest of Southern Italy and Sicily (2003).

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by Gordon S. Brown
Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, February 2005
336 pp, bibliography, index, notes
Cloth $32.00 (members' price $28.00)

"In this exquisite study of U.S. interests vis-a-vis the Haitian revolution, Gordon Brown does an excellent job of connecting the complex series of dots among American, French, British, Spanish, and Haitian actors in what unfolds as a true-to-life 'cloak and dagger' tale of 18th and 19th century diplomacy, intrigue, and power politics."
ROBERT MAGUIRE, Director, International Affairs and Haiti programs, Trinity College