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This Day in History: April 7

Haiti celebrated the bicentennial of its constitution under Revolution leader Toussaint L’Ouverture in 2001 with a circulating commemorative 20-gourde bank note.

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Ripples of the French Revolution in 1789 were felt across the Atlantic Ocean and into the Caribbean, as free people of color in the French colony of Saint-Domingue demanded citizenship as decreed by the National Assembly of France in its “Declaration of the Rights of Man.”

The most well known leader of the revolution was François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture (also known as Toussaint L’Ouverture), who would die April 7, 1803, in prison, betrayed by a fellow revolutionary, Jean-Jacques Dessalines.

In 1797 Toussaint was made commander-in-chief of the island by the French Convention. After defeating Spanish and British forces, Toussaint began moving toward independence from France. With Toussaint as its governor for life, Saint-Domingue was still technically a French colony, but was acting as an independent state.

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In 1802, Napoleon Bonaparte, who had seized power in France in 1799, sought to restore slavery to the West Indies. Toussaint was captured and exiled, but the fighting continued under the leadership of Dessalines and Henri Christophe, and Dessalines had Toussaint imprisoned. 

The revolution concluded in 1804 with the elimination of slavery in what would become established as the Republic of Haiti. It was the only slave revolt that led to the founding of a state and is generally considered the most successful slave rebellion ever to occur in the Americas.

In 2001, Haiti issued a 20-gourde note for circulation, to celebrate the bicentennial of the Constitution of Toussaint L’Ouverture in 1801. 

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