André Rigaud

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Portrait of André Rigaud.
André Rigaud (1761 Aux Cayes-1811)- Leader of the mulatto revolt. Pure mulatto, son of a rich planter father and a Negress called Rose Bossy. He led a privileged life: educated in Bordeaux and a goldsmith by trade. Though he had money, he was always inclined towards the army. "He had joined the colours in France, and had fought in Guadeloupe and for the rebels in the American War of Independence."

Among his Rigaud's protégés were Alexandre Pétion and Jean-Pierre Boyer, both future presidents of Haiti.

Experience plus flair made him a "brilliant soldier" "Schoelcher says of him: 'Rigaud was one of those men whose worth is somewhat incomplete and who are unable to reach the heights. A participant in a revolution of helots who were breaking their chains, his great courage, and his intelligence from a military point of view made him powerful, but devoid of the qualities of a leader he could do nothing with that power. Furthermore, he did not have sufficient will-power to overcome the extreme violence in his character which never enabled him to be master of himself.

Narrow-minded, he never succeeded either in stifling the feelings of prejudice against the Negroes, whom he did not forgive, or against the whites for having the same feeling towards him and towards his class. He appears to have attributed his distress at having in him something of the Negro to an almost incredible childhood. "He was" says Madiou, "the son of a black and a white. He was very dark with crinkly hair. He always wore a wig of smooth hair." Perhaps, it is true, the smooth-haired wig was connected with his immoderate love of pleasure. Madiou shows him as several times leaving his army at the beginning of the southern war to go to the coral islands and amuse himself by giving balls.' (Parkinson, page 57)

By 1796, "Rigaud was virtually dictator" in the south, while Toussaint Louverture held the north and Laveaux's favor. No Negroes rose above the rank of captain in his army. (Parkinson, p. 99)

Increasingly, Rigaud became jealous of Toussaint's successes and recognition. Seemingly unable to stop himself, he began turning every victory into defeat. After badly losing a final virulent set of conflicts beginning with 'the war of the knife'. Rigaud was ordered back to France. (Beard, pp.114-116)

On July 29, 1800, Rigaud, following his defeat by Toussaint's troops, embarks from Tiburon for the French colony Guadeloupe.

He returned to Saint-Domingue in 1802 with the expedition of Charles Leclerc, Napoléon's brother-in-law, who sought to unseat Toussaint and return Saint-Domingue to more direct French control. (The expedition also had the aim of restoring slavery, although this was not known to many of its participants.) Rigaud was sent back to France after the failure of the expedition, and for a time was held a prisoner in the same fortress as his rival Toussaint, the Fort-de-Joux. Toussaint reportedly did not know about Rigaud's presence. When he boarded the ship that was to bring him back to France after his arrest, in an act of rebellion, Rigaud took his sword and threw it overboard.

In France "he was received by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1801 with these words: 'General, I blame you for only one thing, not to have been victorious.'" (Kennedy, p. 140)

[NOTE: Kennedy lists his name as Benoit-Joseph Rigaud; p. 139; this is probably a mistake.--Stumax]

See also


  • Beard, J. R. (John Relly) (1863). Toussaint L'Ouverture: A Biography and Autobiography. Chapel Hill, NC: Academic Affairs Library, UNC-CH. Online Publication
  • Kennedy, Roger G. (1989). Orders from France: The Americans and the French in a Revolutionary World, 1780-1820. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-394-55592-9.
  • Parkinson, Wenda (1978). This Gilded African. London: Quartet Books. ISBN 0-7043-2187-4
  • Schoelcher, Victor (1889). Vie de Toussaint Louverture. Paris: Paul Ollendorf. (Available online: Google books) 1882 reprint: Karthala. Paris ISBN 2-86537-043-7
  • André Rigaud. (2005, December 5). Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 06:59, December 7, 2005 [1].