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Short Rounds

"Thank You."

In mid-1942, during Anglo-American preparations for “Operation Torch,” the invasion of French North Africa, Allied Supreme Commander Lt. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and his staff very carefully kept Charles de Gaulle’s "Forces Françaises Libres" out of the loop, fearing that the ranks of the “Free French” were riddled with Vichyite sympathizers.

Naturally, de Gaulle eventually became aware of Allied plans.  So, a few weeks before Operation Torch was to begin, de Gaulle dispatched his Chief-of-Staff, Pierre Armand Gaston Billotte, to visit Eisenhower at his headquarters in Britain.

Ike received Billotte politely, and asked him what he wanted.

Billotte said that since North Africa was French territory, de Gaulle naturally expected to command the Allied forces during any operations that were to be undertaken there.

Billotte apparently expected a rather brisk “discussion” about the matter, but, Eisenhower replied, "Thank you," and politely showed him the door.

 

Thomas Maitland Visits Toussaint L'Ouverture

In 1797 Brig. Gen. Sir Thomas Maitland (1759-1824) assumed command of a British expeditionary force that had been attempting since 1794 to wrest Saint-Domingue (i.e., Haiti) from French control.  Politically, after an anti-French uprising in 1791, the island had returned to its allegiance to France and was being governed by the great Toussaint L'Ouverture (c. 1743-1803) in the name of the French Republic.  

By April of 1798 it had become clear that the invasion was going nowhere, and Maitland concluded a treaty with Toussaint to arrange for the withdrawal of British forces from the posts they still held.  Once the agreement had been made, as was the custom of the times Toussaint paid a courtesy call on Maitland.  The general greeted the Haitian leader with full military honors, and presented him with what has been described as a “splendid service of plate” as a gift from King George III. 

Soon afterwards, as the last of Maitland’s troops were to take ship for home, the general arranged to pay a courtesy call on Toussaint.  Trusting to his host’s honor, Maitland was accompanied on his journey by just three aides and servants.

Now Toussaint was being “advised” by three French commissioners, one of whom was the impressively named Philippe-Rose Roume de Saint-Laurent, usually known as Roume.  Learning that Maitland was to visit Toussaint, Roume wrote to the Haitian leader advising him to seize his guest, as an act of duty to the Republic, which was still at war with Britain.  Maitland was warned of Roume's treacherous proposal, but counting on Toussaint’s word, continued his journey.

When Maitland reached Toussaint’s headquarters, he was asked to wait, as the governor was not yet ready to receive him.  After a short wait, Toussaint appeared.

Holding out two letters, Toussaint said, “There, general, before we talk together, read these; one is a letter from the French commissary; the other is my answer.  I could not see you till I had written the latter, that you might be satisfied how safe you were with me and how incapable I am of baseness.”

Afterwards:  

·         Soon after leaving Haiti, Maitland returned to his seat in Parliament.  He was later made a Privy Councilor.  While governor of Ceylon (1805–1811), the life-long bachelor had a tragic love affair with a “half caste” woman.  Later governor of Malta (1811-1824), Maitland died in office as a lieutenant general and a Knight of the Bath.

·         Shortly after this, Toussaint began distancing Haiti from France, seeing the country’s interests lay with Britain and the United States, though both were war with the Republic.  Charles Leclerc, husband to Napoleon’s sister Pauline, then led an expedition to capture Haiti.  The attempt failed, many dying of fever, including Leclerc, though not before he treacherously captured Toussaint.  Imprisoned in the Jura mountains of France, Toussaint died soon afterwards.

 

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