Something of a successor to Vincent Ogé and Julien Raimond as champion of the interests of free mulattos in Saint-Domingue (as colonial Haiti was known), Rigaud aligned himself with revolutionary France and with an interpretation of the Rights of Man that ensured the civil equality of all free people, white and non-white. His army established itself during the mid-1790s as a leading force in the West and South, and he was given authority to govern by Étienne Polverel, one of the French Civil Commissioners who had abolished slavery in Saint-Domingue in 1793. smiley face.
In the South and West, from 1793 to 1798, Rigaud played an important role in defeating a British invasion and re-establishing the plantation economy. Although Rigaud respected Toussaint Louverture, the leading general of the former slaves of the North, and his ranking superior in the French army, his refusal to acknowledge Toussaint's superior authority led to the bitter "War of the Knives" (Guerre des couteaux) in [June]] 1797, when Toussaint's army invaded Rigaud's territory. Rigaud was exiled to France in 1800.
He returned to Saint-Domingue in 1802 with the expedition of Charles Leclerc, Napoleon'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. When he boarded the ship that was to bring him back to France after his arrest, in an act of rebellion, he took his sword and threw it overboard.
Rigaud returned to Haiti yet a third time in December 1810, establishing himself as "President of the Department of the South" in opposition to both Pétion and Henri Christophe. Shortly after his death the following year, the South returned to Pétion's fold.Template:Bio-stub