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Doskow 1 Emily Doskow 12/8/11 ADST 200 Professor Dunn Analytical Paper Haitian Slave Revolt and Revolution The

success of the Haitian slave revolt and later revolution is an extraordinary occurrence in history that was fostered by certain conditions and factors other slave holding New World colonies did not have. The life of an African slave in a New World Latin America or Caribbean colony was brutally and sometimes deadly. Rural slaves had the worst conditions: out on the plantations, doing rigorous, and tedious work day after day (Reid 2004). Caribbean colonies were mostly made up of these rural plantations and thus there slave populations faced immense hardships that urban and North American slaves might not have. Harvesting, growing, and manufacturing goods such as tobacco and sugar was such hard work that the mortality rate for slaves on these plantations in these colonies were extremely high. Thus these colonies relied heavily on the massive importation of slaves from Africa in a continual cycle. If all slaves were facing the same conditions, some may ask, than why were the Haitian slaves able to revolt successfully? Prior to their revolt there had been many unsuccessful slave revolts in Latin America and in other Caribbean colonies. Yet none of them came close to what happened in Haiti over a twelve-year period. Not only was the colony of Saint-Domingue declared independent from France, the land itself was a new nation called: Haiti, the first independent black state in the New World. The ramifications of the revolt and revolution spread throughout the New World. Plantation owners saw the devastation of Haiti, the loss of the most lucrative sugar exporting colony, and the freedom of slaves as a grave situation that ignited serious concerns about their own plantations and slaves. Plantation owners in Latin American and in the United States became fearful of slave rebellions on their own

Driven by slave labor and enabled by fertile soil and ideal climate. “Haiti.000 slaves compared to a mere 20. indigo. cotton. and social particularities of Haiti and its mother nation France to explain why this one slave rebellion among hundreds was so greatly successful. This guerrilla warfare. This paper will explore and investigate the geographical. Haiti. lacked centralized organization and leadership” (Haggerty . “Violent conflicts were common between white colonists and black slaves were common in Saint-Domingue… consisting of thousands of people.000 white plantation owners. cocoa. Haiti was France’s most successful colony. The colony of Saint Domingue was an oligarchy of sorts and the white planters ruled as they wished. coffee. To keep this lucrative colony alive meant the constant importation of slaves and when the revolt broke out in 1791 there were 600. Their disregard for appropriate slave treatment led to hatred on the part of the slaves toward their masters. furnished two-thirds of France’s overseas trade and like the United States was a mercantilist economy that was indebted to their colonizing nation France. Thus prior to the major slave revolt of 1791 the colony of Saint Domingue was not unaccustomed to slave rebellion. economic. tobacco. they resented their mother nation of France therefore did obey decrees sent over from Europe on the fair treatment of slaves (Knight 2000: 109). however. sisal as well as some fruits and vegetables for the motherland. Black seamen brought news of the rebellion to various ports from New England down to the Carolinas (Dubois 2004).” (Corbett 1991: Part IV). was the richest colony in the West Indies and probably the richest colony in the history of the world. SaintDomingue produced sugar. France. For African Americans’ Haiti was memorialized and gave them a reason to believe freedom could be in their future. began to carry out hit-and-run attacks throughout the colony. political.Doskow 2 plantations. To understand the revolution one must have knowledge of the background and the circumstances that led to such a historic event.

In 1789 Saint-Domingue’s mother nation was entrenched in its own revolution and war. which physically governed Haiti. Within weeks from the start of the revolt. decided to grant citizenship to all free black persons regardless of maternal or demographic factors. aggressive. The . killing plantation owners. they “now rallied behind the Bourbons and rejected the radical egalitarian notions of the French revolutionaries” (Haggerty 1989: 9). many organized into bands on national lines…creole leaders counted on slaves to provide skilled fighters and even military units. and philosophies of the revolution permeated over to France’s most successful colony.Doskow 3 1989: 4-5). had total disregard for the royal government of France and had now pledged allegiance to the French National Assembly. The feelings. The slaves were infuriated that they were not granted freedom and the white farmers whom previously. Dubois (2004) describes how bands of slaves roamed the land. The freedom for free blacks specifically. and violent militia. “The initial slave revolt succeeded in mobilizing tens of thousands of slaves. these rebellions set the groundwork for the war against the French and for the island of Haiti. These revolts and attacks happened almost thirty years prior to the 1791 slave revolt. In August of 1791 in Northwest Haiti the first slave revolt that started the twelve-year revolution broke out. revolutionary leaders could boast armies that numbered in the thousands and count stand their ground against the colonial militias” (Thornton 1998: 333). burning fields. upset not only the slaves but also the white farmers. News of the Rebellion reached France and the French National assembly became very worried about the state of their must profitable colony. In response the French Colonial Assembly. They quickly centralized and unified themselves as a strong. changed everything for the slaves. the knowledge of a revolution led by the common people inspired slaves throughout the colony and the ideals of equality and liberty for all. ideas. and destroying equipment (97-99).

also entered the fray by supporting armies of escaped slaves. The royal French National Assembly believed “there had been rebellions in the past. But reasoned. With the free men of color he promised them citizenship. slaves could be managed in the long run” (Corbett 1991: Part II). black slaves rebelled against white colonists. However in 1793 everything fell apart for Sonthonax when France entered into a war with Britain. mulattoes battled white levies. Foreign interventionists found these unstable conditions irresistible. Yet. This first mission failed miserably peace could not be brought to Saint-Domingue because the factions fighting within the nation were too engrossed by their own war to acknowledge the royal presence on the island. and relentless. had found initial success in implementing France’s objectives. as he was an official of the king. The second royal French commission was mandated in 1792 and it had three objectives: stop the struggle between white and black owners. reinstate laws. who had a colony on the eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola. and assure slaves were under French control. the lead commissioner from France. Spanish and British involvement in the unrest in Saint-Domingue opened yet another chapter in the revolution” (Haggerty 1989: 9). win their loyalty back to France. there would be rebellions in the future. and break down the slave rebellions and return them to their plantations. intelligent. Sonthonax. despite all of his efforts “In various regions of the colony. he commanded white royalist troops to pacify the white radicals and slave rebels. He would align with whatever nation could grant him and his rebel army the freedom and . The leader of the slave rebel army Louverture was cunning. “The Spanish. including a force under the command of an ex-slave named Toussaint Louverture” (Dubois 2004: 113).Doskow 4 French National Assembly sent troops to the now violent Saint-Domingue to restore order. and black royalists opposed both whites and mulattoes.

before you have found a King.Doskow 5 independence they wanted and deserved.” (Louverture ET. France. Those who initially had aligned with these nations saw no real hope in them conquering Saint-Domingue. Britain had invaded Saint-Domingue and had forged alliances with white property owners. Louverture was in negotiations with the French royal commission about ending the rebellion until the execution of Louis the XVI. Although this was shrewd and deceiving on his part it was his well executed plans and methodology of war that ultimately led to Haitian independence. war. who bestows rewards upon us and ceases not to give us succor. Thus in 1794 Sonthonax seized his opportunity to gain back colonial allegiance by declaring an emancipation of slavery (Knight 2000: 111). Spain was not a forced to be reckoned with and was more focused on their war back in Europe. the French could not receive the supplies and manpower they so desperately needed. Al Corbett: 1794. Now Britain. Louverture developed distrust for the French and told the commissioner "We cannot conform to the will of the Nation because from the beginning of the world we have executed the will of a King. but we are esteemed by the King of Spain. There was still hope for France because both Spain and Britain were facing disease. The English troops had fallen plague to Yellow fever and the other half had been deployed to their colony of Jamaica where a slave rebellion had broken out. In a radical move that changed the face of the revolution forever Toussaint aligned back with the French colonial forces in a fight for independence. 1991). Consequently we are unable to acknowledge you. Spain. We have lost the King of France. the Commissioners. The end of foreign occupation of the colony in 1795 started a series of events whereby Louverture concocted plans to eliminate leaders of other factions and grant himself absolute power. . and Haiti were all involved in a disastrous situation that became increasingly more violent and deadly. and rebellion in Europe and in their other colonies. Thus aligning himself and his troops with the Spanish crown. Since the Royal British Navy controlled communication from Europe to the New World via the ocean.

Perhaps two of the most significant items were that Toussaint was governor-general for life and that all men from 14 to 55 years of age were in the state militia. which ignited the final stage of the revolution. was the sole and official governor of Saint-Domingue.” (Dubois 2004: 120). Yet when troops arrived Louverture’s second in command. French commanders. Louverture was finally in 1800. promised that he would not allow the French to step foot on their soil or he would torch the whole city. Christophe. Louverture moved in with 10. By 1801 Louverture seemed to have Haiti right where he wanted it but French ruler Napoleon Bonaparte was infuriated that Toussaint had not consulted him on the constitution and refused to believe he had loyalties to France. In 1796 Mulatto forces tried to kidnap the colonial governor. but they were forced to remain on the land. Thus the French pushed and the rebel army pushed back . and accepted Roman Catholicism as the state religion. After four more years of fighting with the British. As governor Toussaint created a constitution for his new nation “economic policies maintained the old plantation economy. the constitution professed loyalty and subservience to France. Ex-slaves were given salaries. Nonetheless. which gave him much greater freedom within the military” (Corbett 1991: part II). His policies recognized the centrality of sugar plantations to the Saint-Domingue economy. In response “Toussaint on April 1st was rewarded by the colonial governor who made him lieutenant governor. Bonaparte sent 12. who had reinvaded Saint-Domingue.000 troops and trampled the mulatto militia. Mulatto leaders. While Louverture may have been selfish in his yearning to be the ruler of this new nation his ability to lead and unite slave armies is what ultimately separated Haiti from other colonies that had failed slave rebellions. Louverture was in a battle for supremacy with the mulatto forces but his alliance with the colonial governor allowed him the power he so desired.000 troops over to Haiti. and colonial troops.Doskow 6 Slave rebellions in the past failed because they lacked a centralized leader that could mobilize and organize them.

In conclusion. The colony was ravished by different racial militia factions. Finally there was a “force of unity against slavery. initiated a truce with new black army general Dessalines. it was the French revolution that ignited a fire in the slaves to unite and revolt as a whole. the story of the Haitian . The sheer ratio of slaves to whites prior to 1791which was 10:1 automatically gave slave rebels some sort of power. One can find through examining the situation in Haiti prior. No one was spared. during. would sustain the revolution” (Geggus 1983: 4). torching down the entire city and than moving his black army into the mainland.000 soldiers Napoleon sent over 50. The real spark to this revolution was the French revolution of Haiti’s mothering nation. a unity deeply embedded in the creole culture that bound the blacks together. who had started slave rebellions for years prior to the 1791. and after the initial revolt that the colony of Saint-Domingue was absorbed in a precarious situation that other colonies did not face. other Latin American colonies did not have the opportunity to witness a common people’s revolution in their European motherland. and the slave rebel armies were ruthless and ultimately outnumbered any troops that came in their way. on Jan.Doskow 7 harder.000 were dead due to warfare and yellow fever (Dubois 2004). On top of that there was a disconnect between the colonial governing assembly and the French royal national assembly over in Europe. Haitian independence was declared. Finally. 1 1804. the remaining troops who were surrounded and dying. Toussaint had been captured and sent to a French prison. by 1803 of the 80. The Haitian people became aware that Napoleon intended to reinstate slavery and that is when the black armies engaged in full out guerilla warfare. However there was still French presence in Haiti until Britain had declared war on France back in Europe. Haiti being a French colony was directly effected by the revolution in Europe. White plantation owners were particularly cruel to their slaves. allegiances and alliances were ever changing. it was constantly a source of foreign invasion. where he spent the rest of his life.

. the Haitian revolution’s historical imprint on history makes it that more important to study and learn why it happened where it happened: Haiti.Doskow 8 Revolution captivated people around the globe and shook people’s core beliefs about the likelihood of a successful slave rebellion.