The story

Blacks Granted Full Rights in Saint Domingue - History

Blacks Granted Full Rights in Saint Domingue - History


We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

The French National Assembly granted free Blacks full French rights in Saint Domingue. The White colonist refused to implement the decision and the blacks revolted. Within a short period 2,000 whites and 10,000 blacks and mulattos are dead.

1788&mdash1790

June 1788 On the eve of the French Revolution, the Third Estate assembles in the tennis court at Versailles to write a new constitution and declares itself “the nation, the true representatives of the people,” swearing “as a body, never to disperse.” Nearly all colonial deputies participate, “and in the general euphoria and enthusiasm” the Third Estate recognizes the principle of colonial representation.

Mulattoes and free blacks pursue representation and equal rights as free persons and property owners, but are blocked by white colonists. In the National Assembly, absentee planters prevent the reemergence of the “mulatto question” to avoid a debate that could grant these rights. Meanwhile in the colony free blacks are now richer, more numerous and more militant than in any of France's other colonies. Planters, fearful of giving up any control and increasingly divided amongst themselves, become more abusive, executing mulattoes whenever possible. Fall 1788 A petition is submitted to Saint-Domingue's Provincial Assembly requesting “political rights for free persons of color.” In November, another, similar petition is submitted by a white colonist, who is then “arrested at his residence, dragged through the streets, and brutally killed by a furious mob of petits blancs who cut off his head and paraded it through the town on a pike.” A respeted elderly mulatto suspected of having a copy of the petition is shot and dragged through the streets.

  • Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.
  • The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.
  • The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.
  • Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined, shall clearly demand it, and then only on condition that the owner shall have been previously and equitably indemnified.


8 March 1790 A new decree in France grants full legislative powers to the Colonial Assembly, giving the colony almost complete autonomy. The decree sidesteps the mulatto issue, leaving it to the planters to interpret and declares that anyone attempting to undermine or to incite agitation against the interests of the colonists is guilty of crime against the nation. May 1790 News of the March 8 decree reaches Saint-Domingue. The Colonial Assembly in Saint Marc begins issuing radical decrees and reforms, pushing the colony further toward autonomy from France and creating conflict between the colony’s royalists and patriots. Saint Marc planters also vow that they will never grant political rights to mulattoes, a “bastard and degenerate race,” and expressly exclude them from the primary assemblies. Mulattoes continue to be frustrated in their attempts to secure their rights and a new Colonial Assembly is elected without a single mulatto or free black vote. 28 May 1790 The Colonial Assembly at Saint Marc issues a new decree declaring that its laws, like those made by the National Assembly in France, are subject only to the sanction of the king that any National Assembly law regarding colonial affairs are subject to colonial veto that the colony is from now on to be a “federative ally” and not a subject and that the functions of the National Assembly colonial deputies are suspended. 12 October 1790 The French National Assembly dissolves the Colonial Assembly at Saint Marc. The governor of Saint-Domingue amasses troops to dissolve it by force. The colony is now divided between royalists and patriots both groups court mulattoes’ support.

The Colonial Assembly refuses to disband and issues a call to arms of all citizens. At last, outnumbered by the governor’s forces, the 85 assembly members realize they’re trapped. They manage to board a ship, the Léopard, and sail to France to plead their case to the National Assembly. There they attempt to reaffirm their right to legislate free persons of color.

This timeline is the result of a final project by Kona Shen at Brown University. The site is sponsored by Brown's Department of Africana Studies. Feedback is welcome please send any corrections, comments, or questions to Kona Shen. Last updated October 27, 2015


The French Revolution in Saint-Domingue (Haiti) from 1788 to 1790

In 1789, Martinique slaves revolt partly because of the influence of the French Revolution. The instability of Saint Domingue also increases. On 17th June 1789, the Third Estate declares itself the National Assembly in France. On 14th July 1789, the fall of the Bastille triggers commencement of the French Revolution. The social and political structures of France descent into chaos as violence break out. On 26th August 1789, the National Assembly adopts the declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens.

In October, the Colonial Assembly in Saint-Domingue forms to counter the actions by the French National Assembly to free mulattoes and blacks. On 5th October, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens is assented to by Louis XVI. On 22nd October, the petition of rights for "free citizens of colour" is accepted by the French National Assembly. On 8th March 1790, the Colonial Assembly is granted full legislative powers. In May 1790, Saint-Domingue receives the March 8 news. On 28th may 1790, a new decree is issued by the Colonial Assembly at Saint Marc declaring that its laws can only be sanctioned by the King. On 12th October, the Colonial Assemble at Saint Marc is dissolved by the French National Assembly.


Factional conflict and the rise of Toussaint Louverture

Against this background arose a revolution, beginning as a series of conflicts from the early 1790s. Among the causes of the conflicts were the affranchis’ frustrations with a racist society, turmoil created in the colony by the French Revolution, nationalistic rhetoric expressed during Vodou ceremonies, the continuing brutality of slave owners, and wars between European powers. Vincent Ogé, a mulatto who had lobbied the Parisian assembly for colonial reforms, led an uprising in late 1790 but was captured, tortured, and executed.

In May 1791 the French revolutionary government granted citizenship to the wealthier affranchis, but Haiti’s European population disregarded the law. Within two months isolated fighting broke out between Europeans and affranchis, and in August thousands of slaves rose in rebellion. The Europeans attempted to appease the mulattoes in order to quell the slave revolt, and the French assembly granted citizenship to all affranchis in April 1792. The country was torn by rival factions, some of which were supported by Spanish colonists in Santo Domingo (on the eastern side of the island, which later became the Dominican Republic) or by British troops from Jamaica. In 1793 a commissioner, Léger-Félicité Sonthonax, was sent from France to maintain order and offered freedom to slaves who joined his army he soon abolished slavery altogether, a decision confirmed the following year by the French government.

In the late 1790s Toussaint Louverture, a military leader and former slave, gained control of several areas and earned the initial support of French agents. He gave nominal allegiance to France while pursuing his own political and military designs, which included negotiating with the British. In January 1801 Toussaint conquered Santo Domingo, and in May of that year, he had himself named “governor-general for life.” He put the peasants back to work on the plantations under military rule and encouraged many of the French proprietors to return. In December 1801 Napoléon Bonaparte (later Napoleon I), wishing to maintain control of the island, attempted to restore the old regime (and European rule) by sending his brother-in-law, Gen. Charles Leclerc, with an experienced force from Saint-Domingue that included Alexandre Sabès Pétion and several other exiled mulatto officers. Toussaint struggled for several months against Leclerc’s forces before agreeing to an armistice in May 1802 however, the French broke the agreement and imprisoned him in France. He died on April 7, 1803.


Contents

Slave economy in Saint-Domingue

Much of Caribbean economic development in the 18th century was contingent on Europeans' demand for sugar. Plantation owners produced sugar as a commodity crop from cultivation of sugarcane, which required extensive labor. The colony of Saint-Domingue also had extensive coffee, cocoa, and indigo plantations, but these were smaller and less profitable than the sugar plantations. [13] The commodity crops were traded for European goods.

Starting in the 1730s, French engineers constructed complex irrigation systems to increase sugarcane production. By the 1740s Saint-Domingue, together with the British colony of Jamaica, had become the main supplier of the world's sugar. Production of sugar depended on extensive manual labor provided by enslaved Africans. An average of 600 ships engaged every year in shipping products from Saint-Domingue to Bordeaux, and the value of the colony's crops and goods was almost equal in value to all of the products shipped from the Thirteen Colonies to Great Britain. [14] The livelihood of 1 million of the approximately 25 million people who lived in the France in 1789 depended directly upon the agricultural imports from Saint-Domingue, and several million indirectly depended upon trade from the colony to maintain their standard of living. [15] Saint-Domingue was the most profitable French colony in the world, indeed one of the most profitable of all the European colonies in the 18th century.

Slavery sustained sugar production under harsh conditions, including the unhealthy climate of the Caribbean, where diseases such as malaria (brought from Africa) and yellow fever caused high mortality. In 1787 alone, the French imported about 20,000 slaves from Africa into Saint-Domingue, while the British imported about 38,000 slaves total to all of their Caribbean colonies. [14] The death rate from yellow fever was such that at least 50% of the slaves from Africa died within a year of arriving, so the white planters preferred to work their slaves as hard as possible while providing with them with the barest minimum of food and shelter. They calculated that it was better to get the most work out of their slaves with the lowest expense possible, since they were probably going to die of yellow fever anyway. [16] The death rate was so high that polyandry—one woman being married to several men at the same time—developed as a common form of marriage among the slaves. [16] As slaves had no legal rights, rape by planters, their unmarried sons, or overseers was a common occurrence on the plantations. [17]

Demographics

The planters and their families, together with the petite bourgeoisie of merchants and shopkeepers, were outnumbered by slaves by a factor of more than ten on Saint-Domingue. The largest sugar plantations and concentrations of slaves were in the north of the islands, and whites lived in fear of slave rebellion. [18] Even by the standards of the Caribbean, the French slave masters were extremely cruel in their treatment of slaves. [14] They used the threat and acts of physical violence to maintain control and suppress efforts at slave rebellion. When slaves left the plantations or disobeyed their masters, they were subject to whipping, or to more extreme torture such as castration or burning, the punishment being both a personal lesson and a warning for other slaves. King Louis XIV of France passed the Code Noir in 1685 in an attempt to regulate such violence and the treatment of slaves in general in the colony, but masters openly and consistently broke the code. During the 18th century, local legislation reversed parts of it. [19] [ page needed ]

In 1758, the planters began passing legislation restricting the rights of other groups of people until a rigid caste system was defined. Most historians classify the people of the era into three groups:

The first group were white colonists, or les blancs. This group was generally subdivided into the plantation owners and a lower class of whites who often served as overseers or day laborers, artisans and shopkeepers.

The second group were free people of color, or gens de couleur libres, were usually mixed-race (sometimes referred to as mulattoes), being of both African and French descent. These gens de couleur tended to be educated and literate, and the men often served in the army or as administrators on plantations. Many were children of white planters and enslaved mothers, or free women of color. Others had purchased their freedom from their owners through the sale of their own produce or artistic works. They often received education or artisan training, and sometimes inherited freedom or property from their fathers. Some gens de couleur owned and operated their own plantations and became slave owners.

The third group, outnumbering the others by a ratio of ten to one, was made up of mostly African-born slaves. A high rate of mortality among them meant that planters continually had to import new slaves. This kept their culture more African and separate from other people on the island. Many plantations had large concentrations of slaves from a particular region of Africa, and it was therefore somewhat easier for these groups to maintain elements of their culture, religion, and language. This also separated new slaves from Africa from creoles (slaves born in the colony), who already had kin networks and often had more prestigious roles on plantations and more opportunities for emancipation. [19] Most slaves spoke a patois of the French language known as Haitian Creole, which was also used by island-born mulattoes and whites for communication with the workers. [20]

The majority of the slaves were Yoruba from what is now modern Nigeria, Fon from what is now Benin, and Kongo from the Kingdom of Kongo in what is now modern northern Angola and the western Congo. [21] The Kongolese at 40% were the largest of the African ethnic groups represented amongst the slaves. [16] The slaves developed their own religion, a syncretic mixture of Catholicism and West African religions known as Vodou, usually called "voodoo" in English. This belief system implicitly rejected the Africans' status as slaves. [22]

Social conflict

Saint-Domingue was a society seething with hatred, with white colonists and black slaves frequently coming into violent conflict. The French historian Paul Fregosi wrote: "Whites, mulattos and blacks loathed each other. The poor whites couldn't stand the rich whites, the rich whites despised the poor whites, the middle-class whites were jealous of the aristocratic whites, the whites born in France looked down upon the locally born whites, mulattoes envied the whites, despised the blacks and were despised by the whites free Negroes brutalized those who were still slaves, Haitian born blacks regarded those from Africa as savages. Everyone—quite rightly—lived in terror of everyone else. . Haiti was hell, but Haiti was rich". [23] Many of these conflicts involved slaves who had escaped the plantations. Many runaway slaves—called maroons—hid on the margins of large plantations, living off the land and what they could steal from their former masters. Others fled to towns, to blend in with urban slaves and freed blacks who often migrated to those areas for work. If caught, these runaway slaves would be severely and violently punished. However, some masters tolerated petit marronages, or short-term absences from plantations, knowing these allowed release of tensions. [19]

The larger groups of runaway slaves who lived in the hillside woods away from white control often conducted violent raids on the island's sugar and coffee plantations. Although the numbers in these bands grew large (sometimes into the thousands), they generally lacked the leadership and strategy to accomplish large-scale objectives. The first effective maroon leader to emerge was the charismatic Haitian Vodou priest François Mackandal, who inspired his people by drawing on African traditions and religions. He united the maroon bands and established a network of secret organizations among plantation slaves, leading a rebellion from 1751 through 1757. Although Mackandal was captured by the French and burned at the stake in 1758, large armed maroon bands persisted in raids and harassment after his death. [18] [24]

Slavery in Enlightenment thought

French writer Guillaume Raynal attacked slavery in his history of European colonization. He warned, "the Africans only want a chief, sufficiently courageous, to lead them on to vengeance and slaughter." [25] Raynal's Enlightenment philosophy went deeper than a prediction and reflected many similar philosophies, including those of Rousseau and Diderot. Raynal's admonition was written thirteen years before the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which highlighted freedom and liberty but did not abolish slavery.

In addition to Raynal's influence, Toussaint Louverture, a free black who was familiar with Enlightenment ideas within the context of European colonialism, would become a key "enlightened actor" in the Haitian Revolution. Enlightened thought divided the world into "enlightened leaders" and "ignorant masses" [26] Louverture sought to bridge this divide between the popular masses and the enlightened few by striking a balance between Western Enlightened thought as a necessary means of winning liberation, and not propagating the notion that it was morally superior to the experiences and knowledge of people of color on Saint-Domingue. [27] [28] [ page needed ] Louverture wrote a constitution for a new society in Saint-Domingue that abolished slavery. The existence of slavery in Enlightened society was an incongruity that had been left unaddressed by European scholars prior to the French Revolution. Louverture took on this inconsistency directly in his constitution. In addition, he exhibited a connection to Enlightenment scholars through the style, language, and accent [ further explanation needed ] What is the "accent" of a text? of this text. [29] [ page needed ]

Like Louverture, Jean-Baptiste Belley was an active participant in the insurrection. The portrait of Belley by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson depicts a man who encompasses the French view of its colonies, creating a stark dichotomy between the refinement of Enlightenment thought and the reality of the situation in Saint-Domingue, through the bust of Raynald and the figure of Belley, respectively. While distinguished, the portrait still portrays a man trapped by the confines of race. Girodet's portrayal of the former National Convention deputy is telling of the French opinion of colonial citizens by emphasizing the subject's sexuality and including an earring. Both of these racially charged symbols reveal the desire to undermine the colony's attempts at independent legitimacy, as citizens of the colonies were not able to access the elite class of French Revolutionaries because of their race. [30]

Social stratification

In 1789, Saint-Domingue produced 60% of the world's coffee and 40% of the sugar imported by France and Britain. The colony was not only the most profitable possession of the French colonial empire, but it was the wealthiest and most prosperous colony in the Caribbean. [14]

The colony's white population numbered 40,000 mulattoes and free blacks, 28,000 and black slaves, an estimated 452,000. [31] This was almost half the total slave population in the Caribbean, estimated at one million that year. [32] Enslaved blacks, regarded as the lowest class of colonial society, outnumbered whites and free people of color by a margin of almost eight to one. [33]

Two-thirds of the slaves were African born, and they tended to be less submissive than those born in the Americas and raised in slave societies. [34] The death rate in the Caribbean exceeded the birth rate, so imports of enslaved Africans were necessary to maintain the numbers required to work the plantations. The slave population declined at an annual rate of two to five percent, due to overwork, inadequate food and shelter, insufficient clothing and medical care, and an imbalance between the sexes, with more men than women. [35] Some slaves were of a creole elite class of urban slaves and domestics, who worked as cooks, personal servants and artisans around the plantation house. This relatively privileged class was chiefly born in the Americas, while the under-class born in Africa labored hard, and often under abusive and brutal conditions.

Among Saint-Domingue's 40,000 white colonists, European-born Frenchmen monopolized administrative posts. The sugar planters, or grands blancs (literally, "big whites"), were chiefly minor aristocrats. Most returned to France as soon as possible, hoping to avoid the dreaded yellow fever, which regularly swept the colony. [36] The lower-class whites, petits blancs (literally "small whites"), included artisans, shopkeepers, slave dealers, overseers, and day laborers.

Saint-Domingue's free people of color, or gens de couleur libres, numbered more than 28,000. Around that time, colonial legislations, concerned with this growing and strengthening population, passed discriminatory laws that required these freedmen to wear distinctive clothing and limited where they could live. These laws also barred them from occupying many public offices. [13] Many freedmen were also artisans and overseers, or domestic servants in the plantation houses. [37] Le Cap Français (Le Cap), a northern port, had a large population of free people of color, including freed slaves. These men would become important leaders in the slave rebellion and later revolution. [19]

Regional conflicts

Saint-Domingue's Northern province was the center of shipping and trading, and had the largest population of grands blancs. [38] The Plaine-du-Nord on the northern shore of Saint-Domingue was the most fertile area, having the largest sugar plantations and therefore the most slaves. It was the area of greatest economic importance, especially as most of the colony's trade went through these ports. The largest and busiest port was Le Cap, the former capital of Saint-Domingue. [19] Enslaved Africans in this region lived in large groups of workers in relative isolation, separated from the rest of the colony by the high mountain range known as the Massif du Nord.

The Western province, however, grew significantly after the colonial capital was moved to Port-au-Prince in 1751, becoming increasingly wealthy in the second half of the 18th century. The Southern province lagged in population and wealth because it was geographically separated from the rest of the colony. However, this isolation allowed freed slaves to find profit in trade with Jamaica, and they gained power and wealth here. [19] In addition to these interregional tensions, there were conflicts between proponents of independence, those loyal to France, and allies of Great Britain and Spain—who coveted control of the valuable colony.

After the establishment of the French First Republic, the National Assembly made radical changes to French laws and, on 26 August 1789, published the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, declaring all men free and equal. The Declaration was ambiguous as to whether this equality applied to women, slaves, or citizens of the colonies, and thus influenced the want for freedom and equality in Saint-Domingue. White planters saw it as an opportunity to gain independence from France, which would allow them to take control of the island and create trade regulations that would further their own wealth and power. [13] However, the Haitian Revolution quickly became a test of the new French republic, as it radicalized the slavery question and forced French leaders to recognize the full meaning of their stated ideology. [39]

The African population on the island began to hear of the agitation for independence by the planters, who had resented France's limitations on the island's foreign trade. The Africans mostly allied with the royalists and the British, as they understood that if Saint-Domingue's independence were to be led by white slave masters, it would probably mean even harsher treatment and increased injustice for the African population. The planters would be free to operate slavery as they pleased without the existing minimal accountability to their French peers. [38]

Saint-Domingue's free people of color, most notably Julien Raimond, had been actively appealing to France for full civil equality with whites since the 1780s. Raimond used the French Revolution to make this the major colonial issue before the National Assembly. In October 1790, another wealthy free man of color, Vincent Ogé, demanded the right to vote under the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. When the colonial governor refused, Ogé led a brief 300-man insurgency in the area around Le Cap, fighting to end racial discrimination in the area. [40] He was captured in early 1791, and brutally executed by being "broken on the wheel" before being beheaded. [41] While Ogé was not fighting against slavery, his treatment was cited by later slave rebels as one of the factors in their decision to rise up in August 1791 and resist treaties with the colonists. The conflict up to this point was between factions of whites, and between whites and free blacks. Enslaved blacks watched from the sidelines. [18]

Leading 18th-century French writer Count Mirabeau had once said the Saint-Domingue whites "slept at the foot of Vesuvius", [42] suggesting the grave threat they faced should the majority of slaves launch a sustained major uprising.

  • 1521Santo Domingo Slave Revolt
    (Spanish colony of Santo Domingo)
  • 1526San Miguel de Gualdape
    (Spanish Florida, victorious)
  • 1548–58, 1579–82Bayano Wars
    (Spanish Panama, New Spain, suppressed)
  • c. 1570Gaspar Yanga's Revolt
    (Spanish Veracruz, New Spain, victorious)
  • 1712 New York Slave Revolt
    (BritishProvince of New York, suppressed)
  • 1730 First Maroon War
    (British Jamaica, victorious)
  • 1730 Chesapeake rebellion
    (British Chesapeake Colonies, suppressed)
  • 1733 St. John Slave Revolt
    (DanishSaint John, suppressed)
  • 1739 Stono Rebellion
    (British Province of South Carolina, suppressed)
  • 1741 New York Conspiracy
    (British Province of New York, suppressed)
  • 1760–61 Tacky's War
    (British Jamaica, suppressed)
  • 1787 Abaco Slave Revolt
    (British Bahamas, suppressed)
  • 1791 Mina Conspiracy
    (Spanish Louisiana (New Spain), suppressed)
  • 1795 Pointe Coupée Conspiracy
    (Spanish Louisiana, suppressed)
  • 1795 Curaçao Slave Revolt of 1795
    (Dutch Curaçao, suppressed)
  • 1791–1804 Haitian Revolution
    (FrenchSaint-Domingue, victorious)
  • 1800 Gabriel's Rebellion
    (Virginia, suppressed)
  • 1803 Igbo Landing
    (St. Simons Island, Georgia, victorious)
  • 1805 Chatham Manor
    (Virginia, suppressed)
  • 1811 German Coast Uprising
    (Territory of Orleans, suppressed)
  • 1811 Aponte conspiracy
    (Spanish Cuba, suppressed)
  • 1815 George Boxley
    (Virginia, suppressed)
  • 1816 Bussa's Rebellion
    (British Barbados, suppressed)
  • 1822 Denmark Vesey
    (South Carolina, suppressed)
  • 1825 Great African Slave Revolt of Guamacaro, Matanzas
    (Cuba, suppressed)
  • 1831 Nat Turner's rebellion
    (Virginia, suppressed)
  • 1831–32 Baptist War
    (British Jamaica, suppressed)
  • 1839 Amistad, ship rebellion
    (Off the Cuban coast, victorious)
  • 1841 Creole case, ship rebellion
    (Off the Southern U.S. coast, victorious)
  • 1842 Slave Revolt in the Cherokee Nation
    (Indian Territory, suppressed)
  • 1843–44 Ladder Conspiracy
    (Spanish Cuba, suppressed)
  • 1859 John Brown's Raid
    (Virginia, suppressed)

Onset of the revolution

Guillaume Raynal attacked slavery in the 1780 edition of his history of European colonization. He also predicted a general slave revolt in the colonies, saying that there were signs of "the impending storm". [43] One such sign was the action of the French revolutionary government to grant citizenship to wealthy free people of color in May 1791. Since white planters refused to comply with this decision, within two months isolated fighting broke out between the former slaves and the whites. This added to the tense climate between slaves and grands blancs. [44]

Raynal's prediction came true on the night of 21 August 1791, when the slaves of Saint-Domingue rose in revolt thousands of slaves attended a secret vodou ceremony as a tropical storm came in—the lighting and the thunder was taken as auspicious omens—and later that night, the slaves began to kill their masters and plunged the colony into civil war. [45] The signal to begin the revolt was given by Dutty Boukman, a high priest of vodou and leader of the Maroon slaves, and Cecile Fatiman during a religious ceremony at Bois Caïman on the night of 14 August. [46] Within the next ten days, slaves had taken control of the entire Northern Province in an unprecedented slave revolt. Whites kept control of only a few isolated, fortified camps. The slaves sought revenge on their masters through "pillage, rape, torture, mutilation, and death". [47] The long years of oppression by the planters had left many blacks with a hatred of all whites, and the revolt was marked by extreme violence from the very start. The masters and mistresses were dragged from their beds to be killed, and the heads of French children were placed on spikes that were carried at the front of the rebel columns. [45] In the south, beginning in September, thirteen thousand slaves and rebels led by Romaine-la-Prophétesse, based in Trou Coffy, took supplies from and burned plantations and freed slaves and occupied (and burned) the area's two major cities, Léogâne and Jacmel. [48] [49] [50] [51]

The planters had long feared such a revolt, and were well armed with some defensive preparations. But within weeks, the number of slaves who joined the revolt in the north reached 100,000. Within the next two months, as the violence escalated, the slaves killed 4,000 whites and burned or destroyed 180 sugar plantations and hundreds of coffee and indigo plantations. [47] At least 900 coffee plantations were destroyed, and the total damage inflicted over the next two weeks amounted to 2 million francs. [52] In September 1791, the surviving whites organized into militias and struck back, killing about 15,000 blacks. [52]

Though demanding freedom from slavery, the rebels did not demand independence from France at this point. Most of the rebel leaders professed to be fighting for the king of France, who they believed had issued a decree freeing the slaves, which had been suppressed by the colonial governor. As such, they were demanding their rights as Frenchmen which been granted by the king. [53]

By 1792, slave rebels controlled a third of the island. [54] The success of the rebellion caused the National Assembly in France to realize it was facing an ominous situation. The Assembly granted civil and political rights to free men of color in the colonies in March 1792. [47] Countries throughout Europe, as well as the United States, were shocked by the decision, but the Assembly was determined to stop the revolt. Apart from granting rights to free people of color, the Assembly dispatched 6,000 French soldiers to the island. [55] A new governor sent by Paris, Léger-Félicité Sonthonax, abolished slavery in the Northern Province of Saint Domingue and had hostile relations with the planters, whom he saw as royalists. [56] The same month, a coalition of whites and conservative free blacks and forces under French commissaire nationale Edmond de Saint-Léger put down the Trou Coffy uprising in the south, [50] [57] [58] after André Rigaud, then based near Port-au-Prince, declined to ally with them. [59]

Britain and Spain enter the conflict

Meanwhile, in 1793, France declared war on Great Britain. The grands blancs in Saint-Domingue, unhappy with Sonthonax, arranged with Great Britain to declare British sovereignty over the colony, believing that the British would maintain slavery. [56] The British prime minister, William Pitt the Younger, believed that the success of the slave revolt in Saint-Domingue would inspire insurrections in the British Caribbean colonies. He further thought that taking Saint-Domingue, the richest of the French colonies, would be a useful bargaining chip in eventual peace negotiations with France, and in the interim, occupying Saint-Domingue would mean diverting its great wealth into the British treasury. [60] Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, who was Pitt's Secretary of State for War, instructed Sir Adam Williamson, the lieutenant-governor of Jamaica, to sign an agreement with representatives of the French colonists that promised to restore the ancien regime, slavery and discrimination against mixed-race colonists, a move that drew criticism from abolitionists William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson. [61] [62] The American journalist James Perry notes that the great irony of the British campaign in Saint-Domingue was that it ended as a complete debacle, costing the British treasury millions of pounds and the British military thousands upon thousands of dead, all for nothing. [63]

Spain, who controlled the rest of the island of Hispaniola, also joined the conflict and fought with Great Britain against France. The proportion of slaves was not as high in its portion of the island. Spanish forces invaded Saint Domingue and were joined by the rebels. For most of the conflict, the British and Spanish supplied the rebels with food, ammunition, arms, medicine, naval support, and military advisors. By August 1793, there were only 3,500 French soldiers on the island. On 20 September 1793, about 600 British soldiers from Jamaica landed at Jérémie to be greeted with shouts of "Vivent les Anglais!" from the French population. [64] On 22 September 1793, Mole St. Nicolas, the main French naval base in Saint-Domingue, surrendered to the Royal Navy peacefully. [65] However, everywhere the British went, they restored slavery, which made them hated by the mass of common people. [66]

French declare slavery abolished

To prevent military disaster, and secure the colony for republican France as opposed to Britain, Spain, and French royalists, separately or in combination, the French commissioners Léger-Félicité Sonthonax and Étienne Polverel freed the slaves in Saint-Domingue in their declaration of abolition on 29 August 1793. [67]

Sonthonax sent three of his deputies, namely the colonist Louis Duffay, the free black army officer Jean-Baptiste Belley and a free man of colour, Jean-Baptiste Mills to seek the National Convention's endorsement for the emancipation of slaves near the end of January, 1794. [68] On 4 February 1794, Dufay gave a speech to the convention arguing that abolishing slavery was the only way to keep the colony in control of the French, and that former slaves would willingly work to restore the colony. [68] The Convention deputies agreed, and made the dramatic decree that "slavery of the blacks is abolished in all the colonies consequently, it decrees that all men living in the colonies, without distinction of color, are French citizens and enjoy all the rights guaranteed by the constitution". [68] [69]

It abolished slavery by law in France and all its colonies, and granted civil and political rights to all black men in the colonies. The French constitutions of 1793 and 1795 both included the abolition of slavery. The constitution of 1793 never went into effect, but that of 1795 did it lasted until it was replaced by the consular and imperial constitutions under Napoleon Bonaparte. Despite racial tensions in Saint Domingue, the French revolutionary government at the time welcomed abolition with a show of idealism and optimism. The emancipation of slaves was viewed as an example of liberty for other countries, much as the American Revolution was meant to serve as the first of many liberation movements. Georges Danton, one of the Frenchmen present at the meeting of the National Convention, expressed this sentiment:

Representatives of the French people, until now our decrees of liberty have been selfish, and only for ourselves. But today we proclaim it to the universe, and generations to come will glory in this decree we are proclaiming universal liberty . We are working for future generations let us launch liberty into the colonies the English are dead, today. [70]

In nationalistic terms, the abolition of slavery also served as a moral triumph of France over England, as seen in the latter half of the above quote. Yet Toussaint Louverture did not stop working with the Spanish army until sometime later, as he was suspicious of the French.

The British force that landed in Saint-Domingue in 1793 was too small to conquer the place, being capable only of holding only few coastal enclaves. The French planters were disappointed as they had hoped to regain power Sonthonax was relieved, as he had twice refused ultimatums from Commodore John Ford to surrender Port-au-Prince. [65] In the meantime, a Spanish force under Captain-General Joaquín García y Moreno had marched into the Northern Province. [56] Toussaint Louverture, the ablest of the Haitian generals, had joined the Spanish, accepting an officer's commission in the Spanish Army and being made a knight in the Order of St. Isabella. [71]

The main British force for the conquest of Saint-Domingue under General Charles Grey, nicknamed "No-flint Grey", and Admiral Sir John Jervis set sail from Portsmouth on 26 November 1793, which was in defiance of the well-known rule that the only time that one could campaign in the West Indies was from September to November, when the mosquitoes that carried malaria and yellow fever were scarce. [72] After arriving in the West Indies in February 1794, Grey chose to conquer Martinique, St. Lucia, and Guadeloupe. Troops under the command of John Whyte did not arrive in Saint-Domingue until 19 May 1794. [73] Rather than attacking the main French bases at Le Cap and Port-de-Paix, Whyte chose to march towards Port-au-Prince, whose harbour was reported to have 45 ships loaded with sugar. [74] Whyte took Port-au-Prince, but Sonthonax and the French forces were allowed to leave in exchange for not burning the 45 ships loaded with sugar. [75] By May 1794, the French forces were severed in two by Toussaint, with Sonthonax commanding in the north and André Rigaud leading in the south. [71]

Spanish depart Saint Domingue

At this point, Toussaint, for reasons that remain obscure, suddenly joined the French and turned against the Spanish, ambushing his allies as they emerged from attending mass in a church at San Raphael on 6 May 1794. [71] The Haitians soon expelled the Spanish from St. Domingue. [71] Despite being a former slave, Toussaint proved to be forgiving of the whites, insisting that he was fighting to assert the rights of the slaves as black French people to be free. He said he did not seek independence from France, and urged the surviving whites, including the former slave masters, to stay and work with him in rebuilding Saint-Domingue. [76]

Rigaud had checked the British in the south, taking the town of Léogâne by storm and driving the British back to Port-au-Prince. [71] During the course of 1794, most of the British forces were killed by yellow fever, the dreaded "black vomit" as the British called it. Within two months of arriving in Saint-Domingue, the British had lost 40 officers and 600 men to yellow fever. [63] Ultimately, of Grey's 7,000 men, about 5,000 were to die of yellow fever while the Royal Navy reported losing "forty-six masters and eleven hundred men dead, chiefly of yellow fever". [63] The British historian Sir John Fortescue wrote "It is probably beneath the mark to say that twelve thousand Englishmen were buried in the West Indies in 1794". [63] Rigaud failed in attempt to retake Port-au-Prince, but on Christmas Day 1794, he stormed and retook Tiburon in a surprise attack. [71] The British lost about 300 dead, and Rigaud's forces took no prisoners, executing any British soldier and sailor who surrendered. [77]

British "great push"

At this point, Pitt decided to reinforce failure by launching what he called "the great push" to conquer Saint-Domingue and the rest of the French West Indies, sending out the largest expedition Britain had yet mounted in its history, a force of about 30,000 men to be carried in 200 ships. [71] Fortescue wrote that the aim of London in the first expedition had been to destroy "the power of France in these pestilent islands . only to discover when it was too late, that they practically destroyed the British army". [63] By this point, it was well known that service in the West Indies was virtually a death sentence. In Dublin and Cork, soldiers from the 104th, 105th, 111th, and 112th regiments of foot rioted when they learned that they were being sent to Saint-Domingue. [78] The fleet for the "great push" left Portsmouth on 16 November 1795 and was wrecked by a storm, before sending out again on 9 December. [79] The overall forces in St Domingue was at that time under the command of the lieutenant-governor of Jamaica, Sir Adam Williamson. [80] He was optimistically given the title "Governor of St Domingue", and among his British forces were Jamaican "Black Shot" militias. [81]

General Ralph Abercromby, the commander of the forces committed to the "great push", hesitated over which island to attack when he arrived in Barbados on 17 March 1796. He dispatched a force under Major General Gordon Forbes (British Army officer) to Port-au-Prince. [79] Forbes's attempt to take the French-held city of Léogâne ended in disaster. The French had built a deep defensive ditch with palisades, while Forbes had neglected to bring along heavy artillery. [82] The French commander, the mulatto General Alexandre Pétion, proved to be an excellent artilleryman, who used the guns of his fort to sink two of the three ships-of-the-line under Admiral Hyde Parker in the harbour, before turning his guns to the British forces a French sortie led to a British rout and Forbes retreating back to Port-au-Prince. [82] As more ships arrived with British troops, more soldiers died of yellow fever. [82] By 1 June 1796, of the 1,000 from the 66th Regiment, only 198 had not been infected with yellow fever and of the 1,000 men of the 69th Regiment, only 515 were not infected with yellow fever. [82] Abercromby predicted that at the current rate of yellow fever infection, all of the men from the two regiments would be dead by November. [82] Ultimately, 10,000 British soldiers arrived in Saint Domingue by June, but besides for some skirmishing near Bombarde, the British remained put in Port-au-Prince and other coastal enclaves, while yellow fever continued to kill them all off. [82] The government attracted much criticism in the House of Commons about the mounting costs of the expedition to Saint-Domingue. In February 1797, General John Graves Simcoe arrived to replace Forbes with orders to pull back the British forces to Port-au-Prince. [83] As the human and financial costs of the expedition mounted, people in Britain demanded a withdrawal from Saint-Domingue, which was devouring money and soldiers, while failing to produce the expected profits. [84]

On 11 April 1797 Colonel Thomas Maitland of the 62nd Regiment of Foot landed in Port-au-Prince, and wrote in a letter to his brother that British forces in Saint-Domingue had been "annihilated" by the yellow fever. [83] Service in Saint-Domingue was extremely unpopular in the British Army owing to the terrible death toll caused by yellow fever. One British officer wrote of his horror of seeing his friends "drowned in their own blood" while "some died raving Mad". [84] Simcoe used the new British troops to push back the Haitians under Toussaint, but in a counter-offensive, Toussaint and Rigaud stopped the offensive. Toussaint retook the fortress at Mirebalais. [83] On 7 June 1797, Toussaint attacked Fort Churchill in an assault that was as noted for its professionalism as for its ferocity. [83] Under a storm of artillery, the Haitians placed ladders on the walls and were driven back four times, with heavy losses. [83] Even though Toussaint had been repulsed, the British were astonished that he had turned a group of former slaves with no military experience into troops whose skills were the equal of a European army. [83] [85]

British withdrawal

In July 1797, Simcoe and Maitland sailed to London to advise a total withdrawal from Saint-Domingue. In March 1798 Maitland returned with a mandate to withdraw, at least from Port-au-Prince. [83] On 10 May 1798, Maitland met with Toussaint to agree to an armistice, and on 18 May the British had left Port-au-Prince. [86] The British forces were reduced to only holding the western peninsular towns of Mole St Nicholas in the north and Jeremie in the south. The new governor of Jamaica, Alexander Lindsay, 6th Earl of Balcarres, urged Maitland not to withdraw from Mole St Nicholas. However, Toussaint sent a message to Balcarres, warning him that if he persisted, to remember that Jamaica was not far from St Domingue, and could be invaded. [87]

Maitland knew that his forces could not defeat Toussaint, and that he had to take action to protect Jamaica from invasion. [88] British morale had collapsed with the news that Toussaint had taken Port-au-Prince, and Maitland decided to abandon all of Saint-Domingue, writing that the expedition had become such a complete disaster that withdrawal was the only sensible thing to do, even through he did not have the authority to do so. [86] On 31 August, Maitland and Toussaint signed an agreement whereby in exchange for the British pulling out of all of Saint-Domingue, Toussaint promised to not support any slave revolts in Jamaica. [86] Rigaud took control of Jeremie without any cost to his forces, as Maitland withdrew his southern forces to Jamaica. In the end of 1798, Maitland withdrew the last of his forces from Mole St Nicholas, as Toussaint took command of the fortress. [89] Maitland disbanded his "Black Shot" troops, and left them in St Domingue, fearing they might return to Jamaica and start a revolution to overthrow slavery in the British colony. Many of them joined Toussaint's army. [90]

Between 1793 and 1798, the expedition to Saint-Domingue had cost the British treasury four million pounds and 100,000 men either dead or permanently disabled from the effects of yellow fever. [91]

Toussaint consolidates control

After the departure of the British, Toussaint turned his attention to Rigaud, who was conspiring against him in the south of Saint Domingue. [92] In June 1799, Rigaud initiated the War of Knives against Toussaint's rule, sending a brutal offensive at Petit-Goâve and Grand-Goâve. Taking no prisoners, Rigaud's predominantly mulatto forces put blacks and whites to the sword. Though the United States was hostile towards Toussaint, the U.S. Navy agreed to support Toussaint's forces with the frigate USS General Greene, commanded by Captain Christopher Perry, providing fire support to the blacks as Toussaint laid siege to the city of Jacmel, held by mulatto forces under the command of Rigaud. [93] To the United States, Rigaud's ties to France represented a threat to American commerce. On 11 March 1800, Toussaint took Jacmel and Rigaud fled on the French schooner La Diana. [93] Though Toussaint maintained he was still loyal to France, to all intents and purposes, he ruled Saint Domingue as its dictator. [94]

In the early 21st century, historian Robert L. Scheina estimated that the slave rebellion resulted in the death of 350,000 Haitians and 50,000 European troops. [95] According to the Encyclopedia of African American Politics, "Between 1791 and independence in 1804 nearly 200,000 blacks died, as did thousands of mulattoes and as many as 100,000 French and British soldiers." [96] Yellow fever caused the most deaths. Geggus points out that at least 3 of every 5 British troops sent there in 1791–1797 died of disease. [97] [98] There has been considerable debate over whether the number of deaths caused by disease was exaggerated. [99]

Toussaint Louverture

One of the most successful black commanders was Toussaint Louverture, a self-educated former domestic slave. Like Jean François and Biassou, he initially fought for the Spanish crown in this period. After the British had invaded Saint-Domingue, Louverture decided to fight for the French if they would agree to free all the slaves. Sonthonax had proclaimed an end to slavery on 29 August 1792. Louverture worked with a French general, Étienne Laveaux, to ensure that all slaves would be freed. Louverture abandoned the Spanish army in the east and brought his forces over to the French side on 6 May 1794 after the Spanish refused to take steps to end slavery. [100]

Under the military leadership of Toussaint, the forces made up mostly of former slaves succeeded in winning concessions from the British and expelling the Spanish forces. In the end, Toussaint essentially restored control of Saint-Domingue to France. Louverture was very intelligent, organized and articulate. Having made himself master of the island, however, Toussaint did not wish to surrender too much power to France. He began to rule the country as an effectively autonomous entity. Louverture overcame a succession of local rivals, including: the Commissioner Sonthonax, a French white man who gained support from many Haitians, angering Louverture André Rigaud, a free man of color who fought to keep control of the South in the War of Knives and Comte d'Hédouville, who forced a fatal wedge between Rigaud and Louverture before escaping to France. Toussaint defeated a British expeditionary force in 1798. In addition, he led an invasion of neighboring Santo Domingo (December 1800), and freed the slaves there on 3 January 1801.

In 1801, Louverture issued a constitution for Saint-Domingue that decreed he would be governor-for-life and called for black autonomy and a sovereign black state. In response, Napoleon Bonaparte dispatched a large expeditionary force of French soldiers and warships to the island, led by Bonaparte's brother-in-law Charles Leclerc, to restore French rule. [94] They were under secret instructions to restore slavery, at least in the formerly Spanish-held part of the island. Bonaparte ordered that Toussaint was to be treated with respect until the French forces were established once that was done, Toussaint was to summoned to Le Cap and be arrested if he failed to show, Leclerc was to wage "a war to the death" with no mercy and all of Toussaint's followers to be shot when captured. [101] Once that was completed, slavery would be ultimately restored. [94] The numerous French soldiers were accompanied by mulatto troops led by Alexandre Pétion and André Rigaud, mulatto leaders who had been defeated by Toussaint three years earlier.

Napoleon invades Haiti

The French arrived on 2 February 1802 at Le Cap with the Haitian commander Henri Christophe being ordered by Leclerc to turn over the city to the French. [102] When Christophe refused, the French assaulted Le Cap and the Haitians set the city afire rather than surrender it. [102] Leclerc sent Toussaint letters promising him: "Have no worries about your personal fortune. It will be safeguarded for you, since it has been only too well earned by your own efforts. Do not worry about the liberty of your fellow citizens". [103] When Toussaint still failed to appear at Le Cap, Leclerc issued a proclamation on 17 February 1802: "General Toussaint and General Christophe are outlawed all citizens are ordered to hunt them down, and treat them as rebels against the French Republic". [104] Captain Marcus Rainsford, a British Army officer who visited Saint-Domingue observed the training of the Haitian Army, writing: "At a whistle, a whole brigade ran three or four hundred yards, and then, separating, threw themselves flat on the ground, changing to their backs and sides, and all the time keeping up a strong fire until recalled…This movement is executed with such facility and precision as totally to prevent cavalry from charging them in bushy and hilly country". [104]

Haitian resistance and scorched-earth tactics

In a letter to Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Toussaint outlined his plans for defeating the French: "Do not forget, while waiting for the rainy reason which will rid us of our foes, that we have no other resource than destruction and fire. Bear in mind that the soil bathed with our sweat must not furnish our enemies with the smallest sustenance. Tear up the roads with shot throw corpses and horses into all the foundations, burn and annihilate everything in order that those who have come to reduce us to slavery may have before their eyes the image of the hell which they deserve". [104] Dessalines never received the letter as he had already taken to the field, evaded a French column sent to capture him and stormed Léogâne. [104] The Haitians burned down Léogâne and killed all of the French with the Trinidadian historian C. L. R. James writing of Dessalines's actions at Léogâne: "Men, women and children, indeed all the whites who came into his hands, he massacred. And forbidding burial, he left stacks of corpses rotting in the sun to strike terror into the French detachments as they toiled behind his flying columns". [104] The French had been expecting the Haitians to happily go back to being their slaves, as they believed it was natural for blacks to be the slaves of whites, and were stunned to learn how much the Haitians hated them for wanting to reduce them back to a life in chains. [104] A visibly shocked General Pamphile de Lacroix after seeing the ruins of Léogâne wrote: "They heaped up bodies" which "still had their attitudes they were bent over, their hands outstretched and beseeching the ice of death had not effaced the look on their faces". [104]

Leclerc ordered four French columns to march on Gonaives, which was the main Haitian base. [105] One of the French columns was commanded by General Donatien de Rochambeau, a proud white supremacist and a supporter of slavery who detested the Haitians for wanting to be free. Toussaint tried to stop Rochambeau at Ravine-à-Couleuvre, a very narrow gully up in the mountains that the Haitians had filled with chopped down trees. [105] In the ensuring Battle of Ravine-à-Couleuvres, after six hours of fierce hand-to-hand fighting with no quarter given on either side, the French finally broke through, albeit with heavy losses. [105] During the battle, Toussaint personally took part in the fighting to lead his men in charges against the French. [105] After losing 800 men, Toussaint ordered a retreat. [105]

Crête-à-Pierrot fortress

The Haitians next tried to stop the French at a British-built fort up in the mountains called Crête-à-Pierrot, a battle that is remembered as a national epic in Haiti. [105] While Toussaint took to the field, he left Dessalines in command of Crête-à-Pierrot, who from his fastness could see three French columns converging on the fort. [105] Dessalines appeared before his men standing atop of a barrel of gunpowder, holding a lit torch, saying: "We are going to be attacked, and if the French put their feet in here, I shall blow everything up", leading his men to reply "We shall die for liberty!". [105] The first of the French columns to appear before the fort was commanded by General Jean Boudet, whose men were harassed by skirmishers until they reached a deep ditch the Haitians had dug. [105] As the French tried to cross the ditch, Dessalines ordered his men who were hiding to come out and open fire, hitting the French with a tremendous volley of artillery and musket fire, inflicting heavy losses on the attackers. [105] General Boudet himself was wounded and as the French dead and wounded started to pile up in the ditch, the French retreated. [105] The next French commander who tried to assault the ditch was General Charles Dugua, joined shortly afterwards by the column commanded by Leclerc. [105] All of the French assaults ended in total failure, and after the failure of their last attack, the Haitians charged the French, cutting down any Frenchmen. [105] General Dugua was killed, Leclerc was wounded and the French lost about 800 dead. [106] The final French column to arrive was the one commanded by Rochambeau, who brought along heavy artillery that knocked out the Haitian artillery, though his attempt to storm the ditch also ended in failure with about 300 of his men killed. [106] Over the following days, the French kept on bombarding and assaulting the fort, only to be repulsed every time while the Haitians defiantly sang songs of the French Revolution, celebrating the right of all men to be equal and free. [106] The Haitian psychological warfare was successful with many French soldiers asking why they were fighting to enslave the Haitians, who were only asserting the rights promised by the Revolution to make all men free. [106] Despite Bonaparte's attempt to keep his intention to restore slavery a secret, it was widely believed by both sides that was why the French had returned to Haiti, as a sugar plantation could only be profitable with slave labour. [ citation needed ] Finally after twenty days of siege with food and ammunition running out, Dessalines ordered his men to abandon the fort on the night of 24 March 1802 and the Haitians slipped out of the fort to fight another day. [106] Even Rochambeau, who hated all blacks was forced to admit in a report: "Their retreat—this miraculous retreat from our trap—was an incredible feat of arms". [106] The French had won, but they had lost 2,000 dead against an opponent whom they held in contempt on racial grounds, believing all blacks to be stupid and cowardly, and furthermore, that it was shortages of food and ammunition that forced the Haitians to retreat, not because of any feats of arms by the French army. [106]

After the Battle of Crête-à-Pierrot, the Haitians abandoned conventional warfare and reverted to guerrilla tactics, making the French hold over much of the countryside from Le Cap down to the Artibonite valley very tenuous. [106] With March, the rainy season came to Saint-Domingue, and as stagnant water collected, the mosquitoes began to breed, leading to yet another outbreak of yellow fever. [106] By the end of March, 5,000 French soldiers had died of yellow fever and another 5,000 were hospitalized with yellow fever, leading to a worried Leclerc to write in his diary: "The rainy season has arrived. My troops are exhausted with fatigue and sickness". [106]

Capture of Toussaint

On 25 April 1802, the situation suddenly changed when Christophe defected, along with much of the Haitian Army, to the French. [106] Louverture was promised his freedom if he agreed to integrate his remaining troops into the French army. Louverture agreed to this on 6 May 1802. [106] Just what motivated Toussaint to give up the fight has been the subject of much debate with most probable explanation being that he was just tired after 11 years of war. [107] Under the terms of surrender, Leclerc gave his solemn word that slavery would not be restored in Saint-Domingue, that blacks could be officers in the French Army, and that the Haitian Army would be allowed to integrate into the French Army. Leclerc also gave Toussaint a plantation at Ennery. [106] Toussaint was later deceived, seized by the French and shipped to France. He died months later in prison at Fort-de-Joux in the Jura Mountains. [24] Shortly afterwards, the ferocious Dessalines rode into Le Cap to submit to France and was rewarded by being made the governor of Saint-Marc, a place that Dessalines ruled with his customary cruelty. [107] However, the surrender of Christophe, Toussaint, and Dessalines did not mean the end of Haitian resistance. Throughout the countryside, guerrilla warfare continued and the French staged mass executions via firing squads, hanging, and drowning Haitians in bags. [107] Rochambeau invented a new means of mass execution, which he called "fumigational-sulphurous baths": killing hundreds of Haitians in the holds of ships by burning sulphur to make sulphur dioxide to gas them. [107]

Rebellion against reimposition of slavery

For a few months, the island was quiet under Napoleonic rule. But when it became apparent that the French intended to re-establish slavery (because they had nearly done so on Guadeloupe), black cultivators revolted in the summer of 1802. Yellow fever had decimated the French by the middle of July 1802, the French lost about 10,000 dead to yellow fever. [108] By September, Leclerc wrote in his diary that he had only 8,000 fit men left as yellow fever had killed the others. [107] In 1802, Napoleon added a Polish legion of around 5,200 to the forces sent to Saint-Domingue to fight off the slave rebellion. However, the Poles were told that there was a revolt of prisoners in Saint-Domingue. Upon arrival and the first fights, the Polish platoon soon discovered that what was actually taking place in the colony was a rebellion of slaves fighting off their French masters for their freedom. [109] During this time, there was a familiar situation going on back in their homeland as these Polish soldiers were fighting for their liberty from the occupying forces of Russia, Prussia and Austria that began in 1772. Many Poles believed that if they fought for France, Bonaparte would reward them by restoring Polish independence, which had been ended with the Third Partition of Poland in 1795. [108] As hopeful as the Haitians, many Poles were seeking union amongst themselves to win back their freedom and independence by organizing an uprising. As a result, many Polish soldiers admired their opponents, to eventually turn on the French army and join the Haitian slaves. Polish soldiers participated in the Haitian revolution of 1804, contributing to the establishment of the world's first free black republic and the first independent Caribbean state. [109] Haiti's first head of state Jean-Jacques Dessalines called Polish people "the White Negroes of Europe", which was then regarded a great honour, as it meant brotherhood between Poles and Haitians. Many years later François Duvalier, the president of Haiti who was known for his black nationalist and Pan-African views, used the same concept of "European white negroes" while referring to Polish people and glorifying their patriotism. [110] [111] [112] After Haiti gained its independence, the Poles acquired Haitian citizenship for their loyalty and support in overthrowing the French colonialists, and were called "black" by the Haitian constitution. [113]

Dessalines and Pétion join Haitian forces

Dessalines and Pétion remained allied with France until they switched sides again, in October 1802, and fought against the French. As Leclerc lay dying of yellow fever and heard that Christophe and Dessalines had joined the rebels, he reacted by ordering all of the blacks living in Le Cap to be killed by drowning in the harbour. [114] In November, Leclerc died of yellow fever, like much of his army. [24] [115]

His successor, the Vicomte de Rochambeau, fought an even more brutal campaign. Rochambeau waged a near-genocidal campaign against the Haitians, killing everyone who was black. [114] Rochambeau imported about 15,000 attack dogs from Jamaica, who had been trained to savage blacks and mulattoes. [114] (Other sources suggest the dogs may have been dogo cubanos sourced in their hundreds from Cuba rather than Jamaica.) [116] At the Bay of Le Cap, Rochambeau had blacks drowned. No one would eat fish from the bay for months afterward, as no one wished to eat the fish that had eaten human flesh. [114] Bonaparte, hearing that most of his army in Saint-Domingue had died of yellow fever and the French held only Port-au-Prince, Le Cap, and Les Cayes, sent about 20,000 reinforcements to Rochambeau. [114]

Dessalines matched Rochambeau in his vicious cruelty. At Le Cap, when Rochambeau hanged 500 blacks, Dessalines replied by killing 500 whites and sticking their heads on spikes all around Le Cap, so that the French could see what he was planning on doing to them. [114] Rochambeau's atrocities helped rally many former French loyalists to the rebel cause. Many on both sides had come to see the war as a race war where no mercy was to be given. The Haitians burned French prisoners alive, cut them up with axes, or tied them to a board and sawed them into two. [107]

The rebels finally managed to decisively defeat the French troops at the Battle of Vertières on 18 November 1803, leading the first ever group of slaves to successfully create an independent state through a slave revolt. [117] Having sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States in April 1803, Napoleon accepted defeat in his failing ventures in the Western Hemisphere. Dessalines won a string of victories against Leclerc and Rochambeau, becoming arguably the most successful military commander in the struggle against Napoleonic France. [118]

Napoleon then turned his attention towards France's European enemies such as Great Britain and Prussia. With that, he withdrew a majority of the French forces in Haiti to counter the possibility of an invasion from Prussia, Britain, and Spain on a weakened France.

War between France and Britain

With Napoleon's inability to send the requested massive reinforcements after the outbreak of war on 18 May 1803 with the British—the Royal Navy immediately despatched a squadron under Sir John Duckworth from Jamaica to cruise in the region, seeking to eliminate communication between the French outposts and to capture or destroy the French warships based in the colony. The Blockade of Saint-Domingue not only cut the French forces out from reinforcements and supplies from France, but also meant that the British began to supply arms to the Haitians. [114] Trapped, engaged in a vicious race war, and with much of his army dying of yellow fever, Rochambeau fell to pieces. He lost interest in commanding his army and as James wrote, he "amused himself with sexual pleasures, military balls, banquets and the amassing of a personal fortune". [114]

The Royal Navy squadrons soon blockaded the French-held ports of Cap Français and Môle-Saint-Nicolas on the Northern coast of the French colony. In the summer of 1803, when war broke out between the United Kingdom and the French Consulate, Saint-Domingue had been almost completely overrun by Haitian forces under the command of Jean-Jacques Dessalines. In the north of the country, the French forces were isolated in the two large ports of Cap Français and Môle-Saint-Nicolas and a few smaller settlements, all supplied by a French naval force based primarily at Cap Français.

On 28 June, the squadron encountered a French convoy from Les Cayes off Môle-Saint-Nicolas, capturing one ship although the other escaped. Two days later an independently sailing French frigate was chased down and captured in the same waters. On 24 July another British squadron intercepted the main French squadron from Cap Français, which was attempting to break past the blockade and reach France. The British, led by Commodore John Loring gave chase, but one French ship of the line and a frigate escaped. Another ship of the line was trapped against the coast and captured after coming under fire from Haitian shore batteries. The remainder of the squadron was forced to fight two more actions on their return to Europe, but did eventually reach the Spanish port of Corunna.

On 8 October 1803, the French abandoned Port-au-Prince as Rochambeau decided to concentrate what was left of his army at Le Cap. [114] Dessalines marched into Port-au-Prince, where he was welcomed as a hero by the 100 whites who had chosen to stay behind. [119] Dessalines thanked them all for their kindness and belief in racial equality, but then he said that the French had treated him as less than human when he was a slave, and so to avenge his mistreatment, he promptly had the 100 whites all hanged. [119] On 3 November, the frigate HMS Blanche captured a supply schooner near Cap Français, the last hope in supplying the French forces. On 16 November 1803, Dessalines began attacking the French blockhouses outside of Le Cap. [119] The last battle on land of the Haitian Revolution, the Battle of Vertières, occurred on 18 November 1803, near Cap-Haïtien fought between Dessalines' army and the remaining French colonial army under the Vicomte de Rochambeau the slave rebels and freed revolutionary soldiers won the battle. By this point, Perry observed that both sides were "a little mad" as the pressures of the war and yellow fever had taken their toil, and both the French and the Haitians fought with a reckless courage, seeing death in battle as preferable to a slow death by yellow fever or being tortured to death by the enemy. [119]

Haitian victory

Rochambeau, seeing defeat inevitable, procrastinated until the last possible moment, but eventually was forced to surrender to the British commander—by the end of the month the garrison was starving, having reached the conclusion at a council of war that surrender was the only way to escape from this "place of death". [119] Commodore Loring, however, refused the French permission to sail and agreed terms with Dessalines that permitted them to safely evacuate provided they had left the port by 1 December. On the night of 30 November 1803, 8,000 French soldiers and hundreds of white civilians boarded the British ships to take them away. [119] One of Rochambeau's ships was almost wrecked while leaving the harbour, but was saved by a British lieutenant acting alone, who not only rescued the 900 people on board, but also refloated the ship. At Môle-Saint-Nicolas, General Louis de Noailles refused to surrender and instead sailed to Havana, Cuba in a fleet of small vessels on 3 December, but was intercepted and mortally wounded by a Royal Navy frigate. Soon after, the few remaining French-held towns in Saint-Domingue surrendered to the Royal Navy to prevent massacres by the Haitian army. Meanwhile, Dessalines led the rebellion until its completion, when the French forces were finally defeated by the end of 1803. [24]

On 1 January 1804, from the city of Gonaïves, Dessalines officially declared the former colony's independence, renaming it "Haiti" after the indigenous Arawak name. Although he lasted from 1804 to 1806, several changes began taking place in Haiti. The independence of Haiti was a major blow to France and its colonial empire, but the French state would take several decades to recognize the loss of the colony. As the French retreated, Haiti, which had once been called the "Pearl of the Antilles", the richest French colony in the world, was impoverished, as its economy was in ruins after the revolution. Haiti struggled to recover economically from the war. [120] The Haitians had paid a high price for their freedom, losing about 200,000 dead between 1791 and 1803, and unlike the majority of the European dead, who were killed by yellow fever, the majority of the Haitian dead were the victims of violence. [45]

On 1 January 1804, Dessalines, the new leader under the dictatorial 1805 constitution, declared Haiti a free republic in the name of the Haitian people, [121] which was followed by the massacre of the remaining whites. [122] His secretary Boisrond-Tonnerre stated, "For our declaration of independence, we should have the skin of a white man for parchment, his skull for an inkwell, his blood for ink, and a bayonet for a pen!" [123] Haiti was the first independent nation in Latin America, the first post-colonial independent black-led nation in the world, and the only nation whose independence was gained as part of a successful slave rebellion.

The country was damaged from years of war, its agriculture devastated, its formal commerce nonexistent. [124] [125] The country, therefore, had to be rebuilt. To realise this goal, Dessalines adopted the economic organisation of serfdom. [126] He proclaimed that every citizen would belong to one of two categories, laborer or soldier. [126] Furthermore, he proclaimed the mastery of the state over the individual and consequently ordered that all laborers would be bound to a plantation. [126] Those that possessed skills outside of plantation work, like craftsmanship and artisans, were exempt from this ordinance. To avoid the appearance of slavery, however, Dessalines abolished the ultimate symbol of slavery, the whip. [126] Likewise, the working day was shortened by a third. [126] His chief motivator nonetheless was production, and to this aim he granted much freedom to the plantations' overseers. Barred from using the whip, many instead turned to lianes, which were thick vines abundant throughout the island, to persuade the laborers to keep working. [126] Many of the workers likened the new labor system to slavery, much like Toussaint L'Ouverture's system, which caused resentment between Dessalines and his people. Workers were given a fourth of all wealth produced from their labor. Nevertheless, he succeeded in rebuilding much of the country and in raising production levels, thus slowly rebuilding the economy. [126]

Dessalines paid large sums of money to liberate slaves on slave ships in near the Haitian coast. He paid for the expenses of the returns of the thousands of Haitian refugees that left during the revolution.

Fearing a return of French forces, Dessalines first expanded and maintained a significant military force. During his reign, nearly 10% of able-bodied men were in active service resulting in a military force of up to 37,000 men. [127] Furthermore, Dessalines ordered the construction of massive fortifications throughout the island, like the Citadelle Laferrière, the largest fortress in the Western Hemisphere. Cities and commercial centers were moved to the interior of the country, while less important ones were kept to the coast, so they could be burnt down completely to discourage the French many commentators believe that this over militarization contributed to many of Haiti's future problems. [127] In fact, because young fit men were the most likely to be drafted into the army, the plantations were thus deprived of the workforce needed to function properly. [127]

There was growing frustration between the workers, the elites, and Dessalines. A conspiracy led by the mulatto elites ultimately led to Dessalines assassination and two separate sovereign states of Haiti.

1804 massacre of the French

The 1804 massacre was carried out against the remaining white population of French colonists [128] and loyalists, [129] both enemies and traitors of the revolution, [130] by the black population of Haiti on the order of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who declared the French as barbarians, demanding their expulsion and vengeance for their crimes. [131] [132] The massacre—which took place in the entire territory of Haiti—was carried out from early February 1804 until 22 April 1804. During February and March, Dessalines traveled among the cities of Haiti to assure himself that his orders were carried out. Despite his orders, the massacres were often not carried out until he personally visited the cities. [133]

The course of the massacre showed an almost identical pattern in every city he visited. Before his arrival, there were only a few killings, despite his orders. [134] When Dessalines arrived, he first spoke about the atrocities committed by former French authorities, such as Rochambeau and Leclerc, after which he demanded that his orders about mass killings of the area's French population be carried out. Reportedly, he also ordered the unwilling to take part in the killings, especially men of mixed race, so that blame would not rest solely on the black population. [115] Mass killings then took place on the streets and on places outside the cities. In parallel to the killings, plundering and rape also occurred. [115]

Women and children were generally killed last. White women were "often raped or pushed into forced marriages under threat of death". [115]

By the end of April 1804, some 3,000 to 5,000 people had been killed [135] practically eradicating the country's white population. Dessalines had specifically stated that France is "the real enemy of the new nation." This allowed certain categories of whites to be excluded from massacre who had to pledge their rejection to France: the Polish soldiers who deserted from the French army the group of German colonists of Nord-Ouest who were inhabitants before the revolution French widows who were allowed to keep their property [132] select male Frenchmen [136] and a group of medical doctors and professionals. [133] Reportedly, also people with connections to Haitian notables were spared, [115] as well as the women who agreed to marry non-white men. [135] In the 1805 constitution that declared all its citizens as black, [136] it specifically mentions the naturalizations of German and Polish peoples enacted by the government, as being exempt from Article XII that prohibited whites ("non-Haitians" foreigners) from owning land. [128] [135] [131]

An independent government was created in Haiti, but the country's society remained deeply affected by patterns established under French colonial rule. As in other French colonial societies, a class of free people of color had developed after centuries of French rule here. Many planters or young unmarried men had relations with African or Afro-Caribbean women, sometimes providing for their freedom and that of their children, as well as providing for education of the mixed-race children, especially the boys. Some were sent to France for education and training, and some joined the French military. The mulattoes who returned to Saint-Domingue became the elite of the people of color. As an educated class used to the French political system, they became the elite of Haitian society after the war's end. Many of them had used their social capital to acquire wealth, and some already owned land. Some had identified more with the French colonists than the slaves. Many of the free people of color, by contrast, were raised in French culture, had certain rights within colonial society, and generally spoke French and practiced Catholicism (with syncretic absorption of African religions.)

Following Dessaline's assassination, another of Toussaint's black generals, Henri Christophe, succeeded his in control of the north, while Alexandre Pétion presided over mulatto rule in the south. There were large differences in governance between Petion's republic, and what would eventually become Christophe's kingdom. While the southern republic did not have as much focus on economic development, and put more attention on liberal land distribution and education, the northern kingdom went on to become relatively wealthy, though wealth distribution was disputed. As a result of temporary trade agreements between Christophe, the United States, and British colonies, Christophe was able to rebuild the northern region. There were large investments in education and public works, military infrastructure, and many chateaux, the most notable being the Sans Souci palace in Milot. However, much like his predecessors, this was achieved through forced labor which ultimately led to his downfall. Contrarily, Petion was beloved by his people, but despised by his northern counterpart. A major effort by Christophe to take Port-au-Prince in mid–1812 failed. The mulattoes were harassed by a pocket of black rebellion in their rear from February 1807 to May 1819. A black leader named Goman kept alive the angry spirit of Dessalines in the southern mountains of the Grand-Anse, resisting several mulatto punitive expeditions. Finally, in 1819, the new mulatto leader, Jean-Pierre Boyer, sent six regiments into the Grand-Anse to ferret out Goman. The black rebel was trapped and shot off a 1,000-foot-high cliff. In 1820, the island nation was finally reunified when Christophe, ill and surrounded by new rebellions, killed himself. Boyer with 20,000 troops marched into Cap-Haïtien, the northern capital, shortly afterward to establish his power over all of Haiti. Not too long after, Boyer was able to secure cooperation with the general of the neighboring Spanish Haiti, and in February 1822 began a 22 year long unification with the eastern state. [137]

The nascent state's future was hobbled in 1825 when France forced it (with French warships anchored off the coast during the negotiations [138] ) to pay 150 million gold francs in reparations to French ex-slaveholders—as a condition of French political recognition and to end the newly formed state's political and economic isolation. [139] By an order of 17 April 1825, the King of France renounced his rights of sovereignty over Santo Domingo, and recognized the independence of Haiti. [140] [141] [142] President Jean-Pierre Boyer believed that the constant threat of a French invasion was stymieing the Haitian economy and thus felt the need to settle the matter once and for all. [138]

Though the amount of the reparations was reduced to 60 million francs in 1838, Haiti was unable to finish paying off its debt until 1947. The indemnity bankrupted the Haitian treasury and left the country's government deeply impoverished, causing long-term instability. Haiti was therefore forced to take out a loan from French banks, who provided the funds for the large first installment, [115] severely affecting Haiti's ability to prosper.

While Haiti suffered major economic setbacks during the early years of the post revolutionary era, the ideals of freedom and anti-colonialism never ceased to be part of the Haitian consciousness. Citizenship was offered to any slave or oppressed person that made it to Haiti's shores as mandated by Dessaline's constitution. All four of Haiti's earlier rulers, Dessalines, Christophe, Petion, and Boyer all had programs that involved swaying African Americans to resettle there and assure their freedom. Slave boats that were captured and brought to Haiti's shores resulted in the liberation and integration of all captives on board into Haitian society. On one occasion, President Alexandre Petion protected Jamaican slaves from re-enslavement after they escaped their plantation and landed in the southern city of Jérémie. [143] On multiple occasions, Haiti's leaders offered asylum to liberal revolutionaries globally. One of the more notable examples of this included Haiti's involvement with Gran Colombia, where Dessalines and Petion both offered aid, ammunitions, and asylum to Francisco de Miranda and Simon Bolivar, who even went as far as to credit Haiti for the liberation of his country. [ citation needed ] Dessalines offered citizenship and assistance to slaves in Martinique and Guadeloupe so that they could start their own uprisings. [144] Mexican nationalists, Javier Mina and Jose Joaquin de Hererra took asylum in Les Cayes and were welcomed by Petion during Mexico's War of Independence. [145] The Greeks later received support from President Boyer during their fight against the Ottomans.

The end of the Haitian Revolution in 1804 marked the end of colonialism on the island. However, the social conflict cultivated under slavery continued to affect the population for years to come. Mulatto domination of politics and economics, and urban life after the revolution, created a different kind of two-caste society, as most Haitians were rural subsistence farmers. [125] The affranchi élite, who continued to rule Haiti while the formidable Haitian army kept them in power. France continued the slavery system in French Guiana, Martinique, and Guadeloupe. [146]

Historians continue to debate the importance of the Haitian Revolution. David Geggus asks: "How much of a difference did it make?" A limited amount, he concludes, for slavery flourished in the western hemisphere for many more decades. [147] In the opposing camp, African-American historian W. E. B. Du Bois said that the Haitian Revolution was an economic pressure without which the British parliament would not have accepted abolitionism as readily. [148]

Other historians say the Haitian Revolution influenced slave rebellions in the US as well as in British colonies. The biggest slave revolt in US history was the 1811 German Coast Uprising in Louisiana. This slave rebellion was put down and the punishment the slaves received was so severe that no contemporary news reports about it exist. [149] The neighboring revolution brought the slavery question to the forefront of US politics, and though inspiring to the enslaved themselves [150] the resulting intensification of racial divides and sectional politics ended the idealism of the Revolutionary period. [151] The American President Thomas Jefferson—who was a slaveholder himself—refused to establish diplomatic relations with Haiti (the United States did not recognize Haiti until 1862) and imposed an economic embargo on trade with Haiti that also lasted until 1862 in an attempt to ensure the economic failure of the new republic as Jefferson wanted Haiti to fail, regarding a successful slave revolt in the West Indies as a dangerous example for American slaves. [152]

Beginning during the slave insurrections of 1791, white refugees from Saint-Domingue fled to the United States, particularly to Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, and Charleston. The immigration intensified after the journée (crisis) of 20 June 1793, and soon American families began to raise money and open up their homes to help exiles in what became the United States' first refugee crisis. While some white refugees blamed the French Revolutionary government for sparking the violence in Haiti, many supported the Republican regime and openly expressed their support of the Jacobins. [153] There is also some historical evidence suggesting that displaying solidarity with the French Revolution was the easiest way for the refugees to earn the support and sympathy of the Americans, who had just recently lived through their own revolution. [154] American slaveholders, in particular, commiserated with the French planters who had been forcibly removed from their plantations in Saint-Domingue. While the exiles found themselves in a peaceful situation in the United States—safe from the violence raging in both France and Haiti—their presence complicated the already precarious diplomatic relations among the UK, France, and the US.

Many of the whites and free people of color who left Saint-Domingue for the United States settled in southern Louisiana, adding many new members to its French-speaking, mixed-race, and black populations. The exiles causing the greatest amount of alarm were the African slaves who came with their refugee owners. Some southern planters grew concerned that the presence of these slaves who had witnessed the revolution in Haiti would ignite similar revolts in the United States. [155] Other planters, however, were confident they had the situation under control. [156]

In 1807 Haiti was divided into two parts, the Republic of Haiti in the south, and the Kingdom of Haiti in the north. Land could not be privately owned it reverted to the State through Biens Nationaux (national bonds), and no French whites could own land. The remaining French settlers were forced to leave the island. Those who refused were slaughtered. The Haitian State owned up to 90% of the land and the other 10% was leased in 5-year intervals.

Since the resistance and the murderous disease environment made it impossible for Napoleon to regain control over Haiti, he gave up hope of rebuilding a French New World empire. He decided to sell Louisiana to the US. The Haitian Revolution brought about two unintended consequences: the creation of a continental America and the virtual end of Napoleonic rule in the Americas. [157]

There never again was such a large-scale slave rebellion. Napoleon reversed the French abolition of slavery in law, constitution, and practice, which had occurred between 1793 and 1801, and reinstated slavery in the French colonies in 1801–1803—which lasted until 1848.

Reason for revolution

The Haitian Revolution was a revolution ignited from below, by the underrepresented majority of the population. [158] A huge majority of the supporters of the Haitian revolution were slaves and freed Africans who were severely discriminated against by colonial society and the law. [159]

Brutality

Despite the idealist, rational and utopian thinking surrounding both uprisings, extreme brutality was a fundamental aspect of both uprisings. Besides initial cruelty that created the precarious conditions that bred the revolution, there was violence from both sides throughout the revolution. The period of violence during the French Revolution is known as the Reign of Terror. Waves of suspicion meant that the government rounded up and killed thousands of suspects, ranging from known aristocrats to people thought to oppose the leaders. They were killed by guillotine, "breaking at the wheel", mobs and other death machines: death toll estimates range from 18,000 to 40,000. [160] Total casualties for the French Revolution are estimated at 2 million. [161] In the Caribbean, total casualties totaled approximately 162,000. [162] Violence in Haiti was largely characterized by military confrontations, riots, killing of slave owners and their families, and guerrilla warfare. [163]

Lasting change

The Revolution in Haiti did not wait on the Revolution in France. The call for modification of society was influenced by the revolution in France, but once the hope for change found a place in the hearts of the Haitian people, there was no stopping the radical reformation that was occurring. [164] The Enlightenment ideals and the initiation of the French Revolution were enough to inspire the Haitian Revolution, which evolved into the most successful and comprehensive slave rebellion in history. [164] Just as the French were successful in transforming their society, so were the Haitians. On 4 April 1792, The French National Assembly granted freedom to slaves in saint-Domingue. [163] The revolution culminated in 1804 Haiti was an independent state solely of freed peoples. [165] The activities of the revolutions sparked change across the world. France's transformation was most influential in Europe, and Haiti's influence spanned every location that continued to practice slavery. John E. Baur honors Haiti as home of the most influential revolution in history. [166]

While acknowledging the cross-influences, most contemporary historians [ who? ] distinguish the Haitian Revolution from the French Revolution. Some [ who? ] also separate it from the earlier armed conflicts by free men of color who were seeking expansion of political rights for themselves, but not the abolition of slavery. These scholars show that if the agency of the enslaved blacks becomes the focus of studies, the Revolution's opening and closing dates are certain. From this premise, the narrative began with the enslaved blacks' bid for freedom through armed struggle and concluded with their victory over slavery powers and the creation of an independent state. In April 1791, a massive black insurgency in the north of the island rose violently against the plantation system, setting a precedent of resistance to racial slavery. In cooperation with their former mulatto rivals, blacks ended the Revolution in November 1803 when they decidedly defeated the French army at the Battle of Vertières. The French had already lost a high proportion of their troops to yellow fever and other diseases. [115] After acknowledging defeat in Saint-Domingue, Napoleon withdrew from North America, agreeing to the Louisiana Purchase by the United States.

Although the series of events during these years is known under the name of "Haitian Revolution", alternative views suggest that the entire affair was an assorted number of coincidental conflicts that ended with a fragile truce between free men of color and blacks. [167] [ failed verification ] Historians debate whether the victorious Haitians were "intrinsically [a] revolutionary force". [168] One thing is certain: Haiti became an independent country on 1 January 1804, when the council of generals chose Jean-Jacques Dessalines to assume the office of governor-general. One of the state's first significant documents was Dessaliness' "Liberty or Death" speech, which circulated broadly in the foreign press. In it, the new head of state made the case for the new nation's objective: the permanent abolition of slavery in Haiti. [169]

The role of women in the Haitian Revolution was for a long time given little attention by historians, but has in recent years garnered significant attention. [170] [171] [172]

The revolution of African slaves brought many fears to colonies surrounding Haiti and the Caribbean. Prominent wealthy American slave owners, reading about the revolution, also read speculation about what might come in their own states. Anti-abolitionist critics of the revolution dubbed it "the horrors of Santo Domingo". [173] However, newspapers like the Colombian Centinel took extra steps to support the revolution, comparing it to the American Revolution. [174] The French media also played an important role in the Haitian Revolution, with contributions that made many French upstarts quite interested in the young, passionate Toussaint's writings of freedom.

There were many written discussions about the events in Haiti during the revolution in both France and England, however, they were generally written by anonymous authors. These texts also generally fell into two camps—one being proslavery authors who warned of a repetition of the violence of St. Domingue wherever abolition occurred and the other being abolitionist authors who countered that white owners had sowed the seeds of revolution. [175]

However, all was not simple in the press. A top critic who significantly drove Toussaint into fear of backlash from France was Sonthonax, who was responsible for many outlooks of Haiti in the French newspapers. [176] Yet Sonthonax was one of the few contenders who truly pushed for the independence of the African slaves and became a major factor in Toussaint's decision of declaring independence from France.


Overview

Since the revolutionaries explicitly proclaimed liberty as their highest ideal, slavery was bound to come into question during the French Revolution. Even before 1789 critics had attacked the slave trade and slavery in the colonies. France had several colonies in the Caribbean in which slavery supported a plantation economy that produced sugar, coffee, and cotton. The most important of these colonies was Saint Domingue (later Haiti), which had 500,000 slaves, 32,000 whites, and 28,000 free blacks (which included both blacks and mulattos). Some free blacks owned slaves in fact, the free blacks owned one-third of the plantation property and one-quarter of the slaves in Saint Domingue, though they could not hold public office or practice many professions (medicine, for example).

This Source Collection includes an informational essay and 41 primary sources.

Essay

The slave system in the colonies was regulated by a series of royal edicts, the most important of which was promulgated by Louis XIV in 1685. Taken together, the edicts constituted the Code noir, or slave code. This code prescribed a harsh regime of penalties for slaves who resisted their captivity, especially if they tried to harm their masters in any way. Saint Domingue provided extraordinary sources of wealth to the French. To protect their investments, French slaveholders had to learn at least a minimal amount about their slaves. One of the most astute commentators, Médéric-Louis-Elie Moreau de Saint-Méry, wrote a massive two-volume work on life in Saint Domingue in the 1780s. He described many of the features of slave life that worried slaveholders, including voodoo imported from Africa, the presence of many people of mixed race (mulattos), the threat of slaves becoming Maroons (runaways), and the intense fear among slaveholders that their slaves would try to poison them. After the French Revolution broke out, planters looked back on pre-1789 conditions, trying to understand how slavery might have been better organized. Their observations provide yet another contemporary perspective on the plantation and slave system.

The Caribbean colonies were quick to respond to the outbreak of the Revolution in 1789. The white planters of Saint Domingue sent delegates to France to demand representation at the new National Assembly, as did the mulattos. Several prominent deputies in the National Assembly belonged to the Society of the Friends of Blacks, which put forth proposals for the abolition of the slave trade and the amelioration of the lot of slaves in the colonies. When these proposals fell on deaf ears, some deputies sympathetic to blacks turned to arguing that full civil and political rights should be granted to free blacks in the colonies. Before long, radical journalists in Paris began to take up the cause of black slaves, pushing for the abolition of slavery, or at least for a more positive view of the Africans. The pioneering feminist and playwright, Olympe de Gouges, also wrote a pamphlet challenging the colonial pro-slavery lobby to improve the lot of the blacks.

As the agitation in favor of granting rights to free blacks and abolishing the slave trade gathered steam, the colonies became filled with uncertainty and expectations began rising, especially among the free blacks and mulattos. In response, the white planters mounted their own counterattack and even contemplated demanding independence from France. Less is known about the views of the slaves because hardly any of them could read or write, but the royal governor of Saint Domingue expressed concern about the effects of the Revolution on the colony's slaves. In October 1789 he reported that the slaves considered the new revolutionary cockade (a decoration made up of red, white, and blue ribbons worn by supporters of the Revolution) a "signal of the manumission of the whites . . . the blacks all share an idea that struck them spontaneously: that the white slaves kill their masters and now free they govern themselves and regain possession of the land." In other words, the black slaves hoped to follow in the footsteps of their white predecessors, freeing themselves, killing their masters, and taking over the land.

Most deputies feared the effects of the loss of commerce that would result from either the abolition of slavery or the elimination of the slave trade. Fabulous wealth depended on slavery, as did shipbuilding, sugar-refining, and a host of subsidiary industries. Slaveowners and shippers did not intend to give up their prospects without a fight. The U.S. refusal to give up slavery or the slave trade provided added ammunition to support their position.

To quiet the unrest among the powerful white planters, especially in Saint Domingue, the colonial committee of the National Assembly proposed in March 1790 to exempt the colonies from the constitution and to prosecute anyone who attempted to spark uprisings against the slave system. But the steadily increasing agitation threatened the efforts of the National Assembly to mollify the white planters and keep a lid on racial tensions. The March 1790 decree said nothing about the political rights of free blacks, who continued to press their demands both in Paris and back home, but to no avail. In October 1790, 350 mulattos rebelled in Saint Domingue. French army troops cooperated with local planter militias to disperse and arrest them. In February 1791 the mulatto leaders, including James Ogé, were publicly executed. Nevertheless, on 15 May 1791, under renewed pressure from the abbé Grégoire and others, the National Assembly granted political rights to all free blacks and mulattos who were born of free mothers and fathers. Though this proviso limited rights to a few hundred free blacks, the white colonists furiously pledged to resist the application of the law.

Just a few months later, on 22 August 1791, the slaves of Saint Domingue rose up in rebellion, initiating what was to become over the next several years the first successful slave revolt in history. In response, the National Assembly rescinded the rights of free blacks and mulattos on 24 September 1791, prompting them once again to take up arms against the whites. Slaves burned down plantations, murdered their white masters, and even attacked the towns. Fighting continued as the new Legislative Assembly (it replaced the National Assembly in October 1791) considered free black rights again at the end of March 1792. On 28 March, the assembly voted to reinstate the political rights of free blacks and mulattos. Nothing was done about slavery.

In the fall of 1792, as the Revolution in mainland France began to radicalize, the French government sent two agents to Saint Domingue to take charge of the suppression of the slave revolt. In order to gain their freedom, rebel slaves now made pacts with the British and Spanish in the area. The British and Spanish promised freedom to those slaves who would join their armies, even though they had no intention of abolishing slavery in their own colonies. They simply wanted to benefit from France's problems. Faced with the threat of both British and Spanish invasions aimed at taking over the colony with the aid of the rebel slaves, the French government agents abolished slavery in the colony (August–October 1793). Although the National Convention initially denounced this action as part of a conspiracy to aid Great Britain, the Convention eventually voted to abolish slavery in all the French colonies on 4 February 1794. Many mulattos opposed this move because they owned slaves themselves. After more than two years of rebellion, invasion, attack, and counterattack, the economy of Saint Domingue had nearly collapsed. Thousands of whites fled to the United States or back to France.

For all the deputies' good intentions, the situation remained confused in almost all the colonies: some local authorities simply disregarded the decree, others converted slavery into forced labor, others were too busy fighting the British and Spanish to decide one way or the other. Out of the fighting emerged one of the most remarkable figures of the era, Toussaint L'Ouverture, a slave who learned to read and write and in the uprising rose to become the leading general of the slave rebels. Toussaint faced incredible obstacles in creating a coherent resistance. By 1800 the plantations were producing only one-fifth of what they had in 1789. In the zones controlled by Toussaint, army officers or officials took over the big estates and kept the former slaves working under military-style discipline. In 1802, once he had consolidated his hold on power in mainland France, Napoleon Bonaparte reestablished slavery and the slave trade in those colonies still under French control and denied political rights to free blacks. He sent a major expeditionary force to Saint Domingue to enforce his will. It captured Toussaint and sent him back to France, where he died in prison. Nevertheless, the former slaves continued their revolt and in 1804 they established the independent republic of Haiti. The French army limped home after losing thousands to disease and sporadic fighting. A slave rebellion had succeeded.

Americans in the new United States followed the events in Saint Domingue with anxious interest. Since the southern states relied on thousands of slaves to work their plantations, a slave revolt in the world's richest plantation colony was bound to excite their concern. In addition, when white settlers began fleeing Saint Domingue, many of them came to the United States. Newspapers in the United States published letters offering eyewitness accounts (and rumors) about the uprising. The accounts in the Pennsylvania Gazette are excerpted here.


1791&ndash1792

24 September 1791 The National Assembly in France revokes the May 15 decree, which had granted limited rights to free blacks and mulattoes, and names three commissioners to restore order in Saint-Domingue. In response, mulatto agitation in the South becomes open, armed rebellion in collaboration with the black slaves. Rebels in the west seize Port-au-Prince capital, cut its water supply and block all access to incoming food supplies before they are overcome by the French troops. 26 September 1791 Le Cap is burned to the ground by rebelling slaves.

“During those first weeks of revolution, the slaves destroyed the whites and their property with much the same ruthlessness and cruelty that they had suffered for so many years at the hands of their masters. The scenes of horror and bloodshed on the plantations, as whites hopelessly tried to defend themselves or, at best, to flee from the unleashed terror and rage of their former slaves, were only too reminiscent of the brutality that the slaves themselves had endured under the plantations regime. Yet as atrocious as they were, these acts of vengeance were surprisingly moderate, in the opinion of one of the best-known historians of that revolution, compared with the cold-blooded, grotesque savagery and sadistically calculated torture committed by their oppressors throughout the past. These were impassioned acts of revenge, of retribution, and were relatively short-lived.” (Carolyn E. Fick, The Making of Haiti, p. 108)

The "horrible carnage" gives way to strategic military operations, tactical maneuvers and new political alliances as the slaves gain territory and stabilize their positions.They raid plantations for military equipment, loot the whites' forces after they are repelled, and trade with the Spanish for weaponry. 28 September 1791 The National Assembly in France issues a decree granting amnesty to all free persons in Saint Domingue charged with “acts of revolution.” The slaves however are still intent on continuing warfare and pursuing “an end to the whites.” October 1791 Port-au-Prince is burned to the ground during fighting between whites and mulattoes.

Toussaint Louverture, a young former slave, begins to gain recognition as a promising leader in the rebel army.

November 1791 Of 170,000 slaves in the North Province, 80,000 have by now joined the rebel forces. The slaves set up camps in Platons with thousands of dwellings, two infirmaries, a civil government, crops and food supplies.

The three new civil commissioners named in September arrive in the colony from France. November 1791 Boukman is killed in battle, becoming the first of the original leaders to die. His head is cut off by colonists and exposed on a stake in Le Cap with the inscription “The head of Boukman, leader of the rebels.” In response, the slaves mourn intensely, retreating into the mountains to hold services. Fervor builds amongst the rank-and-file soldiers to kill every white they see, including all their prisoners. The grief and rage is finally channeled into a three day calenda ceremony.

Without Boukman, the rebel leaders falter, unsure of how to proceed. Against the wishes of their troops, they choose to negotiate with the colonists, asking for improved quality of life on plantations in exchange for the release of prisoners, namely the leaders’ wives. The slave troops, on the other hand, vow that they will continue fighting for freedom, even if it means killing their own leaders. They, more than their commanders, are violently opposed to compromising or returning to the plantations and realize that the negotiations are doomed.

At the end of the month, the Colonial Assembly refuses all the slaves’ demands. The rebel leaders agree to return to war. 9 January 1792 Governor Blanchelande marches against the slaves encamped at Platons. The rebel army, out of supplies and outnumbered, abandons camp and retreats to the mountains. They leave behind noncombatants, consisting of a few hundred women, children, elderly and infirm, whom they expect will be treated leniently by the French. Instead the troops massacre them, “their heads cut off and their bodies slashed to pieces as the women fought ferociously to protect their children.” About 3,000 other captured slaves are returned to masters, and many are killed to set an example. The colonists celebrate their victory, but in reality the core of the insurgent movement – including its strongest, most determined, leaders – is still in hiding. 22&ndash23 January 1792 Slaves begin their attack to recapture the Ouinaminthe district in the northeast of Saint-Domingue, attacking Le Cap to secure ammunition and replenish their supplies. 4 April 1792 Louis XVI affirms the Jacobin decree, granting equal political rights to free blacks and mulattoes in Saint-Domingue. A second commission is assembled, led by Léger Félicité Sonthonax, to enforce the ruling.

*The year marks the three hundred year anniversary of Columbus’ landing on Hispaniola. May 1792 Spain declares war against England, then France. In Saint-Domingue, the European powers battle for control of the lucrative colony. 20 June 1792 Blacks and mulattoes in the South ally with the British and begin an open rebellion.

In Le Cap, civil commissioners Blanchelande and Sonthonax flee for protection as rebels attack the city. Every street becomes a battlefield: “Terror and panic spread like wildfire as the women and children desperately tried to escape atrocities and pillaging were committed on both sides." 21 June 1792 Over 10,000 slaves in Le Cap are now in open revolt. Threatened on all sides, French colonists realize that they need the slaves’ support to keep control of Saint-Domingue. Civil commissioners issue a proclamation guaranteeing freedom and the full rights of French citizenship to all slaves who join them to defend France from foreign and domestic enemies. Though some leaders refuse, allying instead with the Spanish, a group of marooned slaves answers the call, descending upon the capital “like an avalanche,” and forces the invaders to retreat. Chaos reigns, as nearly the entire city burns down and white colonists fight each other. In the coming months Spain, England and France are to battle constantly for Saint-Domingue. 17 September 1792 Civil commissioner Étienne Polverel arrives from France and the slaves offer to negotiate with the colonists once more. Polverel refuses to meet their demands but does agree to grant an unconditional pardon if the slaves surrender. The colonists protest angrily to this concession, and Polverel, like Blanchelande before him, is forced to attack the slaves in response to the pressure.

This timeline is the result of a final project by Kona Shen at Brown University. The site is sponsored by Brown's Department of Africana Studies. Feedback is welcome please send any corrections, comments, or questions to Kona Shen. Last updated October 27, 2015


Slavery and the Haitian Revolution

Since the revolutionaries explicitly proclaimed liberty as their highest ideal, slavery was bound to come into question during the French Revolution. Even before 1789 critics had attacked the slave trade and slavery in the colonies. France had several colonies in the Caribbean in which slavery supported a plantation economy that produced sugar, coffee, and cotton. The most important of these colonies was Saint Domingue (later Haiti), which had 500,000 slaves, 32,000 whites, and 28,000 free blacks (which included both blacks and mulattos). Some free blacks owned slaves in fact, the free blacks owned one-third of the plantation property and one-quarter of the slaves in Saint Domingue, though they could not hold public office or practice many professions (medicine, for example).

The slave system in the colonies was regulated by a series of royal edicts, the most important of which was promulgated by Louis XIV in 1685. Taken together, the edicts constituted the Code noir, or slave code. This code prescribed a harsh regime of penalties for slaves who resisted their captivity, especially if they tried to harm their masters in any way. Saint Domingue provided extraordinary sources of wealth to the French. To protect their investments, French slaveholders had to learn at least a minimal amount about their slaves. One of the most astute commentators, Médéric-Louis-Elie Moreau de Saint-Méry, wrote a massive two-volume work on life in Saint Domingue in the 1780s. He described many of the features of slave life that worried slaveholders, including voodoo imported from Africa, the presence of many people of mixed race (mulattos), the threat of slaves becoming Maroons (runaways), and the intense fear among slaveholders that their slaves would try to poison them. After the French Revolution broke out, planters looked back on pre-1789 conditions, trying to understand how slavery might have been better organized. Their observations provide yet another contemporary perspective on the plantation and slave system.

The Caribbean colonies were quick to respond to the outbreak of the Revolution in 1789. The white planters of Saint Domingue sent delegates to France to demand representation at the new National Assembly, as did the mulattos. Several prominent deputies in the National Assembly belonged to the Society of the Friends of Blacks, which put forth proposals for the abolition of the slave trade and the amelioration of the lot of slaves in the colonies. When these proposals fell on deaf ears, some deputies sympathetic to blacks turned to arguing that full civil and political rights should be granted to free blacks in the colonies. Before long, radical journalists in Paris began to take up the cause of black slaves, pushing for the abolition of slavery, or at least for a more positive view of the Africans. The pioneering feminist and playwright, Olympe de Gouges, also wrote a pamphlet challenging the colonial pro-slavery lobby to improve the lot of the blacks.

As the agitation in favor of granting rights to free blacks and abolishing the slave trade gathered steam, the colonies became filled with uncertainty and expectations began rising, especially among the free blacks and mulattos. In response, the white planters mounted their own counterattack and even contemplated demanding independence from France. Less is known about the views of the slaves because hardly any of them could read or write, but the royal governor of Saint Domingue expressed concern about the effects of the Revolution on the colony's slaves. In October 1789 he reported that the slaves considered the new revolutionary cockade (a decoration made up of red, white, and blue ribbons worn by supporters of the Revolution) a "signal of the manumission of the whites . . . the blacks all share an idea that struck them spontaneously: that the white slaves kill their masters and now free they govern themselves and regain possession of the land." In other words, the black slaves hoped to follow in the footsteps of their white predecessors, freeing themselves, killing their masters, and taking over the land.

Most deputies feared the effects of the loss of commerce that would result from either the abolition of slavery or the elimination of the slave trade. Fabulous wealth depended on slavery, as did shipbuilding, sugar-refining, and a host of subsidiary industries. Slaveowners and shippers did not intend to give up their prospects without a fight. The U.S. refusal to give up slavery or the slave trade provided added ammunition to support their position.

To quiet the unrest among the powerful white planters, especially in Saint Domingue, the colonial committee of the National Assembly proposed in March 1790 to exempt the colonies from the constitution and to prosecute anyone who attempted to spark uprisings against the slave system. But the steadily increasing agitation threatened the efforts of the National Assembly to mollify the white planters and keep a lid on racial tensions. The March 1790 decree said nothing about the political rights of free blacks, who continued to press their demands both in Paris and back home, but to no avail. In October 1790, 350 mulattos rebelled in Saint Domingue. French army troops cooperated with local planter militias to disperse and arrest them. In February 1791 the mulatto leaders, including James Ogé, were publicly executed. Nevertheless, on 15 May 1791, under renewed pressure from the abbé Grégoire and others, the National Assembly granted political rights to all free blacks and mulattos who were born of free mothers and fathers. Though this proviso limited rights to a few hundred free blacks, the white colonists furiously pledged to resist the application of the law.

Just a few months later, on 22 August 1791, the slaves of Saint Domingue rose up in rebellion, initiating what was to become over the next several years the first successful slave revolt in history. In response, the National Assembly rescinded the rights of free blacks and mulattos on 24 September 1791, prompting them once again to take up arms against the whites. Slaves burned down plantations, murdered their white masters, and even attacked the towns. Fighting continued as the new Legislative Assembly (it replaced the National Assembly in October 1791) considered free black rights again at the end of March 1792. On 28 March, the assembly voted to reinstate the political rights of free blacks and mulattos. Nothing was done about slavery.

In the fall of 1792, as the Revolution in mainland France began to radicalize, the French government sent two agents to Saint Domingue to take charge of the suppression of the slave revolt. In order to gain their freedom, rebel slaves now made pacts with the British and Spanish in the area. The British and Spanish promised freedom to those slaves who would join their armies, even though they had no intention of abolishing slavery in their own colonies. They simply wanted to benefit from France's problems. Faced with the threat of both British and Spanish invasions aimed at taking over the colony with the aid of the rebel slaves, the French government agents abolished slavery in the colony (August–October 1793). Although the National Convention initially denounced this action as part of a conspiracy to aid Great Britain, the Convention eventually voted to abolish slavery in all the French colonies on 4 February 1794. Many mulattos opposed this move because they owned slaves themselves. After more than two years of rebellion, invasion, attack, and counterattack, the economy of Saint Domingue had nearly collapsed. Thousands of whites fled to the United States or back to France.

For all the deputies' good intentions, the situation remained confused in almost all the colonies: some local authorities simply disregarded the decree, others converted slavery into forced labor, others were too busy fighting the British and Spanish to decide one way or the other. Out of the fighting emerged one of the most remarkable figures of the era, Toussaint L'Ouverture, a slave who learned to read and write and in the uprising rose to become the leading general of the slave rebels. Toussaint faced incredible obstacles in creating a coherent resistance. By 1800 the plantations were producing only one-fifth of what they had in 1789. In the zones controlled by Toussaint, army officers or officials took over the big estates and kept the former slaves working under military-style discipline. In 1802, once he had consolidated his hold on power in mainland France, Napoleon Bonaparte reestablished slavery and the slave trade in those colonies still under French control and denied political rights to free blacks. He sent a major expeditionary force to Saint Domingue to enforce his will. It captured Toussaint and sent him back to France, where he died in prison. Nevertheless, the former slaves continued their revolt and in 1804 they established the independent republic of Haiti. The French army limped home after losing thousands to disease and sporadic fighting. A slave rebellion had succeeded.

Americans in the new United States followed the events in Saint Domingue with anxious interest. Since the southern states relied on thousands of slaves to work their plantations, a slave revolt in the world's richest plantation colony was bound to excite their concern. In addition, when white settlers began fleeing Saint Domingue, many of them came to the United States. Newspapers in the United States published letters offering eyewitness accounts (and rumors) about the uprising. The accounts in the Pennsylvania Gazette are excerpted here.


The Haitian Revolution

In October of 1492, Christopher Columbus and a fleet of ships chartered from Spain landed on a small island in the Caribbean Sea. Columbus claimed the island for Spain, eventually eliminating the existing inhabitants of the island and colonizing the island repopulating it with plantation owners and slaves brought from Africa. One third of the island was ceded to France by Spain who continued to operate plantations for indigo, sugar, coffee, tobacco and cotton. The French rename the colony Saint-Domingue and continue to import slaves to do the work on the island.[1]

Trouble was brewing in the colony for many years, four armed conspiracies against European inhabitants happened between 1679 and 1704.[2] The conspiracies were organized by slaves and focused on the plantation owners. In the 1760’s Europeans see the free mulatto population known as the Affranchis starting to gain wealth and land, European colonist become concerned with this rise in power and seek to gain control over it. This power struggle would be an early trigger point for the Haitian Revolution.

Legislation was developed to block mulattoes from gaining power in the colony. The whites would forbid the Affranchis from holding any public office, gaining any position of station such as lawyers or doctors, Affranchis were no longer allowed to dress like whites, and they were not allowed to gather in groups after 9pm. These offenses are ruled punishable with fines, imprisonment, chain gang duty, loss of freedom, and amputation.[3] The Europeans were doing all that the could to maintain control of the colony. King Louis XV would make it worse in 1771 by stripping away many of the rights of the free mulattoes and blacks.

“From its founding as an illegal settlement in the 1600s until the abolition of slavery in 1793, hundreds of thousands of slaves were led off slave-trading vessels onto the shores of French Saint-Domingue. According to the most exhaustive inventory of slave-trading journeys, 685,000 slaves were brought into Saint-Domingue during the eighteenth century alone. Over 100,000 slaves were reported to have died during the middle passage, and many more deaths probably went unrecorded.”[4] Considering the amount of slaves being brought to Saint-Domingue, the French landowners might have considered a less brutal relationship with the slaves, free blacks and free mulattoes that were far outnumbering the white population.

In the fall of 1788, a petition for the “political rights of free persons of color” was submitted to the Provincial Assembly of Saint-Domingue. 1789 brought continuing instability to the colony, increasing after word of slave uprisings in the French colony of Martinique. Conditions in Saint-Domingue would become worse as a drought caused a loss crop on the island and an increase in slave runaways.[5] Revolutionary actions in France continue to have direct effects on Saint-Domingue, the French National Assembly’s “Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens” states that rights are “granted to all men by natural justice.”[6] Later in October of 1789, the National Assembly accepts a petition form Saint-Domingue that extends those rights to “Free Citizens of Color.”

In early 1790, a decree from France gives the Provincial Assembly in Saint-Domingue full legislative powers over the colony. The Provincial Assembly begins to issue decrees against mulattoes and blacks in the colony. The Provincial Assembly calls mulattoes a “Bastard and Degenerate Race,”[7] further stating that it would never grant them political power. A new Colonial Assembly is established without voting or political power for mulattoes or free blacks. The Colonial Assembly would then separate itself from the National Assembly, though still allying itself with France, the Colonial assembly also suspended its delegates to the National Assembly.[8] In October of 1790, the National Assembly order the Colonial Governor to dissolve the Colonial Assembly. The colony was become divided between patriots loyal to the National Assembly and royalists who remained loyal to the king.

In late October 1790, a leader amongst the mulattoes arose, Jacques Vincent Oge’ was representing the colony in France, attempts to prevent Oge’ from leaving France failed. Oge’ sailed to England where he gained support from the British abolitionists and then sailed to the United States where he buys weapons. Oge’ arrived in Saint-Domingue on October 21 and went to the countryside to find friends and family. Oge’ amasses an army of 300 men made up of mulattoes and free blacks, colonists manage to disarm and capture most of those involved in the uprising. Oge’ escapes capture initially but he and supporters are captured later and put to death.[9]

By the middle of 1791, Saint-Domingue had dissolved into Chaos. Planters are preoccupied with the squabbles in the colonial government and ignoring the slaves who are organizing against them. Organized slave groups began attacking plantations throughout the colony. Plantation owners plead with Governor Blanchelande to build an army and fight the slaves to regain control of the island. The Governor in his ignorance plans his attacks publicly while building an army, the slave groups know the governors plans of attack and defeat the governor’s forces at many points. Blanchelande leaves Saint-Domingue after multiple defeats, telling the planters that they should have negotiated with the slaves in the first place.[10]

The National Assembly in France revokes rules that gave rights to free blacks and mulattoes and sends three commissioners to restore order in Saint-Domingue. Rebels seize the capital, Port-au-Prince as well as Le Cap, which they burn. The rebels begin to trade with the Spanish for weaponry. In January 1792, Blanchelande returns to the colony leading troops and marches against the rebels at Platons, the rebels are overwhelmed and escape into the mountains leaving women and children behind. French troops slaughter 3,000 women and children that were left behind. In June of 1792, slave groups begin to ally with the British. French Colonists begin to understand that hey need the slaves to maintain control of Saint- Domingue and begin to negotiate, Civil Commissioners issue a proclamation guaranteeing full rights and French citizenship to all slaves that join the French side.[11]

While France, Spain and Great Britain continue to try to gain the support of the rebels, new rebel leaders arise to lead the rebel movement eventually dropping alliances with Britain and Spain and returning to the French side. The French were the only group that would agree to the abolition of slavery in the colony. In July of 1795, the French and Spanish sign a peace treaty, giving Saint-Domingue back to France. French forces led by Loverture and Rigaud effectively end the British claims to Saint-Domingue.[12]

Loverture would remain loyal to France and work to eliminate slavery in the Spanish Territory of Santo Domingo as well. Loverture attempted to negotiate with the governor of Santo Domingo, talks broke down and Loverture returned to Saint- Domingue, however while Loverture was in the Spanish Territory, support arose among slaves in the Spanish territory. In January 1801, the Spanish give control of the entire island to Loverture.[13] In July of 1801, Loverature appoints himself Governor-General for Life and introduces a new constitution which usurps French power and established mandatory work regulations for citizens. In late 1801, rebellions break out against Loverture.

From 1802 to 1804, fighting and revolts continue as France tries to regain control of the colony. Loverture is continues to fight against an overwhelming French Army led by General LeClerc. LeClerc makes an offer to Loverture that he may retire with his staff and army to the place of his choosing. After Loverture’s surrender LeClerc withdraws the deal and imprisons Loverture. Upon hearing that the French leadership plan to return to slavery in the colony, black and mulatto soldiers defect to the rebel armies and begin to fight the French occupation. 1n May of 1803, French soldiers launch their final effort to end the rebellion, the French troops have not received supplies including food and many are suffering from Yellow Fever. The final French push fails. Dessalines will arise as the new leader of Haiti, he removes the white section of the French tri-color and declares the red and blue the flag of Haiti, the color representing the blacks and mulattoes coming together to defeat the whites. [14] Desalines declares that Saint-Domingue is gone, and establishes the new republic under the Taino name Haiti.

“The History of Haiti: 1492-1805.” The Haitian Revolution, October 27, 2015. https://library.brown.edu/haitihistory/index.html.

Laurent DUBOIS. 2004. Avengers of the New World. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

[1] “Spanish Rule 1492 – 1697,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[2] “Spanish Rule 1492 – 1697,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[3] “Spanish Rule 1492 – 1697,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[4] Laurent Dubois. 2004. Avengers of the New World. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. Page 39

[5] “The French Revolution Begins,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[6] “The French Revolution Begins,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[7] “The French Revolution Begins,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[8] “The French Revolution Begins,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[9] “Slave Resistance Gains Momentum,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[10] “Slave Resistance Gains Momentum,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[11] “The Revolution Builds,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[12] “Toissant Loverture in Power,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[13] “Toissant Loverture in Power,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[14] “The Final Years of the Revolution,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).


RWBF:Chapter Four Section 2

France was aware of the events in its Caribbean colony as both the French Revolution and the slave insurrection in [[Saint-Dominigue progressed. Despite French sentiments towards abolition, France’s official response was to send a French force to subdue the uprisings in Haiti. The war fought in Haiti was a difficult experience for the French troops, who were unprepared for the physical conditions such as yellow fever and sustenance of food.

Strategies organized by Napoleon were met with both success and failure. One force, led by Charles-Victor-Emmanuel Leclerc won several victories after severe fighting and an agreement was reached, which was ultimately broken by Leclerc. The natives, led by Dessalines and Henri Christophe, rose in revolt and expelled the French. Leger Felicite Sonthonax, son of a prosperous French merchant, had risen through the ranks during the French Revolution and was sent in 1792 to Saint-Domingue as a Commissioner of the Second Civil Commission. The three men heading this Commission oversaw the interests of France in Saint-Domingue and to enforced the new French law of April 4, 1792, which gave full rights of French citizenship to free men of color. Military leaders, troops – an entire French colonial army - ships, supplies and strategies all had to be transported, deployed and supported through several waves of fighting over the years.

These efforts reflected France’s hope to keep Haiti within the colonial empire as a slave holding, productive economic profit. Groups in France organized and advocated to maintain this status quo. Club Massiac consisting of French revolutionaries, many of whom had money invested in the colonial economy, was a well-funded lobbying group backed by the plantation-owners. This Club spread pro-slavery propaganda and convinced the National Assembly to guarantee that no changes would be made in the slave system without the consent of the whites in the colonies. The Société des Amis des Noirs- (Society of Friends of Blacks) hoped to extend to France the growing abolitionist movement that had swept into Europe. The Société backed the free blacks as it pressed the French government to extend the Declaration of the Rights of Man at least to freed blacks in France and in its colonies. The Society also campaigned for an end to the slave trade. Its membership believed that this approach would be more successful than demanding an end to slavery altogether. The Estates-General responded half-heartedly to the Society's urgings. Freedom was officially granted to only already-freed slaves rather than to those who remained enslaved. Even that was met with fierce resistance from the slave-holders of Saint-Domingue.

In 1791, the National Assembly in France granted full civil rights to all people of color (gens de couleur) born of free parents. This coincided with the beginning slave uprisings in Saint-Dominigue as it represented the uncertainty of the French revolutionaries on religious freedom, women’s rights and on slavery. The constitution in France would not be applied to the colonies thereby undermining the integrity of the revolution’s goals. The inconsistency between the revolution’s intentions and results (maintenance of slavery) of the revolution in the colonies weakened France and strengthened the insurrection in Saint-Dominigue, helping the ultimate cause of Haiti’s independence.


Watch the video: Curator Confidential: Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow (May 2022).