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On this Date August 22, 1791- Slave Revolt Sparks Haitian Revolution

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beetbox Donating Member (428 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-22-05 02:39 PM
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On this Date August 22, 1791- Slave Revolt Sparks Haitian Revolution

The year is 1791. The United States is in its first years as the first republic in the western hemisphers. Europe is in disarray as the French Revolution burns across the face of France. The revolutionaries in France are getting ready to draft the Declaration of the Rights of Man, which will declare rights, liberty, and equality to the basis of all legitimate government and social systems. On the French island of Haiti, far from anybody's eyes, French planters, craftsmen, soldiers, and administrators are all closely watching the events unfold across the Atlantic. It's an uncertain time; the results of the revolution are up in the air and loyalties are deeply divided. While they watch the events in France, however, the planters are unaware that a revolution is brewing beneath their very feet. For the French plantations on Haiti offers some of the most cruel conditions that African-American slaves ever had to suffer. They differ from North American plantations in one key element: the coffee and sugar plantations require vast amounts of labor. As a result, the slave population outnumbers the French by terrifying amounts; the slaves, also, by their sheer numbers are allowed to retain much of their culture and to establish more or less independent social systems. But the French, even with the example of the American and French revolutions, are blissfully unaware of the fire they're sitting on.

On August 22, 1791, the Haitian war of independence began in flames under the leadership of a religious leader named Boukman; over one hundred thousand slaves rose up against the vastly outnumbered and infinitely hated French. Unlike the French Revolution and the American Revolution, the Haitian revolution was entirely driven by the passions of men and women who had been enslaved most if not all of their lives. They didn't simply desire liberty, they wanted vengeance. Over the next three weeks, the Haitian slaves burned every plantation throughout the fertile regions of Haiti and executed all Frenchmen they could find. The French fled to the seacoast towns and pleaded with France to help them out while the island burned.

The great hero of the Haitian Revolution and a man considered one of the great revolutionaries and generals in his own time throughout America and Europe, was Franois Dominique Toussaint L'Ouverture. This man, whom all his European contemporaries compared to George Washington and later to Napolean Bonaparte, was not even part of the original revolution. When the war of independence broke out in August, Toussaint was fifty years old. Having spent his life in slavery, he was entering old age as a carriage driver. Like so many other slaves, though, the revolution fired his passion and he discovered within himself a greatness that fired the imagination of both his contemporaries and distant Europeans.

He didn't participate in the burning of the plantations or the executions of the slaveowners, but he rose to his own when he realized that the revolution could not hold unless the slaves became militarily and politically organized to resist outside pressures. His first move when he joined the revolution was to train a small military group. He then realized that the Haitian slaves, who now occupied the eastern 2/3 of Haiti (what is now the Dominican Republic), were caught between three contending European forces, all of whom wanted Haiti for themselves. The French, of course, wanted Haiti back. The Spanish and English saw the revolution as an opportunity for seizing Haiti for themselves. Toussaint's great genius was to achieve what he wanted for the slaves by playing each of these powers off of each other, for they all realized that the slaves were the key to gaining Haiti. In the end, Toussaint allied his forces with the French, and Haiti remained part of France under the consulship of Toussaint.
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wli Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-22-05 02:58 PM
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1. poignant and highly relevant n/t
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newyawker99 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-22-05 04:20 PM
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2. Hi beetbox!!
Welcome to DU!! :toast:
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Jacobin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-22-05 04:23 PM
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3. Out of the frying pan and into the fire
That poor country is sad to contemplate
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beetbox Donating Member (428 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-22-05 07:58 PM
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4. Haiti was "valued" at more than the thirteen colonies combined
mostly due to the fine slaves to be had.

The response in North America was immediate. The Haitian Revolution suddenly changed the equation that had been operating in the North. Believing themselves to be kind and paternal and the slaves to be child-like and grateful, white slaveowners suddenly became aware of the tinderbox that they were sitting on. Although slaveowners would publicly declare that slaves were, in fact, happy being slaves, in reality they knew otherwise. All throughout the southern United States, white slaveowners began to build "slave shelters" to hide in should the slaves revolt. Many of them regularly occupied these shelters whenever they feared a slave revolt. Guns became bedside companions and fear became the rule of the day.
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Chocolatebison Donating Member (91 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-22-05 08:01 PM
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5. Not sure I can agree with a violent overthrow or revolution
But then again I wasn't in slavery in the 1790s.

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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-22-05 10:11 PM
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6. America's revolution formed around far less painful realities.
It continues to be exalted as the greatest, most important event in the history of the world, initiated by saintly American heroes.
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DerekG Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-22-05 10:27 PM
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8. Thank you for that second sentence, Chocolatebison
And I'm being genuine, here. Unlike some posters, you are gracious enough to admit that even if you disagree with violent tactics, your opinion carries less weight, since you (and I) are relatively blessed.

A welcome change from the "I don't care how bad slavery was: Nat Turner/John Brown (yes, I know the latter was white) were mass-murderers/lunatics/terrorists/ideologues who deserved to hang" perception that is more common here than you might think.

The fact is, most of us simply don't know what it means to suffer (and I mean *suffer*).

Oh, and welcome to the DU!
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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-22-05 10:16 PM
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7. Thanks, beetbox. I am very happy to have this article to file for later
Edited on Mon Aug-22-05 10:20 PM by Judi Lynn
reference. It's good to know when and how long ago those people decided they couldn't take any more.

Europe and America will not forgive them for their wish for peace with no OWNERS breathing down their necks, and will NOT allow anyone STILL to represent the people's will as the Haitian President.

Franois Dominique Toussaint L'Ouverture

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