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Haitian Revolution
Topics: Slavery, Haiti, United States Declaration of Independence, Haitian Revolution, Age of Enlightenment, French people / Pages: 5 (1207 words) / Published: Aug 12th, 2013

The French Revolution set the bar for every other revolution that followed. One of these being the Haitian Revolution that started in the late 1700’s. The Haitian Revolution was a slave revolt that led to their permanent independence from Europe. Similar to the French Revolution, through its formulation, process, and legacy, the Haitian Revolution made an impact in the global community socially, economically, and politically. Although the Haitian people were independent from France and the rest of Europe, the Europeans still had some sort of impact on their community socially. In a book written in the 20th century by historian Mark Almond, Haiti’s social history is recorded, “In May 1802, Napoleon’s forces tried to re-establish slavery [in Haiti]” (Document 4). Although the revolution wasn’t complete until 1804, this still proves that the French were still pushing to control the social aspects of Haiti. Although the French wanted to establish their social classes in Haiti, the Haitians fought back and united everyone together in order to start the revolution, “At a secret forest meeting held on August 14, 1791, the persons who were to lead the initial stage of the revolution gathered to affirm their commitment to one another at a voodoo ritual…” (Document 5). Despite all of these social conflicts, the revolution had a lasting impact on the world socially. William Wordsworth, a white British author wrote a poem highlighting the life of Toussaint L’Ouverture, the first leader of the revolution, “Though fallen Thyself, never to rise again, live, and take comfort. Thou hast left behind powers that will work for thee; air, earth, and skies…” (Document 8). This poem was written after Britain abolished slavery (1830’s), therefore Wordsworth lived in a time where people were against slavery for the first time in all of history. He wrote this poem of lament to pay tribute to those who died fighting for slavery. He was upset that people had to die for others to be freed. An additional document that would help with understanding the social changes Haiti went through during this time of revolution would be a journal entry from a plantation owner on another colony or island who wanted to express their concern and fear of social rebellion because this would reveal what changes occurred when people revolted.
One of the biggest impacts the Haitian Revolution had was its effect on the global economy. Without the Haitian Revolution, Napoleon wouldn’t have run out of money and sold the Louisiana Purchase to the Americans. Also, the revolution inspired fear in others who didn’t want the economy to change, “Jefferson was terrified of what was happening in Saint Domingue [Haiti]…His fear was that black Americans would be inspired by what they saw taking place just off the shore of America” (Document 9). The Europeans and the Americans didn’t want slavery to go away because it was what fueled their economy and allowed them to stay in charge, “We have not brought half a million slaves from the coasts of Africa to make them into French citizens” (Document 3). This quote is by Jean-Marie d’Augy, the white president of the colonial Assembly in Saint-Domingue in 1790, who was clearly motivated by money and power. He wanted to keep the blacks in Haiti as slaves. He knew that if they were given rights, then his power would be diminished and whites in general would be worse off economically. In an excerpt from The Modern Caribbean, historian David Geggus confirms that slave owners were just as scared of this revolution as Jefferson and Jean-Marie d’Augy had been, “Slave owners feared the revolution’s inflammatory example. Within a month of the August 1791 revolt, slaves in Jamaica were singing songs about the uprising” (Document 10). An additional document that would help prove some of the effects the revolution had on the global economy would be a record that showed the change in the amount of people and the race of the people who suffered from poverty before and after the revolution in the Americas. It would be interesting to see if there were more or less people in poverty after the revolution in Haiti and what ethnicity they were.
In the political world, the Haitian Revolution was an example that others followed in their rebellions. It changed everything about Haiti’s politics. One thing that pushed the slaves over the edge was the way they were treated. The political leaders who didn’t live on the island wrote the laws without even knowing what their conditions were like. In 1685, King Louis XIV wrote the French Code Noir which stated, “Masters shall be obliged to provide each week to their slaves of eighteen years or older for food 2 ½ measures of cassava flour, or three cassavas weighing 2 ½ pounds each at least, or some equivalent provisions…” (Document 1). King Louis XIV was able to write this with a clear conscience because he never met the people he was in charge of, and he never had to live on that much food a week. Put simply: he could talk the talk but not walk the walk. The Haitian Revolution followed the American Revolution in that they demanded the same rights as the Americans had, but what is interesting is that the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen was written by Marquis de Lafayette, a French general, yet the French refused to give these rights to their slaves in their colony in Haiti until they took drastic measures to demand them, “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights; social distinctions may be based only upon general usefulness…” (Document 2). In Document 6, a picture is shown depicting the Haitian slaves hanging a French soldier. This document is important because it shows the passion these slaves had and how much they wanted their independence from France and slavery. They were willing to do anything to gain their rights. In Haiti’s Proclamation of Independence, Jean Jacques Dessalines wrote, on January 1st 1804, about the political changes that would follow the proclamation, “Dear Citizens, It is not enough to have expelled from your country the barbarians who have bloodied it for two centuries…Let us be on guard however so that the spirit of proselytism does not destroy our work; let our neighbors breath in peace” (Document 7). This proclamation lists the political challenges and changes the state had gone through. An additional document that would help explain some of the changes Haiti’s revolution caused would be a textbook from the late 1800’s in Haiti that listed what Haiti’s history looked like from the late 1700’s until the current time.
There were major adjustments that came with the Haitian Revolution, such as the Louisiana Purchase being sold to the Americans, the slow abolishment of slavery, and Haiti’s independence from Europe. Just as Jefferson and others had feared, the Haiti Revolution led to other revolutions and the abolishment of slavery everywhere else. Although it is not talked about as much as it should be, understanding the Haitian Revolution is a big part of understanding world history in general. For such a small island, it had a huge impact on the rest of the world’s society, economy, and politics.

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