Haitian celebration

The revolution that brought Haiti its independence started in 1789 after Louis XIV was ousted from the government of France. The slaves that were kept in the masters’ household at that time heard their masters’ conversation on human rights. Even though there were laws established on human rights in France and elsewhere in the European countries there weren’t any established for the slaves in the colonies that were in the Caribbean. France had not accepted the concept of equality in the colonies since there were slaves and freed blacks that were called Afranchis (free blacks).

Many slaves were already escaping from the plantation, running away to the forest. Whenever these slaves were recaptured they were subject to treatments that were so inhumane that if such treatments were to be administered in the present day on any human being, this perpetrator would be called a serial killer. Whenever a slave escaped his master’s plantation, his master would choose one of the following for punishment: cut off a hand or foot, pull his teeth, cut one ear off so that the slave could chew it, bury the slave in sand with his head sticking out of the ground, pour syrup on his head while lying next to a mound of red fire ants, boil oil and pour on the slave while tied to a tree, roast the slave like a pig in front of the other slaves, whip the slave while tied to a tree and pour a mixture of lemon, salt and hot pepper on the exposed wounds, and, if it were a woman, use a wooden stick to penetrate her vaginal orifices so that she couldn’t have any more children or kill the infant of a mother while she was watching. As far as religion was concerned for the epoch of slavery, the Catholic priests felt that such treatments would redeem the slaves in front of God because running away was considered a sin. This piece of paper wouldn’t be able to hold all the accounts of the atrocities the slaves endured during the epoch of slavery.

Fortunately, we’re writing about the accounts of our evolution from slavery to freedom. The origins of modern Haitian society lie within the slaveholding system. The mixture of races that eventually divided Haiti into a small, mainly mulatto elite and an impoverished black majority began with the slavemasters’ concubinage of African women. Today Haiti’s culture and its predominant religion (Voodoo) stem from the fact that the majority of slaves in Saint Domingue (Santo Domingo) were brought from Africa. (The slave population totaled at least 500,000, and perhaps as many as 700,000, by 1791.) Only a few of the slaves had been born and raised on the island. The slaveholding system in Saint Domingue was particularly cruel and abusive, and few slaves (especially males) lived long enough to reproduce. The racially tinged conflicts that have marked Haitian history can be traced similarly to slavery.

While the masses of black slaves formed the foundation of colonial society, the upper strata evolved along lines of color and class. Most commentators have classified the population of the time into three groups: white colonists, or blancs; free blacks (usually mulattoes, or gens de couleur–people of color), or affranchis; and the slaves. Violent conflicts between white colonists and black slaves were common in Saint-Domingue. Bands of runaway slaves, known as maroons (marrons), entrenched themselves in bastions in the colony’s mountains and forests. As their numbers grew, these bands, sometimes consisting of thousands of people, began to carry out hit-and-run attacks throughout the colony. This guerrilla warfare, however, lacked centralized organization and leadership. The most famous maroon leader was Franí_ois Macandal, whose six-year rebellion (1751-57) left an estimated 6,000 dead. Reportedly a boko, or voodoo priest, Macandal drew from African traditions and religions to motivate his followers. The French burned him at the stake in Cap Franí_ais in 1758. Popular accounts of his execution saying the stake snapped during his execution have enhanced his legendary stature.

A slave rebellion of 1791 finally toppled the colony. Launched in August of that year, the revolt represented the culmination of a protracted conspiracy among black leaders. According to accounts of the rebellion that have been told through the years, Franí_ois-Dominique Toussaint Louverture helped plot the uprising. Among the rebellion’s leaders were Boukman, a maroon and voodoo houngan (priest); Georges Biassou, who later made Toussaint his aide; Jean-Franí_ois, who subsequently commanded forces, along with Biassou and Toussaint, under the Spanish flag; and Jeannot, the blood thirstiest of them all. These leaders sealed their compact with a voodoo ceremony conducted by Boukman in the Bois Cayman (Alligator Alley) in early August 1791. On August 22, a little more than a week after the ceremony, the uprising of their black followers began.

The carnage that the slaves wreaked in northern settlements, such as Acul, Limbí©, Flaville, and Le Normand, revealed the simmering fury of an oppressed people. The bands of slaves slaughtered every white person they encountered. Accounts of the rebellion describe widespread torching of property, fields, factories, and anything else that belonged to, or served, slaveholders. The inferno is said to have burned almost continuously for months.

Many colonists were afraid to work on the plantation due to the slaves’ revenge. Based on the fear of the reprisals of the slaves, the slaves were released in order to join Toussaint’s battle, unfortunately not for their freedom, but for the safety of the colony. However, some joined just to train the other slaves how to defend themselves. Toussaints’ leadership was above par and beyond any leader prior to his time. Therefore, he was admired by his troops for his leadership and courage to stand for what was right. In the course for freedom, he was betrayed, which brought about his capture and confinement until his demise in France. He died of neglect in the frigid dungeon of Fort de Joux in the Jura Mountains on April 7, 1803.

Among the slaves that were battling with Toussaint were Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Henry Christophe, Faustin Soulouque and Capois Lamort. These slaves, after knowing what happen to Toussaint, did not trust the proprietors and were ready to die for what they believed in. Freedom for all Men, in other words, “All Men Are Created Equal.” Those who also joined the slaves, the free black of the colony, were the mulattos (children of interracial relationships). Among them were Alexandre Petion, Andre Rigaud and Jean-Pierre Boyer.

The betrayal of Toussaint and Bonaparte’s restoration of slavery in Martinique destabilized the collaboration of leaders such as Dessalines, Christophe, and Pí©tion. Convinced that the same fate lay in store for Saint-Domingue, these commanders and others once again battled Leclerc (sent by Napoleon to restore slavery in the colony) and his disease-riddled army. Leclerc died of yellow fever in November 1802, about two months after he had requested reinforcements to quash the renewed resistance. Leclerc’s replacement, General Donatien Rochambeau, waged a bloody campaign against the insurgents, but events beyond the shores of Saint-Domingue doomed the campaign to failure.

By 1803 war had resumed between France and Britain, and Bonaparte once again concentrated his energies on the struggle in Europe. Due to the loss he incurred in Haiti with his 30,000 soldiers, in April of that year, Bonaparte signed a treaty that allowed the Louisiana Purchase by the United States and ended French ambitions in the Western Hemisphere. Rochambeau’s reinforcements and supplies never arrived in sufficient numbers. The general fled to Jamaica in November 1803, where he surrendered to British authorities rather than face the retribution of the rebel leadership. The era of French colonial rule in Haiti had ended. The French army was defeated in May 18, 1803 at Vertiere, a place that gave all Haitians the taste of freedom, a country to call their own and a flag to bow down to. The war was over!

On January 1, 1804, Haiti proclaimed its independence. Through this action, it became the second independent state in the Western Hemisphere and the first free black republic in the world. Haiti’s uniqueness attracted much attention and symbolized the aspirations of enslaved and exploited peoples around the globe. On January 1, 2004, Haiti celebrated its 200th anniversary of freedom.