I've been watching spoofs of Pat Robertsons comments about Haitian's calling this earthquake on themselves because they made a deal with the devil to get their freedom. (I guess he is referring to the Voodoo ceremony that signaled the start of the revolt). If there was a Santeria ceremony when Castro took over Cuba, would it justify the embargo???
Here's what he said:

It got me thinking about a paper I did on the Haitian Revolution. I just want to share it as there may be some who are not aware of the magnitude of it's impact on world history.

The Haitian Revolution has given to the modern world notions of freedom, sovereignty, and justice that were epoch making in human relationship and the development of modern civilization. Critically discuss.

“The unfitness of the Haitian people to govern themselves has been the subject of propaganda for the last century,” wrote James Weldon Johnson in 1920, over a hundred years after the revolt that resulted in Haiti becoming the first Independent nation in the New World, a feat not even the American colonies had accomplished. Once lauded as a jewel in the crown of France, St. Domingue was the envy of other West Indian colonies that, combined, could not match her production of sugar. Other Imperial nations such as Spain and Britain had their eyes on the colony as well; waiting for an opportunity to seize her riches. After a fifteen year struggle for Independence from white slave holders and the French crown, Haiti, as the newly independent country became known; became and still is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. The Revolution was the topic of modern debates on race, abolition, and equality; inspiring books, poems, songs, and plays. The achievements of the revolting slaves were never duplicated in any colony, making the Haitian experience a turning point in history that affected not only its inhabitants but also major events like the Louisiana Purchase, the American Civil War as well as the way the world viewed concepts such as freedom, justice and sovereignty.

The term modern can find its roots in the fifth century when it was used to distinguish the Christian from the pagan era. Typically modernity refers to a post traditional or post-medieval period characterized by increases industrialism, capitalism, and secularization. The definition may vary in different contexts but for the purposes of this passage we will state that it is a period or time of consciousness defining the present in relation to the past. Since the Haitian Revolution is seen as a turning point, it is implied that what became was not the same as what was. That momentous event that was the Haitian Revolution signified a change in tide that became a wave that washed over the consciousness of the world at large. Ideologies, theories, stereotypes, all had to change or at the very least were challenged by the results of the uprising. Concepts that once seemed certain, such as the natural order of the world, the categorization of the races, equality of the races, the justification for slavery, colonialism and imperialism now were shaky. The world was open to transformation.

On August 22 1791, the slaves of St. Domingue waited for the fall of night to unleash their fury on the white planters that had captured, overworked and dehumanized them for so long. This rage was prompted by the planter’s greed and fear, which pushed them to overwork the slaves; knowing that replacements from Africa were readily available. Overworking the slaves was also a means to prevent and suppress thoughts of rebellion. The slaves were at the bottom of a rigid caste system in St. Domingue with Gens de Couleurs (mulattoes) above them. The latter were the children of mixed race, usually offspring of a white master and black slave mother. They worked as artisans, overseers or domestics. Above them in rank were the Petits Blancs who themselves were also artisans, overseers and served too as shopkeepers and slave dealers. The Grands Blancs at the top included Planters and aristocrats. Haiti in 1789 was a nation rife with tensions. Class divisions between whites, Creoles, and slaves; northern, southern and western territories; as well as conflicts between proponents of independence with French, Spanish and British allies meant the country was headed for unrest of some sort. Creoles had been agitating for equality with whites, and spurred on by the 1789 “Declaration on the rights of Men” by the French National Assembly confronted the whites head on with their request to vote. The tensions between Creoles and Whites had exploded into civil war, which resulted in the Planters being rather distracted, and loosening their grip on the slaves. Apart from their master’s distractedness, of great importance to the Revolution was the significant increase in population of imported slaves between 1789 and 1791. These new Negroes were not as docile as their counterparts who had been broken by the whip of the white master. Thus they were pivotal in the success of the uprising. Many key figures emerged on the side of the Negroes but none as important as Toussaint L’Overture who was a charismatic, inspiring and diligent leader. He fought the white planters, the French Army, the Spanish, British and finally Napoleons army. Though captured and imprisoned in 1802, the slaves soldiered on with Toussaint’s successor Dessalines declaring independence for Haiti on January 1st 1804.

According to C.L.R James author of The Black Jacobins, Abbe Raynal’s Philosophical and Political history of the establishments and commerce of the Europeans in the Two Indies defines Natural Liberty [as] the right which nature has given to everyone to dispose of himself according to his will.” Everyone in Haiti wanted to be free. The Blacks wanted freedom from slavery, the Creoles wanted freedom from restrictions on their rights, the White Planters wanted freedom from an Imperial Nation that dictated to them from across the globe. Even in France the cry of freedom was ringing and came to pass with the French Revolution. The Creoles did get some measure of freedom in March of 1792 when the French legislative assembly granted civil and political rights to free men of color in the West Indian colonies. As for the slaves, though Haiti was declared an independent nation in 1804,yet it took 44 years for France to end slavery in its other colonies. This is because the Haitian revolution was a wake up call for the plantation owners. The unthinkable had just happened. Thousands of slaves had taken control of a nation and no longer answered to their masters. Freedom seemed less elusive now, and the colonists knew that slaves would be inspired to revolt. They could not afford to let them taste freedom, lest they become enamored with the notion. Plantation owners in the southern states in response to the events in Haiti restricted further the freedoms of their slaves. This is a history of ironies as with the Louisiana Purchase American colonists became more free, yet their slaves and even freed blacks were more repressed than ever before. Laws were passed to restrict movements, and contact between free blacks and slaves. This led to polarization between North and south in the years leading up to the civil war.

With the loss of over 100 thousand slaves and 24000 whites in the Revolution, and the decimation of the Haitian economy was this freedom worth these casualties? The freedom for which they fought would over time be erased by a string of dictators. For Toussaint the fight for freedom was not just for blacks but for the “unequivocal adoption of the principle that no man, whether he be born red, black or white, can become the property of his fellowmen.” This notion is in contradiction to Aristotle concept that the whole is of necessity prior to the part, thus implying that slavery is in keeping with the natural order of life. It showed that even though they were uneducated they still had the right to choose what life they wanted to live.They were free to call Haiti by its indiginous name, free to choose what was in their best interest, free to switch alliance once it was in their best interest.

In Haiti, race was a key determinant in the doling out of justice or fair and equitable treatment. For the most part the planters/ whites/aristocracy did not see blacks or Creoles as their equal and treated them as such. Many gave in to the Aristotelian notion that some are marked for subjugation from the hour of birth (Aristotle 82) and must be ruled by the superior class. According to CLR James, “No small white was a servant, no white man did any work that he could get a Negro to do for him.” Even members of the clergy turned a blind eye to the atrocities in Haiti prior to the revolution. Friendship between slave and master as Aristotle proposed in Politics was an anomaly. As cited in The Black Jacobins a memoir published in 1789 calling “The Negroes “unjust, cruel, barbarous, half-human, treacherous, deceitful, thieves, drunkards, proud, lazy, unclean, shameless, jealous to fury and cowards, reflected the general view at the time. Toussaint L’Ouverture’s life challenged the notions that blacks were “naturally inferior to the whites.” (Hume). He was educated, able to fight with agility (which was expected of a slave) but mental prowess as well. L’Ouverture was a diplomat, a reader of humankind even managing to get white fighters to defect and join his cause. Even for the average slave who was not educated, they still had an “intelligence, which refused to be crushed.” (James) The slaves knew what was right and wrong what was fair and unfair. For example, when the slaves had heard of the revolution they imagined white slaves rising up against their masters, in a sense they were incorrect, but they were intelligent to derive meaning from that event.

The Haitian Revolution also challenged the hierarchical system of race and social classification. For example when blacks and whites in the French army fought against the British and Spanish, for a moment several barriers were broken down. Even America was impacted as mulatto Haitians traveled to Louisiana with their slaves, changing the social dynamics of the area. Many whites gained from the oppression of blacks and it was economically viable to maintain that role. For example, at the time of the Louisiana Purchase there was a boom in the demand for cotton, which meant freeing slaves, would negatively impact their economic standing. The southern states still wanted to continue the slave trade whereas the northern states did not.

The end of the Haitian Revolution in 1804 and the colonialism and slavery of its time was outlived by the social conflict and racial prejudice that had been cultivated under slavery. The racial contract persisted: All whites are beneficiaries of the contract, though some whites are not signatories to it. The blacks were still at the bottom of the social pyramid but this time, many of them were part of a large army. The Creoles who now were the elites, dominated politics and economics and still looked down on the Blacks. Despite this, African Americans used the history of this revolution to further the cause of American Civil Liberties beyond American soil, a symbol of black possibility and hope, and black solidarity. It is ironic since to date Haiti is embroiled in race and class conflict. In Marxist lens, the power in any state is controlled by those who control the means of production. According to him they determine the ideologies shared within a state. What if the ideologies are immoral or moral but not enforced? For example, the Code Noir of 1685 which dictated the treatment of slaves limited whipping to 50 lashes. That was considered just but was it really? The planters who benefited from the status quo would agree that it was. As Ebenstein notes, “those who benefit from the status quo prefer to see it as universal truth and justice.” (12). The Haitian Revolution thus sought to challenge the French notions of liberty, equality and fraternity. How could this be their war cry in the homeland yet these same people accept exploitation of human beings just because of the colour of their skin? The tenets of Enlightenment thus were not meant to be applied in the region, but the success of the Haitian Revolution brought the irony of its application to the world stage.

The French Revolution was about social justice in France, The American Revolution sought to end colonial rule in America and the Haitian Revolution sought to end human slavery, thus it was not limited by its borders or the conflicts within it. This aim was achieved however, it is still plagued by social and class inequalities that are further exacerbated by comments from people such as William Jennings, American Secretary of state who in 1915 was dumfounded at the thought of 'Niggers speaking French!'

The Haitian Revolution was the first such revolution that went from and anti-slavery revolution to a national liberation revolution. The slaves not only wanted to assert their freedom, they wanted to assert their Haitianness. Napoleon wanted to expand the French empire and Haiti was key as he had plans of building a military base there. Despite Toussaint’s capture, Napoleon was defeated, and his coffers were drained, thus he sold Louisiana and abandoned thoughts of re-colonizing Haiti. The purchase of Louisiana meant that the American colonies had doubled in size and also no longer had the threat of another nation laying claim to their territory. They now focused on themselves and the development of America by Americans. They owned it fair and square. Dessalines claimed Haiti for its people as well, by giving her an Arawak name in honor of its first inhabitants. He declared everyone be black including non-blacks. Based on Aristotle’s concepts, Haiti had moral and legal superiority over its citizens who were now free to create their own national emblems, song, pledge, constitution, for example.

Now that it was an independent nation, Haiti agreed to make reparations to French slave holders in 1825 in the amount of 150 million francs, reduced in 1838 to 60 million francs, in exchange for French recognition of its independence and to achieve freedom from French aggression. Unfortunarely, this bankrupted the conomy and to this day the country is feeling the effects. Haiti was officially reconized as inpendent in 1834 and the US did the same in 1862-more than a half-century after Dessalines declared independence. In the interim Haiti faced an embargo which also negatively impacted her economy. Haiti’s government was also ignored by countries she reached out to. Despite the hardships, Haitians know that their revolution was bringing about a change this side of the hemisphere had never seen. Some critics site the fact taht Toussaint declared himself governor for life and Dessalines declared himself emperor of Haiti as sure signs of the decline of society and regression to colonialism. Haiti has had several dictators, yet the revolutionary spirit of its people still lives on and unites the people.

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. Even of greater significance, the Haitian Revolution was a turning point in history, the repercussions of which extended far beyond the small island nation. In the neighboring United States, Haiti's slave revolt figured directly in two of the most significant events in United States history: the Louisiana Purchase and the American Civil War. Though the country was crippled by years of war, its agriculture devastated, its formal commerce nonexistent, and the people uneducated and mostly unskilled, significant strides were made during the uprising: it strenghtened he notions that all men have the right to freedom, challenged the social and racial hierarchy of 18th century Haitian society. It also put to test the Enlightenmenght theory and its application throughout theworld. The Haitian Revolution is withouth doubt a definite moment in the history of blacks in the West Indies. It is from this revolution that the West Indian identity was forged, it is from this revolution that inependence of the colonies was strengthened. It was only after the events between 1791 and 1804 the whites realized that the treat of a successful slave uprising could become real. Unfortunately that ment more restrictions on people of colour by the powers that be, but they too were challenged by those who believed in the universal dream of Freedom, justice and sovereignty for all regardless of race making this Revolution a worthy cause.

So if Haiti made a deal with the devil, well Pat Robertson you can tell them thanks alot.

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  1. Anonymous January 16, 2010 at 7:35 AM  

    very informative. I read all of it ^^ thanks =]

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