The Haitian Revolution

A school project


Social Structure Before the Revolution

1780 - 1791

There were four distinct groups in Saint-Domingue that played a role in how the revolution played out. The main categories included the whites, the free people of color (gens de couleur), the black slaves, and the maroons. All of them had their own things to complain about. The free slaves, although free , wanted all of the same rights as whites, and wanted to be treated as such. The slaves were very unhappy with their living conditions , they were constantly exposed to diesease, worked long and hard, and were treated horribly by their masters. The white elites desired more formal representation in the French government, and were tired of all of the restrictions put upon them by the law.(specifically those that pertained to slavery and trade). The whites who were not as fortunate as either the white elites or even some of the freed slaves, were upset that they were often treated as less than the free blacks, and were very supportive of slavery. The more elite whites were less loyal to the government, while the less wealthy were.
The free people of color, or the gens de couleur wanted nothing to do with their African ancestry, and often tried to be more “white” than the whites themselves. Many of them were slave and plantation owners, and treated the slaves with a greater lever of disrespect than many white slave owners. However, every class hated those above and below it.

Declaration of Rights of Man


The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen had a great effect on the black slaves of St. Domingue. They felt these rights applied to them too, and were not directed to any explicit race. With the French Revolution's slogan of "liberty, equality, and fraternity," black slaves felt more hope than ever that they might experience a freedom they had never known. However...
(Causes) Bitterness Between Classes
The Revolution’s slogans only unleashed the hate, scorn, and selfish ambitions of the free classes. They had no interest in the freeing of the slaves, especially since their wealth and prosperity was largely due to the slave’s labor. They were very much dependent on slaves, and didn’t want to see them taken away from them. Since they’d do nothing about it, the black slaves began to stand up and make their own struggle for freedom.

Haiti's Peak in Wealth


1789 (Causes) - Haiti was at It's Peak in Wealth...But was Selfish
St. Domingo was acheived a height of prosperity that was uncomparable to any English colonies of that time. It was the wealthiest colony of France, and one of the wealthiest in the world. It supplied half Europe with sugar, coffee and cotton. France wanted to limit St.Domingue's trading to only France, which infuriated the whites, who only disregarded the law and engaged in trade with other countries anyway.

France Attempts to Change Slave Conditions


(Causes) Government Tries to Improve Slave Conditions, But Ignored

In 1789 the Revolutionary constitution of France enforced new civil rights to be extended to free men, of which the white colonists in Haiti (St. Domingue) refused to reply. Later mulattoes marched on Cap-Haitien but the insurrection was put down. The government ignored the protests and kept the law.

The Black Rebellion and Revolution

1791 - 1804

(Course)- The Black Rebellion Starts the Revolution
As rumors of the slave's freedom spread, a great unrest swept across the massive slave population, and they began to revolt. Black slaves who were under terrible living conditions began to struggle for their freedom, and the gens de couleur desired to be equal to whites, and also desired more power. They formed together to start the slave rebellion, which Touissant Louverture eventually helped plot. The more the whites and leaders resisted, the more they kept on pushing.

Rebel's Failures only Encourages them More

1792 - 1800

(Course)- Rebel's Failures only Encourage them More
As the revolutionaries caused warfare, destroyed plantations, and wreaked havoc, the whites were slaughtered everywhere. Slaves killed every white person they encountered. When the uprising reached the city Cap Francais, the whites fought just as brutally as the slaves. The revolutionary slaves were forced to withdraw, but this was only the beginning. Forces yet again began to grow.
The French Republic chose to support the gens de couleur, even in the midst of anarchy. Then, in varying regions of the colony, blacks, white colonists, and mulattoes began to rebel, battle, and oppose each other. The conditions were unstable until Toussaint Louverte came into power and helped lead the unorganized rebels. They soon began to have success.

Spanish Encourage Revolution


(Course)- Spanish Encourage Revolution
The Spanish, seeing St. Domingue's unrest and disunity, decided to take advantage of that opportunity to support the rebels. They wanted to further encourage the disunity by showing support for the revolution.

France Goes to War with Britain

1793 - 1794

Although it didn't affect them directly, becasue France was so preoccupied with it's own war, it had little time or resources to prevent such revolutions or fight against them. The black revolutionists also founf another advantage was to target the whites and engage in deadly warfare with them.

Toussaint L'Ouverte


Revolution Becomes More Successful
Under the military leadership of Touissaint L'Ouverture, along with others, who in 1793 joined an army invading Saint-Domingue from the Spainish portion of the island. Toussaint assumes himslef as a strong black leader of great power and ability.

Toussaint Pledges Support to France


In 1794, Touissaint pledged his support to France. On February 4, the National Assembly decided to abolish slavery and this greatly influenced his actions. However, most people knew the actual carrying out of those actions wouldn't be something to depend on. Yet, if Touissaint wanted emancipation, he would have to stay loyal to France.

Peace between Britain and France

1794 - 1795

(Course)- Peace?
Spain and France form a peace agreement that was called the Treaty of Basel. It was not finalized until the following year of 1795.

Touissaint Gains Power

1796 - 1799

(Course)- Touissaint Gains Power
After saving a French commander, Touissaint had more opportunity to gain power, and took advantage of that. He was appointed luitenant governor of Saint-Domingue out of the commander's thanks, and was soon appointed the commander in chief of all French forces on the island of St. Domingue. He made sure, now that he had such power, to put St. Domingue under an autonomous state under black rule. When he asked to incorporate the mulatto forces in his project, the French interfered. However, they fought back, but were defeated in 1800.

Toussaint Declares Himself Governor General


(Course)- Touissaint as a Leader
Toussaint by now is the master of the French Saint Domingue, and declares himself the governor general of the island for life. In 1801, He inveded Santo Domingo and acheived control over the entire island of Hispanola.

French Make Last Attempt to Reclaim St.Domingue

1801 - 1802

(Course) French Make Last Try to Reclaim Island
In 1801 Napoleon sent his brother in law, Charles Leclerc, to St. Domingue with an army of 25,000 men. Disease hits the soldiers hard but they still end up causing Touissaint to surrender.

In early 1802, Toussaint's forces surrendered in return for a generous truce from Leclerc, but this trust is betrayed when Touissaint is sent to France, arrested, and dies in prison in 1803. After Toussaint’s death, more radical and extreme leaders came to power. That man was Jean Jacques Dessalines, who rose to power as a revolutionary leader.

Jean Jacques Dessalines to Jean Pierre Boyer

1804 - 1806

(Course) Independence and...Justice?
Dessalines, after proclaiming the independence of Haiti (under it's native original Arawak name) on January 1, 1804, decided to massacre all of the French who still remained on their new independent island. Dessalines’ brutal and evil rule eventually provoked unrest, and, having declared himself the emperor in 1805 (Jacques 1), died while attempting to calm the revolt. in 1806. King Henry 1 (Henri Christophe), one of Dessalines’ generals, inherited the crown after Jacques’s death. After that Haiti achieved some sort of stability, after the death of King Henry, under the leadership of Jean Pierre Boyer.

In addition, Haiti was the second nation in the Americas to become free from colonial rule, and was the first independent state in Latin America.