early independent era

We have paid these true cannibals back in full; war for war, crime for crime, outrage for outrage… . I have saved my country. I have avenged America.
—  Jean-Jacques Dessalines, April 1804 (Source: “Empire of Freedom, Kingdom of Civilization” by Doris L. Garraway)

Today In History: The Haitian Independence

While the Haitian Revolution initially began as a white planter revolt and a free colored insurgency, largely in response to the French Revolution of 1789, an additional group was soon to be added. Indeed, in 1791, the slaves of Saint-Domingue began their own uprising. Through they originally fought to free themselves form their masters and still held emotional ties to France, with the Leclerc expedition of 1802, the capture of the black leader Toussaint-Louverture and his subsequent death in prison, the slave revolt soon became a complete Revolution to overthrow the colonial order. Although the proclamation of Haitian independence is still regarded as trivial by many today, in 1804, the people of Haiti accomplished what was unconceivable in an 18th and 19th century landscape. On this date, 210 years ago, Haiti became the first country in the modern world to be born out of a successful slave rebellion, the first modern “black” republic, the second independent state of the Americas (after the United States) and the first in the Caribbean and Latin American region. To that list must be added that Haiti was the first country to founded on of three core principals: it was anti-colonial, anti-slavery and egalitarian. Indeed, independent Haiti guaranteed citizenship to all its inhabitants, regardless of color, class or property. Furthermore, Haiti was among the first states to equip itself with a constitution (constitutionalism as a written process being a new development at the time).

* That these facts about the Revolution remain largely unknown to a larger public speaks very well of the silencing of the Haitian Revolution in academia and popular culture.

Today in Haitian History - April 6, 1811 - Henri Christophe passes edit to control and regulate Haitian nobility. After the constitutional crisis of 1807, Haiti secedes in two fractions, the South being governed by Alexandre Pétion and the North by Henri Christophe. In 1811, inspired by European models, Henri Christophe sets up a monarchy in Northern Haiti. While the regime only lasted until 1820, Jean Pierre Boyer (by then president of Southern parts of Haiti and responsible for the re-unification of the country) inherited a 6 million surplus from the Northern treasury. 

Today in Haitian History - April 2, 1770 - Birth of Alexandre Pétion. Alexandre Sabès Pétion was a Haitian revolutionary and later president of the Republic.

While Pétion sided with André Rigaud’s army (Toussaint Lovertrue’s major opponent) in some of the earlier battles of the Haitian Revolution, he later changed alliance to join Toussaint’s successor Jean-Jacques Dessalines. After Dessalines’ assasination in 1806, the constitutional crisis of 1807 and Haiti’s secession, Pétion became president of Southern Haiti. He died in office in 1818.