The history of social revolution in the Western Hemisphere starts not with Lexington and Bunker Hill in British North America in 1775 but less auspiciously in the French tropical colony of Saint-Domingue in the Caribbean. The North-American and Latin American Wars of Independence were political events, almost devoid of significant restructuring of the social classes. Although intrinsically connected with the events in metropolitan France as well as the United States, the HAITIAN REVOLUTION sought not merely political independence for the state but also the personal freedom of the more than 80 percent of the inhabitants that were slaves. To accomplish this goal, the revolution had to be, as its metropolitan correspondent, both radical and destructive. The Haitians were forced to destroy the entire colonial socioeconomic structure that was the raison d'être for their imperial importance; and in destroying the institution of slavery, they unwittingly agreed to terminate their connection to the entire international superstructure that perpetuated slavery and the plantation economy. That was an incalculable price for freedom and independence.
The implications for the entire Caribbean – and slaveholding societies everywhere – were astonishing. From Boston to Buenos Aires, slave owners trembled at the consequences for themselves and their world. Haiti, the second independent state in the Western Hemisphere was politically quarantined, maligned by many, assisted by few. France, understandably, grudgingly granted diplomatic recognition in stages between 1825 and 1837. Only after sixty years did the United States of America offer diplomatic ties. Haiti remained poor in material terms, but its people remained strong, free, and fiercely indepenedent.
excerpted from The Caribbean: The Genesis of a Fragmented Nationalism
by Franklin W. Knight
Labels: Caribbean, History