Haiti – First Slave Independence
Boukman Dutty, a Voudou N’Gan (oungan, houngan, voodoo priest), killed a pig as a part of an African tribal ritual Bwa Kayiman, dedicated to his ancestors and Ogoun, god of fire, iron and war. To these slave warriors, it seemed that Ogoun and Erzulie Dantor (Ezili Dantor), a Vodou l’wha (loa) a warrior spirit, responded to this call to protect these slave warriors.
Boukman Dutty’s ritual of pig-slaughter was near the same spot where a little over 30 years, another slave François Mackandal was burnt at the stake. François Mackandal waged a 12 year campaign, against White slave owners, in which he ‘reputedly killed some six thousand whites’. In 1758, François Mackandal was captured – and burnt at the stake, his plot to mass-poison slave masters, averted.
25th August. Night of Fire
50,000 slaves rose in revolt. More than 1000 sugar and coffee plantations were put to fire. Flames could be seen as far as Bahamas. From 31st December 1803, to 1st January, 1804, liberation brought about by vengeance was celebrated, and independence was declared.
St. Dominque, now called Haiti, was a French colony with 800 sugar plantations and 4,00,000 slaves from Niger and Dahomey (now Benin) in West Africa. Haiti, the jewel of French colonies, accounting for 40% of French GDP in 1700s, was the largest market for slaves in Atlantic trade. Considered “the single richest colony in the world”, it was the largest producer of sugar in the world and competed with British colonies (like India) for indigo production and had thousands of coffee plantations.
Christopher Columbus, the first European to Haiti, in 1492, and started the exploitation of Haiti. What happened to the original population of Haiti? An estimated 1.3 million, may have been 3-4 million. Admittedly not White, but people, nevertheless. Done to death by forced labour in silver mines over the next 10 years.
After the revolution in Haiti, Spaniards and the British rushed in to take advantage of this opportunity and to re-enslave the rebels. The newly freed slaves time and again, beat back the new British and Spanish enslavers.
The army failed. Five years and more than 12,000 British deaths later, the redcoats withdrew. An army of rebel enslaved Africans had defeated the army of the world’s superpower, and the largest slave-trading nation.
The humiliation of this defeat sent a shock wave through the British establishment and, indirectly, strengthened the forces in parliament that voted to abolish the slave trade in 1807.” (from William Wilberforce: The Real Abolitionist? By Adam Hochschild)
The Haitians, initially led by Boukman Douty, re-grouped under Toussaint Louverture, Georges Biassou, Jean Jacques Dessalines and Henry Christophe. On January 1st, 1804, Haiti declared themselves free and a republic. It was world’s first republic established by people of African descent.
Haiti, (unlike today’s Israeli Jews) supported liberation movements. Haiti’s successful revolt and the defeat of the Spanish and British armies encouraged other colonies of South America to demand and fight for Independence. This fight was led by Simon Bolivar – after whom Bolivia is named.
After being expelled from Venezuela, it was Alexandre Petion, the Haitian President, who gave shelter to Simon Bolivar in 1815, with arms, ammunition, a printing press and other aid – after a clear promise that all the freed countries of the South America would abolish slavery. A promise that Simon Bolivar did not keep – until significant pressure was put on him. In spite of winning freedom with the help of African people, the newly freed countries of South America discriminated against the very same Africans who helped them get freedom. Moreover, in 1826, at the Congress of American States, under US pressure, Simon Bolivar did not invite Haiti.
Shivas dun mai spoiwne
Haiti’s developments stampeded Europe and USA. Afraid that US slaves will follow the Haiti example, US did not recognise Haiti, till November 1864 – 60 years after Haiti declared Independence.
Jefferson (possibly while dining alone), was afraid that Haiti would create a “great disposition to insurgency among American slaves.” He imagined that “dull, tasteless and anomalous” Africans would have
“ten thousand recollections by the blacks of the injuries they have sustained, new provocations, the real distinctions which nature has made, and many other circumstances will divide us into parties and produce convulsions which will probably never end but in the extermination of the one or the other race.“
Restrictions on slavery were discussed all over Europe and USA. The US imposed restrictions on import of slaves – which increased the price of existing slaves in the trade market. But slave traders like Jean Laffitte soon ran rings round this by smuggling slaves from Cuba. Merchants and traders protested against Jean Laffitte’s smuggling of other products. Planters did not like slave traders because the slave traders made slaves ‘expensive’. The planters pressured Government’s into passing various laws restricting ‘trade’ in slaves.
Jean Laffitte’s smuggling operations stopped in 1821. After 14 years of successful slave smuggling. Jean Laffitte became a ‘folk hero’ in New Orleans for flouting restrictions against import of slaves (slaves that White southerners needed). It was his ‘patriot outlaw’ image which got him his following. He was ostensibly seen as aiding the government during the 1812 war with the British – which was decided on the basis of his business interests.
Britain & Abolition Of Slavery
Britain technically abolished slavery in 1807, after the Haiti experience. While slavery was supposedly abolished in 1807, trade in ‘pre-existing slaves’ continued. Slave ships and traders had to pay a fine of GBP 100 per slave, if caught. The law was not seriously implemented. In the few cases where slave ships and traders were caught, slaves were simply thrown overboard.
British trade and agriculture brought pressure to stop slavery by other European kingdoms. Paid labour had made French products uncompetitive – which made Napoleon re-introduce slavery. This re-introduction of slavery by the French (circa 1804) diluted British resolve to end slavery.
Further rebellions in Barbados (1816), Demerra (1823) and Jamaica (1831-32) finally forced the British hand. Freedom to British slaves came finally in 1833 after the British Government passed yet another law, to outlaw slavery, Slavery Abolition Act in 1833 – and paid ‘compensation’ to slave owners. An egregious and glaring example was the ‘compensation’ to the Bishop of Exeter and his partners of GBP 12,700 to ‘compensate’ them for the ‘loss’ of 665 slaves in 1833.
Yet another chapter …
After the finally abolishing slavery in 1833, Indian indentured labour replaced African slavery. Upfront, indentured labour was only slightly more expensive++, but was cheaper in the long run. Indentured labour also came fewer issues related to capture, transport, trade and maintenance of slaves – with a veneer of respectability that was needed for propaganda purposes.
Also, Britain had India – a huge colony to fall back on for indentured labour. How could the British afford to buy indentured labour? Bought with new gold discoveries in Canada and Australia. Nearly 1 crore (10 million) indentured labourers were shipped out from India alone to various parts of the world – and continued till about 1917. As is to be expected, the UK Government grossly underestimates these figures.
By the time the indentured labour scheme was finally brought to an end in 1917, it is estimated that 2.5 million East Indians had been shipped to British colonies around the world. (From Empire’ Children – Channel 4).
Beggar Thy Neighbour
Slavery was also about economic warfare.
During the American War of Independence, to protect colonial interests, promises were made to American slaves by Britain. Further, British Colonial forces, encouraged African slaves to run away from their White masters. Property was promised to them in Canada and Sierra Leone. Some were sent to London. Based on these promises, an estimated 75,000-100,000 slaves abandoned their White American owners.
The key to Haiti’s wealth – slave labour.
Hence, the British efforts to ban slavery – as a part of their beggar-thy-neighbour strategy. Haiti was contributing major surplus to the French – and Britain had to undercut French economic gains from Haiti. The French efforts to get back into India against Britain through Tipu Sultan (during the Mysore Wars) had made life difficult for Britain – and hence they needed to undermine French economic resources.
Abolition of slavery had little to do with human rights.
While slavery (especially in the Caribbean) was being abolished, the same Britons were committing genocide in Australia, New Zealand, and Africa.
The Rise Of Cuba
Spain took up the slack that the fall of Haiti created.
Cuba within the next 50 years became the centre of Caribbean trade. After the fall of Haiti, by 1860, Cuban production grew to 500,000 tons of sugar – nearly 1/3 of the world’s production. Under Spanish rule from 1511, the indigenous population was annihilated and the island was populated by imported African slave labour.
What did the ‘statesmen’ from the land of the free do?
Henry Clay, Secretary of State, in President John Quincy’s administration,was clear that “This country prefers that Cuba and Porto Rico remain dependent on Spain …” Of Henry Clay, Abraham Lincoln declared, “During my whole political life, I have loved and revered Henry Clay as a teacher and a leader.”
In 1844 Cuban slaves revolted unsuccessfully. 10th, October 1868, Carlos Manuel de Céspesdes released his slaves and El Grito de Yara War, (a 10 year campaign) against Spain started. General Valeriano Weyler, “The Butcher,” was sent to stamp out the independence movement. He created modern history’s first concentration camps.
Hundreds of thousands of men women and children were put into concentration camps.
Modern Concentration Camps
In Havana city, 52,000 people died. The peasants retaliated by burning down vast Spanish owned sugar plantations. Weyler was recalled to Spain in 1879. October 7th 1886, slavery was finally abolished. Spain continued to rule Cuba – with greater repression.
“Seventy-five percent of Latin America’s exports to the United States came from Cuba and half of the Latin American imports from the United States went to Cuba in 1894. The United States had well entrenched itself in the Cuban economy and did not want to lose a valuable market so close by. Spain clung to its remaining claim. Cuba was caught in the middle in the mid-1890’s when the United States reduced sugar imports with the Wilson-Gorman tariff and Spain restricted United States imports to Cuba. Proponents of annexation and independence divided Cuba’s population.” by Brad Williford in The Cuban Revolution of 1895-98
The American Civil War
From 1861-1865, American went through the Civil War.
Lincoln’s War, after all was more about economics than about slavery. It was about White unemployment, low wages to Whites due to competition from slave labour, due to high import tariffs (half to 80% of total import taxes were paid by American South).
In his inaugural speech, Lincoln promised ‘there will be no invasion‘ if he is allowed to use the “power confided to me … to collect the duties and imposts” – which some senators refused to endorse, seeing it as a threat of war.
Propaganda states that this war was fought to free the American Slaves. But for the next 100 years, there was little change. “Freed” slaves were forced into share cropping by a federal programme – Freedmen’s Bureau. Yes, people could no longer be bought or sold, could not be captured or kidnapped.
But in the land of the free, the African American man was still used – and abused. There was one use of the free African Americans. They were used to kill the Native Americans – who called these African-American Soldiers as Buffalo Soldiers.
125 years after Independence, US was developing colonial ambitions. The ‘Monroe doctrine’ was used to create colonies in the American backyard. “Yellow Journalism” was invented to whip up public sentiment. On April 25th 1898, the US Congress declared war. For the next 4 months, the US fought The Spanish-American War.
On August 12th, 1898, Spain signed the peace treaty. On December 10th 1898, the treaty of Paris was signed. USA ‘bought’ Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico and paid Spain US$2,00,00,000. Of course, the ‘inferior’ populations of these countries – Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico were unfit for inclusion in the Paris negotiations about their future.
Cubans were nominally declared free but with many conditions. In 1915, again the Monroe doctrine was invoked to invade Haiti. In the 1960s-70s, Chedi Jagan and his struggle to break from US domination (in the Caribbean) was sabotaged.
A degree of freedom
In America, opposition to slavery was about race.
What if the African American slave population in the American South became like Haiti? Just before independence, against a population of 400,000-500,000 African Haitians, there were about 25,000 whites and 40,000 mulattos.
What if the African population in the American South (nearly 80% at the start of the Civil War) rose to say, 150%. Four million African American compared to five million Whites in the American South at the start of the Civil War.
Another Haiti would have very well happened in Southern American South too. A truncated USA was a real fear – if not a certainty. None other than “Benjamin Franklin said with alarm that importing slaves had “blacken’d half America” …
So, what did the White Fathers do?
They set up in Africa, Israel’s predecessor! Liberia (another land of the free?) and the successor state of the British deportation to Sierra Leone. Behind this idea was Jefferson again, (dining alone again, Thomas?), who suggested that US should “take measures for procuring on the coast of Africa, an establishment to which the people of color of these States might, from time to time, be colonized.“
In 1816, the USA decided to follow Jefferson’s idea and colonise Africa (Africa had to pay the price of Jefferson’s dining alone). An artificial situation was created, where escaped, freed Africans were sent to Liberia. The local population were of no consequence – like latter day Palestine.
With the setting up of Liberia, slavery was moved off shore. In 1926, large parts of Liberia were leased out to Firestone – for rubber plantations. Even in Africa, these ‘freed ‘slaves were enslaved again – which continues to this day.
A significant reason why slavery was not popular in the North was the depressing effect of slavery on wages and employment. Poor (free) whites had to compete with slave labour for employment – and that was a non-starter.
Little changed in the next 100 years after the Civil War – except the matter of 25 million missing African-Americans. At the start of the Civil War, the White Population of North and South was 22 million. And African-American was 5 million. By 1960, the White population had grown by nearly 800%, to 160 million. The African American population in the meantime had grown by only 400% – from 5 million to 20 million.
What happened to the missing 400% of African American population growth? Apologists (and defenders) use White immigration to explain away some of the difference. But that further compounds the problem – because there was also about 1 million Afro-American immigrants from Haiti, Jamaica, Africa and other countries. Nett, nett – there are about 20-25 million Afro-descendants missing – due to deprivation, poor health care and indifference.
“Among patients infected with HIV, blacks were significantlyless likely than whites to have received antiretroviral therapyor PCP prophylaxis when they were first referred to an HIV clinic“.
But rights and equality is something else
From 1865 to 1965, Afro-American though no longer bought and sold – were still excluded from the political and social systems – in the land of the free. The Freedman’s Bureau made the ‘free’ Afro-Americans into poor sharecroppers and destitute. The Ku Klux Klan became a vigilante group to ensure that Afro-Americans stayed where they were – at the bottom of the economic, social and political ladder.
By 1890’s, disenfranchisement laws came into effect – which ensured that the disproportionate numbers of Afro-Americans could not vote. Petty crime, (where poor) Afro-Americans were convicted in higher ratios, were grounds for disenfranchisement. These laws ensured that 10 times higher number of African-Americans were disqualified compared to Whites.
If that is not bad enough, it continues till now. After some 60,000 African-American voters were disenfranchised, George Bush technically won by less than 1000 votes (most were expected to vote against George Bush). Such tactics continue to be used to limit Afro-American participation in democracy.
The re-emergence of the Ku Klux Klan in its second avatar continued with its agenda of Afro-American subjugation till the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. The second coming was a mainstream event with President Woodrow Wilson endorsing the film and the message.
Lies, damned lies – an then there is history.
The Cuban revolution is not a 50 year old event as this article seems to make out. And Afro-American emancipation in the USA is a 1970s phenomenon, 30+ years ago event – and not 200 years ago as this article in New York Times seems to make out.
It took non-violent protests (Martin Luther King, inspired by Gandhiji) and violent threats (Malcolm X) for some kind of real emancipation and equity to come in. Of course, it is no co-incidence, that both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were assassinated.
In the Cold War scenario, under international media glare, during the Little Rock School stand-off, Eisenhower (a Southerner himself) reacted. Reluctantly, in 1954, he sent in the National Guard to Little Rock, Arkansas for some kind of de-segregation. The Mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas closed down the school rather than de-segregate. US (and the West) earned bragging rights in the eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation during the Kennedy years with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – and the Nobel Prize for Martin Luther King.
Demonise, Massacre and Apologise
Now that there are a few Red Indians and aborigines left (they serve as tourist attractions), there is the ritual of regret and apology about their role in the genocidal past. Since, the “Jewish Problem” was solved by Hitler (there are hardly 1 million Jews left in Europe and 5 million in USA), the West and USA has no problems, anymore with the Jews.
In fact, Jews today serve a useful purpose to the West. After the Anglo-Saxon led alliance broke up the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East, the Israelis are the West’s cat’s paw.
They been suborned to the job of keeping a lid on the simmering oil rich, Middle East, and keeping it in check. What is the real cost to the USA- an inflated arms bill. What does it cost Israel – millions of precious Jewish lives, lost in the fight to keep the Anglo Saxons in luxury.
The demonisation (Shakespeare joined in with his anti-Semitic Merchant Of Venice) of the Jews has now been replaced by demonisation of Islam. Without taking responsibility for the destabilisation of the Islamic World by the liquidation of the Ottoman Empire after WW1 – perpetrated by Anglo Saxon countries and the French.
New political constructs
Colonial loot from South America and India, Canada and Australia reduced cost of capital to hasten industrialization. Thus ‘zero’ cost capital from colonial loot and ‘zero’ cost slave labour drove the engines of industrial Europe. Patronage by large land owners, financial backing by emerging ‘industrialists’ gave the educated and qualified, the resources to focus on innovation and invention.
This was the ‘Golden Age of Capitalism.’ As slavery receded (due to many revolts and rebellions) in 19th century, Capitalism also faded. Slavery and colonialism allowed creation greater concentration of wealth – in exchange for greater perceived freedom. Two aspects led to decline of capitalism. One, was receding slavery, and secondly lack of new colonies and peoples to loot, pillage, and commit genocides.
After the eclipse of Capitalism, the West needed a new economic model.
A popular writer waxing nostalgic for this ‘golden age’ was Ayn Rand. Her glossing over slavery, her token objections to segregation were reminiscent of an age gone by. Her disregard for family structures was her contribution to ‘modernizing’ capitalism. The economic contribution of slavery to the wealth of the West, the creation of patronage structures for ‘innovation and invention’ and the loot from the colonies were all absent from Ayn Rand’s hagiography on capitalism.
Faced with a crisis of labour due to abolition of slavery, England started looking at alternatives for a new economic model. They selected a fugitive theorist, whose theories were creating interest in mainland Europe.
Communism awarded a monopoly over slavery to one employer – the State. Single employer, total monopoly, impress the slaves with the glory and future. This was the only Western ideology that was born out of design. With the demise of slave trafficking, 1832 in Britain; slavery re-introduced in 1802 by France) Europe was concerned about labour and industry.
France, Brussels, Britain etc. took the lead and provided patronage to Karl Marx and Frederick Engels to devise another system – an alternate to slavery.
Their books, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, The Communist Manifesto (published in) 1848 laid the basis for an alternative to capitalism. In the next few years, their publications found eager publishers and sold well. Their popularity could be gauged by the significant royalties, Marx and Engels received, from the sale of their books – and could live on earnings from their writing careers.
Obviously, Communism could not be ‘sold’ to the designated victims, that they were the new slaves. It had to be ‘bought’ willingly by the ‘target audience’ as yet another ‘level of freedom’. Slavery sold as a promise of freedom – You have nothing to loose but you chains.
Most European countries moved away from the slavery-capitalism-colonialism model during the 1900-1950 period. The new political construct was Socialism – which gave freedom to labor to change employers. This was a major improvement for labour – from earlier slavery and serfdom model, where employer-change was not possible.
In turn, the number of employers was restricted, so that there was not too much competition for labour or markets. The burden of labour welfare on imposed on the limited number of employers – in return for limited competition for customers and employees. This resulted in a high tax burden on employers – in return for lesser competition, high trade barriers, non-tariff barriers.
A twist in this socialist model was the Bretton Woods mechanism. At one stroke this created ‘invisible’ reverse flows from the poor to the rich countries – with minuscule but ‘visible’ show of flows from the rich to the poor.
Fear of success or opposition, in country after country of the Americas and Pacific, the USA has been involved in destabilisation and intervention. One time USA allies are now hot beds of terrorism. Afraid that US slaves will follow the Haiti example, US did not recognise Haiti, till November 1864 – 60 years after Haiti declared Independence. Moreover, in 1826, at the Congress of American States, under US pressure, Simon Bolivar did not invite Haiti.
The US record against the growth and stabilisation of Cuba does not bear repetition. Having ‘bought’ Cuba from Spain (like Puerto Rico, Guam and Philippines), USA believes and feels that they ‘own’ Cuba.
In 1904, the US pressured Tomas Estrada Palma, a ‘puppet’ Cuban President, to sign the Platt Amendment. This allowed US intervention in Cuban affairs, if ‘vital’ US interests were at risk (meaning at US will) – finally modified only in 1934Under this ‘new deal’ ‘Cuba would be allowed to export 22% of the sugar the US imported, by paying 0.09¢, a pound tariff duty. In return, little or no duty would be levied by Cuba on goods imported from the USA.’
The Greatest Suffering
The African-American in the USA and Europe have seen some justice – as they were an important constituency in the Cold War. USA propaganda was on the verge of losing Africa to Soviet Russia. The Jews have been very persistent and they have not let the world forget – or the perpetrators rest in peace.
The forgotten lot is that that of the Romani Gypsies. This one segment based in Europe and USA continues to remain on the fringes and discriminated. They have been hunted (like forest animals), their children kidnapped (to end their race and social system), they have been gassed (by Hitler along with the Jews), they have been galley slaves, In fact there was a time when they could be killed, if found alive!
Good Job, Dinesh
I came across two blogs which possibly best represent attempts to ‘white wash.’
One is from a member of the US Conservative Right, part of the Republican propaganda team – aapla, our own Dinesh DeSouza. He tries, speciously and very hard, to show how it is the White, Christian, Americans who actually freed the slaves – after the slaves were sold into slave by their ‘Black Brothers’. Of course, he cannot see the long history of trade in slaves, the laws and might of the state which enforced this trade, the continuing attempts (under disenfranchisement laws) to deny Afro-Americans, their voting rights. Dinesh does a fabulous hatchet job on how the West can make me a colonial subject of the Raj again.
The second blog, by an academic, celebrates a pseudo-anniversary. This post, ‘a professor at a large state university,’ abandons academic integrity to promote propaganda, instead of academic excellence. At least, he published dissenting comments. Bro.Dinesh DeSouza does not publish dissenting comments.
Or for this matter this book review in The Times about slavery – which doesn’t once mention the one reason, why slavery was abolished – Haiti and slave revolts.
- Booker club: Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth (guardian.co.uk)
- Jazz Fest to Honor Haiti’s Musical and Tragic Relationship With New Orleans (spinner.com)
- Black History Month: The History and Legacy of Slavery – Beacon Broadside (beaconbroadside.com)
- Descendant of two famed black leaders fights modern-day slavery (via The CNN Freedom Project: Ending Modern-Day Slavery) (gemweev.wordpress.com)
- Review of Part 1 of PBS’ “Black in Latin America” – Haiti/Dominican Republic (mrdsneighborhood.com)
- New Orleans, Haiti share cultural history at fest (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- African slavery must not be forgotten | Felicity Heywood (guardian.co.uk)
- Once, men abused slaves. Now we abuse fossil fuels | Jean-François Mouhot (guardian.co.uk)
- The Chávez Myth and Incredulous Europe (venezuelanalysis.com)
- Haiti and Jamaica: 150 miles Apart But Linked By History (atlantablackstar.com)
- Haiti: Jamaica’s Embarrassment (repeatingislands.com)
- Where is the Evil in Slavery? (5ptsalt.com)
- The perfect slave (dailypaul.com)
- CPAC: Republicans claim slavery was good for African Americans (examiner.com)