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Thirteen years of war ended the Haitian Revolution with the declaration of Haiti's independence on January 1, 1804. 

Below is an account of the influence the Haitian Revolution had on other countries. 

A colony of exploited slaves successfully liberated themselves and permanently transformed the manner in which the island and its society functioned. The Haitian Revolution was a unique case in history as the revolution resulted in the complete shift in the social, political and economic life of the colony. Socially, the lowest order of society, the slaves, became free and equal to the dominating order of society, the whites. Politically, the slaves formed the second independent state in the Western Hemisphere and the first free black nation globally. Economically, the citizens of Haiti revised the economic system of the conventional plantation and transformed it into a system based on small-scale producers who geared their products internally instead of exporting the goods.

The citizens of the new nation referred to themselves as Haitians and defined themselves as black, which gave a psychological blow to the "emerging intellectual traditions of an increasingly racist Europe and North America that saw a hierarchical world eternally dominated by types representative of their own somatic images" (Knight 105). In Haiti, all of the citizens were legally equal, regardless of color, race, or condition. However, black Haitians were not necessarily pleasant to the remaining whites on the island following the years of the revolution.

In any event, the French Revolution is noted to be highly correlated with the coming of the Haitian Revolution. While there were several slave revolts in the island of Hispanolia, the French Revolution may have provided the opportunity for a successful slave revolt. One may argue that the French could not devote too much attention to the colony as they were experiencing conflicts in Europe. Therefore, Haiti was able to successfully revolt due to the lack of attention granted by France. However, the French did in fact dedicate a lot of concern to its colony. Haiti produced sixty five percent of the world’s sugar and provided France with much of its financial resources, as the plantation system was lucrative. Therefore, France did not want to lose such a valuable colony.

At one point during the revolutionary war, Napoleon sent an expeditionary force of 43,000 men under General Le Clerc to fight against Toussaint L’Ouverture, the general who fought for Haitian independence and who can be considered as one of Haiti’s founding fathers. In any event, the revolutionaries crushed Napoleon’s men reducing the French army force to some 8,000 men (Sheridan 330). The French sent countless numbers of troops to Haiti in attempt to regain it colony. However, the blacks fought for their liberty and defeated the French army.

The Haitian army had to fight against the British army who decided to invade Haiti during the revolutionary period because if Haiti had successfully revolted, then the British colony of Jamaica would be influenced by the success of the slave revolt. The British wanted to protect Jamaica’s security by helping France suppress the Haitian Revolution. The British invaded Haiti on September 20, 1793 and withdrew British troops early in October of 1798 after a series of defeats by the army lead by Toussaint L’Ouverture. "Militarily," writes Thomas O. Ott, "England had suffered an embarrassing and costly defeat" (Sheridan 329).

The Haitian Revolution had an impact on many countries. Other countries feared that the success of the slave revolt in Haiti would implant thoughts in slaves elsewhere. The Haitian Revolution did in fact influence slaves to rebel against whites in other countries. Places such as Jamaica, Venezuela and the United States of America were strongly affected by the Haitian Revolution.

Jamaica

Once Haiti achieved its independence; it provided a safe haven for slaves escaping within its borders. Under the ratified Haitian Constitution, Article forty-four, all people who were black that step foot onto Haitian soil was considered Haitian and therefore protected by the constitution. Slaves fled from their countries and retreated to Haiti where they were accepted and allowed to be free citizens of the black nation.

One famous case of Haiti protecting slaves from other territories is the case of the pilot boat, Deep Nine.In early January of 1817 James M’Kewan led his slaves on an expedition from Jamaica to the east end of the island where the would supply other vessels with goods. The black crew was separated from the owner during the task and when the owner signaled to three of the slaves to fetch a boat so that he could get on board, they ignored his signal and retreated to Haiti with the Deep Nine leaving the owner stranded.

M’Kewan went to Haiti in search of his slaves and when he could not find the slaves, he went to President Petion to personally demand the restitution of his property. However, his attempts failed as Petion said that the slaves were no longer slaves and citizens of Haiti. Therefore, they were protected by Haiti and its constitution. M’Kewan wrote several letters to the Haitian government requesting the return of his slaves. However, he never retrieved his slaves as the Haitian government sited article forty-four of the Haitian Constitution which "recognized all people of their description [the slaves] to be citizens of Hayti the moment they landed on the territory of the republic" (Sheridan 332).

The forty-fourth article of the Haitian Constitution was not diminishing of the rights of countries to retrieve their slaves. England had an article quite similar to the forty-fourth article in the Haitian Constitution. On April 10, 1817, a note was written to the admiralty in Jamaica stating that "it appears to his lordships, from the papers which admiral Douglas’s letter enclosed, that the laws of Hayti much resemble those of Great-Britain, so far as not to permit persons, who have once landed in that island, to be considered or treated as slaves" (Sheridan 337). The Haitian government did not allow anyone on its soil to be treated as slaves and believed that the 44th article assured that no one was treated as so.

Venezuela

The success of Haitian blacks played a part in the movement for independence in the Spanish colonies of South America. One such colony was Venezuela where Haiti played a major role in its gaining independence. The colored people of Venezuela were suppressed and wanted liberty and independence, as many colonies during the revolutionary period desired. Learning of the Haitian Revolution inspired the Venezuelans to fight for liberty. In an interview with Professor Leslie Desmangles of the Religion and International Studies department at Trinity College, Desmangles noted that Venezuela sought help from Haiti who supplied troops and financed much of the war. For example, Simon Bolivar, a Spanish-American liberator, frequently retreated to Haiti for sanctuary, encouragement and financial and military assistance. The Venezuelans were able to successfully revolt due to the help from Haiti and the inspiration from the Haitian Revolution.

Slave Revolts

The Haitian Revolution inspired blacks in other slave territories to fight for freedom. In the United States, the grand conspiracy concocted by Gabriel during the early years of the nineteenth century is said to have been inspired by the slave revolts in Haiti. In a short question and answer period with Associate Professor of History at Trinity College, Dr. Jack Chatfeild, he noted that Haiti is speculated as having an influence on the Gabriel’s Conspiracy.

Another rebellion noting the Haitian revolts, as a source of influence is Fedon’s Rebellion. Julien Fedon, a free mulatto of French extraction, initiated a rebellion in Grenada with the assistance of approximately one hundred freed coloreds and slaves. Fedon managed to imprison several white inhabitants and requested the surrender of the island’s forts. The rebellion lasted a reported sixteen months where Fedon died while escaping to Trinidad. In any event, Haiti inspired many slave revolts, two are noted above.

Fears of Conspiracy

The success of the Haitian Revolution spread fear of servile revolt among the white inhabitants of plantation America. The slave owners in the United States feared that the Haitian Revolution would spark ideas in the thoughts of the slaves in the States. They felt that the slaves may be inspired by the success of the Haitian Revolution and may attempt to follow in the Haitians’ footsteps. Slave owners become paranoid and often raided the homes of free Negroes and arrested those they suspected of conspiring to revolt.

There were rumors of vast plots to revolt and kill the white inhabitants of the United States, as well in other places such as Jamaica. The slaveholders feared for their lives, as they believed the rumors to be true in light of the Haitian Revolution. Thomas Jefferson also feared that the Haitian Revolution would spark flames in America where the white would be threatened by the slave population who often times outnumbered the whites. Jefferson, in a note to the governor of south Carolina on December 23, 1793, wrote that he had been informed by a French gentleman from Saint Dominique (Haiti), that two men of color were setting out from the island of Charleston "with a design to excite an insurrection among the Negroes" (Sheridan 328). There was a widespread fear that the Haitians would ‘infect’ American slaves with revolutionary thoughts. The fear caused there to be a wide spread of state governments enacting laws that excluded West Indian blacks.

There were fears in Jamaica as a Governor Lord Balcarres wrote to the Duke of Portland in July of 1798 noting that the success of the ‘brigands’ in Haiti ‘holds forth such an example to our Negroes here, as to place Jamaica in a new point of view, and to render her safety much more precarious and problematical than at any former period" (Sheridan 329).

Conclusion

In closing, the Haitian Revolution had a rippling effect on other colonies around the world. It helped sparked revolts in the United States, Jamaica and in South America. It created fears among whites and led to the protection of several slaves who retreated to the safe haven of the island. The Haitian Revolution was the pride of all black globally as noted by Davis Brion Davis that "while the Haitian example inspired a number of slave conspiracies and revolts, it had a deeper and more lasting impact on the self-image and nascent national identity of free blacks" (Davis 748). Furthermore, The history of Haiti is noted as "the glory of the blacks and terror of tyrants" (Davis 748).

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Last Update: 10 May 2000
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