This Haitian revolution was a period of about a decade filled with fighting and havoc in the small French colony of Saint Domingue, which thrived off of a plantation economy and a large enslave labor force.
On the island, the whites were the minority with the majority; not only were the enslaved angered by this, but as well as the gens de couleur and free blacks. As stated above, Saint Domingue had a plantation economy, which was very profitable for France and very much manipulated, “on a large, well-managed sugar plantation, the work never stops. Either the ripened canes need to be cut, or a field needs replanting after being harvested, or those where the new shoots risk being strangled by weeds need to be weeded” (Geggus Doc. 4). The whites that inhabited the island needed the slave labor for profit purposes, because the money that could possibly be made on Saint Domingue was everything a person dreamed of.
Mass fear among whites spread because the possibility of riots or revolts from the enslaved, due to the large enslaved to white people proportion, much was done to repress not only the enslaved people but as well as the free blacks and the gens de couleur. Repression among the non-whites occurred because giving freedom or even rights to free blacks or the gens de couleur would have been a step in the direction towards slave emancipation.
With all the trouble that occurred in Saint Domingue, the only destination for the future Haitians was emancipation and complete separation from the French oppressors. Emancipation occurred at the time that it did because in all honestly, the thought of emancipation was finally becoming reality, “for fourteen years we have been victims of our own gullibility and tolerance, defeated not by French arms but by the pitiful eloquence of their official proclamations” (Geggus Doc. 80). Emancipation was a long time coming, since that was the final destination that the formerly enslaved, freed blacks and gen de couleur were focused on reaching.
To put it simply, emancipation in Saint Domingue occurred when it did because the French could not keep up with the revolutionaries who would have done absolutely anything for their freedom. The French were physically losing to the people of Saint Domingue, and could not keep up with what they needed to in order to be the dominant force that Napoleon needed and wanted the French forces to be in Saint Domingue. France no longer had a strong number of forces occupying Saint Domingue around the time of emancipation, because the soldiers were dying and falling ill to all the diseases that the French were not immune to on the island, “out of the 30,000 soldiers brought to the island, they only remain 18 or 20,000” (Geggus Doc. 70). With the soldiers falling ill and dying, the price the French were paying for their presence in the Atlantic on top of the price of the war with the rest of the European continent that Napoleon was invested in, was not worth it anymore. Saint Domingue was quickly becoming an economic loss, when Saint Domingue used to be a colony that once made so much money for France.
With the loss of French momentum in Saint Domingue, the soon-to-be called Haitians definitely took advantage of this and were finally in their home stretch towards, what seemed to be almost impossible, emancipation. The final mark to add to why emancipation in Saint Domingue happened when it did was undoubtedly Dessalines’ Armée Indigéne that united those who were still fighting on the basis of freedom for all. Why was this army so important? Dessalines cleverly named this army to categorize the formerly enslaved, free blacks and gens de couleur as the indigenous people of Saint Domingue who were against the French, and all other whites intruding upon their potential freedom.
Emancipation in Saint Domingue was not as simple as one battle, the people who were oppressed on this island truly believed in their fight because they knew that grass was greener on the other side, but not always necessarily better. Upon reaching completely emancipation, when the revolution was all said in done, those who now lived in the newly formed colony of Haiti had much to learn, but undoubtedly used what had happened to them and their ancestors as something to stray away from. The Haitian Constitution of 1805 definitely drew upon influences from other constitutions, but made it clear to include that “no white man, regardless of his nationality, may set foot in this territory as a master or a landowner, nor will he ever be able to acquire any property.” The Haitians were being radical towards those who were once radical towards them, but the Haitian Revolution will forever stand in history as being a successful slave revolt who refused to continually be oppressed for the sake of greed from a country thousands of miles away.
Geggus, David. The Haitian Revolution. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc, 2014. Ebook.
The 1805 Constitution of Haiti. Haiti, 1805. Web. http://www2.webster.edu/~corbetre/haiti/history/earlyhaiti/1805-const.htm
Timeline of Haitian Revolution. Glogster. 2010. Web. http://www.glogster.com/haeunkim/timeline/g-6lmbeh4lkr2pitgi4aamka0