The Haitian Revolution Essay
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The Haitian Revolution Essay Example
Summary of Article
On August 22nd 1791 100, 00 black slaves started a rebellion against plantation owners which lasted 12 years. They formed the second independent nation in the western hemisphere, with the formation of the first ever Black Governed republic. This revolted directly and indirectly affect upon the United States in two ways; The Louisiana Purchase and The American Civil War. St Domigue was the world’s most prosperous colony, owned by the French. At its peak it was the world’s biggest producer of sugar, more than the British Caribbean Islands and accounted fro 40 % of Frances overseas trade.
The economic framework of the island was reliant on the Blacks but they were denied a share of the prosperity. Half a million Slaves were forcefully brought from Africa to fill a labour gap and increase profits. Slavery was brutal and dehumanising. Code Noir, enacted by the French in 1685, which was to regulate, slave treatment, was ignored and disregarded by plantation owners. The Catholic Church was also a slave holding institution and a strong political force. However it was unable and unwilling to exercise moral authority, leaving the Upper Class and Grand Blancs to treat the slaves in any way they wished.
Fear and Greed dictated Slave treatment. Slaves outnumbered slaveholders 15 to 1. It was cheaper to work slaves to their death rather than look after them until old age. Mortality was high. Because of this the Slaves resented the white population. Virtual Civil War erupted after the sweeping social and government change brought about by the French revolution, all fractions raised armies to fight for control of government. For two years the slaves sat on the sidelines. From 1788 to 1792 the slave population grew by 100, 000 due to demand for sugar. The newly imported Africans helped flame the mass base of insurrection and an open revolt within the population. Slave exploitation was increased due to rising prices of colonial products, fanning slave unrest.
The white plantation owners were pre occupied with their own grievances and loosened their grip on the slaves allowing repressed hatred, fuelled by cries for liberty and equality. In the achievement of Independence slaves fought and defeated white planters, troops from the French Monarchy, a Spanish invasion and Napoleon Bonaparte army.
Toussaint Louverture, a former Creole slave was instrumental as a saviour and dictator, he steered the revolution through years of three way racial fighting and became Governor General. He began to rebuild the ravaged country and negotiated trade alliances with the British and the United States. Toussaint was known as Black Napoleon. Napoleon wanted to re establish the French Empire; he established a base in the Louisiana territory, the output would support the island and aid it to become self sufficient and the wealth made would finance military Ventures.
Toussaint was Napoleons obstacle, when arriving on the island the French found barren wasteland, charred plantations and mutilated corpses. Napoleons army was devastated by Guerrilla warfare, insurrection and disease. June 1802 the French resorted to deception to defeat Toussaint. After luring him to discuss peace, Toussaint was capture and transported to France where he soon after died. His capture inspired his followers to fight even harder. 20, 000 extra troops were sent to continue the fight in January 1803, by November 40, 000 troops had been killed, they were then forced to surrender having been defeated by slaves with no military training.
The impact spread further than the small island. After the French lost control Louisiana was a financial drain, the territory was sold to the United States on 30th April 1803 for about 4 cents per acre. This one single acquisition doubled the size of America and made it large enough to withstand any outside threat. The acquisition of New Orleans opened up trade, which was previously blocked by the French and resolved a deeply divisive political problem. This area was required to trade with the west and Americans were annoyed at paying taxes and the government not doing any thing to invade the land that was previously blocked by the French.
The purchase drew immigrants from all over Europe, increasing social diversity and shifted eyes westward and making expansion inevitable, and spurred the idea of occupying the whole continent. The Haitian Revolution spearheaded the change.
Tension arose between the North and South as to whether the new states would be free or Slave. These tensions were a leading concern that led to the Civil War. White had always feared their black slaves but after stories from St.Domingue fuelled perception that Blacks were a real threat. These fears were not unfounded as Slave uprising increased after 1791. In response to this repression of the slaves was more intense, brutality increased, laws were passed to make it harder for slaves to be freed and to limit interaction between freed blacks and slaves.
The article is very clear and easy to read, concise, written in chronological order with good linkage between points. The article is supported by wide ranging types of source, fully footnoted and referenced. The fluidity of the article made it very easy to follow without they’e being any tangents to lead me astray. Each point was constructed and was pertinent to the title. It was good that there was a lengthy introduction, which facilitated me with the knowledge to grasp the points being made in the main part of the article. However I did feel when I reached the main body of the essay that there were strong echoes of the introduction, which may not have been needed. This large introduction contrasted greatly with the conclusion, which I will discuss later.
The article is a collaboration of information of both Primary and Secondary Sources, written with support of facts and sources. The Article appeared in a 21st Century journal and was written recently. The author used wide ranging primary sources including personal accounts from 1792. One in particular was a first person account from young Creole man; the use of these types of sources validates his opinions even if they may be biased. The author refers to many university press articles containing primary source material. Documents were also obtained from National archives and record administration, two very different sources but used effectively in legitimating the author’s viewpoint. Research from commentaries and personal letters also made up the primary sources used.
The author used a host of secondary source material, which reflected the view of the people living and observing the revolt. Biographies and information from the National Geographic Society was also sourced. PhD Dissertation material was used, along with Internet sources, various university press articles, and studies of public opinion at the time, hence providing support.
I feel this article was very well sourced, showing clear understanding of the material researched. The article vindicates the importance of figures such as Napoleon and Louverture, but I feel is negligent in the explanation and promotion of understanding of true feelings and experiences of the Black Slaves.
Greater depth of information and explanation is needed to fully express Black sentiment. This however may be due to the lack of recorded ideas and literature pertaining to the subjects in question, owing to the lack of education and literacy of the persons being discussed. There is not much discussion into the guerrilla warfare and how exactly the Haitian Slaves, fully equipped themselves, in the defeat of Napoleons notorious Army. The writer obviously found this a great feat but doesn’t express his interests in the content of the article. Further interpretation of the rationale of the slaves, for their revolt and development of the idea of Americans being a greater power, would make an interesting expansion of the existing point of view. Further insight conversely may undermine the succinctness of the article.
The article is effective in showing that the Revolution would be indelible in the United States, clearly tracing the events, in a chronological manner, showing both cause and effect to the subsequent events. Enough narrative was used along with analysis when commenting on those who figured prominently in the Revolution. A functional balance was struck so to not write biographically about certain individuals and conform to the ideas being addressed. The author is effective not looking at just one implication of the Haitian revolution but incorporating social, economic, national and personal responses, showing a well-rounded approach to the subject matter being discussed.
Owing to the fact that the author was part of a junior division of a historical paper, I feel the quality of the article is of elevated quality. I would personally aspire to be able to construct an article for a journal in such an informative and concise manner. When reading articles on the same subject I didn’t feel there was the same clarity due to the complex structures and the tendency to go into sizeable amounts of detail when expressing a simple idea or concept, the use of irregular words, which were subject specific but were not in the range of standard vocabulary. I did not encounter complex structures or out of the ordinary vocabulary within this article.
The argument being presented did influence my thinking, and further more left me convinced by the arguments presented that the Haitian revolution did forge American development and facilitated America with the land and the westward thinking required for them, as a nation to grow and expand, not just materially in terms of land, but to smooth the progress of their development as a Nation. The Civil war was an influential factor, however not desirable because of loss of life, brought about change and unity and many lessons were learnt from the experience. This experience could be directly linked to the Haitian Revolution, but not all things learnt were for the greater good. There was a culture of mistrust of blacks brought about by the revolution, which led to persecution and segregation when freedom was finally achieved.
Some points made by the author if feel could have been expanded upon and further demonstrated using statistics, which would have given the information greater impact. For example when expressing the rising mortality rates, some kind of figure would have been effective in driving home the real sadness of the mortal loss.
There was not much expansion on the idea of “manifest destiny”. Although mention and perceived as important, better explanation of the term and the future implications would have been useful to the reader.
The Conclusion I did not feel improved upon or added anything to the main body of the article, as it was brief and did not show the merit and obvious attention in the article. I think the conclusion should give an opinion or overview of the facts previously mentioned. It did not leave me with a positive lasting impression, which was attained whilst reading the main body of the article.
In conclusion I believe this article would be a good all round piece to explain the Haitian revolution and the far reaching implications upon America and its destiny. Being easy to read, concise and to the point, the article achieves credibility to be in a historical journal. If presented to anyone they would attain a sound knowledge of the subject and could rely upon the subject being well researched and sourced.
Providing a springboard for further research of specific or different aspects to which the reader would be given a positive basis to start from. There are areas, which I personally believe are a bit sparse on detail but inspires me to look at the wide-ranging primary and secondary sources and use them to fill in any gaps in my knowledge, which were left out to stick to the authors brief.