The Haitian Revolution is a unique historical event in many ways. It was both an offshoot of the French Revolution, but also an anti-colonialist revolution. It was also the second American nation to successfully win its independence. But before we can talk about the Revolution itself, we have to talk about how influential Haiti was to France's economy and how it's complicated social structure primed it for revolt and revolution. Because here, in the colony built upon the countless bodies of the enslaved, sugar is king. But not for long.
Across the water, the French National Assembly debate a new document, drafted by Marquis de Lafayette, The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Little do they know that this document will ignite the fuse leading to the powder keg in Saint-Domingue. Hold on to your fancy Revolutionary hats because things are going to get absolutely buck wild. Alliances will be formed and break within weeks, laws will last about the same time, and while all this chaos is happening, a revolt is forming.
The revolution kicks off with such strength and ferocity, the French leaders in charge couldn't believe that slaves had planned and executed the revolt. The Big Whites, Little Whites, and Free People of Color all began infighting. Meanwhile, Haiti's plantations and mills were quickly engulfed by flames as the uprising moved across the island. But as the Revolution began to claim lives and leaders, the formerly enslaved people found that they were not immune to infighting either. But amidst the swelling chaos, new leaders rose. Key figures like Toussaint Louverture.
Two commissioners sent from France arrive in Saint Domingue. Their goal is not abolition. Their goal is only to enforce the new commission from France, a commission that grants full rights to the free people of color. And yet, their arrival will alter the course of the uprisings and lay the groundwork for the full Revolution. And the Revolution finally decides its end goal: The complete abolition of slavery. But not without a little help. I hope you all kept your flowcharts ready because Spain and England are both joining the war!
With the end of slavery in French colonies and the withdrawal of Spanish troops from the conflict, it looked like everything was going Toussaint L'Ouverture's way. There was just one little thorn in his side... André Rigaud. There had been a long-standing rivalry between the two men. But as the conflict with external powers seems to come to an end, this internal struggle is about to become explosive. And thus began The War of Knives.
And here we come full circle. After fighting France for their freedom, then uniting against international powers, you would expect that the fighting would be over for Haiti. But Napoleon Bonaparte had different plans. He would send 80,000 men under the command of Charles Leclerc to fight and arrest Louverture. But Louverure's words will prove to be prophetic. And when the diplomatic Louverture is removed from the picture, France will have to reckon with the wrath of Dessalines.