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People & Events
The Haitian Revolution
1794 - 1804

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The French Revolution of 1789 not only propelled all of Europe into a war, but also touched off slave uprisings in the Caribbean. On Saint Domingue, the free people of color began the chain of rebellion when French planters would not grant them citizenship as decreed by the National Assembly of France in its "Declaration of the Rights of Man."

A bloody, thirteen-year revolution ensued, a complex web of wars among and between slaves, whites, free people of color, France, Spain and Britain that would eventually create the first independent black nation in the Western world.

In 1794 France built upon the "Declaration of the Rights of Man" and officially abolished slavery in its colonies. Toussaint L'Ouverture, the leader of the Saint Domingue rebellion, abandoned his Spanish allies, joined the forces of the French Republic as a brigadier general, and turned his troops against Spain.

In 1797 Toussaint was made commander-in-chief of the island by the French Convention. Following the defeat of the Spanish and British forces, Toussaint began moving toward independence from France. With Toussaint as its Governor for life, St. Domingue was still technically a French colony, but was acting as an independent state.

In 1802, Napoleon Bonaparte, who had seized power in France in 1799, sought to restore slavery to the West Indies through political guile and military force. Toussaint was captured and exiled, but the fighting continued under the leadership of Jean Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe. On January 1, 1804, Dessalines proclaimed himself ruler of the new nation, which was called Haiti, a "higher place."

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Related Entries:
Toussaint L'Ouverture
Declaration of the Rights of Man
"Revenge Taken by the Black Army"
Tobias Lear to Madison
Douglas Egerton on the Haitian Revolution, Toussaint L'Ouverture, and Jefferson
Julius Scott on John Brown Russworm and the Haitian Revolution

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