haitian revolution

Lenz, Megan

Spurred by the actions and unrest caused by the French Revolution, the satellite colony of Saint Domingue embarked on its own revolution against slavery and France itself. Led by a radical slave named Toussaint L’Ouverture, slaves living in the colony of Saint Domingue came together on August 22, 1791 to combat white plantation owners for basic human rights. They chose this time to strike because of the lack of stability coming from the mother country due to a revolution there, and the rift that had occurred in white society on the island of Hispaniola. The white population was divided in loyalties between Royalists, who sided with the crown of France, and Revolutionaries, who sided with those leading the French Revolution. The mixed-race population did petition for civil rights, but these cries were muffled under the sounds of the French Revolution. Even during this time of French turmoil, the colony of Saint Domingue was still incredibly important, as it was the most profitable colony in its production of sugar cane and coffee. As the colony became more profitable, slave-exploitation became more widespread and harsher. Plantation owners saw this shift towards more hellish conditions for slaves, so they prepared themselves for a revolt by stocking up on weapons to protect themselves from a potential uprising. Within ten days of the revolutions beginnings, slaves took control of the entire Northern Province of Saint Domingue in an unprecedented slave revolt. Within weeks, 100,000 slaves had joined the rebellion against the institution of slavery itself and France. By 1792, slaves controlled a third of the whole island. Success of this slave rebellion caused a newly elected Legislative Assembly in France to face the situation head on, and ultimately agreed to grant civil and political rights to free men of color in the colonies. This action led to the eventual freedom of the slaves, which was confirmed and extended to other areas during the National Convention in 1794.

The Haitian Revolution changed the social structure of the former colony of Saint Domingue, along with changing common ideologies and political structures on the island. By challenging the common practice of slave labor, the Haitians were going against a particular accepted social structure, acting as the agency for a new social structure. This is considered a revolution because one entity is challenging another, ultimately resulting in a radical change in the social system. After the end of the revolution, slavery was not an accepted practice, completely changing the previous social structure and requiring plantation owners to find a new source of labor. Along with abolishing slavery in Haiti, other areas of the world followed suit and began denouncing the institution. Politically, a former slave began leading the former colony left in shambles after the revolution. Although it was a rocky start to a new governing body, the Haitians became proud of their struggles and the strong society they would eventually lead to. The new nation ultimately received what it wanted from the revolution: a new social structure lacking slavery, and to be self-governing. After a revolution, it is common for a society to need time to recover, which Haiti indeed required. But, eventually, a new societal system will rise out of the ashes and completely transform the way of life of the area.