Haiti: The First Black Republic in the Western Hemisphere

This small and beautiful nation is a text book case of the victim being blamed for the crimes/injustices perpetuated against it. The historic role of the United States in the deliberate destruction of this country is not completely known. Since the presidency of Thomas Jefferson until the 21st century the United States of America has repeatedly done everything in its power to destroy Haiti. Why?

According to historian James Sidbury:

 Haitians were the first, and remain the only, enslaved people in human history to have overthrown slavery and established an independent polity ruled by former slaves in place of the one controlled by their masters. Not surprisingly, the Haitian Revolution shook the confidence of white slaveholders in other parts of the Americas and influenced the direction of anti-slavery movements in France, Great Britain, and the Americas.

 Few are aware that the newly formed U.S. government under its second president, John Adams, actually supported Toussaint L’Ouverture, the leader of the Haitian Revolution. Adams aligned the US with the national ideals of freedom and liberty sought by the Haitians. Also motivated by commercial interests, the US Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Stoddert protected trade at Haitian ports and intercepted French ships providing aid to Toussaint’s enemy, Andre Rigaud. Naval Secretary Stoddert actually approved attacks by US ships on forts at Jacmel that ultimately helped secure the revolution’s success. In many instances, the first revolutionary regime in the New World aided the second one.

However, when Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner and Francophile, became President of the United States, policies toward Haiti quickly became hostile. Jefferson immediately imposed an embargo against this new majority Black nation and refused to grant it diplomatic recognition. Slave holders fleeing the island were welcomed with open arms in Virginia and other US ports as they arrived with their human “property.” This hostility continued until 1862 when President Lincoln and the Congress, no longer restricted by seceding slave states, established diplomatic recognition and sent Frederick Douglass as the first US Ambassador.

 For those motivated to maintain the status quo in Haiti over time, “It is almost as if the US [deliberately] did not want to let another revolution in the New World rank with its own,”  Sidbury writes. “...and for this revolution to be executed by black slaves condemned it by the United State of America to oblivion and destruction by any means necessary.”  The US realized that Haiti would serve as an inspiration to others within this country and this hemisphere:

The Haitian Revolution represents the most thorough case study of revolutionary change anywhere in the history of the modern world…. It was a unique case in the history of the Americas; a thorough revolution that resulted in a complete metamorphosis in the social, political, intellectual and economic life of the colony…. The Haitian model of state formation drove xenophobic fear into the hearts of all whites from Boston to Buenos Aires, and shattered their complacency about the unquestioned superiority of their own political models.

“The Haitian Revolution,” by Franklin W. Knight, American Historical Review (Feb., 2000) pp103, 105

This fear that the Haitian Revolution would serve as a model for resistance and provide the possibility of success to rebellion laid the foundation and rationale for US laws within the US, in diplomatic policies with Latin America and the Caribbean countries, and recently in Cuba. Incidentally, Cuba specifically was always included in plans for the expansion of the “Confederate Southern Empire.”

This article was posted on July 4, 2012 to middlepassageproject.org/blog in observance of the US celebration of its own independence.

This entry was posted in African American History, African American literature, African Diaspora, African ethnic groups, Afro-Caribbeans, Afro-Latinos, American politics, ancestors, slave ports, slavery. Bookmark the permalink.