The following excerpts come from Sir Spenser St. John’s 1886 memoirs, Hayti, or the Black Republic.
Sir Spenser St. John, the British chargé d’affaires and later resident minister in Haiti in the 1860s and 1870s, published what has been described as the most negative book ever written about Haiti.
I first learned of Hayti, or the Black Republic two months ago while reading Laurent DuBois’s Haiti: The Aftershocks of History. I’m planning to review both books and many others for the Caribbean Project.
In 1842, a devastating earthquake struck Le Cap (now Cap-Haïtien) in Haiti’s Northern Province. Le Cap had been the most important city in French St. Domingue.
Spenser St. John describes of the aftermath of the Le Cap earthquake:
“Cap-Haïtien never recovered from the fearful effects of the earthquake of 1842, when several thousands of its inhabitants perished. To this day they talk of that awful event, and never forget to relate how the countrypeople, rushed in to plunder the place, and how none lent a helping hand to aid their half-buried countrymen. Captain Macquire and myself used to wander about the ruins, and we could not but feel how little energy remained in a people who could leave their property in such a state. It was perhaps cheaper to build a trumpery house elsewhere.
One of those who suffered most during that visitation wrote before the earth had ceased trembling, “Against the acts of God Almighty no one complains,” and then proceeded to relate how the dread earthquake shook down or seriously injured almost every house; how two-thirds of the inhabitants were buried underneath the fallen masonry; how the bands of blacks rushed in from the mountains and plain, not to aid in saving their wretched countrymen, whose cries and groans could be heard for two or three days, but to plunder the stores replete with goods; and – what he did complain of – how the officers and men of the garrison, instead of attempting to keep order, joined in plundering the small remnants of what the rest of the inhabitants could save from the tottering ruins. What a people!”
OD readers from way back will remember how Port-au-Prince was looted and taken over by machete wielding gangs in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake. In February, there was photo essay in Newsweek about how Port-au-Prince is still controlled by armed gangs.
“The vexed question as to the position held by the negroes in the great scheme of nature was continually brought before us while I lived in Hayti, and I could not but regret to find the greater my experience the less I thought of the capacity of the negro to hold an independent position. As long as he is influenced by contact with the white man, as in the Southern portion of the United States, he gets on very well. But place him free from all such influence, as in Hayti, and he shows no signs of improvement; on the contrary he is gradually retrograding to the African tribal customs, and without exterior pressure will fall into the state of the inhabitants on the Congo. If this were only my own opinion, I should hesitate to express it so positively, but I have found no dissident voice amongst experienced residents since I first went to Hayti in January 1863.
I now agree with those who deny the negro could ever originate a civilisation, and that with the best of educations he remains an inferior type of man. He has as yet shown himself totally unfitted for self government, and incapable as a people to make any progress whatever. To judge the negroes fairly, one must live a considerable time in their midst, and not be led away by the theory that all races are capable of equal advances in civilisation.”
126 years later, Sir Spenser St. John’s prophetic words about Haiti (now in the 2o8th year of freedom) could have been written yesterday. If anything is true, the blacks of Haiti have retrogaded much further since then in spite of becoming a “Republic of NGOs,” now having reached the point where babies, young children, and elderly women are gang raped in the streets.
Freedom has failed in Haiti. This isn’t a new idea. It is actually a very old idea that is being reasserted because the consequences of unleashing the free negro upon White civilization are becoming unbearable.
Note: These same ideas will be explored in my review of Paul Kersey’s Escape From Detroit. I’m running behind schedule in two book reviews.