The collapse of Saint-Domingue, the richest colony in the entire world, into the Republic of Haiti, which is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, can be summed up in this one brief post.
Inspired by the French Revolution, there was a successful slave insurrection in Saint-Domingue in 1791. The National Assembly abolished slavery throughout the French Empire in 1794. In 1804, Haiti won its independence and the remaining Whites (with a few exceptions, mostly Germans and Poles, who became honorary blacks) were exterminated.
In 1805, Haiti was officially proclaimed a black country. Whites were banned from citizenship and owning property under the Haitian constitution. The ban on White ownership of property in Haiti would remain in effect until 1918 when a constitution was approved under the American occupation.
Laurent DuBois gives us a feel of Saint-Domingue on the eve of its destruction by a Negro Revolt on pages 24-28 of his book Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution:
“The northern plain traversed by streams from the mountains, was an ideal place for sugar plantations. In 1789 the Northern Province, which included Le Cap, the plain, and the surrounding mountains, contained 288 sugar plantations, most of these producing refined sugar; 443 indigo plantations; and more than 2,000 coffee plantations. The population included 16,000 whites and at least 160,000 slaves. . . .
In 1789, there were 314 sugar plantations in the Western Province, more than in the north, although many of them were smaller and produced unrefined sugar. Indigo cultivatations was much more important in this region than in the north, involving over 1,800 plantations. There were more than 500 cotton plantations and more than 800 coffee plantations. . . .
On the long peninsula to the south and west was the Southern Province. . . It was the least developed of the colony, with only 191 sugar plantations, most of them making unprocessed sugar, and approximately 300 coffee plantations and 900 indigo plantations. It had the smallest population of the three.”
Saint-Domingue under French colonialism in 1789 could have been described as “The Arsenal of Agriculture.” Such was its importance to the French economy.
The Haitian Revolution was by far the most radical of all the egalitarian revolutions in what has been labelled the “Age of Revolution” by historians. This is the key to understanding why Haiti is so much worse off than all of its black neighbors in the Caribbean. Black freedom was taken to its greatest extreme there.
(1) Haiti was the first successful post-colonial revolution. Now in the 208th year of free society, Haiti is the oldest black republic in the world. By contrast, Jamaica didn’t become independent until 1962. Barbados didn’t become independent until 1967. Both Jamaica and Barbados remain part of the British Commonwealth.
(2) Haiti won its independence in a violent slave insurrection, a three way war between Britain, France, and Spain for control of Saint-Domingue, and finally by defeating the Leclerc expedition.
In contrast, slavery was peacefully abolished in the British West Indies in 1834. In Saint-Domingue, the sugar plantations went up in a giant blaze in the Northern Province that could be seen for miles offshore, whereas plantation agriculture continued in Barbados and Jamaica.
(3) When the Haitian Revolution began in 1791, over half the slaves there had been born in Africa. Most had been born in the Kongo Kingdom in West Central Africa. The Haitians remained more culturally African than any of their neighbors.
In contrast, the British abolished the slave trade in 1804. When slavery was abolished in the British West Indies in 1834, the vast majority of slaves there were creoles. In Dixie and Barbados, the legacy of slavery was much greater, and consequently, the former slaves were more civilized and better prepared for freedom.
(4) The fact that Haiti won outright independence from France cannot be stressed enough. Nowhere else was abolition followed by black independence, black self government, the extermination of Whites, the black rejection of plantation agriculture, the black destruction of white supremacy, property redistribution to blacks, etc.
In Guadeloupe and Martinique, slavery was restored, white supremacy and colonialism were restored, and both islands are still to this day overseas departments of France. Like Barbados, the legacy of slavery, colonialism, and white supremacy is much greater in Guadeloupe and Martinique, and consequently, both islands tower over Haiti and sub-Saharan African countries in the U.N. Development Index.
The same is true of Puerto Rico which is a welfare dependency of the United States.
(5) In Dixie, the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment abolished slavery. African-Americans ceased to be slaves, but like those in Jamaica, they didn’t become property owners, and after Reconstruction, white supremacy was restored. In a sense, the blacks remained in a state of benign serfdom in the South, socially, politically, and economically, they were not as “free” as the Whites.
In Haiti, the plantations were either annihilated in the Haitian Revolution, or fell into the hands of the new incompetent black political class (this would happen again with the “Big Vegetables” in Mobutu’s Congo). The Whites were exterminated in Haiti and were banned from citizenship and owning property.
Over the course of thirty years, a “counter-plantation system” developed in which a black peasantry refused to work on the plantations, and gradually wrestled control of the land away from the big landowners and reverted to subsistence agriculture.
The dream of “40 acres and a mule” was realized in Haiti in what was called the lakou system which was a kind of collective village agriculture. The retreat from slave labor and plantation based commercial agriculture to free labor and subsistence based agriculture in the early nineteenth century is what brought about the crushing poverty that is so commonly associated with Haiti.
These export numbers come from “The Beauties of Negro Rule: The Present and Past of Hayti” which was published in the June 1855 edition of DeBow’s Review. They illustrate the decline of plantation agriculture and the rise of the “counter-plantation system” in Haiti:
In 1789, Saint-Domingue under the French colonial government exported 93,573,300 pounds of raw sugar, 46,516,531 pounds of white sugar, 76,835,219 pounds of coffee, 76,835,219 pounds of cotton, and 7,004,278 pounds of indigo.
In 1801, Saint-Domingue under Touissant L’Ouverture (who forced the “cultivators” to remain on the plantations) exported 8,016,540 pounds of raw sugar, 18,517,381 pounds of white sugar, 29,510,450 pounds of coffee, and 2,170,440 pounds of cotton. Indigo and tobacco had ceased to be grown.
In 1819, Haiti under King Henri Christophe (the “counter-plantation system” emerges under Dessalines, Christophe, and Boyer) exported 1,200,000 pounds of raw sugar, 15,500,000 pounds of coffee, and 2,000,000 pounds of cotton.
In 1849, Haiti under Emperor Soulouque exported 80,608,343 pounds of coffee and 664,516 pounds of cotton.
From 1789 until 1849, there was a 100 percent collapse in raw sugar and white sugar production in Haiti, a 100 percent collapse in tobacco and indigo, and a 99 percent collapse in cotton production.
It seems strange that coffee production alone in Haiti would recover to 1789 levels, but this one export can be easily explained as one of the legacies of slavery:
“Nowhere the coffee tree could better thrive than here, as it especially likes mountainous soil. But the indolence of the negroes has brought the formerly so splendid plantations to decay. They now gather the coffee only from the grown-wild trees. The cultivation of the sugar cane has entirely disappeared, and the island that once supplied one-half of Europe with sugar, now receives its own wants from Jamaica and the United States. To the banana tree and the half-wild hogs owes the “free negro” almost alone that he by his laziness has not yet died of starvation on this truly paradisaical island.”
In “Hayti and the Haytians,” we are told that the quality of wild Haytian coffee harvested by free negroes was vastly inferior to the product that had been cultivated under White administration on the French plantations:
“Agriculture in Hayti has recently been so much neglected, and the products so badly prepared, that Haytian coffee is in little repute in European markets, from the careless and slovenly way in which it is gathered; good and bad berries are mixed up with stones and dirt, to add to the weight. When properly cleaned and separated, the coffee of this island has been considered superior to any in the West Indies. This same negligence has applied of late years to her cotton, cocoa, and longwood.”
Even before Haiti won its independence in 1804, when the island was still a colony administered by Touissant L’Ouverature, we learn on pages 229-230 of Avengers of the New World that the Visible Black Hand of Economics was already busily resculpting the fertile Northern Province of Haiti in the image of the now dominant Black Undertow:
“Much had changed in Saint-Domingue since the days of slavery. Whites and blacks, former master and former slaves, had redefined their relationships and their place in the social order. The landscape was a patchwork shaped by intersecting histories of insurrection, war, and negotiation. A former plantation owner traveling through the colony in 1799 came across some functioning sugar plantations and a few thriving coffee plantations. But he focused on the many ruined properties, where “bushes and trees” had entirely “replaced the houses” and old cane fields were covered with grass and ivy. His biggest shock came when, from the peak of a mountain where once “we stopped in ecstasy to see the plain of Le Cap in all its splendour,” he could see only “ruins and bushes” where sugarcane had once covered the land.
On the plains of Le Cap and throughout the colony, a new kind of life was taking root, one based on independence and subsistence, one that for many ex-slaves embodied true freedom. In and around the ruins of old plantations, men and women cultivated small plots of land, growing crops for their families and to sell at the markets.”
In the year 2012, a White man born in the 1920s might have the same experience as the Le Cap plantation owner in 1799 by driving through the Metro Detroit area, which is now in the 39th year of free society since the election of Coleman Young as mayor in 1973.
As in Haiti, he would focus on the abandoned factories and businesses, and all the deserted neighborhoods and other commercial properties that are being reclaimed by bushes and trees. He might find “a new kind of life” taking root in Detroit as the predominantly black residents hunt and feast on raccoon, buy candy crack pipes at gas stations, and shoot nine month old babies with AK-47 assault rifles.
The failure of the American political class to admit the tragic truth that black people lacked the capacity to maintain civilization in Haiti (more like forgotten, as this was known at the State Department in 1918) is why we having to learn the same lesson all over again in Detroit.