In Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution, Laurent Dubois retells story of the single worst racial catastrophe that ever happened to White people in the Americas.
This book is the Haitian counterpart to A Colony of Citizens: Revolution & Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787-1804 which tells a similar story about Guadeloupe in the eastern Caribbean which had a very different ending.
Avengers of the New World and A Colony of Citizens are both written and framed in the same maddening Jacobin style that glorifies the negro revolutionaries while demonizing the reactionary White slaveowners.
In A Colony of Citizens, Dubois opens the book with a tribute to the modern day illegal alien movement in France and closes it with a tour of the Panthéon in Paris where Touissant L’ouverture, Louis Delgrès, and Victor Schloecher are honored as heroes of the French Republic.
In Avengers of the New World,” Dubols frames his book in terms of the myth of the black Spartacus or the “Avenger of the New World” from Abbé Raynal’s L’Histoire philosophique et politique des établissements et du commerce des Européens dans les deux Indes.
If you want to know where Laurent Dubois is coming from, he opens and closes Avengers of the New World with a revealing quote from Jean-Jacques Dessalines – “I have avenged America” – the first “emperor” of newly independent Haiti, who exterminated the remaining French population on the island in an infamous genocide in 1804.
Presumably, these are the “Avengers of the New World” and a starstruck Laurent Dubois sees himself as the keeper of their flame – if the Nazis had triumphed in Europe, one wonders if he would be writing an adoring hagiography of Heinrich Himmler, or whether his next project will be a rehabilitation of Pol Pot’s Cambodia.
In spite of the bias of the author, Laurent Dubois is an expert in his field and the reader will learn a lot about the origins of Haiti from this book. I now have a much more solid understanding of what went so tragically wrong in Caribbean.
Get ready for a lot of cliff notes:
The Ancien Régime
(1) Hispanolia was ground zero of the European conquest of the Americas.
(2) In the mid-seventeenth century, French pirates and buccaneers took over the small island of Tortuga which became a beachhead for their illegal colonization of the western third of the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo.
(3) In 1697, the Spanish ceded the western third of Santo Domingo to the French illegal aliens in the Treaty of Ryswick, which became the French colony of Saint-Domingue.
(4) From 1697 to 1789, the French imported hundreds of thousands of African slaves into Saint-Domingue to work on thriving sugar, coffee, cotton, and indigo plantations.
(5) In 1789, Saint-Domingue was the richest colony in the world – it was an agricultural powerhouse that was worth more to France than all the American colonies combined had been to Britain.
(6) In 1789, Saint-Domingue was the world’s leading producer of sugar and produced two-thirds of the coffee consumed in the world. The French Caribbean – Saint-Domingue, Guadeloupe, and Martinique – dominated their British rivals because greater land area gave them a comparative advantage.
(7) In 1789, 31,000 Whites lived among 28,000 “free people of color” and 465,000 slaves. Somewhere between 850,000 to 1 million slaves had been brought to Saint-Domingue.
(8) In 1789, 2/3rds of the slaves in Saint-Domingue had been born in Africa, and half of them were Kongos from West Central Africa.
(9) 60 percent of Saint-Domingue is covered by mountains. These mountain ranges divided the colony into three provinces: North, West, and South.
(10) Le Cap was the capital of the Northern Province. Port-au-Prince was the capital of the Western Province. Les Cayes was the capital of the Southern province.
So, you had 31,000 Whites, 28,000 free negroes and mulattoes, and 465,000 slaves living in a flourishing race based plantation society, a lynchpin of the world economy, under King Louis XVI and the royalist fleur-de-lis.
It seems highly significant that this intensely race based slave society – which, like the American South, was built on a racial hierarchy and hosted a full suite of racially discriminatory laws and customs – had evolved under the ancien régime which had little use for liberal democracy, “human rights,” “liberty and equality,” “progress,” “sacred humanity,” “consent of the governed,” etc., etc.
The Haitian Revolution
Ignorant people who know nothing about the Haitian Revolution assume that “there were too many blacks” and it was “inevitable” and “it was bound to happen” because Whites were “so outnumbered.”
That’s not what happened at all though. Slave insurrections were nothing new in Saint-Domingue and the Caribbean. Of the literally hundreds of slave insurrections in the region, the Haitian Revolution was the only slave insurrection in world history that ever succeeded.
(1) The Haitian Revolution was ignited by the French Revolution – it was the metropolitan French who started the snowball rolling, specifically, the French abolitionists behind the Société des amis des Noirs who wished to overthrow slavery and impose their liberal ideology on the colonies.
(2) The National Assembly’s 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen made the radical assertion that all men were born free and equal and that only the “common good” justified social distinctions.
(3) These incendiary ideas were broadcast to Saint-Domingue and destabilized the colony: royalists and republicans began squabbling over representation in the National Assembly, which raised the question of the status of the free coloreds, who took up arms in defense of their “rights.”
(4) In August 1791, the slave rebellion began as the slaves revolted in defense of their “rights” – the rebellion began in the Bois-Caiman voodoo ceremony in which the insurgents had made a Satanic animal sacrifice to “the God of the blacks” to overthrow “the God of the Whites.”
(5) By the end of 1791, 80 percent of the slaves had revolted in the North, but the rebellion had yet to spread as deeply into the West and South, and Toussaint L’ouverture and the more prominent leaders were ready to sell out their followers in exchange for their own freedom, but the planters refused to strike a deal.
(6) Amazingly, when the news of the slave insurrection arrived in Paris, it gave the abolitionists the upper hand in the National Assembly, and Brissot and his allies took over the Colonial Ministry, abolished the racial distinctions between Whites and free coloreds, and dispatched the two infamous Jacobin commissioners, Sonthonax and Polverel, to take over the colony.
(7) Sonthonax and Polverel arrived in September 1792 and accomplished little but alienating the remaining Whites by integrating the colony. By that time, the National Assembly had become the National Convention and France had become a Republic.
(8) In January 1793, King Louis XVI was executed and the French Revolution entered its most radical phase – Britain, Spain, and Austria declared war on the French Republic.
(9) 1793 was a decisive year that turned Saint-Domingue into an international war zone: the royalist planters turned against the Republic, the Spanish supported the slave insurgents against the Republic, Britain invaded and was welcomed by the distressed planters.
Sonthonax and Polverel responded by abolishing slavery under their own authority in a bid to win black support on the island. As the Black Republican Sonthonax said at the time, “the only thing white about me is my skin.”
(10) With the support of the metropolitan White commissioners and armed forces, the black insurgents began to switch sides and push the Spanish out of the colony and hold the British to their enclaves in the South and West.
(11) In 1794, the French National Convention abolished slavery across the entire French Empire during the most radical phase of the French Revolution.
(12) At this point, Toussaint L’ouverture turned against his more prominent black rivals who had led the insurrection since 1791 who continued to support the Spanish. The defeat of the Spanish resulted in their ultimate defeat and exile from the colony.
(13) For the next several years, the Black Republicans under Sonthonax and the now legitimized and free black insurgents under Toussaint L’ouverture would be the dominant force in Saint-Domingue, and would continue fighting the British until their withdrawal in 1798.
(14) In 1795, the French Revolution crested and the Directory regime replaced the National Convention and Robespierre (“perish the colonies rather than a principle”) who had been executed.
(15) By 1798, Toussaint L’ouverature had become the dominant force in Saint-Domingue by skillfully eliminating his French rivals: Laveaux (1796), Sonthonax (1797), and Comte d’Hédouville (1798) through the threat of force.
It was an amazing series of events that was only made possible by the ideological civil war within France between royalists and republicans, British and Spanish intervention, the triumph of the Republic which legitimized the slave rebellion, and finally the weakness of Sonthonax and the Republic in the colony due to the tropical diseases that decimated Europeans and the war raging with Britain in Europe and on the seas.
Reaction, Napoleon, and the Destruction of Saint-Domingue
(1) In 1799, Napoleon overthrew the Directory and created the Consulate in France.
(2) In 1801, Toussaint L’ouverture issued his own constitution that was effectively a declaration of independence from France.
(3) In late 1801, the Treaty of Amiens was negotiated which would temporarily end the war between Britain and France in early 1802.
(4) This is what allowed Napoleon to dispatch the Leclerc expedition to Saint-Domingue and the Richepance expedition to Guadeloupe to crush Black Jacobinism.
The British and Americans wholeheartedly agreed with Talleyrand that “the new Algiers” must be crushed. President Thomas Jefferson wanted to confine the disease of Black Jacobinism to Saint-Domingue.
(5) In 1802, reaction was triumphing in France: the Treaty of Amiens permitted Martinique and Mauritius to retain slavery, the French renewed their participation in the slave trade, the black representatives from Saint-Domingue who had been lionized by the National Convention were arrested, blacks and mulattoes were banned from the soil of France, miscegenation and racial intermarriage were once again criminalized, etc.
In his instructions to Leclerc and Richepance, Napoleon ordered all the White women in the French Caribbean who had slept with blacks and disgraced themselves to be sent home to the Republic.
The goal was to convince the blacks of their good intentions, disarm them, deport their generals, and rebuild the colonies by restoring slavery and returning to the laws of 1789.
(6) In both Saint-Domingue and Guadeloupe, the blacks put up a fight but were subdued: L’ouverture was captured and sent back to France, Louis Delgrès committed suicide on the Matouba volcano, and Christophe and Dessalines temporarily surrendered and fought for the French.
(7) In both Saint-Domingue and Guadeloupe, the guerilla war continued, but the former was a much larger colony and by the fall Leclerc’s troops were being decimated by disease and he himself would soon shortly die of disease.
(8) After bidding their time, Christophe, Dessalines, and Pétion (all of whom would rule Haiti for the next twenty years) turned against the French and resumed fighting which soon evolved into a full blown race war.
(9) In 1803, Britain and France returned to war and Britain blockaded the coast of Saint-Domingue, which cut off General Rochambeau from reinforcements.
After losing over 50,000 troops (mostly to disease) to retain a now worthless colony which had been annihilated in scorched earth warfare, Rochambeau negotiated a surrender to the British and evacuated the island.
(10) In January 1804, Haiti declared its independence and became the world’s first black republic – and consecrated its independence with the blood of the remaining Whites on the island who were exterminated, fulfilling the movement which began in the Satanic Bois-Caiman voodoo ceremony in 1791.
100,000+ people were left dead in the smoldering ruins. The plantation economy had been obliterated. Black supremacy and freedom and equality had triumphed over white supremacy and slavery.
The stage was set for one of the most stunning declines of civilization ever recorded in all of world history.
That’s the story of the Haitian Revolution: quite literally, the worst thing that ever happened to White people in the Americas, which destroyed the richest colony in the world at the geographic epicenter of the Golden Circle.
Superficial readers will miss the Haitian forest for the Haitian trees: the slave rebellion in Saint-Domingue could have been crushed like the one in Jamaica in 1776 or the one in Martinique in 1789, but ideological division among the French and fighting between metropolitan Europeans is what really lost the colony.
The Jacobins sided with the blacks and dispatched Victor Hugues to Guadeloupe and Léger Sonthonax to Saint-Domingue to take out “the aristocrats of the skin” with the guillotine in the name of human equality and “the rights of man.”
The “aristocrats of the skin” was the most significant phrase in the whole book: when you think about it, racial identity in Saint-Domingue had been a type of honor, title, or privilege that had established a nobility of Whites above all the various free coloreds and slaves in the colony.
Looking beyond Saint-Domingue, we can see that abolition was finally inflicted on Guadeloupe and Martinique in 1848 shortly after the creation of the Second Republic. In the British Caribbean, slavery was abolished in 1834 by Parliament which had been swayed by William Wilberforce and his allies. Raynal’s fantasy of gradual emancipation was tried in Jamaica and Barbados, but the result was what one historian has called “econocide.”
In the United States, the Black Republican Party was full of fanatics like Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Summer who were the spiritual heirs of Robespierre and Sonthonax and who inflicted many of the very same policies like integrated elections on the defeated South during Reconstruction.
The same moralizing Whites in Britain who worked through Parliament to destroy slavery in the British Caribbean and to defeat British recognition of the Confederacy and intervention in the War Between the States would later put international pressure on Spain to abolish slavery in Cuba as well as Brazil which would be the last slave state standing.
Black Republican ideology and metropolitan White interventions is the common thread that runs through the destruction of Saint-Domingue which really began with the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen in 1789 on through the final abolition of slavery in Brazil in 1888.
We now think of this vast area of devastated slave societies that stretches from Maryland to Brazil as being a part of the “Third World.” It should be more properly seen as one vast social experiment in Black Republicanism inflicted on the region by moralizing White outsiders in Europe and North America.
Far from being part of the “Third World,” the Caribbean used be the richest region in the Americas and Saint-Domingue was the richest colony in the world – France traded the entirety of Canada to get back little Guadeloupe and Martinique after the Seven Years War.
Then “freedom” and “equality” and “democracy” and “the rights of man” came along and blew through the Caribbean like Hurricane Katrina and destroyed everything in its wake.
Now in the 208th year of free society, Haiti is arguably the most spectacular refutation of the Enlightenment project of abstract freedom and equality in the entire world, a place where barbarism now reigns and where civilization has been totally and utterly destroyed in the name of liberal ideology.
If the ancien régime had survived the French Revolution, would it have happened?
Note: In September, OD will be reviewing the latest book by Laurent Dubois, Haiti: The Aftershocks of History, which takes the story of Haiti through two centuries of freedom from 1804 to 2012.