VII. The War of Independence (1802-1803) and the Struggle for Recognition


Campaign to vilify Louverture
45. Jean-Louis Dubroca, La vie de Toussaint-Louverture, chef des noirs insurgés de Saint-Domingue (Paris, 1802).

The campaign to vilify Louverture acquired even greater ideological stakes with the impending invasion of Saint-Domingue under the orders of Napoleon Bonaparte in early 1802.  According to an 1814 History of Toussaint Louverture by M. D. Stephens, published in London, Bonaparte’s regime hired a writer named Jean-Louis Dubroca (1757-1835) to lead the propaganda war against Louverture.  Dubroca’s 1802 book (translated into English the same year) castigated the black general for what it described as his “profound hypocrisy and desperate ambitions.”  In 1805 Dubroca published a similar diatribe against Dessalines that appeared in Spanish and German versions.


End to slavery, but not forced labor
46. Haiti. Recensement (Cap-Haïtien, 1804).

The revolution ended slavery in Saint-Domingue but not forced labor.  Louverture and several of the early governments of independent Haiti used the army to impose forced work on the plantations, a decision not made any easier by the threat of international embargo and the prospect of famine.  This intriguing plantation census form from 1804, the first year of Haitian independence, shows various head counts for whites, free people of color, and free domestic servants, but none for slaves. On the reverse side, however, several hundred (possibly several thousand, the writing is unclear) “slaves” are listed as being subject to the head tax.


Continued threat of French invasion
47. Jean Abeille, Essai sur nos colonies, et sur le retablissement de Saint Domingue (Paris, 1805).

Starting in October 1802, four months after Louverture was effectively kidnapped and deported to France, the Leclerc expedition was beaten back by the combined forces of Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Alexandre Pétion.  For more than two decades after Haitian independence was declared on January 1, 1804, however, the threat of another French invasion hung constantly over the new state.  In this 1805 pamphlet, an exiled planter named Jean Abeille argued that “negotiations alone” would not bring Saint-Domingue back under French control.  He called for the use of force if necessary to restore the French empire’s most valuable possession.


French plan to re-conquer Haiti
48. J. Grouvel, “Developpement du plan proposé pour la rentrée en possession de l’île St.-Domingue.” In: Faits historiques sur St. Domingue (Paris, 1814).

That Haitian fears of another French invasion were not illusory is demonstrated by this 1814 pamphlet suggesting a plan for the re-conquest and resettlement of Saint-Domingue.  In a companion volume published the year before, the author invoked the success of the British in suppressing slave resistance in both Saint-Domingue and Jamaica as a model for the French to follow.  The present volume opened with an epigraph rehearsing the curse of Ham, the biblical passage traditionally used in the early modern period to justify black slavery.  The Haitian Revolution led to a resurgence of anti-black racism throughout the early nineteenth-century Atlantic world.


France negotiates with the Haitian government
49. Haiti, Pièces officielles relatives aux négociations du gouvernement français avec le gouvernement haïtien, pour traiter de la formalité de la reconnaissance de l’independance d’Haïti (Port-au-Prince, 1824).

France finally recognized Haitian independence in 1825, in exchange for Haiti’s payment of a debilitating indemnity of 150 million francs. France claimed the indemnity on behalf of former colonists who had lost their plantations and fortunes during the revolution. In this document, published one year prior to the final agreement, the Haitian state expressed its frustration with the fickle and imperious negotiating stances of the French government, which varied from a claim of “abolute sovereignty” over Haiti in 1814, to indemnity in 1822, to “external sovereignty” in 1824.

  Exhibition prepared by: Malick W. Ghachem (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), guest curator, with assistance from Susan Danforth (Curator of Maps and Prints, John Carter Brown Library).