|About the Book|
“The Present Government of Haiti, c. 1810” describes the political situation in Haiti in the early 1800s. Haiti won its independence in the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804). Before independence the country had been a colony of France known asMore“The Present Government of Haiti, c. 1810” describes the political situation in Haiti in the early 1800s. Haiti won its independence in the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804). Before independence the country had been a colony of France known as Saint-Domingue. This colony had been the world’s largest producer of sugar and coffee, producing enormous profits for colonial planters and metropolitan merchants. The laborers had been enslaved people of African descent. In August 1791, against the backdrop of the upheaval of the French Revolution, enslaved laborers on Saint-Domingue’s northern plain rose up in rebellion against slavery.The Haitian Revolution involved almost 15 years of fighting and led to the rise of a number of notable individuals. An enslaved man from Jamaica named Boukman Dutty led the rebellion in its early months, but was killed in battle soon after the revolt began. Other leaders emerged to replace him, most notably Georges Biassou, and Jean-Francois. Later on another man, Toussaint Louverture, and his two lieutenants Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe, rose to become the most powerful black generals in the colony.After slavery was abolished by France, Louverture, Dessalines, and Christophe joined with the French Republic. By 1802, however, the French general Napoleon Bonaparte had come to power in France. Determined to destroy Saint-Domingue’s revolutionary black military ruling class and restore slavery, Bonaparte sent his bother-in-law Charles Leclerc to reconquer the colony.Louverture was captured by Leclerc and deported to France where he died. But the other black commanders fought against the French and eventually defeated them in the fall of 1803. Dessalines, the supreme commander of the rebel armies, declared Haiti’s independence on January 1, 1804. Soon after independence he proclaimed himself emperor, following the example of Napoleon in France. Dessalines’ reign was short-lived, however, and he was assassinated by a group of high-placed rivals in 1806.After Dessalines’ death, rival Haitian generals fought for control of the state. The nation split into two main nations- the southern republic of the mulatto Alexandre Petion in the south and the kingdom of Henri Christophe in the north. In addition to these two primary protagonists, there were a number of other minor regional warlords who controlled smaller fiefdoms. This was the state of affairs in Haiti when William Walton described the country around 1810.