Join Date: May 2007
another black gift
From The Aida Parker Newsletter
WANT a sobering example of what happens to a richly productive agricultural economy when revolutionary Blacks slaughter or drive away White farmers and destroy the crops and livestock, so setting in process a national legacy of decay, destruction, carnage and chaos? No better prototype of this exists than that of the erstwhile French colony of Saint-Domingue, the semi-island in the Caribbean better known today as the zombieland of Haiti. Few politico-economic orders in history have marked an equally dramatic rise and fall in national fortune: though SA, under the ANC/SACP, now threatens to emulate it.
Haiti was discovered by Columbus in 1492. After the Spanish killed off all the native Americans who lived in Haiti (by 1512) they imported African slaves to work in the plantation economy. In 1697, Spain ceded what is now Haiti to France: an area of 10 748 sq. miles. By the 1770s, Haiti had eclipsed other French colonies of the Caribbean in wealth. Sugar exports were greater than those of any other territory in the world: so great that Haiti supplied France with all its needs. This gave France a huge surplus, of which it sold two-thirds to half of Europe at an enormous profit. Haiti's soils were fertile, extensive and well-irrigated, its plantations well managed.
By 1789 Haiti was the glory of the French colonies, "the jewel of the Caribbean, the single richest colony in the world," as Bernard Diederich wrote. The prosperity of the colony was such that dollar-wise its imports and exports exceeded those of the entire United States where, in the same year, 1789, George Washington was inaugurated for his first term as president. At its western extreme Cap Francois (now Cap Haitien), a city of 25 000 with fine public buildings and theatres of stone and brick, was properly known as "The Paris of the Antilles."
By 1789, the colony had been under cultivation for 92 years. Seldon Rodman writes: "The rich alluvial Plaine du Nord ... boasted a thousand plantation houses behind monumental pillared gateways. It sparkled at night with the gay illumination of elaborate balls, lighted carriages and the glaring ovens and stacks of boiling-houses refining sugar cane around the clock.'' Soon all that was to change.
In 1789, the French Revolution had overthrown the King and proclaimed the doctrine of "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity." Inspired by the events in France, a slave revolt was imminent. On the eve of that rampage, there were some 40 000 Whites in Saint-Domingue, 30 000 free Blacks and mulattos, and almost 500 000 slaves. At the best of times, French military resources in the colony were inadequate. These were far from the best of times.
On May 15, 1791; France's National Revolutionary Assembly voted full equality with Whites to all male mulattos born of two free parents. Though this affected a mere 400 men, it was to inspire the first violent and fiery insurrection of Blacks. The word fury is not just figurative. A fire had been kindled among half a million Black slaves that would not be extinguished till the last of the colony's 40 000 Whites and the majority of free Blacks and mulattos had been killed or driven from the island.
In August, 1791, the lid blew off the colony. Rioting slaves became a great mob that ran amok, uprooting, torching and destroying. Before long Haiti was dominated by roving slave bands. Everywhere there was devastation. In Paris the Revolutionary Assembly had placed itself squarely on the side of the Blacks. It was hinted that the emancipation of the slaves was near at hand
The Whites fully realised that they faced total extermination should the Blacks take control. The colonists now talked of secession from France. All normal business in Haiti ceased. The Whites began arming themselves against the Black revolution they feared was about to engulf them. Orders carne from Paris that the slaves should crush any outbreak of White resistance.
That was too much for most Whites, who gave up and left, often with nothing but the clothes they stood up in. They were the lucky ones. Soon great fires could be seen in the countryside. The Negroes were burning the canefields and slaughtering all those Whites and free Blacks unable to flee in time.
Undermanned and under-equipped militia went into the interior on reconnaissance patrols. Few returned. The stories survivors brought back were chilling. The men were at once hacked to death, but the women were gang raped by their slaves before being tortured to death, along with their children. In some cases the women were thrown on top of the bodies of their husbands, fathers or brothers, then raped.
On February 3, 1794, the French revolutionary government officially abolished slavery and declared all the Negroes in Haiti as equal citizens of the state. By 1798 the revolution had succeeded both in establishing the freedom of the slaves and, decisively, in the development of modern Haiti, in destroying the country's profitable agricultural base. By the end of 1803, France's richest colony laid destitute, a smoking wasteland.
The effects of these historical events have lasted to this day. Haiti for 195 years has spawned nothing but horror, poverty, disease, sporadic massacre and brutal dictatorships. Haiti got its new name on January 1, 1804, on proclamation of the half-made ex-slave, Jean Jacques Dessalines. His first act after having crowned himself Emperor in imitation of Napoleon, was to seize the tricolour flag of France and tear out the white section.
No sooner was Dessalínes firmly established on his imperial throne than the order went forth for the total massacre of the White population. On April 25, 1805, he published the proclamation that officially established Haiti as a Black state and banned Whites for ever from its shores. By 1806 the entire White population had been butchered and the bloodstained island returned to the jungle.
Under President Jean-Pierre Boyer (1820/43) Haiti irrevocably became the land of largely illiterate, Black, Creole-speaking smallholders. From 1843 to1915 there were 22 presidents. Technically - and this too should be of some importance to South Africans - Haiti has been ruled: but never governed.
Today, under all-Black rule, there are no successful commercial farms left. Haiti is a puny nation, wretchedly poor. The forests have been denuded and none replaced. Indeed, only 2% of the land is still forested. The impoverished millions scratch a subsistence from the low-yield soils of the denuded valleys, growing sorghum, rice, yams and pulses. The wealthier nurture a few pigs on tiny holdings. At the peak of its glory, Haiti carried 250 000 cattle and vast numbers of pigs.
Its cities are dilapidated and dirty slums. Though nominally Catholic, the barbaric rites of voodoo worship, a survival of the population's African heritage, still flourishes. Haiti has an extremely high birthrate: a recent poll established that 100% of the Haitian people want to migrate to the US. Tourism to the island is today greatly inhibited by Haiti's reputation as a prime source of AIDS.
APN comment: You have heard it said that those who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. What the conspirators of the French Revolution did to Haiti their successors have equally done to Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and now they are doing it to SA. It would be a mistake to exaggerate the parallel between Haiti's racial confrontation in the years 1789 to 1806. But would perhaps be a greater mistake to neglect altogether a study of that parallel.
Experience molds perception.