Editor’s Note: Here’s my latest response in the Crossroads Haiti Debate.
No, but you routinely ignore it, opting instead to look at race inferiority over class structure. Where is your citation that the problem “culminated under his reign?” Also, it has already been explained numerous times that this class struggle, in addition to the embargoes, debt, etc. lead to economic instability that was not over.
Let’s specifically address the conflict between the blacks and mulattoes in Haiti which you are calling the “class structure.”
In colonial Saint-Domingue, there were three racial castes: 1.) the Whites who controlled the government and economy, 2.) the mulattoes, and the masses of blacks who were slaves on the plantations. After the Haitian Revolution, Jean-Jacques Dessalines exterminated the White population and banned foreigners from owning property in independent Haiti under the Haitian Constitution.
Do you know the story of how Haiti’s flag was created? During the conflict with the French, Dessalines ripped the white out of the French tricolor and stitched the red and blue back together to symbolize the new Haiti where blacks and mulattoes would rule the country …. WITHOUT the Whites.
So, that’s how the “class structure” in independent Haiti was created. Please note that this peculiar “class structure” DID NOT EXIST anywhere else in the Caribbean. It was caused by the unique success of the Haitian Revolution which created an independent black state where black supremacy prevailed.
Elsewhere, the Whites remained firmly in charge (such as in Louisiana), and kept a lid on tensions among their racial subalterns. While there were blacks and mulattoes on literally every other island in the Caribbean, Haiti was the only place where blacks and mulattoes squabbled over control of the state. After the assassination of Dessalines in 1806, Haiti was divided until it was reunified under Jean-Pierre Boyer in 1820, and much later Emperor Faustin I Soulouque would order the massacre and expulsion of the mulattoes during his ignominious reign in the 1850s.
It’s true that racial tension between the blacks and mulattoes led to political instability in independent Haiti, but it is also true that was simply an effect of abolition and the demise of white supremacy. The expulsion of the Whites from Haiti is what destabilized the country relative to neighboring islands in the Caribbean.
Again you are comparing numerous cultures across the board as if they all exist in a vacuum. I really don’t have time to break down each and every culture you are generalizing, but I will say that when the deep South expanded into the New Orleans area, they were appalled at the liberality at which the French allowed blacks to live.
A comparative perspective sheds greater light on Haiti’s dysfunction: the squabbling between blacks and mulattoes over power in Haiti, and all the devastation that caused in the nineteenth century was held in check elsewhere by the continued existence of colonialism and white supremacy. Likewise, it had been held in check by the French colonial government in Saint-Domingue.
Guadalupe is a horrible comparison. It changed hands between France, Britain and slaves a few times. Their cultural development is a thesis in its own right.
Guadeloupe is a horrible comparison … for your argument.
Like Saint-Domingue, Guadeloupe during the French Revolution also went through a British invasion, the (temporary) abolition of slavery, a brief period of autonomy, and a French military reconquest by the Richepance expedition. Capital intensive agriculture in Guadeloupe entered a Haitian-style downward spiral:
“Between 1790 and 1799, the total surface farmed on the island of Guadeloupe decreased dramatically, from 51,279 hectares to 18,469. Here, cotton was hardest hit, despite the increase in the number of plantations: after a rapid expansion in the 1780s, there were 8,766 hectares in 1790 and only 2,214 in 1799, a drop of 75 percent. Overall production of coffee decreased as well, though not as markedly: the number of hectares dropped from 8,607 in 1790 to 5,281 in 1799 (61 percent). And the amount of land cultivated in sugar decreased from 22,620 hectares in 1790 to 7,288 in 1799 (68 percent).” Dubois, A Colony of Citizens, p.214
Unlike Haiti, the Richepance expedition succeeded in reconquering Guadeloupe, and white supremacy, slavery, and colonialism were restored there. Predictably, the plantation economy rebounded, and sugar production in Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, and Réunion exceeded Saint-Domingue’s peak level of production by the 1820s.
The same thing would have happened in Haiti … if the Haitian Revolution had failed, and the French had reconquered Saint-Domingue like their other Caribbean possessions, but instead, abolition, black supremacy, independence, and subsistence agriculture triumphed when LeClerc was defeated, which was fortunately averted in Guadeloupe by Richepance’s victory.
Martinique as well is a different situation. The settlement of the island was by the Huguenot French, adjusting the cultural dynamic. There were many years of fighting among the French and the prominent native entities, further complicating the cultural dynamic. Indentured servitude existed for a time, and the dropping sugar prices in the early 1800s caused the French to end slavery on the island. This is in addition to the island being operated by the British for a time being.
No, Martinique was a typical example of the spread of the plantation complex through the Leeward and Windward Islands. The Carib Indians obstructed the French in Martinique and Guadeloupe and and the British in Antigua, Dominica, and St. Lucia. St. Kitts was colonized by French and British settlers and the fighting between them hindered the development of that island.
So what? Indentured servitude was pioneered in Barbados. There were indentured servants in the British Leeward Islands and Virginia. The French, British, Dutch, Spanish, and the Portuguese all created slave societies in the Caribbean and on the mainland of South America. The British and French fought over control of Tobago and Trinidad didn’t come under British rule until 1802.
The only significant difference between Haiti and Guadeloupe and Martinique is that Haiti has a much larger total land area. Because of its more favorable geography, the French were able to cultivate sugar, coffee, indigo and cotton (and other tropical commodities) there on a much larger scale and produce more wealth with the same slave labor system that was in place on their other islands.
The reduction in the price of sugar in the early nineteenth century was caused by 1.) the emergence of Cuba and 2.) the opening of new land to sugar production in the Indian Ocean and South America. It was the destruction of the sugar industry in Saint-Domingue which caused the economic boom in Cuba. Finally, slavery was abolished in Martinique and Guadeloupe after the proclamation of the Second Republic in 1848, which was the second time France’s flirtation with republicanism caused the demise of slavery in its colonies.
Culture does not exist in a vacuum. It simply does not fit your paradigm of white v. black.
Sure it does.
In 1820, Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana and Réunion were producing more sugar than Saint-Domingue at its height. Sugar production was booming in Cuba and Jamaica. Even in Trinidad, which was only opened up after 1802, sugar production was booming at that time. The only reason that the sugar industry collapsed in Haiti is because the free negro could only be compelled through force to work on the sugar plantations. In Haiti, sugarcane was cultivated to produce cheap rum, which was used to keep the idle population in a drunken stupor!
You highlight a key factor which you consistently overlook to make another white supremacist argument. The Haitian revolution was won, dramatically re-engineering its economy from one of mercantilism to a self determined one. It’s easy to claim a rival slave colonies economic power when you ignore the fact that it was a colony and not a free nation.
No one disputes that the Haitian economy was “reengineered” after independence: specifically, independent and self-determined Haiti shifted from slave-based capital intensive agriculture on plantations to primitive subsistence agriculture, which is why Haiti plummeted into poverty while sugar production was booming and doubling every decade across the Windward Passage in Cuba. Freedom failed.
An incorrect assumption from the get go. Take for example that the predominant religion of Haiti is one of European descent and not the stereotyped Voodoo. Cultural blending of African and European influence further proving that the Africa culture is not stagnant.
I will defer to Spenser St. John’s chapter on “Religion, Education, and Justice” in Hayti, or the Black Republic which describes “Catholicism” as it was practiced by Haitians in the early 19th century. The Vatican was the last power in the world to recognize the Haitian government and Roman Catholic priests were shocked by what they discovered there in the 1860s.
I disagree. As I have stated, which I cited as well, numerous factors besides internal factors lead to their economic demise. Many of the internal class struggles are hang overs from the French colonial era. If they attempted to preserve African culture, they did a poor job of it as illustrated by their Roman Catholicism.
This is false.
The conflict between blacks and mulattoes was held in check during the French colonial era by the Whites – the extermination and expulsion of the Whites was the will of independent Haiti. The “Roman Catholicism” of Haitians was a joke. There is nothing “Catholic” about, for example, the widespread practice of polygamy or voodoo rites.
It is true, but as already cited, the sugar prices in the world market decreased dramatically. That stagnation of price, along with trading restrictions, caused exportation to retract vs the growing population.
Why didn’t exports contract in Cuba? Why not in Guadeloupe, Martinique, Jamaica, Barbados or the Leeward Islands? The answer, of course, is that the blacks in those islands were still slaves, which is why sugarcane wasn’t being processed into rum for domestic consumption.
No it hasn’t. You routinely ignore the abrupt change in the type of economy.
The “abrupt change” in the economy was caused by abolition, black power, independence, and black supremacy. Its dramatic reversal in Guadeloupe after the French reconquest clearly shows that was the cause.
True, but, your original argument on the situation is because of their inferiority. Which is not accurate.
I haven’t said anything about “inferiority.” I simply said it was the result of freedom and self-government. They used their “freedom” to create an economy more suited to their tastes and capacities.
It is asinine because you are comparing two different economies as equal entities which they are not. One is a colony, one is a state. The economic engineering of both are not comparable as one exists for the benefit of another while the other exists for the benefit of itself. Another thing you are forgetting is the economic boom sustained by Cuba is due in part to the American abandonment of Haiti as a primary trading partner, turning instead to slave controlled Cuba. This was out of white supremacist fear of a slave revolt modeled on the Haitian one. There was also fear in the book already cited, that Cuba might suffer the same fate causing America to shut down trade with Cuba and having a slave sanctuary 90 miles from the South.
Here’s a book that I own which compares Cuba and Louisiana after abolition:
There’s no reason why we can’t compare the economy of Haiti with neighboring islands in the same time period. Comparative politics is a field of political science. As for the US, Haiti was one of our largest trading partners, and we sold them the guns which they used to win their independence. We have already seen that it was the rest of the Caribbean (places like Guadeloupe and Martinique), not Haiti, which was sealed off behind European mercantilist trade barriers.
Since the Dark Ages is an inaccurate term in itself, how do I take your statement seriously? The “Dark Ages”, or Middle Ages, reverted to a manorial system of serf farming that benefited the vassals over the serfs. And yet again, you fail to understand the difference: France went from owning the richest colony in their economic empire, Haiti, (in which Haiti’s main population did not see benefits) to an independent Haiti attempting to establish it’s own economy. A difficult situation for any emerging nation when it cannot obtain credit or substantiate its own currency in the world market.
The “Dark Ages” analogy is warranted because the collapse of the plantation complex and civilization in Haiti, and the regression to primitive African subsistence agriculture, is comparable to the collapse of the Roman economy in Western Europe. In “The Fall of Rome: And The End of Civilization,” Bryan-Ward Perkins analyzes the decline in things like housing and manufactured goods in the post-Roman era. It is reminiscent of Haitians living in squalid mud huts and eating bananas over open fires in the ruins of colonial era mansions.
No, as I have previously stated (with citations), and as you also said, Haiti did attempt to reestablishing commercial plantations. Those went under due to dropping sugar prices, obstructions to free trade and domestic strife among the elite class.
This is false:
1.) In the 1820s, Haiti was reunified under President Boyer, and the squabbling between the blacks and mulattoes subsided for a few decades.
2.) In the 1820s, sugar production was exploding to the west of Haiti in Cuba and Jamaica, as well as in South America and the eastern Caribbean.
3.) It was the rest of the Caribbean, not Haiti, whose trade policies were subordinated to European mercantilist trade barriers.
The reason Haiti failed to reestablish commercial sugar plantations is simply because the free negro couldn’t be compelled to do so without resort to force.
And because white supremacist ideology reigned, resulting in free trade with those colonies as opposed to the Black Nation that had revolted against such notions.
There was “free trade” with Haiti, an independent country, and only with the British Caribbean after the 1840s.
That’s funny because virtually every historian, economist, and political scientist (including all that I cited and the one you cited) argue that it is, at the very least, part of Haiti’s early economic development.
No, Laurent DuBois clearly said that the embargo was repealed and was ineffective anyway.
A race based slave system could out compete free nations. Your argument is basically, that it is okay to enslave human beings as long as there is productivity….interesting. What if the roles were reversed?
My argument is that abolition, black power, independence, and the shift to subsistence farming is responsible for creating the unparalleled poverty and backwardness of modern Haiti.
Commercial farming did fail for the Haitians for numerous reasons. That is what I wrote and in context that is how it reads. Due to numerous factors, Haitians turned away from commercial farming. I also cited my source.
Even Laurent DuBois admits that the so-called “counter-plantation system” (i.e., the shift to primitive subsistence farming) is the reason why the commercial sugar industry failed in Haiti.
Already explained with citations. The competing class structure left in Haiti after the revolution between mulattoes and blacks. This, in addition to other factors already mentioned, lead to such a situation.
The only reason there was “such a situation” to begin with was the collapse of white supremacy and colonialism.
The reason the other colonies did not have such issues is because they were under foreign jurisdiction in which only revolution would disrupt government function. Self-government is a messy thing especially post-revolution. Look at France.
Good for them. None of those countries turned out anything like Haiti. Not even Cuba or North Korea under communism is as bad off as Haiti under freedom and equality.
Look at France? Okay, after being a battlefield in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, and two world wars in the twentieth century, France is light years better off than Haiti in 2014.
Key word there being “colony.” Please cite a legitimate source that argues the “blackness” of Haiti caused their economic situation.
Sir Spenser St. John’s Hayti, or the Black Republic describes this at length.
Or perhaps it is actually the white supremacist governments turning to those other colonies out of fear of the revolution spreading….at least, that what those white supremacists of the time thought. Jamaica? Great, we are adding another former colony with a distinct cultural history.
Here’s an excerpt from Stephen Drescher’s The Mighty Experiment: Free Labor vs. Slave Labor in British Emancipation:
“Wilson’s checklist consisted of a set of experiments that might be contested for one “definitional” reason or another. His final case, however, must have been the one that really caught the attention of the House of Commons. By their own immediate avowal, it bowled over its bankers, West Indians, and abolitionists alike. Wilson selected an example whose economic success was universally recognized from one end of the world to the other. Subsequent historians have verified that impression. By 1850, “its per capita output must have ranked among the top half dozen of the world’s nations,” 65 percent above that of Jamaica.
Wilson’s pièce de résistance was, of course, the island of Cuba. “Let the House,” thundered the editor of the Economist, “compare those under the British Crown with Cuba or Porto Rico: there was a material difference between the social position of the inhabitants.” In Cuba, both English and Spanish families avoided the perils of absenteeism. There was no need to look only at its economic growth, in sugar or coffee exports. The signs of contingent economic development were everywhere. Cuba had no fewer than 800 miles of railway, the great symbol of modernity and progress, whereas there were only 1200 miles of railroad in the British colonies combined. Cuba was purchasing the latest British machinery for increasing the efficiency of production and transportation. The British colonies were also admonished to follow Cuba’s stringent regulations against vagrancy and squatting – the test of a “civilized and cultivated society.”
The West Indian who replied to Wilson confessed that he was devastated by Wilson’s argument. He heard the British government’s spokesman wax eloquent on the magnificent prosperity of Cuba, saying, “See what slavery has done!” and then he heard the same speaker point to the distressed British Caribbean, saying, “Behold the result of freedom.” To what conclusion should the House of Commons come if all Wilson’s statistics on bridges, buildings, and railways pointed to the accomplishments of slave labor? Even those unconnected with the West Indies noted that an argument for the superiority of free labor based on the dynamism of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Louisiana was a peculiar message to the slaveholders of the New World. Eventually, even a free trader from Lancashire reminded Wilson that there was a free labor experiment in progress. If the experiment failed commercially, no other country would imitate Britain’s example.” …
“Embittered protectionist Tories, who had no hope of repealing the Corn Laws, took rhetorical delight in comparing the devastated sugar colonies to the government’s earlier predictions of emerging prosperity. Benjamin Disraeli found West Indian distress a convenient stick with which to beat the free trade Whigs. The great experiment, the greatest blunder in the history of the English people, had simultaneously ruined the British colonies, encouraged the African slave trade, and revealed “the quackery of economic science!”
Let’s try this again. Haiti tried commercial farming, it failed for numerous reasons: The outside world’s refusal to trade with them in the manner once held (preferring instead to go to slave colonies), the government changeover, and the former slave peasantry’s refusal to farm in such a manner again.
If the “outside world” refused to trade with Haiti in the manner once held, how is it that cacao and dyewood became such important exports in the nineteenth century? How did Haiti continue to export coffee? No, the nature of Haiti’s exports show that Haitians abjured sugarcane, but continued to export dyewood and coffee simply because they rejected the arduous labor that sugarcane required.
This lead them to a yeomanesque farming system (you know, like Thomas Jefferson advocated and greater Appalachia lived on for decades during the colonial and early republic periods. Their blackness, did not play a role.
Even the poorest parts of Greater Appalachia are nowhere near as poor and dysfunctional as Haiti.
That’s funny, the never referenced Haiti in their Declaration of Secession. But the real threat, was that they would lose the slaves, and then the possibility that white supremacy would end as a social order.
No, they feared that slavery would be abolished, and the result would be that the South would slip into the same sort of poverty that had already enveloped the British and French Caribbean.
Note: This is the last time I’m replying. This is such a circular argument. You are citing “Blackness”, ignoring numerous economic and social factors; all in which you have posted a source for numbers, and a loose statement out of context. Try using objective history, rather than talking points. I am arguing numerous economic, social and cultural factors with citations.
These “numerous economic and social factors” ultimately reduce to one thing – the free negro, his talent for self-government, and his capacity to generate economic growth. Compare Port-au-Prince in Haiti to Kinshasa in the Demoocratic Republic of Congo, separated by the Atlantic Ocean, and 200 years of history.
The apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree: