Continuing with our examination of James Henry Stark’s observations detailed in his book Stark’s History and Guide to Barbados and the Caribee Islands (1893) it is interesting to note his take on the Haitian Revolution, its extreme savagry and lessons for White people throughout the Greater Caribbean (and the extended Golden Circle).
Stark begins by noting the wealth, order and demographic patterns which made Saint-Dominigue the “finest colony that any country ever possessed”:
French historians are never weary of describing the prosperity of the colony at this period, nor of enumerating the amount of its products, the great trade, the warehouses full of sugar, cotton, coffee, indigo and cocoa, its plains covered with splendid estates, its hillsides dotted with noble houses, a white population rich, refined, enjoying life as only a luxurious colonial society can enjoy it….
The writer then explains how French conscription of Black Haitians spread revolutionary and egalitarian ideas through their ranks – ideas which were then spread throughout Saint-Dominigue when the slaves were returned home. At this point he dives into the uncivilized and horrifying nature of the Haitian Revolution:
The ferocity of the negro nature had now full swing, and the whites, men, women and children were massacred; they were ‘placed between planks and sawn in two, or were skinned alive and slowly roasted, the girls and women violated, and then murdered. One of the vilest of their leaders was Jeannot ; he loved to torture his white prisoners, and drank their blood mixed with rum. A negro general went to Dessalines, after the appearance of his order to murder all the whites on the island, and said : “Emperor, I have obeyed your decree; I have put my white wife to death.” “Excellent Haytian,” answered he, “but infernal scoundrel. If you ever again present yourself before me, I will have you shot.” This was the only saying recorded of the black Emperor that showed any humane feeling.
…Having driven out the French, the Haytians determined to throw off all allegiance to France and to establish an independent government. General Dessalines was crowned Emperor. His first act, the, one that endears his memory to the Haytians, was the issuing of a decree that all Frenchmen, including their wives and children, should be massacred. Fearing that some of his generals, from interest or humanity, might not fully carry out his decree, he made a tournie through the different departments, and pitilessly massacred every white man, woman or child who fell in his way. One can imagine the saturnalia of these liberated slaves, enjoying the luxury of shedding the blood of those in whose presence they had formerly trembled ; and this without danger; for what resistence could these helpless men, women or children offer to their savage executioners? The only good quality Dessalines possessed was a brute courage ; in all else he was an African savage, distinguished even among his countrymen for his superior ferocity and perfidy. He is said to have spared no man in his anger, nor woman in his lust ; he was shot from an ambuscade at Port Rouge in 1805, by his countrymen.
Stark then turns to the racial state of Haiti after the revolution, noting that lighter-skinned Haitians tended to either leave the country or breed with darker Blacks. He continues, describing the decline of the once-prosperous colony:
There are too few whites settled in the country to arrest this backward movement, for the whole white population was exterminated during the struggle between the French and blacks.
“The example of Hayti proves that the negro can never originate a civilization, and that with the best of education he remains an inferior type of man. He has as yet shown himself totally unfit for self-government, and incapable, as a people, to make any progress whatever. As long as he is influenced by contact with the white man, he gets along fairly well, but place him free from all such influences, as in Hayti, and he shows no signs of improvement, on the contrary, he is gradually retrograding to the African tribal customs, and, without exterior pressure, will fall into the state of the inhabitants on the Congo.” This is the opinion of [Sir Spenser St. John, formerly the English Resident and Consul-General in Hayti] who lived for twelve years in familiar and kindly intercourse with Haytians, of all ranks and shades of color?“
Stark ends his account by remarking:
The striking decrease in agriculture since the negroes became independent, together with the fact that the population is supposed to have doubled, carries out the theory of the degeneracy and idleness of the negro when left to himself : and foreshadows the result in the Caribbee islands if they were given over to negro rule.
We have seen that this is not only true in the Caribbean but also in southern Africa, Dixie and Black majority cities throughout the United States and other countries.
NOTE: In 2010 CNN published an article by Peniel Joseph, history professor at Tufts University, which described the Haitian Revolution as “a breathtakingly inspirational story” that “black Americans identify with deeply.”