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The Haitian Revolution conference notes – Day Two

More barely-edited notes from Day Two

Session V – Unfolding of the Slave Revolution: Part Two

Chair – Robin Blackburn, Univ of Essex

Vertus Saint-Louis
...read his paper “Law, Commerce and Revolution in Saint-Domingue (1789-1804), copies of which were distributed.

Carolyn Fick
Toussaint was responding to changing attitudes in the French Constituent.
In 1794, freedom was extended to colonies.
In Toussaint’s letter to the French Directory of November 5th, 1797, he took a stand of Republican values. This was perhaps the key turning point for Toussaint in defending Saint-Domingue’s liberty.
Toussaint was acting in accord with the promises of (one version of) the French government.
Toussaints’s stance put him directly in Napoleon’s path.
Toussaint struck a blow at the ontological foundations of white supremacy and at the foundations of the colonial order (by being a former slave who declared himself governor).
Fick notes the places where Toussaint sowed the seeds of his downfall – the weaknesses in his Leclerc-era strategy.
The war of emancipation became a war of independence.

Laurent Dubois – has a new book, “Avengers of the New World”
Violence in Haitian Revolution
Jean Francois, Biassou and Toussaint realized that Jeannot represented a “PR problem” his violence would create problems in the inevitable negotiations with the white French.
The barbarism of 1791 later hurt the cause of the revolution.
Toussaint’s generosity cultivates white planters’ gratitude.
It is interesting that talking about violence is often avoided.
Toussaint argues that it is important to produce in order to preserve freedom.

Questions
Saint-Louis: Violence is a fact of the dominators, not of the oppressed. Violence is the origin of property… and the origin of the property of slaves (slaves as property). in a state, right is imposed by violence.
Dubois: Violence is as inherent in slavery as it is in the struggle for independence.
Fick: By 1800, Toussaint was spending 60% of his budget on defence. ... Leclerc launches the war, not Toussaint.

h3.

h3. Session VI – Reverberations: Latin America and the Caribbean

Chair – Rhett Jones

Julius Scott
Many vessels (in late 18th century) adopt the name “Vengeance.” The word, in fact, is almost a watchword for the fights of the 18th century.
Vengeance, Vangeur(?), Liberte – The fact that these vessels were named with these watchwords and were circulating the Atlantic and Caribbean is significant.
The presence of black crews on privateers and their conversations in port prompted and aided the flight of slaves to the vessels.
Saint-Domingue’s exertions at sea were quashed, however Toussaint started to explore the possiblity of violating the prohibition against Saint-Domingue’s development of maritime capability. The lack of sea power weakened Toussaint.

Ada Ferrer
Revolutionaries and French troops often evacuated to Cuba, providing a source for the transmission of ideas.
[?Misheard some part of this?] The official paper of the government of Spain had pretty animated pieces of news from the revolt in Haiti. There were weekly serial installments.

*Joâo Jose Reis
“Haitianism” was a fear in Brazil – the idea that slaves would rise up in that country as they had in Saint-Domingue.

Newport

We took the bus to Newport, RI. Dr. Daniel Snydacker, formerly Director, Newport Historical Society, led a tour of that city. Newport was a swirling melting pot of races and political thought. Many residents of the town owned a slave or two. Jews, Quakers, and others pushed political thought ahead, considering the question of emancipation before much of the rest of America. Today, Newport has a larger number of Colonial-era houses than New York, Philadelphia, and Boston combined.

Session VII – Reverberations: The United States and France

Chair – Bernard Bailyn, Harvard Univ.

Ashli White
10,000 exiles from Saint-Domingue arrived in the US between 1791 and 1804.
White Americans though white exiles were corrupt – how could they be losing in Saint-Domingue?!
Exiles’ defense of their honor clashed with American ideas of honor.
The Atlantic revolutions gave rise to a moral view of military service. Winning a war was less about firepower than the moral rightness of the fight.
Americans considered that the refugees suffered from a particular kind of prejudice – one rooted in aristocracy (that word considered a slur).
The refugees sought to defend their honor by feircly slandering and denigrating the black freedom fighters.

Jeremy Popkin
Draws a comparison (loosely) of Saint-Domingue’s relationship to France being like Ireland’s to England.
The economic impact of the revolution must have been major.
It was easy and preferential for the French to believe in conspiracy theories, especially for the start of the revolution.

Sue Peabody
Studies Haitian people of color who brought suits in the US to win their freedom.

Questions
Popkin: Colonies had been considered property of the Crown. About 1794, the idea that colonies were part of the mother country (like Ireland to England) changed fundamentally how the French thought about how to behave towards the colony.
Blackburn: France’s war with Britain was a tremendous distraction which lessened France’s grip in Saint-Domingue.