Understanding the Law
January 29, 2010
Haiti – No pact with the devil

Haiti is the French speaking part of the island of Hispaniola and the other part, the Dominican Republic, is Spanish speaking. During the eighteenth century, sugar was king and the French planters reaped tremendous wealth using slave labour. It was a flourishing colony, and during the French Revolution the planters/colonists were even talking about cession from France.{{more}} The slaves wanted their freedom and in 1791 they made a successful attempt while the French Revolution was in progress. This gave them a good chance to overwhelm their captors and many brave fighters, including Toussaint L’Ouverture, emerged.

Pact with the Devil

There have been many revolutions and conquests in history and these have not evoked the condemnation as the Haitian Uprising/Revolution. Europeans came to the New World and conquered the natives wiping out their population in some places but there has been no mention of a pact with the devil. In fact, Europeans tried to ease their guilty conscience by claiming that they were bringing Christianity to the natives. Those who did not die by the swords of the intruders died under slavery because of inhumane treatment and excruciating working conditions.

Influence of the French Revolution

On the other hand, the British colonists living in North America were annoyed with the treatment of the British Government that was located thousand of miles away from them. They objected to the taxes that were imposed on items including tea. They, too, observed the French Revolution and were influenced by it. They cherished the ideas of freedom and liberty espoused by many of its proponents. They rebelled against the British Government, and in the struggle which followed, they were able to dispose of the British army and set themselves up as an independent nation. There was no talk about pact with the devil, and today Americans are proud of their independence. In fact, there are tea party groups today which are actively challenging the government and reminding it of the challenge that their ancestors gave when they boarded ships in the Boston harbour and threw overboard some 342 chests of tea because the government had imposed a tax on tea to help pay for “their protection”. Hence both the uprisings in Haiti and in the United States were influenced by the French Revolution. To say that the Haitian revolution was carried out because of a pact that was made with the devil defies common sense.

Compensation

The Haitian leaders craved recognition for the young struggling nation. In 1825, France demanded 150 million gold francs, later reduced to 90 million francs, as compensation for the loss of property and slaves in Haiti, although the French had forcibly taken the lands from the natives and did not compensate them. Haitians struggled to pay the compensation for over 100 years to their own detriment. That money set the foundation for the new nation. They remained impoverished and they have not found a leader to pull them out of this poverty. The destruction of Haiti by earthquake should drive France into action to give back what they took from Haiti. This is a good time for them to make restitution. Haiti deserves better than this. This present generation must strip itself of all its biases and prejudices towards Haiti. Haiti must be rebuilt now. It needs all the help it can get. It cannot wait for another generation to do so. We must not condemn them for things we do not understand ourselves.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: [email protected]