3. Haiti’s Violent Uprising Against Slavery Ended as Bloodily as It Had Begun
The outbreak of the Haitian Revolution led to over a decade of protracted and at times convoluted fighting against the French, other Europeans, and internal strife between the rebels themselves. Finally, on January 1st, 1804, the former French colony of Saint-Domingue was declared independent, and renamed Haiti – an indigenous word of the Taino people who inhabited the Caribbean when Christopher Columbus arrived. A rebel leader named Dessalines made himself Governor General for life, a position he held until September, 1804, when his generals proclaimed him Emperor of Haiti. He was crowned as Emperor Jacques I, and held that position until he was assassinated in 1806.
Things did not go well for French whites still in Haiti. Many of them had sided with failed efforts to reintroduce slavery, and the victors were determined to exact revenge. Within days of the final defeat of French forces in Haiti, Dessalines ordered that 800 French soldiers left behind due to illness when their comrades left the island be drowned. As rumors swirled that the French minority were engaged in a conspiracy to convince foreign powers to invade and reintroduce slavery, Dessalines was criticized for a perceived failure to act. He acted in February, 1804, with an order to massacre Haiti’s whites. Within two months, about 5000 had been killed, and Haiti’s white population was virtually wiped out. It was a vicious closing chapter to the vicious history of slavery in Haiti.