ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
What people fought for us? What people wanted to gather the fruits of our labor?
And what dishonorable absurdity to conquer in order to be enslaved. Enslaved?…
Let us leave this description for the French; they have conquered but are no longer free.
Books on the Caribbean
Hubert Cole. Christophe: King of Haiti. New York: The Viking Press, 1967.
C.L.R. James. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (1938)
Josaphat B. Kubayanda. The Poet’s Africa: Africanness in the Poetry of Nicolas Guillen and Aime Cesaire (1990)
Paul Laraque and Jack Hirschman. Open Gate An Anthology of Haitian Creole Poetry (2001)
David P. Geggus, ed. The Impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World. University of South Carolina Press, 2001.
Jean-Bertand Aristide. Eyes of the Heart: Seeking a Path for the Poor in the Age of Globalization
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The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
Translation by Laurent Dubois and John Garrigus
The Commander in Chief to the People of Haiti
It is not enough to have expelled the barbarians who have bloodied our land for two centuries; it is not enough to have restrained those ever-evolving factions that one after another mocked the specter of liberty that France dangled before you. We must, with one last act of national authority, forever assure the empire of liberty in the country of our birth; we must take any hope of re-enslaving us away from the inhuman government that for so long kept us in the most humiliating torpor. In the end we must live independent or die.
Independence or death . . . let these sacred words unite us and be the signal of battle and of our reunion.
Citizens, my countrymen, on this solemn day I have brought together those courageous soldiers who, as liberty lay dying, spilled their blood to save it; these generals who have guided your efforts against tyranny have not yet done enough for your happiness; the French name still haunts our land.
Everything revives the memories of the cruelties of this barbarous people: our laws, our habits, our towns, everything still carries the stamp of the French. Indeed! There are still French in our island, and you believe yourself free and independent of that Republic which, it is true, has fought all the nations, but which has never defeated those who wanted to be free.
What! Victims of our [own] credulity and indulgence for 14 years; defeated not by French armies, but by the pathetic eloquence of their agents’ proclamations; when will we tire of breathing the air that they breathe? What do we have in common with this nation of executioners? The difference between its cruelty and our patient moderation, its color and ours the great seas that separate us, our avenging climate, all tell us plainly that they are not our brothers, that they never will be, and that if they find refuge among us, they will plot again to trouble and divide us.
Native citizens, men, women, girls, and children, let your gaze extend on all parts of this island: look there for your spouses, your husbands, your brothers, your sisters. Indeed! Look there for your children, your suckling infants, what have they become?… I shudder to say it … the prey of these vultures.
Instead of these dear victims, your alarmed gaze will see only their assassins, these tigers still dripping with their blood, whose terrible presence indicts your lack of feeling and your guilty slowness in avenging them. What are you waiting for before appeasing their spirits? Remember that you had wanted your remains to rest next to those of your fathers, after you defeated tyranny; will you descend into their tombs without having avenged them? No! Their bones would reject yours.
And you, precious men, intrepid generals, who, without concern for your own pain, have revived liberty by shedding all your blood, know that you have done nothing if you do not give the nations a terrible, but just example of the vengeance that must be wrought by a people proud to have recovered its liberty and jealous to maintain it let us frighten all those who would dare try to take it from us again; let us begin with the French. Let them tremble when they approach our coast, if not from the memory of those cruelties they perpetrated here, then from the terrible resolution that we will have made to put to death anyone born French whose profane foot soils the land of liberty.
We have dared to be free, let us be thus by ourselves and for ourselves. Let us imitate the grown child: his own weight breaks the boundary that has become an obstacle to him. What people fought for us? What people wanted to gather the fruits of our labor? And what dishonorable absurdity to conquer in order to be enslaved. Enslaved?… Let us leave this description for the French; they have conquered but are no longer free.
Let us walk down another path; let us imitate those people who, extending their concern into the future, and dreading to leave an example of cowardice for posterity, preferred to be exterminated rather than lose their place as one of the world’s free peoples.
Let us ensure, however, that a missionary spirit does not destroy our work; let us allow our neighbors to breathe in peace; may they live quietly under the laws that they have made for themselves, and let us not, as revolutionary firebrands, declare ourselves the lawgivers of the Caribbean, nor let our glory consist in troubling the peace of the neighboring islands. Unlike that which we inhabit, theirs has not been drenched in the innocent blood of its inhabitants; they have no vengeance to claim from the authority that protects them.
Fortunate to have never known the ideals that have destroyed us, they can only have good wishes for our prosperity.
Peace to our neighbors; but let this be our cry: “Anathama to the French name! Eternal hatred of France!”
Natives of Haiti! My happy fate was to be one day the sentinel who would watch over the idol to which you sacrifice; I have watched, sometimes fighting alone, and if I have been so fortunate as to return to your hands the sacred trust you confided to me, know that it is now your task to preserve it. In fighting for your liberty, I was working for my own happiness. Before consolidating it with laws that will guarantee your free individuality, your leaders, who I have assembled here, and I, owe you the final proof of our devotion.
Generals and you, leaders, collected here close to me for the good of our land, the day has come, the day which must make our glory, our independence, eternal.
If there could exist among us a lukewarm heart, let him distance himself and tremble to take the oath which must unite us. Let us vow to ourselves, to posterity, to the entire universe, to forever renounce France, and to die rather than live under its domination; to fight until our last breath for the independence of our country.
And you, a people so long without good fortune, witness to the oath we take, remember that I counted on your constancy and courage when I threw myself into the career of liberty to fight the despotism and tyranny you had struggled against for 14 years. Remember that I sacrificed everything to rally to your defense; family, children, fortune, and now I am rich only with your liberty; my name has become a horror to all those who want slavery. Despots and tyrants curse the day that I was born. If ever you refused or grumbled while receiving those laws that the spirit guarding your fate dictates to me for your own good, you would deserve the fate of an ungrateful people. But I reject that awful idea; you will sustain the liberty that you cherish and support the leader who commands you. Therefore vow before me to live free and independent, and to prefer death to anything that will try to place you back in chains. Swear, finally, to pursue forever the traitors and enemies of your independence.
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Done at the headquarters of Gonaives, the first day of January 1804, the first year of independence.
The Deed of independence
Today, January 1st 1804, the general in chief of the native army, accompanied by the generals of the army, assembled in order to take measures that will insure the good of the country;
After having told the assembled generals his true intentions, to assure forever a stable government for the natives of Haiti, the object of his greatest concern, which he has accomplished in a speech which declares to foreign powers the decision to make the country independent, and to enjoy a liberty consecrated by the blood of the people of this island; and after having gathered their responses has asked that each of the assembled generals take a vow to forever renounce France, to die rather than live under its domination, and to fight for independence until their last breath.
The generals, deeply moved by these sacred principles, after voting their unanimous attachment to the declared project of independence, have all sworn to posterity, to the universe, to forever renounce France, and to die rather than to live under its domination.
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The twelve-year struggle was over. What had begun as a protest against cruelty, and continued as a fight for liberty, had ended with independence. The land still shuddered with the terror that had gripped it and the horrors it had seen. The white world that sighed with relief when Toussaint was kidnapped now found itself confronted by an entirely new nation of Blacks, victors of the greatest slave revolt in history.
Dessalines summoned his generals to les Gonaïves to renew the oaths they had taken a year before at L’Arcahaye and to confirm him as governor-general of the state to which they restored the ancient Carib name of Haitithe land of the mountains. On January 1, 1804, they swore “to each other, to posterity and to the entire universe, to renounce France for ever and to die rather than live under her domination” — and proudly dated their declaration “the 1st day of the independence of Haiti.”
The generals returned to their commandChristophe in the North, Pétion in the West and Geffrard in the South, while Dessalines occupied himself with drawing up regulations for uniforms and badges of rank, and ordered a capital city to be built at Fort Marchand on his favourite plantation and to be named Dessalines.
There were French soldiers in the former Spanish part of the island and isolated bands of unsubmitted brigands in the South notably one led by Jean-Baptiste Perrier, who called himself Goman. To deal with them Dessalines still had need of arms and ammunition and for these he turned to the British once more.
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[Christophe] knew that Dessalines disapproved of his inclusion of both white and mulatto advisors in the group of administrators that he had formed at Le Cap and with whom he discussed events in the world outside and the future of his own troubled country, using their learning and experience to supplement his own lack of education.
In August he sent a schooner laden with flour to the principal ports of the West and the South, ostensibly to barter its cargo for sugar and coffee. But besides flour the schooner carried one of his confidential agents, Bruno Blanchet, who had conversations at Jérémie with General Férou, at Les Cayes with General Geffrard, and, on the return journey, at Port-au-Prince with General Pétion. The talks were secret, their purpose obscure — a tentative sounding of the generals’ attitude towards the emperor.
All of them were suspicious, none went further than agreeing that he was not entirely satisfied with the existing government. If Christophe intended recruiting allies in a plot against Dessalines, the attempt was a failure. . . .
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The slave revolution that two hundred years ago created the state of Haiti alarmed and excited public opinion on both sides of the Atlantic. Its repercussions ranged from the world commodity markets to the imagination of poets, from the council chambers of the great powers to slave quarters in Virginia and Brazil and most points in between. Sharing attention with such tumultuous events as the French Revolution and the Napoleonic War, Haiti’s fifteen-year struggle for racial equality, slave emancipation, and colonial independence challenged notions about racial hierarchy that were gaining legitimacy in an Atlantic world dominated by Europeans and the slave trade. The Impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World explores the multifarious influencefrom economic to ideological to psychologicalthat a revolt on a small Caribbean island had on the continents surrounding it.
Fifteen international scholars, including eminent historians David Brion Davis, Seymour Drescher, and Robin Blackburn, explicate such diverse ramifications as the spawning of slave resistance and the stimulation of slavery’s expansion, the opening of economic frontiers, and the formation of black and white diasporas. Seeking to disentangle the effects of the Haitian Revolutionfrom those of the French Revolution, they demonstrate that its impact was ambiguous, complex, and contradictory.Publisher, University of South Carolina Press
David P. Geggus is a professor of history at the University of Florida in Gainesville and a former Guggenheim and National Humanities Center fellow. He has published extensively on the history of slavery and the Caribbean, with a particular focus on the Haitian Revolution. He is the author of Slavery, War and Revolution: The British Occupation of Saint Domingue, 17931798 and an editor of A Turbulent Time: The French Revolution and the Greater Caribbean. Geggus lives in Gainesville.
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By Laurent Dubois and John D. Garrigus
This is the most succinct, convenient and accurate history of the Haitian Revolution currently available. It fills a significant gap in the historiography between monographs and general histories on one side and novels and creative literature on the other. The authors have produced an intelligent and highly useful collection of documents, many virtually inaccessible, and conveniently translated them for the English-speaking audience. Their ability to contextualize the events of the revolution briefly is simply exemplary.’ – Franklin Knight, Johns Hopkins University, USA ‘This is the most amazing document collection I have ever read. It is emotionally gripping, intellectually stimulating, morally provocative, action-packed and full of points of comparison to histories of slavery and freedom everywhere. It has a terrific narrative flow and inherent pathos. . . .This is a wonderful achievement for which all sorts of teachers will be most grateful.Evan Haefeli, Tufts University
This volume details the first slave rebellion to have a successful outcome, leading to the establishment of Haiti as a free black republic and paving the way for the emancipation of slaves in the rest of the French Empire and the world. Incited by the French Revolution, the enslaved inhabitants of the French Caribbean began a series of revolts, and in 1791 plantation workers in Haiti, then known as Saint-Domingue, overwhelmed their planter owners and began to take control of the island. They achieved emancipation in 1794, and after successfully opposing Napoleonic forces eight years later, emerged as part of an independent nation in 1804. A broad selection of documents, all newly translated by the authors, is contextualized by a thorough introduction considering the very latest scholarship. Laurent Dubois and John D. Garrigus clarify for students the complex political, economic, and racial issues surrounding the revolution and its reverberations worldwide. Useful pedagogical tools include maps, illustrations, a chronology, and a selected bibliography.Publisher, Bedford/St. Martin’s
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By Theophilus Gould Steward
This is a reproduction of a book published before 1923. This book may have occasional imperfections such as missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. that were either part of the original artifact, or were introduced by the scanning process. We believe this work is culturally important, and despite the imperfections, have elected to bring it back into print as part of our continuing commitment to the preservation of printed works worldwide. We appreciate your understanding of the imperfections in the preservation process, and hope you enjoy this valuable book.Amazon.com
The Haitian Revolution, 1791 to 1804. By T. G. Steward. Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1915. 292 pages. $1.25.
Reviewed by J.R. Fauset. The Journal of Negro History. Vol. I., No. 1, January. 1916.
In the days when the internal dissensions of Haiti are again thrusting her into the limelight such a book as this of Mr. Steward assumes a peculiar importance. It combines the unusual advantage of being both very readable and at the same time historically dependable. At the outset the author gives a brief sketch of the early settlement of Haiti, followed by a short account of her development along commercial and racial lines up to the Revolution of 1791. The story of this upheaval, of course, forms the basis of the book and is indissolubly connected with the story of Toussaint L’Overture. To most Americans this hero is known only as the subject of Wendell Phillips’s stirring eulogy. As delineated by Mr. Steward, he becomes a more human creature, who performs exploits, that are nothing short of marvelous. Other men who have seemed to many of us merely namesRigaud, Le Clerc, Desalines, and the like–are also fully discussed.
Although most of the book is naturally concerned with the revolutionary period, the author brings his account up to date by giving a very brief resumé of the history of Haiti from 1804 to the present time. This history is marked by the frequent occurrence of assassinations and revolutions, but the reader will not allow himself to be affected by disgust or prejudice at these facts particularly when he is reminded, as Mr. Steward says, “that the political history of Haiti does not differ greatly from that of the majority of South American Republics, nor does it differ widely even from that of France.”
The book lacks a topical index, somewhat to its own disadvantage, but it contains a map of Haiti, a rather confusing appendix, a list of the Presidents of Haiti from 1804 to 1906 and a list of the names and works of the more noted Haitian authors. The author does not give a complete bibliography. He simply mentions in the beginning the names of a few authorities consulted.
J. R. Fauset.
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update 6 May 2010