Haiti the American Angle: To Understand the Current Troubles in Haiti (Even as It Celebrates 200 Years of Independence), One Might Have to Point His Binoculars in the Direction of Washington DC. Elombe Brath Reports from New York

By Brath, Elombe | New African, February 2004 | Go to article overview

Haiti the American Angle: To Understand the Current Troubles in Haiti (Even as It Celebrates 200 Years of Independence), One Might Have to Point His Binoculars in the Direction of Washington DC. Elombe Brath Reports from New York


Brath, Elombe, New African


Haiti (as correctly reported by New African, Jan 2004) is not the first black nation to declare independence. Palmares was. It was established around 1595 in northern Brazil by rebellious African slaves but it was destroyed in 1694 by Portugal. But whereas Palmares managed to survive for 99 years, the importance of the Haitian Revolution is that, in spite of all the extraordinary obstacles thrown in its way, it has endured. By that factor alone, the Haitian Revolution still lives.

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Yet, after 200 years of independence (celebrated to the full on 1 January 2004), Haiti is still struggling to achieve its revolutionary goals envisioned in 1804. Why this is so, is not far fetched.

Declaring independence on 1 January 1804, Jean-Jacques Dessalines officially proclaimed: "We have sworn not to listen with clemency to any who would dare to speak to us of slavery. We will be inexorable, perhaps even cruel, towards all troops who, themselves, forgetting the object for which they have not ceased fighting since 1780, should come from Europe to bring among us death and servitude.

"No sacrifice is too costly and all means are lawful to men from whom is wished to wrest the first of all blessings. Were they to cause streams and torrents of blood to flow; were they in order to maintain their liberty, to fire seven-eighths of the globe, they are innocent before the tribunal of providence, which never created men to groan under so harsh and shameful a servitude."

These were the thoughts and character of the people who brought independence to Haiti, people who never imagined of forcing oppression on another people and would not tolerate the idea of other people trying to impose an oppressive rule upon them.

Even before they were strong enough to liberate themselves, the Haitians had sent volunteers to help bring about the independence of the 13 colonies on the North American continent. In 1779, 861 Haitian volunteers fought side by side with American colonists rebelling against British imperialism at the Battle of Savannah, in Georgia. Thirty-four Haitians gave up their lives at this engagement.

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At Pensacola, Florida, 438 Haitians fought, 14 of whom were killed in the process of trying to bring freedom and democracy to those colonised and enslaved in the USA--even before they had achieved those principles in their then still enslaved island.

The Haitian struggle for independence was so relentless that it caused such a financial strain on France that Napoleon Bonaparte was forced to sell his country's enormous New Orleans territory (over 800,000 square miles) in North America to the US on 20 December 1804.

Renamed Louisiana in homage to the king of France, Louis XVIII, the infamous Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the nascent United States, allowing the country to expand westward. President Thomas Jefferson paid France $15m for Louisiana which, when Congress finally reconfigured the territory, 15 new states were added to the American government.

This obscured and suppressed American history played a major role in the highly touted exploits of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, laying the foundation for the US developing from 13 settler colonies to what one writer has described today as a "global hegemon".

Lewis, who had been Jefferson's private secretary in 1801, was later rewarded for his major role in the 1804-1806 exploration of Louisiana by being made its governor in 1807.

Clarke was a militarist and a veteran of many bloody campaigns against the indigenous people who stood in his way as the American settler colonists blazed their way westward. He was also rewarded in 1807 by being made superintendent of Indian Affairs, and became governor of the Missouri Territory in 1813.

The Lewis and Clarke expedition is an important part of American domestic imperialist folklore because it evolved into a reconnaissance mission that allowed the two romanticised adventurers to conduct an unparalleled surveillance operation, travelling by foot, horseback and boat through the territory unknown to white settlers. …

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