Henry Christophe & Thomas Clarkson: A Correspondence

Henry Christophe & Thomas Clarkson: A Correspondence

Henry Christophe & Thomas Clarkson: A Correspondence

Henry Christophe & Thomas Clarkson: A Correspondence

Excerpt

Out of the fertile island of Haiti have come some of the most fascinating stories of modern times. A confusing mixture of legend and fact, their central theme unfolds a mighty drama, in which half a million Negro slaves struck off their chains, expelled their white masters from the island, and set up rulers of their own race. The luxurious, tropical vegetation has obscured the evidence of battle and bloodshed, and the island today seems almost a sleeping Paradise; but as the equinoctial storms and recurrent hurricanes sweep across the peaceful landscape, so once the unruly passions of men and the wild outpourings of race prejudice turned Haiti into a maelstrom of destruction. Not even the ruin and havoc caused by the earthquakes which occasionally shake the island can match the devastation of fire and sword.

Among the Negroes who emerged into prominence during the interracial conflicts of a century and a half ago, Toussaint L'Ouverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, and Henry Christophe are the most spectacular. In spite of the degrading effects of the slavery of their youth, they rose to positions of absolute authority; but personal failure came to each man at the height of his power. Toussaint, who for a brief interval united the whole island under a single government and miraculously transformed it from anarchy and civil war to peaceful productivity, spent his last days in a French prison, a victim of Napoleon's treachery; Dessalines, who proclaimed Haitian independence and founded the first independent government in Haiti, was assassinated by his disgruntled subjects; and Christophe, who strove to raise the Haitians to a civilized level, committed suicide when his subjects revolted. Despite the tragic endings of their lives, they did not, however, work entirely in vain. It is true that their dream of a prosperous, self-respecting, and successful Negro state has not yet been fully realized and that chaos and instability have marked most of the governments of Haiti down to the early years of the present century, but it is likewise true that the island over which . . .

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