The Haitian Response to the John Brown Tragedy

By Pamphile, Leon D. | Journal of Haitian Studies, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

The Haitian Response to the John Brown Tragedy


Pamphile, Leon D., Journal of Haitian Studies


While growing up in Port-au-Prince in the sixties, I would travel quite often on the Avenue John Brown which runs in the middle of the city. It was a hard thing back then to pronounce the name of the avenue and understandably, I knew nothing about its significance. I had never even questioned the reason people gave the street such a name.

Only after I migrated to the United States did I discover that everyone associated John Brown's name with the struggle of the people of the United States-the land of the free and the home of the brave-to remove the hideous stain of slavery from the face of America.

It was something of a surprise to discover that John Brown was born in 1800, the very year Toussaint L'Ouverture was winning decisive battles in his war against the French slaveholders. But my most exciting discovery was that John Brown, when he began his own crusade to liberate all of the slaves in the United States, turned to Toussaint L'Ouverture for guidance. David Reynolds, his biographer, explained: "The society of blacks that was by far the greatest inspiration for John Brown was the one created in Haiti by Toussaint L'Ouverture."1

This should not be surprising for what Toussaint and his followers demonstrated to John Brown-and the test of the world-was that people of African descent in Haiti not only could work together to break the chains of slavery, but that they possessed the ability, the discipline, and the skills to win their freedom on the battlefield. Even Napoleon's 60,000 troops dispatched to Haiti in 1802 were no match for the tenacity and military prowess of Toussaint's soldiers.

Despairing over their inability to achieve a military victory, the French resorted to despicable, shameless trickery to defeat Toussaint. Their heinous plan was to promise him absolute and total safety if he would meet with them to discuss terms for peace. Unfortunately, Toussaint trusted them. When he appeared to discuss ways of ending the conflict, the treacherous French put him in chains, shipped him to a dungeon in France and kept him there until he died in 1803.

When William Wordsworth, England's famous poet, learned of Toussaint's death, he glorified his life with these words:

There is not a breathing of the common wind

that will forget this, thou hast great allies;

thy friends are exultations, agonies, and love

and man's unconquerable mind.2

Outraged over France's duplicity the Haitian soldiers mercilessly drove all of their troops from Haiti.

Soon after, in 1804, the Haitians issued their declaration of independence and drew up a political framework for what would be the world's first Black Republic. When John Brown began his crusade to emancipate America's slaves, this period in Haitian history did indeed inspire him.

Yet, unlike other nineteenth century abolitionists who used moral persuasion to win converts to their cause, John Brown chose the path of direct action. A strong supporter of the Underground Railroad, he assisted slaves to escape to Canada by directing a way-station in Pennsylvania for them. In the Kansas territory he led the brutal attack against proslavery supporters who settled there. Many saw John Brown to be an enigmatic figure who perceived himself to have a divine mission to end the vicious, inhumane institution of slavery .

Since John Brown's plan for the emancipation of slaves envisioned the creation of a separate colony in the southern region of Appalachian mountains, he convened in May of 1858 a convention to meet in Chatham, a small town in Canada not far from Detroit, Michigan, to draw up a provisional constitution. Its Prelude enunciated the reasons for this action:

...slavery throughout its entire existence in the United Sates, is none other than the most barbarous, unprovoked and unjustifiable war of one portion of its citizens upon another portion, the only conditions of which are perpetual imprisonment and hopeless servitude or absolute extermination, in utter disregard and violation of those eternal and self-evident truths set fourth in our Declaration of Independence. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Haitian Response to the John Brown Tragedy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.