Revolutions,with a Focus on Haitian revolution
Revolutions,with a Focus on Haitian revolution
Thereasons for the revolution are complex and involve a set ofinterwoven relationships and events. One would say that therevolution was because of slavery and that it was the slaveinstitutions that squarely started the revolt. Although it is knownthat the slavery system was one that was accompanied by oppressionand use of brutal force that was often subjected to resistance andrebellion from the slaves, other factors may have caused the revolt.In order to understand the reasons for the revolution, it isnecessary to analyze the class structure that was in existence someyears before the revolt and how the arrangement provided a friendlyatmosphere for the event to take place. Also, it is important tostudy the national constitutions developed between 1801 and 1805.
TheConstitutions established in 1801 and 1805 reflect a complicated andcontested dialogue that took place among different fractions, withevery faction trying to define in their cultural terms. The coming toexistence of these constitutions was within the context of powerdemands between the new elites who had an idea of a unified nationfor successfully obtaining their independence and the old elites whowanted a grip on power. The first constitution developed in 1801under the leadership of Toussant Louverture accompanied by the thenPresident Borgella and others, was to improve the sovereignty of thenation while at the same time maintain their links with France1.After independence in first January 1804, a constitution was draftedin 1805. The structure was developed under the leadership ofJean-Jacques Dessalines and was signed by himself and the later Kingof the northern part of Haiti, Henry Christophe and other supportersof the constitution.
Researchershave studied these laws as legal documents. The limits faced in theapplication of the law in Haiti have also been studied as well. Forexample, Sibylle Fischer analyzed citizenship in the earlyconstitutions developed. He examined the extraordinary challengesthat the newly created nation was facing at a time when slaveholdingwas the rule and a period when the colonialists were extending theircolony to Asia and Africa2.According to Benedict Anderson, the developers of these constitutionshad expressed their idea in the context of an imagined community.
Andersonstates that the constitutions were not just legal documents butconsidered to be ideological texts that comprised of nationalprojects in a unified nation. Indeed, taking a look at the twoconstitutions, it is evident that there were attempts to unify thestate at the national level and at the same time find its place atthe international stage. In their ways, each of the constitutions hada different manifestation in the definition of Haiti as one of thehomogeneous symbols of black freedom and power. The severalarticulations of the need for a universal racial identification weredeveloped to realize or obtain the Haiti`s declaration of a nation ofpolitical and cultural distinctiveness in a historical context.
Thefirst constitution, 1801 Constitution, was created after ten years ofwar in Saint-Domingue. The Chief General of the revolutionary army,Toussaint Louverture created the Constitution alongside others withan attempt at clarifying and formalizing a great deal for thecreation and definition of a new nation3.The first problematic task for Toussaint was to consolidate into onenation, a socially-divided people of Haiti. These people comprised ofthe blacks, the whites and people of color of all shades. Toussaintbeing a black had to face social divisions from the whites and thelight skinned who by being free had received a good education,acquired property and believed that they were the legitimate heirs.
Henot only experienced a problem with the social division but alsofaced challenges from the poor economic conditions after years of warand seeking revolution. Moreover, the pressure from the Frenchgovernment both economically and militarily affected the wayToussaint defined the nation in the 1801 constitution. Although theformer slaves had an idea of complete freedom from working in theplantations, Toussaint had an economic view of maintaining theplantations4Hehad a view of maintaining production by continuing to work withex-slaves in the plantation and also wanted a return of the whiteplanters who had fled from the nation. A close look at the thirdarticle shows that preservation of emancipation was a primary featureof Saint Domingue.
Inthe first part of the third article of the 1801 constitution, it iscategorically illustrated that slavery and slaves were forbidden fromthe territory. It indicated that all men were free and is henceforthno longer bound to slavery. By mentioning French at the end of thearticle, Toussaint tries to link the Haitians with the France throughthe nationalities of the people. It was to create a sense of loyaltyto the metropole and find ways of gaining recognition of SaintDomingue’s effort to gaining independence. Maintaining peace anddiscourage further invasions of France may also have been the goal ofthe link.
Regardingreligion, the constitution was categorical in defining, whichreligion was permitted to be practiced publicly. Article six of the1801 constitution recognized the catholic, roman and apostolic asthose that was allowed openly. Although it did not forbid otherreligions like the Haitian Vodou, these religions were not to bepracticed publicly. Regarding the relationship of the envisionednation with France, the declaration of religion was to improve theirrelationship. The development of a Catholic state by Toussaint wasalso supported by Dessalines in the 1805 Constitution5.
Althoughequality was one of the ideas that Toussaint wanted to implement, hisapproach conflicted with the deep social tensions that existed withinthe society. Article five valued talents and virtues although theywere not defined. Before article five, article four stated that alloccupations were open to everyone despite the color. Considering thatthe ex-slaves did not possess similar skills as their masters, thevision of Toussaint of equality is not properly defined and thereforeremained unclear in the 1801 constitution. Furthermore, the vision asstipulated in article fourteen of an economy dependent on agricultureand that plantation activity should not be disrupted meant that theformer slaves would go back to the plantations. It implied that fullemancipation could not be achieved with the constitution and itsimplementation would be challenging.
The1805 constitution majorly focused on political organization, culture,and citizenship. The nation, Haiti, became a symbol of freedom andequality during the time. A restriction was put on nationality andmajorly defined those who could be considered "Haitian."The limitation of citizenship was stipulated in some articles. Forexample, article twelve seeks discredit titles used by colonials suchas a master or proprietor, and none should use or acquire thetitles6.The racial formulation was part of the society until 1867 when theterm foreigners were used to refer to the whites. Therefore, thedevelopment of the nation, as well as the Constitution, was based onrace and color. For instance, the white males were forbidden fromowning any slave or property.
Althoughthe 1801 constitution allowed the whites who had documents ofproperty ownership to continue owning those properties, the 1805 lawdid not allow any white to own property in Haiti. Article twelve ofthe 1805 constitution categorically stated that possessions formerlyheld by the white were to be confiscated and used by the state.Another condition that it defined was the retaining and loss ofcitizenship7.Article seven clarifies that citizenship can be lost throughnaturalization in foreign countries or emigration. It is differentfrom the Toussaint constitution. The aim was to strengthen nationalunity. Compared to equality as defined in 1801 Constitution, the 1805laws built its basis from that of Toussaint although it gave meaningto the practice of justice. Article three outlines equality anddefines the measure of impartiality. A sense of national belongingformed the basis of measurement.
Kwon,Yun Kyoung. 2012. Endingslavery, narrating emancipation: Revolutionary legacies in the Frenchantislavery debate and "silencing the Haitian Revolution,"1814–48.Thesis (Ph.D.)–The University of Chicago, Division of the SocialSciences, Department of History, 2012.
Trouillot,Michel-Rolph. 2015. Silencingthe past: power and the production of history.Boston, Mass: Beacon Press.
Trouillot,Michel-Rolph. 2015. Silencingthe past power and the production of history.[United States]: Tantor Audio.https://www.hoopladigital.com/title/11492947.
1 1801: http://thelouvertureproject.org/index.php?title=Constitution_of_1801_%28English%29#Full_text_of_.27Toussaint.27s_Constitution.27
2 Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. 2015. Silencing the past: power and the production of history. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press.
3 1801: http://thelouvertureproject.org/index.php?title=Constitution_of_1801_%28English%29#Full_text_of_.27Toussaint.27s_Constitution.27
4 Kwon, Yun Kyoung. 2012. Ending slavery, narrating emancipation: Revolutionary Legacies in the French antislavery debate and "silencing the Haitian Revolution," 1814–48. Thesis (Ph.D.)–The University of Chicago, Division of the Social Sciences, Department of History, 2012.
7 Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. 2015. Silencing the past power and the production of history. [United States]: Tantor Audio. https://www.hoopladigital.com/title/11492947.