Saturday, October 4, 2008


Jean-Jacques Dessalines followed George Washington and was the second man to establish a free Republic in the Western Hemisphere. He was the first to grant equal rights to all Citizens.

Dessalines made his name in the Haitian Revolution as a take-no-prisoners leader, who routinely burnt villages to the ground and is reported to have slaughtered up to 10,000 mulattos, who were fighting against the French at the time. Dessalines’ Yorktown was called the Battle of Vertieres, which was fought in 1803. A French detachment lost their supply line due to renewed war in Europe with England, and the detachment surrendered to a force led by Dessalines, who then declared Haiti an ‘all black nation’.

Dessalines, a mulatto, reportedly established a ruling elite of mixed-race French-speaking Haitians. Unlike George Washington, he then declared himself to be Emperor, banned white land ownership, ordered the execution of all royalists, and ordered all Haitians to work in either the army or as plantation laborers.

Despite Dessalines’ work order, the agriculture that had made Haiti the Caribbean’s most valuable colony vanished. After two years as Emperor, Dessalines was assassinated and his body mutilated.

Haiti is the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country and has been plagued by political violence throughout its entire history. I visited Haiti a few years ago. The blank look in people’s eyes is spooky.


1 comment:

George said...

The strangest thing about Haiti is the semi-official position of the cult of Voo Doo in the culture. The Church is, of course, against it, but then they don't really try to stamp it out, either.

The government is against it, but the various strongmen who have run Haiti in my lifetime (Papa Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier and their successors) always seem to have a use for it also.

The Acadian (Cajun) culture interests me, since I am descended from Le Compte De Vosgines, a former military governor of Acadia (before the US and 100 years before the Louisiana Purchase).

Haiti, of course, is one of the Caribbean outposts of Acadian culture.