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(chair rolling) Hi, I'm John Green. This is Crash Course World History. Apparently it's Revolutions month here at Crash Course, because today we are going to discuss the oft neglected Haitian Revolutions. The Haitian revolutions are totally fascinating, and they involve two of my very favorite things. One, ending slavery and two, Napoleon getting his feelings hurt. I can't help myself Napoleon. I like to see you suffer. (fast lively music) So, the French colony in Saint Domingue, began in the 17th century as a pirate outpost. Its original French inhabitants made their living, selling leather and a kind of smoked beef called boucan. All that beef actually came from cattle, left behind by the Spanish, who were the first Europeans to settle the island. Anyway, after 1640 the boucan sellers started to run low on beef. They were like, "You know what would pay better, "than selling beef jerky? Robbing Spanish galleons." Which, as you'll recall, were loaded with silver mined from South America. So, by the middle of the 17th century, the French had convinced many of those buccaneering captains, to give up their pirating and settle on the island. Many of them invested some of their pirate treasure, in sugar plantations, which by 1700 were thriving, at both producing sugar and working people to death. Soon, this island was the most valuable colony in the West Indies, and possibly in the world. It produced forty percent of Europe's sugar, sixty percent of its coffee, and it was home to more slaves, than any place except Brazil. As you'll recall from our discussion of Atlantic slavery, being a slave in a sugar production colony was exceptionally brutal. In fact, by the late 18th century more slaves were imported, to Saint Domingue every year, more than forty thousand, than the entire white population of the island. By the 19th century, slaves made up about ninety percent of the population. Most of those slaves were African born, because the brutal living and working conditions, prevented natural population growth. Like, remember Alfred Crosby's fantastic line, "It is crudely true that if man's caloric intake is sufficient, "he will somehow stagger to maturity and he will reproduce." Yeah, well not in 18th century Haiti, thanks to yellow fever, and small pox, and just miserable working conditions. Most of these plantations were pretty large. They often had more than two hundred slaves, and many of the field workers, in some cases the majority, were women. Colonial society in Saint Domingue was divided into four groups, which had important consequences for the Revolution. At the top were the big white planters, who owned the plantations and all the slaves. Often these grand blancs were absentee landlords, who would just rather stay in France, and let their agents, do the actual brutality. Below them were the wealthy free people of color. Most of the Frenchmen who came to the island were men, and they frequently fathered children with slave women. These fathers would often free their children. Wasn't that generous of them? By 1789 there were twenty four thousand, eight hundred free people of color, along with about thirty thousand white people in the colony. The free people of color contributed a lot to the island's stability. They served in the militia, and in the local constabulary. Many of the wealthier ones eventually owned plantations, and slaves of their own. Then, below them on the social ladder were the poor whites, or the petite blancs, who worked as artisans and laborers. At the bottom were the slaves who made up the overwhelming majority. I know what you're thinking. This is a recipe for permanent social stability. No, it wasn't! Okay, so when the French Revolution broke out in 1789, all these groups had something to complain about. The slaves obviously disliked being slaves. The free people of color were still subject to legal discrimination, no matter how wealthy they became. And the poor whites, in addition to being poor, were resentful of all the privileges held by the wealthy people of color. The grand blancs were complaining about French trade laws, and the government's attempts to slightly improve, the living and working conditions of slaves. Basically they were saying that government shouldn't be in the business, of regulating business. So everyone was unhappy. The slaves were by far the worst off. Mr. Green, Mr. Green! You're always saying how much slavery sucks. Is it really any worse than having to work for subsistence- Yeah, I'm going to stop you right there me from the past, before you further embarrass yourself. You often hear from people attempting to comprehend the horrors of slavery, that slavery couldn't have been all that bad, and that it wasn't that different from working for minimum wage. We know this because if it had been so bad, slaves would have just revolted, which they never did. Yeah, well one, equating slavery to poor working conditions, ignores the fact that if you work at, like, Foxconn, Foxconn doesn't get to sell your children to other corporations. Two, as you're about to see, slaves did revolt. The unrest in what became Haiti, started in 1789, when some slaves heard a rumor that the King of France had freed them. Even though it was across the ocean, word of the changes in France, reached the people of Haiti, where the declaration of rights of man and citizen, while terrify to planters, gave hope both to free people of color and to slaves. At the same time, some petite blancs argued, that there was inadequate discrimination against blacks. They identified with the third estate in France, and they called for interest rates to be lowered, so they could more easily pay their debts. And they began lobbying for colonial independence. The psychology here shows you the extent to which slaves, were not considered people. These radical petite blancs thought, that there were the oppressed people in Saint Domingue. because they couldn't afford to own slaves. They thought if they could become independent from France, they could take power from the people of privilege, and institute a democracy where everyone had a voice. Except for the ninety five percent of people who weren't white. Then, in 1791, these radical petite blancs seized the city of Port of Prince. You'll remember that by 1791, France was at war with most of Europe. Just like with the Seven Years War, the wars of Revolutionary France, played out in the colonies as well as at home. The French government sent troops to Saint Domingue. Meanwhile, urges toward liberty, fraternity, and equality, were only growing in France and it didn't seem very equitable, to grant citizenship based solely on race. In May of 1791, the National Assembly gave full French citizenship, to all free men of color. I mean, if they owned property and had enough money, and weren't the children of slaves. The petite blancs weren't thrilled about this, and that led to fighting breaking out between them, and the newly French free people of color. Then, in August of 1791, the slaves were like, "Um, hi, yes. Screw all of you." And a massive slave revolt broke out. Among the leaders of this revolt was Toussaint Breda, a former slave, of full African descent, who later took the name Toussaint Louverture. Louverture helped mold the slaves into a disciplined army, that could withstand attacks from the French troops. Again, the context of the wider revolution proves really important here. The Spanish had consistently supported slave revolts in Saint Domingue, hoping to weaken the French. By 1793, they were offering even more support. In fact, Louverture became an officer in the Spanish military, because the emancipation of the slaves was more important to him, than maintaining his rights as a French citizen. Then in October of 1793, the British whom, as I'm sure you'll recall, were also at war with France, decided to invade Saint Domingue. At that point, the French military commanders were like, "We are definitely going to lose this war, if we fight the British, "the Spanish, and the slaves. So let's free the slaves." They issued decrees freeing the slaves and on February 4th, 1794, the National Convention in Paris ratified those decrees. By May, having learned of the Convention's action, Louverture switched allegiances to the French and turned the tide of the war. Thus, the most successful slave revolt in human history, won freedom and citizenship for every slave in the French Caribbean. Emancipation didn't end the story because the French were still at war, with the Spanish and the English in Saint Domingue. Luckily for France, Louverture was an excellent general, and luckily for the people of the island Louverture was also an able politician, and between 1794 and 1802 he successfully steered the colony toward independence. So although slavery was abolished, this didn't end the plantation system, because both Louverture and his compatriot Andre Rigaud, believed that sugar was vital to the economic health of the island. Now all these people were paid for their labor and their kids couldn’t be sold. Now, you can compare it to Foxconn. Soon Louverture and Rigaud came into conflict over Rigaud's refusal, to give up control over one of the southern states on the island, and there was a civil war, which Louverture, with the help of his able lieutenant Jacques Dessalines, was able to win after thirteen months of hard fighting. Louverture then passed a new constitution, and things were going pretty well on Saint Domingue, with the small problem that it was still technically part of France, which meant that it was about to be ruled by Napoleon Bonaparte. Let's go to the thought bubble. So, in 1799 Napoleon seized power in France in a coup and his new regime, called the Consulate, because he was the first Consul a la the Roman republic, established a new constitution that specifically pointed out, its laws did not apply to France's overseas colonies. Napoleon had plans to reconstruct France's empire in North America, that it had lost most of during the Seven Years War. To do this, he needed tons of money from France's most valuable colony. Saint Domingue. The best way to maximize profits? Why, to reintroduce slavery of course. That's certainly what the former slaves thought was the plan, when in 1802 a French expedition commanded by Napoleon's brother-in-law, Charles Victor Emmanuel I Have Too Many Names LeClerc, showed up in Saint Domingue. This started the second phase of the Haitian Revolution; the fight for independence. LeClerc eventually had Louverture arrested and shipped to France, where he died in prison in 1803. But this, itself, did not spark an uprising against the French, because Louverture wasn't actually that popular. Largely because he wanted most blacks on the island to continue to grow sugar. Instead, the former slaves only started fighting, when LeClerc tried to take away their guns. Thus, beginning a guerrilla war that the French, despite their superior training and weapons, had absolutely no chance of winning. Although the French were exceedingly cruel, executing women, as well as men, and importing man-eating dogs from Cuba, the Haitians had the best ally of all. Disease. Specifically in the form of yellow fever, which killed thousands of French soldiers, Including LeClerc himself. Oh, it's time for the open letter? (chair rolling) Stan! Where is my chair? Stan, you're telling me the yellow chair has been lost? The yellow chair is the star of the show. The stars, in order are one me, two yellow chair, three the chalkboard, four Danica, five Meredith the intern, sixth you Stan. You're sixth! Oh, I'm mad. Let's see what's in the secret compartment today. Oh, it's a giant squid of anger! I am a giant squid of anger! Oh no. It broke. (sigh) An open letter to disease. Dear disease, why do you always put yourself at the center of human history? Most of you are just tiny little single celled organisms. But you're so self-important and self-involved, that you're always interfering with us! Admittedly, sometimes you work for the good guys but usually you don't. It seems like even though you're constantly inferring with human history, you don't even care about it. I just hate when people, and also microbes, are super self-involved. Like, don't tell me you got to take a day off, to go to your mom's birthday party Stan, that's not imagining me complexly. I've got needs over here! Best wishes, John Green. So, continued defeat and the death of his troops eventually convinced Napoleon, to give up his dreams of an American empire and cut his losses. He recalled all his surviving troops. Of the forty thousand who left, only eight thousand made it back. Then he sold Thomas Jefferson Louisiana. That is how former slaves in Haiti gave America all of this. On January 1st, 1804 Dessalines, who had defeated the French, declared the island of Saint Domingue independent, and renamed it Haiti. Which is what the island had been called by native inhabitants, before the arrival of Columbus. The Haitian Declaration of Independence was a rejection of France, and to a certain degree, of European racism and colonialism. It also affirmed, to quote from the book Slave Revolution in the Caribbean, "A broad definition of the new country, "as a refuge for enslaved peoples of all kinds." Why is this little island so important, that we would devote an entire episode to it? First, Haiti was the second free and independent nation state in the Americas. It also had one of the most successful slave revolts ever. Haiti became the first modern nation to be governed by people of African descent. And they also foiled Napoleon's attempts to build a big, new world empire. Of course, Haiti's history since its Revolution has been marred by tragedy. A legacy of the loss of life that accompanied the Revolution. A hundred fifty thousand people died in 1802 and 1803 alone. The Haitian Revolutions matter. They matter because the Haitians, more than any other people in the age of revolutions, stood up for the idea that none should be slaves. That the people who most need the protection of a government, should be afforded that protection. Haiti stood up for the weak, when the rest of the world failed to. The next time you read about Haiti's poverty remember that. Thanks for watching. I’ll see you next week.