by Pascal Robert
Haiti this week marks its 210th anniversary as the world’s first Black republic. The descendants of Haiti’s self-emancipators have been forced to defend their national sovereignty in each succeeding decade. Yet, their struggle for freedom was “the single most important factor in shaping the geopolitical trajectory of the Western Hemisphere since Columbus.”
The Importance of Haiti
by Pascal Robert
“Had it not been for the Haitian defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte and his subsequent loss of over 1/4 of his army, the French General would have had no reason to consummate the Louisiana Purchase.”
May 18th, 2013, marks the 210th anniversary of the Haitian Flag as created by that nation’s first leader Jean Jacques Dessalines.
The cataclysmic earthquake that devastated the Island of Haiti caused endless death and suffering to a nation already steeped in a history of poverty and turmoil. Usually that turmoil has been the consequence of policies by Western Powers who would forever feel the need to punish Haitians for their nerve in being the world’s first Black Independent Republic born of a violent slave revolt.
In watching that earthquake devastate the ancestral homeland of many throughout the Haitian diaspora, there was one positive thing I realized that would come from this disaster: The world would finally learn the glorious history of this noble people and the way their struggle for freedom would be the single most important factor in shaping the geopolitical trajectory of the Western Hemisphere since Columbus.
“But the prejudice of race alone blinded the American people [to] the debt they owed to the desperate courage of 500,000 Haitian Negroes who would not be enslaved.” –Henry Adams, direct decedent of John Adams and America’s foremost Historian of the 18th and 19th centuries
This claim may seem bold to many non-Haitians. Though the Haitian revolution was significant, how could it be the single most important factor in shaping the geopolitical trajectory of the Western Hemisphere since Columbus? I will share two facts with little effort that will prove this point without going into the multiple ways in which Haiti was crucial in shaping the West.
“A Franco-American Empire would probably be the most dominant global force in the world today as opposed to the current Anglo-American Empire.”
First, had it not been for the Haitian defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte and his subsequent loss of over 1/4 of his army, the French General would have had no reason to consummate the Louisiana Purchase with Thomas Jefferson and the United States would not have obtained the windfall of gaining all the land west of the Mississippi for 14 cents per acre. Hence, the westward expansion, manifest destiny and all that came along with it that made America the nation it is today would have been a historical nullity, and a Franco-American Empire would probably be the most dominant global force in the world today as opposed to the current Anglo-American Empire.
“Should I not let it be known to later generations that Alexander Pétion is the true liberator of my country?” – Simone Bolivar
Second, Simone Bolivar, known as the George Washington South America came to the Island of Haiti to receive the military assistance and material support from Haiti’s then president Alexandre Petion to liberate South America from the Spanish. That Bolivarian Revolution allowed those South American countries to subsequently be assured political independence and economic trade advantage for the United States after the United States implemented the Monroe Doctrine in 1823. Bolivar liberated Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, and Bolivia. Those nations would be protected by the United States via the Monroe Doctrine from any interference by any European Empire which had previously been involved in the region. The Monroe Doctrine is one of the most lasting American foreign policy initiatives that would be put to use well into the 20th century. Theodore Roosevelt’s “Roosevelt Corollary” was an addendum to the Monroe Doctrine used to further justify American dominance over its Spanish speaking neighbors. Such geopolitical advantage to the United States would have been spurious had Simon Bolivar not achieved the liberation of South America through the necessary support of Haiti’s then president Alexandre Petion.
“The original 150 million Franc indemnity was then 10 times Haiti’s annual revenue.”
The ultimate irony of the Monroe Doctrine and the United States desire to assure the newly independent Spanish nations liberated by Bolivar security from European domination is that such courtesy was not extended by the United States to Haiti. Though Haiti’s efforts in helping Simon Bolivar were the crucial factor giving rise to the policy’s creation, the Monroe Doctrine would not be extended to cover the Independent Republic of Haiti from the threats of France constantly menacing the Black Republic with re-colonization, to the point that – without any opposition by the U.S. – Haiti, in 1825, under the administration of Jean-Pierre Boyer, was forced to pay a 150 million Franc indemnity to France, its former colonizer and literally former slave master, in solid gold bouillon for the right to exist free from attack and enjoy the luxury of limited recognition and trade. The original 150 million Franc indemnity was then 10 times Haiti’s annual revenue. This debt would not be completely paid off until 1947 and would in total equal 12.7 billions U.S. dollars as of 2009. And you ask why is so poor?
These facts alone demonstrate the importance of Haiti and its history as the world’s first nation born of a slave revolt. After constant U.S. intervention and destabilization starting with American occupation in 1915 which facilitated the birth of the 20th century version of the always noxious Haitian military, combined with U.S. assistance in usurping presidencies of leaders who seemed to have some inkling of concern for the betterment of the masses of Haitians, such as Dumarasais Estime in 1950 to Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004 who, though far from a Saint, cannot be denied in his desire to Help Haiti’s poor, the United States has been more of enemy than a friend to the larger aspirations of the Haitian people. The documentation and lists of damaging policies the U.S. implemented toward Haiti could fill volumes. One must really ask on the 210th anniversary of the Haitian Flag, is the notion of Black people wanting to be free really that offensive? I think the actions of Western powers towards Haiti answers that question better than platitudes about charity and foreign aid.
L’Union Fait La Force.
Pascal Robert has been known for years to the online world as THOUGHT MERCHANT. Since 2007 he has been recognized for his hard hitting, blunt unvarnished style of bringing attention to current events and global affairs, especially those affecting communities of color. He can also be contacted at http://www.facebook.com/pascal.robert.