By Gerald Therrien
If we were to look back at beginnings of the Haitian fight for freedom, over 200 years ago, and compare it to Niger’s fight for freedom today, we will see one startling difference – the response of the United States. The young United States would be the one country in the entire world that would help Haiti in its fight for independence. Which side will the United States take today? Will it be on the right side of history as it was, at first, with Haiti?
By 1798, the revolutionaries of Saint-Domingue (Haiti) had finally forced the British to abandon their attempts to militarily defeat the freed slaves and to leave the island. The British wanted to isolate Saint-Domingue, in order to stop any attempt of a rebellion occurring in any of the British plantation islands in the Caribbean. And Britain then proposed that if Saint-Domingue would declare independence from France, they would then receive the protection of the British navy from the French. But General Toussaint did not trust Saint-Domingue’s future to the British Empire, and he rejected the British offer.
The Jacobins in the French Directory had wished for Saint-Domingue to start slave rebellions in British Jamaica and in the southern United States – an undertaking that General Toussaint thought they would lose, resulting in the destruction of their army and the loss of their freedom. And General Toussaint rejected the French offer.
General Toussaint was now faced with a decision that could decide the fate of Saint-Domingue. Because the island’s economy was so focussed on exports of sugar and coffee, there was almost no foodstuffs grown; and all military equipment had to be imported also.
General Toussaint did not trust the governments of Britain or France, and he was trying to stay out of the European war, and so he decided that he could trust the Americans. General Toussaint would send a representative to President John Adams, to propose that American trade with Saint-Domingue be permitted.
This resulted in the passage of a bill by Congress (over the objections of the Jeffersonians) to suspend the trade between the United States and France, but that included a section – that came to be called ‘Toussaint’s Clause’ – that allowed for trade with Saint-Domingue.
The same day that President Adams signed the bill into law, Secretary of State Pickering asked Alexander Hamilton for his ideas for ‘a simple plan of finance that shall insure to him [Toussaint] the means for supporting an army and the government’. Hamilton replied that :
“… let Toussaint be assured verbally but explicitly that upon his declaration of independence, a commercial intercourse will be opened & continue while he maintains it & gives due protection to our vessels & property. I incline to think that the declaration of independence ought to proceed.”
Hamilton then proposed an idea for a government for Saint-Domingue that :
“no regular system of Liberty will at present suit St. Domingo. The Government, if independent, must be military …”
Hamilton alone seems to have understood the reality of Saint-Domingue – that there was very little in the way of democratic institutions on which to base a representative government, and that law and order was maintained by the army. General Toussaint had not been committed to independence, he was determined to defend the freedom of his fellow former slaves – at all costs – he would only fight for independence if it was necessary, in order to defend their newly-won freedom.
Unfortunately, this policy of the United States would not be continued under the next president, Thomas Jefferson, and the freedom of Saint-Domingue would be betrayed by the lies and deceit of the Emperor Napoleon.
Will the United States today sail a steady course, with its sails filled with its founding ideas of freedom and independence, or will it let the British tugboat steer the American ship into the dock of empire?
Let us hope that the tragedy of Haiti is not repeated in Niger.
For those who wish to support Gerald’s continuing work on ‘The Unveiling of Canadian History’, you may purchase his books, that are available as PDFs and Paperback (on Amazon) at the Canadian Patriot Review :
- Volume 1 – The Approaching Conflict, 1753 – 1774.
- Volume 2 – Forlorn Hope – Quebec and Nova Scotia, and the War for Independence, 1775 – 1785.
- Volume 3 – The Storming of Hell – The War for the Territory Northwest of Ohio, 1786 – 1796, and
- Volume 4 – Ireland, Haiti, and Louisiana, and the Idea of a Continental Republic, 1797 – 1804,
may appear in print, in the near future, while I continue to work on :
- Volume 5 – On the Trail of the Treasonous, 1804 – 1814.