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The Haitian Revolution was the result of a long struggle on the part of the slav

es in the French colony of St. Domingue, but was also propelled by the free Mula
ttoes who had long faced the trials of being denoted as semi-citizens. This revo
lt was not unique, as there were several rebellions of its kind against the inst
itution of plantation slavery in the Caribbean, but the Haitian Revolution the m
ost successful. This had a great deal to do with the influence of the French Rev
olution, as it helped to inspire events in Haiti. The Haitian Revolution would g
o on to serve as a model for those affected by slavery throughout the world.
There were three distinct classes in St. Domingue. First, there were the Whites,
who were in control. Then there were the free Mulattoes, who straddled a very t
enuous position in Haitian society. While they enjoyed a degree of freedom, they
were repressed by the conservative White power structure that recognized them o
nly as being people of color. Next came the slaves who, in Haiti suffered under
some of the harshest treatment found in the Caribbean. Slaves in Haiti were lega
lly considered to be property of the public and with little choice, yielded obed
ience. The master provided for the barest necessities of life for his slave "whi
le he secures himself from injury or insult by an appeal to the laws." (Source 1
, p. 406) The conditions in Haiti at this time were ripe for a Revolution and th
e only thing lacking was the proper action, which would soon come in the form of
the French Revolution and a man named Toussaint, who after a brief delay, spran
g to action and led one of the most successful insurgencies in history.
The Mulattoes in Haiti faced a precarious situation in Haiti, even though they d
id possess their freedom, in a limited sense. Upon reaching manhood, Mulattoes w
ere required to enlist for a mandatory three-year term in the military establish
ment known as the marechaussée. Its purpose was to arrest fugitive Negroes, protec
t travelers and even to collect taxes, all in an effort to have the marechaussée "
rendered instrumental in the hands of the magistracy in carrying into execution
the decisions of the law In short, it was a three year s guard on the public tranqui
lity." (Source 1 p. 406) Upon completion of this term, Mulattoes were then force
d to serve in their local militia without compensation. They were also required
to provide their own supplies for as long as it was deemed necessary and could o
nly be released from this service if it was deemed that their presence was no lo
nger necessary.
Free Mulattoes were further disgraced by being outlawed from holding office and
were totally excluded from Haitian society. While a scant few of these laws were
not enforced, there was enough latitude that "others, who thought proper to gra
tify private revenge, had only to wait an opportunity after they had given provo
cations." (Source 1 p. 407) This meant that the free Mulattoes had been provoked
to such a degree that some of them sought revenge on those that had disgraced t
hem. Mulattoes were allowed to own land, but as Coke notes, this was done with t
he realization that society s restraints on Mulattoes made it highly unlikely that
they could do anything with that land.
The French Revolution furnished the Mulattoes and slaves with an opportunity and
an inspiration after having witnessed the successful insurrection in France aga
inst the government s long-standing denial of equal representation of the Commons
to that of the Nobility and Clergy. This was such a revolution in the structure
of French society that its news spread like wildfire and was exactly the stimulu
s the slaves and Mulattoes in Haiti needed to inspire their revolt. The Governor
of Haiti, Mon. Duchilleau, sought to slow down the process of insurgency in an
effort to give the French government more time to formulate a policy on slavery
in the Caribbean, as well as for the political representation of the colonies in
the National Assembly. However, his efforts to stall were not successful as the
Haitian Revolution grew in scope and participation, eventually bringing slavery
in Haiti to an effective end.
The radical slave revolt in St. Domingue occurred before the most turbulent year
s of the French Revolution. This reflects just how bad things in St. Domingue we
re, and also shows that though some inspiration was needed to spark the slave re
volt in St. Domingue, it was not necessary for those there to see how the French
Revolution played out, as they were not concerned with the consequences of the
revolution, they were simply interested in the ideas put forth by it. Now that t
he inspiration for the revolt in St. Domingue was found, a leader was needed to
take charge of the insurgency, and that leader was Toussaint.
Toussaint was the son of an educated slave who would go on to lead the most sign
ificant and successful slave rebellion and history, partly inspired by the devel
opments that occurred simultaneously in France. Although at first he was uncommi
tted to the revolutionary goal, events in France would soon inspire him to take
action. As a leader, Toussaint was nothing less than inspirational, taking of th
e hundreds of slaves and free Mulattoes who were revolting. Having found local l
eaders of the rebellion to be inept, he formed his own army, inspiring hundreds
to join him and displayed an impressive talent for designing and leading militar
istic strategies and tactics that would enable him to make the slave insurgency
in St. Domingue one of the most successful in history.
In conclusion, the circumstances in Haiti just before the French Revolution were
prime for an insurrection to occur. Lacking a clear and defined political autho
rity, the White colonists were unable to contain adequately the rebellion that t
hey had been forcing upon themselves for years. Their contemptible treatment of
Negroes and Mulattoes in Haiti sped up the progress of the cause of the abolitio
n of slavery in Haiti. The excesses of that contemptible treatment is the very r
eason why the Haitian Revolution was so successful: the treatment of slaves and
Mulattoes in Haiti was so bad that it forced the most violent and ultimately, th
e most successful slave insurrection in history. The French Revolution provided
the necessary spark for the revolution in Haiti to occur: it was the inspiration
the cause of the abolition of slavery in Haiti needed to actualize its goals.