ABSTRACT

The ending of slavery in the French colony of Saint Domingue (present-day Haiti) was a unique event. Nowhere else in the New World, or for that matter in the history of world slavery, had armed slave rebellion, independently organized and self-directed, been successful. This made it an extraordinary and a historically unparalleled accomplishment. But the rebellion that was initiated by the slaves in Saint Domingue in 1791 and that culminated in emancipation in 1793 was also part of a larger and even more complex process of revolutionary change that had begun in France in 1789. The repercussions of those events had opened the way for the unfolding of a full-scale revolution in the colony that acquired a dynamic of its own. The course of the French Revolution in the end, however, saw the triumph of France's new bourgeois republic consolidated under the consular regime of Napoleon Bonaparte, who, in an attempt to restore slavery in the colony and to rebuild France's colonial empire, launched a military expedition against Saint Domingue in 1802. Resistance to the French invasion by the former slaves turned into a life-and-death struggle for independence. On 1 January 1804 Haiti became the second nation in the New World to establish its independence.