The day slavery ended in Haiti the country was morally, physically and emotionally bankrupt. It was, to put it bluntly, a murderous, bloody, revolution against the French, erupting in 1791 and concluding nearly 13 years later with a hard fought victory in 1804. But, without the Louisiana Purchase, freedom might never have come.
Slavery became a part of Hispaniola soon after Columbus discovered it in 1492; it was, in fact, the first place he landed in the New World. The island was eventually divided into two colonies; the east owned by Spain, and the west by France. Today they are known as the Dominican Republic and Haiti respectively.
Both countries brought their aristocratic ways to the island, implementing the long- standing history of slavery. When not enough slaves were available for the huge plantations they built, they brought slaves in from West Africa. Haiti, or Saint Dominique as it was known then, prospered well under the whip of slavery. Huge plantations produced sugar, coffee, and cotton making France rich. But not everyone prospered.
The conditions slaves lived and worked under were harsh. They had hard taskmasters and the work was backbreaking. And, as all people do, they yearned to be free. France was in the middle of its own crisis at the time with the French Revolution breaking out two years earlier in 1789. To appease its citizens, it published the Declaration of the Rights of Man, August 26, 1789 in which it declared “all men free and equal.” The slaves of the French Colony believed this should apply to them as well and the revolt began.
When Napoleon Bonaparte takes power in France in 1799 he vows that slavery will return to all its colonies. But the revolution is not going well and the troops are outnumbered with many dying from sickness as from combat. With the French in desperate need of money they sell 827,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River to the United States for 15 million dollars. Known as The Louisiana Purchase Treaty of 1803, the deal nearly doubles the size of the U.S.
This ends France’s claim to North America and results in the French withdrawing from all its colonies in the Caribbean, leaving the inhabitants of Haiti to fend for themselves. The new country is poorer now. France demands reparation for the loss of its slaves and Haiti plunges into poverty while paying the debt in exchange for recognition. Nevertheless, it encourages free former slaves in the United States to immigrate to Haiti.
By September 1824 more than 6,000 blacks have come, however, many return to the U.S. finding conditions in Haiti too harsh. Today, Haiti is still poor and has discovered that freedom can be challenging. The 10,714 square miles of country has nearly ten million people struggling to improve the land they inherited from their enslaved ancestors. But, there is hope for this land of contrasts.
The people have shown time and time again their resolve for independence and willingness to combat the evils that have plagued them in the past. In a world where traffickers are capitalizing on their vulnerabilities Haitians have turned to organizations such as O.U.R. to give them the tools they need to stand stronger.
The United Nations, along with several countries, is also reaching out to help Haiti improve their infrastructure, reduce corruption and assist in the rebuilding of various government entities such as the police force. In a country where seventy percent of the population makes an average of $2 a day and crime and corruption still exist, slavery remains present — it has just gone underground.Haiti is stepping up, however, to save its children and in the process they are reaching out to O.U.R. to help. We are proud and humbled by their requests. Their government is a true partner and eager to use the tools and resources we can provide.
*Operation Underground Railroad has rescued 28 children from being sold in Haiti and continues to help those who have no voice all over the world in its fight for Freedom For All.
By: Cheryl L. Karr
Sources: http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/beard63/beard63.html?sa=X&ved=0CB0Q9QEwA2oVChMIt4myqIL6xgIVRC2ICh0cSwh3 http://www.library.brown.edu http://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/louisiana-purchase http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/haiti/new-year-day https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haiti