A specter was haunting the slave-holding republic – the specter of an invading army of vengeful Africans.
“Lamentable!” cried George Washington in response to what he described as the “unfortunate insurrection of the Negroes in Hispaniola.” The president of the fledgling nation was anxious. This is understandable, particularly given the huge population of restive enslaved Africans that inhabited his own nation and the propensity of those bonded workers to unite across borders. Washington reflected morosely on “a spirit of revolt among the Blacks.”
– Pg. 7, Introduction, CONFRONTING BLACK JACOBINS: THE UNITED STATES, THE HAITIAN REVOLUTION, AND THE ORIGINS OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, by Gerald Horne, Monthly Review Press, New York, 2015
Champlain’s vision for New France was more radical and enduring than de Mons’s. While he shared de Mons’s commitment to creating a monarchical, feudal society in North America, he believed it should co-exist in a friendly, respectful alliance with the Native American nations to whose territories it would be embedded. Instead of conquering and enslaving the Indians (as the Spanish had) or driving them away (as the English would), the New French would embrace them.
– Pg. 35, AMERICAN NATIONS: A HISTORY OF THE ELEVEN RIVAL REGIONAL CULTURES OF NORTH AMERICA, Penguin Books, New York, 2012
The hellacious pressure from Washington that the South American republic of Venezuela has been experiencing is not only because the United States of America, the largest economy and most powerful military in the world, wants to control the Venezuelan petroleum reserves, possibly the planet’s most abundant, but because of a gut fear white Americans have, especially in the Southern, Confederate, formerly slave-holding states, a gut fear which goes way back to the Haitian Revolution of 1791.
Had oil prices remained over $100 a barrel instead of dropping to less than half that, and had Comandante Hugo Chavez remained alive, countries like Belize in this Central American and Caribbean region of the world would have been in a much better position economically, because the Americans would have had to make at least a token effort to match the aid Chavez was dishing out so lavishly to the region, a region which is not considered white by the Confederate states.
The wealth of the Europeans in this part of the world was being generated in the eighteenth century by millions of slaves imported from Africa who were working in the sugar cane, cotton, coffee, and other plantations of the English, the Spanish, the French, and the Americans. The mantra was: more slaves, more production, more wealth. But the system relied on the intimidated, terrorized subservience of the majority African slaves. The nightmare of the European plantation owners had always been what began in French-controlled Haiti in 1791- a bloody, successful revolt by a half million African slaves led by a brilliant leader – General Toussaint L’Ouverture.
Inside France itself, a revolution had begun in July of 1789 wherein the masses of the French people stormed the Bastille and overthrew the long established order of things, which had featured an all-powerful monarch, a class of nobles, and the supportive Church lording it over the hapless poor. The French masses cried Liberty! Equality! Fraternity! Then from the French Caribbean island of Santo Domingo (Haiti) came French citizens in sailing ships to demand that that “liberty, equality, and fraternity” should include French citizens who were gens de couleur, which is to say, of mixed race, neither white or black.
The ferment in France spread back to the white and gens de couleur classes in Haiti, and that disorder at the top and in the middle sparked the revolt of the slaves. This could hardly have been foreseen by the white French masses when they stormed the Bastille on July 14, 1789.
There are some scholars who believe that the French Revolution was seeded, encouraged by the British in retaliation for the fact that the French had supported the 1776 American War of Independence against the British. Remember now, in 1776 the now all-powerful United States of America had been but thirteen (13) small colonies (not 2019’s impressive 52 states) rebelling against King George III of England. The French owned the massive Louisiana territory, featuring New Orleans, in 1776, and huge tracts of land in the Canadian territory. Spain controlled Florida and Texas, all the way across the southwest to California. Spain controlled Cuba and Mexico. The British Caribbean flagship possession was Jamaica, but they were also powerful in Barbados and the Guiana territory of South America. They were fighting for St. Vincent, and just to give you an example of the inter-European wars going on in the 1790s, here is a quote from Wikipedia with respect to Trinidad’s history: “The British had begun to take a keen interest in Trinidad, and in 1797 a British force led by General Ralph Abercromby launched an invasion of Trinidad. His squadron sailed through the Bocas and anchored off the coast of Chaguamaras. Seriously outnumbered, Governor Chacon decided to capitulate to the British without fighting. Trinidad thus became a British crown colony, with a largely French-speaking population and Spanish laws.”
By 1797, Napoleon Bonaparte had seized power in revolutionary France, and he began to raise havoc in eastern and southern Europe. He began to dream of sailing across the English Channel to invade England, but he was immediately distressed by the rise to power of the former African slave, Toussaint, in Santo Domingo. France still owned Louisiana, which is two-fifths of what is now the United States, and relations between the Americans and the French had deteriorated for various reasons which I am not in a position to detail presently. One reason for problems, for sure, is that the French had a different, more humane attitude to Native Americans than white Americans did. Again, the hassling between the Americans and the British continued in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries at a level we would not be able to visualize and comprehend today, so much so that the Americans and the British actually went to war with each other in 1812.
A huge concern of the Americans, a slave-holding republic, was the fact that the British had begun to do business with Toussaint’s Haiti and that some prominent British personalities were actually preaching the abolition of slavery. Throughout the 1790s, shiploads of French settler refugees, some with their slaves, were landing all along the American Gulf Coast from New Orleans and all the way up to Philadelphia.
In Haiti, Toussaint was fending off elements on the eastern side of Hispaniola (which today has Haiti in the west; the Dominican Republic in the east) which were fighting on behalf of the Spanish. Such pro-Spanish elements included native Haitians, and previously in these pages we have told you that in 1796 the King of Spain actually settled some (about 100) of his defeated Haitian loyalists at San Francisco de Ake on the northern coast of the Yucatan. Did Merida include any of the San Francisco Ake Haitians in the September 1798 naval invasion of Belize? According to Antonio Soberanis, there was an oral native tradition in Belize that “the Spaniards retreated when Africans on their ships mutinied after communicating by drum to Africans in the Bay Settlement their desire to escape.” (The preceding quote is from pg. 126 of Anne S. Macpherson’s IMAGINING THE COLONIAL NATION: Race, Gender, and Middle-Class Politics in Belize, 1888-1898, University of North Carolina Press, 2003.)
So then, check out the craziness in the Caribbean in 1798, the year of the Battle of St. George’s Caye. Napoleon is planning to invade Haiti and restore slavery. The British are playing diplomatic and commercial games with Haiti’s Toussaint, who is fighting off the Spanish on the east and watching everyone around him closely, such as the British in Jamaica, the Spanish in Cuba, and the violent slave-holding Americans on the mainland.
I return to my opening paragraphs. White Europeans had brought all these black Africans into this area to work for them and enrich them. But the Europeans were always concerned about the growing African numbers, and that worry became terror when the Haitian Revolution set in 1791 what they thought could become an example on mainland America and throughout the European-controlled Caribbean.
Hugo Chavez dreamed of uniting people of color in this part of the world to stand up to the mighty, white supremacist United States. This had also been an idea in the mind of Chavez’s hero, Simon Bolivar, in the early nineteenth century. But Chavez was making his moves during the presidency of America’s first black executive, President Barack Obama, in the early third millennium. It is in the so-called red states, previously slave-holding Confederacy of the United States, where President Donald Trump has the bulk of his most virulent support. Nothing Obama did to neutralize Chavez would have satisfied America’s red states. White supremacist Americans wanted a militant (violent if necessary) response to the Chavista Venezuelan regional initiative, and that is what we are seeing from Mr. Trump.
This is how I want you to start looking at our region of the planet. Somewhere there is always the issue of race when we analyze matters in this region. The Bahamas is majority black, to the best of my knowledge, and it appears they may have offered asylum to a few thousand Haitians after the terrible Haitian earthquake in 2010. These were desperate people, and Hurricane Dorian was very, very cruel to them last week. Some say Dorian was apocalyptic. Haiti, and Haitians all over this region, keep paying the price for their stand for human freedom in 1791. I grieve for them.
Power to the people.