Caribbean genocide: racial war in Haiti, 1802–4 Print

A B S T R A C T Girard’s article covers the 1802- 4 period in Haiti, during which an expeditionary force sent by Napoleon Bonaparte on the one hand, and an army of Blacks and Mulattoes (most of them former slaves) on the other hand, openly considered genocide of the enemy population. Whites carried out massacres but fell short of genocide because of the French military defeat; Blacks won the war and eradicated Haiti’s white population in 1804. The article offers five main explanations for this genocide. First, the Haitian slave revolt coincided with the French Revolution, and the slaves and soldiers borrowed from the metropolis the idea that the survival of a revolution justified murder, war and even large-scale massacres, that ideology was worth dying, and killing, for. Second, economic interest was at the heart of the planters’ desire to force black slaves to work, but it also influenced the rebellious slaves’ decision to kill all planters and their families: black generals, who replaced Whites as plantation owners, directly benefitted from the genocide.

The article offers five main explanations for this genocide. First, the Haitian slave revolt coincided with the French Revolution, and the slaves and soldiers borrowed from the metropolis the idea that the survival of a revolution justified murder, war and even large-scale massacres, that ideology was worth dying, and killing, for. Second, economic interest was at the heart of the planters’ desire to force black slaves to work, but it also influenced the rebellious slaves’ decision to kill all planters and their families: black generals, who replaced Whites as plantation owners, directly benefitted from the genocide. Third, the 1802- 4 period marks the conclusion of a bloody, thirteen-year slave revolt that was itself a reaction to a century-old colonial rule characterized by the brutal exploitation of a large slave population. War, by creating a context in which violent death was the norm rather than the exception, made it easier to resort to mass murder. Fourth, with few exceptions, those who perpetrated the genocide were former slaves, while most victims were former slave owners and soldiers supporting slavery; the genocide was thus a form of class warfare in which an exploited lower class exacted revenge against the master class. Finally, in its last stages, the war turned into a racial conflict that pitted Whites against Blacks and Mulattoes. The usual characteristics of racism (hatred, oversimplification, conspiracy theories, dehuma- nization) all facilitated the genocide. Girard concludes that the 1804 genocide must be understood in a specific, Haitian context, but that it was also the product of ideas (racism and class warfare, notably) that were central to more modern genocides.

K E Y W O R D S Charles Leclerc, French colonies, French Revolution, genocide, Haiti, Hannah Arendt, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Napoleon Bonaparte, slavery, Toussaint Louverture A country born in blood When Haiti’s founding fathers gathered in Gona¨ıves on 1 January 1804 to declare their country’s independence from France, the mood was as vengeful ISSN 0031-322X print/ISSN 1461-7331 online/05/020138-24 # 2005 Taylor & Francis Group Ltd DOI: 10.1080/00313220500106196 P H IL IP P E R. G IR AR D 139 Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 as it was celebratory.1 Louis Boisrond-Tonnerre complained that the first draft of the declaration of independence was not aggressive enough, saying that ‘we should use the skin of a white man as a parchment, his skull as an inkwell, his blood for ink, and a bayonet for a pen’.2 For all its hyperbole, Boisrond-Tonnerre’s outburst was surpassed when Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the head of Haiti’s army and the island’s dictator, addressed the crowd.

Citizens, It is not enough to expel from our country the barbarians [the French] that drenched it in blood for two hundred years. . . . We must by one last act of national sovereignty secure for all eternity the reign of liberty in our motherland. . . .
[Soldiers,] give to all nations a terrible, but just example of the vengeance that must be exacted by a people proud to have found freedom again, and eager to preserve it. Let us frighten all those who would dare to steal our freedom; let us start with the French! May they shudder when they approach our coastline, either because they remember all the exactions they committed, or because of our horrifying pledge to kill every Frenchman who soils the land of freedom with his sacrilegious presence.3

The words were not mere rhetoric. Over the following four months, on Dessalines’s orders, soldiers rounded up white planters, their families, French soldiers and the urban poor known as petits blancs , and killed them. Neither women nor children were spared.
In Cap Franc¸ais, the island’s largest city, some civilians had fled with the departing French navy. Others, lacking means of transportation or trusting Dessalines’s promises that they would be treated well, had stayed. ‘Those poor Whites who stayed with the rebels all had their throats cut’, wrote the bishop of neighbouring San Domingo. With a modesty befitting a man of the cloth, he alluded to, rather than gave lurid details of, the interracial rape that accompanied the massacres. ‘And what is even worse, the victims, especially the women, were treated in such a way as to desire death a thousand time before they actually expired.’4 An American resident of Cap Franc¸ais was more explicit, reporting that a Haitian-born widow of a white 1 From 1697 to 1804, Haiti was known as Saint-Domingue, and only changed its name after it declared its independence. The article will use the name ‘Haiti’ for both the colonial and the national period.
2 Quoted in Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press 2004), 298. 3 Jean-Jacques Dessalines, ‘Proclamation’, 1 January 1804: Archives Nationales, Paris (hereafter AN), AB/XIX/3302/15. A
ll translations from the French, unless otherwise stated, are by the author. 4 Letter from Guillaume Mauviel to Portalis, French Council of State, [early 1804]: AN, F/19/6212. 140 Patterns of Prejudice Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 planter, who had stayed in Cap Franc¸ais with her three daughters, was approached by her former slave who offered to protect the family should she give her elder daughter in marriage. The mother refused and was killed along with two of her daughters. The putative bride, who persisted in refusing her unyielding fiance´ , was hanged ‘by the throat on an iron hook in the market place, where the lovely, innocent, unfortunate victim slowly expired’.5

Contemporary accounts mention thousands of victims, though the exact number is hard to come by. Haiti’s white population numbered 30,000 in 1789, the last year when reliable figures are available.6 Some settlers died during the 1791 slave revolt and the years of upheaval that followed. Others emigrated to Cuba, Louisiana, France and the United States, though many returned with the arrival of a French expedition in 1802.7 As late as 1803, a French lieutenant counted 1,800 civilians in the small city of Cayes alone.8

Thousands fled with the departing French troops when the black army took over; those who stayed behind became the victims of Dessalines’s wrath. A few non-French veterans and American merchants, along with some useful professionals such as priests and doctors, were spared. Those who failed the triple test of skin colour, citizenship and vocation were simply wiped out.
When the genocide was over, Haiti’s white population was virtually non- existent. Dessalines’s 1805 constitution allowed a few widows, Poles and Germans to settle in Haiti, then immediately added that all Haitians would officially be known as ‘Blacks’ (art. 13 and 14). 9 The new nation also abandoned the French tricolour, choosing instead strips of blue and red from which the central white strip was conspicuously absent. For the rest of the century, Haiti remained in western eyes a pariah state born in an orgy of white blood. France did not recognize its former colony’s independence until 1825; the United States waited until 1862.

5 [Leonora Mary Hassall Sansay], Secret History; or, The Horrors of St Domingo, in a Series of Letters, Written by a Lady at Cape Francois to Colonel Burr (Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep 1808), 152- 3.
6 Moreau de Saint-Me´ ry, Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie franc¸aise de l’isle Saint-Domingue , vol. 1 [1797- 8] (Paris: Socie´ te´ de l’histoire des colonies franc¸aises 1958), 86- 100.
7 About 10,000 refugees reached Louisiana from 1792 to 1810. Another 10,000 arrived in Cuba from 1801 to 1806. Carl Brasseaux and Glenn Conrad, ‘Introduction’ and Gabriel Debien, ‘The refugees in Cuba’, in C. Brasseaux and G. Conrad (eds), The Road to Louisiana: The Saint-Domingue Refugees, 1792-1809 (Lafayette: Center for Louisiana Studies 1992), vii, 72.
8 Lieutenant De´ buour, ‘Pre´ cis des e´ ve´ nements militaires qui se sont passe´ s aux Cayes avant l’e´ vacuation de cette place’, 30 Fructidor Year XII [17 September 1804]: AN, CC9A/35.
9 See also Sibylle Fischer, Modernity Disavowed: Haiti and the Cultures of Slavery in the Age of Revolution (Durham, NC: Duke University Press 2004). P H IL IP P E R. G IR AR D 141 Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 When Raphae¨ l Lemkin coined the term ‘genocide’ in 1944, he defined it as the ‘criminal intent to destroy or cripple permanently a human group’.10

To ‘cripple’ usually means to kill, and the ‘human groups’ most likely to be targeted are ethnic and religious groups like the Jews; but later definitions have considerably extended the scope of the term. Some scholars have considered the bloodless destruction of a culture (such as the forcible assimilation of Australian Aborigines) to be a form of genocide; others have argued that groups defined by their political beliefs or social status (such as Russia’s kulaks ) can be victims of genocide; some have even claimed that the unintentional wiping out of a people through disease (such as Native Americans in the United States) is genocide.11 For the purpose of this essay, Lemkin’s two basic criteria will be used. First, a genocide is intentional, which distinguishes it from other, accidental demographic catastrophes. Second, it differs from simple massacres because its large-scale, systematic nature is intended to extirpate fully a particular group from a society, thus introducing revolutionary change.
The first criterion* intent* was unmistakably in play in 1804. Unlike the early sixteenth century, when Spanish conquerors unwittingly wiped out the Taino population of Haiti through hard work and European diseases, there was a clearly stated desire to annihilate the enemy race in 1802- 4. ‘Dessalines’, a French spy reported as black troops closed in on Cap Franc¸ais, ‘has declared that if he takes over Cap [Franc¸ais] he will not leave a single White alive there, he will cut everybody’s throat, even that of babies not yet weaned from their mother ’s milk’.12 No attempt was made to hide the genocide as it was unfolding. In Port-au-Prince, Frenchmen were dressed as if for a funeral, ‘paraded through the streets in great fanfare, then drowned in the port’ in full view of British and American ships.13 A copy of Dessalines’s vengeful independence day proclamation was even sent to the Gazette of Philadelphia .14 In April 1804 Dessalines proudly announced that the genocide was then consummated. ‘The implacable enemies of the rights of man have finally met a punishment worthy of their crimes.’15 He then went 10 Raphae¨ l Lemkin, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government, Proposals for Redress (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 1944), 80. See also Robert Melson, ‘A theoretical inquiry into the Armenian massacres of 1894- 1896’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 24, no. 3, July 1982, 483. 11 A. Dirk Moses, ‘Genoc
ide and settler society in Australian history’, in A. D. Moses (ed.), Genocide and Settler Society: Frontier Violence and Stolen Indigenous Children in Australian Society (New York: Berghahn Books 2004), 20- 8. 12 ‘Rapport d’espionnage’, 23 Messidor Year XI [12 July 1803]: AN, 135AP/3. 13 Letter from Brigadier General Lavalette to Minister of the Navy [Decre` s], 2 Ventoˆ se Year XII [22 February 1804]: AN, CC9B/19. 14 Letter from Pichon, French ambassador to the United States, to Minister of the Navy [Decre` s], [c. July 1804]: AN, CC9B/18. 15 Jean-Jacques Dessalines, ‘Proclamation’, 28 April 1804: AN, AB/XIX/3302/15. 142 Patterns of Prejudice Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 on to warn that the inhabitants of neighbouring Santo Domingo would meet the same fate if they refused to submit to his rule.16 Dessalines’s decision to kill all Whites was overt enough that scholarly debates on the chain of command (who ordered what) have much less value in the Haitian case than they do in other genocides.
The second criterion* magnitude* lends itself more easily to scholarly debate. One may argue that the events of early 1804 did not constitute a genocide because they only affected a few thousand settlers (30,000 if one includes previous victims and exiles). Such numbers pale in comparison with French military losses (50,000 in 1802- 3 alone) and total civilian losses (estimated at half Haiti’s pre-war population of 550,000). In this analysis, 1804 would have turned from massacre to genocide only if there had been more white people for Dessalines to kill. But this argument overlooks the impact 1804 had on Haitian society. Prior to 1791 Haiti had been organized along strict racial lines; even the poorest petit blanc considered himself superior to a slave-owning free person of colour. After 1804 Whites were reduced to a token presence, much of it non-French; Blacks and Mulattoes were the new masters of Haiti. The change was nothing short of revolutionary. When one takes into account the percentage of the victimized group that survived the genocide, along with the social transformation it engineered, 1804 was more radical than other, more deadly genocides. A ‘little’ genocide it was; but it was a world-shattering event in the context of Haiti.
Rationale is another puzzling question. What led Dessalines to commit a crime, genocide, whose systematic nature is considered unique in the annals of human cruelty? Dessalines offered a military explanation (killing all Whites would forever scare away potential invaders) that was far from convincing. The genocide took place after the last French troops surrendered. Some battered remnants of the French expeditionary force regrouped in Cuba and Santo Domingo, but they were too small to go on the offensive and the resumption of France’s war with England made further reinforcements impossible. If anything, horror at Dessalines’s cruelty could have prompted France to summon another expedition to avenge the dead. Economically, the genocide also exterminated planters who, for all their faults, were the most educated and entrepreneurial members of Haiti’s population. By the 1820s the large sugar plantations had been divided into small lots cultivated by illiterate subsistence farmers. The shift pleased the former slaves immensely, but it shattered Dessalines’s hopes for large-scale agriculture.
Existing documents* letters by French generals Charles Victor Emmanuel Leclerc and Donatien Rochambeau, and speeches by Dessalines* mention four possible justifications. First, the French Revolution had shown that 16 Jean-Jacques Dessalines, ‘Proclamation aux habitants de la partie espagnole’, 8 May 1804: AN, AB/XIX/3302/15. Dessalines’s invasion of Santo Domingo failed. P H IL IP P E R. G IR AR D 143
Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 ideals were worth dying, and killing, for. Second, atrocities committed by French troops in Haiti provoked Dessalines’s calls for revenge. Third, after thirteen years of fighting, radical measures seemed the only way finally to secure freedom for the slaves. Fourth, racism led to dehumanization of the other side. To these factors can be added a final one, which only appears as a subtext in existing documents: black generals hoped to take over their victims’ plantations.
The question of rationale leads to a more general one. Was the genocide of 1804 a purely local phenomenon, born of the only successful slave revolt in world history, or did it follow a pattern that was replicated elsewhere, from Armenia to Germany, Cambodia and Rwanda? Can one also verify Hannah Arendt’s thesis that the great twentieth-century genocides were intellectual heirs to nineteenth-century imperialism, and that Dessalines’s use of genocide, however horrific, was a sign that the country had entered the modern era? To answer the questions raised by Dessalines’s 1804 proclama- tion, one must step back fifteen years to analyse the revolutionary turmoil that led to Haiti’s bloody independence.

1789 to 1798: in the shadow of the French R evolution When the French Revolution started, Haiti was France’s most valued colony, producing half of Europe’s consumption of sugar and coffee. Immense economic wealth, however, was matched by great political tyranny. Whites (about 30,000 of them) complained that they were subjected to the whims of royal governors. Free people of colour (about 20,000 of them) were the victims of an increasingly strict regime of racial discrimination. The brutally oppressed black slaves (more than 500,000 of them) were denied even the limited rights accorded to them under the Code Noir regulating slavery.17 Their attention monopolized by metropolitan turmoil, French revolutionaries failed to decide whether the Rights of Man awarded Frenchmen in August 1789 also applied to black inhabitants of the colonies.18

In the absence of leadership from the metropolis, and given the atmo- sphere of revolutionary turmoil, revolt became the most obvious way to achieve political goals. White settlers threatened governors and routinely disregarded their orders.19 Vincent Oge´ , a free person of colour who had tried unsuccessfully to obtain legal equality in Paris, launched a revolt in 17 Saint-Me´ ry, Description topographique , i.86- 100; ‘Questions sur la population et les productions de Saint Domingue et des isles du vent’, [c. 1785]: Centre des Archives d’Outre-Mer, Aix-en-Provence (hereafter CAOM), DFC/XXXIII/Memoires/3/202. 18 Yves Benot, La Re´volution franc¸aise et la fin des colonies, 1789-1794 (Paris: La De´ couverte 2004).
19 Letter from Blanchelande to M. De Thevenard, [c. September 1791]: CAOM, F/3/197. 144 Patterns of Prejudice Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 1790 that was quickly crushed. In August 1791 black slaves of northern Haiti launched a general insurrection that marks the official beginning of Haiti’s war of independence. Many slaves called for revenge against the planter class, but their leaders were divided. Jeannot, a rebel chief, was known for his great brutality. In Limbe´ , a white observer wrote that he ‘hanged 22 Whites in a day’ and went on to describe other alleged atrocities.20 Two other leaders, Jean-Francois and Biassou, preached moderation and eventually executed the bloodthirsty Jeannot.
There is considerable scholarly debate on the political beliefs of those Blacks who refused to work on plantations, called marrons before the abolition of slavery and rebelles or brigands thereafter. Some, like Gabriel Debien, have concluded that illiterate African peasants had a parochial outlook, reacting to local events (such as a plantation manager ’s excessive cruelty) rather than more abstract concepts of freedom borrowed from the European Enlightenment.21 Others, like Carolyn Fick, think that, as early as the Makandal rebellion (1757- 8), black slaves were committed to emancipa- tion of all Blacks, or even outright independence from France.22

Existing evidence tends to support the latter thesis, particularly among black leaders. Toussaint Louverture claimed to be the ‘Black Spartacus’ whose coming the Abbe´ Raynal had predicted.23 When addressing his troops on the eve of a battle against the British, Louverture invoked freedom, ‘the most precious asset a man may possess’, and exulted that ‘the time to expel the enemies of the Republic from the land of liberty has finally arrived’.24 The political views of the rank-and-file are more difficult to assess, but black soldiers sang revolutionary songs and fought under the revolutionary tricolour.25 Blacks could easily draw parallels with the 20 [Moreau de Saint-Me´ ry?], ‘Notes de quelques e´ ve´ nements particuliers arrive´ s dans l’insurrection des noirs a` Saint-Domingue en 1791’, 14 January 1792: CAOM: F/3/197. See also Jeremy Popkin, ‘Facing racial revolution: captivity narratives and identity in the Saint-Domingue insurrection’, Eighteenth Century Studies , vol. 36, no. 4, 2003, 511- 33.
21 Gabriel Debien, Les Esclaves aux Antilles franc¸aises: dix-septie`me au dix-huitie`me sie`cles (Basse Terre: Soci´et´e d’Histoire de la Guadeloupe 1974), 424. See also Franc¸ois Girod, La Vie quotidienne de la socie´te´ cre´ole: Saint-Domingue au dix-huitie`me sie`cle (Paris: Hachette 1972), 168- 9.
22 Carolyn E. Fick, The Making of Haiti: The Saint Domingue Revolution from Below (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press 1990), 6, 60.
23 Pierre Pluchon, Toussaint Louverture (Paris: Fayard 1989), 148. 24 Toussaint Louverture, ‘Adresse aux officiers, sous-officiers et soldats, composant l’arme´ e en marche’, [c . January- February 1798]: AN, CC9A/19.
25 Pamphile de Lacroix, La Re´volution de Ha¨ıti [1819] (Paris: Karthala 1995), 333; Jan Pachonski and Reuel K. Wilson, Poland’s Caribbean Tragedy: A Study of Polish Legions in the Haitian War of Independence, 1802-1803 (Boulder, CO: East European Monographs 1986), 203; Dubois, Avengers of the New World , 103- 5. P H IL IP P E R. G IR AR D 145 Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 ongoing French Revolution. They, like the French serfs, were simply overthrowing an idle class of abusive landowners. During that period, Haitians also learned that revolutionary change was more effectively secured through violence than debate. The French granted political equality to Mulattoes (1792) and freedom to Blacks (1793- 4) only when the military situation required it. In 1802- 4, when France reneged on its policy of emancipation, former slaves reminded themselves that during the French Revolution right had amounted to might, and that they would be justified in exterminating their political enemies. Debating with a fellow black officer whether their rebellion was morally acceptable, Brigadier General Cange´ argued: ‘you know that when it comes to revolutions, the strongest party is always right, and we are stronger.’26 Dessalines, who typically mixed calls to arms and idealistic statements in his proclamations, could not have agreed more. ‘War to the death for tyrants: this is my motto. Liberty, independence: this is our rallying cry.’27 In this respect, the Haitian genocide resembles its Communist counter- parts of the twentieth century, such as the agricultural collectivization in the Soviet Union. In both cases, the French Revolution was heralded as an example of social change engineered by popular armies. In both cases, ideological fervour made it easier to justify the eradication of those who found themselves on the wrong side of history.

1798 to February 1802: who will own the sugar and coffee plantations?

In 1798 war temporarily abated. French revolutionary authorities, faced with a general uprising, had abolished slavery and enrolled the former slaves in the French army. Thanks to their help, an Anglo-Spanish invasion of Haiti was repulsed. Under the leadership of Toussaint Louverture, a former slave, sugar and coffee production partially recovered. One powerful group, however, was unhappy with the new state of affairs: white planters. Emancipation reduced their investment in human flesh to nothing. Those who had fled the fighting, accused of being e´migre´s implicated in monarchist politics, also saw their plantations confiscated by the state. Planters formed a vocal group in Paris that called on French authorities (Napoleon Bonaparte after 1799, notably) to help them recover their previous wealth.28 For France to have a powerful navy, the argument went, it needed a large supply of skilled sailors. These could only be found if there was an active trade with 26 Letter from Brigadier General Cange´ to Battalion Chief Delpech, 6 Frimaire Year XI [27 November 1802]: AN, CC9B/19.
27 Dessalines, ‘Proclamation’, 28 April 1804. 28 Colonial Office (Ministry of the Navy), ‘Rapport aux Consuls de la Re´ publique’, 12 Frimaire Year VIII [3 December 1799]: AN, CC9B/18. 146 Patterns of Prejudice Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 the colonies in peace-time, and these colonies required slavery to flourish.29 Bonaparte confessed yielding to ‘the forceful advice of messieurs les habitants de Saint-Domingue ’, along with ‘the opinion of the Conseil d’Etat and of his ministers, who were pushed by the constant whining [criailleries ] of the settlers, a powerful party in Paris’.30
Echoing theses expounded in Vladimir Lenin’s Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916), Hannah Arendt posited that imperialism originated in a small clique of financiers who hijacked a state’s foreign policy to further their private greed.31 The planters’ lobbying campaign seems to confirm these views but for one important point: the former slaves were also motivated by financial gain. The status quo as it existed in 1798- 1802 allowed black generals such as Louverture and Dessalines, who were de facto rulers of the island, to take over dozens of plantations, from which they derived a substantial income that was essential in an era of public destitution.32 Louverture alone owned between eight and ten plantations.33 He used his control of public lands to ensure the loyalty of his subordinates, and neither he nor his officers were desirous of ceding such advantages.34 In 1799, when Louverture ordered his mulatto rival Andre´ Rigaud to give away some of the land he controlled to a black general, Laplume, Rigaud revolted, starting a bloody civil war known as the War of the South.35


29 Gautier, ‘Aperc¸ u sur les inte´ reˆ ts du commerce maritime’, Frimaire Year X [November- December 1802]: AN, CC9A/28.
30 Toussaint Bre´ da Louverture, Me´moires du Ge´ne´ral Toussaint l’Ouverture e´crits par lui- meˆme (Paris: Pagnerre 1853), 127- 8; Emmanuel de Las Cases, Me´morial de Sainte He´le`ne , 2 vols (Paris: Gallimard- La Ple´ iade 1956), i.769. See also Barry Edward O’Meara, Napole´on en exil: relation contenant les opinions et les re´flexions de Napole´on sur les e´ve´nements les plus importants de sa vie, durant trois ans de sa captivite´, recueillies , 2 vols (Paris: Garnier 1897), ii.277.
31 Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism [1951] (New York: Meridian Books 1958), 138. 32 Letter from Battalion Chief Saint-Martin to Ministry of the Navy, 22 Messidor Year VII [10 July 1799]: AN, CC9A/21. Louverture’s nephew Mo¨ıse enjoyed an annual income of £1.2 million. Letter from ‘Painty’ to Moreau de Saint-Me´ ry, 27 February 1802: CAOM, FM /F/3/202.
33 Pluchon, Toussaint Louverture , 369.
34 Colonial Office, Ministry of the Navy, ‘Rapport aux Consuls de la Re´ publique’, 7 Vende´ miaire Year IX [29 September 1800]: AN, CC9B/18; letter from Leclerc to Minister of the Navy [Decre` s], 20 Pluvioˆ se Year X [9 February 1802]: AN, CC9B/19. Even when he was exiled to a French prison, Louverture adamantly demanded that his plantations be given back to him. Letter from Rochambeau to Minister of the Navy [Decre` s], 16 Frimaire Year XI [7 December 1802]: AN, CC9B/19. 35 Commandant Delaunay, ‘Extrait d’un rapport sur la situation politique de Saint- Domingue’, 7 Vende´ miaire Year VIII [29 September 1799]: CAOM, FM /F/3/202; [Commissioner Roume?], ‘Rapport aux consuls de la re´ publique’, 1 Nivoˆ se Year VIII [22 December 1799]: AN, CC9A/18. P H IL IP P E R. G IR AR D 147 Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 The arrival of a French army in 1802 dealt a severe blow to the black generals’ financial well-being. To deny French soldiers access to resources, Louverture and his officers set their own plantations on fire. White planters returned from exile and recovered their lands. Those plantations still requisitioned by the state were carefully listed, appraised and apportioned between prominent French officers. General Rochambeau, for example, found himself at the head of six coffee plantations, one sugar plantation and one cotton plantation.36

For obvious reasons, when he gave the order for the genocide, Dessalines did not mention his own financial interest in doing so. The paucity of documents makes it difficult to make a definitive statement concerning his intentions. Dessalines might have seriously considered the peaceful option: returning to the 1798- 1802 model in which the cautious Louverture controlled the Haitian plantations while accepting the presence and expertise of white planters. Or he might have calculated that, as hundreds of planters either fled or died, he and his fellow generals could acquire dozens of plantations and become fabulously wealthy.

February to May 1802: war, atrocities, disea se By late 1801 Louverture had defeated all his rivals. Relying on a network of white planters and black officers, he governed Haiti with an iron hand. The colony, relatively peaceful for the first time in ten years, was slowly drifting towards independence. Meanwhile, after years of prodding by exiled planters, Bonaparte was preparing an expedition to Haiti. Led by his own brother-in-law, General Charles Leclerc, the troops arrived in Haiti in February 1802. In his secret instructions to Leclerc, Bonaparte hoped that his troops would land peacefully, deport troublesome black leaders and reassert French authority in Haiti without having to resort to extreme measures.37 Bonaparte wrote Louverture that he was merely sending reinforcements, whose commanders were instructed to support, not sup- plant, black troops. Louverture and his men, rightly afraid that the French had ulterior motives, would have none of it. When Rochambeau’s forces landed at Fort Liberte´ near Cap Franc¸ais, Leclerc wrote, they were 36 [Government Land Office], ‘Etat de divers baux a` ferme passe´ s par l’administration des Domaines en vertu des ordres de l’administration supe´ rieure’, [c. 1802]: AN, 135 AP/3. 37 Napoleon Bonaparte, ‘Notes pour servir aux instructions a` donner au Capitaine Ge´ ne´ ral Leclerc’, 31 October 1801, reproduced in Gustav Roloff, Die Kolonialpolitik Napoleons I (Munich: Drud und Berlag von R. Didenbourg 1899), 245. See also Paul Roussier (ed.), Lettres du Ge´ne´ral Leclerc (Paris: Socie´ te´ de l’histoire des colonies franc¸aises 1937), 28; Ralph Korngold, Citizen Toussaint (Boston: Little, Brown 1945), 246. 148 Patterns of Prejudice Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 attacked by black troops who shot at them, while saying that they did not want white people. Our soldiers continued to land, yelling to the Blacks that they were their brothers, their friends, and that they were bringing them freedom. Black troops continued to shoot. Our forces crushed them.38

Blacks burned the cities and retreated to the hills, ushering in a war whose violence was exceptional even by Haitian standards. Less than a month after he landed, and before the first large battle at Creˆ te a` Pierrot, Leclerc reported that 600 of his men had already died in combat, that 1,500 were wounded and that 2,000 were suffering from various diseases.39 Over the following eighteen months, French losses alone (due to both combat and diseases) exceeded 50,000 men.
This brutal conflict, which immediately preceded the 1804 genocide, goes a long way towards explaining Dessalines’s decision to kill all Whites. War provides a backdrop against which death is so com mon and the stakes are so high that normally unacceptable options receive serious consideration, and simmering antipathy turns to crazed hatred. If millions of Germans died in battle, the Nazis reasoned, then why not Jews too? Antisemitism had deep roots in Germany, but the Final Solution was a product of the Second World War. Similarly, the Roman destruction of Carthage occurred at the end of the Third Punic War, the Armenian genocide took place during the First World War, the Cambodian genocide emerged in the shadow of the Vietnam War and the Srebrenica massacre coincided with the Bosnian War.
High casualties on both sides served as a justification for retaliatory massacres, which themselves sparked more atrocities, in a tit-for-tat sequence that eventually culminated in the genocide. A French officer remembered that French troops, upon encountering the bodies of 800 white victims (women and children included) of Dessalines’s wrath, were so brave that this horrible sight, far from frightening them, only made them more ardently desire to strike their enemy. One of the detachments volunteered to fight while we were still visiting the carnage; never have I seen anything comparable to the ardour they displayed in their task.40

‘The atrocities that this man [Louverture] ordered in cold blood make one freeze in horror ’, Rochambeau wrote.
38 Letter from Leclerc to Minister of the Navy [Decre` s], 20 Pluvioˆ se Year X [9 February 1802]: AN, CC9B/19.
39 Letter from Leclerc to Minister of the Navy [Decre` s], 8 Ventoˆ se Year X [27 February 1802]: AN, CC9B/19. One of Leclerc’s officers later wrote that Leclerc exaggerated losses due to diseases in order to divert attention from his losses in combat. Lacroix, La Re´volution de Ha¨ıti , 336.
40 Lacroix, La Re´volution de Ha¨ıti , 328. P H IL IP P E R. G IR AR D 149 Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 All the columns of the army encountered trails, roads covered with half-mutilated corpses, trees loaded with pieces of human flesh. .. . It is obvious that from this point on the generous disposition of our troops changed into fury and that they swore eternal hatred against their tormentors.41

In May, fighting subsided as prominent black leaders (Dessalines among them) switched sides and joined the French. Louverture was captured through trickery and exiled to France. But the grim atmosphere continued as the rainy season brought a powerful epidemic of yellow fever that eventually accounted for nine out of ten French casualties. Losses were so great that Leclerc, when writing to Paris for reinforcements, calculated that 70,000 men had to leave French ports to create a combat-ready group of 12,000 men in Haiti.42 The epidemic was widely understood to favour the black camp. Having lived for years in Haiti, most Blacks were immune to the disease. White troops, on the other hand, routinely died within days of setting foot in Haiti. The French, who could not afford the losses, buried their dead at night to hide the true extent of the dreadful number.43 In one letter to his spy in Cap Franc¸ais, Louverture joked that ‘la Providence rushes to our rescue’.44 Avoid a frontal assault, he had told his men with keen military sense as soon as the French landed in Haiti.

Don’t forget that the only resources we have until the rainy season rids us of our enemies are destruction and fire. Know that the earth that we worked with our own sweat must not provide a single morsel of food to our enemies. . . . Annihilate and burn everything, so that those that come to put us back in bondage always encounter here a portrait of the hell they all deserve to go to. 45

In this context, to the French, the yellow fever epidemic was yet another weapon in the enemy’s arsenal, and one that the slaves might very well control. Or so Dessalines suggested at war ’s end, explaining that nature 41 Rochambeau estimated that Louverture had killed 10,000 to 12,000 civilians, Leclerc 10,000 and Lacroix 3,000; Rochambeau, ‘Pre´ cis des ope´ rations de l’expe´ dition de Saint- Domingue de 1802 a` 1803’, 6 October 1803: AN, CC9A/36. Letter from Leclerc to Minister of the Navy [Decre` s], 5 Germinal Year X [26 March 1802]: AN, 416AP/1; Pluchon, Toussaint Louverture , 572.
42 Letter from Leclerc to Napoleon Bonaparte, 5 Vende´ miaire Year XI [27 September 1802]: AN, CC9B/19.
43 Lacroix, La Re´volution de Ha¨ıti , 351.
44 ‘Providence’ means ‘God’, but it was also the name of Cap’s main hospital. Lacroix, La Re´volution de Ha¨ıti , 352.
45 Letter from Toussaint Louverture to Jean-Jacques Dessalines, 19 Pluvioˆ se Year X [8 February 1802], reproduced in Lacroix, La Re´volution de Ha¨ıti , 319. 150 Patterns of Prejudice Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 obeyed the orders of ‘the angry genius [ge´nie ] of Haiti’ and sent ‘diseases, plague, devouring hunger, fires and poison’.46

Death, whether by the sword or by disease, struck fast and without warning, creating an otherworldly ambiance in which participants did not know if they would be alive the following month, though they could have safely predicted an answer in the negative. In this atmosphere, naked greed, murder and sexual exploits multiplied, indicating a complete breakdown in moral values. The colony’s tradition of loose morals combined with the unusual war-time conditions to create ‘an extraordinary change in the morality of many men’, Rochambeau complained.47 The colonial prefect warned that Rochambeau himself had been perverted.

In the midst of such a great and general disaster people devote themselves, as in ancient Capua, to the pleasures of a dissolute life* balls* promenades* every- everything is designed to take people’s minds away from a situation that is growing more alarming each day. . . . Lost women have gained such credit with the central authority [Rochambeau] that they decide on favours and positions, even on military matters.48

Dissolute morals and the desperate military situation explain why French soldiers resorted to methods deemed unacceptable in the European theatre, including such tortures as burning and breaking at the wheel that were by then illegal in France.49 Blacks were gassed in the hold of ships or thrown overboard, a practice one captain referred to as ‘mettre de la morue a` la trempe’ (giving codfish a bath).50 Rochambeau even imported 200 slave- hunting dogs from Cuba.51 To test this new weapon, or to fulfil some sadistic fantasy, he ordered an arena built in which the dogs devoured a black man. All the leading members of Cap Franc¸ais society attended, as if this were a gladiator fight in a decadent Rome.52

46 Dessalines, ‘Proclamation’, 28 April 1804. In French, ‘ge´ nie’ can refer to a gifted person or to the spirit of the nation. It is not clear whether Dessalines was referring to himself in his speech, or to the collective will of his people.
47 Letters from Rochambeau to Minister of the Navy [Decre` s], 10 Brumaire Year XII [2 November 1803] and 19 Brumaire Year XII [11 November 1803]: AN, CC9B/19. 48 Hector Daure, ‘Rapport confidentiel sur l’e´ tat de la colonie et de son administration’, [c. November 1803]: AN, CC9A/36.
49 [Sansay], Secret History, 99.
50 Poterat, ‘Me´ moire sur la colonie de Saint-Domingue’, 21 Fructidor Year XI [8 September 1803]: AN, CC9A/35; Pachonski and Wilson, Poland’s Caribbean Tragedy, 69; Christophe Paulin de la Poix, Chevalier de Fre´ minville, Me´moires du Chevalier de Fre´minville (1787-1848) (Paris: Librairie Ancienne Champion 1913), 78.
51 Letter from Brigadier General Louis Noailles to Rochambeau, 9 Nivoˆ se Year XI [30 December 1802]: AN, 416AP/1; Rochambeau, ‘Pre´ cis des ope´ rations de l’expe´ dition de Saint-Domingue de 1802 a` 1803’, 6 October 1803: AN, CC9A/36.
52 Pachonski and Wilson, Poland’s Caribbean Tragedy, 114. P H IL IP P E R. G IR AR D 151 Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 Dessalines, a man usually not remembered for his compassion, noted with alarm that for ten months the French ‘had hanged Mulattoes and Blacks with abandon; it would be impossible for me to show you how many men and women they have drowned and that they are still drowning at night.’53 In his later calls for genocide, he made powerful reference to these French atrocities. Indigenous citizens, men, women, daughters and children, look everywhere in the island for your wives, your husbands, your brothers, your sisters* what!* look for your infants, still sucking their mother ’s breasts. What have they become? I dare not tell you . . . they have become the prey of these vultures. Will you die without avenging them? No, in the family tomb, their bones would push yours away.54

‘Yes!’ he exulted after the white population was exterminated. ‘We answered these cannibals’ war with war, crime with crime, outrage with outrage.’55 To him, after the horrors of slavery and war, genocide merely amounted to vengeance, even justice.

May to O ctober 1802: slavery Aside from a few free people of colour, the vast majority of the soldiers that made up Haiti’s army were former slaves. The white troops sent from France included few slave owners, but they fought on behalf of white planters, alongside the national guard composed of local white citizens. As months passed, many French officers acquired plantations, further aligning their destiny with that of the master class.56 The 1804 genocide must thus be understood in a context of class warfare: former slaves killed their would-be masters. To this extent, the 1804 genocide is closely related to twentieth- century genocides inspired by class resentment, such as the rural peasants’ war on the urban bourgeoisie in 1970s Cambodia.57


The 1791 revolt forced the French to emancipate Haiti’s slaves in 1793, but Haiti’s Blacks only benefitted from a regime of limited freedom. Louverture, a former slave but also a plantation owner and a statesman, understood that slaves dreamed of carving out plantations, acquiring a small plot and living off subsistence farming. This would have resulted in the complete ruin of an economy based on sugar and coffee, so he instituted rules that tied the slaves to the plantations. Cultivateurs , as the slaves were now called, received one- 53 ‘Dessalines aux hommes de couleur habitant la partie ci-devant espagnole’, 6 Nivoˆ se Year XI [27 December 1802]: AN, CC9A/32.
54 Dessalines, ‘Proclamation’, 1 January 1804.
55 Dessalines, ‘Proclamation’, 28 April 1804.
56 [Government Land Office], ‘Etat de divers baux a` ferme’. 57 One survivor labelled the Khmer Rouger ‘Kum-munists’, after the Khmer word for ‘revenge’. Haing Nor and Roger Warner, Survival in the Killing Fields [1987] (New York: Carroll and Graf 2003), 171. 152 Patterns of Prejudice Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 fourth of the crop, but working conditions changed surprisingly little.58 In 1799, when French commissioner Roume de St Laurent drafted an elaborate plan to send a Haitian army to Jamaica to free that island’s slaves, Louverture co-operated half-heartedly in public.59 In private, he warned the British of Roume’s plans. One French agent in Jamaica was arrested and hanged, and the project foundered.60

When the Leclerc expedition landed in February 1802, the French adamantly denied that they had come to restore slavery. ‘Whatever your origins and your skin colour might be, you are all French, you are all free and equal in the eyes of God and the Republic’, Bonaparte explained. ‘If anyone tells you: ‘‘this army is here to take our freedom away’’, answer: ‘‘the Republic gave us our freedom, it will not take it away.’’’61 Many black generals joined the French army under a solemn promise that slavery would not be restored. Bonaparte did not specifically mention the restoration of slavery in his secret instructions to Leclerc, which makes it difficult to assess whether his public reassurances were sincere or not. Leclerc seems to have intended to keep Louverture’s system of cultivateurs (‘it is so strict that I would never have dared to draft such a text in the current circumstances’); Rochambeau wanted to restore slavery, but never did.62

Louverture nevertheless urged his officers to resist the French invasion, explaining that promises of freedom were clever lies on Bonaparte’s part. ‘The Whites of France and Saint-Domingue all want to take our freedom away. . . . Be suspicious of the Whites for they will betray you if they can. Their most manifest desire is the restoration of slavery.’63 According to a French eyewitness account, Dessalines, upon hearing of the arrival of the French expedition, told his men that the French had come ‘to steal this freedom that cost us so many sacrifices and to push us back into a shameful 58 Letter from Toussaint Louverture to General He´ douville, 23 Thermidor Year VI [10 August 1798]: AN, CC9B/6; Colonial Office (Ministry of the Navy), ‘Rapport aux Consuls de la Re´ publique’, 27 Fructidor Year VIII [14 September 1800]: AN, CC9B/18. 59 Letters from Commissioner Roume to Sieye` s, 19 Fructidor Year VII [5 September 1799] and 9 Vende´ miaire Year VIII [1 October 1799]: AN, 284AP/13/6.
60 Colonial Office (Ministry of the Navy), ‘Rapport aux consuls de la re´ publique sur la colonie de Saint-Domingue’, Vende´ miaire Year IX [September- October 1800]: AN, CC9B/18. 61 Napoleon Bonaparte, ‘Proclamation du consul a` tous les habitants de Saint- Domingue’, 17 Brumaire Year X [8 November 1801]: CAOM, FM /F/3/202.
62 Letter from Leclerc to Minister of the Navy [Decre` s], 16 Flore´ al Year X [6 May 1802]: AN, CC9B/19; Colonial Office (Ministry of the Navy), ‘Extrait de diffe´ rentes lettres e´ crites par le Ge´ ne´ ral Rochambeau’, 3 Flore´ al Year XI [23 April 1803]: AN, CC9A/34. See also Marcel Dorigny and Yves Benot, 1802: Re´tablissement de l’esclavage dans les colonies franc¸aises (Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose 2003).
63 Letter from Toussaint Louverture to Brigadier General Domage, 20 Pluvioˆ se Year X [9 February 1802]: AN, CC9B/19. See also General Rigaud, ‘Re´ flexions du Ge´ n. Rigaud sur les e´ ve´ nements survenus a` Saint-Domingue depuis le de´ part du Ge´ n. He´ douville’, [c. 1799]: AN, 284AP/13/6. P H IL IP P E R. G IR AR D 153 Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 slavery. You know that in 1792 Blacks had no weapons to defend their freedom. Today, you have weapons.’ The report noted that ‘Blacks screamed and asked for the death of all Whites’.64

Initial fighting was fierce, but the French prevailed, and by June 1802 combat operations had seemingly come to an end. Contrary to all expecta- tions, Louverture’s capture and exile did not spark a general uprising, a possible consequence of his oppressive labour laws.65 The situation changed dramatically over the summer, partly because yellow fever decimated French ranks, but mostly because a series of political faux pas convinced the black population that the French were about to restore slavery.
Upon recovering Martinique and St Lucia (which had been under English occupation during the French Revolution), Bonaparte could have decided to extend the emancipation decrees of 1793- 4 to these islands, but he decided otherwise.66 Worse, General Richepanse, sent to occupy Guadeloupe (where the slaves had been freed in 1794), decided in May 1802 that he would restore slavery. ‘Gen. Richepanse’s decrees are well known here, and they hurt us a lot’, Leclerc complained.

The one restoring slavery . . . will cost the lives of many soldiers and civilians in Saint-Domingue. . . . [In Gros Morne,] 50 prisoners were hanged. Men die with incredible fanaticism. They laugh at death. The same with women. . . . This fury is the direct product of Gen. Richepanse’s proclamation and of the planter ’s inconsiderate declarations.67

After the arrival of French forces, the planters Leclerc alluded to in his letter boasted in public that slavery would soon be reinstituted in Haiti. Near Je´ re´ mie, a cultivateur who had been flogged by a rural policeman started ‘spreading dangerous rumours, and said while touching his wounds that Whites cut up niggers and will restore slavery ’.68 In the same district, towns- people complained that a young man named Collet, who managed his mother ’s plantation, was acting ‘with excessive injustice and cruelty against 64 Commandant Figeat, ‘Me´ moire’, 14 Vende´ miaire Year XI [6 October 1802]: AN, CC9A/32.
65 Letter from Leclerc to Minister of the Navy [Decre` s], 26 Prairial Year X [15 June 1802]: AN, CC9B/19. See also Fick, The Making of Haiti , 213- 14, which demonstrates that Blacks found the theoretical difference between cultivateurs and esclaves negligible. 66 Admiral Villeret Joyeuse, ‘Proclamation aux habitants de la Martinique et de Ste Lucie’, [c. 1802]: AN, CC9B/19.
67 Letter from Leclerc to Minister of the Navy [Decre` s], 21 Thermidor Year X [9 August 1802]: AN, CC9B/19. 68 Letter from Brigadier General d’Arbois to Ge´ ne´ ral de Division Desbureaux, 23 Thermidor Year X [11 August 1802]: AN, 135AP/1 (emphasis in original): the term ‘nigger ’ (ne`gre ), used commonly in Haiti, is not as pejorative in the local French as in modern English. 154 Patterns of Prejudice Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 his own workers’; everyone’s safety was ‘imperiled by such revolting conduct’.69

The French incorporated some black soldiers into their army, but their general policy was to disarm Blacks. The only rational goal of such a policy, Blacks reasoned, was to pave the way for the restoration of slavery. When the disarmament campaign intensified in the summer of 1802, uprisings broke out all over Haiti.70 The French only seized 30,000 guns, leaving 80,000 functioning weapons, or two for each adult black male. The Blacks refused steadfastly to give up their weapons, not trusting French promises of everlasting freedom. Spreading apart their children’s legs, some women told a French officer that they ‘would rather dismember them than see them enslaved’.71 The intensity of the Blacks’ feelings regarding slavery cannot be overestimated. A French officer, talking to a black general whose loyalty to France was undimmed, was ‘very touched’ by what the aptly named Paul Lafrance had to say.

He took me aside, crossed his hands on his chest and spoke to me in tears: ‘my general, you look honest, so tell me the truth: are you here to restore slavery? . . . Whatever happens, the old Paul Lafrance would never do you any harm . . . But my daughters, my poor daughters . . . slaves . . . Oh! I would die of grief.’72 Allegations that the French intended to restore slavery featured promi- nently in Dessalines’s 1804 speeches. He spoke of the ‘frightening despotism . . . imposed on Martinique’, of ‘G uadeloupe, devastated and destroyed’.73 Most importantly, he told Haitians that, as long as a planter class survived in Haiti, France and other European nations would send expeditions, as they had done for thirteen years. For slavery to be eliminated permanently, slave owners themselves had to be eliminated.

It was not enough to expel from our country the barbarians that have bloodied it for the past two centuries. . . . We must, by a last act of national authority, protect forever the country of our birth as an empire of freedom. We must take away from this inhuman government . . . every hope of enslaving us. We must live indepen- dent or die . . . . Let us frighten all those who would dare to steal our freedom; let us start with the French!74 69 Letter from the Council of Notables of Je´ re´ mie to Brigadier General d’Arbois, 8 Brumaire Year XI [30 October 1802]: AN, 135AP/1. The term ‘revolting’ was obviously chosen with great care.
70 Letter from Leclerc to Minister of the Navy [Decre` s], 4 Thermidor Year X [23 July 1802]: AN, CC9B/19.
71 Letter from Chef de Brigade Naverrez to Ministry of the Navy, 2 Ventoˆ se Year XI [21 February 1803]: AN, CC9A/30. 72 Quoted in Lacroix, La Re´volution de Ha¨ıti , 306. 73 Dessalines, ‘Proclamation’, 28 April 1804. 74 Dessalines, ‘Proclamation’, 1 January 1804 (emphasis in original). P H IL IP P E R. G IR AR D 155 Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 November 1802 to April 1804: the race war Haiti’s brutal journey through colonial exploitation, slave revolt, revolu- tionary turmoil, foreign invasion, war-time atrocities and revenge was not yet over. By the end of 1802, the war became a racial one, in which the colour of one’s skin, regardless of one’s social status, military role or political opinions, was sufficient to warrant execution. This last step on the path to genocide, ironically, was the result of France’s own policies. Sexual intercourse between white planters and their female slaves was common in eighteenth-century Haiti, so to divide the Haitian population into two, hermetically closed groups (Blacks and Whites) would grossly oversimplify racial divisions. With a ‘scientific’ precision exceeding that of the Nazis’ Nuremberg laws, Haitian historian Moreau de Saint-Me´ ry listed 128 distinct racial categories in Haiti, based on the amount of white and black blood in a person’s veins.75 Because they were often manumitted by their biological father, Mulattoes constituted a privileged class, wealthy enough to own land, plantations, even black slaves. Mulattoes and Blacks often found themselves at odds with each other, the War of the South being the classic example.76

In his instructions, Bonaparte advised Leclerc to play on these racial differences and side with Mulattoes against the Blacks. Leclerc failed to implement these orders, exiled mulatto generals such as Rigaud, and hired black generals such as Dessalines, whose loyalty proved illusory. But the true shift took place in November 1802, when Leclerc died of yellow fever and Rochambeau took over as Lieutenant-General of Haiti. Rochambeau’s hatred of the Mulattoes verged on the obsessional. In a bizarre party held in Port-au-Prince, he led mulatto women into a room decorated with candles and creˆ pe. He frightened them with the macabre atmosphere and chants, then told them that they had just attended the funeral of their brothers, and that the bodies were in the adjoining room.77

Arbitrary arrests of prominent mulatto citizens, massacres of black and mulatto troops suspected of disloyalty, and exactions by French soldiers convinced most Mulattoes to join ranks with the black rebels for whom they initially had little love.78 In the autumn of 1802, when over 1,000 black troops were drowned in Cap Franc¸ais, the officers who had briefly collaborated with the French (Henry Christophe, Dessalines, Andre´ Pe´ tion) defected and joined the rebels. ‘Casse´ ze´ , quitte´ jaunes, mange´ blan’: the simplicity of 75 Saint-Me´ ry, Description topographique , i.86- 100. 76 An alternative to the prevalent, race-based interpretation of the war is that Generals Rigaud and Louverture merely used racism to justify a highly personal power struggle for control of Haiti. Dubois, Avengers of the New World, 230- 3. 77 Lacroix, La Re´volution de Ha¨ıti , 347; A. J. B. Bouvet de Cresse´ (ed.), Histoire de la catastrophe de Saint Domingue (Paris: Peytieux 1824), 58. 78 Lacroix, La Re´volution de Ha¨ıti , 360, 364. 156 Patterns of Prejudice Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 Dessalines’s slogan befitted the stark reality now prevalent in Saint- Domingue. Break the eggs, take out of the yoke (a pun on the word ‘yellow’, which means both yoke and Mulatto) and eat the white.79 By December, the French only counted four officers of colour in their ranks.80 Skin colour was now the dividing line in Haiti.81

In her Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), Arendt explained that European racism helped rationalize the brutal treatment of Africans in the colonial era, and provided a powerful tool to enlist the help of ‘armed Bohemians’ (violent, lower-class mobs) in colonial ventures; racism and antisemitism later justified the Holocaust by placing victims of genocide in a subhuman category to which normal standards of guilt did not apply.82 Applying a racial framework is indeed useful in order to conceptualize the extreme, random violence that characterized the end of the Haitian conflict, with one caveat: the petits blancs were not the only ones to succumb to the racist virus. French officers, planters and black slaves also did. This reservation aside, racism facilitated the last, fateful step to genocide by dehumanizing the enemy, whether they were the black ‘savage beasts’ of French accounts or the white ‘tigers’ of Dessalinian proclamations, and by simplifying existing political divisions. There no longer were slave-owning Mulattoes, faithful black maids acting as informants for Louverture, black officers of dubious loyalty or cultivateurs moonlighting as rebels: any person with a dark skin was a rebel. There no longer were French officers enamored of revolutionary ideals, white planters who had collaborated with Toussaint, metropolitan troops forced to serve in Haiti or bons maıˆtres who treated their slaves well: all Whites had to leave or die. Systematic suspicion warranted systematic death. Despite his reputation as a moderate, Leclerc was the first one to understand that the war was heading towards a bloody, fateful denouement. ‘Here is my opinion on this country’, he wrote Bonaparte.

We must destroy all the Negroes in the mountains, men and women, keeping only infants less than twelve years old; we must also destroy half those of the plain, and leave in the colony not a single man of color who has worn an epaulette. Without this the colony will never be quiet.83

79 Quoted in Pachonski and Wilson, Poland’s Caribbean Tragedy, 121.
80 Letter from Rochambeau to Minister of the Navy [Decre` s], 23 Frimaire Year XI [14 December 1802]: AN, CC9B/19.
81 The rebel army kept a few white priests, enlisted some Polish deserters and received the support of the British navy and US merchants. ‘Extrait du journal du lieutenant de vaisseau Babron, embarque´ sur la Surveillante ’, Brumaire Year XII [October- November 1803]: AN, CC9A/36.
82 Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism , 185- 91, 317, 447- 9. 83 Letter from Leclerc to Napoleon Bonaparte, 7 October 1802, quoted in English translation in Henry Adams, History of the United States of America during the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson , ed. Earl N. Harbert (New York: Library of America 1986), 280. See also Lacroix, La Re´volution de Ha¨ıti , 360. P H IL IP P E R. G IR AR D 157 Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 After Leclerc died in November 1802, Donatien Rochambeau replaced him and acquired a reputation for killing coloured Haitians on a massive scale. Within a month of taking over, he wrote Paris that an essential step was ‘the destruction, or deportation, of black and mulatto generals, of officers, of soldiers, and of farm labourers, all of them’.84 He returned to this theme repeatedly over the following months, dropping the alternative (deporta- tion) and referring to ‘extermination’ instead of ‘destruction’.85


Parisian officials never addressed these demands,86 but they complained of French troops’ excessive brutality in putting down the revolt.87 Indeed, it might seem counter-intuitive to exterminate the entire black population when slaves were the backbone of Haiti’s plantation economy. But, Leclerc argued, Blacks were so corrupted by freedom that they could never be re- enslaved. It was safer, despite the human and financial cost, to kill them all and import a new batch of slaves from Africa.

To control the mountains after I defeat the rebels, I will have to destroy all the crops and a large part of the cultivateurs that have been accustomed to living like brigands for 10 years, and will never get used to working again. I will have to fight a war of extermination.88

Should the French stop short of extermination, Rochambeau later wrote, ‘we will have to start [this war] all over again every two or three years’.89

Commercial interests may argue that we are destroying all the Blacks: but one must understand that we must exterminate all the armed Blacks, the farm labourers and their chiefs and, to use a metaphor, cut the legs of everyone else: without this we will lose our colonies, and any hope of ever having any.90

84 Letter from Rochambeau to Minister of the Navy [Decre` s], 16 Frimaire Year XI [7 December 1802]: AN, CC9B/19.

85 Colonial Office (Ministry of the Navy), ‘Extrait de diffe´ rentes lettres e´ crites par le Ge´ ne´ ral Rochambeau’; letters from Rochambeau to Minister of Navy [Decre` s], 25 Nivoˆ se Year XI [15 January 1803] and 2 Ventoˆ se Year XI [21 February 1803]: AN, CC9B/19; letter from Rochambeau to Ministry of the Navy, 8 Flore´ al Year XI [28 April 1803]: AN, CC9A/34.

86 For example, see Colonial Office (Ministry of the Navy), ‘Extrait de diffe´ rentes lettres e´ crites par le Ge´ ne´ ral Rochambeau’, in which Rochambeau’s letters are transcribed and annotated, and the status of each of his demands is listed in the margin, apart from those referring to the immediate restoration of slavery and the extermination of the rebels.
87 Letters from Rochambeau to Ministry of the Navy, 25 Flore´ al Year XI [15 May 1803] and 23 Frimaire Year XI [14 December 1803]: AN, CC9B/19. 88 Letter from Leclerc to Ministry of the Navy, 30 Fructidor Year XI [17 September 1803]: AN, CC9B/19.
89 Letter from Rochambeau to Ministry of the Navy, 8 Flore´ al Year XI [28 April 1803]: AN, CC9A/34.
90 Letter from Rochambeau to Ministry of the Navy, 29 Frimaire Year XI [20 December 1802]: AN, CC9B/19. 158 Patterns of Prejudice Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 During the debates that preceded the departure of Leclerc’s expedition, various opponents of slavery had foreseen that genocide and slavery were intertwined in Haiti. To restore slavery, one of them wrote, France ‘would have to resort to the atrocious method of destruction, until there would not be a single nigger alive in the islands where emancipation has taken place’.91

A French victory, another one concurred, ‘could only be obtained by reducing the country to ashes, and immolating the cultivateurs . The colony, without farmers, would then cost money rather than benefit the metropolis.’92

The French unwittingly sealed their own fate by deporting Louverture. Louverture governed with the help of white secretaries and white planters whose expertise he viewed as essential to the island’s economic well-being. He also restrained the more murderous inclinations of those of his subordinates who talked of killing all Whites.93 His exile brought to the fore leaders who, like Dessalines, were racists. ‘What do we have in common with this people of executioners?’, Dessalines asked. ‘Its cruelty, which contrasts with our patient moderation, its colour, so different from ours, the vast seas that separate us, our vengeful climate: all of these are testimony to the fact that they are not our brothers, and that they will never be.’94 Leclerc and Rochambeau’s planned genocide never took place: they were defeated before they could implement it. Dessalines reached a similar conclusion; he won the war and carried it out.

The H aitian genocide and its historical cou nterparts The 1802- 4 period remains little studied, perhaps because it lacks the moral clarity typically associated with genocide. The perpetrators were murderers and rapists, but they were also former slaves fighting to preserve their freedom. The victims were unarmed civilians and wounded soldiers, but they were also members of the planter class that had abused the slaves for decades and would have carried out their own genocide had they won the war. For this reason, one may speak of a ‘co-genocide’ or ‘counter-genocide’. Haitian society was ethnically black and white, but morally far from Manichaean.

In the popular psyche, ‘genocide’ is virtually equated with the Jewish Holocaust of the Second World War. Those who use the term in a colonial 91 Letter from Alliot-Vauneuf to Lescalier, Council of State, 3 Prairial Year VIII [23 May 1800]: AN, CC9A/27.

92 General Lavaux, ‘Rapport’, 20 Brumaire Year VII [10 November 1798]: AN, CC9A/20. 93 Letter from Adjutant General Devaux to Ministry of the Navy, 11 Frimaire Year VIII [2 December 1799]: AN, CC9A/23; Toussaint Louverture, ‘Adresse faite par le ge´ ne´ ral en chef aux ge´ ne´ raux de brigade et aux chefs de colonne’, 24 Ventoˆ se Year VI [14 March 1798]: AN, CC9A/19.

94 Dessalines, ‘Proclamation’, 1 January 1804. P H IL IP P E R. G IR AR D 159 Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 context generally study genocides carried out by Whites against so-called inferior races (such as Native Americans, Jews and Hottentots).95 The 1804 Haitian genocide, in contrast, was a form of revenge exacted by an oppressed group against those who dominated it, much like the Rwandan and Cambodian genocides. It differs from the Holocaust not least in the fact that each side tried to annihilate the other, a policy that even Warsaw ghetto Jews never even imagined.

In many cases of genocide, responsibility is diffused. Low-level execu- tioners claim that they are merely carrying out orders, while senior officials argue that they never kill anyone personally, or even that they never give a written order. The result is collective guilt (as in the German- Jewish case) or no guilt at all (as in the Turkish- Armenian case). The protagonists of the Haitian tragedy may have been murderers, but they were no hypocrites. Leclerc, Rochambeau and Dessalines explained their motives, gave specific orders and personally oversaw their execution. Only French officials in Paris (Bonaparte included), who left dispatches from Haiti unanswered, and Louverture, who kept the brutal Dessalines on his staff, emerge as ambiguous figures.

The overt nature of the Haitian genocide also differs from the Holocaust. There has been considerable debate over whether Germans knew that Jews were being exterminated in the death camps; the Nazis went to great lengths, in Western Europe at least, to carry out the killings out of the public eye (the same was true in Cambodia).96 In Haiti, both Whites and Blacks massacred their opponents in the market squares; the French, who buried victims of the yellow fever at night, were more anxious to hide their own corpses than those of their victims. The reason for this transparency is two-fold. First, the killings were intended as a warning to the white (or black) population that those who dared fight would endure unspeakable hardships. Second, documents suggest that there was little popular opposi- tion to each side’s genocidal plans. Stories of faithful Blacks protecting their former masters, numerous in 1791, are rare in 1804. There is only one account of a French captain who refused to drown black prisoners as ordered.97

The road to genocide followed a path that in some regards was uniquely Haitian. Dessalines killed the Whites, he said, because this was the only way to defeat slavery (and, he could proudly add today, Haitian slaves were indeed the only ones whose revolt was successful). The genocide was also a 95 A. Dirk Moses, ‘Conceptual blockages and definitional dilemmas in the ‘‘racial century’’: genocides of indigenous peoples and the Holocaust’, Patterns of Prejudice , vol. 36, no. 4, 2002, 16; Ju¨ rgen Zimmerer, ‘Colonialism and the Holocaust: towards an archeology of genocide’, in Moses (ed.), Genocide and Settler Society, 51. 96 Jean-Louis Margolin, ‘Cambodia: the country of disconcerting crimes’, in Ste´ phane Courtois (ed.), The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 1999), 577- 635.
97 Christophe Paulin de la Poix, Me´moires du Chevalier de Fre´minville , 78. 160 Patterns of Prejudice Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 response to a specific list of crimes committed by the French in Haiti, both during the days of slavery and during the 1802- 3 war. That Haiti was a French colony probably explains why these slaves (and those of Guadeloupe) revolted in 1791, and not those of Jamaica, who had been traditionally more restless. The ideals of the French Revolution, when contrasted with the reality of colonial society, created an explosive mix that consumed an estimated 300,000 Haitians of all races from 1791 to 1804. That Louverture and, to a lesser extent, Leclerc were replaced by the sadistic Dessalines and Rochambeau was another accident of history with fateful consequences.
Other factors were of a more universal nature. Killing Jews to appropriate their wealth was a recurrent feature of mediaeval pogroms. Aryans, Hutus, ethnic Khmers and Turks would have seen nothing wrong with condemning a person on the basis of their ethnic ancestry. Communists and Jacobins would have agreed with Dessalines that the sanctity of human life paled in comparison with the success of a revolution. Frantz Fanon’s violent anti-colonial rhetoric echoed Dessalines’s earlier calls for an independence secured in blood. ‘Decolonization is quite simply the replacing of a certain ‘‘species’’ of men by another ‘‘species’’ of men’, Fanon wrote in The Wretched of the Earth (1961). ‘For if the last shall be first, this will only come to pass after a murderous and decisive struggle between the two protagonists.’98

What is more difficult, however, is to establish a direct link between the Haitian genocide’s more ‘modern’ features* political extremism, ra- cism* and its later counterparts. The event did not spark a string of successful slave revolts the way the US War of Independence served as a template for nineteenth-century Latin American wars of independence. Human, political, economic or intellectual connections between 1804 Haiti and, say, 1943 Germany are non-existent. The central assumption in Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism * that antisemitism and imperialism were precur- sors of totalitarianism* thus cannot be verified in the Haitian case.99 One should speak of similarities that are coincidental, not intentional; of succession, not causation. This disconnection mirrors revolutionary Haiti’s status as a society at the juncture of two periods. It was an ancien re´gime society, with sharp social and racial boundaries, mercantilist trade rules, a dictatorial government, forced labour and an agricultural economy; but it was also the richest colony of its time, a marvel of capitalism, in the middle 98 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth [1961] (New York: Grove Press 1968), 35, 37. 99 Arendt barely referred to the Caribbean at all, selecting instead the English experience in South Africa as a precursor of the death camps; Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism , 440. Arendt herself was less than categorical about imperialism- genocide links in some passages of her book; Roy T. Tsao, ‘The three phases of Arendt’s theory of totalitarianism’, Social Research , vol. 69, no. 2, Summer 2002. P H IL IP P E R. G IR AR D 161 Downloaded by [University of Miami] at 16:17 08 October 2013 of extensive trade routes, influenced by revolutionary ideals, as well as being a society with a distinctively modern capacity for evil.

Philippe R. Girard is Assistant Professor of Caribbean History at McNeese State University, Lake Charles, Louisiana, and the author of Paradise Lost: Haiti’s Tumultuous Journey from Pearl of the Caribbean to Third World Hot Spot (forthcoming from Palgrave Macmillan).

  • Written by: Philippe R. Girard
  • Tuesday, 03 June 2014

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