Nationalism in Haiti

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Updated: Mar 14, 2023
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Growing tensions through various countries have given rise to revolutions in hopes of creating better social, political and economic conditions. Extreme pride in your nation or ethnic group often leads to countries feeling superior to others. Commonly known as nationalism, this process can offer unification or division. Nationalism played an important role in the French and Haitian Revolutions, causing one and being the result of another. The countries were able to become independent and create their own forms of government. They showed other colonies what was possible when rebellions ensue.

During the 1700s, France was an absolute monarchy and had complete authority over the government and the people. The citizens resented this form of government because they had no influence in the government. The third estate consisted of commoners who had fewer rights than the clergy and nobility. The third estate was also forced to pay high taxes and the upper classes weren’t required to. The government spent too much money on lavish courts and wars and left the nation in debt. The French were inspired to revolt against their government, after America had successfully established an egalitarian society.. Human rights, equality and democratic reforms also contributed to the start of the revolution. The third estate was left to starve after the bad harvest of 1789 caused food prices to skyrocket including the price of bread.

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With the absolute monarchy demolished, a constitutional monarchy was instituted. The Church lost power and influence in society. The French Revolution inspired revolutions around the world. A new class, known as the bourgeoisie, used Enlightenment ideas established in America and made people question the set up of society. France lost colonies in America, which resulted in loss of enormous wealth. People became educated with new public schools. Enlightenment ideas spread throughout Europe and with the Declaration of the rights of man and citizen written, the French revolution sparked Nationalism.

During the 17th century, France colonized Haiti and set up large sugar plantations in and around Saint Domingue. Three distinct classes emerged, the whites, the mulattoes, and the slaves. Although a larger percentage multiracial people were free, they were not given the same rights as whites. They were viewed as second class citizens and subjected too many unfair laws. Tortured, beaten and exploited slaves benefited the mother country of France. Multiple slave-led revolutionary movements simultaneously emerged after discovering the success of the French Revolution. They used the French Revolutions Declaration of the Rights of Man as well as other enlightenment ideas as their inspiration to revolt. Toussaint L’Ouverture was the son of an educated slave that would go on to lead the most significant and successful slave rebellion in history by taking over the hundreds of slaves and free Mulattoes who were revolting and forming his own army. Slave Jean Jacques Dessalines also helped to lead the revolt.

Haiti gained independence in 1804, yet no nation recognized the country as a free state until 1820. Driven off the island, whites had to find new homes back in France. After the rebellion, Haiti stayed self-sufficient as there was no real government. Slave-owning societies placed trade embargoes on Haiti, fearing its example would encourage future slave revolts. It was still an agriculture based society centered around sugar exports. In exchange for world recognition, Haiti paid France millions in reparations which left them in huge debt. The Haitian Revolution helped spark revolutions throughout the globe. Due to his failure with Haiti, Napoleon decided not to maintain major colonies in the New World. America can thank Haiti for the land acquired by the Louisiana Purchase. Nationalism brought slaves together and they were able to rebel against France. The slaves were able to govern themselves through self-determination. The Haitian Revolution proved it is possible to overthrow colonialism and slavery, proved blacks could govern themselves, allowed principles of justice to become universal and embraced the ideas of independence and sovereignty.

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Nationalism in Haiti. (2019, Apr 18). Retrieved from