Title of Course: Black History 201: The History of Haiti

Instructor: Mba Mbulu

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Class #11: The French Revolution / France, Part 2 [ Audio Version]

Read the Essay below. Be able to answer and expound on the following questions.


(1) As far as Black People in the Caribbean were concerned, what was the greatest development that came out of the French Revolution?
(2) Do you think the Haitian Revolution was a product of the French Revolution? Explain.
(3) Did the French Revolution have any affect on the Haitian Revolution?
(4) What was the key to the success or failure of the Haitian Revolution?

Class #11 Essay

On July 14, 1790, the king was forced to accept a new French constitution that took away nearly all of his power and reorganized the political and social norms of France. Still trying to regain his power, the king attempted to escape to an area that his supporters controlled. From there he would carry out a counter revolution and restore order. However, his plan to escape did not succeed. He was captured by the French masses and forced to sign the new constitution. Later, he would be beheaded, but on paper at least, practically all of French society had experienced some drastic changes.

But the tug of war for power continued. Just as unintended developments came out in early stages of the tug of war between the king and the bourgeoisie, unintended developments came out as competing parties struggled for control of the government after the new constitution went into effect. The development that was most crucial to Black People in the Caribbean was the rumor that slavery had been abolished.

Historians, both traditionalists and non-traditionalists, tend to declare that the Haitian Revolution was a product of the French Revolution. I am in staunch opposition to that assertion. The French Revolution revolved around conditions and ideologies that emerged around the 1780s. Hundreds of years before that, the Haitian Revolution had already begun attempting to overthrow the status quo, but was unsuccessful. The number of serious attempts at resurrection and self government is proof of this. Additionally, the people of color in Haiti were a mass of humanity quite distinct from the French people; they probably never thought of allowing the French masses to define their destiny. The Haitian Revolution had been in need of an introduction of factors, many of them haphazard, that could propel their struggle to a more furtunate outcome, and the political instability in France generated by the French Revolution introduced some of those factors. Still, even after being introduced, it was up to the Haitian people to make the most of the situation. Because they had been making a revolution all along, they were able to make the most of the situation.

The Haitian Revolution was not a product of the French Revolution. The French Revolution temporarily weakened and destabilized the French political establishment, but it did not make the Haitian Revolution. If the same or similar weaknesses in the French government had been present at an earlier time, it is possible that one of the earlier uprisings in Haiti would have led to the abolition of slavery and the establishment of a Black nation. Whereas what might have happened is conjecture, what did happen is fact. In this case, the facts are clear: stages in the development of the Haitian Revolution preceded the French Revolution by decades. Even though the Haitian Revolution did not reach completion until after the ill fated French Revolution started, the Haitian Revolution was in no way a product of the French Revolution.

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