How Haiti Saved the United States

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• Part 2: The Haitian Revolt
Part 3: The Haitian Legacy

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Part 1: The Early United States

A slave revolt in Haiti saved the United States. How did it happen? Largely through the efforts of one man: Toussaint L'Overture.

Not a slave himself, Toussiant nonetheless trained and led the half million African slaves on Haiti to victory after victory, over England and France, for more than a decade. In the process, he kept America free from European domination.

In 1791, the new country of the United States of America was just getting on its feet. George Washington would run for re-election that year, and the two great political parties (Federalist and Democratic-Republican) were angling to get their men into top positions in government yet again. The western borders of the country were ever expanding, as was the number of states admitted into the Union.

Bad for the fledgling country, though, was the presence of European troops all around:

  • English troops were still in Canada, stirring up trouble.
  • French troops were in Haiti and in Mexico.
  • Spanish troops were in South America and Central America.

The potential for European involvement in American affairs was high. President Washington and other government officials met with European officials time and again, trying to keep the peace and keep American out of European wars. But the more America refused to fight, the more both sides in a war came to hate America.

Europeans had been bringing African slaves to America and the surrounding area since 1619. By 1791, the slavery system was so ingrained in the lifestyles of both Europeans and Africans that it seemed like it could go on indefinitely. At least that's what the Europeans thought.

The Africans saw it differently. And in 1791, they rose up in defiance of their captors. The place was Saint Domingue (Haiti), a small Caribbean island then owned by France. This was France's wealthiest colony, and that wealth came almost exclusively from the plantations that were worked by African slaves.

Next page > The Haitian Revolt > Page 1, 2, 3

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