When the revolution broke out in 1789, the slogan of liberty, equality and fraternity insinuated itself into the African mind. Mr. Kurtagic notes that this led to “uprisings, riots, slaughter and destruction. Blacks and Mulattoes targeted the Whites, committing acts of unspeakable cruelty not unlike what we have seen in Black-ruled Zimbabwe and South Africa.” The whole ghastly story, complete with the various forms of torture employed upon the helpless whites, is recounted by Lothrop Stoddard in The French Revolution in San Domingo. […]
Napoleon briefly regained control, but his announcement of the reintroduction of slavery provoked another revolt. The black leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines declared Haiti an independent republic in 1804, and between January and March of 1805 his government systematically exterminated all surviving whites.
Since that time, Haiti has been governed much like the modern West African nations from which its population was taken: repeated coups and attempted coups, with each succeeding government resembling the last in venality and indifference to the public good.
When Hesketh-Prichard visited in 1899,* the ruins of French plantations were still visible, though they were rapidly being reclaimed by the jungle. Cap-Haitien, the onetime “little Paris… the center of luxury and fashion,” lay in ruins. A small black-man’s city of ramshackle wooden huts lay amid the sprawling stone ruins like “a sparrow’s egg in an abandoned eagle’s nest.” The plain which had been so prodigiously fertile in the days of French rule now produced “not a red cent;” cultivation had been abandoned, and its black inhabitants were content to enjoy the mangoes that still grew from the now-wild vegetation.
The best Haitians were of the poorer classes, especially those in the rural districts. Hesketh-Prichard found them impeccably polite and generous with the pitifully little they had. But these simple, good-natured people bore the twin weight of degrading superstition and a parasitical official class.
Voodoo, the real religion of Haiti, was a combination of ecstatic dancing, animal- and occasional child-sacrifice, and the multifarious poisoning techniques of a class of voodoo priests known as “papalois.” Hesketh-Prichard’s one proposal for social reform was the physical elimination of this class.
The Haitian army had more officers than enlisted men. Hesketh-Prichard claimed with only slight exaggeration that every third person he met in the country was a general. In rural districts local authority was exercised by such generals. They were often unpaid by the government and had to get their living by preying upon the people under their authority. The highest ambition of the common man was to be appointed general—which rarely required having to rise through lower ranks.
Urban areas enjoyed the protection of a police force armed with iron-tipped clubs called “coco macaques.” These men received no salary, but got a small sum for each person they arrested. When hungry, they could be observed arresting passers-by to collect enough for a meal. Conditions in the prisons were horrifying, and the prisoners were not fed. Escape “seemed to be childishly easy,” but the men did not have the enterprise to attempt it.
(American Renaissance, May 31, 2013).
* Hesketh-Prichard, Where Black Rules White: A Journey Across and about Haiti. New York: Charles Scribner, 1900.