On the Rachel Maddow show last night, the Haitian ambassador to the U.S. made a startling statement about the connection between the Haitian Revolution and the sale of the Louisiana Territory to the U.S. Not knowing that Pat Robertson had mumbled something about Haiti’s “deal with the devil” earlier in the day, I was taken aback by the ambassador’s angry rebuttal. When Rachel apologized to the ambassador for the “odious” comments made by some Americans, I realized something nasty was going on. I figured out what had happened later in the evening.
The polite thing to call Pat Robertson is senile. Given my utter contempt for those who use religion to build walls of hatred between groups of people, I could come up with some more descriptive words than senile. But, instead, I went online to learn more about the Haitian Revolution looking for some decision or event that could be construed as a “pact with the devil.”
The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) is the period of violent conflict in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, leading to the elimination of slavery and the establishment of Haiti as the first republic ruled by blacks. Although hundreds of rebellions occurred during the slave era, only the revolt on Saint-Domingue, beginning in 1791, was successful in permanently abolishing slavery. The Haitian Revolution is the only successful slave revolt in human history,  and, as such, is regarded as a defining moment in the history of Africans in the new world.
Conditions were so horrible for slaves on the island that the birth rate did not keep up with the death rate which meant bringing in a continual supply of Africans to work the sugar cane fields. Anyone who has visited tropical countries can imagine how inhumane the life of these innocent people must have been.
Small groups of slaves who could escape into wooded areas combined to raid plantations in an attempt to cut into French profits.
Although the numbers in these bands grew large (sometimes into the thousands), they generally lacked the leadership and strategy to accomplish large-scale objectives. The first effective leader to emerge was the charismatic François Mackandal, who succeeded in unifying the black resistance.
Mackandal was captured by the French and burned at the stake in 1758. Other captured black leaders were tortured to death.
Fast forward to the French Revolution era. Napoleon was beginning to question whether his holdings in the Western Hemisphere were worth the cost in blood and treasure. His war with Great Britain being his top priority, he sold off his territories in Canada and the United States.
So the Haitian ambassador was right last night on the Rachel Maddow show when he linked the rebellions by Haitian slaves and the incredibly cheap deal America got by purchasing the Louisiana Territory from the French.
I certainly didn’t find anything in this story that could be called a “pact with the devil.” Maybe Robertson will expand on his theory today or sometime soon. Meanwhile, I’m afraid the viewers of his TV show will believe him and use his nonsense as one more confirmation of their racist view of Haiti and its people. Quel dommage.