Excerpt from Konijeti Beevti’s “Years of Revolution: Boston to Bhārata”, Vij Publishing House, 1962 (translation by Earl Henderson).
In August of 1796, as the bloodshed began to reduce for the first time in St. Domingue in nearly five years, an election occurred to send deputies to France. Influenced by Toussaint L’Ouverture, the two French commissioners, Levauex and Sonthonax, won seats to represent St. Domingue in Paris. Laveaux departed for France in October while Sonthonax remained, seeking to finish his 18-month term as commissioner before returning to France. Sonthonax would leave in August of 1797 but not before securing a new governor from France, Gabriel Marie Joseph, Comte d’Hédouville. d’Hédouville sought to maintain Paris’ influence in the colony by dividing L’Ouverture and Rigaud against each other, a tactic that worked well. Little known to L’Ouverture, there was a growing fear in France regarding a powerful freed slave leading an army, consolidating power, and consistently besting his white rivals. The Directorie sent d’Hédouville to St. Domingue to rival L’Ouverture just as much as they sent him to restore French rule.
By this point, L’Ouverture, and his black troops, harbored suspicions about Paris’ intentions. The peace treaties with Spain and Britain reopened consistent lines of communication and trade between St. Domingue and France. Immediately, powerful merchant and gran blanc lobbies began pressuring the Directorie to restore the slave trade and rein in freedoms. Brief discussions remain on record of sending the famed Napoléon Bonaparte to St. Domingue to restore order but the great general nixed the idea in favor of his Egyptian campaign (leading to d’Hédouville’s appointment). L’Ouverture understood the manipulation, and his soldiers and supporters had to know that France benefited more from them in chains in the cane fields than as freedmen working on small parcels of land. Yet, what could he do? Mullatoes flocked across St. Domingue to the “safety” of Rigaud’s southern territory. A few skirmishes had already interrupted the nascent peace. A restart of the war appeared inevitable.
Then on August 23, 1798, Matthew Morris, an American envoy, stepped off a ship from Philadelphia onto a dock in Port-au-Prince, carrying a secret message to L’Ouverture from John Adams. The American President proposed independence and annexation, the removal of the meddling French and a final opportunity for whites and mullatoes to become part of a free St. Domingue that could rebuild its society and economy, free of slavery, within the structure of the United States.
The astounding proposal changed the face of world history.
Excerpt from Theodore Roosevelt’s “The History of the Order of Freedom”, unpublished internal work, 1913
“In all of our work, over all these long years, there is one singular aberration that has confounded traditional historians due to its occurrence and is the most glaring evidence that we exist in the shadows, manipulating men and pulling the strings of history.
That aberration is Haiti.
There is no, legitimate, reason that American society in 1798 would have annexed and accepted the Haitians without the widespread use of manipulation. In 1797, Haiti symbolized everything Americans feared. It stood as an emblem of social revolution and of colored success and resistance. The death and exile of tens of thousands of whites struck a nerve with plantation owners from Jamaica and Barbados to the Carolinas. To the racially minded whites of the time, why would they willingly invite the fox of revolution and revolt into their prospering and ordered henhouse?
Haiti makes no sense and I shudder to think what happened to that poor state in other, non-manipulated, historical realities.
When this esteemed society first inducted me, I had many of the same novice questions new members have. What influence did this secret society have on the constitution? Did the Civil War fracture our membership? And, of course, when did (if they even did!?) these men decide America could no longer afford to be a country exclusively for the white race?
Surely, you would imagine that the question of race must have been a key point of debate and discussion from the moment Washington received the technology. The answer to that question is yes, but it is not nearly as expansive as one would think according to the record.
As you will note from my preface, we have precious few notes or historical documents at our disposal regarding the founding days of the Order. I have to imagine in these preliminary conversations, when Washington recruited men like Franklin and Jefferson, that questions about the long-term makeup of a global United States had to have been asked. These men included slave owners, yet now found themselves charged with uniting the world and the world includes Africa. All were devoted, or at least nominal, Christians and the world is full of Moslems, Hindus, and shamanists. Tasked with uniting a world of countless nations, races, religions and tongues, it should be noted that every one of them were Englishmen.
One of two options lies before us. First, either these conversations about the long-term racial makeup of the United States were truly sparse, an issue to be ignored and swept under the rug, for nearly 30 years. Second, that these conversations occurred but they often occurred in private, off the record and minutes, in the shadows of a society that, itself, exists in the shadows.
Without a record, the best we can do is hypothesize.
It is my belief that the founding members of this society choose to have their conversations off the record. I base this hypothesis for two reasons.
First, Order meetings rarely wax poetic, especially in those days. Until the Philadelphia Convention, Order meetings were typically ad hoc occurrences based on need. The several occurrences on record of larger political and philosophical discussion occurred during periods of substantive change for the Order itself. The first came during the discussions regarding the creation and adoption of the Charter. The second came immediately before the war with France when the Order met three times to debate fixing the election to assure an ordered transition. Even then, these debates either mirror public debate, or focus on political mechanics (such as the nature of inducing new members or vote thresholds). In neither of these events do we have any record of debate touching on long-term expansion and the issue of turning the country from a predominantly white Christian entity into a multicultural empire. Yet, debate never took anyone by surprise. Indeed, the minutes often did not take myself by surprise with political philosophies and voting records (as best I could piece together due to some votes being secret) often aligning as any layman would expect. As I have so often stated, the real world outside of the Order far more often influenced the outcome of Order decisions and debate rather than the other way around.
Thus, when the issue of race or religion occurred on the record, the outcomes lack in surprise and are often short and to the point.
On June 2, 1776 the issue of Québec’s Catholicism came up. Richard Henry Lee asked a general question if there were reasons to be concerned about maintaining unity if the country included papists. Jefferson replied that it did not concern him because the modern era was reducing the influence of fanatics that would use religion to wedge apart societies in pursuit of their own agenda. He cited the improved relations between European Protestants and Catholics, especially English Protestants and Irish Catholics. He suspected “growing pains” but not enough to break the country especially if the country had the backing of the Order. Samuel Adams expressed concern with integrating “mystics and perhaps Mohammadeans” but postulated that the “moderating” effects of individual liberty or Christianity would accompany an orderly spread of American values. This is the only conversation, on the record, the Order has ever had about Québec’s Catholicism and there were no debates in our formative years about the significant catholic populations of Maryland, Dominica or St. Vincent. Yet, if Catholicism was such a benign issue to the Order members, why was the royalist, and very Anglo-protestant, Guy Carleton brought into the fold instead of a local French Catholic leader? Why did it take nearly 50 years from the inception of the Order for a Catholic to gain admission? Why did the great friends of Lafayette and Rochambeau leave those statesmen on the other side of the door? Strategy? Happenstance? Prejudice? All of the above?
I also would like to highlight that brief, yet incredibly important, aside from Adams: “that the “moderating” effects of individual liberty or Christianity would accompany an orderly spread of American values.” A wayward thought, or an indication of the incredible conversations occurring off the record, we can only speculate.
Remarkably, the issue did not come up for nearly another decade, until the Philadelphia Convention when one of the Charter meetings featured a telling exchange between Jefferson and Carleton while discussing the larger constitutional proceedings, namely the debate over apportionment and active versus passive citizenry. As Franklin wrote:
“Mr. Carleton asked Mr. Jefferson if he believed the apportionment methods being discussed would, or would not, create a political crisis in ‘some time’ that could undermine the stability of the country.
Mr. Jefferson replied that he believed any issues created by the methods [of apportionment] would not rise to the level of a political crisis capable of destroying the country. He further stated that he supposed it even helped assure future stability because it set precedent that every person counts as a whole even if they are unfit or not ready for full rights.
Mr. Carleton asked when Mr. Jefferson supposed the unfit might become fit.
Mr. Jefferson said that he supposed the public would know when the time is right and he supposed a time would come when the Order would accelerate that fitness.”
As far as I can tell, until July 8, 1798, this is the only time the Order went on record, even if it was brief and vague, and in the midst of discussing constitutional mechanics, regarding citizenship and fitness. Even then the matter occurred through thinly veiled allusions to race, slavery and the future. The casual mention of “acceleration” almost appears as if this “acceleration” is something everyone already knew about. Furthermore, this statement would prove eerily prophetic, unless, of course, it was not a prediction at all.
Secondly, the meeting of July 8, 1798 was orderly and acted almost as a “closing arguments” before a technology vote. This is opposed to a prolonged philosophic debate about the future of history and the Order as were recently seen in this era with the succession of Washington to Adams at the expense of Jefferson .
For the first time, we see dedicated, on the record, discussion regarding expanding the United States into the larger non-white, non-Christian, world. For such a monumental meeting, it is amazing it occurred over two hours of one day. In comparison, the Order drafted and adopted the Charter over ten meetings while the decision to fix the presidential election occurred over three meetings. I believe this fact lends credence to the hypothesis that these discussions occurred, over time, off the record.
Like most Order meetings, the discussion focuses on the mechanical rather than the philosophic. Much of Adams’ minutes reflect discussion about the war with France, keeping the navy in the dark, legal and geopolitical ramifications of mass annexation and other important details. Haiti comes up many times as a military target and its importance in opening up expansion into the Spanish Main, the Greater Antilles and ending the French threat in the Americas. The members discussed these details in full but the tone of the conversation seems to indicate the membership had already made up its mind about some form of strategic action.
Only towards the end of the open discussion does the issue of annexation come up. An orderly debate took place over about 40 minutes and lacked in surprises. The most discussed question was whether annexation would lead to secession by the existing slave states. Everyone agreed that the anxiety amongst the population was high and annexation could lead to legislative defeat (perhaps even with the use of the technology) or civil war. A brief discussion about making Haiti a slave state went nowhere but did lead to this humorous exchange recorded by Adams:
“Mr. Monroe questioned if it would not help to strike a balance between the nations to be added, and the existing system of slavery, if race was removed from the equation. He supposed it could ensure economic viability of the institution domestic and abroad, if white and mullato prisoners and other outlaws were condemned to slavery while avenues to liberty and citizenship were made available to exceptional blacks worthy of active citizenship. In this way he supposed, over time, the United States could shed the problem of racial slavery and evolve into a new roman republic where slavery was based on defeat, and merit could lead to citizenship.
Mr. Clinton replied that Mr. Monroe was welcome to introduce that legislation at his convenience.”
Three members finished the discussion with brief speeches that could be equated to closing arguments. Naturally two of the three men happened to also be attorneys.
Jefferson waxed poetic about the how Haitian annexation would establish precedent for the global mission of the Order. He advocated for embracing the challenge to strengthen the country over the option of delay:
“Gentlemen, it is no secret that we have been waiting for this moment for years. It is our task to unite the world, which means the Earth and its many nations. There are notable and justified anxieties about this. I have little doubt that there is much work that lies before us. I also have no doubt that reward will follow. The division before us today is simple. We can choose to either reject, or delay, our mandate and pursue a republican empire for our own people resulting in a country that will, one day, encompass the Americas, Europe, Siberia and perhaps some outposts but will forever forsake Africa, the Moslem world and Asia. Or, we can embrace the challenge of our mission and spread not just peace and liberty through our own lands but also through the lands of the whole world. No power of tyranny can oppose our republic if we free all the nations of the world, unite them under our flag and infuse in them a spirit of liberty, civilization and industriousness.”
Adams urged the members to consider not just the larger ramifications but to remember the specific issues of Haiti in their votes.
“I do not oppose Mr. Jefferson’s words. Indeed, I echo them in many respects. Instead, I rise to augment his passion with a reminder. Today’s decision may have long-lasting effects towards our culture, our history, and our shared experience with all beings on this Earth, but we must remember that expansionist precedent cannot trump the specific question at hand. Is Saint-Domingue a viable territory for the United States to absorb? A decade ago, I would have undoubtedly agreed to its inclusion if the opportunity arose. Today I am not so sure. Can the technology, can our efforts, stabilize years of slave revolt? Can we realistically work with the Crixiuses and Spartacuses of this revolution and incorporate their land into our own in a way that leads to mutual prosperity? I believe that we can. I believe that we have the moral responsibility to end that rich island’s bloodshed and replace it with true liberty. But, I urge every man here to consider the effort and toil to come on Saint-Domingue, and elsewhere, before they cast their vote. Regardless, I shall stand with the decision of this body.”
Washington, in an astoundingly rare break from his typical role as the neutral leader, almost seemed to advocate in favor of Haitian annexation as a way to further their mission and perhaps even weaken the institution of slavery and reel in the excesses of the Haitian revolution. Further, he cited annexation as good for the country, not just the Order.
“Friends, when I stepped down from command of the army after the war I said that the result of the revolution will either be a blessing or a curse but the result lies in the hands of millions of unborn. This country’s destiny is tied to our citizen’s ability to forego prejudices, local policies, and perhaps even individual advantages that benefit the person at the expense of their country. I stand by those words as well as our mandate. Every man in this room knows where his conscience lies when it comes to the questions of slavery, abolition, freedom and the egregious violence seen in that land. I urge you to vote your conscience, to remember our mandate, or do what you believe is best for the soul of our country.”
Ultimately, Washington postulated four questions, each dependent on the other, and to be put to a vote.
First, did the membership believe the Order’s mission required the immediate annexation of Haiti while the opportunity lie before them. This was a political question requiring a majority vote.
The vote passed with four nays.
Second, did the Order believe it necessary, to ensure the stability of the United States, to use the technology to moderate cultural and political leanings of citizens in United States to accept Haitian annexation? This was a technology vote where two nays resulted in rejection.
The vote passed with one nay vote.
Third, did the Order believe it necessary to utilize the technology to moderate cultural and political leanings of Haitians and interested parties so that annexation would be readily accepted with minimal violence. This was also a technology vote.
The vote passed unanimously.
Lastly, did the Order believe it necessary to utilize the technology to influence Haitian society and culture to ease long-term integration into the country, minimize violence and political animosity between states and citizens and accelerate the pace of civilization? This was also a technology vote.
The vote passed unanimously.
The unanimous votes, coupled with the briefness and tone of discussion and that Jeffersonian phrase “acceleration” lead me to conclude that the Order members knew, and had decided amongst themselves years before, that the United States would be global, and it would not be a white empire, it would incorporate colored territories with the intention of making them equal states and citizens. Perhaps most important of all, the decision was made, and the precedent laid down, that the technology would be used to fundamentally change Haitian society to ease their integration.
Excerpt from Konijeti Beevti’s “Years of Revolution: Boston to Bhārata”, Vij Publishing House, 1962 (translation by Earl Henderson).
On October 19, a dispatch arrived in Philadelphia from Port-au-Prince. L’Ouverture accepted the American bargain. Immediately, the navy sent out dispatches ordering a blockade of certain ports around St. Domingue. The U.S. raised supplies and shipped them to Port-au-Prince along with about 50 officers to observe and advise the Haitian rebels. However, both L’Ouverture and Adams withheld an immediate announcement of the secret deal.
The disastrous war with America already angered Paris but the interference in the delicate, nearly decade-long, situation in St. Domingue infuriated the Directorie. However, there was little Paris could do with so many military and naval resources tied up in Europe and Egypt.
On November 11, the American’s St. Domingue blockade captured d’Hédouville’s ship in his attempt to flee Cap Français for the metropole. The cowardice of the Commissioner proved to be a great public relations boon for L’Ouverture. L’Ouverture’s generals, Henri Christophe and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, put down several lingering uprisings in the north, but for the most part the north and central parts of the colony remained pacified. City leaders renamed Cap Français to Cap Haïten to commemorate the new era. With most of the bloodshed over slavery, the revolution and the cultural hierarchy in the past, L’Ouverture made it known that his efforts would be spent unifying St. Domingue and liberating it from the broken French system altogether. The announcement, coupled with L’Ouverture’s popularity, immediately reset the sides in the long war. Before, the battle for St. Domingue played out across three sides. Pro-L’Ouverture forces (mostly blacks, but not many republican mullatoes and whites, who demanded full equality for society) squared off against pro-Riguad forces (mostly mullatoes with varying views on slavery and the old caste system) and pro-slavery forces (a dwindling minority that hoped for the status quo antebellum). Now, it became L’Ouverture’s new society versus those who stood in opposition. This essentially lumped the conservative mullatoes in with French republicans and pro-slavery whites. With slavery all but eliminated from the colony, Riguad’s forces in hiding to the south and the French commissioner in American hands, L’Ouverture won this new battle before it even began.
On December 2, 1798 L’Ouverture made a general call for an election, with universal male suffrage, to send delegates to Port-au-Prince to form a government and formally declare independence. The election was somewhat shaky, and some regions in the south were unrepresented due to the ongoing conflict, but on January 15, 1799, 53 delegates arrived in Port-au-Prince and called the 1st Haitian Assembly to order. On January 27, the French colony of St. Domingue was swept away with the issuance of a formal Declaration of Independence (largely modeled on the 1776 U.S. Declaration). The delegates drew up a constitution in early February formally creating the Republic of Haiti. Remarkably, few knew that the revolutionary leaders intended the new republic to be little more than a placeholder.
This was a rapid and radical turn of events but the exhausted populace received it well. The convoluted situation in Paris was only exacerbating the situation on the ground in Haiti and it was clear to many by 1799 that a clean break was necessary. By this point, it was clear to anyone paying attention that the French Revolution was now less about enlightenment ideals and the rights of individuals and more about politics and foreign adventures. Many observers saw the Directorie as ineffective and weak and the French system as clearly unsustainable. This was translating into Haiti and only making a bad situation worse. By 1798, it was clear to all but a few stubborn conservative holdouts that slavery was finished and equality was the goal. The only question to discuss now was what version of equality would be put in place. More often than not, that translated to a fear of a huge black population dominating minority mullatoe and white populations. Thus, the question of equality was generally a question of equity. Would individuals be equal? Would racial groups and castes be equal? What of the still dramatic inequality of wealth? To L’Ouverture, those were questions no longer meant to be resolved on the battlefield but rather in a legislature.
With the mechanisms of independence in place, and a tentative peace holding across the country save for some pockets in the south, L’Ouverture risked his next move: annexation. On February 3, 1799 L’Ouverture formally announced his intention to seek annexation as a full free state within the United States. The move would secure Haiti’s borders and preserve the peace as France refused to accept the situation. L’Ouverture’s announcement did not meet with unilateral acclaim and acceptance, but the vast majority of the new country proved willing to follow their leader. Some dissenters claimed that annexation only threatened Haitian freedom and invited American slave state interference. Optimists, including L’Ouverture, believed Haiti could promote freedom and equality within the American structure and preserve the peace while remaining independent only invited further interference and calamity, from either Europe or a later American administration.
In the United States, the announcement ignited a firestorm of outcry and debate. Free states embraced the proposal but lacked enthusiasm. Québec proved to be the only enthused domestic champion of Haitian annexation, excited to add another French state into the mix. Slave states, especially in the Caribbean, panned the proposal but the criticism was not as harsh as one would expect compared to the panic and vitriol leveled at the revolution near its inception. On February 24, The Haitian Assembly approved a formal request for annexation to be sent to Philadelphia.
Excerpt from Dr. Tyler Lyon’s “Slavery and the Slave Trade in the Atlantic World”, University of Oxford Press, 2017.
“Without the outbreak of the French Revolution it is unlikely that the system in Saint Domingue would have broken down in 1789, but the conditions were ripe. Haiti became something of a canary in the coalmine of the Caribbean regarding the institution of slavery. The metropoles in Paris, Madrid and Philadelphia did not know it at the time but the vast Caribbean slave system had already peaked. From 1789 until the Civil War, nearly 43 slave revolts occurred across the Caribbean basin. Martinique slaves revolted in August of 1789 after hearing about the revolution in France. Three slave revolts plagued Barbados in 1816 and John Thomas’ famed revolt plunged Jamaica into crisis in 1833. These revolts combined with slave rebellions in the mainland United States (such as Nat Turner’s August 1831 rebellion in Virginia) and the Latin American Wars of Independence to demonstrate that the slave economy would never be stable or sustainable. Instead, the toxic social mix of the plantation economy created a situation where instability amongst the controlling political population nearly ensured revolt amongst the slave population.
The toxic social environment of slave economies and the potential for one spark to ignite a tinderbox are not luxuries we can only see today with the benefit of hindsight. These social problems were obvious even to those who lived in slave systems and sought to exert economic and political control. This knowledge by colonial administrators and white masters from Baltimore to Barbados is what made the Haitian Revolution so controversial and so dangerous. From the moment the tinderbox went up in flames thanks to the spark from Versailles, efforts began to put the genie back into the bottle. France, Spain and Britain all made attempts, in their own way, to exert control over Haiti and reduce, or end, the slave revolt. When the United States became involved, they took a more moderate approach aimed, firstly, at reducing the threat of the massed slave revolt and, two, exerting control (in their own unique American way) over the spiraling situation.
Until October 1798 when Toussaint L’Ouverture accepted an American proposal to seek independence and annexation, the Haitian Revolution was quite divergent from its 1770’s American counterpart. The American Revolution left slavery intact and was more political than social or economic. The Haitian Revolution was simultaneously political, social and economic. It sought to destroy slavery and institute liberties. It sought to destroy the plantation system and replace it with a more equitable situation. Towards the end of the revolution, it sought independence from France just as the American colonists sought independence from Britain. In their quest to seek a better, freer, life for themselves, the Haitians were chipping away at the foundations of political and social thought across the Atlantic world. Haiti was yet another major revolution bucking the old order. It was the first successful revolution by non-Europeans against one of the great empires. It spooked slave owners and traders on four continents. A successful Haitian model of independence even threatened the American model which some in the United States (not so secretly) wished to export. The success of the revolution dealt a deathblow to emerging social theories about the superiority of whites or that slavery produced a form of “social death” that crippled one’s ability to be viable active citizen. The immense effort of reorganizing the Haitian economy demonstrated (to many landowners’ horror) that wholesale changes to a region’s economic setup could show at least some success. Until 1791, Saint Domingue’s economy, like the rest of the Caribbean, featured a latifundia system of large plantation estates. After several years of revolution, these large estates found themselves increasingly reorganized into a minifundist, small-scale and marginally self-sufficient, society. An internal economy of consumption replaced the export plantation economy.
These revolutionary, and rapid, changes are precisely why the American-European powers sought a path of intervention. They are also why the European empires failed. Britain and Spain fought for the world of 1788 and found in the Caribbean and in Europe that there was no going back. France, mired in its own civil war, came the closest to retaining control but the divisions were too deep and the instability in Paris too great to succeed. Only the United States, and its terrified slave states, succeeded. How? Why?
To the uninformed, the most prudent option for Philadelphia would have been to either storm Haiti and put down the exhausted rebellion where the Europeans had failed or blockade and isolate the new country indefinitely in hopes that the cancer of liberty did not spread to their own oppressed slave populations. However, these “prudent” options are of old world thought for a world the United States knew was changing.
American leaders sought to unmake the slave revolt by backing it up from a full-on social revolution to an American style political revolution. Of course, they knew that they had no hope of reinstituting slavery or white control but there was hope of undoing some of the nascent proto-socialist damage and make Haiti a free state, not dissimilar from Pennsylvania or Connecticut. There were also fears that an independent Haiti might seek to export its own revolution across the Caribbean. Several skirmishes had occurred along (and in some cases slightly across) the border with Santo Domingo. If Haiti could take Hispaniola, it would require a herculean effort by the United States to prevent its ideology from spilling into Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Bahamas and Cuba. By meeting the Haitians halfway, the United States could use its more mature legislative, judicial (and military) system to incorporate Haiti and keep the excesses in check. Haitian annexation also meant more immediate and clear-cut victories such as the final expulsion of a European empire out of the New World and the United States gaining even more incredibly valuable Caribbean territory.
These thoughts were not unfounded. Like the revolution in France, the Haitian Revolution had moderate, conservative and radical elements all at play along with socio-economic factors. A moderate Haiti was infinitely more preferable than a Jacobin Haiti. Already, seven years of revolution and fighting had scattered emigres of Saint Domingue around the Caribbean. Haitian emigrants, whether they be white or mullatoe, revitalized agricultural communities in Puerto Rico and Cuba and added distinctive cultural flavors to New Orleans, Nassau and Spanish Town. Several debates occurred on the floor of the Jamaican House of Assembly questioning whether an American Haiti would exacerbate, or assist, the ever present problem of maroon communities deep in the Blue Mountains.
Despite the rationale and the strategy, many whites, and especially many slave owners, were extremely skeptical of President John Adams’ support strategy and subsequent annexation proposals.”
Excerpt from Konijeti Beevti’s “Years of Revolution: Boston to Bhārata”, Vij Publishing House, 1962 (translation by Earl Henderson).
While the debate played out, the final opposition factions in Haiti fell. Rigaud’s faction collapsed shortly after L’Ouverture’s announcement. Lingering holdouts remained in the south but the February 19, 1799 Battle of Jacmel ended the last bits of resistance. Rigaud died in the fighting and L’Ouverture and his generals were quick to ensure peace throughout the countryside. A few French ports fell in March and April with the last civil administrators from Paris sent back by Easter. The last battle of the war occurred at Pic le Selle on April 20. The Assembly passed a general amnesty on July 18.
Adams and the U.S. Congress accepted the Haitian request and took up the matter in April of 1799. This coincided with two occurrences that probably changed many congressional representatives’ votes on what, otherwise, should have been an up and down “nay” vote. On April 21, Vice President Briggs’ committed political suicide and published a letter that circulated across many Caribbean newspapers in defense of annexation. In his letter, Briggs’ argued for expansion of the United States over European empire, an expansion of liberty and justice and the ability for the U.S. and Haiti to work together to prevent ultra-radical Jacobinism from infiltrating the New World. The letter did not assuage all fears, but Briggs’ name carried tremendous weight in the Caribbean. He lost many supporters and any hope of running from president, but the cause gained just as many proponents (or at least neutrals) from his efforts. Second, Briggs’ letter proved prophetic in July when a small French fleet, and 3,000 troops, arrived at Les Cayes to make a final effort at retaking the colony. Legend holds the Royal Navy allowed this fleet to slip the blockade of Bordeaux when they learned their destination in hopes of quietly interfering with further American conquest of the Caribbean. The resource demand of the Anglo-Russian invasion of Holland is a more likely reason for the French slip of the British blockade as many ships found themselves dispatched back to the Channel for the coming invasion.
The French, led by Charles Mathieu Isidore Decaen, sought to find support amongst the Riguadian mullatoes and any remaining pro-French whites. While about 800 white and mullatoe militia would join the French, Decaen never saw the influx of friendly St. Dominguans he hoped for and disease began attacking the French the moment they stepped off their ships. L’Ouverture, Dessalines and Pétion immediately raised an army and met the invaders at the Battle of Croix Hilaire. The bloody battle saw victory for the Haitians, an incredible achievement considering the success rate of European armies in traditional field engagements. Decaen’s army fled to the “safety” of Les Cayes, which L’Ouverture immediately placed under siege. When the U.S. Navy defeated the French fleet at the Battle of Ile a Vache three days after the start of the siege, Decaen surrendered and Haiti officially secured its freedom from France.
The French attempt to retake Haiti forced American opponents of annexation to rethink their strategy. Who was the real enemy? Revolting slaves in a distant cane field? Or the continuously meddlesome Europeans (the importance of Les Cayes was not lost on many Caribbeaners who also watched the return of the British as they annexed former Dutch and French colonies in their own right)? The opposition quieted and the annexation began to crawl forward.
Yet, the war continued. While actual bloodshed between the Americans and the French reduced to sporadic encounters on the high seas, the war of words at the negotiating table and in Congress raged on. Three events finally brought the obstinate French to a peace treaty. First, Congress approved, in a narrow vote, the annexation of Haiti in August of 1799 to take effect upon the official securing of Haitian independence from France. Second, in August word arrived from India that the U.S. had taken Mahé and Pondichéry. Third, and most importantly, the events of 18 Brumaire swept away the obstinate Directorie and allowed actual peace negotiations to occur. While Napoléon was not enthused with the actions of the United States, he recognized reality and saw an opportunity. In Napoléon’s mind, France could never achieve peace and greatness until it defeated its European opponents. France could handle any power on the continent, but the English Channel historically proved to be a barrier that no Frenchmen could easily overcome. If France and the United States worked together though, perhaps France could reign victorious in Europe while America could supplant the British overseas.
Negotiations finalized in the fall of 1799 and on January 9, 1800 France, Haiti and the United States concluded the Treaty of Lisbon. France recognized American naval rights and accepted a $10 million payment in exchange for cessation of St. Pierre and Miquelon, Martinique, Guiana, French India and the Mascarene Islands. France also recognized Haitian independence.
One of the last major acts of the American Congress in Philadelphia before they moved to the District of Columbia was to approve the Treaty of Lisbon and take the formal, now legal, vote on Haitian annexation (the August vote was recognition and an understanding of annexation). On March 4, 1800 Congress approved, and President Adams signed legislation accepting the Haitian proposal of annexation. On April 3, in a ceremony attended by L’Ouverture and U.S. Secretary of State Timothy Pickering, the stars and stripes rose over Port-au-Prince and the United States would never be the same.
—————- Author’s Notes —————–
: A “technology vote” being a vote to use the tech whereby the no votes of only two Order members vetoes the proposal.
Franklin W. Knight (February 2000). “The Haitian Revolution“. The American Historical Review. 105
Twohig, D. (n.d.). “That Species of Property”: Washington’s Role in the Controversy Over Slavery.” Retrieved December 13, 2017, from http://gwpapers.virginia.edu/history/articles/species/#50a
Beard, J. R. (John Relly) (1863). “Toussaint L’Ouverture: A Biography and Autobiography”, Boston: James Redpath, Archived by Academic Affairs Library, University of North Carolina
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