The movement away from slavery in France had begun long before Haiti’s Revolution. In fact, slavery had already been abolished in France. Yet it flourished in France’s colonies.
“…all that the negroes lack is a leader courageous enough to carry them to vengeance and carnage. Where is he, this great man, that nature owes to its vexed, oppressed, tormented children? Where is he? He will appear, do not doubt it. He will show himself and will raise the sacred banner of liberty.”
– Abbé Raynal, 1780
In 1789, Haiti was the most prosperous colony in the French Empire. 60% of the world’s coffee and 40% of its sugar was exported from Haiti.
The important thing to understand about the revolution in Haiti is that it was a civil war first and foremost. Unlike the American Revolution, which had two mostly distinct sides, the Haitian Revolution had at least three (and sometimes four) sides fighting.
The key to understanding the dynamics here lies in the racial and legal makeup of colonial Haiti:
*The free people of color
*The black slaves
The whites numbered about 20,000, mostly French. However, they were not a united group.
On one side was the wealthy plantation owners (the grands blancs), often aristocrats, who owned the majority of the slaves. They leaned strongly towards independence from France and often defied French law, including the Code Noir, which regulated slavery and tried to prevent the abuse of slaves. via Daily Kos