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Tuesday, 17 June 2014

What If: The Haitian Revolution had failed?

In 1791 the slaves of the French colony Saint Domingue rose up to cast of their chains of oppression led by Toussaint Louverture. It instantly inspired other slave revolts, established the second state to be independent from Europe in the Americas after the initial wave of colonialism/annexation and remains as a significant section of not only the French Revolution but also world history. What if though the Haitian revolution had failed in its aims of freedom?

First we have to look at why the revolution was a success. One was the widespread support from the slaves and Mulattoes who were treated as second class citizens because only one of their parents was white; normally the father who were rich land owners. The second was the leadership of Toussaint Louverture whose great strategy skills, good education and ability to win the support of Britain and Spain. If France was to defeat the revolutionaries two things would have to have happened: years prior to the revolution the Mulattoes to be given equal rights to the white populace. Although this is unlikely most of the French colonies were to a degree self ruling so if the governor of Haiti decided to gradually give rights to the Mulattoes prior to the Revolution the French government most likely would not have minded as they were free men and not slaves. With the Mulattoes being relatively wealthy they in real life provided much needed resources for the revolution so without it they were more weak. Secondly the leaders of the revolution like Toussaint Louverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe just to name a few were all free men so if they were never given freedom for one reason or another the revolution would have a lot less capable leaders so as history has repeatedly shown armies with no capable leaders crumble.

Now the parameters of how the revolution could have been stopped by the French when the Haitian slaves do rise without support from Mulattoes and the lack of good strategists that also supplied a moral boost the French manage to invade Saint Domingue and crush the revolution. Most likely the new revolution leaders would be guillotined as they would be accused of being anti-revolutionary government which would increase the death toll of the Terror. As well as this a large majority of the slave populace would be executed for supporting the revolt so this would scare the now imprisoned slaves into not revolting again. With the revolution crushed there would temporarily be less slave revolts as it inspired slaves throughout the Caribbean, United States and European colonies because the slaves saw that a revolt could be successful but without Haiti setting the precedent no revolts would follow. In this timeline even the shape of the United States would be different. The loss of Haiti and the failure to retake it made the French plantations along the Mississippi unprofitable and so forced Napoleon to sell French possessions to the US in the Louisiana Purchase. With Haiti still under French control this was not a problem so France remained in modern US as well as solidifying France's impressive might over the Caribbean.

With France not selling their continental possessions the US would never make the Western expansion, Manifest Destiny would never exist and the expansion in Mexico's territories like California and Texas would never happen thanks to a French colony acting as a buffer zone. Suprisingly Native Americans would have benefited from this as the French were never interested in colonised already colonised land so would allow the Native Americans to live in relative peace although the Natives would have to answer to the laws set in Paris. Like in our timeline Napoleon will lose the Napoleonic Wars, (invading Russia is never a good idea), and by 1848 all the slaves in Haiti are freed and French America gains its independence. Haiti still remains a colony though and remains this way until 1963. Inspired by the Algerians and Viet Minh Haitian nationalists would start to rise against the French again with them making the 1791 revolters as their idols. De Gaulle would give them their independence as he did with Tunisia and Algeria after he establishes a settlement before violence escalates. However one of my most favourite people of all time, Toussaint Louverture would never be heard of by anyone.

Please comment and leave any suggestions of alternate history scenarios or events/people/ideas in history that you want me to discuss.


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