- Tapa blanda: 384 páginas
- Editor: Penguin Books; Edición: New Ed (1 de abril de 2006)
- Colección: Penguin History
- Idioma: Inglés
- ISBN-10: 0140299815
- ISBN-13: 978-0140299816
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Black Jacobina: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (Penguin History) (Inglés) Tapa blanda – 1 abr 2006
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In 1789 the West Indian colony of San Domingo supplied two-thirds of the overseas trade of France. The entire structure of what was arguably the most profitable colony in the world rested on the labour of half a million slaves. In 1791 the waves of unrest inspired by the French Revolution reached across the Atlantic dividing the loyalties of the white population of the island. The brutally treated slaves of Saint Domingo seized at this confusion and rose up in rebellion against masters. In thisclassic work, CLR James chronicles the only successful slave revolt in history and provides a critical portrait of their leader, Toussaint L'Ouverture, 'one of the most remarkable men of a period rich in remarkable men'.
Biografía del autor
C L R James was born in Trinidad in 1901 and was one of the prominent figures in the West Indian diaspora. He wrote extensively on Caribbean history, Marxist theory, literary criticism, Western civilisation, African politics, cricket and popular culture. He died in 1989.
James Walvin is Professor of modern history at the University of York and is co-editor of the journal 'Slavery and Abolition'.
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Over the half millennium that it took for the Feudal World to break up, a paradigm composed most of philosophical abstractions, like freedom, equality, brotherhood and fraternity, was commandeered by those who followed the Feudal Lords, the Planters, and the bourgeoisie of the major slaveholding Western capitols, who used them cynically as rhetorical top cover. All carefully laced with romantic visions and myths of hope and promise, they were systematically and purposefully worked into Western political discourse as idealistic asymptotes to be achieved. But none of this cheap talk was ever meant to become a reality for the world ‘s Black slaves.
Like carrots on a stick, high-minded principles along with the whip and the rack, soon became viable labor management tools. Tied just above the heads of those on the bottom rung of the social ladder, these symbolic carrots were used to spur “the little whites” and “slaves of all colors,” on to ever greater production for the “big whites. ”The aristocracy of skin color” was the foremost of such symbolic carrots held over the heads of “little whites.”
The emerging theory was that: so long as their shoulders remained heavily tethered to the grindstone and the profits kept rolling in, little harm was done in having laborers believe that someday there would be pies falling from the sky, or that “little whites,” due to skin color alone, were better than blacks; or that somehow they could eventually become “big whites,” or even that slaves, who were used up so quickly that they had to be replenished every three years, could eventually become voting citizens? After all, religions had sold similar kinds of pie in the sky about the end of the world for centuries and life after death. So where was the harm in it?
However, over time, those on the bottom slowly began to realize that misuse of high-minded abstractions to keep them redoubling their labor and the profits that only went to the “big whites,” was all a cruel “power game” played on the playing field and on the terms of “big whites,” at everyone else’s expense.
If high-minded principles were ever to become real and stop being just rhetorical top cover for the Planters to use only as cynical fodder to keep the heads of those on the bottom at the wheel making obscene profits for the slave drivers, it could only happen that those principles could become real only if “little whites” and “slaves” acquired enough political power together to turn the social order upside down. And that is exactly what they did in Haiti.
Using the brutal facts on the ground in both the French and Haitian Revolutions, and implying by analogy that the same occurred during the American revolution, except that the American Revolution was really a counter-revolution, the author has shown us how those on the bottom rung of the social ladder in Haiti — the “little whites,” “mulattoes,” and “African slaves,” who believed in the high-minded principles of the French and American Revolution, even when the Colonial masters themselves did not — were able to rise above its most cynical interpretations to seize power and make them real for all the Haitian and French people.
On a global canvas driven by, and punctuated by, the Seven Years War, the author weaves a narrative of details that expresses the brutal realities of those times; and he does so in the most cold-blooded of terms. The graphic details of how the war was played out day-by-day, decision my decision, intrigue by intrigue, and treachery by treachery, over more than a decade, can now replace the mythical high-minded, syrupy romantic versions: Freedom was won only after the stronger powers eventually became the weaker ones on the battlefields, and were then forced to fold their hands and sue for peace. QED
The force that animated both the American and French revolutions is no longer much of a secret. It was the same nasty inhuman undertow of geopolitical competition that animated the rest of the Western world: the mindless quest for the enormous global profits generated by labor from the African slave trade.
While the unfolding drama was centered mainly in the Caribbean (mostly San Domingue, Jamaica, Barbados and Cuba), it became a template and a trope that extended into America and across South America as far away as Brazil.
This story is centered in the nature-rich, but still notoriously emotionally backward and wretched little voodoo-laced Caribbean environmental paradise called San Domingue (today’s Haiti). Paradoxically, the logical end-point to this story is what all of the corrupt geo-competitive slave-dependent states had long feared: a slave revolt engineered by a single slave who was also so brilliant a politician, a master strategist and tactician, a straight-shooting much respected negotiator, a preacher, and a warrior who led from the front, one who believed with all his heart in the principles that the French Republic had used only as rhetorical top cover, that he was compared to, and defeated Napoleon Bonaparte on the battlefield. His named was Toussaint L’ Ouverture.
If you can imagine a three-dimensional chess board in which checkmate is the last shot fired in a circular firing squad, with the second and third dimensions being class and race, and the first being royalty and nationality, then you will have an approximate idea of what the multi-tiered multi-cultured bite-biting treachery, brutality, torture and hatred was like in France, Haiti and America during the decades through their respective revolutions. These were really untidy affairs.
In fact, it may not be easy to see that the deepest truth told in this disturbing narrative is that the French Revolution and the slave revolt in San Domingue, were in truth just two of the unintended consequences of —indeed lingering imperatives of — the “so-called” earlier American Revolution, which a decade before had set the table for, and had become the template for them both. And which, if the complete truth were ever told, was itself but a fearful convulsive reaction to the expected impending end of the transatlantic slave trade.
Couple that with the prohibition against moving west into Indian territory imposed by the Treaty of Paris, and a slightly increased British war surtax, and you will then see why the “so-called” American Revolution in fact became little more than what Professor Gerald Horne called a counter-revolutionary imperative: It was these very modest calls for peaceful coexistence at the end of the Seven Years War, that had set the table for, and set in motion, the “so-called” American (counter) Revolution. Each of these very modest peace conditions (we are led to believe in canonical American history), made the reactionary American patriots, hopping mad enough to launch their own revolution?
Thus, the full truth is finally told here: all three — the American and French Revolutions, as well as the Haitian slave revolt — were all of one ignominious piece, clandestinely instigated by the vengeful reaction of the ostensible winner of the Seven Years War, the then “not-so-great-again,” Great Britain.
In fact, the exercise left here for the astute reader is understanding that in the background, the devilishly clever ostensible winner of the Seven Years War, England, seeded and set in motion what would become the only successful black slave revolt in world history.
While it is indeed true that on paper England was the last man left standing on the battlefield in the Seven Years War, and thus was able to dictate its peace terms, it was all but self-evident even then that England was the winner “in name only.”
Just as was the case with the losers, paradoxically, England found its exchequer empty, a causality of seven years of brutal war with troops flung all across the globe, and with slave insurrections popping-up in its Caribbean and American colonies. As a result, its cotton and sugar cane colonies in the Caribbean as well as in the Carolinas were being shattered.
It must have seemed to England that it had cleared away the geopolitical debris from a whole continent only to see the ungrateful Americans swoop down under it and take over — turning themselves into an empire even before they had become a nation!
Britain thus found itself all but written out of the enormous profits of the transatlantic slave trade, and out of the competition for empire in both the Caribbean and the entire North American continent: San Domingue, Brazil and the Carolinas were “in;” Jamaica, Barbados and England were “out.”
The new global centers of sugar cane, indigo, corn, tobacco, and cotton were now San Domingue and the Carolinas. France and America, two ostensible losers in the Seven Years War, now sat in the “Cat bird seat.” How had it happened, and what to do?
In between the lines in the subtext, the author tells us that it was the very greed and prosperity of the French and English bourgeoisie, respectively the real profiteers of the slave trade, had started both revolutions. With every increase in slave-generated profits, the maritime bourgeoisie and colonists’ greed simply inched them ever closer to their own doom. As he notes on page 55: “The colonists slept on the edge of Vesuvius.” The mindless increase in slaves, coupled with increasing numbers of absentee planters, conspired to fill the colonies with a dangerous lopsided black-white demographic. In Jamaica and Barbados alone, resentful, increasingly intractable, ready to rebel slaves, out-numbered whites 100-1.
Machiavellian England took due note of this situation and came up with the right plan to both lick its wounds and exact revenge from its enemies, the erstwhile losers of the Seven Years war. It made a virtue out of necessity by moving its colonial production from the plantations it had lost in both the American, and its revolt-ridden slaveholding Caribbean colonies. It moved this production to its other colony, India, where ostensibly, free labor, instead of slave labor, was used — that is, if one could call paying Indians a penny per day, slave-free labor?
This maneuver would allow England to have its cake and eat it too. For, at least on its face, it would end British dependence on the brutal immoral and inhuman African slave trade, while at the same time, allow it to point an accusing finger back at the hypocrisy of those unwilling to give it up — and who in fact still relied on it for life-and-death — yet continued to proclaim freedom, fraternity, brotherhood and equality for all strata of French and American societies?
By simply calling for an immediate end to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, England occupied the moral high ground alone, and thus this superior position allowed it to bring down both revolutionary houses.
But more importantly, by stopping the transatlantic slave trade in its tracks, this Machiavellian English master stroke complicated the internal politics of both nations irreparably, and thus helped destroy the very basis of its geopolitical rivals’ enormous profits.
The plan England set in motion worked beyond perfection. For it did much more than just expose the moral hypocrisy of its rivals and irreparably undermined their internal politics. One of the most important unintended consequences of calling loudly for the end of the transatlantic slave trade is now firmly enshrined into Western History: It set in motion slave revolts that lit up the Caribbean like Roman candles on the Fourth of July. They could be seen as far away as San Domingue, Virginia, North and South Carolina, New Orleans, and all across South America and Cuba.
This book tells the story of how the most spectacular of those revolts happened: That is, how the ex-slave, Toussaint L’Ouverture, at age 45, led the first and only successful African slave revolt.
His was a remarkable revolution, one that Western history books, even today, are still loathe to talk about. It was won over 12 years after defeating a Napoleon army of 60,000, a British expeditionary force of 100,000 — and after also receiving timid support from both America and Spain.
In a footnote to history, that for the first time only becomes clear in the subtext of this book, the reader will now learn the true reason why Thomas Jefferson reversed the support given to L’Ouverture by his predecessor John Adams.
To his historical credit, Adams saw L’Ouverture for what he was: a true republican, a fighter for the same principles of freedom and liberty that the “so-called” Founding Fathers in America, and the very revolutionaries overthrowing the French Republic, had falsely claimed to have also been fighting for? Apparently Adams believed in them as deeply as did L’Ouverture?
Our history books tell us Jefferson went to Haiti ostensibly to aid his sworn enemy France in putting down the L’Ouverture led revolt? But, even though Jefferson had close ties with France, that explanation still makes no historical sense? It makes no sense because US policy through Adams already supported L’Ouverture as a republican revolutionary in the same vein as the American revolutionaries, and moreover, he alone was fighting against America’s sworn enemy France.
Everyone knew that if Napoleon, who hated blacks (and frequently used the N-word), survived Haiti, his next move was going to be to reinstate slavery all over the French Antilles; return to New Orleans, kick Spain out, and use it as a launchpad to retake the North American continent from colonial America. Since France already owned everything between the Appalachian mountains and Spanish Texas; and could count on Spanish troops stationed in Cuba to join in, this was a no brainer: the French threat was the greatest one facing a new nation trying desperately to hold on to its new empire, one won only by default.
But Jefferson was as much a Machiavellian player as was Napoleon and the Kings of France and England. And had his own hidden reasons for going to Haiti panned out, it would have been Jefferson rather than Napoleon, or King George picking up the pieces after what was expected to be a quick and certain L’Ouverture defeat. In which case, Jefferson would then take over Haiti and all French territories in North America as consolation prizes. And then it would be Jefferson instead of Napoleon who would reinstitute the multi-racial multi-cultural Slavetocracy that had previously existed in Haiti as well as in French held America.
However, against all odds, Toussaint L’Ouverture dashed both Jefferson’s King George’s and Napoleon’s hopes by winning the revolt and taking over Haiti himself. But as history turned out, Jefferson lucked-out anyway, as after the lost in Haiti, an already war-weary France just gave up the fight and all its territory in the New World through what became known as “the Louisiana Purchase,” And as the saying goes, the rest is history.
Here in this book are to be found the always tense and scary details, written about beautifully. But a word of warning is in order: A reader would be remiss — he would commit an unconscionable and an unforgivable sin to get so engrossed in the writing as to miss the deeper overarching narrative running along in the subtext.
For those who want to know before hand what Toussaint L’Ouverture was really like, there is no better summary of how others felt about him than what was said about his declaration supporting the revolution sent to Paris, just as things for him were about to turn for the worst. I repeat verbatim those comments from the last paragraph of chapter eight on page 198:
“Personal ambition he had. But he accomplished what he did because, superbly gifted, he incarnated the determination of his people never, never to be slaves again.
Soldier and administrator above all yet his declaration is a masterpiece of prose excelled by no other writer of the revolution. Leader of a backward and ignorant mass, he was yet in the forefront of the great historical movement of his time.The Blacks were taking their part in the destruction of European Feudalism begun by the French Revolution, and liberty, and equality, the slogans of the revolution, meant far more to them than to any Frenchman.
That was why in the hour of danger Toussaint, uninstructed as he was, could find the language and accent of Diderot, Rousseau, and Raynal, of Mirabeau, Robespierre and Danton. And in one respect he excelled them all. For even all these masters of the spoken and written word, owing to the class complications of their society, too often had to pause, to hesitate, to qualify, Toussaint could defend the freedom of the blacks without reservations, and this gave to his declarations a strength and a single-mindedness rare in the great documents of the time. The French bourgeoisie could not understand it. Rivers of blood were to flow before they understood that elevated as was his tone, Toussaint had written neither bombast nor rhetoric but the simple sober truth.”
The Haitian revolution, triggered by the revolution of 1789 in France, lasted from 1791 to 1802 and was the only successful slave revolt in history.
Toussaint L'Ouverture, the leader of the Haitian Revolution, was, by all accounts a remarkable man. He was born a slave win the French colony of San Domingo. This was a very prosperous colony whose primary export was sugar cane. San Domingo was a slave economy which exploited the labor of African slaves in the sugar plantations. The life of a plantation slave was extremely difficult, lashings were commonplace and the life expectancy of a slave was about three years. In 1789 the population was divided into three primary groups a minority of about 30,000 whites, half a million black slaves and, inevitably, some 40,000 mulattoes. When the French Revolution burst onto the world in 1789 the blacks on the island took its Declaration of the rights of man at face value, a promise of their liberation.
CLR James, the author of Black Jacobins, was a Troskyite / Marxist historian from the island of Trinidad who wrote his book in 1938 on the eve of the Second World War. He later lived and died in London (see blue plaque). As a passionate partisan, James clearly wishes to paint Toussaint L'Ouverture as a revolutionary hero in the Marxist mold. James attempts to fit Toussaint into the Procrustean bed of his Marxist dialectic, but with scant credibility--perhaps due to the absence of urban proletariats in 18th century San Domingo. Toussaint has been variously described as the "black Spartacus," the"black Washington" and the "black Napoleon". Toussaint had actually been freed in 1776, years before the revolt. As a child he received no formal education, but did receive some instruction from the Jesuits. At the outset of the uprising, he carefully escorted his own masters to safety. Toussaint famously said, "I was born a slave, but nature gave me the soul of a free man."
Consider, however, the way in which CLR James describes Toussaint L'Ouverture...
"A sincere Catholic and believer in the softening effect of religion on manners, he encouraged the practice of the Catholic religion, and wrote to that old friend of the blacks, the Abbe Gregoire, for advice. He favoured legitimate children and soldiers who were married, and forbade his officials and commandants to have concubines in the houses of their wives, a legacy of the old disreputable white society....
Personal industry, social morality, public education, religious toleration, free trade civic pride, racial equality this ex-slave strove according to his lights to lay their foundations on the new State. In all his proclamations, laws and decrees he insisted on moral principles, the necessity for work, respect for law and order, pride in San Domingo, veneration for France. He sought to lift the people to some understanding of the duties and responsibilities of freedom and citizenship.
He had the extraordinary faculty of satisfying all who came to see him, and was known all over the island as a man who never broke his word. Even Sonthonax, the Jacobin lawyer and a very finished intriguer himself, said in the French Chamber that Toussaint was incapable of telling lies" ("Much like George Washington").
Toussaint wrote in a letter, "I have always done as much as lies in my power to preserve the property of each and every one..."
After the abolition of slavery he quickly recognized economic necessity proclaiming, "Work is necessary, it is a virtue, it is for the general good of the state." James continues, "His regulations were harsh. The laborers were sent to work 24 hours after he assumed control of any district, and he authorized the military commandants of the parishes to take measures necessary for keeping them on the plantations."
Toussaint said, "Learn, citizens, to appreciate the glory of your new political status. In acquiring the rights that the Constitution accords to all Frenchmen, do not forget the duties it imposes on you. Be but virtuous and you will be Frenchmen and good citizens...Work together for the prosperity of San Domingo by the restoration of agriculture, which alone can support a state and assure public well being...The age of fanaticism is over. The reign of law has succeeded that of anarchy.
"The finance of the old regime was complicated and irksome. Toussaint demanded first 'an exact inventory of our resources'; then abolished the numerous duties and taxes which were only a source of fraud and abuses. He gave the gourde, the local unit of money, a uniform value for the whole island...Thus he was able to get rid of the numerous officials whom the old system demanded; each taxpayer knew how much he had to pay, and the simplicity of the system and his strict supervision raised the standard of probity...He lowered the tax on fixed property from 20 to 10 per cent, and on the advice of Stevens, the United States Consul, abolished it altogether soon afterwards. The 20 per cent tax on imports acted as a check on the purchases of the merchants, and Toussaint lowered it to 10 per cent; later, to encourage the poor, he lowered the duty on articles of the first necessity to 6 per cent."
He negotiated trade agreements with the United States and Great Britain.
Toussaint L'Ouverture, an uneducated ex-slave, was, in short, far more successful in executing his economic program than has been the current occupant of the White House! Toussaint, in spite of being an ex-slave rather than a slave owner, was, Like George Washington, a deeply conservative revolutionary (see earlier post, George Washington in London? 2/8/12), . He was a devout Catholic in spite of his island's peculiar fondness for Voodoo. He supported reconciliation with the whites as opposed to retribution. He defended property rights for all races and favored low taxes and free trade--he even bought 30,000 muskets from the Americans. Sixty-two years before Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, Toussaint was abolishing human slavery in a piece of North America. He created a written Constitution that made him Governor for life. This document also said, "There cannot exist slaves, servitude is therein forever abolished. All men are born, live and die free and French."
Toussaint loved liberty, guns, religion, military discipline and low taxes. Today he might be labelled a "bitter clinger" for these convictions. Voltaire, who detested slavery, and Toussaint were both "God and Liberty" conservatives.
It was on the battlefield that Toussaint displayed his most remarkable powers. In the course of the 12 year struggle the slaves under his leadership "defeated the local whites and the soldiers of the British monarchy, a Spanish invasion, a British expedition of some 60,000 men, and a French expedition...under Bonaparte's brother-in-law. " He demonstrated tremendous physical courage usually leading his men from the front of each engagement.
Toussaint, however, made one great mistake. He trusted and was faithful to the French who ultimately betrayed him. Napoleon, believing the dispossessed whites in France who claimed that San Domingo could only recapture its former economic glory with the re-institution of slavery, dispatched his brother-in-law, General Leclerc, with an army of 40,000 thousand men to recapture San Domingo for France. Napoleon, who claimed the "La Revolution c'est moi" was committed to destroying one of its few undeniable accomplishments--the abolition of slavery. After a brutal campaign, Toussaint was eventually captured and sent back to France where he was imprisoned in Fort de Joux in the Doubs. He died shortly afterward in 1803.
After his capture he said, "In overthrowing me you have cut down in San Domingo only the trunk of the tree of liberty; it will spring up again from the roots, for they are many and they are deep." His words were indeed prophetic.
The occupying French forces were decimated by Yellow fever. General Leclerc himself died in Haiti at age 30, leaving Pauline Bonaparte a widow. Napoleon's forces were ultimately defeated (the final straw was the Battle of Vertières on November 18, 1803) by Toussaint's second-in-command, Dessalines, leading to "the establishment of the Negro state of Haiti which has lasted to this day."
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