Note from Bob Corbett: The United States finally recognized the independence in 1862. Below is a rather extraordinary piece, informed and persuasive, arguing for recognition. This piece was published in 1823, a full 39 years before recognition. Also, along the way the author says some wonderful things about Haiti.
This is in contrast to so much of the history I read. Often, in Haitian as well as foreign sources, one often reads that after the Revolution it was one long down hill road for Haiti to today. This author takes a dramatically different tact. In the end the author lacks the full courage of the position, but comes very close.
It is LONG, but worth it. It includes what seems like a longish detour into Jamaica, but it is to support the Haiti argument.
[Corbett notes: The piece below is unsigned. It is impossible to tell from context if it is the Register's editorial position, a staff member, guest author or member of the public in a letter. It is worth noting that this is some 39 years before the United States finally recognized the independence of Haiti.]
It is strongly recommended by many, that the United Sties should officially acknowledge a fact which really exists, the independence of Hayti. Much may be said on both sides of the question; and, though, the general opinion is against the proceeding, some notice of this neighboring nation of people of color, cannot be uninteresting or unprofitable; for Hayti, very important just now, promises to have effects on the state of society in this part of the world, of great moment to the people of the United States and of the West Indies.
One writer,, who assumes the possession of most respectable information, regards the population as amounting to a million. This must, I think, be a large exaggeration. The whole number of persons on the island, at the time of its greatest cultivation and commercial prosperity, (even when it employed 200,000 tons of shipping in the trade with France only, and exported, from the French part, about 170,000,000 lbs. of sugar, and 80,000,000 1bs. coffee, with large quantities of cotton, indigo, etc.), did not exceed 575,000 souls. At that time,, to supply the waste of human life, 30,000 fresh negroes were annually imported from Africa, in about one hundred vessels; and the other trade with foreign places employed, about 60,000 tons of shipping more. But, when the revolution broke out, the whites, (say 31,000), and the mulatoes, (20,000) were massacreed (sic) or forced to fly, or killed in the troubles that followed, and so there remained only about 500,000 blacks. We have seen it repeatedly stated, that this class of persons has not increased since that period; on the contrary, I believe it has been said, by authority in Hayti, that its number had declined; and if, when we call to recollection the many destructive insurrections and wars to which the island was subject until a late date, and the exterminating (sic) principles that were adopted by the contending chiefs, with the great destruction of life through the wantonness of tyranny in the late "king Henry" and his unfeeling and brutal adherents, we should suppose that the present population cannot amount to half a million in the whole island -- that which was the Spanish part being very scantily peopled. But this is a large and formidable stock to be acted upon -- and, under a mild and peaceable government, encouraging the arts and protecting property and domestic industry, it will be augmented with unprecedented rapidity, and acquire a power to maintain not only the independence of Hayti, but to dictate the law to neighboring places at will, or conquer them at discretion.
This island, by the nature of the climate on its coasts, the fastnesses of its interior, the fertility of its soil and the amount of its spontaneous production of articles fitted for food, and, more than all, the number and character of its inhabitants, is, perhaps more able to maintain its own sovereignty than almost any other nation or state; and any one would much more readily insure the presidency of it to Boyer than the crown of France to Louis, though the latter, by virtue of that crown, claims the possession of this great and most valuable country. The best appointed, and perhaps the most numerous army that ever crossed the Atlantic, (under Napoleon's brother-in-law, Le Clere), attempted a subjugation of it -- but the blacks retired to the mountains and kept the French confined to the coast, and they died off "like rotten sheep," by thousands. Before this, the British attempted to reduce it -- the whole force employed was 15,000 choice troops; and, in about one year, almost without battle, they were reduced to 3,000 men fit for service. Hompesch's regiment of hussars was cut down from 1000 to 300 men in about two months, and every man of the 96th regiment died! and besides this pro. digital (sic) waste of life, the expedition directly cost not less than twenty millions of dollars. It effected nothing, nor could 100,000 of the best trained troops in the world, supported by all the British navy, and supplied at the cost of hundreds of millions of money, reduce the island, if the people remained true to their own liberty and independence. They would only have to fly to the mountains, (which produce enough to subsist them), harass their enemy by small parties, and leave the rest to disease --unless they pleased to meet them in the field, which they might do with 70 or 80,000 well armed and disciplined men. The present regular force is between 40 and 50,000 excellent soldiers, naturalized to the climate; which, so fatal to the whites, is not particularly injurious to them, even when subjected to such exposures as would produce almost certain death to their enemies, within two or three days. A brief notice of the history of the Maroons, in Jamaica, may shew the nature of that defense which the blacks of Hayti might offer to an invading enemy, if the latter were powerful enough to compel them to abandon the roasts and the plains of the island -- and Hayti has every possible advantage for such a defense that Jamaica affords, the character of the country in both being the same, except that the soil of Hayti is the richest and most productive of roots, etc. used for food, of which resource source the inhabitants could not be deprived, vegetation being perpetual and exceedingly rapid.
When Jamaica was taken from the Spaniards in 1655, the slaves, about 1500 only in all, on the surrender of their masters, retreated to the mountains, and began to act for themselves like freemen. They soon acquired the name of Maroons, and were considerably reinforced by fugitive slaves, for they, at first, received such as fled to them. In less than 8 years, such had been the amount of their depredations, or, perhaps, correctly speaking the effects of the war which they carried on, that a full pardon, with 20 acres of land and freedom from all manner of servitude, were offered to each one who would surrender himself. They preferred their own independent way of living -- they checked the approach of the whites, and defeated party after party, force after force, attempting to subdue them. Various embassies were sent to them, but they refused to treat. By the year 1730, the colony had spent no less than 240,000l. for their suppression, and hundreds of lives had been lost. At this time, a great chief, named Cudjoe, appeared among them; he collected them more together, built a town on the top of the mountains, and two whole regiments were sent to reduce him; severe battles took place, and the blacks were defeated at length, and much dispersed. But they renewed the contest -- they secretly passed into the settlements, fired the cane-fields and outhouses, carried off slaves, and killed many of the whites. This desultory war was dreadful to the planters and the troops. Great efforts were made to end it: the church-wardens were required to furnish blood-hounds and packs of dogs, to hunt the negroes; and, in 1737, two hundred of the Mosquito Indians were induced to leave their country and assist in the destruction of the little band of Maroons, and they were of much service: yet, in 1738, the British were reduced to the necessity of making a treaty with them, assigning them land and securing it to their posterity, and the Maroons, on their part, agreed not to harbor runaway, slaves, or commit depredations. After sometime, this treaty ceased to produce much good to the whites, who were jealous of the blacks, and in continual dread of their power. The wild boars, land crabs, pigeons, fish and various vegetables, furnished them with abundance of provisions, and the wild pine supplied them with water -- their manner and habits were of the rudest and roughest character, more those of brutes than of men. In 1768 they assisted the whites in suppressing an insurrection of the slaves; but, in 1795, on account of the punishment of some of their members for felony, they took up arms again. The alarm was great -- troops were forwarded, and agents sent to them. They received the latter and under arms -- there were only 300 of them; but nothing effectual was done. All the horrors of St. Domingo were anticipated! Nearly 2000 regular troops, and the whole of the neighboring militia were prepared to act against them. Some fighting, attended with peculiarly savage circumstances, took place, many on both sides being killed: among the latter was the commander of the British troops, col. Sandford; but the Maroons, though compelled to retire by the force of numbers, were not subdued--they appeared again and again, burning, robbing and destroying; they carried off thirty negroes from one plantation loaded with spoil, and like our indians, slaughtered child-bed women and infants at the breast. They surprised col. Pitch, who succeeded Sandford, and killed him with several of his officers and men. Neither courage nor conduct could avail against them. Dogs were proposed to be introduced again; the entire strength of the colony was put forth, and the expense had amounted to 600,000l, It was suggested that a treaty had best be made with them --it was, by many, opposed, as derogatory to the honor of the British throne. Forty Spanish hunters and one hundred blood-hounds had arrived from Cuba -- and some of the Maroons became desirous of peace. At length, another treaty was concluded, in December 1795, in which it was stipulated that they should not be compelled to leave the island. The legislature of Jamaica, however, found some defect in the treaty, and declared it not binding! -- and end was, that they were forcibly sent off to Nova Scotia, in June 1796, at the cost of the colony. Now, this people, on account of whom the British had made such a vast expenditure of life and treasure, probably never amounted to more than two thousand persons of either sex and all ages, at any one time! In 1791--four years before they made the last treaty their whole number was estimated at only 1400; and it may be easily believed that, if the British had respected the obligations of the treaty made with them as a free people, they would have preserved their independence until this day: and it requires no casuist to shew, that they were as justly entitled to it, and the possession of the whole island also, if they could obtain it by arms, as the British -- who, by arms, had subjected it. It is might that gives "legitimacy" to conquest. Alexander, "the deliverer," has his white slaves, and why might not king Cudjoe have white ones or black ones, if he could -- the Maroons being the nobility of Jamaica? "Corinthian pillars" of its society? the prop and stay of the throne?"
These brief sketches, though familiar to some, will be new to others, and not useless to any, "What has been, may be." And the facts here stated are sufficient to shew, that Hayti cannot be reduced unless the people submit of their own free will, or are subdued by the treachery of invaders on whom they may reply. But neither of these are probable things. They are too numerous and powerful, and too well informed, to make a general submission, or suffer a deportation, like that of the Maroons. The country is destined to be peopled by blacks, until the "Ethiopian changes his skin" or "chaos comes again," and the island small be one no more. This is the truth, and we ought to look at it. To shut our own eyes against the light, will not lessen the light to others, preserve ourselves from their observation, or defeat their designs.
But to these essential facts must be added a consideration of the real condition of Hayti. The people have a regular and enlightened government of the in republican form -- more liberal, perhaps, in its operation than any now existing in Europe, those of Great Britain and Spain only accepted. Colleges have been established, and common schools are multiplied. The superior branches of science and the most useful of the arts, are protected and encouraged. The public offices are filled by native citizens of talents and character -- they have their judges and courts, and other establishments, like ourselves, and the business of them is conducted with as much accuracy and promptitude as in those of other nations. They have a legislative assembly, and a full proportion of orators and statesmen; and they rather abound with military skill. They have regular arsenals and magazines, well supplied with all the implements of war, and a powerful regular army. The press is freer than in France, Russia, Austria or Prussia, and it is well conducted; and, in general, what may be called the present generation, that is, persons between 20 and 30 years of age, are as well informed and as highly accomplished, as those of the greater part of Europe. The president, Boyer, is an able general and a profound statesman. If we regard the various difficulties that his predecessor, Petion, and himself have had to encounter, the peculiarity of the population over whom they had to preside, the internal wars, the location of Hayti, and the condition of the adjacent islands, we must grant to them uncommon displays of wisdom and energy, and a sense of moderation and justice that should put the rulers of the old world to shame. They have maintained the laws of nations and respected the rights of others, though they owe so little to those laws or to a respect for those rights by others. It would have been almost naturally supposed, that the Haytians -- just liberated from personal slavery, a state in which they were regarded as mere working machines, without thought or the right of thinking, must have sunk into all sorts of extravagance, and have made a common war on the oppressors of their color: but, happily, we may venture to say, for themselves and their neighbors, the massacre of the whites did not produce safety to the blacks -- they were divided into parties carrying on a cruel and desolating war, one with another. Personal security demanded an observance of public right; private danger brought forth talent; talent produced order, and common sense, impelled by the common necessity, raised up and established government. The person who lately handled a hoe, at the will of his master, wielded a sword and commanded thousands of his fellows, citizens and soldiers, and he who recently was not the chief even of the miserable hovel in which he lived, was called upon to preside over matters of the state! The volcano of the revolution and the terrible crucible of war, softened and purified their minds, and compelled them to reflect and calculate consequences. A spirit of inquiry was imposed by a sense of self preservation, and despised negroes have become men and women, who, unless for the reason of their color, would not be any where rejected on account of their manners; and religion, the great rule over the passions, is observed and respected by them as much as by others, who claim a much higher grade in the scale of civilization. I speak of things as they are. The fact is, that persons and property are more safe in Hayti than in many nations of white people. The classic ground of Italy is infested by bands of ferocious robbers, or over run with swarms of beggars and petty thieves. Hayti has but few of either of these. There is more, of either class, the city of Naples than in this republic of blacks -- more, perhaps, even in the "eternal city," Rome, though the residence of the Pope, the spiritual head of the most numerous church among Christians.
Now let us suppose that president Boyer should imitate the example of the pretended sovereign of Hayti, Louis of France, or in regard to Spain, or the famous member of the "peace society of Massachusetts," in respect to Poland? If Louis had a right to carry war into Spain, because the people were free, surely Boyer may attack Cuba, Jamaica and Porto Rico, or either of them, because the mass of the people are slaves! To dispute the right of France, in the case just mentioned, would nearly cost a man his life in civilized Europe, so firmly fixed is the idea that right is established by the reason of the bayonet -- and so the right becomes manifest! Admit that Boyer, with 20,000 men, which he might readily transport across the narrow sea between him and Jamaica, should land there, and, as the British did, on our southern coast, during the late war, call the slaves to insurrection, and protect them in the murder and robbery of their masters! what would be the "legitimate" consequence? Jamaica, some strong holds excepted, would be conquered in two or three days. No present means could possibly prevent it, and the power of Great Britain could not reduce the slaves to servitude again. -- Neither could Cuba or Porto Rico resist him Suppose even that he would only open his ports to pirates, and permit them to deposit their gains in Hayti -- who could prevent their success or punish the aggression? Thousands of bad men from all nations would dock round about him, and his power to do mischief would be doubled in a year. What would be the amount that he might add to the catalogue of human miseries, if he should act just as France is doing to Spain -- arm the slave against his master, and have his "armies of the faith?" But Boyer has restrained the disposition to aggrandize himself or his nation. He captured the Spanish part of the island, it is true -- if ever an invasion was a right one, that was both necessary and just; but he preserved order, he emancipated the few slaves that there were in that quarter, but respected the persons and property of their late masters. There were no murders or assassinations, no robbers or plunderers --no soldiers of the faith, with a cross in one hand and a dagger in the other, prowling about to destroy -- no duke of Angouleme to patronize and pay them for killing their neighbors! --no purchasers of human scalps. Restraint, in some cases, may pass only for a negative virtue, but, in regard to Boyer, it is real and positive, and worthy of profound admiration and the highest praise. He is not ignorant of his means --but he prefers peace to war, the plough share to the sword, the internal repose of Hayti to her renown in arms. There is no king in Europe, with the power that he possesses, would use it with the same moderation and justice.** It is impossible that the whites of the West Indies, and others in the neighborhood of Hayti, should not regret the location of that island, and apprehend great changes in its government, for even fugitive slaves from other islands are not harbored here, -- but, as it cannot be driven from its foundations, let us hope that, with its advance in population, power and improvement, the present good dispositions of the people and their rulers may be continued. And that they may, the Haytians should be treated with all the respect that is due to their actual condition, as a free and independent people: but in the way of their acknowledgment there is a host of difficulties.
** Occasional complaints are made against the government of Hayti, and sometimes, no doubt, with just cause. But truth is not always discerned or stated; the courts of Hayti may abound as much with "glorious uncertainty," or their acts be as much misrepresented as our own, and it is not often that any serious fault is found with the administration of the island.**
It is admitted, and it is certainly true, that our present trade with Hayti is of greater importance to us than our trade with France, herself. It employs much more of our tonnage, and is, every way, more beneficial to us: But shall we, by, acknowledging the independence of the island, involve ourselves in a war with France? Can it really benefit Hayti? -- will it not surely injure ourselves? The reason of things is against the proposition, and we regard it as inexpedient. But again, are we yet prepared to send and receive ministers to and from Hayti? Could the prejudices of some and the, perhaps just fears of others, be quieted? We think not The time has not yet come for a surrender of our feelings about color, nor is it fitting at any time, that the public safety should be endangered. Hayti is, and will be, independent -- we cannot prevent it if we would, nor are we so disposed. In looking into the vista, of futurity, great events may be anticipated -- but we, cannot wish to hurry them on. Our condition is unfortunate -- for personal security may forbid the doing of that which is right in itself, because it may be injurious in its operation, though innocent in its agent. We are on the horns of a dilemma, and how to get off, at some future period -- we leave to that period to determine as well as it can. We will not act for or against the existing fact, because of the extreme delicacy of its nature; but maintain good faith with all, and strictly observe all the rights of persons and things.
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