On January 1, 1804, Haiti proclaimed its independence.
Through this action, it became the second independent
the Western Hemisphere and the first free black republic
world. Haiti's uniqueness attracted much attention and
the aspirations of enslaved and exploited peoples around
globe. Nonetheless, Haitians made no overt effort to
support, or to aid slave rebellions similar to their own
they feared that the great powers would take renewed
against them. For the sake of national survival,
became a Haitian credo.
Dessalines, who had commanded the black and the mulatto
forces during the final phase of the revolution, became
country's leader; he ruled under the dictatorial 1801
constitution. The land he governed had been devastated by
of warfare. The agricultural base was all but destroyed,
population was uneducated and largely unskilled. Commerce
virtually nonexistent. Contemplating this bleak situation,
Dessalines determined, as Toussaint had done, that a firm
White residents felt the sting most sharply. While
a former privileged slave of a tolerant white master, had
certain magnanimity toward whites, Dessalines, a former
slave, despised them with a maniacal intensity. He
agreed wholeheartedly with his aide, Boisrond-Tonnerre,
stated, "For our declaration of independence, we should
skin of a white man for parchment, his skull for an
blood for ink, and a bayonet for a pen!" Accordingly,
slaughtered wholesale under the rule of Dessalines.
Although blacks were not massacred under Dessalines,
witnessed little improvement in the quality of their
restore some measure of agricultural productivity,
reestablished the plantation system. Harsh measures bound
laborers to their assigned work places, and penalties were
imposed on runaways and on those who harbored them.
Dessalines drew his only organizational experience from
was natural for him to use the military as a tool for
the new nation. The rule of Dessalines set a pattern for
involvement of the army in politics that continued
for more than 150 years.
In 1805 Dessalines crowned himself Emperor of Haiti. By
point, his autocratic rule had disenchanted important
Haitian society, particularly mulattoes such as Pétion.
mulattoes resented Dessalines mostly for racial reasons,
more educated and cultured gens de couleur also
the emperor (and most of his aides and officers) for his
ignorance and illiteracy. Efforts by Dessalines to bring
families into the ruling group through marriage met with
resistance. Pétion himself declined the offer of the hand
emperor's daughter. Many mulattoes were appalled by the
corruption and licentiousness of the emperor's court.
Dessalines's absorption of a considerable amount of land
hands of the state through the exploitation of
titling procedures also aroused the ire of landowners.
The disaffection that sealed the emperor's fate arose
the ranks of the army, where Dessalines had lost support
levels. The voracious appetites of his ruling clique
left little or nothing in the treasury for military
provisions. Although reportedly aware of discontent among
ranks, Dessalines made no effort to redress these
Instead, he relied on the same iron-fisted control with
kept rural laborers in line. That his judgement in this
had been in error became apparent on the road to
as he rode with a column of troops on its way to crush a
mulattoled rebellion. A group of people, probably hired by Pétion
Etienne-Elie Gérin (another mulatto officer), shot the
and hacked his body to pieces.
Under Dessalines the Haitian economy had made little
despite the restoration of forced labor. Conflict between
and mulattoes ended the cooperation that the revolution
produced, and the brutality toward whites shocked foreign
governments and isolated Haiti internationally. A lasting
against Haiti arose among Dominicans as a result of the
unsuccessful invasion of Santo Domingo in 1805.
failure to consolidate Haiti and to unite Haitians had
ramifications in the years that followed, as the nation
into two rival enclaves.
Data as of December 1989