Category Archives: The Americas

Questions (303/415)

Dieudonné Cédor, Ceremony at Bois Caiman, 1791. No date given.

One of the things I want to emphasize is that our perception of global events, and the knowledge we may lack about other people’s histories, is a function of our position as citizens of the world’s largest empire.

Living in the imperial center means never needing to learn about other countries except when the US invades them, or when they impede the exercise of American power. Haiti claimed its independence in 1804. The US did not recognize this fact diplomatically until 1864. Over the next 150 years Haiti was invaded, occupied, and lost some of its territory as a result of American foreign policy. The 1856 Guano Islands Act allowed the seizure of uninhabited islands such as Navassa. In 1915 the US began an occupation of Haiti that lasted for eighteen years. In 2004 American forces ousted Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Let’s think about our move into Saint-Domingue during the Age of Revolution, roughly 1770-1830. The great bourgeois revolution of US independence, which created a herrenvolk democracy on the margins of a largely unmapped continent. The deeper-reaching French Revolution which overthrew an existing social order and at its most energetic and radical attempted to restructure society as a whole, prising power and wealth from the aristocracy and the Catholic church. The world-changing Industrial Revolution, fueled by the proceeds of slavery and other forms of primitive accumulation. And the Haitian Revolution, as James says history’s only successful slave revolt, which raised up the lowest and toppled the highest.

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Hayti ou Ile St. Domingue

A map made by Pierron, Buchon, et al in 1825. From the David Rumsey Map Collection. Full title:

Carte geographique, statistique et historique de Haity. Hayti ou Ile St. Domingue. Dressee d’apres la carte du Chevalier Lapie par Pierron. Grave par B. Beaupre, Rue de Vaugirard, No. 81, a Paris. J.D.L. script. Fonderie et Imprimerie de J. Carez. (1825)