An Islandwide Struggle for Freedom

An Islandwide Struggle for Freedom: Revolution, Emancipation, and Reenslavement in Hispaniola, 1789-1809

Copyright Date: 2016
Pages: 312
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    An Islandwide Struggle for Freedom
    Book Description:

    Reinterpreting the Haitian Revolution as both an islandwide and a circum-Caribbean phenomenon, Graham Nessler examines the intertwined histories of Saint-Domingue, the French colony that became Haiti, and Santo Domingo, the Spanish colony that became the Dominican Republic. Tracing conflicts over the terms and boundaries of territory, liberty, and citizenship that transpired in the two colonies that shared one island, Nessler argues that the territories' borders and governance were often unclear and mutually influential during a tumultuous period that witnessed emancipation in Saint-Domingue and reenslavement in Santo Domingo.Nessler aligns the better-known history of the French side with a full investigation and interpretation of events on the Spanish side, articulating the importance of Santo Domingo in the conflicts that reshaped the political terrain of the Atlantic world. Nessler also analyzes the strategies employed by those claimed as slaves in both colonies to gain liberty and equal citizenship. In doing so, he reveals what was at stake for slaves and free nonwhites in their uses of colonial legal systems and how their understanding of legal matters affected the colonies' relationships with each other and with the French and Spanish metropoles.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-2688-8
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. ix-xii)
  3. Acknowledgments (pp. xiii-xviii)
  4. Introduction (pp. 1-22)

    In October 1806, a refugee from Haiti named RozinediteAlzire appeared before a notary in Santo Domingo (modern Dominican Republic) and presented him with a curious document.¹ This document, a notarial act that had been drawn up on 19 August 1803 before another notary in Cap Français (now Cap-Haïtien), the commercial capital of French Saint-Domingue ( today Haiti), declared that Rozine’s mother, RosaliediteDufay, had purchased her daughter for the sum of 2,500 colonial pounds “on the Express condition” that Rosalie free Rozine.² Why did Rosalie purchase her own daughter in order to free her, even though both...

  5. CHAPTER ONE I Am the King of the Counter-Revolution: Revolution and Emancipation in Hispaniola, 1789–1795 (pp. 23-61)

    With these words, Georges Biassou, “General of the Conquered Part of the North of [Saint-Domingue],” opened a letter that affirmed his passionate defense of the Spanish king and his willingness to “shed [his] last drop of blood” for his sovereign.¹ Biassou was in fact only one of several prominent former slaves who ironically helped to bring about the most radical act of the French Revolution through their seemingly counterrevolutionary discourses and allegiances. Indeed, even as Biassou proclaimed his unswerving commitment to serve the Spanish king, his letter represented a demand for greater political representation on the part of individuals of...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Courage to Conquer Their Natural Liberty: Conflicts over Emancipation in French Santo Domingo, 1795–1801 (pp. 62-87)

    On the evening of 30 October 1796, a Sunday (the day of the week often chosen by slave rebels in the Americas), approximately 120 “African cultivators” from the Boca Nigua plantation in Santo Domingo rose up in revolt with the alleged “horrible plan” to kill the plantation’s director, Juan B. Oyarzával, and all of the other whites there.¹ Organized around an elaborate hierarchy headed by a “queen” named Marie-Anne, these insurgents used drums to incite potential followers to action and often resorted to more forceful recruitment measures if this failed. Employing a type of guerrilla warfare characterized by the tried-and-true...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Santo Domingo and the Rise of Toussaint Louverture, 1795–1801 (pp. 88-112)

    On 26 January 1801, the forces of Toussaint Louverture, a former slave fighting under the banner of liberty, marched into the city of Santo Domingo. Finding relatively little armed opposition, they proclaimed their governance over the city, as well as the entire former Spanish colony, in the name of the French Republic. At this pivotal moment, the colony’s inhabitants found themselves at the center of the era’s great conflicts over slavery, the legitimacy of racial hierarchies, and the relationship between colony and metropole.

    Though Toussaint’s capture of Santo Domingo city in 1801 altered the island’s trajectory, the invasion was in...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Uprooting the Tree of Liberty? Toussaint Louverture in Santo Domingo, 1801–1802 (pp. 113-135)

    This famous pronouncement on the resilience and ultimate triumph of liberty over repression, said to have been uttered by the Haitian Revolution’s central figure upon his capture and exile to France in 1802, encapsulated in twenty-six French words the struggle for freedom that shaped that revolution and its arguably largely unfulfilled promise over the following two centuries. Indeed, the assertion that the “roots” of the liberty tree (a potent French Revolutionary symbol) were in Saint-Domingue rather than (or in addition to) France attests to the importance of Hispaniola in the political, social, intellectual, and economic transformations of the late eighteenth...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Shame of the Nation: The Force of Reenslavement and the Law of Slavery under the Regime of Ferrand, 1804–1809 (pp. 136-167)

    On 10 October 1802, General François Kerverseau composed a frantic “proclamation” that detailed the plight of “several black and colored children” from the French shipLe Berceauwho “had been disembarked” in Santo Domingo. According to the “alarms” and “foolish speculations” of various rumor mongers in that colony, these children had been sold into slavery with the complicity of Kerverseau. As Napoleon’s chief representative in Santo Domingo, Kerverseau strove to dispel the “sinister noises” and “Vain fears” that had implicated him in such atrocities, insisting that “no sale [of these people] has been authorized” and that any future sale of...

  10. CHAPTER SIX They Always Knew Her to Be Free: Archiving Liberty in French Santo Domingo, 1804–1809 (pp. 168-184)

    On 30 July 1803, thecitoyenne(citizen) Adelaïde Faury presented herself before the notary Derieux in Santiago, Santo Domingo. Faury, a merchant from Fort-Dauphin, had traveled to the notary’s office in order to deposit what was perhaps the most important document in her life. Created bycitoyenneFaury’s former master, Magdeleine Garçon Magagues, and a French consular official in Norfolk, Virginia, this earlier document (appended to Derieux’s 30 July 1803 act) had declared, “From this day forward, September 1st, [in the year] seventeen-hundred and ninety-four, I grant liberty to my aforementioned servant [slave] Adelaïde Faury of Fort-Dauphin.”¹

    CitoyenneFaury’s story...

  11. Epilogue (pp. 185-194)

    For five years during the first decade of the nineteenth century, the land that would later become the Dominican Republic hosted a project of reenslavement that repudiated a revolutionary emancipationist experiment that had only just begun. However unequal and repressive the regime of emancipation had been in Hispaniola from 1793 to 1802, freed people there had, at least in theory, been able to claim new rights, such as payment for their labor, protection from cruelties such as the whip, and owner ship over their own persons. General Ferrand, by contrast, sought a return to the old slaveholding order. The Ferrand...

  12. Glossary of French and Spanish Terms (pp. 195-196)
  13. Notes (pp. 197-262)
  14. Bibliography (pp. 263-280)
  15. Index (pp. 281-294)


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