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The Haitian Revolution and the Limits of Freedom: Defining Citizenship in the Revolutionary Era

Carolyn E. Fick
Social History
Vol. 32, No. 4 (Nov., 2007), pp. 394-414
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25594165
Page Count: 21
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The Haitian Revolution and the Limits of Freedom: Defining Citizenship in the Revolutionary Era
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Abstract

This article analyses the Haitian revolution (1791-1804) within the framework of human rights and citizenship in the 'Age of Revolution'. For the Haitian revolutionaries, the meanings of freedom and individual human rights, far from being self-evident, were constructed, stage by stage, during the various phases of the Haitian and French revolutions and constrained by the contingencies of colonialism, imperial warfare and the shifting politics of both revolutions. The article first examines the implementation of emancipation and citizenship in the colony under the auspices of the French authorities (1793-8) and then under the governance of Toussaint Louverture (1798-1802) and exposes the selective and differential nature of citizenship rights as they applied to various categories of individuals, effectively leaving the huge mass of plantation labourers permanently outside the political and civic realm of the nation. The consequent disenfranchisement of the vast majority of Haiti's rural peasantry continued long into the post-independence period. Nevertheless, the implementation and preservation of collective freedom from institutional slavery in a period of Atlantic imperialism and warfare depended upon coerced labour, militarization and, paradoxically, the denial of individual rights to the agrarian masses.

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