RWBF:Chapter Two Development Notes

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  • The Haiti that we've come to know today - the desperately poor, turbulent country was almost the complete opposite in 1789. Just prior to the slave revolt, in fact, it was one of the wealthiest places on earth. Known as the Pearl of the Antilles, Saint Domingue was a vitally important trading colony with immense wealth. As a French colony, the country was subject to French laws and paid taxes to the French Imperial government.
  • To illustrate the importance of Saint-Domingue in 1789, let me give you the following example. The tiny colony of Saint Domingue represented 40% of France's overseas trade. (Geggus, p. 5) To put in perspective what that would mean to the US if we lost 40% of our overseas trade, it would be as if our top three trading partners - Canada, Mexico, and China just closed their doors and refused to do business with us. (US Census Bureau) If you owned a lumber yard, you'd be out of business. If you sold cars, your inventory would plummet. WalMarts across the country would be empty. That's how devastating a loss of 40% of our trade would be. Saint-Domingue - what we know of today as the poor and destitute country of Haiti - was as important to France in its day as Canada, Mexico, and China combined are to us now.
  • Slave-produced commodities created an economic engine of great wealth and power. The maritime bourgeoisie in France were greatly threatened by the possibility that that engine could be cut off.
  • Saint Dominguean society was much different than the society we see today. In roughly hierarchical order, there were the grands blancs (planters & bureaucrats), free people of color (mulattoes and free blacks who often had wealth and owned slaves), petits blancs (artisans, craftsmen, service providers), and finally the slaves.