Last week, Sir Hilary Beckles published part two of “The Hate and the Quake” (Antigua Observer, 25 January 2010). One of his main points is that, although the 1776 War of Independence was done by way of advancing the emerging spirit of democracy, it only went half-way by retaining slavery “as the core of their nation.” Later, “when the Haitians, following the Americans, defeated Napoleon’s mighty army, repelled Spanish and British military invasions, and declared on January 1st, 1804, the second nation state in the hemisphere, the new advocate of democracy was isolated and coldly strangled by forces acting in the interest of democracy.”
The article highlights the ways in which Haiti has been punished for two centuries for having dared to go “all the way,” by proclaiming universal freedom and making sure that that slavery and slave trading were seen as what they were, crimes. “But that was not all,” Beckles states, the Independence Constitution “stood up for blacks in every society by providing, at Article 44, that any black person or indigenous native who arrived on the shores of Haiti would be immediately declared free and a citizen of the republic.” He stresses how the Americans not only “turned their back on Haiti, their kindred spirits in nation-building,” but also joined the French in crippling the democratic republic. He cites as examples how Haitian President Boyer was forced to sign the treaty to pay France 150 million gold francs in reparation for their freedom (with French and American gun boats at the ready) and how President Aristide was kidnapped and removed from office in 2004. Here are more excerpts from his article:
The Americans, British, French, Dutch, and Spanish, clinging to black and native slavery as the model of development, condemned the Haitians for this deep democratic constitutional stance. Haiti, in bold print and audacious policy, established itself as the center of world democracy and the only nation in the western world where all inhabitants were invested with the status of legal freedom and constitutional citizenship. [. . .] Haiti gave the world this gift of universal freedom and democratic participation. The Americans and Europeans were talking about this in theory while the Haitians set out to craft it in reality.
[…] The beheading of [Toussaint] L’Ouverture and the hiding of his head was France’s first step in beheading the young nation. “Kill the first born”, a king once said. Haiti was the western world’s first born.
[…] “Crush the infamy and kill the infant” became the motto of Europe and America. Never before has a nation done so much good and in turn received so much evil. Never before in history have a people given so much liberty and freedom to the world, for which it should live in credit, but has been driven to dwell for decades in the deep despair of debt. Never before in the history of civilization has the political, constitutional and philosophical contribution of a people and nation been erased from the record with such persistent precision leaving subsequent generations to ponder their plight in pity.
[…] As the Haitian nation buckled under debt and threat of joint French-American military invasions, the consequences of a crippled country began to evolve into the world now wrecked by the quake. Nothing on earth but a quake could focus the world’s attention on a crime long committed and gone covered up, buried by the power of the “West” to tell the world how to see and think.
[…] The rebuilding of Haiti must begin with the digging up of the truth about a nation buried under 200 years of lies and hate.
Sir Hilary Beckles is a historian and Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the West Indies-Cave Hill, Barbados.
For full article, see the Antigua Observer.