Constitution of Haiti

(1801)

Context

As a French colony, Haiti was a leading supplier of sugar and, as such, was France's most lucrative colony—and, in fact, the most lucrative European colony in the world. It had been under the firm control of the French since 1697, when the Treaty of Ryswick divided the island of Hispaniola between France, which controlled Saint Domingue (the western third of the island), and Spain, which controlled the Dominican Republic. White landowners developed immense plantations for the raising of sugarcane, coffee, indigo, and other crops for export, all labor-intensive industries that depended on slave labor. Because they were vastly outnumbered, plantation owners lived in fear of slave rebellions. They passed repressive laws that had the effect of creating a caste system. At the top of the system, of course, were blancs, or the white planters, who in turn were divided into grand blancs, or wealthy, aristocratic planters, and petit blancs, a class consisting of shopkeepers,...

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Toussaint Louverture (Library of Congress)

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