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What the United States Owes Haiti

Photo by Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) | CC BY 2.0

The crass coarseness of the president of the United States, Donald Trump, in matters of civic and formal education cannot justify the daily barbs of this false lunatic turned head of state that, ultimately, goes to the main detriment of the reputation and dignity of US citizens.

Following Trump’s racist pronouncement, which described Haiti and the whole of the countries of Africa as “shithole nations”, Cuban journalist José A. Téllez Villalón published on the Spanish site “Rebelion” a work to remind us that a large part of the arms, ammunition and men with which France contributed to the independence of the then Thirteen Colonies, passed through the then-French colony of Saint-Domingue (today Haiti) which had contributed with the blood of its children to the triumph of the forces in struggle for their independence from the British metropolis.

On March 12, 1779, the French colonizers began the recruitment of a body of volunteers to participate in the American Revolution. “The Volunteer Hunters of Saint-Domingue,” as the contingent was called, was made up of French settlers and between 500 and 800 black and mulatto freedmen.

Between the end of 1780 and the middle of 1781, the troops commanded by General George Washington and those commanded by the French general Jean Batiste de Vimeur, Count of Rochambeau, had been left without resources to land a final blow on the English troops positioned in Yorktown.

George Washington, the leader of the independence movement, reflected it on May 1, 1781 in his diary: “In a word, instead of having everything ready to go to the campaign, we have nothing. Instead of having the perspective of a glorious offensive campaign before us, we have but a confused and defensive situation, unless we receive powerful aid in the form of ships, land troops and money from our generous allies. For now, this is too eventful to be able to count on it. “

French Marshal Rochambeau wrote to French Admiral François Joseph Paul, Count de Grasse: “I must not hide from you, Sir, that the Americans are at the limit of their resources. Washington does not have half the troops it calculates, and in my opinion, although he remains silent about it, he does not have 6,000 men, nor does Mr. de La Fayette gather 1000 regulars in the militia to defend Virginia … “.

Téllez Villalón explains that Rochambeau asked the head of the fleet to recruit troops and bring them with him as reinforcements for General Washington’s Continental Army. The Admiral complied with instructions, recruited 3,000 volunteers from Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien, and placed them under the orders of the young officer Claudius Henry of Saint-Simon who was the founder of French socialism and utopian socialism. The same man who, for Engels, was, together with Hegel, the most encyclopedic mind of his time and in whose work most of the later ideas of socialism are contained.

The multinational reinforcement, consisting of a battalion of ex-slaves, pardos [tri-racial descendants of European, black and indiginous peoples] and mulatos from Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien commanded by Saint-Simon, disembarked in the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, and took part, between September 26 and October 19, 1781, in the Siege of Yorktown.

So, says Tellez, the Americans owe a lot to foreign forces -French, Latin American and Haitian- for the achievement of their Independence. It was ratified by the United States Congress on November 15, 1784, after Great Britain capitulated on September 3, 1783 with the Treaty of Paris.

Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the American nation, acknowledged in an editorial published on July 5, 1803 in the New York Evening Post that “to the fatal climate of Saint-Domingue (Haiti), and to the courage and obstinate resistance of its black inhabitants, that we owe the obstacles that delayed the colonization of Louisiana until the favorable moment when a rupture between England and France gave a new turn to the latter’s projects”.

Nevertheless, another American founding father, Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, who was second vice president (1797-1801) and third president (1801-1809) of the United States, showed no gratitude for this assistance. On the contrary, he suspended all trade with Haiti in 1804.

The United States resisted recognizing the newly independent country for many years, joining the European empires in punishing Haiti for its insubordination. It was not until June 5, 1862 that President Abraham Lincoln granted American diplomatic recognition of the generous and heroic Fatherland of Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines.

A CubaNews translation by Walter Lippmann.

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Manuel E. Yepe is a lawyer, economist and journalist. He is a professor at the Higher Institute of International Relations in Havana.

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