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×n August 1791, a massive slave uprising erupted in the French colony Saint-Domingue, now known as Haiti. The rebellion was ignited by a Vodou service organized by Boukman, a Vodou houngan (High Priest). Historians stamp this revolt as the most celebrated event that launched the 13-year revolution which culminated in the independence of Haiti in 1804. The outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 dramatically changed the wealthy French slave colony. At the time of the slave uprising, the colony was in a melee with several revolutionary movements brewing simultaneously. The planters were moving toward independence from France, the free people of color wanted full citizenship, and the slaves wanted freedom. All were largely inspired by the French Revolution of 1789 with its call for liberty and equality. By 1789 Saint-Domingue’s population consisted of about 450,000 black slaves, 40,000 whites, and 28,000 free blacks and mulattoes. The small white population was divided between an upper class of about 10,000 aristocrats and a middle class of about 30,000 shopkeepers, soldiers, artisans, and others. These two groups had little in common. Allied with the wealthy whites were the mulattoes, many of whom were offspring of the white elite and wanted to share in their privileges. Yet the mulattoes faced discrimination because of their racial background; in turn, they despised the black slaves, as did the whites. One of the most notable leaders of the Haitian Revolution to emerge was Toussaint L'Ouverture, a former slave. By 1801 he conquered Santo Domingo, eradicated slavery, and proclaimed himself as governor-general for life over the whole island. The Planters These were wealthy whites who owned plantations and many slaves. They were, by 1770, extremely disenchanted with France. Their complaint was almost identical with the complaints that led the North American British to rebel against King George in 1776 and declare their independence. That is, the metropole (France), imposed strict laws on the colony prohibiting any trading with any partner except France. Further, the colonists had no formal representation with the French government. Virtually all the planters violated the laws of France and carried on an illegal trade especially with the fledgling nation, the United States of America. Most of the planters leaned strongly toward independence for Saint-Domingue along the same lines as the U.S., that is, a slave nation governed by white males.

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