Daut on “Genocidal Imaginings” in the Era of the Haitian Revolution | Age of Revolutions

Marlene L. Daut writes:

“The number of times that exterminating the entire population of “mulattoes,” free people of color, and eventually all “negroes” is alluded to in writing about the Haitian Revolution is astounding. This is likely what led André Rigaud to lament in his 1797 memoir, “There exists (and this is not at all in doubt), there exists a faction that tends to want the total destruction of all the citizens of color in Saint-Domingue.”[5] Such horrifying tendencies on the part of ordinary citizens, as well as public officials, mariners, and travel writers vis-à-vis people of color, suggests that readings of the Haitian Revolution as a “racial” revolution not only supported the ends of transatlantic slavery, but could also be used to urge the implementation of modern policies of eugenics and what has euphemistically been called “ethnic cleansing.” Indeed, revolutionary Saint-Domingue was a world in which the idea of “race war” was so well accepted that a language that reeked of genocidal imaginings was fairly ubiquitous…

Pierre Victor Malouet’s instructions to the three French agents (Dravermann, Medina, and Lavaysse) sent to the West Indies by him in 1814 in order to spy on both Haitian governments, were inflected with this same language of extermination. Instruction number six reads: “Purge the island of all the blacks whom it would be inappropriate to admit among the free and whom it would be dangerous to leave among those who are engaged on the plantations.”[9] Even though neither Drouin de Bercy nor Malouet’s specific plans to destroy independent Haiti and restore slavery would ever be imposed, ongoing international intervention in Haiti does remind us that the gap between genocidal imaginings and the implementation of conditions that have the effect of ending life can be small, something that we will not want to forget in our own Age of Revolutions, when U.S. politicians and ordinary citizens alike publicly imagine extermination.

Read the entire essay: “Genocidal Imaginings” in the Era of the Haitian Revolution – Age of Revolutions

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