by Pascal Robert
The BREXIT referendum showed how the rulers of powerful states can be brought low by the efforts of common people – in this case, the British electorate. However, people from the lowest stratum of global society once brought low the mightiest empires on Earth. “Former African slaves in Haiti did the seemingly impossible and defeated all three of the major European empires of that day to obtain their freedom.”
When Haiti Defeated the British Empire
by Pascal Robert
This article previously appeared in Thought Merchant.
“Few realize how the defeat of Napoleon by the brave former African slaves in Haiti opened the door for the dominance of the British Empire.”
In the wake of the BREXIT vote which has the world reeling after Great Britain decided to abandon the European Union, much has been said about the historical scope, power, and influence of the British Empire throughout history. At its apex the British Empire was the most powerful geopolitical force on earth. What many neglect to realize is that one of the occurrences that helped the United Kingdom rise to such a position was The Haitian Revolution, which thoroughly defeated Britain’s only serious hegemonic competitor, Napoleonic France.
Much is discussed and written about Haiti’s defeat of Napoleon and how it opened the door for the Louisiana Purchase that fostered the expansion of the United States into the nation it has since become. However, few realize how the defeat of Napoleon by the brave former African slaves in Haiti opened the door for the dominance of the British Empire. Furthermore, as Americans always pride themselves on their revolutionary accomplishment of defeating the great British Empire and gaining their freedom, few give full acknowledgment to the superior military feat of the Haitian Revolution in its not only vanquishing the French Napoleonic Empire and the Spanish Empire of the time, but also thoroughly defeating the mighty British Empire to the point of leading the United Kingdom to agree to cease the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and any further official importation of Africans into the Western Hemisphere.
“10,000 British soldiers had died in less than two months!”
So while Americans celebrate their independence victory in defeating the greatest of European Empires, the British recognize that former African slaves in Haiti did the seemingly impossible and defeated all three of the major European empires of that day to obtain their freedom, including the one beaten by the Americans:
“Yet it cannot be denied that both the government and British public had learned a lesson from [Britain’s] disastrous attempt to conquer Saint Domingue/Haiti, restore slavery, and subdue Toussaint L’Ouverture. In 1796 nearly three years after the first British forces landed in Saint Domingue/Haiti, the [British] administration sent off one of the greatest expeditionary forces in British history. Before the end of the year Edmond Burke received news that 10,000 British soldiers had died in less than two months! It was reported in the House of Commons that almost every Briton had a personal acquaintance that had perished in the [Haitian] Campaigns.” – David P. Geggus, The Impact of The Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World.
In the end the British lost over 50,000 soldiers in their attempt to bring slavery back to Haiti. This had a direct influence on the British decision to end the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Pascal Robert is an iconoclastic Haitian American Lawyer, blogger, and online activist for Haiti. You can find his work on the web at Thought Merchant, and at Huffington Post. He can be reached via twitter at https://twitter.com/probert06 @probert06 or [email protected].