How seemed too radical to be formulated by slaves,

How history is interpreted, defines how
selective “sources fill the historical landscape with their facts, by which they
reduce the room available for other facts”. Trouillot furtherly proclaims when ‘illogical’ facts
became undeniable, Eurocentric societies endeavoured to

explicitly narrate
the revolution which would fit into European worldview and sustain its racial
and cultural hierarchies.  The dominant paradigm of hierarchies
ingrained within western narratives provided by the basis that human beings are
internally differentiated based upon culture and biology, thought to have
constituted civilisation. Trouillot proclaims how European narratives accommodated
slavery, “colonisation provided the most potent impetus for the transformation
of European ethnocentrism into scientific racism,” thus the enslavement of black people was
rationalised due to anesthetizing their biological inferiority. Therefore, due to their inferiority the revolution was perceived as a
contradiction of the dominant Eurocentric principles, it was dismissed as not
having been a true “revolution. Europeans did not fathom the unthinkable strength
a slave army could amount to, categorising slaves as politically ambiguous due
to lack of education, “enslaved Africans and their descendants could not envision freedom, let alone
formulate strategies for gaining and securing such freedom”73.

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As white
hegemony was taken for granted, the alternative being that black slaves could
ever defeat the “superior beings,” was deemed unthinkable even while
the phenomenon began to unfold the narrators found other explanations as the revolution seemed too radical to be formulated by slaves, due to the
fact revolution was not preceded or even accompanied by an explicit
intellectual discourse. The
revolutions exceptionalism was essential to the Western conception of itself,
consequently meaning that the history was chosen to be completely forgotten and
supressed. European powers curtailed the role of the revolution in history due
to the fear of highlighting the fact that fundamental change comes from social
revolution, thus characterising the rebellion only comprehendible as temporary assuring
society would return to its Eurocentric social order, “it is quite possible the things would return to normal considering the
ascendency that the white has always had over the negroes” 28= sauna =, au
temps des isles a sucre 223.

 

Enlightenment
principles grew in popularity, the movement faced an increasing and powerful
paradox, Trouillot furtherly explores Louis Sala-molins claim that slavery was
the apex indication of the newly developed enlightenment ideals, by  insisting “the Haitian revolution was the
ultimate test to the universal pretensions of both French and American
revolutions”. Consequently, the Haitian Revolution is not an appendix to the French
Revolution, the revolution was the first
in a modern state to implement the failed promises of both French and American Revolutions
concerning human rights universally and
unconditionally. Article 13 of the
1805 Haitian constitution highlights
the radical re-conceptualisation of race that underpinned Haiti; “white woman who have been naturalized Haytians by Government, nor does it
extend to children already born, or that may be born of the said women. The
Germans and Polanders naturalized by government are also comprized (sic) in the
dispositions of the present article”. The Haitian Revolution both
embodies the principles of and is the historical fulfilment of central tenets
of Enlightenment thought.

 

The French Enlightenment constitution notions of
equality and liberty were crucial to the insurrection of the Haitian, as C.LR James
points out “it is impossible to understand the St. Domingue
Revolution unless it is studied in close relationship with the Revolution in
France”1. French Enlightenment
thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau resonated well with Toussaint, though
Rousseau’s philosophy was more apparent in the French Revolution, his
conceptualisation of freedom strongly influenced the foundations of the Haitian
Revolution, inspiring the slaves towards their undying rights for freedom, “the
enlightenment, nevertheless, brought a change of perspective. The idea of progress,
now confirmed, suggested that men were perfectible”.   “man is born free, but he is everywhere in
chains,” Rousseau asserts that states subdue natural born freedom,
and supine  to secure the civil liberties which civil society depends on. Any which way
enlightenment philosophy inspired slaves, it was nevertheless applicable to
them due to restrictive European concepts as Troulliot points out, Louis
Sala-molins dismantles enlightenment philosophers such as Rousseau as never directly
addressing the hypocrisy of slaves in physical chains; and the regaining of
liberty by the same right as took it away.

1 James, C.L.R., The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo
Revolution. London. Penguin. 2001