HAITI'S AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES VISITS CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA
By Uriah J. Fields
On Sunday, January 24, 2010, (12 days after the January 7.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated Haiti), the Honorable Raymond Alcide Joseph, Haitian Ambassador to the United States delivered a speech at the Ebenezer Baptist Church Rev. Lehman D. Bates II, Pastor, in Charlottesville, Virginia.
This writer, as well as some state and city officials that included Virginia Delegate David Toscano and Chalottesville Councilors Vice Mayor Holly Edwards and Kristin Szakos, who presented the Ambassador with a medal from the city, Rev. Doyle J. Thomas, Jr., of Jerusalem Baptist Church and Rev. J. W. McCrary, Jr., Pastor of Bethany Seventh-day Adventist Church were among the attendees present in the jam-packed Church to hear the Ambassasdor.
The Haitian Ambassador delivered a powerful and passionate message that enlightened his listeners about Haiti while appealing for more help for the Haitian people. He praised the United States for the contribution already made to Haiti and noted that some other nations are helping Haiti.
The Ambassador chose as his text and theme: "...For such a time as this." Esther 4:14
This writer was inspired by his message. His comment on Haiti-United States relations and, in particular, the role Haiti had in the United State's purchase of Louisiana motivated me to do reseach on the subject. In my reseach it became clear that Haiti, as the Ambassador stated, had contributed to the Louisiana Purchase by the United States. Below are some of the findings and comments I am pleased to share with readers.
The Louisiana Purchase (French sale of Louisiana) was the acquisition to the United States of America of 828,800 square miles. The United States paid 15 million dollars for the Louisiana Territory that encompassed all or part of 14 current U. S. states and portions of what would eventually become part of the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The purchase doubled the size of the United States, comprising around 23% of current U. S. territory. Thomas Jefferson was President when the Louisiana Purchase Treaty was signed on April 30, 1803.
Haiti is a Caribbean country, 10,714 square miles and its capital is Port-au-Prince. Before the earthquake there were 9 million people. At least 150,000 have died in the earthquake. It was the first independent nation in the Western Hemisphere and some believe to be the first black-led republic in the world when it gained independence in part as the result of a slave rebellion that ended in 1804. However, this is not true. Pre-colonial black-led republics include: Ghana, Mali Empire, Nigeria, Egypt and Ethiopia which is Africa's oldest independent country.
The Haitian Revolution (1791-1803) is the period of violent conflict in the French colony of Saint-Domingue that led to the elimination of slavery and the establishment of Haiti, the first republic in the Western Hemisphere ruled by people of African ancestry.
The French Revolution in Saint-Domingue and West Indies involved France and Great Britain in the war of 1793. Concurrently, the slave rebellion in Saint-Domingue as led by Toussaint L'Ouverture, a former slave and leader who rose in importance as a military commander in the revolt. Spain controlling part of the island of Hispaniola joined with Great Britain to fight against France. The British troops invaded Saint-Domingue.
Napoleon Bonaparte was determined to eliminate Toussaint who he called "This gilded African," and maintain slavery which was the economic backbone of France. In 1799, Napoleon launched an invasion against his own governor-general of Saint-Domingue. He sent 12,000 soldiers under the leadership of his brother-in-law, General Charles Leclerc. In1802 Leclerc arrived at the bag of Cap Francois. The fighting was fierce and the losses great. Toussaint was kidnapped and shipped to France where he died in prison in 1803.
France had lost more than 50,000 soldiers, including 18 generals during these wars and revolts. At the end of a double battle for emancipation, former slaves proclaimed the independence of Saint-Domingue on January 1, 1804, declaring the new nation to be called Haiti which was named after the Taino Amerindians who inhabited Hispaniola before it was discovered by Columbus in 1492, if you can believe that this land was undiscovered before Columbus or 1492. The Taino Amerindians were virtually annihilated by Spanish settlers within 25 years.
Haiti is the only nation born of a slave revolt. The slave revolt resulted in the deaths of 100,000 blacks and 14,000 of the white colonists. On May 18, 1803 Great Britain declared war on France. On January 1,1804, France was permanently removed from the island and Haitian independence declared.
Ambassador Raymond Alcide Joseph was right. The cost of the war against the island and Haitian people had become too costly for France to long endure. Selling Louisiana was France's endeavor to survive and for only 15 million dollars inviting for the United States. Let the United States, and we can rightly add Canada, never forget that among other things, their annexations of territories were acquired, in part, as a result of the Haitian Revolution. Payday someday for Haiti. That day is now or at least it should and can be now.
It is also worth noting that the United States' military forces occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934 under the guise that such would transform Haiti's political system. It didn't. That discussion is for another time. Now, is the time for Haiti to be given her just due in resources and respect. As tragic as the earthquake has been Haiti can rise to become a nation with a viable economic system that can match her heritage and spiritual development.
Although for years the United States has turned away Haitians who attempted to enter the United States, while allowing Cubans to enter the country the answer to the Haitian's current problem is not bringing Haitian people to America, except for medical treatment, as students and tourists. The Haitian people need to remain in Haiti and build a great nation. How much better off Cuba would be today if the Cubans in Miami had remained in Havana? Dare America drain Haiti of her most favored brain power.
The time is ripe for Haiti to rise from the lost of more than 150,000 inhabitants, ashes and debris and become courageous people with the resolve and spirit possessed by their chief deliverer, Toussaint L'Ouverture. Spain, France and Great Britain are also indebted to Haiti and should pay up now.
Copyright 2010 by Uriah J. Fields