III. 1805 to 1820

Once independent, Haiti was ruled by Emperor Jean-Jacques Dessalines and the revolutionary army, which was kept intact because France would not concede Haiti’s independence and threatened to attack at any moment. Other nations would not assist Haiti because they worried that Haiti’s example would inspire oppressed peoples to seek liberty, as was the case in Cuba, Brazil, and Colombia. Haiti nonetheless provided refuge, safe passage, and armaments to revolutionaries, such as Francisco de Miranda and eventually, in 1815, Simon Bolívar. In the United States, some abolitionists lauded Haiti’s independence and merchants wanted to trade with the new nation. But slave owners were alarmed by reports about the persecution of Haiti’s French inhabitants, and the possibility that the violent overthrow of slavery would spread elsewhere. Hence the United States refused to recognize Haiti’s independence, even though Napoleon Bonaparte would would likely never have approved the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 had the Haitian Revolution not disrupted his imperialist ambitions in the Americas. Determined to preempt any attempt by the Europeans to retake Haiti, Dessalines invaded eastern Hispaniola in 1805, but was unable to drive out the French and the Spanish. Four years later, however, the French gave this territory back to Spain, when the colony’s Spanish inhabitants became restless with French rule and Napoleon had to concentrate on wars in Europe.

When Dessalines was assassinated in 1806, Haiti broke into two separate nations, the north led by Henry Christophe, and the south led by Alexandre Pétion. While neither was able conquer the other, they both supported insurrections in each other’s territory. Encumbered by civil war, they both had to repair their beleaguered economies. While Pétion divided plantations among his supporters, Christophe kept them intact and made everyone return to work. He even deployed his "Royal Corps of Dahomey," supposedly brought over from Africa, to police his population and punish truancy. Both Christophe and Pétion promoted education. While Christophe invited British abolitionists to help open schools in the north, Pétion created a lycée in Port-au-Prince and a pensionnat to educate young women. In 1818, however, Pétion died of yellow fever. His successor, Jean-Pierre Boyer, reunited Haiti two years later when Christophe had a stroke and committed suicide.