"​​​The Constitution and the Piquets" by Mimi Sheller, Ph.D.​

Sheller is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Mobilities Research and Policy Center at Drexel University. She has written numerous books, such as Democracy After Slavery (2000), Consuming the Caribbean (2003), and Citizenship from Below (2012).

Many people think that Haiti did not have democracy until the elections of 1986. Yet there were elections, democratic constitutions, and democratization movements in Haiti throughout the nineteenth century. One of the most important was the "Liberal Revolution" of 1843, which ousted President Jean-Pierre Boyer and led to a new Constitution.

It began with the Manifeste de Praslin, written by a secret Society for the Rights of Man and the Citizen, whose general assembly met on September 1st, 1842, at Praslin, the property of General Charles Riviere Hérard, near Les Cayes. Attacking the injustices of Boyer’s autocratic government and calling for democratization, they formed a provisional government.

Democracy was also promoted by opposition members in the Chamber of Representatives and lively journalists like Dumai Lespinasse, editor of Le Manifeste: Journal Commercial, Politique et Litteraire (Port-au-Prince, 1841-1844), writer Emile Hertelou, and publisher Telemon Bouchereau, who served as elected secretary of the Assemblée Constituante, which wrote the new Constitution. The uprising against Boyer led him to take flight to Jamaica, with his entire family on March 13th, 1843.

Although General Hérard became President, some of the electorate felt that he represented a military faction that was predominantly "mulâtre;" he was opposed by a "democratic party" led by Salomon jeune, that claimed to represent the "noirs". Their call for greater social equality led to the 1844 uprising known as the Piquet Rebellion, led by Jean-Jacques Acaau, a rural police chief who stood up for the rights of the peasantry, or small landholders.

Acaau’s Army of Sufferers convened people with the sound of the lambi, wore the clothing of the peasantry, and affirmed "respect for the Constitution, Rights, Equality, Liberty." They initiated a popular movement that continued with the Cacos of the late 19th century, the opposition to the U.S. occupation in the early 20th century, and had yet to prevail when the democratic movement was reignited with the fall of Jean-Claude Duvalier.