- Category: International
- Created on Monday, 18 January 2010 02:28
- Written by Robert Parry
Haiti and the U.S. were always entwined -- from their very origins in the 1700s. Slave revolution in the Caribbean caused the American settler-state to tremble as it expanded. Revolution in Haiti -- then one of the most profitable colonies in the world -- greatly weakened the French empire. It stirred the hearts of slaves throughout the Americas, leading to whispered plans of revolt. And it provided an opening to the slave owners of the U.S. to grab new lands all the way to the Mississippi river -- first (on paper) from the French, and then (through bloody genocide) from the Indian peoples.
The following is from Consortium news and appears on Alternet.
Haiti's Tragic History Is Entwined with the Story of America
By Robert Parry
Announcing emergency help for Haiti after a devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake, President Barack Obama noted America’s historic ties to the impoverished Caribbean nation, but few Americans understand how important Haiti’s contribution to U.S. history was.
In modern times, when Haiti does intrude on U.S. consciousness, it’s usually because of some natural disaster or a violent political upheaval, and the U.S. response is often paternalistic, if not tinged with a racist disdain for the country’s predominantly black population and its seemingly endless failure to escape cycles of crushing poverty.
However, more than two centuries ago, Haiti represented one of the most important neighbors of the new American Republic and played a central role in enabling the United States to expand westward. If not for Haiti, the course of U.S. history could have been very different, with the United States possibly never expanding much beyond the Appalachian Mountains.
In the 1700s, then-called St. Domingue and covering the western third of the island of Hispaniola, Haiti was a French colony that rivaled the American colonies as the most valuable European possession in the Western Hemisphere. Relying on a ruthless exploitation of African slaves, French plantations there produced nearly one-half the world’s coffee and sugar.
Many of the great cities of France owe their grandeur to the wealth that was extracted from Haiti and its slaves. But the human price was unspeakably high. The French had devised a fiendishly cruel slave system that imported enslaved Africans for work in the fields with accounting procedures for their amortization. They were literally worked to death.