Analyzing Historical Documents: The Haitian Revolution, Eyewitness Accounts

2051 words - 9 pages

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizens in 1789 was a key incentive for the Haitian Revolution of 1789-1803. This declaration was pivotal in defining the rights that all men were entitled to. For instance, the framers of the declaration proclaimed that “men are born…free and equal in respect of their civil rights…” and that all men were entitled to liberty, rights to own property, security, resistance of oppression, freedom of speech, and protection under the law. The declaration was perceived by members of society very differently. For example, the people of color view the declaration as a tool for demanding their rights. For the slaves, the declaration was a motivation to ...view middle of the document...

His account is very important because it is one of the few firsthand accounts that shows us the ambiguity of Ogé’s rebellion. René Verneuil’s document itself does not explain why he produced it, however, we can say that this document was part of Verneuil’s testimony and conclude that it also shows ambiguity on the part of the white society towards free people of color. The degree of familiarity of the Verneuil’s with the subject discussed in the document is to some extent limited. First, as a white property owner in St. Domingue, Verneuil, like other white property owners had a limited relationship with people of Ogé group. However, during captivity, Verneuil had the opportunity of knowing Ogé. The author of his narrative was a direct observant of the event because he was the one taken captive for a few days. I believe that we do not have any reason to believe that what Verneuil described is not what he believed.
Verneuil accounts describe how he was captive and what happened during his captivity. First he mentions that while he was at Laroque’s house with three other persons, Ogé and his men’s arrived at the house on horseback and armed, took them prisoners to the presbytery. During captivity, he was treated very well, since he was allowed to keep his weapons and offered food. It is precisely this that make us conclude that Ogé rebellion was vague. On the one hand he is fighting to gain political rights for free people of color. Since, according to Verneuil, Ogé motivation for the uprising was to take control over the colony since “he was the commandant of Saint-Domingue” (46). Yet, at the same time, he wanted to maintain the institution of slavery since he owns slave and his wealth depended on slave labor. It is clear that Ogé had more in common with Verneuil, since they were both property owners with interest in maintaining the institution of slavery, than with the slaves that were helping him. That explain his preferential treatment towards Verneuil. From his accounts, we learned that Ogé was willing to “raise the plantation slaves” if it was necessary in order to gain control over Saint Domingue, even if that caused greater troubles. Meaning that gaining political power, even if it causes the dissolution of the institution of slavery, was more important.
“The Battle in the Harbor: The Testimony of a Man of Color” is the narrative of Francois Lapierre, a free man of color. In this narrative, Lapierre described his experience when he was captured by white men. Lapierre gave this testimony on August 12, 1793, to the Civil Commissioners of the Republic. Lapierre is very familiar with the subject discussed in this document because his testimony was based on his experience with the French sailors. The information provided in this document comes from a direct observer and was obtained first hand. We do not have reasons to believe that Lapierre does not believe what he is describing. The intended audience of “The Battle in the Harbor” is...

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