Review of “The French Revolution in San Domingo” by Lothrop Stoddard

This book (still in print here) is another recommendation from Mencius Moldbug. Mr Stoddard is interesting in himself.

The basics facts of the story can be found here, but Wikipedia (ever politically correct) misses too much to give you the full story. Stoddard actually gets closer to summing it up here:

The pe­ri­od opens in 1789 with a res­ident white pop­ula­tion of near­ly 40,000 souls, at the very pin­na­cle of ma­te­ri­al pros­per­ity and pos­sessed of a com­plex so­cial or­ga­ni­za­tion, jeal­ous­ly guard­ing its suprema­cy and race iden­ti­ty in face of a large caste of half-breeds whose on­ly bond of in­ter­est with their white su­pe­ri­ors was a com­mon ex­ploita­tion of some half-mil­lion ne­gro slaves. The pe­ri­od clos­es six­teen years lat­er with the com­plete an­ni­hi­la­tion of the last rem­nants of the white pop­ula­tion, the sub­or­di­na­tion of the mulatto caste to the ne­groes, and the de­struc­tion of the is­land’s eco­nom­ic pros­per­ity.

The division of races, with three races, is the key to understand what happens as the revolution in Frances spills-over into the colony of San Domingo. Our three races are whites, mulattoes and blacks. These groups are important because everyone on the island sees them as important.

Prior to the revolution, the colony was prosperous:

In 1789, San Domin­go “had at­tained a height of pros­per­ity not sur­passed in the his­to­ry of Eu­ro­pean colonies. The great­est part of its soil was cov­ered by plan­ta­tions on a gigantic scale which sup­plied half Eu­rope with sug­ar, cof­fee, and cot­ton.” And the de­gree of this pros­per­ity was in­creas­ing by leaps and bounds. Since 1786, “the planters had dou­bled their prod­ucts, and a large amount of French cap­ital had poured in­to the is­land for in­vest­ment — a hun­dred mil­lions from Bor­deaux alone. The re­turns were al­ready splen­did and still greater were ex­pect­ed.”

But French rule was not exactly ideal. It was governed under the Pacte Coloniale, which had five principles:

(1) the colony must send its prod­ucts on­ly to the moth­er coun­try; (2) the colony must buy on­ly from the moth­er coun­try; (3) the colony must es­tab­lish no man­ufac­tures; (4) the moth­er coun­try agreed to buy its trop­ical prod­ucts on­ly from the colony; (5) the car­ry­ing-trade with the colony must be the monopoly of the moth­er coun­try’s mer­chant marine.

We next get into the characteristics of each group. Stoddard is no defender of slavery:

In spite of their poor qual­ity and bad treat­ment, these en­gages had done fair­ly well, and it seems prac­ti­cal­ly cer­tain that if slav­ery had been ex­clud­ed, San Domin­go would have be­come the home of an ac­cli­mat­ed white peo­ple. But it was not to be. Slav­ery be­came the very ba­sis of so­ci­ety — and wrought its log­ical con­se­quences. . . .
Bryan Ed­wards, as we have seen, states that the base of slave so­ci­eties is fear. This is true, — and true in its broad­est sense. For, if the slave feared the mas­ter, the master al­so feared the slave. In the back­ground of San Domin­gan life, there low­ered a dark shad­ow, of which men thought much even when they spoke lit­tle.

And:

The mu­lat­toes looked up­on the free ne­groes with un­con­cealed dis­like, but this nev­er caused an open breach with­in the caste; the free black ful­ly shared the mu­lat­to’s contempt for the slave, and re­fused to make com­mon cause with his blood-broth­er. For this rea­son the free ne­groes nev­er played an in­de­pen­dent role, and the “free peo­ple of col­or” may be treat­ed as the caste of the mu­lat­toes.

Here, we must remember that slavery in colonies like San Domingo was not the same as slavery in the US (though the common understanding of what slavery was like is probably closer to the non-US reality). Stoddard points out:

But rapid as was this in­crease [in the number of slaves in the colony], it was due to im­mi­gra­tion, not to births; the slave pop­ula­tion of San Domin­go nev­er re­pro­duced it­self, and al­ways showed a ten­den­cy to die out.

This is still the best discussion of types of slavery that I have read.

To make a long story short, when French rule goes away, the three races on the island begin fighting for control. The result was perhaps inevitable (especially when France went to war with other countries in Europe). Along the way, we get some gruesome stories of some bad actors:

The hor­ror of the race war in the West now al­most sur­passed that of the North. The mu­lat­to Con­fed­er­ates, in “to­ken of their Roy­al­ist sen­ti­ments, fash­ioned white cock­ades from the ears of then-dead en­emies. The atroc­ities per­pe­trat­ed up­on the white wom­en and chil­dren are past be­lief. ”The mu­lat­toes,“ writes the Colo­nial As­sem­bly to its Paris commis­sion­ers, ”rip open preg­nant wom­en, and then be­fore death force the hus­bands to eat of this hor­ri­ble fruit. Oth­er in­fants are thrown to the hogs." . . .Then be­gan a strug­gle whose hor­rors have prob­ably nev­er been sur­passed. Nei­ther side dreamed of quar­ter, and the on­ly pris­on­ers tak­en were those re­served for tor­ture. So fe­ro­cious was the racial ha­tred of the com­batants that men of­ten tore one an­ot­her to pieces with their teeth.

Keep in mind that much of this violence was black on mulatto and vice versa.

We end with some fighting between Leclerc and L’Overture before the French give up.

I think this about sums up the story best:

The at­ti­tude of con­ser­va­tive French­men on the colo­nial ques­tion is well ex­pressed by De Wimpf­fen in a let­ter writ­ten at the very be­gin­ning of the Rev­olu­tion. “My sen­ti­ments, sir, with re­gard to the slav­ery of the blacks are no se­cret to you,” he writes a French cor­re­spon­dent in March, 1789. “You are ap­prised, then, that I have al­ways agreed, and still agree with those writ­ers who repro­bate so strong­ly the in­fa­mous traf­fic we main­tain on the coasts of Africa. But, while I do jus­tice to the pu­ri­ty of their mo­tives, . . . our age is un­for­tu­nate­ly too full of po­lit­ical re­form­ers; who are in a vi­olent haste to pull down an ir­reg­ular ed­ifice, with­out hav­ing ei­ther the tal­ents or the ma­te­ri­als nec­es­sary to con­struct it again up­on a bet­ter plan. One sim­ple ar­gu­ment shall suf­fice for all. Your colonies, such as they are, can­not ex­ist with­out slav­ery. This is a fright­ful truth, I con­fess; — but the not rec­og­niz­ing it is more fright­ful still, and may pro­duce the most ter­ri­ble con­se­quences. You must, then, sanc­tion slav­ery or re­nounce your colonies: and as 30,000 whites can con­trol 460,000 ne­groes on­ly by the force of opin­ion (the sole guar­an­ty of their ex­is­tence), ev­ery­thing which tends to weak­en or de­stroy that opin­ion is a crime against so­ci­ety.”

And so it proved to be. One can’t help but be reminded of Reconstruction, as Shelby Foote said:

This country has two grievous sins on its hands. One of them is slavery – whether we’ll ever be cured of it, I don’t know. The other one is emancipation – they told 4 million people, you’re free, hit the road, and they drifted back into a form of peonage that in some ways is worse than slavery.

5 Responses to Review of “The French Revolution in San Domingo” by Lothrop Stoddard

  1. […] Stoddard Alternative Right is providing some in depth analysis of T. Lothrop Stoddard under the title American Nietzsche. I reviewed one of his books – The French Revolution in Santo Domingo – here. […]

  2. […] concern is that the British colonies in the West Indies will go the route of Haiti – a bad result indeed. In short, Froude believes that democracy is impossible on the islands as the black population will […]

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  5. […] The French Revolution in San Domingo (with review by Foseti) […]

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