Haiti, her history and her detractors
Although at a comparatively short distance from the United States, Haiti is nevertheless very little known in this country, where in most cases books written in English by unscrupulous travellers or authors are their only source of information. In this manner errors and prejudices became rooted in the minds of many Americans, who believe that my fellow countrymen are addicted to all kinds of gross superstitions and are reverting to barbarism instead of progressing in civilization. T
his rather severe arraignment of my fellow countrymen is founded upon slanders which everybody repeats without taking the trouble of examining facts in order to ascertain the truth. One cannot pass judgment upon a nation at first sight. In order to form an impartial appreciation of a people one must be acquainted with its origin and customs; it is necessary to make a study of the causes which have hindered or facilitated its evolution, and to look carefully into the various phases of this evolution; one must even be acquainted with the telluric and climatological conditions, which exert a certain influence over the successive changes of a country.
A foreigner who spends but a few days in a country cannot be in a position to speak with the accuracy of thorough knowledge of the inhabitants of this country; he is likely either to repeat all the gossip gathered from his new-made Her History and Her Detractors acquaintances or to give rein to his imagination.
Those who hasten to judge a nation whose history and temperament they have not taken the trouble to study are either guilty of bad faith or ignorance. My only aim in putting this book into English is to give to the Americans the means of forming an impartial opinion on Haiti for themselves. Consequently, this work is divided into two parts.
The first part is composed of the entire history of the island from before its discovery by Christopher Columbus up to the election of General Nord Alexis to the Presidency; the many horrors of which Haiti was the scene have been mentioned as well as the vicissitudes of the fierce struggle that occurred when its inhabitants sought to conquer their liberty and independence.
The second part deals with the natural conditions of the country, its general organization, the customs and manners of the people, and their continued efforts to better their condition. I have of course availed myself of the opportunity to refute the most current calumnies, of which Haiti has of late had a full share. In speaking of slavery and of the Haitian war of independence I could not avoid recalling some of the acts of cruelty committed by the French. I hope that no one will think on that account that my intention is to revive any ill-feeling against France.
The Haitians have great affection for that country, to which as a rule they entrust the instruction of their children. In the books, pamphlets, and newspaper articles concerning Haiti, it has been the custom to speak of Dessalines and of the soldiers of the Haitian war of independence as monsters devoid of any human feeling, whilst the authors generally remain silent about the crimes of Rochambeau and of the French colonists.
Anyone of unbiased opinion who reads the history of Haiti will readily perceive that the reprisals of the Haitians had been occasioned by the inhuman treatment inflicted on them. The facts stated in this book will, I hope, show the injustice of the charges brought Against my fellow countrymen, who have laboured earnestly and at the cost of much sacrifice of life to found a nation, whilst abolishing forever the iniquitous institution of slavery.
The Haitians claim with pride the honour of having been the first ones to put an end to the barbarous system which, abasing human beings to the level of beasts, had made man the property of man. The wrath they have incurred and the ill-will they have met with have been' occasioned in many instances solely by the grudge of the partisans of slavery and the spite of the French colonists or their descendants who had ceased to find in Saint-Domingue a source of wealth more or less honestly acquired. By mentioning in this book some facts observed in the United States my intention is not to criticise or to make any comparisons.
My only aim is, on one hand, to refute some unjust charges made against my country, and on the other to show that Haiti has not the monopoly of superstitions and superstitious practices which exist everywhere, in the United States as well as in Europe. However, if I have unwittingly given the least umbrage to the American people, I earnestly hope that a wrong motive will not be ascribed to my words; they may rest assured that, in remembrance of the kind hospitality they have shown me, I shall always do my utmost to avoid hurting their feelings in the slightest degree.
They are truth-lovers, therefore I can afford to speak to them in a frank and open manner. In saying what I think to be the truth I am of the opinion that I can benefit the United States as well as my country; for two nations need to know each other well in order to enjoy mutual respect and esteem. Through prejudice or lack of information, the Americans neglect Haiti, where their capital and their energy might find profitable investment; and others take ad- vantage of their abstention. When they become better informed they will be in a position to have their share of the profits that their competitors alone are now harvesting. Cordial relations, free from ulterior de-sign and prejudice, cannot fail to give full confidence:
Her History and Her Detractors to both nations; and this reciprocal confidence will be beneficial to all concerned. I would feel more than rewarded if my book could contribute toward establishing such confidence by giving to the American people a fair idea of the Haitians! , It gives me great pleasure to express my profound gratitude to Miss Louise Bourke for having undertaken the revising of the English text of this work; I also heartily thank Mr P. Thoby, who helped me in my search for documents; and the employes of the State Department as well as those of the Library of Congress who so graciously placed at my disposal the books and manuscripts I desired to consult.
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