It Was In September 1804 That Dessalines Proclaimed Himself Emperor Of Haiti

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Jean-Jacques Dessalines as Emperor Jacques I of Haiti

In 1758, Jean-Jacques Dessalines was born in Central West Africa. He was enslaved in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (Haiti). His biography is a mix of legend and history. However, most historians believe that he was born in Saint-Domingue as Jean-Jacques Duclos, the name of his father was adopted it from his owner. Dessalines started his career as a field hand, rose up to the role of foreman. When he was around age 30, he was sold to a free black man named Dessalines and his surname was changed again. Dessalines served as an officer in the French army when the colony was trying to resist the Spanish and British invaders. In 1791, he joined the slave revolution that broke out in the colony and met the rising military commander Toussaint Bréda (later known as Toussaint L'Ouverture). Gradually, in the decade that followed, Dessalines established himself as a lieutenant of the black leader Toussaint L'Ouverture, who became the governor-general of Saint-Domingue with French support as a reward for his loyalty to France.

In 1802, Napoleon Bonaparte, to re-conquer the colony, deposed Toussaint L'Ouverture and declared his intention to reintroduce slavery which was earlier abolished by the French National Convention in 1794. As a consequence, Dessalines and other black and mulatto leaders rose in rebellion. After the fall of Toussaint L'Ouverture, Dessalines assumed the post of Commander in Chief of the Haitian Army. Dessalines was a formidable general, great strategist, master tactician, ruthless leader and unforgiving commander. Dessalines was illiterate, but a quick learner and for his ferocity in battle, he earned a nickname "the tiger". His initial goal was to free all slaves on the island, but over time the goal became total independence. On January 1, 1804, his force expelled the French from Saint-Domingue. Dessalines, as the governor-general, proclaimed the entire island of Hispaniola an independent country under the Arawak-derived name Haiti. In the following September (1804), he adopted the title of emperor as "Jacques I". He was crowned Emperor Jacques I in a coronation ceremony on 6 October in the city of Le Cap. To prevent white dominance, he confiscated land owned by white people, and between February and April, 1804, Dessalines ordered the deaths of approximately 3,000 to 5,000 white people of all ages and genders. On October 17, 1806, Dessalines was assassinated in the north of Port-au-Prince at Pont Larnage, (now known as Pont-Rouge) en route to battle the rebels.

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Read more: Dessalines, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Jean Jacques Dessalines, Newsletter Articles, History

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Reader Comments 1

Raymond Lafontant says...

the text gives two different place of birth for the Emperor.

One should correct.

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