The Haitian Revolution is mentioned several times in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It sounded vaguely familiar, but since my edition has no notes, I had to do some research. History is a subject that I always found boring in school, but since I have started home schooling, it is one of my most favorite subjects to teach. Surprisingly, I now find it fascinating. Also, Susan Wise Bauer encourages us to learn some of the history of the time in order to better understand our authors. Christina’s husband should probably write a guest post about this topic, as history is his specialty, but since he hasn’t attempted, I’ll try to have a go.
The Haitian Revolution, a violent slave uprising, began in 1791. It was led by Toussaint L’Ouverture against the French citizens of Haiti. Surprisingly, it was successful, and by 1804, not only was slavery abolished in Haiti, but an independent Haitian republic was established. This uprising destroyed Napoleon’s dreams of a French Empire in New America and opened the doors for the eventual Louisiana Purchase. So, why does Stowe bring it up? Probably because most Americans who opposed slavery thought that the best way to resolve the issue was through peaceful protests, slow political gains and gradual advances. The Haitian uprising proved that slavery could be abolished quickly and violently. Somehow, given Stowe’s passion about slavery, I think she would have favored whatever means could have abolished slavery, even if it was bloody, as long as it “got the job done.” She also may have included this history because many Americans feared potential slave uprisings. Several small slave rebellions had been squelched in America by the time of this novel’s publication, including the most famous “Nat Turner’s Revolt” in Virginia. Not many people in America wanted Haiti’s revolutionary ideas about slavery to spread.
So, there is the history lesson of the day. Hopefully I got it all correct. I’m sure you resident history buffs will be sure to correct me or add to the story if necessary.