In 1789, on the eve of the French Revolution, St. Domingue was the world's most prosperous colony. It was "an integral part of the economic life of the age, the greatest colony in the world, the pride of France, and the envy of every other imperialist nation."1   Its plantation economy produced an abundance of crops, of which sugar was by far the most important. At its peak, St. Domingue produced more sugar than all the British Caribbean islands put together and was responsible for forty percent of the overseas trade of France.2     2


social structure

The Haitian Revolution changed the country's social structure. The colonial ruling class, and most of the white population, was eliminated, and the plantation system was largely destroyed. The earliest black and mulatto leaders attempted to restore a plantation system that relied on an essentially free labor force, through strict military control, but the system collapsed during the tenure of Alexandre P├ętion (1806-18). The Haitian Revolution broke up plantations and distributed land among the former slaves. Through this process, the new Haitian upper class lost control over agricultural land and labor, which had been the economic basis of colonial control. To maintain their superior economic and social position, the new Haitian upper class turned away from agricultural pursuits in favor of more urban-based activities, particularly government.

economic structure.

    The entire economic structure of St. Domingue rested on the backs of a population denied any participation in the colony's prosperity3--the more than one-half million black slaves who were raided from their homelands in Africa and brought in slave ships to the New World to fill an ever-expanding demand for labor and profits. Black slavery in St. Domingue, as in the rest of the Western Hemisphere, was brutal and dehumanizing. The Code Noir enacted by the French government in 1685, ostensibly to ensure humane treatment for slaves, was...