Rebellion in Saint Domingue
Residents of the French colony of Saint Domingue (modern day Haiti) responded quickly to the revolution in France. Abolition of slavery became a large topic of debate within the new government and among the public. Expectations of full and equal citizenship rose among the free blacks and mulattos and slaves in the colony. Many planters, slaveholders, and shippers feared a loss of great commercial wealth that would result from the abolition of slavery. Some members of the National Assembly attempted unsuccessfully to exempt the colonies from the new constitution; however, new decrees also failed to grant political rights to free blacks or abolish slavery.
In August 1791, the slaves of Saint Domingue rose up in rebellion. In response, the National Assembly rescinded the rights of free blacks and mulattos granted in May of that year. In March 1792, the assembly voted to reinstate those rights but did not move to abolish slavery. That fall, the French government sent agents to Saint Domingue to suppress the continuing slave revolt. Rebel slaves then made pacts with the British and Spanish. Faced with the threat of both British and Spanish invasions and a collapsing colonial economy, the French government abolished slavery in Saint Domingue in the fall of 1793. The former slaves, under the direction of Toussaint L’Ouverture, continued their revolt and in 1804 established the independent republic of Haiti.