I am just finishing an interesting book called POLAND'S CARIBBEAN TRAGEDY which is about the Polish legions who fought with the French in the 1802-1803 campaign before Haitian independence. The author speculates about the causes of the Haitian victory, but does not mention the fact that the slaves outnumbered the free people (white and black) by a 10-1 ratio.
He argues that there were 3 major causes of the final victory: (in this order of importance)
I have always felt that one of the major causes was the 10-1 ratio of slaves to free people in 1791 when the revolution first broke out. But this author never mentions this factor at all. However, he is much taken with comparing the conditions of slavery on Jamaica under the British. That has set me to wondering about the situation in Jamaica.
What was the ratio of slaves to free people in Jamaica during the period of British slavery? Can anyone help me out on this one?
Date: Tue, 30 May 1995
From Bob Corbett:
In a recent post I asked for help in finding out what the ratio of slaves to free persons was in Jamaica at the time of the Haitian Revolution. Special thanks to Patrick Jamieson and Gordon Scobie who gave me that explicit information. Also, others wrote in with useful leads too.
Below I will work with the information of Jamieson and Scobie to reflect a bit about a problem of understanding that I have concerning The Haitian Revolution in comparison with Jamiaca.
From: Patrick Jamieson
"Another cause of anxiety in Jamaica was the dangerous excess in numbers of the Negro slaves over the white settlers: by 1775 this stood at 200,000 to 12,737."
Clinton Black, HISTORY OF JAMAICA, London, 1958, p. 114.
From: Gordon Scobie
I have had a look a Angus Calder, Revolutionary Empire. page 458 Calder advises that there was one white to six blacks in 1698 and that by 1778 the ratio was one to eleven. He also states that during the first three quarters of the 18th century that Jamica imported close to half a million slaves, but that over the same period the slave population only increased by 15,000. This of course points to the high mortality rate among the slaves.
On the basis of the information provided by Jamieson and Scobie we see that the relative proportion of slaves in Haiti and Jamaica were not terribly different.
1779: approx 50,000 free peope
approx 500,00 slaves
Ratio: 10 - 1.
1775: approx 13,000 free people
approx 200,00 slaves
Ratio: 15 - 1
or: 1778: Ratio: 11 - 1.
Now, given that Jamaica had a greater ratio of slaves to free persons, that ratio itself cannot be seen as such a great factor in the Haitian Revolution. Other factors must weigh heavier since Jamaica did not experience the revolution which Haiti did. What were the factors between the two colonies which were different, and thus where we might look to see why Haiti could sustain a revolutionary movement and Jamaica not.
I see a lot of factors. I will simply list them with minimal comment and invite discussion of those who want to elaborate. My list is not rigorously in the order of relative importance, though it is mainly so. The first item is simply in chronological order and is both chronologically first and, on my view, extremely important in accounting for the growth of the revolutionary movement:
Thus, I think there were conditions operating at Saint Domingue that were not operating in Jamiaca, making it much more likely that a sustained revolutionary movement could be mounted in Haiti, and obviously was, than could have been done in Jamaica.
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