The mainstream of the North and South viewed the Haitian Revolution through completely different lenses. Many Northern radicals openly cheered the genocide of the White population of France’s highly profitable plantation colony of Saint-Domingue (which most Southerners referred to as San Domingo) and the barbarous rule which followed. They tried to look past the utter collapse of the country’s economy and social order, preferring to see the revolution as a vindication of their egalitarian bourgeois fantasies. In the same way they cheered John Brown’s murderous raid in Virginia and before that the terrorist tactics of the infamous Jayhawkers on the Western frontier who attacked Southern families in Kansas and Missouri.
As Dr. Robert E. May of Purdue University writes on pages 33-34 of The Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire, 1854-1861, Southerners saw the destruction of San Domingo quite differently:
Southerners remembered all too vividly the bloody revolution in the French West Indies colony of Saint-Domingue around the turn of the [19th] century. They viewed that rebellion and its consequences – the creation of a black republic – in the worst possible light: the very word “Haiti” evoked images of black slaves devastating property and torturing and murdering their former masters. Southern whites commiserated with the many white Haitians [sic] who fled to the United States, shuddered at their horror stories, and feared that the revolution would eventually infect their own slaves. That Haiti’s economy stagnated in subsequent years – sugar, cotton, and cocoa production all declined – contributed to the negative image.
It should be noted that millions of Southerners continue to (unconsciously) see the world through a perspective influenced by the neo-classicalism of the plantation civilization. Southern nationalists are self-aware and open about this. We point to the failing school system imposed upon the South, the decline of Southern urban areas, White flight to the suburbs and the negative legacy of corruption, crime and economic decline which has accompanied the rise of the radical new order in the South.
While bourgeois USA celebrates in Hollywood its historic victory over the South at Selma, in real life Selma is now a basket-case which has descended in open gang warfare. Again and again in culture and politics we see this divide appear: in Haiti, Selma, Memphis, Birmingham and across the South. The radical American mainstream celebrates the triumph of its idealistic values while Southerners point to the destructive results of that “triumph.”
Note: This same is true of bourgeois Brazil (as well as other post-plantation societies of the Golden Circle) which celebrates its “progress” over monarchy, traditionalism and the plantation order. Many former plantation areas, once prosperous and well-ordered, are now plagued with poverty and crime. And the corruption of the new Leftist republican order is now epidemic and widely-known. Needless to say, Brazilian traditionalists who look back fondly on the country’s prosperity, order and comparatively good government during the plantation age do not see the triumph of radical republicanism as a positive development.