The Haitian Revolution, with Jason Kuznicki

What happened in Haiti in the 1790s was unique and truly revolutionary.

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Few concepts or examples in history have a total sample size of exactly one. With history-making resolve, the slaves in Haiti seized their freedom, which revolutionary Paris only begrudgingly recognized. When the planters, the British, the Spanish, and finally Napoleon himself tried to re-enslave them, they simply refused and resolved themselves to fight to the death for the liberties they’d won.

Further Readings/References:

James, C.L.R. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution. New York: Vintage. 1989.

Scott, Julius Sheppard. “The Common Wind: Currents of Afro-American Communication in the Era of the Haitian Revolution,” (PhD Dissertation): Duke University. 1986.

West, Martin, and Wilkins (eds.). From Toussaint to Tupac: The Black International Since the Age of Revolution. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. 2009.

Anthony Comegna: Few concepts or examples in history have a total sample size of exactly one. Yet, what happened in Haiti in the 1790s was unique and truly revolutionary. The most powerful and important book written about the Haitian revolution is certainly CLR James’ the Black Jacobins, which is staple reading for graduate student historians of [00:00:30] all fields. It is an entrancing piece of writing which pulls the reader seamlessly back and forth across the Atlantic. It is the book that does all a book can do to make modern readers almost feel the lash themselves. 

For more on the Haitian revolution, I spoke with Cato’s own Jason Kuznicki. Welcome to Liberty Chronicles. A project of libertarianism.org. I’m Anthony Comegna. [00:01:00] It’s often communicated in the popular wisdom at least that the Haitian revolution was really the only successful slave revolt in history. Up to that point or since. Is that accurate?

Jason Kuznicki: More or less, yes. There were slave revolts that were successful for a time, but then were eventually crushed. There were many instances [00:01:30] of slaves who ran away and founded independent societies. The so-called maroon societies, which existed in Haiti, and in various other slave societies. As far as a slave revolt that successfully changed the nature of the society that belongs to Haiti, that’s not something found elsewhere.

Anthony Comegna: The critical thing here is the revolution element, right?

Jason Kuznicki: Yes.

Anthony Comegna: That word really changes [00:02:00] what we’re talking about a lot.

Jason Kuznicki: Yes, yes, absolutely.

Anthony Comegna: What is entailed then in a revolution that’s not necessarily entailed in a rebellion?

Jason Kuznicki: Well, that’s a really interesting question to ask right in this particular context of the Haitian revolution. Because at the time, the contemporary was acutely aware that revolutions were a new thing. That revolutions in the political order as they understood them were something that had just started happening in history, and [00:02:30] that there might have been civil disorder in the past. There certainly was. There were [inaudible 00:02:36], there were assassinations, there were popular uprisings. The idea of a revolution seemed to be something new to them. The answer to what made that new and distinctive was an ideological component. These were the first mass actions in history that were not religious, or secular in nature, [00:03:00] but that had the goal of somehow transforming their society permanently, and it was hoped for the better.

Anthony Comegna: Let’s dwell a bit on the society before the Haitian revolution. Were the lives of Haitian slaves substantially different from the lives of slaves elsewhere in the British, French, or Spanish empires?

Jason Kuznicki: Yes and no. I say yes and no because it is [00:03:30] crucial to avoid the mistake of excusing slavery anywhere. We can point to slavery being more or less demographically harsh in various places. If you are a slave in the Caribbean, your life prospects are particularly grim. The population in places like Haiti and Jamaica throughout the Caribbean seldom reproduced itself successfully. [00:04:00] The typical slave arrived from Africa and died within a few years. There was not successful reproduction of the slave population, which gives you an idea of how harsh it was.

Anthony Comegna: Huge amounts of people just worked to death producing sugarcane.

Jason Kuznicki: Yes. Yes, absolutely. On the one hand, slavery in this part of the world was especially harsh because of the climate, because of the work that they did, and because [00:04:30] of the prevailing conditions. On the other hand, we should not delude ourselves into thinking that slavery anywhere else was somehow okay. We don’t want to make that mistake. If you were a slave, even in a place like Maryland where slavery was not demographically that harsh, you’re still a slave. It still means, in essence, that you have an employer who can sell your children, or who can sell [00:05:00] you, and you never see your family again. You don’t get paid, you don’t get a choice of your employer, you don’t get the choice of where you live or what work you do. It is exceptionally opposed to human dignity. You can’t call this a good system. It’s crucial to avoid the appearance of excusing any of it. That said, it is possible that within [00:05:30] this bad system, the slaves in the Caribbean had it probably the worst of the worst.

Anthony Comegna: What about that ideology that you said is necessary to a revolution? Which really is a product of modernity to some degree or another. Was there a distinct ideology that we can find in among the Haitian slaves? Why in Haiti but nowhere else?

Jason Kuznicki: That question I think [00:06:00] points us directly at the French revolution, which is happening simultaneously to the events that CLR James describes. The revolution is this great generator of different ideological persuasions, and a lot of them are still with us today. While people in the colonies struggled to keep up at times with what was going on in Paris, [00:06:30] they certainly were taking notes, and they were taking ideological cues from what was going on in the national assembly, or in the convention. They were using those developments as ways of mobilizing people locally to act.

Anthony Comegna: What did the society in Haiti look like on the ground? CLR James describes a constant low-level class war between [00:07:00] the island’s elite few, and the great enslaved mass of people. What did life actually look like for people in Haiti?

Jason Kuznicki: Well, it’s not at all inaccurate to say that there was a class war. There certainly was, and we can see that there were lots of strategies of resistance taking place on the ground, and some of them were frankly quite shocking. There were acts of sabotage, there was an enormous amount of poisoning, there [00:07:30] were instances of slaves even poisoning their own children so that they would not have to live under slavery, which is, if nothing else, makes you sit up and take notice of the cruelty of the society. That certainly ought to do it. The slaves who experienced the society had no doubts whatsoever that it was thoroughly rotten. Even the planters at times [00:08:00] have some inkling of it, and yet they do not act.

What James says, because he’s a Marxist after all, is that they were motivated by property, and as property holders, they were not going to challenge their society. Now, we don’t have to accept his Marxist conclusions to find that he’s making important and interesting historical observations all the same. It is a fact that people who are [00:08:30] brought up as part of the master class in a slave society seldom question their place in society. Even in the United States during the generation of the founding, we find founding fathers who were very deeply imbued with an ideology of liberty, and yet they do not take concrete steps, for example, to free their own slaves, or to work for some sort of legislative emancipation. They don’t do this. 

[00:09:00] It seems to me like where James wants to find class interest, and property determining the thoughts of people. I would say it’s something closer to socialization. You are rarely going to say that what you brought up with, what you’re brought up in is wrong. It takes a very great deal of intellectual courage and nonconformity to do something like that.

Anthony Comegna: [00:09:30] We’re there any important divisions between white colonists on Haiti, or between the colonists and the Metropole back in France?

Jason Kuznicki: Absolutely. Absolutely, there were absolutely differences among the white colonists. The planter class was by far the wealthiest. They had interests that were fairly unified, but there were other whites there too. There were the poor whites, these small whites as they’re sometimes called who were not slaveholders, [00:10:00] or who were perhaps very minor slaveholders, and therefore, were jealous of their racial prerogatives and privileges, but had relatively little in the way of economic interest that the planters had. There were representatives of the Royal government there. Representatives of the Royal government are keen to protect Royal privileges and the trade monopoly, which the planters themselves, if they considered their economic interests, were not keen to protect. 

They did not want [00:10:30] the trade monopoly, because that meant higher prices for them. They supported free trade and everything, except they wanted to keep their slaves, and they wanted to make sure that this affront to liberty was preserved. There were definitely divisions among whites. There were divisions among Blacks, because not all Blacks were enslaved, and many of them were free. Substantial minority at any rate. There were also people of mixed race. These people, [00:11:00] mulattoes as James calls them, and as they were legally known at the time, had a fairly precarious legal status. Some of them owned slaves, some of them were enslaved, some of them were free. Whenever you have a group like this in a racialized slave system, there is an enormous danger. Because where do their loyalties lie? Are they going to break in favor of [00:11:30] the established order, or in favor of liberation if a revolt ever comes? We see this exact dynamic playing out in the history of the revolution.

Anthony Comegna: James says that the revolution at home, the French Revolution, and the revolution as it carried into the colony really began with the [inaudible 00:11:51], these middle-class white people in the Empire. I want to say, is that accurate first of all? Did the [inaudible 00:12:00] [00:12:00] create the French Revolution, and what difference do you think this makes for James, a Marxist historian, and us, a couple of libertarian historians?

Jason Kuznicki: Well, I think it’s accurate that the [inaudible 00:12:11] played an enormous part in the French Revolution. The place where modern non-Marxist historians and libertarians alike would differ with Marxists is to ask about their motivations. Whereas, the Marxist account [00:12:30] of the French Revolution, and by extension, the Haitian revolution holds that the [inaudible 00:12:35] wanted to overthrow the old feudal order so that it could instantiate a fully property holding order with [inaudible 00:12:43] legal norms and rights of property fully vindicated. What we find is something a lot more complicated than that when we look at, for example, the [inaudible 00:12:54], the grievance notebooks that were prepared in [00:13:00] advance of the Estate’s General in France. 

Very frequently, these [inaudible 00:13:07], which were the grievances that people brought to what eventually became the national assembly, they are not so clearly asking for a [inaudible 00:13:21] social order. They are asking for much more restraint, or sometimes much more, we would say [00:13:30] conservative reforms. They don’t want to abolish the monarchy, they don’t want to abolish the nobility, they don’t even say very much about taxation to begin with, except that it’s clear that they need some new form of taxation, and they’re not exactly clear on how to do that. They are not attacking feudal privileges.

One thing that has really emerged recently in the last few decades in [00:14:00] French historiography of the revolution is that commonly, although the [inaudible 00:14:08] had a class interest, each individual member hoped to leave the class of the [inaudible 00:14:14] and become a nobleman, which is not a crazy aspiration at all, because the way that a typical nobleman became a nobleman in the old regime was not because their great, great, great grandfather, or whatever, had fought with Charlemagne. The way that a nobleman typically became a nobleman was by buying [00:14:30] an office, which conferred on them a title. Obviously, if the way seems open to become a nobleman, this really cuts down on class solidarity. You don’t want to be [inaudible 00:14:46] forever, you want to rise in the world, and everybody knows it. The salience of class solidarity or class interests is really not supported by the facts on the ground.

Anthony Comegna: [00:15:00] It seems to me that that would hold whether you’re a Marxist looking at this as a class-based event, where one stage of history transfers to the next, or if you’re a libertarian who has a less rigid class analysis that rulers rule overruled essentially. That some exploit others, and that’s how events turn, the conflict between those two. If you have any sort of rigidity to your class analysis, the [inaudible 00:15:28] could easily turn either way. [00:15:30] They could be the revolutionaries, or they could be the counterrevolutionaries. It’s not totally clear where their material interests or their mere class interests are being served by one side but not the other.

Jason Kuznicki: Exactly, and that’s just at the level of a collective interest. When you look at the level of individual interest, things get very complicated very quickly. My favorite anecdote about class interests in prerevolutionary France is that there was a certain lawyer from the town of [inaudible 00:16:00] [00:16:00] who was very ambitious in wanting to rise in the world and become a very, very powerful and respected figure. He began putting the particle of nobility before his name. He put the [inaudible 00:16:18] in front of his name just like nobleman do, and he became Maximilian [inaudible 00:16:23]. Later, when he joined the revolution and became one of its key players, [00:16:30] he had to just conveniently forget about this aspect of his former life, because that playing at being a nobleman could and did cost people their lives during the terror.

Anthony Comegna: CLR James spends a lot of time in the book, and a lot of the detail that’s spent here is the back-and-forth between the national assembly convened in Paris, and the different colonial delegations, some of which included mulattoes from Haiti. [00:17:00] Can you give us a rundown in the sense of these extremely complex interactions going on across the Atlantic Ocean?

Jason Kuznicki: One of the most important things to remember about these interactions, all of them, as a group, is the fact that, yes, indeed they are taking place across the Atlantic Ocean. It takes weeks to get across the Atlantic Ocean at this period in history. During the French Revolution, weeks is a really long time. Events can transpire [00:17:30] while people are in root, and nobody on the island knows about it, nobody in the ship knows about it. Frequently, this means that news arrives, and its already out of date. James opens chapter 5 with a description of a ship that is leaving France, and headed for San Domingo, and a lot happens along the way. [00:18:00] I’ll just read a bit of it. 

To escape from the demands of the peasants, the wish of the workers that a maximum price be fixed for foodstuffs, and the other burning questions of the revolution, the [inaudible 00:18:10], 17 days after the decree of April 4, plunged the country into war with Austria. This is all true, the [inaudible 00:18:16] did start a war with Austria in part to distract from domestic politics. Absolutely true. The Army was half royalist, half Revolutionary. Marie Antoinette was sending the war plans to the enemy. Revolutionary France seemed unable to organize [00:18:30] itself, and the Royalists in France were awaiting the entry of the foreigners to rise and massacre the revolution.

The [inaudible 00:18:37], afraid of the counterrevolution, but more afraid of the Paris masses would not take steps against the Royalists, and the people of Paris, coded to exasperation, stormed the [inaudible 00:18:46] palace on August 10. They imprisoned the royal family. The legislature was dissolved, and a new Parliament, the national convention was summoned. The masses administer a rough justice to the Royalists plotters in the September massacres, [00:19:00] and took the defense of France into their own dirty, but strong and honest hands.

Now, all of this took place while a ship was sailing to Santo Domingo to confirm the status of the colony. When they arrived, no one had any idea that the French government had been overthrown, that the monarchy was no more, that the first Republic had been proclaimed. Although there is a great [00:19:30] deal of interest in following the latest ideological currents, and in aligning oneself with this or that faction back home in order to secure advantage, there’s a time lag, and it complicates things a lot.

Anthony Comegna: Then, can you give us a sense of how this revolutionary ideology in France translated to the slaves in Haiti?

Jason Kuznicki: Yes. The slaves in Haiti were altogether reasonable in saying that if you mean liberty, equality, and fraternity, [00:20:00] and if you mean that the rights of man are universal to all, then certainly we should be included. But not everyone in France was willing to sign onto that. In fact, a lot of people were either indifferent, or actually quite worried about it, because it was not clear what the future of the colony would look like after that happened. James goes into a lot of explanation here that focuses [00:20:30] on the fact that a lot of the revolutionaries, and people sympathetic to the revolution were property holders, and they would be reluctant to abolish any form of property, including slaves.

I am less than persuaded on these points. I’m less than persuaded for a variety of reasons. It ought to be remembered that these are people who are conducting the French Revolution. They have a lot on their minds, and the status of slaves in Santo Domingo is not going to be at [00:21:00] the forefront of their minds. Advancing Austrian armies might actually be more on point for them, or the fact that there are people riding over the price of bread in the streets of Paris. They have a lot going on right now. That’s one reason why. Another reason why is that there was really not very much of an abolitionist movement. There were people with big ideas, but it was still very much a nascent movement. It was not something [00:21:30] that people had grown up with. It was not something that was a widespread mass movement. It was something that was still relatively new. At times, I think James is very unfair to liberal abolitionists. 

If one were to read this text and know nothing at all of William Wilberforce, one would think, from the mentions in the Black Jacobins that Wilberforce was merely an opportunist. He just [00:22:00] wanted abolition it’s hinted to cause the French suffering. This really does not square with a look at his life and the other causes that he devoted himself to. Wilberforce was like a cause junkie. He was involved with the society for the suppression advice, he was concerned about cruelty to animals, he was an abolitionist, he was involved in electoral reform. He had all sorts [00:22:30] of projects going on, and they were all dedicated to reform of society. It’s hard to say that he just got into this abolition thing because he wanted to stick a fork in the eye of the French. It doesn’t really hold up.

Anthony Comegna: It was people like Clarkson that were supplying abolitionist material to the French. James does talk a lot about the friends of the Negro, the abolitionist society. I take it you don’t buy his idea that, quote, everybody conspired [00:23:00] to forget the slaves in the assembly.

Jason Kuznicki: A conspiracy makes it sound like it was a conscious, deliberate decision undertaken without too much regret, without too much … I’m not so sure that I agree with that. I don’t think I agree with that.

Anthony Comegna: I think James really does. He seems to really think this is a conspiracy. People are in the hallways I guess talking about how to ignore the slavery issue and push it aside.

Jason Kuznicki: If you read the writings of somebody like [inaudible 00:23:30], he is [00:23:30] a sincere reformer. He actually does want to end this institution, and he wants to reform slave societies that are in the French colonies to no longer be that way.

Anthony Comegna: Can you take us through a bit of the mechanics of the abolitionist and anti-abolitionist debate in the assembly? Because James says that there is a point, small though it was, where the friends of the Negro controlled the assembly. They had majority at least, so they could have advanced against slavery [00:24:00] there but really didn’t. At least not in any serious way he says.

Jason Kuznicki: They didn’t, and it fell to the convention in the following year to, in fact, abolish slavery. He’s absolutely right that this was a failing, and that this is something that I can’t say was the finest hour of French liberalism by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t think that it [00:24:30] was a conspiracy of property holders to preserve property. I don’t buy that explanation.

Anthony Comegna: Okay, but now meanwhile, while different white factions are competing in Paris for control of the government, the Haitian slaves are taking direct action for their liberties.

Jason Kuznicki: They are. They are. There is a gigantic slave revolt that takes place. There are various non-slave factions. Early on, there is a great deal of concern that the mixed race [00:25:00] people are a particular danger. In the early phases of the French Revolution, there is a question whether the free mulatto mixed race people should be enfranchised, and the fear there is that this is a slippery slope to abolitionism, because if you free them, or if you emancipate, or enfranchise them rather, if you emancipate and enfranchise, well, where do you stop? They are subject to, [00:25:30] were currently subject to racial laws. You lift those laws, they will begin to take political action in what direction? In the direction of their enslaved brethren who they have great ongoing relationships with, and they’re going to destabilize the whole society. There is a conservative, liberal faction that says, “Yay, enfranchise white people, but no further action.” They lose. They lose [00:26:00] very quickly, and mixed race people begin to play a very active part in the politics of the island.

Anthony Comegna: The different empires all invade at one point or another. The British, the Spanish, the French come back.

Jason Kuznicki: They do, and here is where I think the economic explanation is at its strongest, because everyone knows that this is a very rich prize to add to a colonial empire. This island is [00:26:30] enormously wealthy in sugar exports, and if you can add that to your Imperial collection, you get a lot of revenue. The Spanish do want it, the British wanted, they take various steps to try to win over different factions on the island to their side, whether it’s planters, or slaves, or mulattoes, or what have you. They’re constantly scheming back and forth to try to [00:27:00] get the upper hand, and therefore, claim the whole thing for themselves.

Anthony Comegna: It doesn’t work. It’s pretty well a disaster all around for all of them.

Jason Kuznicki: It does not work, it does not work. None of them managed to succeed in any permanent sense. They get temporary victories here and there, but nothing permanent. What you end up finding is an increasing sense of nationalism. Of an idea [00:27:30] of national self-determination.

Anthony Comegna: What you think is responsible for that then? James says that the revolution had created a new race of men. That Haitian slaves, ex-slaves, basically refused, absolutely refused to go back into slavery. No matter what flag was putting them there, they simply would not do it again.

Jason Kuznicki: Well, to be frank, I can’t blame them.

Anthony Comegna: Sure. I guess that’s another way of saying, [00:28:00] was it the fever or the fighting men? Was it the slaves that refused to be slaves? Or was it the fevers and the conditions of Imperial warfare around the globe that weakened each of these powers and prevented them from taking this island? What really made the revolution possible? Fever or fighters?

Jason Kuznicki: I inclined towards the fighters, because one of the things that’s going on simultaneous to all of this is that Europe is going through constant warfare [00:28:30] at home, and France is invading Spain, Britain and France are fighting on the seas, they’re fighting in various other places in the world. The French are fighting all of the continental powers at the same time. All sorts of fighting is happening, and while this particular colony would be a great prize to have, there’s also a sense in which saving the homeland comes first for all of these powers. All the [00:29:00] factions they have just named, they are all fighting for their survival as a country as well. There are choices to be made. While they are doing that, there is an opportunity there for an independence movement in San Domingo, which becomes independent.

Anthony Comegna: A movement led by somebody we haven’t mentioned yet. [inaudible 00:29:27].

Jason Kuznicki: True. True, yes.

Anthony Comegna: Can you tell us about the general, [00:29:30] the great general who made the revolution possible?

Jason Kuznicki: You’ve asserted something there that’s very interesting, because if you are a Marxist, you don’t believe that great men make history. You believe that central forces make history. One of the great paradoxes of this book, this classic work of history, is that it’s written by a Marxist, and yet, it’s about a person who is undeniably a great man of history if anyone ever is. [00:30:00] It’s hard to escape the sense that he really was quite a forceful personality, quite a talented military commander, and without him, it is obvious that things would have been different. Not clear exactly how they would have been different, but it is obvious that he played a key role.

Anthony Comegna: He’s fiercely committed to France and the revolution.

Jason Kuznicki: He was. He was fiercely committed to France. He was intent on the French idea of liberty from a relatively [00:30:30] early time. Initially, there was a temporary allegiance that he had made with the Spanish commanders, and there was some question about whether it would be loyalty to France with a king or without. Ultimately, he does throw his lot in with the French revolutionary government. Once he does that, he’s very, very much committed to these ideals.

Anthony Comegna: Then [00:31:00] there’s the other undeniably great man here. Napoleon, who is also terribly important to … James calls him the most important man in the century I think. In the whole era. Certainly that.

Jason Kuznicki: He’s the paradigm case of the great man of history. When Hegel developed his theory of history, he did it in part by reflecting on Napoleon. He came up with this idea that [00:31:30] there are great men in history, but in so far as they are great, it is because they are embodiments of some idea, or some spirit of the age that imbues them with greatness. For Hegel that was Napoleon. Napoleon was the embodiment of the revolution as he understood it. Now, I want to say myself that Napoleon was a betrayal of the revolution. He proclaimed [00:32:00] himself Emperor, he got there through constant warfare, he was, by no means, a liberal. He was a mercantilist. He enjoyed the idea of rulership. He claimed it for himself, not for the patient dynasty, but that’s neither here nor there for me. That’s a betrayal of liberty. The very first point of the revolutionary slogan. To me, that’s [00:32:30] not the embodiment of the revolution. Certainly not for any of the liberals at the time either.

Anthony Comegna: What does CLR James mean when he says that the race system is subsidiary to the class system?

Jason Kuznicki: Well, this is something that, again, comes from his Marxism, and a Marxist historian is going to look for explanations of great events in history by [00:33:00] trying to tie them to class interests and the workings of class interests. In the context of slavery in [inaudible 00:33:10], there is a clear mapping of class onto race that if you are a slave, you are black. If you are free, you are either white or possibly you’re black, but if you’re a free black, you’re definitely of a lower social class. [00:33:30] There is this tendency for the one to explain the other. Which is, I think, not exactly wrong. You can’t really argue with that as a description of the society. Whether it goes on to explain events is another question is you do see people of these various race and class identities breaking variously in terms of ideology. That becomes a lot harder for him to explain.

Anthony Comegna: Now, after [00:34:00] the revolution, or I guess during the Haitian revolution, there is a concerted attempt to keep news of it from spreading past the island. To keep slave rebellions from popping up elsewhere informed by sailors, for example, from San Domingo into Charleston, or something. They shut down, they quarantine the island, and shut down ships, and communications outward to other communities. Yet, news does get out, of course, over the next couple of decades, and it becomes a classic [00:34:30] horror story among American planters of what will happen if you give even the slightest bit on the question of abolition. So much so that they said, “We can’t allow Congress to put in protective tariffs because that’s outside the scope of their authority. If they do one thing outside the scope of their authority, they’re coming for our slaves, and we’ll all be slaughtered like in San Domingo.”

Jason Kuznicki: It adds color to the fear of the French Revolution, which was also very much present in Federalists circles in [00:35:00] the United States and the early Republic. There’s this fear that yes, we’ve had a revolution. Yes, we’ve become a Republic, but you know what? We knew not to take it too far. The French, they’re doing something different from us. There is this concern that the French Revolution didn’t know when to stop. Therefore, we need to avoid that example. It’s not entirely clear how that was to be achieved, but one of [00:35:30] the things that was clear in trying to avoid the mistakes of the French Revolution was exactly what you said. We can’t let the slaves get free. That was the fear among conservatives in that way.

Anthony Comegna: Can you say a word about the institutions that dominated Haiti after a successful independent government was established? What do we libertarians then make of this event today?

Jason Kuznicki: Yeah, so if you look at Haiti [00:36:00] today, it is notoriously a basket case of the Western Hemisphere. Its development, its environment, its demographic data all still is very poor. It’s a desperately poor country. It has been under dictatorship for a lot longer than it has had a free government. It has had a great deal of difficulty developing economically. [00:36:30] It’s very corrupt, it’s got all sorts of really hard to solve problems. There is sometimes this want to move from the successful slave revolt to an analysis of subsequent events. I don’t think I quite agree with that. I don’t think that I quite agree for a number reasons.

First of all, as we began this discussion [00:37:00] by saying, it is the only fully successful slave revolt. One data point is not very much to go on. Second, the decision to adopt various institutions were not subsequent to the revolt. It is an independent decision and has to be evaluated independently. Whether or not, let the origin of the country be whatever it was, it is still capable of either having, say, [00:37:30] freedom of the press or not. It’s capable of having fair elections, or not. The decisions that are made subsequent to the revolution have not always been good. We can look at those, and we should look at those independently.

Anthony Comegna: Had [inaudible 00:37:44] lived, things would have been fine?

Jason Kuznicki: Well, I can’t say that either. I can’t say that either. Now, we can’t do experiments in history where we run the clock back and try again, but this is one of those cases where certainly it [00:38:00] would be very interesting to know how it would have turned out, or how things might have gone differently.

Anthony Comegna: In any case, we seen in the twentieth century a black nationstate does not equal, corrupt tyranny.

Jason Kuznicki: Doesn’t have to be at all. No, certainly not. Certainly not. Plenty of nationstates populated by white people are thoroughly corrupt as well. It’s always a difficult thing to move from a [00:38:30] thoroughly corrupt authoritarian regime of any kind, to a liberal society. That transition is always difficult. Sometimes it’s done successfully, sometimes is not. We, I think, still lack a really convincing theory that explains how people either succeed or fail in that type of transition.

Anthony Comegna: Jason [inaudible 00:39:00] [00:39:00] is the editor for [inaudible 00:39:02] books, and holds a PhD in French history from the Johns Hopkins University. Liberty Chronicles is a project of libertarianism.org. It is produced by Tess Terrible. If you’ve enjoyed this episode of liberty Chronicles, please rate, review, and subscribe to us on iTunes. For more information on Liberty Chronicles, visit libertarianism.org.