Our Haitian Legacy by jmorales

         "Let the Land rejoice, for you have bought Louisiana for a Song." -Gen. Horatio Gates to President Thomas Jefferson, July 18, 1803. The Louisiana Purchase has been described as the greatest real estate deal in history. In 1803 the United States paid France $15 million for the Louisiana Territory which stretched from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border. Thirteen states were carved from the Louisiana Territory. The Louisiana Purchase nearly doubled the size of the United States, making it one of the largest nations in the world and making way for the annexation of texas in 1845 and conquest of California and New Mexico in 1846.
         What precipitated Napoleon's ceding control of the Louisiana Territory to the US is his failure to subdue the slave armies of Saint Domingue and retake the colony for France in 1801. On January 1, 1804 Dessalines proclaimed the independence of the colony at Gonaives and gave it back its native name of Haiti. Hence, the first republic in the world to be led by a person of African descent was born.
         The explosion of Haitian liberation sent tsunami waves of independence rushing upon Latin American and North American soils. Starting in 1808 13 new Latin American independent states were created by 1828. The British Parliament also took note of the pending liability and in 1807 abolished slave trade within the empire and in 1808, the Congress of the United States made it illegal to bring more slaves into the country although the smuggling of Africans as slaves into the United States continued well into the mid 1800's (as the Amistad slave incident happened in 1839).
        On Jan. 1, 1863 (The anniversary of Haitian Independence), U.S. President Abraham Lincoln declared free all slaves residing in territory in rebellion against the federal government. This Emancipation Proclamation actually freed few people. It did not apply to slaves in border states fighting on the Union side; nor did it affect slaves in southern areas already under Union control. Naturally, the states in rebellion did not act on Lincoln's order. But the proclamation did show Americans, and the world, that the Union/Confederate Civil war was now being fought to end slavery AND the North did not start having decisive victories until then.

         Sicily and Haiti share the same passion for freedom and independence, have smaller populations than New Jersey, by a few million, although all three are about the same in land area. Haiti and Sicily share cultural proximity to Africa. They were both ruled by France and Spain and they both experienced slave rebellions and they are both Catholic so I think it's worth taking a closer look at Sicily's history.
         A revolt on 4 April 1860 set the scene for a man whose name you may have heard: Giuseppe Garibaldi. Though the Piemontese annexation freed Sicily of Bourbon oppression, the acute disadvantages of Garibaldi’s victory can be felt even today. After Italy's full unification, Sicily was neglected by the central government (and in many ways still is), and the island's economic and social problems long remained unattended (and in many ways still are). From 1866 to 1894, the island was in a sorry state. No wonder the mass exodus to America originated at this time. And no wonder that Fascism also came into being. In April 1947 the first Sicilian parliament was elected, and on 26 February 1948 -- for the first time in the island's long, long history -- Sicily gained its autonomy. But it still struggles. Though the Mafia is on the wane, it has at times been a damaging force in Sicily.  ( From: http://www.leonardociampa.com/SicilyArticle.html )
         Billy James Chandler in his book, King of the Mountain, portrays Salvatore Giuliano as a bandit who fought for the well-being of Sicily and its inhabitants. He was a fair, courageous, strong, and intelligent leader for many Italians, especially Sicilian peasants. Giuliano was respected for his use of violence and fit their image of the perfect Sicilian. Salvatore was pushed into being a bandit by Sicily's unfair and harsh police force. (Many of whom were not even of Sicilian descent.) Giuliano was on a mission for independence to separate Sicily from Italy. He hoped Sicily could become a state of the United States. Sicily was closely related to the U.S. due to the great number of Sicilian Americans. Even the U.S. army had many soldiers of Sicilian descent. (Chandler 1988 pp 24-25)

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