Haitians and Maccabees – A Tribute

Having so recently told my grandson for the first time the Chanukah story–the defeat of three successive, heavily armored Hellenic colonial armies by agrarian Jewish guerillas in 168 BCE–I read this in the paper today, and the juxtaposition brought me to tears.

…an astounding, and forgotten, episode in Western history. Since Haiti alone produced as much foreign trade at that time as the whole of the 13 colonies of North America, it was potentially a great loss. It belonged to France, but Britain supplied it with slaves, a valuable trade since the slaves were intentionally worked to death – it was cheaper to replace them than to sustain them – so the market for Africans was very brisk. Uprisings had long been frequent in the West Indies, but at long last rage in Haiti converged with the tactical brilliance of Toussaint L’Ouverture and others and the slaves seized the island. This part of the story is familiar. But there is more.

First the British and then the French under Napoleon sent huge forces against the Haitians. The British sent a larger army against Haiti than it had dispatched to fight in the American Revolution. And it buried 60 percent of those soldiers in Haiti. The two greatest powers on earth went up against a population of half-starved, desperate people and were utterly defeated.

NYT Books
[My italics]






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