Compare and contrast the French and Haitian revolutions... immediate and long range causes and impact, and any other relevant comparisons, people, events..etc.   THANK YOU!

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The French Revolution, which preceded the Haitian revolution, began because of two reasons:  social and political oppression, whereas the Haitian revolution was ignited by only social oppression, although political oppression was later addressed.  In France, the third estate, which was composed of the merchants, lawyers, and peasants, wanted a voice in government.  Armed with pitchforks, the peasantry marched on the Bastille.  This revolt began with an attack of a garrison for political prisoners and ended with a blood bath of hundreds of aristocracy being guillotined, followed by a period known as the Reign of Terror.

Similarly, the Haitian revolution was a bloody revolt of slaves against their owners.  The French were slaughtered mercilessly, the plantations were burned.  However, a fifty-year old slave, Francois Dominique Toussaint L'Ouverture was the only one who perceived the political benefits for his people.  For, he perceived a way for the slaves to become free. At the time, there were three European powers vying for Haiti: the French, the English, and the Spanish.  So, L'Ouverture, who realized that the slaves were the key to keeping the island, played these powers off each other. Finally, he promised the French that he and his troops would help them fight England if the slaves were freed.  It was an offer that the French could not refuse since they could not rely on France's providing help.  After the defeat of the English, Toussaint L'Ouverture became Consul, ending a revolution peacefully.

Unlike Robespierre and the others, or Napoleon, as Consul, L'Ouverture treated all alike, making no distinctions between blacks and whites.  He developed commerce, organizing schools and utilizing all talents in the nation. But, Napoleon Bonaparte was his nemesis.  After Toussaint L'Ouverture had retired, Bonaparte had him arrested in 1803 because he said slavery was never abolished.

After the death of Toussaint L'Ouverture, the revolution was perpetuated by Jean-Jacques Dessalines.   It was a horrifying struggle with Leclerc slaughtering any black that was found.  Dessaline retaliated by saying that any atrocity committed against his men would be done to Leclerc's men, ordering the summary execution of any European men.  This action certainly parallels the slaughter of the aristocracy in the French Revolution.  Eventually, of course, Haiti obtained its  liberty from France and became a republic, as well.

In France, the blood bath of the Revolution finally gave way to the dictatorial Napoleon, who, in turn, was unseated by the monarchy and then the republic was again restored.

academe23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The French Revolution represented a major rift with previous social arrangements. It marked the end of the Ancien Régime, the longstanding structures of privilege enjoyed by the aristocracy and the clergy. In essence, it was the end of feudalism and the beginning of democracy in France. Beginning in 1789, the immediate effect of the Revolution was the development of a new set of social arrangements. It saw the beginning of the Assemble Nationale, representative democracy and the secularization of society.

As the Revolution progressed it descended into disorder leading to the Reign of Terror, a period of totalitarian revolutionary fervor. This gave way to the rise of Napoleon and empire. Eventually democracy and the Republic returned, but France witnessed a whole host of different political experiments throughout the nineteenth century. France is now in its fifth Republic, but the first one began with the Revolution.

The Haitian Revolution was inspired by the principles of liberty and the Enlightenment that also sparked the French Revolution, but it was motivated by different reasons. It was essentially a slave revolt. Led most famously by Toussaint Louverture, the Haitian Revolution had various phases. The height of the revolution was in 1801, when Haiti declared independence. The Haitian Revolution also descended into disorder, and was marked by a kind of terror of its own in 1804 when Haitians turned on the remaining French on the island and massacred them.

The after-effects of the revolution in Haiti were less than ideal, as many major nations refused to deal with or recognize the freed-slave state. Haiti suffered from anarchy, government corruption, and economic struggles throughout the twentieth century and is still marked by poverty and problems.