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36.000 x 28.000 x 0.750 inches
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Making Of The Haitian Flag
Painting - Oil On Canvas-gold Leaf- Silver Leaf
This is an historic illustration, documentary painting of Haiti's first banner. The setting is on the "Merotte Plantation", at a secret Congress meeting held at Arcahaie, from May 14 to May 18, 1803. Arcahaie is a town located outside of Port-au-Prince.
----To be noted: The heroes in uniform are of an epic representation of them at the time of the Haitian Revolution of 1804. Their uniforms are in Public Domain, meaning, the uniforms are publicly available as their copyright has expired. Only my artwork is copyright, and can not be reproduced, or used for derivative works.
First, I will introduce the 4 national heroes portrayed in my painting; they are: Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Henry Christophe, Alexandre Petion, and Catherine Flon. They are the heroes who created Haitian's highly revered patriotic symbol, the Haitian's flag. A description will follow each hero.
Then, I will introduce the chronological events starting from the Haitian Revolution in 1791 to the Haitian flag creation in May 18, 1803.
Finally, I will state 3 grave insults the Haitian flag had endured, and also 3 heroic acts connected to the Haitian flag; I will also state the hard time Haiti had to gain international recognition after its independence.
I will conclude with the celebration of the Haitian Flag Day.
The four national heroes in my painting-----
1. JEAN- JACQUE DESSALINES- In red uniform, with the red cap garnished with white plumes (B. Sept 20, 1758 - D. Oct 17, 1806). He was transported from Africa to St Domingue as a slave. He worked as a slave in a Frenchman plantation until he was 30 years old. He served as an officer in the French army when the colony was trying to resist Spanish and British invasions. He is the one ripping the white stripe from the French Flag. According to the 19th Century Haitian Historian, Beaubrun Ardouin, the author of the Declaration of Independence was Louis-Boisrond Tonnerre. Boisrond Tonnerre was Dessalines' private secretary and confident. He was chosen by Dessalines for two reasons; Dessalines was reportedly illiterate and could only sign his name, and also, Dessalines felt only Boisrond Tonnerre could translate the resentments that he had for the French men. As a former slave, his body still showed scars from the lashings of his master's whips. Beaubrun Ardouin reported Louis-Boirond Tonnerre stated, "The Declaration should be written with the skin of a white man for parchment, his skull for ink-pot, his blood for ink, and a bayonet for pen." Dessalines had more influence over the language in the Declaration of Independence that he and Henry Christophe signed on November 29, 1803. On January 1, 1804, Dessalines proclaimed the independence of the former colony of Saint Domingue which took its Indian name of Haiti. He is the first ruler of the free Nation. On October 6, 1804, Dessalines declared himself ruler for life and crowned Emperor, Emperor Jacque 1, of Haiti. The mulattoes in the South could not accept being ruled by Blacks. They rebelled and assassinated Dessalines in October 17, 1806, in an ambush. A black woman of humble background, named Defilee', took the mutilated body of the Emperor to bury him. The National anthem of Haiti, La Dessalinienne, is named in Dessalines' honor.
2. HENRY CHRISTOPHE- In blue and silver buttons uniform, with the blue cap garnished with plumes; he is to the left of Dessalines, (B. Oct 6, 1767 - D. Oct 8, 1820). Black born into a slave family in Grenada. He escaped to Haiti in a boat. He was illiterate. He learned everything he knew from experience. His hope was to eradicate slavery in Haiti. He was army chief under Dessalines. After the Emperor's death in 1806, the country was divided into two Republics for 14 years. Henry Christophe in the northern part of Haiti. He later declared himself king (1811 - 1820). Alexandre Petion was in the southern part. Henry Christopher revealed great administrative powers. He built schools and public roads. He developed agriculture and encouraged industries. His most remarkable constructions were "Sans-Souci" and "La Citadelle Laferriere". Sans Souci was the royal residence of King Henry I. It is located in the town Milot in the North of Haiti. This palace was equivalent of the palace of Versailles in France. At the time of its splendor, it was noted by many foreign visitors. In 1842, an earthquake destroyed a considerable part of the palace. It was never rebuilt. Today, we can still admire the imposing ruins. One American physician remarked that it had "the reputation of having been one of the most magnificent edifices of the West Indies". Close to his palace, Christopher built a mountaintop fortress named "La Citadelle Laferriere". It was built to repel a fear of French invasion. This is one of the places most visited by American tourists. La Citadelle Laferriere had been justly called, "one of the wonders of America". In 1820, Christopher suffered a stroke which let him permanently paralyzed. After he learned of revolt breaking out, faced with rebellion of his own army, he committed suicide on October 8, 1820 by raising a pistol to his chest. His nephew and heir, was bayoneted to death by revolutionary at the palace on October 18, 1820.
3. ALEXANDRE PETION -- (B. Apr 2, 1770 - D. Mar 29, 1818). He is to the right of Dessalines. He was the champion of the mulatto supremacy. He was born of a free Haitian mother and a wealthy French white father. When rival fraction divided Haiti into two states after the death of Dessalines, Petion became President of the South until his death from yellow fever in March 29, 1818. Simon Bolivar, "The Liberator of Latin America", endured many failed attempts to free South America from Spanish colonization. Bolivar had finally set out to persuade the world to back up his vision. His pleas fell on deaf ears, with the exception of Haiti. Simon Bolivar came to Haiti, and Petion provided him with men, ammunition, and money. In March 1816, the first expedition sailed with 250 men in seven ships. Shortly thereafter, they returned to Haiti for more supply of men, money, and ammunition. In return, Petion asked Bolivar to abolish slavery in South America; because like many aristocracy, Bolivar had slaves. Bolivar was later to call for the abolition of slavery across the entire Western Hemisphere. Simon Bolivar was considered the liberator of Columbia, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela. In a letter of October 9, 1816 Simon Bolivar expressed his appreciation of Petion. A statue of Petion had been erected on the place d'armes of Venezuela's Capital, Caracas.
4. CATHERINE FLON-The Betsy Ross of Haiti! She is the lady in purple sitting on the chair, with needle and thread in hand. She was waiting to join the bleu piece to make the Haitian flag. She was the goddaughter of Jean-Jacque Dessalines. She played a huge role in the Haitian Revolution as a nurse. She was not remembered as a nurse, but rather as a seamstress who sew the first Haitian Flag, on the last day of the Congress of Arcahaie, on May 18, 1803. Her picture was featured on a Ten Gourdes Haitian Banknote issued in 2000. She was remembered as a symbol of unity.
CHRONOLOGICAL EVENTS FROM THE HAITIAN REVOLUTION IN 1791, TO THE CREATION OF THE HAITIAN FLAG, MAY 18, 1803.
The Haitian Revolution was a period of conflict in the colony of Saint Domingue. This period started from 1791 to 1804. Toussaint L'Ouverture began his military career as a leader of the slave rebellion in the French colony of St Domingue. Toussaint L'Ouverture was a former slave. He was a self educated domestic slave. He was very intelligent, organized, and well spoken.
---In 1792, slaves controlled a third of the island. On August 29, 1793, the British invaded Saint Domingue. France declared war on Great Britain. Toussaint L'Ouverture, now one of the most successful black commanders, decided to fight for the French if they would agree to free all the slaves.
---On August 29, 1793, the French commissioner, Sonthonax, proclaimed an end to slavery.
In 1794, the French National Convention formally abolished slavery and granted civil and political right to all black men in the colonies. The slave rebellion resulted in the death of 100.000 black men, and 24,000 whites.
---On May 1794, Toussaint brought his forces to the French side and began to fight for the French Republic.
Under the military leadership of Toussaint, the former slaves wined concessions from the British and expelled the Spanish forces on the East part of the island. Toussaint essentially restored control of Saint Domingue to France.
Toussaint, however, did not want to surrender too much power to France.
---In 1801, L'Ouverture issued a constitution for Saint Domingue which confers him the title of governor-for-life. In retaliation, Napoleon Bonaparte dispatched a large expeditionary force of French soldiers and warships to the island. This expedition was led by Charles Leclerc, Napoleon's brother-in-law. The soldiers were to restore the French rule. They were under secret instructions to later restore slavery, at least to the Spanish eastern part of the island. The numerous French soldiers were accompanied by mulatto troops led by Alexandre Petion and Andre Rigaud.
During the struggles, some of Toussaint closest allies, included Jean-Jacques Dessalines, defeated to Leclerc.
---In May 1802, Toussaint L'Ouverture was promised his freedom if he agreed to integrate his remaining troops into the French army. L' Ouverture agreed. He was later deceived, seized by the French and shipped to France. At the time of his capture, Toussaint L'Ouverture made this declaration: "In overthrowing me, you have done no more than cut down the trunk of the tree of the black liberty in St-Domingue. It will spring back from the roots, for they are numerous and deep." Toussaint L'Ouverture died months later while imprisoned, at Fort-de-Joux in the Jura region, in France. He will always be remembered as the slave who defeated Napoleon. He was sometimes called, "the Black Napoleon". For a few months, the island was under Napoleonic rule. But when it became apparent that the French intended to re-establish slavery, as they did in Guadeloupe, Dessalines, Petion switched sides again in October 1802, and fought against the French.
During the battles for liberation, the indigenous army needed a standard different from that of the French Colonial Army. After Toussaint L'Ouverture, his lieutenant, Jean-Jacques Dessalines had led the war with the same French tricolor, blue-white-red flag, with the only difference- Dessalines had removed the French rooster and the initial RF, "Republique de France" which at that time was found on the white band of the flag of the French Republique. During a fight with a French Colonial troop, in December 1, 1802, the blue-white-red flag was seized by the French Colonial troop as a "Prize of War".
The fact that the indigenous army was carrying a tricolor flag was proof for the French that the insurgents were not fighting for the independence of Saint Domingue, but only fighting to keep their liberty. This news was being circulated in France. This frame of thought will only create confusion even discouragement among the Independent fighters. Petion finded it necessary for the Indigenous army to have their own flag. He shared his thought with Dessalines who was the commander in -chief at that time. Dessalines reacted by "grabbing a red-white-blue flag and with a sharp jerk, ripped the white stripe to pieces and joined the blue and red together" making the first Haitian flag. This flag symbolized the union of the mulattoes and the blacks against the Colonialist, pro-slavery France. That is how the famous national bicolor was born between the end of February and the beginning of March 1803. Dessalines ordered all his commanders to make their troops carried it.
On May 18, 1803 at a Congress held in secrecy in Archaie, a town located outside Port-au-Prince, the blue and red bicolor was adopted as the flag of the Republique of Haiti. A lady, Catherine Flon, a national Hero, sewn the first flag, national standard at the Congress. The slogan, "Liberte' ou la Mort", meaning "Liberty or Death" had become the new motto as it had already been embraced at the ceremony of Bwa Kayiman held on August 14, 1791.
The Generals solemnly swore an oath to "liberty or Death" on this flag which was to lead the slaves to victory and freedom. This oath which history has named the Oath of the Ancestors is the equivalent of the one that the deputies of the Third Estate in France swore at Versailles June 20, 1789, whose aim was to give a constitution to France.
The last battle of the Haitian revolution, the Battle of Vertieres, occurred on 18th of November 1803, near Cap Haitien, a town in the North of Haiti. It was fought between Haitian rebels, led by Jean-Jacques Dessalines and the French Colonial Army under the Viscount of Rochambeau. The French were defeated. On January 1, 1804 from the city of Gonaives, Dessalines officially declared the former colony's Independence.
The Haitian flag since May 18, 1803, had known many changes in position or color. From February 1986 to now, the Haitian consists of 2 equal sized horizontal bands, blue on top and red one underneath. A white square portion situated in the middle included the country's arms and the famous motto, "L'Union Fait la Force", meaning: "In Unity, there is Strength".
Three grave insults were endured by the Haitian's flag after its creation:
1. On June 11, 1872----Two German nationalists went bankrupt because of some period of instability. They were asking for $15,000 US dollars. They requested the help of the German government. The Haitian government had to give in because of the presence of two German warships; the Vineta, and the Gazella under the command of the Captain Batsch. It was an obvious inequality of forces. After their departure, the Haitians found their warship damaged, with the national bicolor, the Haitian flag, soiled with excrement. The Germans defecated on the Haitian flag. Complete embarrassment for the whole nation!
2. On December 6, 1897---- The Luders Affair. Also involving a German National. This German businessman was charged with assault and battery on a policeman. Upset about his fate, the Berlin government intervened one more, with two warships, the Charlotte and the Stein. They demanded Tiresis Simon Sam's Government to pay $20,000 US dollars to Mr. Luders and free him immediately. At that time, the supreme humiliation for the Haitian people was when the president agreed to hoist the German flag on the pole of the National Palace.
3. Finally, on June 28, 1915--- The last humiliation! The United States of America sent an expeditionary force to Port-au-Prince. The U.S. Marines invaded Haiti to wane the German influence in Haiti. It went to stop any attempt by Germany to set up base in Haiti. The U.S. wanted to protect the Panama Canal, which had opened for business the year before. The U.S. also ended the close financial ties between Haiti and France, though not the cultural ones. ( France was an imperialist competitor in the Caribbean) Under the tutelage of Washington, until 1934, for 19 years the Haitian flag disappeared from view. Except when the flag was raised by some resisters like Charlmagne Peralte and Benoit Batraville, after Charlemagne Peralte was betrayed, shot in the heart at close range, and assassinated by the U.S. Marines. A portrait of Charlemagne Peralte can be seen on the Haitian coins issued by the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide after his 1994 return. In the beginning, the U.S. Occupation in 1915, was greeted with four years of fierce armed resistance from guerillas known as "cacos" who were led by Charlemagne Peralte. The cacos were so strong that the U.S. had to upgrade their marines in Haiti and even deploy airplanes for counter-guerilla warfare. The occupation causes great resentment in Haiti. During the occupation, in 1929, Haiti had an anti-occupation-nationwide-strike and a series of demonstrations, one of which the Marines put down with deadly force. No U.S. textbook reported any Haitian resistance against the U.S. Occupation. Over the last five years of the occupation, the U.S. pull out was hastened by growing agitation, outcry and popular bitterness. U.S. textbook also never mention that President Franklin D. Roosevelt needed to wind down Washington's expensive military interventions since the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression.
Despite these humiliations, Haitians maintained their patriotism and showed they are not unworthy of their history.
Heroic acts are also connected with the Haitian flag:
1. On May 19, 1803---- After the glorious creation of the flag, Haitian Captain Laporte headed toward Leogane, a seaside town west of Port-au-Prince. While crossing the bay of Port-au-Prince, he crossed path with the French enemy patrol commanded by Admiral Laoutch-Treville. Instead of falling in the hands of the French, Captain Laporte wrapped himself with the new created flag, and ordered his crew to scuttle the boat. Subsequently, he put a bullet into his head. Gesture that proves the motto- "Liberty or Death" was taken seriously by Haitians.
2. On November 18, 1803---- The battle of Vertieres was considered as the mother of all battles. Geographically, Vertieres is located in the North of Haiti. By the end of October 1803, Haitians rebels had already taken over all the territory from France. The only place left was Vertieres where French General Rochambeau was at bay with 5000 troops. The Battle of Vertieres was fought with a blue and red flag. Dessalines continued the fight for liberty because he remembered the Declaration of Toussaint L'Ouverture when he was being deported to France. Dessalines did not have enough artillery, so he decided to take the North by force. On November 18, 1803, the combined assault of Haitian soldiers took Vertieres. A sudden downpour with thunder and lightning submerged the battlefield. Under cover of the storm, Rochambeau pulled back from Vertieres, knowing he was defeated and St Domingue was taken from France. By the next morning, General Rochambeau sent Duveyrier to negotiate with Dessalines. At the end of the day, the terms of submission were settled. Rochambeau was given ten hours to embark the remainder of his army and leave Saint-Domingue. On November 19, 1803, the French army left Haiti for good. The French could not come back to Haiti because they were defeated! One leader of the battle at Vertieres was the intrepid, Capoix-La-Mort, English: "Capoix-the-Death". Capoix was mostly known for his extraordinary courage and especially his herculean bravery at the Battle of Vertieres in which the French general, Viscount of Rochambeau, commander of Napoleon's army at St Domingue; even called a brief cease-fire to congratulate him. Another leader of the battle of Vertieres was Louis Michel Pierrot, the husband of Cecile Fatima who participated at the voodoo ceremony at Bwa Kayiman on August 14, 1791 together with Boukman...It is to be noted that U.S. high school textbook :"World History: Connections to Today", published by Prentis-Hall, devotes almost a page to Haiti, but sums up the struggle against the French attempt to re-enslave Haiti in 1802 in just a few words: 'In 1804, Haitian leaders declared independence. With yellow fever destroying his army, Napoleon abandoned Haiti." The battle of Vertieres marked the first time in history of mankind that a slave army led a successful revolution for their freedom. November 18 has been widely celebrated since then as a Day of Army and Victory in Haiti.
3. On September 6, 1902--- The most celebrated gesture of Haitian patriotism and grandeur is Haitian Admiral Hamilton Killick. Instead of letting his patrol ship, La Crete a Pierrot, seized by the German warship, The Panther, Admiral Killick wrapped himself in the Haitian flag (like Captain Laporte in 1803) and set La Crete a Pierrot in flames by firing at the ammunitions in his ship.
In 1804, Haiti was the only state in the world to have a leader of African descent. It was until 1838, that France recognized Haitian Independence in exchange for a financial indemnity of 150 millions Francs. Over the next few decades, Haiti was forced to take out loans of 70 millions Francs to repay the indemnity and gain international recognition. Most Nations including the U.S. shunned Haiti for almost 40 years. They were fearful that its example could stir unrest in other slaveholding countries.
May 18th is the most widely celebrated patriotic day in the Haitian calendar. This is the day to remember Haiti's flag. On this day, students in uniform parade the streets. Each school carries the flag. The parade's final destination is the national palace. Each and every year, on May 18th, Haitian flag is celebrated to commemorate Haiti's struggle against slavery and its triumphant victory over the three greatest military powers in the world in 19th century- Spain, England, and France. This flag has become a symbol of pride, unity, and individual liberty. This flag represents one of the primary symbols of Haitian freedom.
----The Haitian Flag -- Birth of a Symbol-May 18, 2003-Fleurimond W. Kerns-translated by Greg Dunkel
----Haitian Flag Day.
---- Columnist Fleurimond w. Kerns in an article in Haiti progress (Vol 21. No10. 5/21/2003)
---- Haiti, Her History and Her Detractors by Jacques Nicolas Leger Published 1907 the Neale Pub. Co.
March 9th, 2012
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