This artifact is a entry in the book Voyage d'un Suisse dans différentes colonies d'Amérique by Girod-Chantrans who was a Swiss writer and traveler. In part of his book he describes what he saw at the Haitian sugar plantations, and the conditions the Haitians has to endure. "They were about a hundred men and women of different ages, all occupied in digging ditches in a cane-field, the majority of them naked or covered with rags. The sun shun down with full force on their heads. Sweat rolled from all parts of their bodies. Their limbs, weighed down by the heat, fatigued with the weight of their implements, strained themselves to overcome every obstacle. A mournful silence reigned. Exhaustion was stamped on every face, but the hour of rest had not yet come. The pitiless eye of the manager patrolled the gangs and several foremen armed with whips moved periodically between them, giving stinging blows to all who, worn out by fatigue, were compelled to take rest-men or women, young or old." (“French Colonization). This quote by Girod Chantrans shows people where the slaves anger towards the whites started, and gives some reasoning of why they were so brutal during the revolution, it was their chance at revenge. While the Haitians worked as slaves they were brutally beat, hardly given any food, the women were raped, and they were chained (Kama, Lisapo ya). The life expectancy in these harsh conditions were usually eight to ten years, with the majority of the deaths caused by suicide (“Haitian Revolution (1791-1804).
The clothing is a ceremonial suit worn by the Haitians during their Voodou ceremonies. Voodou was a religion formed in Africa, that the slaves brought with them to Saint Domingue. The French did not allow the Haitians to practice their own religion, especially Voodou. The only religion the French allowed them to practice was Christianity. The French believed that if the Haitians were Catholic they would be more devoted to the ways of the French. They also knew that if the Haitians had their own religion, they would become more united, and be their own people, giving them a sense of community (Normil, Andre). Even though the French had ban Voodou, the Haitians still practiced it in secret. Voodou helped lead them towards rebellion, and made them stronger as community (Normil, Andre). The Haitians greatly out numbered the French 10:1, which meant if they united the Haitians would have the ability to take over the French (Haitian Revolution (1791-1804). With the practice of Voodou, and the united community it created, along with the inspiration of the French Revolution the Haitians took action. They set the plantations ablaze and started to fight for their freedom (Kama, Lisapo ya). At one point in the revolution the free Haitians tried to form a treaty with the French, but the slaves had already started to fight and did not want to return to the horrible treatment they received on the plantations (Shen, Kona). This lead to the continuation of the revolution.
The painting Ex Representative of the Colonies was created by Anne-Louis Girodet in 1797. She painted Jean-Baptiste Belley who was an African slave brought over to Saint Domingue (Jean-Baptiste Belley). He became an infantry captain. In September 1793 he became a member of the French National Convention, and was an active spokesman for the colored (Feinberg, Michael H). Girodet painted him in his Convention member uniform in a stance that most French politicians favored. He was a also painted next to a sculpture of philosopher Guillaume-Thomas Raynal. This philosopher was a strong supporter against slavery (Girodet: Romantic Rebel). Girodet’s goal in this painter was to represent the tension during the revolution (Girodet: Romantic Rebel). This painting also represents the slaves' view. Girodet painted a man that was able to fight for his freedom, and become a representative. Girodet shows what the Haitians were capable of and how much strength they had in order to achieve what they wanted.
The estimated population of Saint Domingue before the revolution was 556,000. There were 500,000 slaves, 32,000 French, and 24,000 free Haitians. They Haitians beat and used the guillotine on the French, and fought until they had won. At the end of the Revolution an estimated 100,00 slaves and 20,000 French men had died. In 1804 the Haitian Massacre started. Their goal was to rid Saint Domingue of the whites. All of the men were instantly killed, but for the women the Haitians were more hesitate, but the women were eventually killed, because their presence would mean there would still be whites on the island.