Should Dessalinesism be an alternative to Nationalism?

Post Reply
Michel Nau_

Should Dessalinesism be an alternative to Nationalism?

Post by Michel Nau_ » Sat Nov 19, 2005 11:20 am

“ Live free or die”
Those words are from Jean Jacques Dessalines, the general in chief to the Haitian people in Gonaives, on January 1st 1804, year first of Haiti's independence.

PROCLAMATION OF HAITI'S INDEPENDENCE BY THE GENERAL IN CHIEF, Jean Jacques Dessalines to the Haitian people in Gonaives, on January 1st 1804, year first of Haiti's independence.

General Jean Jacques Dessalines, 1804. "Live free or die!"

It is not enough to have expelled from your country the barbarians who have bloodied it for two centuries; it is not enough to have put a brake to these ever reviving factions which take turns to play-act this liberty, like ghost that France had exposed before your eyes; it is necessary, by a last act of national authority, assure forever an empire of liberty in this country our birth pla
ce; we must take away from this inhumane government, which held for so long our spirits in the most humiliating torpor, all hope to resubjugate us; we must at last live independent or die.

Independence or death... May these sacred words bring us together, and may they be the signal of our struggles and of our gathering.

Citizens, my compatriots, I have gathered in this solemn day these courageous servicemen, who on the eve of harvesting the last crotchets rest of liberty, have given their blood to save it; these generals who led your efforts against tyranny, have not yet done enough for your well being...The French name still glooms our countryside.

All is there to remind us of the atrocities of this barbarian people: our laws, our customs, our cities, all bear the french imprint; what do I say? There are French in our island, and you believe yourself to be free and independent of that republic which fought all nations, it is true,
but who has never been victorious over those who wished to be free.

Well what! victims for over fourteen years of our own credulity and our own indulgence; defeated, not by the french armies, but by the shamefaced eloquence of the proclamation of their agents; when will we get tired of breathing the same air than them? Its cruelty compared to our moderated patience; its color to our; the vast seas that keep us apart, our avenging climate, tell us enough that they are not our brothers, and that they will never become and that, if they find asylum amongst us, they will be once more the schemers of our troubles and our divisions.

Indigenous citizens, men, women, girls and children, bear your regards on all the parts of this island; look for, yourself, your spouses, your husbands, yourself, your brothers, you, your sisters; what do I say? Look for your children, your children, those that are being breast fed! What have they become?...I tremble to say it... the prey of t
hese vultures.

Instead of these interesting victims, your eye dismayed can only perceive their assassins; may the tigers that are still dripping their blood, and whose horrible presence reproach your insensibility and your slowness to avenge them. What are you waiting for to appease their souls? Remember that you have wished that your remains be buried near the remains of your fathers, when you had chased away tyranny; would you go down to your tomb without avenging them? No, their skeleton would push away yours.

And you, precious men, intrepid generals, whose lack of insensibility to your own misfortunes, have resurrected liberty by giving it all your blood; you should know that you have done nothing if you do not give to the nations a terrible example, but just, of the avenge that must exercise a proud people who have recovered their liberty, and jealous to maintain it; let us instill fear in all those whom would dare try to take it away from us again; let us begin with the French... May the
y tremble when they approach our coasts, if not by the memory of the cruelty that they have inflicted, at least by the terrible resolution that we are about to take to devote to death, anyone born french, who would dirty of his sacrilegious foot the territory of liberty.

We dared to be free, let us dare to be so by ourselves and for ourselves, let us emulate the growing child: his own weight breaks the edge that has become useless and hamper its walk.

What nation has fought for us? What nation would like to harvest the fruits of our labors? And what dishonorable absurdity than to vanquish and be slaves. Slaves! Leave it to the French this qualifying epithet: they have vanquished to cease to be free.

Let us walk on other footprints; let us imitate these nations whom, carrying their solicitude until they arrive on a prospect, and dreading to leave to posterity the example of cowardliness, have preferred to be exterminated rather t
han to be crossed out from the number of free peoples.

Let us be on guard however so that the spirit of proselytism does not destroy our work; let our neighbors breath in peace, may they live in peace under the empire of the laws that they have legislated themselves, and let us not go, like spark fire revolutionaries, erecting ourselves as legislators of the Caribbean, to make good of our glory by troubling the peace of neighboring islands: they have never, like the one that we live in, been soaked of the innocent blood of their inhabitants; they have no vengeance to exercise against the authority that protects them.
Fortunate to have never known the plagues which have destroyed us, they can only make good wishes for our prosperity.

Peace to our neighbors! but anathema to the french name!

Eternal hate to France! That is our cry.

Indigenous of Haiti, my fortunate destiny reserved me to be o
ne day the sentinel who had to watch guard the idol to which you are making your sacrifice, I have watched, fought, sometimes alone, and, If I have been fortunate to deliver in your hands the sacred trust that you had under my care, remember that it is up to you now to conserve it. Before you consolidate it by laws which assure your individual liberty, your leaders, which I assemble here, and myself, we owe you the last proof of our devotion.

Generals, and you, leaders, reunited here near me for the well being of our country, the day has come, this day which must make eternal our glory, our independence.

If there could exist amongst you a half-hearted, may he distance himself and tremble to pronounce the oath that must unite us.
Let us swear to the entire universe, to posterity, to ourselves, to renounce forever to France, and to die rather than to live under its domination.
To fight until the last crotchet rest for the independenc
e of our country!
And you, people for too long misfortuned, witness to the oath that we are pronouncing, remind yourself that it is on your perseverance and your courage that I depended on when I threw myself in this career for liberty in order to fight against despotism and tyranny against which you struggled since fourteen years.
Remind yourself that I sacrificed myself to jump to your defense, parents, children, fortune, and that now I am only rich of your liberty; that my name has become in horror to all nations who wish for slavery, and that the despots and tyrants do not pronounce it only while cursing the day that saw me born; and if for whatever reason you refused or received while murmuring the laws that the genius which watch over your destiny will dictate me for your good fortune, you would deserve the fate of ungrateful peoples.

But away from me this horrible idea. You will be the support of the liberty that you cherish, the support to the chief which command you.
Take then in you
r hands this oath to live free and independent, and to prefer death to all those who would love to put you back under the yoke.
Swear at last to pursue forever the traitors and the enemies of your independence.

Done at the general headquarter of Gonaives, this January 1st 1804, the first year of Independence.

Words of General in Chief: Jean Jacques Dessalines, hero of the Haitian war of Independence.
Emperor Jean Jacques Dessalines, Father of Haitian Independence, 1804.

Translated from French into English by: Noe Dorestant, October 17, 1999, year 195 of Haiti's Independence as part of his contribution and civic duty to bring people awareness of Haitian history and its not so distant glorious past.

In our modern days of globalization, should Dessalinesism be an alternative to Nationalism?

User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 2152
Joined: Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:03 pm

Post by admin » Sat Nov 19, 2005 3:08 pm

[quote]The French name still glooms our countryside.[/quote]
That's not even English.

Michel, this is a great speech attributed to Dessalines, and probably written by Boisrond-Tonnerre. I find it amazing that so many people are engaged in trying to kill Dessaline's legacy, when we would not even be in the game without him. If the French had their way, they would have exterminated all the rebellious Africans back in 1802, even if it meant having to renew their commodity by going back to the source. Whichever way you look at it, Dessaline did not commit any crime against the French that the French did not do to the Haitians (or their African forced labor chattel, if you will) over and over and over and over and over. And when they did, they did not bother to explain to their kind or to posterity why they felt it necessary to commit those acts, the way Dessaline explained to the nation why he felt that it was
absolutely necessary to get rid of the remaining French for the survival of the people he had just led to freedom. Now, if you feel that you would have been more humane or intelligent than Dessaline, say so. But I am not sure that anyone else would have had the qualities it took to be victorious over the likes of Rochambeau and the much celebrated Napoleon (who was directly responsible for the deaths of SEVERAL MILLION PEOPLE, including his own). But History would portray Dessaline as the barbaric and savage one, and Napoleon as one of the greatest heroes the world has ever known.

Anyway, for those who understand French, I would prefer to point them to the original text of Dessaline's speech at this address:, given the dangers inherent to translation. I have not examined the text Michel offered carefully, because I am already more than familiar with the contents. I hope the rest
of it reflects greater quality of translation than the quote above which caught my attention because Michel boldfaced it. In any case, on this day following a sad November 18 for the Haitian people, I wonder just what the intention might be in bringing this text to the surface and highlighting selected phrases from it the way it was done.

Just what is your point, Michel?

Michel Nau_

Post by Michel Nau_ » Sun Nov 20, 2005 12:02 pm

Guy wrote: [quote]Just what is your point, Michel? [/quote]Serge wrote: [quote]After reading the text, I ask Michel the same question: What is the point? I am sure he wants to say something, but he prefers to go around the bush. So, Michel, it would be nice for you to be more explicit with this post.[/quote]
Guy, Serge, I don't have a clue why I came up with this posting. May be I was thinking about November 18, 1803, and our heroes of La Bataille de Vertieres”, and now a darker celebration with foreign soldiers including French on our soil.
Have we failed to live up to our heroes' standard? If yes, we shouldn't use their names in vain, and admit that we We haven't done a good job so fare.
We don't have an army anymore, and we are under a foreign occupation, and if we continue to be cavalier about it, we may end up under a protectorate situation and be a laughing subject.
First Black i
ndependent country in the world, look at where we are now, what have we done, and what do we have to say for ourselves while the country is in turmoil?
I must start with myself and confess that the removal of Aristide prematurely from power was an irreversible mistake that the international community couldn't imagine the long-term negative impact that will have on Haiti and on the rest of the world.
In Washington, DC they usually say: If someone makes a mistake, step forward and admit it, and ask for forgiveness; that will show a lot of character in someone's part and respect for the victimized party. However, if they found that someone is trying to cover it up by lying, or turning the table on the victim, someone's career could be ruined.
The International Community could have stepped forward and admit that after consultation among themselves and some political groups in Haiti have decided to remove Aristide from power. But instead, they started a demonizing campaign by telling the world that Presid
ent Aristide asked to leave.
Who will ask to leave in the middle of the night his country to an unknown destination?
Who will spend more than 20 hours in an airplane figuring out where to land?
Now, after 16 months of disorganized and dysfunctional diplomacy, inexperienced transitional government, thousand of deads, and political detainees, and billion of dollars spent, the Haitian people are in the worse position than under the Aristide's government.
And the cover up continues with the elections that they think that will bring hope and a new beginning.
About 32 presidential candidates are registered for the job.
Some of those candidates are so irrelevant that they couldn't even have a US tourist visa to campaign and present their agenda to the Diaspora.
The US Consulates may think that those candidates may decide to extend their visa, and may end up applying for a job at a McDonald.
Other candidates think that they are above the Constitutional law, and with their wealth, experien
ce and connections, they are entitled to the job, and can win the mind and heart of the people. Not so fast! hold your hoses and wagons cowboys!! They have learned the hard way that they are not in Texas or in Miami anymore!
And you have the rest of the pack full of well-known political veterans, who regardless of the outcome, they will end up having a job anyway.
They are just like cats, throw them high in the air, they will make a perfect landing right on their feet.
The elections are scheduled to begin on December 27, two days after Christmas.
What is it for us, Haitian?
Well, we have to think clearly about the unthinkable, because we have seen so many times that the unthinkable happens.

Like our friend Jaf would have said “Santa Claus is a white man, only he knows what he has in his bag for the Haitian people.

Let's wait and see!


User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 2152
Joined: Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:03 pm

Post by admin » Sun Nov 20, 2005 1:21 pm

Great post, Michel!

... but maybe we should do more than just wait and see (what do you think?)

Post Reply