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In 1789 the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen was created during the French Revolution by the National Assembly. This written document explains a list of rights for French citizens, and many slaves in Saint-Domingue believed that this gave them the same rights as it did to people in France, but their white masters refused to abide. By August 1791, a revolution broke out in the north which took months of strategizing. It began with a rebellion that soon inspired revolts across Hispaniola. The leader of the rebellion which started the Haitian Revolution was an enslaved man named Boukman Dutty. In August 1791, this lead organizer signalled the rebels to light plantations on fire, and the slave revolt began. At the start, the main goals of the rebels were to improve working conditions on plantations, end the punishment use of the whip, and to have more days of rest. As this revolt went on, their goals became more radical, such as seeing the complete expulsion of the whites from Saint-Domingue. On the other hand, division between the whites and affranchis also brought violence. In May 2017, all free people of color born of free parents were equal in rights to whites. Although it affected only hundreds, angry white citizens made France annul the law. From this, affranchis too joined rebellions or started ones of their own.
In these early days of the rebellion, Britain and Spain attempt to remain neutral as they feared that the revolution would spread across the border to British Jamaica and Spanish Santo Domingo. Although, this was not possible as France declared a Republic under the National Convention. By early 1793, Saint-Domingue rebel leaders, such as Toussaint Louverture, joined Spain’s fight against the French. Toussaint Louverture was enslaved in Saint-Domingue, until he was freed by his progressive master in the 1770s. Being known for military intelligence, his army under the Spanish grew to thousands of troops. Whilst Spanish soldiers were preoccupied with the battle close to the border in Santo Domingo, the south and southwest portion of Saint-Domingue were taken over by by British forces. In addition, white planters allied with Britain because they believed that this was the only way to maintain slavery in the colony. By 1794, the National Assembly in France abolished slavery to win over the rebels. From this, Louverture switched sides and joined the French.
A year later, Spain signed the Treaty of Basel knowing that they could not win this battle, and gave up Santo Domingo to the French. This was marked as Louverture’s volte-face by historians since it was the turning point in the Haitian Revolution because of his support allowing France to control the colony. In March 1796, Louverture was titled as Lieutenant Governor of Saint-Domingue. Although Louverture was victorious against the French, Britain still maintained slavery and plantation on the southwest portion of the colony. In 1797, him and the Affranchis’ leader, Andre Rigaud, pushed Britain out but this alliance was only temporary. Soon, a civil war broke out to determine who would have control of the colony. This war was called the War of the Knives. The two leaders were more motivated by economic interests, even though it seemed as it was a war of race. Affranchis wanted to keep their economical and political privileges, while the blacks feared that slavery and inequality would return if Rigaud won.
Louverture blockaded Riguads’ army for 5 months so they could not receive supplies and by July 1800, he sent his top general Jean-Jacques Dessalines to defeat Rigauds’ forces. Once again, Louverture was victorious because of the treaties he signed with Britain and the US to supply him with resources. These two countries contributed hoping that Louverture would weaken France’s position in the Caribbean.
Although this document was intended to be a step forward for Saint-Domingue, Louverture faced criticism. The large estates prevented many people from owning land, white planters were invited back into the colony, and although people received daily wages for work, former slaves felt as if these policies were another way to name slavery. As a result, they wanted full independence from France. 

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