Unit 4: Revolution in Haiti, Mexico, Latin America, and the Philippines
The American and French Revolutions inspired revolutions in Mexico, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Mexico experienced several revolutions starting in the 19th century and extending into the 20th century. Spain controlled Mexico, Latin America, and the islands of Puerto Rico and Cuba. Haiti, in contrast, was controlled by France. Spain and France had colonies worldwide from the Americas to Africa to Asia and the Pacific. As we have learned, the ambitions of Napoleon disrupted Europe.
In 1808, Napoleon had deposed the Spanish King Ferdinand VII (1784–1833) and created political instability in Spain. These distractions caused Spain to lose its colonial control over Mexico, Latin America, and its islands in the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans. The French Revolution also directly contributed to the Haitian Revolution and the liberation of Haiti. In this unit, we explore the revolutions in Haiti, Mexico, Latin America, and the Philippines. As you read, think about how the American and French Revolutions inspired revolution throughout the colonial world.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 10 hours.
4.1: Revolution in Haiti
Haiti became the second independent nation in the Americas. Haiti, called Saint Domingue, was part of the French Empire. Haiti was France's most profitable colony at the time of its independence. France considered Saint Domingue a resource colony since it was profitable for its sugar, coffee, cotton, and indigo production. Slavery was central to Saint Domingue, and it was known as a colony of cruelty in its treatment of enslaved people. Before 1791, several smaller slave rebellions had attempted to unsettle the system of slavery in Saint Domingue, including the mass poisoning of enslavers. Enslaved people outnumbered free people 10 to one.
In 1791, there were five main groups of people:
1. White, wealthy plantation owners.
2. Around 40,000 Petit Blancs, who included shopkeepers, artisans, and teachers. While some Petit Blancs owned small numbers of enslaved people, not all did.
3. Around 30,000 free Black people. This group included mixed Black and White people, or mulattos. Many were wealthy and powerful landowners.
4. Runaway enslaved people, or "maroons", who lived deep in the mountains.
5. Around 500,000 enslaved people.
4.2: Revolution in Mexico and Texas
Spain was the first European nation to colonize the Americas. It had arguably won the largest "piece of the pie". Spain's empire extended from today's Canadian/United States border to the southern tip of South America and included several Caribbean islands. However, in the 1800s, Spain began to suffer economic and political instability. Napoleon not only plagued Spain and its territories, but British pirates looted most of the gold and riches the Spanish ships tried to transport to Europe.
Mexico first broke with Spain in 1810, when Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (1753–1811), a Catholic priest, led the Mexican war for independence. This conflict ended in 1821, when Spain finally relinquished its control of Mexico in the Treaty of Córdoba. Just as with its American neighbors to the north, the Mexican Revolution was revolutionary due to the government it created, not simply for its military prowess or success. The Mexican Revolution not only restructured Mexican society, but also outlawed slavery.
Revolution spread like dominoes throughout Central and South America, with independence movements in Guatemala, Haiti, Columbia, and Argentina. The nations they created were not monarchical systems, but republics inspired by Enlightenment philosophies.
4.3: Revolution in South America
Simón Bolívar (1783–1830) was the most influential revolutionary in South America. A wealthy aristocrat, Bolívar dedicated his fortune to the independence movement. Beginning in 1810, he led a rebellion against the Viceroyalty of New Granada – a large colony in South America that encompassed modern-day Columbia, Panama, Ecuador, and Venezuela. Taking advantage of the instability Napoleon caused in Spain, Bolívar promoted independence movements with fellow revolutionaries such as Francisco de Miranda (1750–1816), who attempted to wrest independence for Venezuela in 1806, Columbia in 1810, and Ecuador 1822.
4.4: U.S. Involvement and Filipino Independence
Ironically, the push for revolution throughout the Americas transformed the United States into an imperial world power. The United States used its Monroe Doctrine and Roosevelt Corollary to assert itself as the steward of independence in the Americas. The U.S. government issued strict warnings to the European powers that they would have to confront the United States if they dared to interfere with American independence.
4.5: Revolutions of the 20th century
Roosevelt's "big stick" policy impacted several revolutions in Latin America. For example, in Panama, the United States recognized and helped Panamanian insurgents gain independence from Columbia. Panama had won independence from Spain in 1840, but it quickly joined Gran Colombia in 1841 when it feared the Spanish Empire might reabsorb their country following its brief 13-month independence.
U.S. interest in Panama grew when it decided to build a stronger navy that needed quick access to Asia and the Pacific Ocean. U.S. leaders wanted to create a canal through the Isthmus of Panama – the shortest distance between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Since the Colombian government opposed this plan, the United States helped Panama gain its independence in 1903. In return, the Panamanian government would lease the land on the isthmus of Panama to the United States to construct the Panama Canal.
This agreement was revolutionary for three reasons: it created the independent nation of Panama (provided it supported the United States), it solidified the U.S. role in Latin American politics, and it separated the American continents into north and south.
Unit 4 Assessment
- Receive a grade