This study proposes a new interpretation of the Haitian Revolution and its aftermath by examining the ideological foundations for the emergence of the first monarchy in the postcolonial Atlantic world. The discourse of freedom and the practice of authoritarianism in the Haitian Revolution, which was followed by Jean-Jacques Dessalines's establishment of an “empire” and the kingdom of Henry Christophe, show the profound antinomies of the discourse of universalism. Beginning with a reading of Haiti's founding documents in light of the political thought of Etienne Balibar and Hannah Arendt, the author proceeds to a brief case study of the highly polemical writings of Pompée Valentin, baron de Vastey, the secretary and “publicist” to King Henry Christophe. The first Haitian writer of note, Vastey passionately defended Haiti's revolutionary birth, its sovereignty, and its monarchy in an attempt to argue for its belonging within the modern world. At the same time, his writings point out the tensions of a universalism that both claimed for Haitians the status of a universal class and legitimated the founding of authoritarian rule within Haiti.

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