Liberal Insurrection of 1883


The Liberal Insurrection of 1883 was a significant event in Haitian history that took place in the aftermath of the country’s struggle for independence. Led by Jean-Pierre Boyer Bazelais and supported by other exiles from the British colonies of the Bahamas and Jamaica, the insurrection aimed to challenge the rule of Haitian President Lysius Salomon and his National Party agenda.

The insurrection began on March 27, 1883, when Boyer Bazelais and his supporters descended upon the port town of Miragoâne under cover of darkness. With relative ease, they took control of the town and barricaded themselves, marking the beginning of the civil war. The movement quickly spread throughout the southern peninsula of Haiti, establishing strongholds in other cities like Jérémie and Jacmel.

While some contemporary newspapers in Paris simplified the event by portraying it as a revolt by “mulattoes” against a “negro government,” Louis-Joseph Janvier, a Haitian intellectual, demonstrated a more nuanced understanding of the root causes of the conflict. Janvier attributed the insurrection to Salomon’s land reform law, which the Liberal Party opposed.

The insurrection faced opposition from government troops aided by the popular classes in Port-au-Prince, who marked their victory over the insurgents by setting fire to numerous buildings and businesses in the capital. Ultimately, the insurgents failed to secure popular support, and Salomon managed to quell the rebellion by early 1884.

The Liberal Insurrection of 1883 had a profound impact on the understanding of Haitian history for Louis-Joseph Janvier. He saw it as a defining moment that reaffirmed the lessons of the past and shed light on the multifaceted factors contributing to Haiti’s political conflicts. Inspired by this event, Janvier coined the phrase “Haïti aux Haïtiens,” expressing his vision for Haiti’s future, emphasizing the importance of Haitian autonomy and self-determination.