Citizenship and Emancipation: Voting Rights during the Haitian Revolution after 1793
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This study explores the relationship between two legislative elections that took place in Saint-Domingue, the first in 1793, before the enslaved were granted the rights of French citizens, and the second in 1796, after emancipation. Taken together, these elections provide a way of more fully examining what it looked like for the enslaved in Saint-Domingue to become enfranchised in a political community from which they had previously been excluded. The 1793 election sent deputies to Paris who entered into the debates that gave way to emancipation throughout the French Republic in 1794. Because emancipation took place under the Constitution of 1793, which extended voting rights to all male citizens, those who had once been enslaved were fully enfranchised in 1794. In light of this, I argue that the election of 1793 constituted a moment during which the colonized took up and expanded the ideals of the French Revolution beyond what had been imagined by those in the metropole. By 1795, however, a new constitution had been enacted that greatly restricted the franchise and re-imposed a system of representation. Hence, when elections were announced in 1796 in Saint-Domingue, nearly all those had been enfranchised in 1794 were barred from activating their newly acquired political status through the vote. This election thus illustrated that for those who were once enslaved, the threat of betrayal remained pervasive even after citizenship was granted. The primary aim of this project is to examine the shift that occurred between the elections of 1793 and 1796 in Saint-Domingue. I argue that this shift is integral for understanding the political and ideological changes that took place during the same period in metropolitan France, as well as the broader impact of the colonies on the continent during the Age of Revolution. In light of this, I maintain that the Haitian Revolution, and in particular the period during which the formerly enslaved were granted the rights of French citizenship, provides a decisive historical example for opening up new questions in political theory regarding the meaning of citizenship and universal emancipation in an increasingly globalized world.
Gaffney, Jennifer Ann (2014). Citizenship and Emancipation: Voting Rights during the Haitian Revolution after 1793. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from