The immediate post-revolutionary period of Haitian history was a terribly difficult one. The country was in shambles. Most of the plantations were destroyed, many skilled overseers were gone (either dead, in hiding, or having fled for their lives because of the treatment of slaves), skilled managers were often also gone, the former slaves did not want to work someone else's plantation, there was a grave fear that France would re-invade, and the rest of the international community was either openly hostile or totally uninterested in Haiti.
The opening sentence is the Heinls' treatment of this period is: "With the dawn of 1804, Haiti's highest hour has passed." (Heinl and Heinl, 1978) This sad judgment seems to me to reflect the views of most Haitians I've ever talked with, and most histories, both Haitian and foreign.
If ever an historical moment stood out, Haiti's Revolution is one such event and is Haiti's glory forever, and a major source of national pride. Perhaps with the determination of today's progressive groups, Haiti could be at the beginnings of a new "great moment," though it is much slower to success than most would wish -- but, then, so were the earliest years of the Revolution.
At any rate, January 1, 1804 left Haiti facing a desperate task. She was:
(This hostility was not overridden by the fact that some nations, Britain first and foremost and the U.S. to a significant degree, continued to carry on a quiet trade with this nation that they regarded as an international pariah.)
If one looks at Haiti in mid-1995, one sees a small modicum of electric service and telecommunications, and a handful of assembly plants. But, in the main, nearly 200 years after the Haitian Revolution, and 150 years after the vigor of the Industrial Revolution, Haiti is a nation to which the Industrial Revolution never came.
This was the situation that depopulated Haiti faced on January 1, 1804. (Probably fewer than 350,000 Haitians survived the revolution.)
The earliest days of the Haitian nation, from 1804 until 1820, are the story of the response to these difficult conditions by three main leaders: Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Henry Christophe and Alexander Petion. My treatment will emphasize that the short rule of Dessalines, and the longer rule of Christophe in norther Haiti, failed to solved these problems and to return Haiti to her position of wealth and importance she held before independence. Further, I will argue that Petion's rule in the south set the tone and social structures in place that determined the economic and social life of Haiti for the next century.