Understandably, the European nations were embroiled in the Napoleonic wars. But the American Revolutionary War had been over for almost 20 years by then. A large part of their population too, were slave-owning plantation owners who were deeply racist and would've looked at the Haiti slave revolt with great suspicion.

Given the deeply racist nature of the world at that time, such that interracial marriage was almost always labelled as coerced regardless of the circumstances, why did the white leaders of the USA not intervene in Haiti on racial grounds?

3 Answers 3


Realpolitik: American foreign policy under Washington, Adams, and Jefferson was aimed at threading the needle between England and France, avoiding European entanglements. Getting involved in Haiti would have angered at least one of them. Better to sit back and let the European empires expend their own resources.

Also, intervention would have been impractical militarily. Haitians had already defeated a 44,000 man army sent by France. France suffered as many combat deaths in Haiti as Americans did during the Revolution. The United States had a very small standing army at the time (7,000 at the start of the War of 1812), and most of it was tied up fighting American Indians on the frontier. As the War of 1812 would show, militia were ineffective when not fighting on their home territory. So the United States would have had to suffer great casualties in order for a cause that wasn't its own.

In short, Jefferson wanted an independent, white-ruled Haiti but did not have the military means to achieve regime change. Instead, he turned to economic coercion:

As president, Thomas Jefferson encouraged the independence of Saint Domingue (as Haiti was then called) from France, but he refused to recognize the new black regime and even embargoed trade with the rebels (source).

Obviously, the embargo did not work.


Pay huge amounts of money to invade some other country where there were no Americans. Huh?

You are applying 2015 morals to 1800 America. In 1804, we did not have thousands of helicopters and ships with millions of tons of fuel just lying around and trillion dollar budgets for invading random countries.

In 1804, the United States Navy only had 3 ships (USS United States, USS Constellation, and USS Constitution). It had to encourage privateers like John Paul Jones to fight for it. There was no military budget at all to speak of.

Also, don't forget about yellow fever.

  • ...then what happened in Canada during the war of 1812? Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 17:33
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    @EvilWashingMachine There were a lot of Americans in Canada. Also, you can walk to Canada. New York adjoins Canada. Personally I think we should have another go at them. You know, Haiti is like 1500 miles across the ocean from Baltimore right? Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 18:11
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    Alot of American loyalists, who left the US precisely because they don't want to be part of the new US state or were coerced to do so and probably identified themselves as British anyway. There also weren't any Americans in the aggressive colonisation of Texas, nor were there any Americans in the Mexican territories in 1840. Point being, the US had imperialistic ambitions way before 2015, or 1900 for that matter, so I don't quite follow your premise... Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 18:17
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    Also yes, Haiti is 1500 miles away from Baltimore, but the shores of Tripoli and Algeirs are perhaps double that ;) Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 18:17
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    Well, Haiti was not interfering with our commerce. Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 18:22

The USA was not a global or even regional power during the time the Haitian Revolution took place. Another factor to take into account is that things simply got out of control in Haiti. France had the most powerful army of Europe and possibly the world and they lost to revolting slaves. Even though most of the French soldiers died from mosquito-borne diseases and not in combat against the Haitians, it stuck in people's minds that an army so well prepared could fall into such disgrace as quickly as it did.

Also in Haiti being white basically became a crime punishable with death, with some very few exceptions.

Here is a link to an article published in 1804 in a NY newspaper where it confirms the massacre that took place in Haiti. Cape Francois (The French Cape) is modern Cap Haitien, the second largest city in Haiti and the largest city on its northern coast.


  • "White punishable by death", This is not accurate, color wasn't targeted but old slave owner. There was Polish soldier who came to fight the rebel then later joined them, they were given vast land, even some places are named after them like "Cazal", their descendants are still a testament of that. Commented Feb 25, 2021 at 0:27
  • About the massacre, why wouldn't France retalitate even if they were in bad shape? Local news from countries that supported slavery greatly exagarate the story to make other nations see slave revolt or slavery abolition as very bad Commented Feb 25, 2021 at 0:29

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