This article considers the 1801 Constitution of Saint-Domingue, which was promulgated by Toussaint Louverture. It argues that this complex and contradictory constitution can be productively considered in the light of Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker's canonical work of Atlantic history, The Many-Headed Hydra. By this method, the presence of both radical emancipatory and anti-democratic currents within the Haitian Revolution is revealed. While the 1801 Constitution bears the influence of the "proletarian hydra"-its unequivocal abolition of slavery codified in law the revolutionary masses key demand-it also bears the interests of colonial Atlantic World capital. Finally, it is argued that the 1801 Constitution casts light on two profoundly different conceptions of freedom: a conservative conception emerging from "practical politics", and the other, a more radical vision borne of the highly contingent experience of the African slave trade and the plantation system in the Americas.

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Keywords 1801 Constitution of Saint-Domingue, Atlantic history, freedom, Haitian Revolution, slavery, Toussaint Louverture
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1080/14788810.2015.1072678
Journal Atlantic Studies Global Currents
Citation
Kaisary, P. (2015). Hercules, the Hydra, and the 1801 Constitution of Toussaint Louverture. Atlantic Studies Global Currents (Vol. 12, pp. 393–411). doi:10.1080/14788810.2015.1072678