A Closer Look At Bois-Caïman
The proponents of the supposed pact continuously refer to the Bois-Caïman
gathering as the place where the satanic contract supposedly took place, even
in the absence of solid historical evidence save their own prolific imagination.
After extensive research on Haiti and several visits to the country, American
writer Robert Heinl and his wife Nancy Heinl published in 1978 a volume on
the Haitian revolution that deals with several aspects of Haiti’s painful
history including the Bois-Caïman meeting5. According to these authors,
Bookman sought the help of the God of heaven in his prayer, and made no mention
whatsoever of a spiritual agreement with Satan. Even though the text shows
Bookman was talking to the creator and not the devil, some would still contend
that he could not have been really talking to God because – the way they
see it - Bookman did not know God as they think they know Him.
In addition to the complete absence of any reference to Satan or to a spiritual
pact in Bookman’s prayer, there are two other problems associated with
such an interpretation of the available records. First, those who hold that
view say implicitly that God was in favor of slavery in Saint-Domingue whereas
Satan himself was against it. How would they know? And how could that be? The
God of the Bible created man in His own image6, and therefore sees all men,
women and children as equal in terms of their intrinsic value, regardless of
their ethnicity, education or economic status. Satan on the other hand is portrayed
in the Bible as a liar, a destroyer of human life, and a murderer7. Therefore,
it is logical – at least to me - to think that God and not Satan would
be in favor of ending the sufferings of the African slaves in the French colony
The second difficulty of that position lies in the fact that God is above
all as the God and creator of all. What do I mean? The Bible contains many
instances where God was involved with or answered the sincere prayers of people
who were not partakers of His existing covenant but nevertheless acknowledged
His existence, power and character. The supremacy and sovereignty of God is
a central and undeniable truth in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
To deny this fact would be to lean toward what I call tribal theology, usually
conceived or expressed in terms like these: if you are not a registered member
of our church and if you do not serve and worship God the way we do, God cannot
and will not answer your prayers. Those who operate under that skewed theological
umbrella fail dramatically to understand that the God who said, “You
shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3) never once said, “I
shall answer no other prayers but yours”. David was absolutely right
about God when he cried: “O you who hear prayer, to you all men will
come” (Psalms 65:2). For those of us who believe in God we know that
we belong to Him, but God Himself does not exclusively belong to us or to anybody
for that matter since He created us all. As much as we are totally dependent
upon God the Father for our very existence, God in contrast is totally independent
of His creation, and He transcends us all.
So, when Bookman addressed his plea for help to the God of heaven, as the
historical record seems to indicate, was it just pure theism? Was it a kind
of simple theistic philosophy? You can debate that. But as for a spiritual
pact with Satan, I have not yet seen the evidence.
Now, someone could readily ask a legitimate question about the significance
of the blood shared by the participants during that unprecedented meeting.
The drinking of animal blood could be easily understood in the context of a
simple cultural phenomenon. Warm animal blood was routinely used as a source
of strength in many ancient cultures. Even today, animal blood is consumed
in many parts of Haiti, generally fried or transformed in some other way, but
without any spiritual or religious connotation. It’s worth recalling
that this particular event took place in 1791 in rural Saint-Domingue during
a gathering of malnourished, tortured, violated, abused, and terrorized men
and women. The African slaves who needed their physical strength just to stay
alive on the plantations found themselves in greater need of their vitality
as the time of the general insurrection was approaching. It was neither the
first nor the last time they had a taste of animal blood. Furthermore, as reported
by the World Health Organization8, blood derivatives and blood-based products
are used by many in developed countries for therapeutic purposes, among other
But, if there is no good evidence that there ever was a satanic pact, and
if the devil didn’t play a role in the success of Haiti’s revolution,
who or what did? What most people have probably never heard about Haiti is
the real reasons the revolution was possible in the first place, 200 years
Moving From Saint-Domingue Into Haiti
The heroes of Haiti’s independence succeeded in defeating slavery and
colonialism for two main reasons. First, they were united by a clear and common
goal – and that’s not a small thing considering the extent of the
fragmentation of the colonial society. These brave men and women were united
in their misery and humiliation, and that made them ready to die fighting for
their common freedom rather than continue to live as mere disposable properties
of the French slave masters.
Prior to 1791, there were several isolated attempts by various socio-economic
or ethnic groups to bring about profound structural changes in the colony.
Some wanted to escape slavery whereas others needed to maximize their profits
or to reach their goals of liberty and equality with the most privileged of
the system.9 Among the Indians (native Haitians) who very early fought against
slavery stands the name of Chief Henri who succeeded in building a small independent
community of people living freely in the mountains. Many years later, mulattoes
such as Ogé and Chavannes lost their lives trying to reach equality
with the whites. At the same time, African slaves were constantly fleeing to
the mountains to live freely whenever they had the opportunity to escape the
horrors of the plantations in the plains. Even underprivileged and poor whites
were also unhappy with the system and wanted to see significant changes that
would give them greater advantages.
In the movement that followed Bois-Caïman, however, the revolting African
slaves and the already free mulattoes were united in one big army with one
purpose: abolish both slavery and colonialism in Saint-Domingue. With such
a clear goal, their combined strength made them unstoppable. Unity among men
is so powerful that even God at some point had to come down from heaven to
stop a rebellious design put together by united men and women who apparently
did not like the divine plan for their lives10. Conversely, Jesus explained
what happens when unity is absent in any human institution: “Every kingdom
divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided
against itself will not stand” (Matthew 12:25). It was obviously because
of their intense unity that the heroes of Haiti’s Independence were able
to succeed. And until today, Haiti’s maxim remains “L’union
Fait La Force” (translated “Unity Creates Strength”). But
the principle of unity itself was not the only factor for Haiti’s early
The second reason for 1804 is that as many of Haiti’s first leaders
were Catholic Christians11, they believed with all their heart and mind that
it was the will of God for them to either live as free men and women or at
least die fighting for their freedom. I invite you to read for yourself how
these heroic men described their conditions and motives – in their own
God who fights for the innocent is our guide, He will not forsake us. To win
or to die! There lies our motto that we will defend up to the last drop of
our blood. We lack neither powder nor canons. So, Death or Liberty! May God
grant it to us without the shedding of blood. Then all our wishes will be fulfilled.12
This is an excerpt from a letter sent to the French Governor Blanchelande
who wanted to know why the slaves had revolted, as if being a slave was not
in and of itself a sufficient reason. But what is interesting about the exchange
is that it took place not before but after the Bois-Caiman meeting. Now, why
would they claim God was on their side and guiding them, if – as the
rumor goes - they had already made an alliance with the devil? It seems to
me that if anybody had to know about the existence or non-existence of a satanic
agreement it must have been the very people who made the deal, if such a thing
ever took place. Among those who fought, bled, and died for Haiti’s independence,
there may have well been some who believed and practiced Vodou and others who
probably had no religious faith at all and believed only in their weapons.
But as for the actual leaders of the revolution, the letter says a lot about
the object of their faith and the source of their strength and determination.
The above excerpt clearly shows that the fathers of the Haitian revolution
believed God was on their side, guiding them as the protector and defender
of the innocent.
Watch for Part three of this article on BlackandChristian.com.
5 - A synthesis of Bookman’s prayer, arranged from many oral traditions,
can be found on page 43 of the book “Written in Blood - the story of
the Haitian people, 1492-1971” by Heinl, R.D., Jr, and Heinl, N.G. 1978.
Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. Here is the text of the prayer: “Good
Lord who hath made the sun that shines upon us, that riseth from the sea, who
maketh the storm to roar; and governeth the thunders, The Lord is hidden in
the heavens, and there He watcheth over us. The Lord seeth what the blancs
have done. Their god commandeth crimes, ours giveth blessings upon us. The
Good Lord hath ordained vengeance. He will give strength to our arms and courage
to our hearts. He shall sustain us. Cast down the image of the god of the blancs,
because he maketh the tears to flow from our eyes. Hearken unto Liberty that
speaketh now in all your hearts.”
6 – The biblical account of the creation of man is found in Genesis
1:26-28, Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness,
and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the
livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the
ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created
him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be
fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the
fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that
moves on the ground."
7 – Jesus talks about Satan in those terms: You belong to your father,
the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer
from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.
When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father
of lies. (John 8:44).
8 - Technical information on blood derivatives and blood-based products can
be found at http://www.who.int/bloodproducts/en/, the website of The World
9 – See Victor, A.J. 2004. In the name of liberty - A story of Haïti
(Pre-1492-1806). Linivè Kreyòl. Also on the World Wide Web at
10 - The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they
have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for
them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand
each other." (Genesis 11:6-7, NIV).
11 – Toussaint Louverture, among others, was known to be of the Catholic
faith; when he became Governor of the island only a decade after the Bois-Caiman
meeting, he proclaimed Catholicism as the religion for the land.
12 - I made the translation from the original text written in French: Dieu
qui combat pour l’innocent est notre guide, il ne nous abandonnera jamais.
Vaincre ou mourir! Voilà notre devise que nous soutiendrons jusqu’à la
dernière goutte de notre sang. Il ne nous manque point de poudre ni
de canons. Ainsi la Mort ou la Liberté. Dieu veuille nous la faire obtenir
sans effusion de sang. Alors tous nos voeux seront accomplis. Source: Césaire,
A. 1981. Toussaint Louverture: La révolution française et le
problème colonial. Page 196. Editions Présence Africaine.
Jean R. Gelin is a licensed minister of the Church of God and serves as an
assistant pastor for a young Haitian-American church in the United States.
He holds a Ph.D. in plant sciences and works as a scientist in agricultural
research. Dr. Gelin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org regarding this article.
Copyright @2005 Jean Gelin, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission, BlackandChristian.com