How Did One Enlightenment Belief Shape Societies during the 18th and 19th centuries?

The only successful slave revolution in history was the Haitian Revolution when the slaves were revolting against the French government for their freedom. “ All men are equal” this sentence was said by John Locke to the English government and shared with the world. Locke’s Enlightenment belief was used in Haiti to influence politics and their economy to start Saint Domingue’s trading with other countries and to begin the Haitian Revolution in Saint Domingue. The political and economic life in Saint Domingue was shaped by John Locke’s ideas of equality and these ideas inspired the Haitian slaves Revolution that everyone should have equality during the 18th and 19th centuries.

John Locke, philosopher and physician, developed the idea that all people are equal.  The Enlightenment was a movement from the ideas of religion and tradition to explain the reasons and intellectual knowledge. Also, it was a time when people had new ideas about equality and independence. John Locke, said  “all the people are equal”.  Locke lived in England during both the English Civil war and the Glorious Revolution. He believed that “Men being… by nature all free, equal, and independent, no one can be… subjected to the political power of another without his own consent” (Locke, Two Treatises on Government, 1690.) Locke’s idea of equality went against the beliefs of the English government because the government wasn’t giving equal rights to all the people. In addition, Locke’s idea was more acceptable during the following centuries.

The ideas of John Locke about the equality was shared with the people especially with the Haitians in Saint Domingue. The French settlers lived in Saint Domingue and the Haitians were slaves and had to work hard without getting any profit. Furthermore, that’s why the Haitians were waiting for the time when they could rebel against the French government to be as equal as the white people. On August 20th ,1791, the Haitian slaves in Saint Domingue  rebelled against the government. They revolted against the landowners and set fire to every planter’s mansion to show the government that they will not be working under the government’s rules anymore until they are given their freedom. Toussaint L’Ouverture used to be slave and became free years before the Haitians revolution. When the Revolution started, Toussaint became ruler of Saint Domingue when he helped the rebels by teaching them how to fight properly together and he trained a strong army to conquer the other French cities. In 1804, the rebels celebrated  their victory over the French and the Haitians became independent. Clearly, the idea of John Locke inspired the Haitians to revolt against the French government to be as equal as the white people and impacted the Haitians after the Haitian Revolution by being victorious over the French, and celebrating the Haitians .

John Locke’s idea about equality impacted the Haitian rebels to conquer Saint Domingue. After their victory, Saint Domingue’s fields and products were burned and ravaged. Therefore, “many skilled overseers and managers were killed or gone and the Haitians slaves didn’t want to work people’s plantation anymore” which impacted to stop the trade between Saint Domingue and Europe (The Post-Revolution period 1804-1820).  This had a negative economic impact on the trade between France and Europe. Furthermore, after the revolution, the ports of Saint Domingue weren’t filled with coffee and sugar anymore. Again, The trade between Saint Domingue and Europe stopped because the products were destroyed and the Haitians didn’t work on filed anymore. Moreover, the trade in Saint Domingue stopped because of the Enlightenment’s ideas from John Locke that all the people are equal.

In conclusion, John Locke’s idea about equality during the Enlightenment impacted the politics and economy of Saint Domingue. This started Saint Domingue trading with Europe and the Haitians to revolt against the French government for their freedom. The Haitians were slaves to the French government because they worked hard without getting any profit during the 18th and 19th centuries.



Uzgalis, William. “John Locke.” Stanford University. Stanford University, 02 Sept. 2001. Web. 01 June 2014. <>.

– Rogers, Graham A.J. “John Locke (English Philosopher).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 21 May 2014.


“The Post-Revolutionary Period:  1804-1820.” Haiti:The Post-Revolutionary Period:1804-1820. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 June 2014. <>.

– (Locke Document 1)

– (Locke Document 2)