Jean Jacques Dessalines Declares Haiti's Independence with Himself as Emperor

On January 1, 1804 Dessalines then declared independence, reclaiming the indigenous Taíno name of Haiti ("Land of Mountains") for the new nation.

Most of the remaining French colonists fled ahead of the defeated French army, many migrating to Louisiana or Cuba. Unlike Toussaint, Dessalines showed little equanimity with regard to the whites. In a final act of retribution, the remaining French were slaughtered by Haitian military forces. Some 2,000 Frenchmen were massacred at Cap-Français, 800 in Port-au-Prince, and 400 at Jérémie. He issued a proclamation declaring, "we have repaid these cannibals, war for war, crime for crime, outrage for outrage."

One exception was a military force of Poles from the Polish Legions that had fought in Napoleon's army. Some of them refused to fight against blacks, supporting the principles of liberty; also, a few Poles (around 100) actually joined the rebels (one of the Polish generals – Władysław Franciszek Jabłonowski – was, in fact, partly of African descent). Therefore, Poles were allowed to stay and were spared the fate of other whites. About 400 of the 5,280 Poles chose this option. Of the remainder, 700 returned to France and many were – after capitulation – forced to serve in British units. 160 Poles were later given permission to leave Haiti and were sent to France at Haitian expense. Today, descendants of those Poles who stayed are living in Casale and Fond Des Blancs.

Despite the Haitian victory, France refused to recognize the newly independent country's sovereignty until 1825, in exchange for 150 million gold francs. This fee, demanded as retribution for the "lost property"--ie, slaves--of the former colonialists, was later reduced to 90 million. Haiti agreed to pay the price so that a crippling embargo imposed by France, Britain and the United States would be lifted. But in order to do so, the Haitian government had to take out high interest loans. The debt was not repaid in full until 1947.

Finally, on November 28, 1803, Rochambeau surrendered and Dessalines declared Haiti to be a republic. He took the French three-colored flag and removed the white from the flag to produce the bi-colored flag of Haiti, the second republic of the Western hemisphere.