The Haitian Constitution is quite a historic document. This constitution was the 3rd one created in the world at this point in time and it was also created for the first black republic in the world. Comparing the Haitian Constitution to the constitution of the United States, there are some obvious differences. In comparison to the United States constitution, some of the articles of Haitain constitution were created, obviously submerged in the events of the time, and was in comparison more racially charged, instead of thinking towards the future.
A few of the articles that are slightly odd and are reflective of Haiti’s feeling towards the French include Article 12, 13, and 14. Article 12 states that “No white person, of whatever nationality, shall set foot on this territory with the title of master or proprietor, nor in the future, acquire property here.” Being that slavery had been recently abolished, it would make sense for having this in the constitution at that time, however thinking forward to the present, articles like this don’t apply to Haitian society today. Articles 13 and 14 essentially follow the same suit, and address race in the sense of a child coming from a Haitian man and white woman, is a Haitain citizen and the woman is allowed to stay as well.
While reading, I was drawn to do a close reading comparison of the Haitian Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. I am currently in a Constitutional Law class so I couldn’t help but note the differences between the document from Haiti and here. Specifically, the biggest difference is in how the law is presented. One aspect of the United States Constitution that is frustrating in a Con Law class, but I found an appreciation for after reading the Haitian document, is the fluidity of it. The US Constitution is crafted in a vague way, especially in the Bill of Rights. I think that this vagueness and introduced elasticity is actually beneficial for the law. The law in the U.S. Constitution becomes malleable in a way that is still firm, but also open to interpretation. It opens it to changing times and beliefs so that it is not stuck in tradition, but able to move forward with the people. For example, the First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” which may seem specific, but is not. It brings up the questions of “what is a religion”, “can Congress allot tax money to religious organizations with secular aims”, etc. These are all questions that have answers that can change with the time because the law, in this case, is how it is interpreted. The Haitian Constitution does not have this flexible aspect. It seems that the clauses are very specific. Article Two says that “slavery is abolished forever”. This applies to the list of duties of the government as well. The U.S. Constitution lists vaguely again the roles of each branch of government, but the Haitian Constitution gets specific. Article 15 says that “The Empire is one and indivisible; its territory composed of six military divisions”. I should also note that there are some strangely vague parts like the article about the “good father”, but for the most part, I see this Constitution as something very specific. There is little room there for potential change. I am not here to argue that one is better than the other, but it is interesting that the U.S. Constitution opens the law to change, while the Haitian Constitution sets it more firmly.