Three years after the outbreak of the French revolution, the island of Santo Domingo faced a slave insurrection. A bloody struggle ensued for nearly thirteen years, in which, France, Spain and Britain attempted to gain control over the island. Spain eventually ceded her rights to the western parts of the island to France in 1795 and withdrew from the conquest. The whole island eventually established its freedom by soundly defeating the French forces and forcing an evacuation in late 1803. The independent state of Haiti was declared on 1 January 1804, the first such black state to be established anywhere in the world.
The first Head of State was the successful commander of the nationalist forces, General Jean-Jacques Dessalines. He was proclaimed Emperor Jacques I later that same year and crowned on 8th October 1804, two months before his white contemporary, Napoléon.
The new Emperor did not enjoy his new dignity very long. An insurrection led by disgruntled army generals led to a division of the country between a northern zone, controlled by blacks, and a southern zone controlled by mixed-race mulattos. The struggle resulted in the death of the Emperor while leading his troops against the insurgents in 1806. The subsequent history of the country owes much to the bloody struggle for control between these two racial groups.
General Henry Christophe, C-in-C of the army and unofficial heir to Emperor Jacques I, succeeded him but was only able to establish a stable government in the north of the country. He did not assume the Imperial mantle, styling himself Lord President of a Republic instead. However, a new constitution in 1811 declared the island a kingdom with Christophe as King.