Haiti in Colonial Period

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About this sample


Words: 1863 |

Pages: 4|

10 min read

Published: May 24, 2022

Words: 1863|Pages: 4|10 min read

Published: May 24, 2022

In 1804 Haiti became the world's first independent black Republic following a slave revolution. 200 years later, ravaged by colonialism and violence, it was placed under UN military occupation. Haiti’s New Dictatorship charts the country's recent history, from the 2004 coup against President Aristide and the also the Duvalier’s dictatorship. The article begins talking about Haiti in the colonial period. Columbus left a settlement behind, and the devastation of the indigenous population through brutal violence, forced labor, and disease began immediately. Over the following century, the original population of many of the new Spanish colonies was wiped out, reducing the forced labor pool accordingly. Haiti was thus one of the first destinations for the captured men and women of the transatlantic slave trade. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, European colonial powers, including Spain, the Netherlands, England, and France, fought naval battles directly and through proxies for colonial possessions in America. France began to settle colonists in western Hispaniola in the seventeenth century, and by the end of that century the Spanish ceded the western part of Hispaniola to the French, who named the colony St Domingue. By the late eighteenth century, the slave population was far higher than the white population. The slave’s resistance was constant and, in various ways, successful: they raided plantations, freed others, and, like slaves in Brazil, Colombia, elsewhere in the Caribbean, and the United States, they founded maroon societies of escaped slaves. Haiti Independence was won in a bitter, brutal revolt against the French colonial masters, the only successful slave revolt in history. Despite Toussaint willingness to make all concessions except the re-imposition of slavery, including allowing the colony to remain a part of France, the French under Napoleon ultimately decided on a genocidal campaign: if Haiti’s population was not to be Frances possession, it would have to be utterly destroyed. They tear up the roads with shot; throw corpses and horses into all the fountains; burn and annihilate everything, in order that those who have come to reduce us to slavery may have before their eyes the image of that hell which they deserve. When the war of independence ended in 1804, Haiti was divided between two revolutionary generals, Alexandre Petion as President in the south and Henri Christophe as King in the north.

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Similarly, Haiti might have hoped that the United States, upon becoming independent, might embrace its independent neighbor. The U.S. refused to recognize Haiti and feared the example of a successful slave revolt. Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the former field slave who had led the final struggle for independence after Toussaint LOuverture was captured, declared himself Emperor upon victory, but was assassinated shortly afterward. Alexandre Petion, President of Haiti after Dessalines assassination, helped South American Revolutionary Simon Bolivar in the fight for independence against Spain. The indemnity was for 150 million francs, based on the profits that could have been earned by colonists in the period: it represented Frances annual budget plus ten years of revenue from the plantations and estates that had been destroyed during the war. A French bank loaned Haiti 30 million francs for the first instalment, deducting management fees and charging exorbitant interest: by the time payments were completed, Haiti was 6 million francs deeper in the hole. It took Haiti 122 years until 1947 to finish paying the indemnity debt. The scorched earth warfare, disunity, and indemnity prevented Haiti from establishing itself economically. The monopoly of skills and organization by the colonists before the revolution meant that after the revolution, when colonists left or were massacred, the country had a shortage of skills. An additional earthquake in 1843, as well as hurricanes and outbreaks of disease, were also devastating. A little bit after the Civil War in U.S. Haiti was finally recognized.

Saddled with these crippling debts, Haiti was hardly able to move forward. By the 1910s, this influence was symbolized by HASCO, The Haitian American Sugar Company. Like United Fruit in the Latin American banana republics, HASCO was a major player in Haitian politics and a vehicle. As U.S. economic power grew in the nineteenth century, so too did its influence in Haiti. In 1915, the U.S. Marines invaded Haiti. When the Marines left 19 years later in 1934, the U.S. reserved a special role for itself. The U.S. left behind two military forces for use against the population, the gendarmerie and the National Guard, which evolved into the Haitian Army.

Two years later, in 1937, the U.S.-supported Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic massacred thousands of Haitian workers there, in a systematically planned, five-day pogrom. In his history of the period, Matthew Smith argues that the Haitian government may have had sufficient force to stop the massacres from taking place but was focused on internal threats to its own stability and not the security of its people, who had no international champions either. The Haitian government accepted an indemnity of $750,000 for the families of the victims in exchange for cancelling an independent investigation of the slaughter. In 1941, the Societe Haitiano-Americaine de Developpement Agricole, or SHADA, was created with a $5 million grant from the U.S. Export-Import Bank. Elected by the legislature to surprise and disbelief in Port-au-Prince, he found that people shouted threats and slurs at him, while many women were, according to one observer, on their knees wailing miserably. Estime used patronage to win a degree of popular support, brought some socialists associated with the popular movement into his government, and initiated a degree of economic planning. When this caught U.S. attention, Estime removed the socialist ministers from his cabinet, while attempting a modest program of reform, including increasing minimum wages, an income tax, new labor laws, labor inspectors, cooperatives, school rehabilitation, and a rural development campaign. U.S. corporations, SHADA and HASCO, labelled Estimes administration communist; U.S. banks denied the government debt relief and new loans. Estime successfully waged a public campaign to raise domestic funds to pay off a $5 million loan, but was again rebuffed in most of his efforts to get new loans from the U.S. A poorly planned attempt at nationalizing the banana industry harmed Haiti’s market share, its economy, and its governments finances. He was removed in a coup by the National Guard, which he had renamed the Haitian Army in 1950. The post-coup regime of Philip Magloire repaired any strains in relations with the U.S. and created an anti-communist dictatorship allied with Trujillos Dominican Republic and Batistas Cuba.

The U.S. came to Papa Docs aid in 1959 when some Haitian exiles mounted an insurrection against the dictator. The U.S. Marines and Navy deployed to help defeat the rebels and end the insurrection. Papa Doc held elections in 1961 and had eliminated all effective opposition by 1964, naming himself President-for-life in the Constitution and granting himself the right to name his successor. By the time Papa Doc died in 1971, the regime had killed 30,000-60,000 people, tortured and exiled many more, and embezzled $10 million from the small treasury for Papa Docs personal use. Baby Docs regime was no different in its abuses or its U.S. support. Over the period between Baby Docs departure and the January 1988 elections, the FADH killed more people than Baby Doc had killed in the previous 15 years. That year, 1988, there was an internal revolt within the FADH, led by General Prosper Avril, who took control from Namphy in a coup. Popular resistance did not stop, however, and in 1990 Avril was forced to hand power over to a civilian member of the supreme court, Ertha Pascal Trouillot, and flee, again on a U.S. aircraft. The popular movement continued, demanding economic reform, an end to corruption, and justice for the victims of the FADH and the Tonton Macoute. In response, the Haitian right mobilized as well: Roger Lafontant, former head of the Tonton Macoute, Duvalierist minister of defense and the interior, held a series of right-wing rallies between July and December of 1990. In the face of an explosive situation, the U.S. Embassy pressured the FADH to allow another election. The Lavalas movement decided in October to contest the elections rather than boycott them, with Aristide as their presidential candidate. The U.S. sponsored Marc Bazin, a former World Bank employee with a platform based on privatization and regressive income redistribution. Aristide won 67 per cent of the vote in an election acclaimed as free and fair by UN, U.S. and Organization of American States observers. Bazin, his closest rival, won 14 per cent. Aristides election represented a major change in Haiti’s historic pattern.

Aristides inauguration was scheduled for February 7, 1991. Tonton Macoute leader Lafontant seized the presidential palace, took President Trouillot hostage. Lavalas mobilized on the streets and the FADH reversed the coup. Aristide took power as scheduled and nominated Rene Preval, an agronomist associated with the popular movement in the countryside, as prime minister. When parliament attempted to pass a no-confidence measure against Preval in August, Lavalas mobilized again to protest. Aristide began making moves to dismantle the army, to separate the police from the army. The commission never began work because Aristide was overthrown in a coup on September 29, 1991. Shortly after the coup, Aristide would name a new prime minister, the sanctions would be lifted, the army would be reformed, the coup-makers would be amnestied, and Aristide would be returned to power on October 30, 1993, with the help of a UN peacekeeping force. October 30 came and went, and the massacres continued. The U.S. tried, unsuccessfully, to get Aristide to sign other plans, in which there would be an even more pervasive amnesty and in which Aristide would share power with a U.S.-selected prime minister. The U.S. began an outright aid embargo on Haiti in that same year, as the Republicans exploited Haiti’s electoral controversy as an opportunity to discredit Aristide, who had won a landslide victory in the November 2000 elections with 92 per cent of the votes cast on a turnout of 50 per cent of the adult population. An IDB report in 2001 stated that the major factor behind economic stagnation is the withholding of both foreign grants and loans. The dispute over the election was that eight Lavalas senators had won and claimed their senate seats after getting the most votes.

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Some on the Haitian left argued at the time that Aristide had become an agent of neoliberalism. In this argument, what modest gains Lavalas was able to achieve between 1994 and 2004 were a sop, a way of using Aristides prestige to demobilize the Haitian mass movement, which had overthrown the Duvalier dictatorship, and would have overthrown the paramilitary dictatorship that ruled between 1991 and 1994 as well, had the U.S. not intervened to restore Aristide, the person whose removal they had supported in the first place. Meanwhile, problems of social crime and violence the crime and violence associated with unequal societies were still present, and Aristides government, having disbanded the army, had only the inherited and corrupt state apparatus to address such problems. Under such circumstances a popular government has to simultaneously try to reform the government apparatus and use the parallel institutions of popular organization to try to overcome difficulties and solve social problems.     

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Haiti In Colonial Period. (2022, May 24). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 11, 2023, from
“Haiti In Colonial Period.” GradesFixer, 24 May 2022,
Haiti In Colonial Period. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 11 Dec. 2023].
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