Haiti: Her History and Her Detractors/Part I: Chapter XXI

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CHAPTER XXI


Seide Thélémaque—F. D. Légitime (December 16, 1888–August 22, 1889)—The incident of the steamship Haytian Republic—Légitime leaves Port-au-Prince.


The Presidency was being eagerly disputed by two candidates: General Seide Thélémaque, late Commandant of the arrondissement of Cap-Haitien, and ex-Senator F. D. Légitime, who had been Secretary of Agriculture. The elections were hotly contested; and on the 17th of September, 1888, all the constituents had been elected. Theirs was the duty of choosing a new President for the Republic, and the majority of them seemed to have been in favor of Légitime. On the night of September 28 an unfortunate clash occurred at Port-au-Prince between the partisans of the two candidates. General Seide Thélémaque went among his soldiers, endeavoring to quell the disturbance, when in the darkness he was hit in the abdomen by a stray bullet and died a few hours after. This sad accident provoked very grave consequences. The Departments of the North, the Northwest, and the Artibonite held Légitime responsible for the death of his rival and demanded the withdrawal of his candidacy. The Western and Southern Departments, however, espoused the cause of Légitime, who they knew was incapable of participating in a crime, if indeed crime there were; and strongly resented the attempt to cast the odium of Thélémaque's death on him. The protestants, as the followers of the late General Thélémaque were called, organized a provisional government at Cap-Haitien, at the head of which General Hyppolite was placed; whilst the constituents of the Western and Southern Departments, after meeting at Port-au-Prince, elected F. D. Légitime Chief of the Executive Power on the 14th of October, 1888. Seeing that their colleagues of the North, Northwest, and Artibonite persisted in keeping aloof, they elected Légitime President of the Republic on the 16th of December. His opponents protested against this election, contending that the Constituents assembled at Port-au-Prince had not the proper quorum. However, Légitime's authority was recognized by the European Powers, whilst the United States appeared undecided as to what course to pursue; but being evidently made uneasy by the intimacy which existed between the new President and Comte de Ses Maisons, then Minister of France in Haiti, Hyppolite's cause by degrees grew in favor with the Americans. Their partiality almost provoked grave complications. On the 22d of October, 1888, the Haitian man-of-war Dessalines captured the American steamship Haitian Republic as she was leaving Saint-Marc after having previously entered several Southern ports with a Commission on board, whose object was to try to detach them from Légitime's authority. The same steamer also carried soldiers, arms, and ammunition for General Hyppolite's cause. The case was in consequence laid before a prize court. The Department of State at Washington intervened; and after some protracted parleys the Haitian Government gave up the Haytian Republic, which had been declared confiscated; and the ship was restored to Rear-Admiral Luce on the 20th of December.

Légitime being unable to maintain his authority, sailed from Port-au-Prince on the 22d of August, 1889.[1]

  1. In 1896 Légitime returned to Port-au-Prince, where he is still living.