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1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Haiti

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HAITI (see 12.824).—The all-important event in Haitian affairs in the ten years 1910-20 was the military intervention on the part of the United States, developing into a close political and fiscal protectorate. The first half of the decade was marked by constant revolutionary turmoil and by rapid political disintegration. In July 1911 President Simon was overthrown and on Aug. 14 1911 Cincinnatus Leconte, one of the foremost men of Haiti, became president. A year later (the night of Aug. 8 1912) the presidential palace was blown up and Leconte and a number of his followers killed. The National Assembly at once elected Tancrede Auguste, a prominent planter; he died the year after, and on May 4 1913 Senator Michel Oreste was elected to the presidency. December 1913 ushered in a period of political turbulence, and three military presidents assumed office in quick succession: Oreste Zamor, on Feb. 8 1914; Davilmar Theodore, on Nov. 7 1914; and Vilbrun Guillaume Sam, on March 4 1915. The last named, after withstanding the attacks of his opponents for several months, was compelled to seek refuge in the French legation in the night of July 26 1915, while two hundred political prisoners in the gaol of Port au Prince were massacred by order of one of his followers. At the funeral of the victims a party of mourners invaded the French legation, dragged out the ex-president, handing him over to the mob for death, and killed the ex-gaoler. Two hours later a U.S. cruiser arrived at Port au Prince and landed marines. U.S. forces occupied the country, disarmed the natives, and restored order:—and on Sept. 3 1915 Rear-Adml. Caperton, in command, declared martial law. Although U.S. naval officers assumed charge of most administrative functions, the Haitian governmental organization remained intact. On Aug. 12 1915 Sudre Dartiguenave was chosen by the Haitian Congress as president, and a treaty having been accepted by the Haitian Government, the U.S. Senate advised ratification Feb. 28 1916. Ratifications were exchanged at Washington May 3 1916, and the treaty was proclaimed on the same date. Modelled upon the American-Domingo Convention of 1907 (see 24.194), this instrument was designed to secure political stability and economic development in Haitian affairs by a political and fiscal protectorate, to remain in force for a period of 20 years. By its terms the president of Haiti appointed on the nomination of the president of the United States: (a) a general receiver of customs to take charge of the customs houses; (b) a financial adviser to be attached to the ministry of finance; (c) American officers to organize and command a Haitian constabulary (gendarmerie) which was to replace the Haitian armed forces, such officers to be later succeeded by qualified Haitians; (d) engineers to supervise public works and sanitation. Haiti agreed not to increase the public debt and not to modify the customs duties without the consent of the United States; the United States undertook to intervene when necessary for the preservation of Haitian independence and the maintenance of a stable and effective Government. The treaty provisions were promptly put into effect, and determined entirely the subsequent course of events.

Attention necessarily centred upon the establishment of civil order, and this was fully accomplished through an efficient native gendarmerie. Several hundred miles of much-needed roads had been constructed by 1921, and progress had been made in town sanitation. Fraud was eliminated from the customs houses, and dishonesty from national finances. On the other hand, friction grew out of the uncoördinated division of authority between the Haitian Government, the treaty officials and the military occupation. The nominal continuation of constitutional Government, superseded however in authority and operation by the military occupation, caused native irritation greater than complete military occupation for a probationary term might have been expected to develop. Charges that wide-spread atrocities were tolerated by American officials were made in 1920, but upon minute investigation resolved themselves into specific instances promptly corrected.

The future of Haiti presented in 1921 the gravest problem of American influence in the Caribbean. Early termination of military occupation was, in the opinion of those in responsible charge, certain to result in reversion to old conditions. On the other hand, public sentiment in the United States did not view with satisfaction the definitive abandonment of the one great opportunity left the negro race to demonstrate, even after repeated trial, an ultimate capacity for self-government. Until 1921 the establishment of civil order had engaged the best energies of the American officials. With this accomplished, opportunity seemed to be afforded for rendering the further offices contemplated by the treaty in a way conducive to the ultimate assumption of civil authority by the Haitian Government, subject only to those reservations as to political stability and fiscal solvency in force in other areas within the range of American influence in the Caribbean.

There has never been any reliable census of the population. The estimates vary from 1,500,000 to 2,500,000; the one most commonly accepted in 1920 was 2,000,000. Foreign trade for the year ending Sept. 30 1920 amounted to $46,388,443, of which $18,990,032 were exports and $27,398,411 were imports. Exports to the United States for this period were $9,903,881; to France, $6,531,252; to the United Kingdom, $318,120. Imports from the United States were $22,773,762; from France, $1,451,700; from the United Kingdom, $2,286,614. The chief articles of export for 1920 and their values were: cacao, crude, $606,801; coffee, $10,533,376; logwood and logwood extracts, $2,868,411; cotton, raw, $2,294,864; hides of cattle, $73,266; goatskins, $280,840; honey, $131,235; sugar, raw, $897,197; lignum-vitae, $114,923.

See “Reports and Inquiries regarding Conditions in Haiti” in Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy (Washington 1920), Appendix C. For an extreme criticism of the American Occupation, see “Self-Determining Haiti,” James Weldon Johnson, in the Nation (N.Y.), Aug. 28, Sept. 4 and 11 1920.

(J. H. Ho.)