Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Hayti

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HAYTI, Haïti, Santo Domingo, or Hispaniola, the largest, excepting Cuba, of the West India Islands, is situated between 17° 37′ and 20° 0′ N. lat. and 68° 20′ and 74° 28′ W. long. Its greatest length, from Cape Engaño on the east to Cape Tiburon on the west, is 407 miles; its greatest breadth, from Cape Beata in the south to the farthest point on the north coast, is 160 miles; and its area is 28,000 square miles, or about the same as that of Ireland. From Cuba on the W.N.W. and from Jamaica on the W.S.W. it is separated by the Windward Passage,—being distant from the former about 70 miles and from the latter about 130 miles,—and from Puerto Rico, which lies about 60 miles to the east, by the Mona Passage. In general form Hayti somewhat resembles a turtle, its eastern projection forming the head and the two western peninsulas the hinder limbs of the animal. The coast-line, which is estimated at about 1250 miles in length, has numerous projections and indentations. Of the peninsulas, the largest, on the south-west, of which Cape Tiburon forms the extremity, is 150 miles long by 20 to 40 wide; and the next largest, on the north-west, is 50 miles long with an average breadth of about 40 miles. Between these lies the Gulf of Gonaive, a triangular bay, at the apex of which is the city of Port au Prince. The island of Gonaive, about 27 miles from the city, is 36 miles long by 8 miles broad. It divides the entrance to Port au Prince into two channels, both good, and forms within a safe anchorage of about 200 square miles in extent; but coral reefs near the coast oblige vessels of large draught to lie out about 1 miles. Other ports in the Gulf of Gonaive, north of Port au Prince, are St Marks, frequented for trade in coffee, and Gonaïves, a large bay 4 miles deep, divided by a small island. At the extremity of the north-west peninsula is St Nicolas Mole, with an outer and an inner harbour, the latter landlocked and with good anchorage. Beyond, on the north coast, are Port de Paix, Acul Bay, Cape Haïti or Guarico, the Bay of Caracol or Port Royal, and Fort Liberté or Port Dauphin. From Fort Liberté to Samana there is no good harbour on the north coast, Port Isabella being little more than an indentation in the coast, and the harbour of Puerto Plata being very shallow and beset with coral reefs. The Bay of Samana is formed by the peninsula of Samana, a mountain ridge projecting into the sea at the north-east extremity of the island. It is about 35 miles in length and from 6 to 10 miles in breadth. The bay is 30 miles long east and west, 10 miles broad north and south, and has an area of about 300 square miles. From the south coast a chain of coral reefs stretches across its mouth to within 1 miles of the north shore; and the entrance is still further narrowed to about of a mile by islets at the north extremity of the reef. There is, however, a good passage for ships of the deepest draught, and the bay inside is safe in all weathers. Beyond Samana, on the east and south coasts, there is no port until Santo Domingo is reached, which has about 12 feet of water. West of Santo Domingo are the adjoining bays of Ocoa and Neiba, the former with an inlet called Calderas Bay, which would be a good harbour if the coral reefs were removed; Jacmel, a nearly round bay, open to the south-east; the Bay of Baienet, the ports of Aquin and St Louis, and the roadstead of Aux Cayes. Between Aux Cayes and Port au Prince are Jérémie and the Bay of Baradères, the latter a good harbour. Besides Gonaive, the principal islands off the coast are La Tortue or Tortuga, to the north, 22 miles long and 5 broad, once the stronghold of the buccaneers; La Saône or Adamanay, off the south-east end of the island, 15 miles long by 3 broad; Île de Vache, off Aux Cayes, 9 miles long by 2 broad; Great Cayemite, in the Bay of Baradères, 5 miles long by 3 broad; and La Beata, off the cape of the same name, 5 miles long by 2 broad. There are also many islets. Navasa, in the Windward Passage, is claimed by Hayti, but the title to it is not settled. It has been occupied since 1855 by a guano company from the United States.

Hayti is essentially a mountainous country, but there are many large and fertile plains between the several ranges. There are three distinct mountain formations,—the northern, the central, and the southern,—all of which have a general east and west direction. The northern chain, commonly called the Sierra de Monte Cristi, extends from Cape Samana Samana on the east to the Sella de Caballo (3900 feet high) on the west, near Point Fragata. The highest peak in this chain is Mount Diego Campo, near the middle part, which has an elevation of about 4000 feet. The central range begins near Point Macao on the east, extends west to about 70° 20' long., with an average height of about 1000 feet, and then divides into two distinct chains, the northernmost of which pursues a north-westerly course to Cape St Nicolas, while the other turns south-west to Mount Ocoa, and then curves westward to the sea, which it reaches near St Marc, Near the west end of the island these two chains are connected by a secondary S-shaped ridge. The northern limb of this central chain is called the Sierra del Cibao, and is the backbone of the island. The name Cibao is properly limited to the middle part, where, though there are occasional peaks more than 1000 feet higher, the average height is 7000 feet. At the east end are still higher elevations, Loma Tina and Pico del Yaqui being each more than 9000 feet high. These are the two highest points on the island. The third or southernmost range of mountains begins near the Bay of Neiba, and runs due west to Cape Tiburon, forming the backbone of the south-west peninsula. This range has no general name, but is called Baburuco at the east end, La Sella in the middle, from the peak of that name (nearly 9000 feet high), and La Hotte towards the west end. The largest and finest of the great plains is La Vega Real (Royal Plain), as it was named by Columbus, which lies between the middle part of the Cibao and the Monte Cristi ranges. It stretches from Samana Bay to Manzanillo Bay, and is about 140 miles long, with an average breadth of 14 miles. This valley is now commonly called the valley of Cibao, the name La Vega being confined to the eastern half, while the western is distinguished as the valley of Santiago. It is watered by the North or Gran Yaqui river and the Yuna river and their affluents. The plain of Seybo stretches eastward from the river Ozama about 95 miles, with an average breadth of 16 miles, and is abundantly watered by the Ozama, Soco, Macoris, Quiabon, and Yuna rivers. Most of the large valleys and plains are in a state of nature, part savanna and part wooded, and well adapted for cattle raising. Of the rivers, the Gran Yaqui rises in the Pico del Yaqui, arid after a tortuous course in a generally north-westerly direction falls into the Bay of Manzanillo. Its mouth is obstructed by shallows, and it is navigated only by canoes. The South Yaqui, called also the Neiba or Neiva, rises in the Pico del Yaqui and the Entre del Rios, and flows south into the bay of Neiba. The Yuna rises on Loma Tina, and flows east into Samana bay; it is navigable by vessels of light draught as far as its junction with the Camu, and above that as far as Concepcion de la Vega by loaded canoes. The Ozama also is navigable for small vessels for 3 or 4 miles above its mouth. The largest lake is that of Enriquillo or Xaragua, which is 27 miles long by 8 broad. Though about 25 miles from the sea, its water is salt, as indicated in its French name Étang Salé, and has the same specific gravity as the ocean. It swarms with fish and with caymans. Other lakes are Lago de Fondo or Étang Saumâtre, 16 miles long by 4 broad, which has brackish water; Icotea de Limon, 5 miles long by 2 broad, which has fresh water and no visible outlet; and the smaller Rincon and Miragoane.

The coast-line of Hayti forms a portion of a considerable area of elevation. There are no active volcanoes in the island, but earthquakes are not infrequent. Rocks of earlier than Secondary date have not yet been discovered; the most ancient, consisting of slates, conglomerates, and limestones, and forming as it were the core of the island, have been disturbed and intersected by intrusive masses of a syenitic character. Flanking the slates and other rocks of the Sierra there is in the northern and in part of the southern side of Hayti a broad development of Tertiary deposits, which are skirted by more recent limestones and gravels. The Sierra, forming the central mountain mass that runs the length of the eastern republic, and constituting in the main the peninsula of Samana, and also a small outlier near Porto Plata, is throughout composed of much-uptilted and usually strongly-folded metamorphic rocks, which appear to have originally been clay-shales, sandstones, sandstone-conglomerate, and limestone. These are most disturbed in the western two-thirds of the island, where they are broken in places by dykes. The quartz veins occurring in the slates near eruptive masses are auriferous, as also are the sands of streams running through the metamorphic rocks, if in the neighbourhood of syenite. Thus the waters of the Nigua, Jaina, Nizao, Ocoa, and most of the tributaries of the Yaqui that descend from the northern flank of Cibao carry gold, though rarely in any notable quantity. The lignite found in the Upper Miocene beds is exceedingly impure, and nowhere more than 3 or 4 inches in thickness. The mineral products include gold, platinum, silver, mercury, copper, iron, tin, manganese, antimony, sulphur, marble, opal, calcedony, lazulite, rock-salt, and bitumen; and mineral springs—ferruginous, sulphurous, and of other kinds—abound. The fossil forms of the Miocene strata are allied to those of the west coast of South America, and forcibly suggest the conclusion that during some portion of the Miocene period the Pacific and Atlantic freely intercommunicated. For details concerning the geology of Hayti see Professor Gabb, Trans. Amer. Phil. Soc., xv. 49, and, on the Miocene fossils, Guppy, Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc. Lond., xxxii., 1876, p. 516.

The fauna of Hayti is not extensive. The agouti is the largest wild mammal. Birds are few, excepting water-fowl and pigeons. Snakes abound, though few are venomous. Lizards are numerous, and insects swarm in the low parts, with tarantulas, scorpions, and centipedes. Caymans are found in the lakes and rivers, and the waters teem with fish and other sea food. Wild cattle, hogs, and dogs, descendants of those brought from Europe, roam at large on the plains and in the forests. The wild hogs furnish much sport to the natives, who hunt them with dogs trained for the purpose.

In richness and variety of vegetable products Hayti is not excelled by any other country in the world. All tropical plants and trees grow there in perfection, and nearly all the vegetables and fruits of temperate climates may be successfully cultivated in its highlands. Among its indigenous productions are cotton, rice, maize, tobacco, cocoa, ginger, native indigo (indigo marron or sauvage), arrowroot, manioc or cassava, pimento, banana, plantain, pine-apple, artichoke, yam, and sweet potato. Among its important plants and fruits are sugar-cane, coffee, indigo (called indigo franc, to distinguish it from the native), melons, the legumes, cabbage, lucerne, guinea grass, bamboo, and the breadfruit, mango, caimite, orange, almond, apple, grape, mulberry, and fig. Most of the imported fruits have degenerated from want of care, and the bamboo has been attacked by an insect which prevents its wide diffusion; but the mango, now spread over nearly the whole island, has become almost a necessary article of food; the bread fruit has likewise become common, but is not so much esteemed. Hayti is also rich in woods, especially in cabinet and dye woods; among the former are mahogany, manchineel, satinwood, rosewood, cinnamon wood, yellow acoma, and gri-gri; and among the latter are Brazil wood, logwood, fustic, and sassafras. On the mountains are extensive forests of pine and a species of oak; and in various parts occur the locust, ironwood, cypress or Bermuda cedar, palmetto, and many kinds of palms.

Hayti possesses a great diversity of climate. In the plains, where it is generally hot and moist, the thermometer often rises to 96° and sometimes to 100°; but in the highlands the readings are seldom above 76° or below 60°. In the most elevated parts a fire is sometimes agreeable. The seasons are divided into the wet and dry. Rains are heaviest and most frequent in May and June, when the rivers, some of which have but a scanty supply of water in the dry season, flood portions of the plains. Hurricanes are not so frequent as in the Windward Islands, but violent gales often occur. The prevailing winds are from the east.

Agriculture is very backward, and the implements used are rude. The staple productions for which the island was once famous are now imperfectly cultivated or neglected altogether. Mining, once profitably carried on, is generally abandoned from lack of capital, though some gold-washing still continues in the northern streams. Some mahogany and dyewoods are cut in the interior, and hides, wax, and honey are collected for export, but on a comparatively small scale. The business of the country is chiefly in the hands of foreigners, settled in the cities and larger towns.

The population of the island is about 700,000, of which 550,000 are subjects of the Haytian republic in the west, and 150,000 of the Dominican republic in the east. Of the Haytian population nearly 500,000 are of African descent, of the Dominican about 25,000. Of the mixed races about 125,000 are of Spanish, and 50,000 of French descent. There are also a few Germans, Italians, and natives of the United States, settled chiefly in the coast towns. The language of the eastern end of the island is Spanish, that of the western an impure French patois.

The history of Hayti begins with its discovery by Columbus, who landed at St Nicolas Mole, Dec. 6, 1492, having left Cuba the day before. The island was then occupied by about 2,000,000 people of a low type of humanity, who are described by the Spanish historians as feeble in intellect, and morally and physically defective. The natives called the island Haiti (mountainous country) and Quisquica (vast country). Columbus named it Espagnola (Little Spain), which was Latinized into Hispaniola. Adventurers from Europe, attracted chiefly by the exaggerated stories of gold, flocked thither, and the natives were reduced to slavery, although many made a gallant resistance. After about 30 years of grinding servitude, nearly all the aborigines had disappeared. A few negroes were brought into the colony as early as 1505, and in 1517 a royal edict authorized the importation from Africa of 4000 negroes a year. The blacks, stronger and better able to bear the labour which had been death to their predecessors, multiplied to such a degree that the island has finally passed into the hands of their descendants. About 1630 a mixed colony of French and English, who had been driven out of St Christophers by the Spaniards, established themselves in the island of Tortuga, where they soon grew formidable under the name of buccaneers. They at last obtained a footing on the mainland of Hayti, into which they had previously made only predatory excursions; and by the treaty of Ryswick (1697) the part of the island which they held was ceded to France. The colony, called Saint Domingue, languished for a while under the restrictions imposed on its trade by the mother country, but after 1722, when these were removed, it attained a high degree of prosperity, and it was in a flourishing state when the French Revolution broke out in 1789. The population was then composed of three classes, whites, free people of colour (mostly mulattos), and slaves. The free people of colour, some of whom were wealthy proprietors, demanded that the principles of the Revolution should be extended to them; this was opposed by the whites, who had previously engrossed all the public honours, and the two classes were already violently inflamed against each other when the national convention (1791) passed a decree giving to the mulattos all the rights of French citizens. The whites adopted at once the most violent measures, and appealed to the mother country for a reversal of the decree. But when the mulattos took up arms for their defence at the time of the insurrection of the plantation slaves (August 23, 1791), the whites endeavoured to conciliate them. In the meantime the home Government reversed the decree granting them political rights. The mulattos now took part with the blacks, and a most destructive war raged for several years, during which each party seemed to study to outdo the other in acts of cruelty. Commissioners were sent out from France, with full power to settle the quarrel, but could effect nothing. In 1793 the abolition of slavery in the colony was proclaimed. In September of the same year a British force invaded the island; but, though some partial advantages were gained, the climate made sad havoc among the troops, and prevented any solid success. Toussaint l’Ouverture, the leader of the blacks, came to the aid of the French, the home Government having in the meantime ratified the act of the commissioners in freeing the slaves. He was made commander-in-chief of the French army, and in 1798 forced the British to evacuate the island. By the treaty with Spain, made at Basel in 1795, France had acquired the title to the entire island, which now received the name of Saint Domingue.

In 1801 Toussaint, then master of the whole country, adopted a constitutional form of government, in which he was to be president for life. Bonaparte, then first consul of France, determined to reduce the colony and restore slavery, sent to Hayti 25,000 troops under General Leclerc. The blacks were compelled to retire to the mountains, but kept up a desultory war under Toussaint’s able leadership. Leclerc, wearied of the war, cajoled the negro chiefs into a suspension of arms, and having invited Toussaint to an interview, seized him and sent him to France, where he died in prison in 1803. The blacks, infuriated by this act of treachery, renewed the struggle under Dessalines with a barbarity unequalled in the previous contests. The French, further embarrassed by the appearance of a British fleet off the coast, now gradually lost ground, and in 1803 agreed to evacuate the island. On the 30th of November of that year, 8000 French troops surrendered to the British squadron. In 1804 independence was declared, and the aboriginal name of Hayti was revived. Dessalines was made governor for life, but in October of the same year he proclaimed himself emperor, and was crowned with great pomp. He soon began to display the cruelty of a tyrant, and in 1806 he was assassinated. His position was now contended for by several chiefs, one of whom, Christophe, established himself in the north, while Pétion took possession of the southern part. The Spaniards re-established themselves in the eastern part of the island, retaining the French name, modified to Santo Domingo. Civil war now raged between the adherents of Christophe and Pétion, but in 1810 hostilities were suspended, Christophe declared himself king of Hayti under the title of Henry I.; but his cruelty caused an insurrection, and in 1820 he committed suicide. Pétion had died in 1818, and was succeeded by Gen. Boyer, who, after Christophe’s death, made himself master of all the French part of the island. In 1821 the eastern end of the island proclaimed its independence of Spain, and Boyer, taking advantage of dissensions there, invaded it, and in 1822 the dominion of the whole island fell into his hands. Boyer held the presidency of the new government, which was called the republic of Hayti, until 1843, when he was driven from the island by a revolution. In 1844 the people of the eastern end of the island again asserted their independence, and established the Dominican Republic, and from that date to the present time the two political divisions have been maintained; the Spanish made an effort to re-establish their authority in Santo Domingo by landing troops there in 1861, but withdrew in 1863. In Hayti several presidents rapidly succeeded each other, but in 1846 Soulouque, a black who had been a slave, was elected to the chief magistracy. He attempted to reconquer the eastern part of the island, but was defeated. In 1849 he assumed the title of Faustin I., emperor of Hayti, and in the following year was crowned. He was deposed in 1858, and a republic was proclaimed under the presidency of Fabre Geffrard. His administration was unpopular, and in 1867 he was obliged by an insurrection to abdicate and flee to Jamaica. He was succeeded in the presidency by Sylvestre Salnave. An insurrection broke out against him in 1868, and after a struggle of two years he was captured and shot. On May 29, 1870, Nissage-Saget was elected president, and Gen. Boisrond-Canal on July 17, 1876.

Haytian Republic.—The republic of Hayti occupies the western end of the island, and is separated from the Dominican republic by a line drawn from the river Pedernales on the south to the mouth of the river Massacre on the north. Its area is estimated at about 10,000 square miles. It is governed under a constitution adopted June 14, 1867. The national assembly is composed of two chambers, a senate and a house of commons. The president is elected for four years. The revenue is estimated at about £900,000, and the expenditure at £1,400,000; but the frequent civil disorders prevent any just estimates. There is a large floating debt, arising chiefly from paper money issued by the different Governments. The foreign debt, made up of a loan contracted in Paris in 1825 and other liabilities to the French Government, amounts to £1,281,994. No interest has been paid for years. The army consists nominally of 6828 men, mostly infantry. The commerce of Hayti is chiefly with Great Britain and the United States. The principal exports are coffee, mahogany, and logwood; the principal imports, cotton and linen goods. The value of the exports from 1875 to 1877 averaged yearly about £1,300,000; the value of the imports during the same period about £1,180,000. In 1877 British cottons were imported of the value of £252,326; linens, £54,098. The weights and measures in use, and the gold and silver coins in circulation, are French. The piastre or dollar of the republic is now worth about 4s.

Dominican Republic.—The republic of Santo Domingo or San Domingo (in French Saint Domingue, and officially Republica Dominica) has an area variously estimated at from 18,000 to 20,590 English square miles, and is divided into the five provinces or states of Santo Domingo, Santa Cruz del Seibo, Concepcion de la Vega, Santiago de los Caballeros, and Azua de Compostela, and the two maritime districts of Porto Plata and Samana. According to the constitution of 1844, reinforced and at the same time modified in 1865, the executive power in the republic is in the hands of a president elected for six years, and assisted by a ministry of his own appointment; and the legislature in the hands of a senate of nine members. Each state has also a legislature of its own. The budget of 1876 was estimated at £170,651. In regard to the home debt no precise information is obtainable. The loan of £757,700 contracted in London in 1869, of which it has been proved that the Government received only from £38,000 to £50,000, was repudiated in 1872. The republic, has no fleet; and a battalion or two in the capital is the whole of its standing army. Industry and commerce, hitherto kept in abeyance by the political restlessness of the country, are beginning to develop. In 1875 the imports of the two harbours of Santo Domingo and Porto Plata were £34,930, and the exports £309,361. The chief articles of export were tobacco (11,613,230 ), sugar (7,152,015 ), coffee (264,179 ), honey (115,680 ), wax (289,062 ), and mahogany (1,375,790 feet); and other articles are lignum vitæ, logwood, fustic, cocoa, and turtle-shell. Santo Domingo, the capital of the republic, situated at the mouth of the Ozama river, has a population of about 20,000.

W. & A. K. Johnston Edinburgh
encyclopædia britannica, ninth edition