Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Hayti
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.
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.
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