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

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Jean-Pierre Boyer, President of Haiti for life (March 30, 1818-March 13, 1843)—Pacification of "La Grand 'Anse"—Death of Henri Christophe (October 8, 1820)—His kingdom made part of the Republic—The inhabitants of the Spanish portion of the island expel the Spaniards—They acknowledge the authority of the President of Haiti (January 19, 1822)—The Haitian flag floats over the whole island— Hostility of the Great Powers toward Haiti: the United States and Great Britain recognize the independence of Mexico, Colombia, etc., but refrain from recognizing the independence of Haiti—The Haitians abolish the preferential tariff hitherto granted to Great Britain—Haiti and France at odds over the question of the recognition of the Haitian independence—Preparations for war in Haiti—France strives to acquire a protectorate over Haiti—Promulgation of the Civil Code, the Code of Civil Procedure, the Penal Code, and Code of Criminal Instruction—Charles X grants the Haitians their independence—His ordinance and its effects—Loan in France and paper money, consequences of the ordinance—Negotiations with France for the conclusion of a treaty destined to destroy the bad effects of the ordinance of Charles X—Negotiations with the Pope—Treaty of 1838 by which France recognizes Haitian independence—Treaties with Great Britain and France for the abolition of the slave-trade—The discontent provoked by the Ordinance of Charles X affects President Boyer's popularity—Reforms indispensable after the conclusion of the treaty of 1838—The opposition takes advantage of Boyer's inaction—Charles Hérard, surnamed Rivière, takes up arms at Praslin (January 27, 1843)—Boyer resigns (March 13, 1843) and sails on the English sloop-of-war Scylla.

The death of Alexandre Pétion, the founder of the Republic, was a source of profound and unanimous regret. No other President has ever had such a hold on his fellow-citizens’ affections. The people, who cherished him dearly, remained true to the form of government he had established. The day after, on the 30th of March, 1818, the Senate met and elected Jean-Pierre Boyer, President for life. Even this choice was a homage to the memory of the departed ruler; for Boyer had been the "spoiled child" of Pétion and the commander of his body-guard.

The new President was well informed for a man of his time. Of an upright and extremely thrifty nature, the first thing to receive his attention after his election was the finances, which were in a bad condition owing to the extreme generosity of his predecessor. He undertook also to restore peace and security in the Grand 'Anse, which since January, 1807, Goman had been harassing. At the beginning of 1819 Boyer despatched a strong body of men against Goman, who was completely defeated, and killed while trying to make his escape. This portion of the territory once pacified the President sought to restore unity in the Government of the country.

Pétion's wise and kind policy had already provoked many defections among Christophe's followers. Monarchy was indeed a very heavy burden to the inhabitants of the Northern and Artibonite provinces, whilst under the Republic the people enjoyed more liberty. Comparisons were all in favor of the latter form of government, and, in order to maintain his authority, Christophe had to resort more and more to violence. He was aware of the fact that a struggle between his troops and the republican soldiers would be detrimental to his cause. In consequence he was anxious to prevent being attacked by Boyer, who was more aggressive than Pétion. He found an obliging agent in the English Admiral Homer Popham. The latter went to Port-au-Prince in April, 1820, and did his utmost to induce the President to leave King Henri alone. Sir Homer was principally pleading the cause of the English commerce, which enjoyed great privileges in Christophe's dominion. However, he failed in his purpose, for Boyer refused to commit himself by any promise. The President had full knowledge of the fact that the people in the North and the Artibonite were in a great state of discontent and would avail themselves of the first opportunity of shaking off the yoke.

As long as he was able to rouse his soldiers by the magic of his daring bravery, Christophe had still the possibility of maintaining his authority. But disease, on which he had not reckoned, made him impotent. On the 15th of April, 1820, whilst hearing mass in the church of Limonade, he fell heavily to the floor. The man before whom his fellow-citizens were made to bow their heads was laid low by a stroke of apoplexy. However, he did not die from this stroke, but he remained paralyzed.

Locked up in his palace of "Sans-Souci," unable to ride on horseback as before, Christophe had no longer any means of stimulating the devotion of his followers. In consequence, on the 2d of October, 1820, Saint-Marc joined the cause of the Republic and asked the assistance of President Boyer. That was the signal for a general defection. On October 6 the Governor of Cap, General Richard, followed Saint-Marc's example. Christophe imagined that he could reduce even nature to submission; he resorted to a most extraordinary medication in order to regain the energy of which his poor paralyzed limbs were deprived: for over an hour he was vigorously rubbed with a mixture of rum and pepper (piment). In spite of this powerful stimulant, his strength failed at the very moment when he tried to mount his horse in order to lead his army. But with a stern determination not to give in he caused himself to be carried in a chair and placed in front of his palace, where, on the 8th of October, 1820, he reviewed his body-guard and intrusted them with the mission of subduing Cap. This body-guard, on whose faithfulness no doubt had ever been cast, was no sooner out of his presence than it went over to the insurrection, crying out, "Vive la liberté!" That same night Christophe had retired to his room, where the news of this defection reached him. He at once summoned his wife and his children, whom he loaded with tokens of his affection. After dismissing them, he ordered his servants to bring him fresh water, and after a bath he put on a spotless white suit. He then seized one of his pistols, pointed it at his heart, and pulled the trigger. On hearing the report of the shot the whole household rushed to his room; Henri Christophe was but a corpse[1] and royalty had ceased to exist.

President Boyer neglected none of the means which might bring under his rule that portion of territory hitherto under Christophe's authority. On October 16 he was at Saint-Marc; on the 21st he arrived at Gonaives, and on the 26th of October, 1820, he entered Cap,[2] where the former subjects of Henri I decided to become part of the Republic. In this manner the secession with its possibilities of grave consequences for the future of the country came happily to an end.

The union of all the Haitians was complete. Boyer was thus enabled to undertake the realization of the plan of Dessalines, who thought that Haiti should have no other limits than "those laid out for her by nature and the sea." After the expulsion of the French in 1809 the inhabitants of the eastern portion of the island had again acknowledged Spain's authority.

Ruins of the Palace built by Henri Christopher - Haiti, her history and her detractors.jpeg

Ruins of the Palace "Sans Souci" built by Henri Christophe

The vicinity of this Power had always made the Haitians uneasy; they were in consequence determined to embrace the first opportunity to get rid of it. Whilst at Cap-Haitien, Boyer had many interviews with secret agents sent by the inhabitants of the Spanish portion of the island. He in turn despatched to them trustworthy emissaries with the mission of directly preparing the way for the union of the whole country under one government. However, Nuñez de Caceres, one of the leaders of the uprising then being prepared against Spain, thought that it would be more advantageous to establish an independent State and to form with Haiti nothing more than an offensive and defensive alliance; according to his idea the new State was to become one of the Colombian Confederation. Boyer lost no time in taking the necessary measures for the frustration of this plan. Before Caceres had had time to give the signal for the insurrection, Monte-Christi and Laxavon hoisted the Haitian flag (November 15, 1821). On the night of November 30 and on December 1 Caceres and his followers took possession of the most important posts in the town of Santo Domingo; and the Spanish Governor, Pascal Real, unable to uphold Spain's authority, left the place on the 5th of December. Still believing in the possibility of carrying out his idea of independence, Caceres hoisted the Colombian flag and proclaimed the establishment of the Dominican Republic. But the public mind had already been won over to the cause of Haiti, the flag of which was floating over such important towns as Puerto-Plata, Macoris, Banica, Azua, etc. In support of these friendly demonstrations President Boyer, on the 16th of January, 1822, left Port-au-Prince

at the head of 14,000 soldiers for Santo Domingo. The inhabitants of the former Spanish territory welcomed the President of Haiti and his army with the greatest enthusiasm. Nuñez de Caceres was unable to resist the trend of public opinion. Yielding to the wish of his fellow-citizens he hoisted the Haitian flag at Santo Domingo on the 19th of January, 1822. And on the 9th of February President Boyer entered the town, loudly cheered by the inhabitants. Without bloodshed both the former French and Spanish portions of the island became united and threw in their destinies one with the other; and for twenty-two years the Haitian flag floated over the whole island of Haiti.

However, a few French colonists at Samana were striving to prevent this peaceful union. They still were slave-owners. At the first demonstrations on behalf of Haiti they had hastened to ask for the protection of the Governor of Martinique. In consequence a French squadron was despatched to Samana, which they found, upon arriving, already in possession of the Haitians. The firm attitude assumed by the new occupants compelled the French to withdraw. In this way was slavery abolished throughout the whole island.

After organizing the administration and taking such measures as were necessitated by the circumstances, Boyer left Santo Domingo on March 10, and on the 6th of May, 1822, he was at Port-au-Prince.

Territorial unity having now become an accomplished fact, it remained for Haiti to strive to put an end to her misunderstanding with France. It was impossible to make the most of the riches of the island so long as there was the probability of an attack from the former mother country. Complete security could only be obtained through the recognition of Haitian independence by France. It was thought that Great Britain would gladly help in bringing about this result. In consequence, Pétion and Christophe unhesitatingly granted special privileges to British commerce. Boyer adopted the same policy. Whilst all foreign products had to pay an import duty of 12 per cent, those from Great Britain paid only 7 per cent; and when these products were imported by Haitian ships, the duty was further reduced to 5 per cent. Great Britain profited by these advantages but did not show the least inclination to lend assistance to Haiti. On the contrary, in the treaty additional to the Paris treaty, Great Britain promised not to counteract any of the means to which France might resort in order to "recover Saint-Domingue and to subdue the inhabitants of that colony." And as it would be perhaps necessary to almost exterminate "the inhabitants of the colony" in order to subdue them, Great Britain, though requesting the abolition of the slave-trade, forgot for a while her philanthropic principles and authorized France to continue this barbarous trade for five years, as it would probably be the only way of repeopling the depopulated island. In spite of this attitude, greatly out of keeping with the commercial privileges which had been granted her, the Haitians had still the hope that Great Britain could be induced to recognize their independence and to help them to obtain the same recognition from France. But they were rudely disillusioned when, in 1823, Great Britain recognized the independence of Mexico, Colombia, etc., and refrained from recognizing theirs. They knew finally that they could not expect any assistance from this Power. In consequence, in 1825, they abolished all the privileges by which the British were profiting and ordered that henceforth the import tax of 12 per cent would be indiscriminately levied on all foreign products.

As to the United States, Haiti had not even thought of having recourse to their intervention. In that country the partisans of slavery were at that time omnipotent. They naturally could not help bearing ill-will against the former slaves, who had not only created a sovereign State, but who had even dared to transform their territory into an asylum of freedom and liberty for the unfortunate human beings who, on account of their color, were elsewhere subjected to a shameful yoke. President Boyer had even sent an agent to New York to encourage the men of the black race to emigrate to Haiti. No wonder then was it that the United States recognized the independence of Colombia, etc., and ignored that of Haiti.

Thus the young Republic, at the very beginning of its existence, found itself isolated and compelled to face the power of France without the sympathy of a single nation. But Haiti, with a sense of her responsibility, remained undaunted and spared nothing in order to preserve her autonomy. French commerce was suffering no less than that of Haiti, owing to the bad feeling existing between the two countries. On both sides the necessity of coming to some kind of an agreement was felt. Still, France could not yet make up her mind to accept as an accomplished fact the loss of her colony. In 1821, after the failure of the agents sent to Pétion, she once again entertained the idea of forcibly establishing a protectorate over Haiti; with that end in view Mr. Dupetit Thouars was despatched to Haiti. Boyer, like his predecessor, flatly refused to take such a proposal into consideration. This evidently did not have the effect of discouraging France, as in 1823 another agent, Mr. Liot, was sent to Port-au-Prince. His instructions were to try to induce President Boyer to take the initiative in the negotiations for the acknowledgment of the independence of his country. In May the President of Haiti charged the French General, Jacques Boyé, who had given many proofs of his friendship to the Haitians, to enter into a parley with France. The French Government commissioned Mr. Esmangart to confer with the Haitian envoy. The two agents opened the negotiations at Brussels on the 16th of August, 1823. The Haitian plenipotentiary requested the full recognition of the independence of the Republic and, in return, offered freedom from all import duties, during the next five years, on all French products; and at the conclusion of that time the duties on French products were to be only one-half of the amount levied on all other foreign products. Mr. Esmangart refused to recognize the full independence of Haiti; he put an end to the parleys and left Brussels on the 22d of August. This last display of France's ill will produced a very bad impression in Haiti. On the 6th of January, 1824, President Boyer issued a proclamation ordering various energetic measures relative to the defense of the Haitian territory. Arms and ammunition were stored in the interior of the island, in all places which could serve as the basis of military operations. Once more the country was preparing for war. The inhabitants were still in a state of great agitation when Mr. Laujon, the new agent of France, arrived in Haiti and requested President Boyer to take up the negotiations once more. Accordingly, two Haitian agents, Mr. Rouanez and Senator Larose, were again sent to France. They left Haiti on the 1st of May, 1824, and arrived at Havre on the 14th of June. The Haitian plenipotentiaries were at first taken to Saint-Germain, and afterward to Strasbourg, where they met Mr. Esmangart, the French agent. Upon their declaring that the negotiations could not be successfully carried on at so great a distance from Paris, the conferences were transferred to Meaux. The Haitian envoys kept their patience throughout all these changes and finally succeeded in arranging that the parleys be held in Paris. They were instructed to secure the recognition of the independence of Haiti, and in return to agree to the payment of an indemnity to the former colonists; the French products, however, were to enjoy no greater privileges than those granted to the more favored nations; and Haitian products were not to pay higher duties in France than importations from the French colonies.

As soon as Larose and Rouanez had made known the views of their Government, the French agent raised a grave question. He contended that the King of France having in 1814 reconveyed the Spanish portion of the island to Spain was empowered to negotiate only for the French portion of Saint-Domingue. Since 1822 there existed neither a French nor a Spanish portion: the Republic of Haiti was in peaceful possession of the whole island. In consequence, the Haitian envoys refused to take into consideration any such discrimination and threatened to break up the parleys. They were then invited to confer directly with Marquis de Clermont-Tonnerre, the Minister of War and of the colonies. In an interview with him on the 31st of July they were astounded to learn that the King of France, whilst willing to recognize the independence of Haiti, intended, however, to retain the right to manage the foreign relations of the Republic. They energetically protested against such a pretension, and considering it useless to prolong the negotiations, they left France on the 15th of August. Their arrival in Haiti created great excitement. President Boyer at once acquainted the people with France's intention of forcing a protectorate upon them; he informed the Senate of the failure of his plenipotentiaries and summoned the most important among the generals of the Haitian army to Port-au-Prince. War appeared to be inevitable. Once more the necessary measures were taken in order to enable the country to repel a foreign invasion.

Whilst resorting to the precautions rendered necessary by circumstances, President Boyer did not neglect to complete the organization of the Republic. A Civil Code, a Code of Civil Procedure, a Commercial Code, a Penal Code, and a Code of Criminal Instruction were successively enacted and proclaimed. The whole country was thus under the same laws.

Whilst the Haitians, in spite of the ill will shown them abroad, were striving to consolidate their government, France harassed them still further by a humiliation in the guise of a favor. This was the act of Charles X, who bestowed on them as a charity the recognition of their independence. Without their consent, regardless of their desire in the matter, and without taking the slightest notice of the arduous negotiations which had been hitherto carried on, the haughty Bourbon signed, on the 17th of April, 1825, the following ordinance:

"Charles, by the grace of God, King of France and Navarre.

"Wishing to attend to the interest of French Commerce, to the misfortunes of the former colonists of Saint-Domingue and to the precarious condition of the present inhabitants of the island;

"We have ordered and order the following:

"Art. I. The ports of the French part of Saint-Domingue shall be open to the commerce of all nations.

"The duties levied in these ports either on ships or merchandise at the times of their entry or departure shall be equal and uniform for all nations except for the French flag, on behalf of which these duties are to be reduced to half the amount.

"Art. II. The present inhabitants of the French part of Saint-Domingue shall pay at the Caisse des Dépots et Consignations of France, in five annual instalments, the first one due on the 31st of December, 1825, the sum of one hundred and fifty millions of francs, in order to compensate the former colonists who may claim an indemnity.

"Art. III. Under these conditions we grant, by the present Ordinance, to the present inhabitants of the French part of Saint-Domingue the full independence of their Government.

"And the present Ordinance shall be sealed with the great seal.

"Done at Paris in the Palace of Tuileries, this 17th of April A. D. 1825, and the first of our reign.


"By the King: The Peer of France, Minister-Secretary of State for the Navy and the colonies.

"Comte de Chabrol."

Baron Mackau, a captain in the French Navy, was intrusted with the mission of submitting the ordinance to the approval of the President of Haiti. He left on the 4th of May, 1825, and arrived at Port-au-Prince on the third of July on the frigate La Circé, accompanied by two other men-of-war. Soon after there arrived also several squadrons under the command of Admirals Jurien de la Gravière and Grivel, who had been instructed to cruise in Haitian waters. This display of forces served to create the impression that France was willing to renew hostilities should the ordinance of the King be rejected.

Did President Boyer shrink from the responsibility of provoking war, or did he consider it wiser to remove the most important cause of conflict with France so as to be able henceforth to devote his whole efforts to the improvement of his country! After four days of hesitation he finally accepted, on the 4th of July, the ordinance, which the Senate approved on the llth. When the exact wording of the ordinance became known, a shudder of indignation ran through the whole country. The old warriors took offense at the very thought of their independence being granted to them after their having fought so hard to gain it for themselves. The people were highly incensed at the lordly tone adopted by the King of France, as well as at the heavy burden laid upon them. As a result of this step President Boyer's popularity was deeply affected.

Seeing the mistake he had made he set to work to try and counteract the ill effects of it. On the 21st of July, 1825, he despatched three plenipotentiaries to France with instructions to negotiate a treaty less offensive to the nation's self-respect. It was urgent to come to a clear understanding, for France, through a misconstruction of the Ordinance of April, 1825, was paying half of the duties, not only on her products imported to Haiti, but also on those exported from the island: in consequence there was an important decrease in the revenues at the very moment when Haiti was in sore need of money on account of the indemnity which was being extorted by France. In order to pay the first instalment, viz., 30,000,000 francs, it was necessary to resort to a loan, which was floated at Paris in November, 1825, and yielded 24,000,000 francs, though the Republic issued bonds for 30,000,000 francs. To make up the required sum the country was thus compelled to ship 6,000,000 of francs; all the disposable cash was in consequence sent to France. In this way the effects of payment of the indemnity and of the interest on the loan began to be heavily felt. The export of the metallic currency compelled the Haitian Government to issue paper money in September, 1826. The evil consequence of the Ordinance of 1825 could not be questioned. No wonder was it that the Haitians devoted all their energies to have it annulled. However, the plenipotentiaries sent to France in 1825 had failed to obtain either a reduction in the amount of the indemnity or the determining of a date for the discontinuance of the privilege of the payment of half duty on all the French products. On the 31st of October, 1825, they signed a commercial convention[3] which the President of Haiti refused to approve.

Instead of improving, the relations between Haiti and France grew daily worse. It was impossible for Haiti to pay the enormous sum which Charles X had forced upon her. There were unavoidable delays in the payment of the instalments, which gave rise to endless disputes and misunderstandings with France. In 1828 a Haitian agent, Mr. St. Macary, went to Paris; he also failed in his mission, and returned in 1829 to Haiti, where the French Consul-General again took up the negotiations. As a result of this a commercial treaty and a convention concerning the indemnity were signed in April, 1829. These, however, France refused to ratify; and Baron Pichon was appointed to carry on new negotiations. He arrived at Port-au-Prince in 1830, and failing to come to an agreement with the Haitian plenipotentiaries, he returned to France in April. Thus relations between the two countries became very strained; for the Haitian Government was bent on discontinuing the advantage of the payment of half duty which the Ordinance of 1825 had granted to French commerce. The instalments were irregularly paid and the French products were made to pay the same taxes levied on the merchandise of all other nations. The ordinance of 1825, the cause of so much trouble, was thus little by little repudiated by the Haitians.

To prevent any complaint on the part of France, Boyer, in April, 1830, again sent St. Macary to France. The negotiations were being carried on in Paris when the revolution of 1830 occurred. The downfall of Charles X put an end to the parleys, which were not resumed until the following year; and on the 2d of April, 1831, St. Macary and Pichon signed a commercial treaty and a convention relating to the indemnity.[4] These two documents, instead of annulling the Ordinance of 1825, which the Haitians had firmly decided to abolish, granted new favors to the French. Thus it was that Louis Philippe lost no time in ratifying them, whilst President Boyer flatly refused to sanction them. This refusal so incensed the King of France that his Consul was immediately withdrawn from Port-au-Prince. This time all semblance of friendliness in the relations between the two countries was at an end. War seemed to be unavoidable. And the people, glad at having an opportunity to wipe out the insult placed upon them by the Ordinance of 1825, showed the greatest enthusiasm. The Haitians were ready to make the greatest sacrifices in order to obtain not the concession, but the recognition of their independence by a treaty voluntarily drawn and agreed upon.

This independence had been recognized by Great Britain, which, in May, 1826, had appointed a Consul-General at Port-au-Prince and Consuls and Vice-Consuls in the various ports open to foreign trade. Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark were also in official relations with the young Republic. Negotiations were being carried on with the Holy See with a view to the settlement of religious matters. In January, 1834, John England, Bishop of Charleston, was sent to Port-au-Prince in the capacity of a Legate. The Pope wanted to control the church of Haiti without any interference from the temporal Power; consequently, he made up his mind to appoint a Vicar Apostolic for Haiti. The Haitian Government claimed the right to appoint the Archbishops and Bishops, reserving to the Pope the right of conferring the canonical investiture. Unable to come to an understanding, Bishop England left Haiti, but returned in May, 1836, and signed a Concordat, which he took with him to Rome, hoping to have it ratified. Pope Gregory XII refused to approve this treaty, and in May, 1837, Bishop England arrived at Port-au-Prince with the title of "Vicar Apostolic, Administrator of the Church of Haiti." On the refusal of President Boyer to receive the Pope's agent in such a capacity, Bishop England returned to Charleston, where he died soon after.[5]

Although Haiti had been greatly displeased with the ordinance of Charles X, she had nevertheless benefited by it in obtaining the recognition of her independence by Great Britain and some other European Powers. The rupture with France, caused by President Boyer's refusal to ratify the treaties of 1831, was very detrimental to the interests of both countries, which were therefore eager to come to an understanding. After seven years of untiring efforts Haiti succeeded in reaching an agreement satisfactory to all concerned. Baron E. de Las Cases and C. Baudin, a captain in the French Navy, arrived at Port-au-Prince on the 28th of January, 1838; they were commissioned by Louis Philippe to settle the disagreements existing between France and Haiti. On the 31st of January the parleys with the Haitian plenipotentiaries were begun, and on the 12th of February, 1838, the following treaty,[6] which was entirely satisfactory to the national amour-propre of Haiti, was signed:

"In the name of the Holy and indivisible Trinity.

"His Majesty the King of the French and the President of Haiti, desiring to establish on a solid and lasting basis the friendly relations which ought to exist between France and Haiti, have decided to settle them by a Treaty and for that purpose have appointed the following plenipotentiaries:

"His Majesty the King of the French: Emmanuel Pons-Dieudonné Baron Las Cases, officer of the Royal order of the Legion of Honor, and Charles Baudin, officer of the same Royal order of the Legion of Honor, Captain in the Royal Navy. The President of Haiti: Brigadier-General Joseph Balthazar Inginac, Secretary-General; Colonel Marie Elisabeth Eustache Frémont, his aide-de-camp; Senators Dominique, Francois Labbé and Alexis Beaubrun Ardouin; and Louis Mesmin Séguy Villevalaix, Chief Clerk of the Secretary-General;

"Who after having communicated to each other their respective full powers, found in good and due form, have agreed on the following articles:

"Art. I. His Majesty the King of the French, in his name and in the name of his heirs and successors, recognizes the Republic of Haiti as a free, sovereign, and independent State.

"Art. II. There shall be inviolable peace and perpetual friendship between France and the Republic of Haiti, and between the citizens of both States, without distinction of persons and places.

"Art. III. His Majesty the King of the French and the President of the Republic of Haiti intend to sign, as soon as possible and in case of need, a special treaty destined to govern the relations of commerce and navigation between France and Haiti. In the mean time, it is agreed that the Consuls, the citizens and the merchandise or products from one country will in every respect enjoy in the other the treatment granted or which may be granted to the most favored nation; and this, gratuitously if the concession be gratuitous, or in return for an equivalent compensation if the concession be conditional.

"Art. IV. The present treaty shall be ratified, and the ratifications shall be exchanged in Paris within three months, or sooner if possible.

"In faith whereof we, the undersigned plenipotentiaries, have signed the present treaty and have here unto affixed our seals.

"Done in Port-au-Prince this 12th day of February in the year of grace 1838.

"(Signed) Emmanuel Baron de Las Cases, Charles Baudin, B. Inginac, Frémont, Labbé, B. Ardouin, Séguy Villevalaix."

In a convention signed on the same day, the indemnity to be paid by the Republic of Haiti was reduced to sixty millions of francs.

Having taken the initiative of abolishing slavery, the new State could not be indifferent to the measures adopted with a view to put an end to the inhuman slave-trade. In consequence, in August, 1840, Haiti signed with France a treaty[7] in which she gave her adhesion to the Conventions of November, 1831, and March, 1833, between Great Britain and France, which was destined to secure the abolition of the slave-trade. And, in order to complete her philanthropic mission, the Republic had previously agreed to pay the crews of the English men-of-war for the slaves who, after being rescued from the hands of the traders in human flesh, would be landed on her territory.[8]

Haiti had spent the first thirty-four years of her independence in the anxious expectation of an aggression from France. After thirty-four years of sacrifices and perseverance she at last succeeded in freeing herself of this anxiety. In the mean time, the greatest part of her resources had been devoted to armament, the building of fortresses, and the establishment of storehouses for arms and ammunition in the inaccessible parts of the island. The heavy indemnity requested by France had increased the embarrassment caused by these comparatively high expenses. The aggravation of the bad financial circumstances in which the country found itself was not the only result of the ordinance of Charles X. The discontent provoked by this inconsiderate document was taken advantage of by President Boyer's opponents. The opposition in the House of Representatives grew more and more bitter. The Constitution had conferred on the President alone the right to introduce laws. And it was thought that the Chief of the Executive Power was abusing his privilege of initiative by refraining from submitting to the legislative body the measures which were required by circumstances. The opposition, of which Hérard Dumesle, the Representative from Cayes, was the leader, was resorting to every available means in order to bring about the revision of the Constitution with a view to invest in the House the right of introducing laws and to curtail the President's prerogatives, which, it was claimed, were excessive. On the other hand, a new generation had sprung up. From the schools created since the independence had come many young men imbued with ideas of liberty and progress, and desirous of participating in the affairs of State in order to give the country the benefit of their knowledge. Finding the offices in possession of the old collaborators who, for 25 years, had been working with Boyer, these young men were loud in their complaints about what they termed the President's exclusiveness. The situation had become so tense that a catastrophe was imminent. Boyer might have prevented this occurring by taking the proper measures necessitated by the new state of things, after the Treaty of 1838, which gave full security to the country's future. Unfortunately, he refrained from acting at the right moment. And as a final stroke to a situation already very much strained, an earthquake, which occurred on the 7th of May, 1842, destroyed Cap-Haitien, Port-de-Paix, Môle Saint-Nicolas, Fort-Liberté and several less important places. This catastrophe was turned to account by the opponents of Boyer, who contended that he had not hastened to give assistance to the sufferers. The opposition succeeded in imputing to Boyer the reputation of being averse to progress and of systematically preventing the improvements which the institutions of the country needed. Men's minds were agitated by the bitter and animated dispute which ensued.

Such was the state of things when Major Charles Hérard ainé, surnamed Rivière, took up arms on the 27th of January, 1843, on the Praslin plantation in the vicinity of Cayes. The whole Southern Department at once sided with him. Boyer, owing to the strong public opinion which declared itself against him, was unable to repress the insurrection. Realizing the futility of his efforts in enforcing his authority, he sent his resignation to the Senate on the 13th of March, 1843, and in the afternoon of the same day he embarked on the English sloop of war Scylla which the Consul, Mr. Thomas Usher, had graciously placed at his disposal.[9]

  1. On the same night, October 8, Christophe's corpse was brought to the citadel of Laferrière, where it was covered with lime. Built on the summit of Bonnet-à-l'Evêque, at an altitude of 3,000 feet, this citadel is the best testimonial of Christophe's genius. Up to the present day its splendid ruins are the admiration of the foreigners who visit them. A Frenchman (Edgar-La-Selve—La Republique d'Haiti, p. 27), who was rather unfriendly to Haiti, could not help speaking as follows of this stronghold: "Nowhere in France, England, or in the United States, have I seen anything more imposing. The citadel of La Ferrière is truly a marvellous thing." The man who conceived and caused such a work to be constructed was certainly wonderful. Born and bred beneath the brutalizing system of slavery, Henri Christophe proved himself to be tactician, legislator, and statesman. His faults were the results of a system of government from which he had suffered greatly. Fond of progress, he thought that he could force it on his countrymen regardless of the time wanted for the evolution. In consequence he resorted to methods which made him unpopular. Thus one thinks only of the violence of his temper and his harsh measures, forgetting the results arrived at. Owing to the worthiness of his intentions, to the impulse given by him to agriculture, and to the prosperity which his kingdom enjoyed, Christophe is deserving of impartial appreciation; foreigners are unfortunately too eager to ruthlessly condemn him.
  2. After the declaration of Independence Cap-Français became Cap; whilst Christophe was King the town was called Cap-Henri; but on joining the Republic it was given the name of Cap-Haitien, by which it has been since called.
  3. J. N. Léger, Recueil de Traités et Conventions d'Haiti, p. 2.
  4. J. N. Léger, Recueil des Traités et Conventions d'Haiti, pp. 7, 11.
  5. In 1842 the negotiations were renewed with the Holy See. Joseph Rosati, Bishop of Saint Louis (Mo.), arrived at Port-au-Prince in January as Papal Legate. On the 17th of February, 1842, he signed with the Haitian plenipotentiaries a Concordat which contained the following principal stipulations: "The right to appoint the Archbishops and Bishops was vested in the President of Haiti with the reservation of the right of the Pope to grant the canonical investiture; before entering upon the duties of their offices they were to take, before the President, the oath of fidelity and obedience to the Government of the Republic and of doing nothing injurious to its rights or interests. The Bishops were empowered to appoint their Vicars-General, the rectors and parish Vicars, with the reservation of the right of the President of Haiti to approve or reject these appointments, etc." The events which occurred in Haiti in 1843 prevented this agreement from being taken into consideration. But in 1860 negotiations began again, and on the 28th of March the Concordat which still governs the relations of Haiti with the Vatican was signed in Rome. (J. N. Léger, Recueil des Traités et Conventions de la République d'Haiti, p. 59.)
  6. J. N. Léger, Recueil des Traités et Conventions de la République d'Haiti, p. 23.
  7. J. N. Léger, Recueil des Traités et Conventions d'Haiti, p. 26.
  8. B. Ardouin, Etudes sur l'Histoire d'Haiti, p. 127.
  9. Boyer died in Paris on the 9th of July, 1850.