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

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CHAPTER XVIII


Michel Domingue (June 11, 1874–April 15, 1876)—The loan of 1875—Discontent caused by the deaths of Generals Brice and Monplaisir Pierre—Riot at Port-au-Prince—Overthrow of Domingue.


Upon his being appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Haitian Army, General Michel Domingue, who up to that time had been Commandant of the Southern Department, left Cayes for Port-au-Prince, which city he entered with a strong body of troops. His opponents at once realized the impossibility of holding out against his candidacy. Besides, the Council of the Secretaries of State, intrusted with the Executive Power, had taken such measures as to facilitate his election. Profiting by the dissidence which, by want of a quorum, prevented the legislative body from holding its meetings, they declared the two Houses of Congress divested of their functions; upon which orders were issued for the election of a Constituent Assembly. In this manner the Council of the Secretaries of State annulled the Constitution, from which all their authority proceeded; a situation fraught with danger resulted. However, the elections were speedily held; and on the 11th of June, 1874, General Michel Domingue was elected President of Haiti for a term of 8 years.

Domingue, above all things, was a soldier; he possessed neither the penetration nor the tact of a statesman. Therefore he considered it wiser to leave the care of the public affairs to Septimus Rameau, one of his relatives, whom he had appointed Vice-President of the Council of the Secretaries of State by Decree of September 10, 1874. This made Rameau the true ruler of Haiti. The Constitution adopted on the 6th of August, 1874, was drawn up by him. Unfortunately, he was of a dictatorial and domineering nature; his will became supreme, whilst Domingue was but a figurehead.

One of the first acts of Salnave after his election to the Presidency was the signing of a treaty with the Dominican Republic, which the Haitian Congress refused to ratify. His object in recognizing the independence of the new State was to put an end to the unceasing hostilities which were causing so much bloodshed on the borders. Septimus Rameau immediately proceeded to resume negotiations with General Gonzalez, who was at that time President of the Dominican Republic. General N. Léger, who was then Chief of the Staff of the President of Haiti, was despatched to Santo Domingo with instructions to make preparations for a new convention. On his return to Port-au-Prince he was accompanied by the Dominican plenipotentiaries; and on the 9th of November, 1874, a Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation was agreed upon.[1] Haiti thus accepted as an accomplished fact and fully recognized the independence of the Dominican Republic. Since that time relations between the two countries have been most cordial.

In the course of the same year, 1874, Haiti signed a treaty with Great Britain for the extradition of fugitive criminals.[2]

The other measures adopted by Domingue's Government did not turn out so happily. In 1875 a loan was floated in Paris concerning which the Haitian people were grossly deceived. Foreign bankers and unscrupulous agents conspired in defrauding the Republic, which was made the debtor for money from which others had profited. This scandalous financial transaction did not tend to allay the dissatisfaction already existing in Haiti. So to prevent any popular manifestations orders were issued on the 15th of May, 1875, for the arrest of Generals Brice, Monplaisir Pierre, and Boisrond Canal, who were charged with being the leaders of a conspiracy against Domingue. Monplaisir Pierre, with gun in hand, met the soldiers who were sent to arrest him; he made an energetic resistance and in defending the entrance to his house was killed in the fight which ensued; Brice, who had also made a brave defense, was successful in reaching the Spanish Consulate, where he died from the effects of a bullet wound in the thigh. Boisrond Canal, who was living on his plantation at Frères, a short distance from Pétionville, was fortunate enough to be able to make his escape before the arrival of those who were commissioned to arrest him, and sought shelter in the United States Legation, which was then situated at Turgeau, a suburb of Port-au-Prince.

Although the tragic death of Brice and Pierre had produced a very bad impression on the minds of the people, the Government did nothing to palliate the effect of this sad event; on the contrary, many citizens were arbitrarily compelled to flee the country. This high-handed proceeding naturally met with resentment; and disturbances at once took place in various parts of the Republic. The inhabitants of Port-au-Prince were already in a great state of excitement, when on the 15th of April, 1876, there started a report to the effect that the Government was sending abroad the money deposited in the vaults of the Bank of Haiti.[3] In a trice the entire population arose; the agitation at first seemed like a riot, but soon attained more formidable proportions. Septimus Rameau, who was held to blame for the death of Brice and Pierre as well as for the loan floated in Paris, was killed in the streets. Domingue succeeded in reaching the French Legation, whence he took ship for Jamaica.[4]

  1. J. N. Léger, Recueil des Trails et Conventions de la République d'Haiti, pp. 119, 140.
  2. Ibid.
  3. With a view of organizing a State Bank the government had entered into an agreement with Mr. Lazare, an American citizen, who became unable to fulfill his part of the contract. In consequence of the obligation imposed by this contract, the Haitian Government, within the stipulated time, had deposited her quota of the capital in the vaults of the bank. It was this money which Septimus Rameau was about to send to Cayes, the capital of the Southern Department, when the uprising broke out at Port-au-Prince on the 15th of April.
  4. Domingue died at Kingston on June 24, 1877.