On 1st. February 1838, the Republic of Haiti and the Kingdom of France signed a new treaty of peace, giving Haiti a further extension on its negotiated 1825 debt, to its former colonial head.
Haiti, had been well on its way to paying the 150 million francs, its government negotiated, as compensation to France, for the loss of its island nation, and to its French colonists, who sought indemnification for property lost during the revolution. This was done in return for France’s recognition that Haiti was indeed a true republic, not just in local ideological thinking, but in international fact, under legitimate international treaty law.
The new treaty of peace, of 1838, which applied only to the French side of the island of St. Domingo, was to secure an agreement for the remainder owed – 60,000,000 francs.
(The Pittsburgh Gazette, Friday, December 28, 1838)
This 1838, new treaty of peace, effectively noted that between 1825 to 1837, Haiti had already paid, according to the terms of the original treaty, some 90,000,000 francs to France. Haiti was maintaining its part of the agreement and France theirs.
Important questions remain, in regard to the impact, if any, this historical indemnity debt has had on the economy of Haiti, over the past almost 200 years.
How did this debt, come to be blamed for Haiti’s future problems of dictatorships, coups, violence and persistent historical poverty, and seemingly failed leaderships?
Equally important, is the question of the historical impact of race politics in Haiti, that has played a tremendous part in the unremitting poverty of its predominantly negro population.
How did the historical distrust between Haitian mulatto leaders and Haitian negro leaders, contribute to the political instability, which pushed the country further into a state of persistent historical debt?
1790 – We know that the mulatto Haitians were readying to wage revolutionary war against their white slave masters, when an unexpected negro uprising began!
“In 1790 the population of the western part of Hispaniola, then under French rule, was made up of 40,000 whites, 30,000 free mulattoes and some 400,000 negro slaves. An early decree of the French National Assembly conferred citizenship on the free persons of colour. The mulattoes, many of whom were educated men, manifested unbounded joy.
The news of liberty, however, had stored other depth and just as civil war was about to break out between the whites and mulattoes, a third and wholly unexpected party stepped into the arena. The negro slaves rose up against their masters.”
(The Des Moines Leader, Saturday, May 17, 1902)
We know that not long after President Jean Pierre Boyer, the mulatto leader, who negotiated the original treaty of peace with France, giving Haiti a much needed international legitimacy, opening the country to new and substantial international trade, many things began to fall apart for Haiti, including the life presidency of Jean Pierre Boyer.
(The Des Moines Leader, Saturday, May 17, 1902)
1843 – President Jean Pierre Boyer Deposed. The Man Who Negotiated Haiti’s Independence From France and Who Once Controlled Both The Spanish and French Side of St. Domingo Is Removed From Office By Another Revolution And Charged With High Treason in 1843
1843 – DEPOSED HAITIAN PRESIDENT JEAN BOYER IS SAID TO HAVE CARRIED AWAY CHRISTOPHE’S JEWEL STUDDED CROWN INTO EXILE IN FRANCE
(Vermont Chronicle, 26 April 1843)
FRANCE’S SOVEREIGN RIGHTS TO THE ISLAND NATION AND FRENCH COLONISTS CLAIMS FOR COMPENSATION FOR THE LOSS OF THEIR PROPERTY WERE NOT EXTINGUISHED BECAUSE OF THE REVOLUTION
Haiti’s revolutionary, independence, slaveowner compensation treaty of peace and recognition with France, in 1825, some twenty-five years after negroes and mulattos seized power, during the Haitian Revolution, bears a striking similarity to the British compensation paid to its slaveowners or the compensation Abraham Lincoln offered to Union slaveowners for the loss of their slave property.
It must be considered that the impetus for Britain to pay its slaveowners, after its own 1834 declared abolition, may very well had been borne out of the events which transpired between Haiti and France a decade earlier.
“On April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill emancipating enslaved people in Washington, the end of a long struggle. But to ease slaveowners’ pain, the District of Columbia Emancipation Act paid those loyal to the Union up to $300 for every enslaved person freed.”
The French, despite their physical defeat in battle, never relinquished their sovereign rights over Haiti. French colonists and plantation owners, forced to flee the island and relatives of those killed during the revolution, also never relinquished their claims to compensation for their losses.
France’s land rights, trade, economic ties and sovereign rights to Haiti were not severed, as a result of the Haitian Revolution. Economic rights to France, held under sovereign ownership rights, as well as claims made to the French government, by its colonists or relatives of those colonists killed during the revolution, were, in fact accruing, with interest.
Touissant L’Overture knew this. Dessalines, Henry Christophe, Petion and President Boyer, all understood this.
All who came before President Jean Pierre Boyer chose to ignore France’s claim for compensation, while touting Haiti’s internal independence. But internal ideas independence did not equate to a legitimate internationally recognised independence.
President Jean Pierre Boyer found himself in the most opportune position. He became President of the entire island of St. Domingo. Both the French and the Spanish side were under his control. Suddenly, international legitimacy for Haiti’s revolutionary won independence, became a priority. President Boyer also needed France to provide military support to Haiti, to help secure its tenuous hold over the Spanish side, of St. Domingo.
Negotiations for France’s recognition of Haiti’s independence began in earnest in 1824.
Haitian Commissioners went to Paris to meet with French officials.
PARIS, August 1. 1824
The following is the basis on which the Haitian Commissioners are authorised to treat: – First, and as the principal condition, they must procure the formal recognition of the independence of the Republic. If the French Ministry refuses this chief condition, the Commissioners are ordered not to proceed further. The Memorandum of M. Esmangard [an extract of this appeared in The Chronicle yesterday] is not the same as was sent to Petion, in 1815. At that time the Empire of Haiti and the Emperor Christophe were in existence; and the object was to procure the submission of Cape Francais to the dominion of Port-au-Prince, before concluding anything with regard to the political existence of the Colony.
Now, however, the whole Island, for the Spanish part has been conquered by the Republic, desire, as is expressed by the President, to escape from its precarious political existence, or a mere existence, de facto.
The Haitians require to be solemnly recognised, and on this basis the Government offers to treat with France.
Single Article.- The existence and the independence of the Republic of Haiti are acknowledged by his Majesty the King of France.
The Commissioners of Haiti, as soon as his Majesty has given his consent to this formal declaration, are authorised to discuss and sign the preliminaries of a treaty, of which the following is the basis adopted by the Government of Haiti:-
“1. A pecuniary indemnity calculated approximately on the loss which the old colonists may have sustained, shall be paid in money into the hands of the French Government, among the various proprietors of the former colony of St. Domingo.
“2. The Government of his Most Christian Majesty will agree with the Republic of Haiti, to regulate, in concert and on amicable principles, the difficulties which may arise on the subject of the occupation by the troops of the Republic, of the Spanish part of the island of St. Domingo.
“3. In order to indemnify France for the loss of her supremacy over the Republic of Haiti, a treaty of commerce shall be drawn up on the most favourable basis, and in consequence the produce of France shall be emitted into all ports of the Republic on a duty, only three-fourths of which is paid by other nations.
“4. His Most Christian Majesty may appoint a minister, a consul-general, and consuls.
“5. On no pretext whatever shall a French military force be ever suffered to land in any part of the Republic.”
After the description it is easy to see that the negotiation between the Commissioners and M. Esmangard, will end in nothing.
The former would, in fact, tired with the obscure part they are made to act, have already left Paris, but for the requests made to them by some persons of distinction.
The former Colonists, collected in a meeting, have appointed deputies to take care of their interests, and it is observed, with sorrow, that their lengthened misfortunes, far from having abated their pride, only inspire them to projects of conquest and vengeance, which they will endeavour to make the Government adopt.
(The Morning Chronicle, London, England, Wednesday, August 04, 1824)
AFTER THE REVOLUTION COME MATTERS OF PRACTICALITY
After the blood dust settled, a stark realisation occurred to the revolutionaries. The country needed revenue. It needed trading partners for its produce. It needed imports. It needed newly freed slaves to return to the plantations. Begrudgingly, it needed some whites to return to oversee commerce.
Haiti’s succession of revolutionary leaders were expected to exercise new skills in international diplomacy by opening fresh negotiations for its sugar, mahogany, cotton and coffee. They were also tasked with negotiating for the imports needed to facilitate commerce and agriculture. For this, they needed Europe and their colonial slave master, France.
Some twenty or so years later, after 1801, after Touissant L’Overture was taken to a French prison, after Jean Jacques Dessalines seized power, declaring himself Jacques I, Emperor of Haiti, after the former negro slave Christophe declared himself King Henry I, monarch for life in the north of Haiti, and after the mulatto Petion declared himself President for life in south of Haiti, the new republic was still trading with its defeated colonial power, France.
In the twenty years after the revolution, with new opportunities to expand, under one Haitian leader, Haiti needed to be independent in fact, in law, legitimately and internationally recognised. It also surprisingly needed the help of France for defence against the Spanish.
It was under these extraordinary circumstances that Haitian President Jean Pierre Boyer entered into talks with France for its military help as well as its formal recognition of the independence of the Haitian Republic. In return, France wanted to be compensated for the financial loss of its colony and reparations paid to colonists and slaveowners who lost their land, slaves or lives in the revolution.
(The Pittsburgh Gazette, Friday, 28 December, 1838)
Fact versus Perception
The slave revolt, which began in 1791, did not give Haiti the legitimacy it thought it would receive. I’m purely practical terms, how could it?
White Europeans and whites in the Americas controlled the seas, the commerce, the ports, the trading routes in the western world.
1825 – BRITAIN IGNORES HAITIAN PRESIDENT’S REQUEST FOR ENGLAND TO ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR INDEPENDENCE BEFORE TREATY SIGNED WITH FRANCE
“The President of Haiti finding that appeals to the justice and consistency of the British Cabinet are of no avail in procuring a recognition of his countries independence, has wisely resolved to touch its interest.
The important duty on English goods is now one-half less than on the goods of any other nation. A law has passed the Haitian Congress, declaring that duties, after the 1st of January, 1826, from England, shall be the same as from all of the nations and states.
We shall now see therefore, whether our ministers will persist in a refusal so and just and impolitic on grounds, when by doing so they will cause direct and serious injury to the commerce and manufacturers of Great Britain.”
(The Examiner, London, England, Sunday, 31 July 1825)
Negroes massacring their white slave masters, only to then begin to start killing each other, in repeated internal struggles for power, significantly distanced or curtailed the impetus for other colonies to open or expand trade. It is important to remember that every trading partner, of Haiti, before the revolution were all European slave trading or slave owning states. The wariness to engage, given the time, is not without merit, all things considered.
France’s substantial international presence was another factor. It’s allied relationships with Britain, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, the newly independent Americas and Germany, at the time, cannot be discounted. Trading with the militant island nation, meant drawing the ire of a very powerful France.
Despite declaring itself an independent republic, Haiti need international legitimacy. This legitimacy could only come from, the very country it went to war with, over the freedom of its slaves.
THE ORIGINAL TREATY BETWEEN FRANCE AND HAITI SIGNED IN PARIS 17 April 1825
“ORDINANCE OF THE KING:
“Paris, April 17.– Charles, by the grace of God, King of France and Navarre, to all whom all these shall come greeting — Considering Articles 14 and 73 of the Charter — desirous to provide for what is called for by the interest of the French merchants, the misfortunes of the ancient colonies of St. Domingo and the precarious situation of the present inhabitants of that island. ￼
“We have ordained, and ordain as follows:-
Art. 1. The ports of the French part of St. Domingo are open to the commerce of all nations.
The duties levied in the ports, either upon vessels or merchandise, whether entering or going out, shall be equal and uniform for all flags, except for the French flag, in favour of which these duties shall be raised one-half.
“2. ￼The present inhabitants of the French part of St. Domingo shall pay into the Laisse generale des Depots et Consignations of France, in five equal instalments, from year to year, the first of which will come due on the 31st December 1825, the sum of one hundred and fifty millions of francs, destined to indemnify the ancient colonists, who shall claim indemnity.
“3. We grant on these conditions, by the present ordinance to the actual inhabitants of the French side of the island of St. Domingo, the full and entire independence of their Government.
(The Morning Chronicle, London, England, 25 August 1825)
Haiti’s route to independence was under a ferocious revolt, which saw scores of white plantation slaveowners butchered, under the same savagery, they once meted out to slaves. This was an unprecedented event, in history, which whites lived in fear of, across the slave trading world.
It wasn’t until after Haiti had negotiated and secured its legitimate independence from France, that major trading partners, like the new Americas began to debate in its Congress the merits of opening trade negotiations with the island nation.
1838 – American Congress opens debate on trade negotiations with Republic of Haiti
(The Pittsburgh Gazette, Friday, 28 December, 1838)
HAITI INDEPENDENCE NEGOTIATIONS BEGAN UNDER A MULATTO LEADER DURING AN EXTRAORDINARY PERIOD OF ISLAND UNITY BETWEEN FRENCH AND SPANISH
Haiti’s independence was negotiated with France, during an extraordinary moment in European colonial history, when both the French and the Spanish side of the island of Hispaniola, were under the command of one Haitian ruler.
The Spanish colony in the east of the island, in 1821, had placed itself under the government of a mulatto, Haitian leader, named Jean Pierre Boyer. He [Boyer] was president of the entire island, when he entered into negotiations with France for its agreement to internationally recognise, Haiti’s official republic status.
(The Pittsburgh Gazette, Friday, 28 December, 1838)
If France agreed to an official recognition, then the legitimacy of Haiti would not be questioned by anyone of its present or future international trading partners. Haiti would be free to trade and create whatever international alliances it wanted. France would be out, forever.
In 1825, French King, Charles X, agreed to recognise Haiti’s self-declared independence, as a legitimate independence, in return for compensation for land, property and lives of French citizens lost during the Haitian Revolution. Haitian President Jean Pierre Boyer, and the Haitian government agreed to the terms presented by France.
(The Pittsburgh Gazette, Friday, 28 December, 1838)
INDEPENDENCE DEBT OR INDEMNITY FOR SEIZED LAND, FRENCH SLAVEOWNERS AND COLONISTS?
The right to self-determination, even if coupled with war and bloodshed, is as old as humanity itself. So the negro, as chattel property of his white European master, had the moral right to pursue his freedom, by any means necessary, including, procuring for his benefit, the very tools of violence used against him.
But, if the slave then seizes his slaveowners’ land, if he seizes the fruits of his labour owned by his master, if he then seeks to be called legitimately independent, free, of his master and owner of himself as property, the legal waters of the early 1800s, became hopelessly muddied. Colonial laws on property, land, sovereignty and the white man’s version of conquerer rights were tilted in favour of those who wrote the law.
Current thoughts, on the question of the Haiti’s independence debt, lead toward a utopian morally centred argument, which did not exist in 1825. It is doubtful that even exists today, given how the slavery reparations debate, has been metaphorically lost somewhere in the waters of the Middle Passage from where it originated.
The Haitian independence debt, the indemnity to France, occurred when Haitian President Jean Pierre Boyer sought international recognition for the fledgling republic. It was eagerly sought after in order to legitimise Haiti’s opportune control over the Spanish side of St. Domingo. There was a quid pro quo, contained in that treaty, whose underlying influences still form the pillars of modern international law.
“Given at the National Palace at Port-au-Prince, the eleventh day of July, 1825, in the 223 year of independence.”
Haitians! – A special decree of his Majesty Charles X., dater 17 of April last, recognised the full and entire independence of your Government. This authentic act, is adding the formality of right to the political existence which you had already acquired, will legalise one the eyes of the world the rank in which you had placed yourselves, and to which a Providence has called you.
“Citizens! — Commerce and agriculture are about to extend themselves. The arts and sciences, which delight in Continue by your attachment to the national institution, and above all, by your union, to inflict despair on those who would attempt to disturb you in the just end peaceable possession of your rights.
(The Times, London, 6 August 1825)
Is the now popularised contention that all present events, relating to the continued impoverishment of Haiti, can all be traced back to 1825, and the treaty to pay 150,000,000 francs to France, an entirely accurate historical description of events or representative of accurate historical linkages.
A Literary Paper, published at Toulouse, states that Mous. Ferlou, formerly director of the school at Sorreas, has just received from the government of Haiti the sum of 150,000 francs as recompense for the service he rendered to young Haitians who were educated in that school while he was at the head of it￼￼.
(The Morning Chronicle, London, Thursday, November 24, 1825)
Haiti’s relationship with France was a complex one. Haiti’s race relationships with itself, the relationship between its whites, mulattoes and negroes, were extremely complex. Haiti’s relationship with its rapid succession of leaders, dictators and self styled rulers for life, played the most pivotal role, in the long annals, of their island history.