Today in Haitian History - April 17, 1825 -Haiti settles indemnity with Charles X (left) in exchange for recognition.
While Haitian revolutionaries assumed authority over the island as of late November 1803, the former metropole never recognized the gesture and Haiti was still referred to as Saint-Domingue.
* Though the idea of an indemnity came from Alexandre Pétion, in hopes of reaching a settlement with France and no longer fearing for Haiti’s sovereignty, the question was eventually settled with his successor, Jean-Pierre Boyer. Indeed, in exchange for irrevocable recognition, Haiti agreed to a 150M francs sum (by 1789 values), to be payed in 5 instalments of 30M each. The settlement also included preferential treatment for France in all trade questions (i.e. 50% reduction in tariffs on French importants).
The indemnity placed Boyer (and all subsequent governments) in a delicate situation. Through the Haitian government enjoyed annual revenues of 15M francs, even if it assumed payements for the next 10 years (to reach 150M), this left nothing for defence, infrastructure, education, or any other domestic concerns. Perhaps realizing this, Boyer issued a new Rural Code to raise agricultural production at the great detriment of labourers, (this, in part, help explain his decline in both in Haiti and by then the unified Dominican Republic).
Haiti (clearly unable to pay) defected its first payement and ironically began contracting loans from French banks to meet the French government’s demands. When it became clear that the Haitian government could simply not absorb this debt, Louis-Philippe (July Monarchy) reduced the sum to 90M, but maintained advantages trade tariffs with France.
Ironically, the measure that was suppose to bring Haiti to full sovereignty only accelerated the process of a neo-colonial relationship with France, other European banks, and increasingly the United States. The state of affair is worsen by the later 19th century, when political instability and local rivalries make it impossible for most governments to assume power long enough to reverse the trend.
French, Haitian and other historians disagree as to the actual year of the indemnity’s resolution. While most accept that by 1888, Haiti payed most of the 1838 agreement, some argue that the indemnity question was finally settled in the 1930s with Sténio Vincent’s administration (because new loans related to the indemnity were taken up on top of existing loans for development and infrastructure). Other historians disagree and claim it was finalized in 1946, when all interest on loans were payed off with president Dumarsais Estimé.
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