HAITI DEBT AND HISTORICAL IMPACT 6
HaitiDebt and Historical Impact
HaitiDebt and Historical Impact
Thehistory of Haiti has shaped the country over time by determining theevents that led to the past economic obligations and slowed futuredevelopments. The central event in Haiti’s history is its foreigndebt to France. The history of Haiti’s debt with France that datesback to early nineteenth century after a successful slave revolutionthat created the state. The discussion on the history of Haiti willreveal the 1825 debt settlement with France, the relationship withthe United States and the Duvalier family dictatorships that ruinedthe country from 1957 to 1986.
Thehistory of Haiti’s debt to France and the subsequent settlement in1825 starts with the slavery history that the country shared withother Caribbean countries. During the nineteenth century, theCaribbean economies were dominated by European settlement and controlover farms, especially sugar and coffee farms (Davis, 1971). TheEuropeans used slaves to work in the farms, which gave environmentfor revolt against forced labor and enslavement. For Haiti, thecolonial power was France, who controlled the slaves and the whitefarms in the country. However, Haitian slaves started a revolutionthat left thousands of whites dead and declaration of an independentstate in 1804 (Philippe,2011).According toPhilippe (2011), by1804, between 3000 and 5000 white Haitians had been killed in amassacre that practically eliminated the colonialist whites.
Therevolution created the republic of Haiti with Jean-JacquesDessalines, the revolution leader declared as the king. However, theindependence of Haiti led to an economic problem in 1825 when Francedemanded for compensation of the farmers who lost slaves and farms.To ensure compliance, France threatened to conquer and enslaveHaitians again if the Haiti government refused to pay. As a result,Jean-Jacques Dessalines agreed to an initial debt of $150 millionfrancs, the equivalent of $21 billion today (Nicholls, 1988). Thisagreement puts the poor new state into a state of economic debt andthe threat of enslavement. The debt placed an obligation for Haiti toFrance since the agreement up to the final settlement in 1893.
However,Haiti could not pay this debt because the economy was poor after therevolution. The economy had been heavily affected by the revolutionand farms were destroyed and commercial activities fully disrupted.Due to Haiti’s inability to pay, the debt was reduced to 90 millionfrancs in 1838, which was supposed to be paid in 30 years (Nicholls,1988). The debt to France significantly hindered the economicdevelopment of Haiti as a state. One of the hindrances to Haiti’sfuture development was increased in external debt (Heinl& Gordon, 2006).The external debt grew because Haiti resulted to borrowing from othercountries to repay the French debt and control the state.
Anotherhindrance to the development of Haiti was the redirection of thelittle production and income generated by the young state towardsdebt repayment. Instead of developing the country and buildinginfrastructure, Haiti directed its income to pay the debt that wasunjustly imposed by the ruthless French colonialist (Davis, 1971).According to Lundahl(2015),an estimate of over 80% of the country’s net revenues went towardsdebt repayment to France. According toPatrick (1984), thehighest damages could have been 100 million francs, but the Frenchgovernment claimed 150million. Despite the reduction to 90 million,the debt was still too high for a country that France itself had rundown through inhuman slavery (Lundahl,2015).Moreover, the development of Haiti as a country was hindered byeconomic enslavement, the two a new type of colonialism and slaverythat the country was in the hands of the ruthless French.
Thesedevelopments were not away from the sight of the United States, acountry that had a keen eye on Haiti, because of its proximity toAmerica. The major cause of the relationship between the UnitedStates and Haiti was the desire by America to prevent any hostiletakeover of Haiti that could threaten its security (Nicholls, 1988).America observed the developments because of the worry that anunfriendly European control over Haiti would present a militarythreat to the U.S. particularly, the United States feared that atakeover of Haiti by Germany would present significant militaryadvantage to Germans in the case of an attack to America (Heinl& Gordon, 2006).Therefore, President Woodrow Wilson started missions to bring Haitiinto the political and military control over Haiti in 1914.
Oneof the lines of relations between the United States and Haiti wasfinancial control and security. For instance, in 1914, presidentWoodrow sent marines to secure a large sum of money, half a milliondollars from Haiti to New York (Davis, 1971). This effectively gavethe United States the control of the central bank of the young, poorcountry run down by European domination and poor governance. Anotherline of relations between the two countries was military control bythe United States. After the assassination of Haitian president in1915, the political instability in the country gave grounds forGerman invasion, causing worry to the United States (Lundahl,2015).As a result, the United States sent military officers to control thesituation and prevent German activity in the helpless nation.
Thedevelopment of relations between the Americans and Haiti led to thesigning of a treaty by the two countries in 1915. This practicallyplaced the control of the Haiti military in the hands of the UnitedStates. The military control and economic control of the Haitians inthe United States led to the third line of relations as marked by theelection of a pro-American president in 1915 (Nicholls, 1988).However, rebellion by Haitians and led to the withdrawal of Americain 1930. While the U.S slightly developed the Haitian economy, thestate of Haiti was left for worse by the time United States left thecountry in 1934.
However,the Haitian economy was worsened by the dictatorial rule of theDuvalier family from 1957 to 1986. From 1957, Francois Duvalier ruledthe country and was succeeded by his son, Claude Duvalier from 1971to 1986 (Lundahl,2015).The family rule was dictatorial and use of ruthless means to causefear and create dominance in the state. The Duvalier rulers created aspecial police force to protect them and held political prisoners(Heinl& Gordon, 2006).On the economic front, the dictatorial Duvalier rule engaged inexternal borrowing to strengthen their bad governance and to thestate. This negatively impacted on the economy, political freedom andfuture developments of the state.
Fromthe history of Haiti, it is possible to trace the current economic,social and political state of Haiti to her history sinceindependence. The rundown of the economy of the country started withslavery by the French and the revolution that led to independence.However, the economic enslavement by the French government anddominance by the United States saw the country’s economic, socialand political state grows from bad to worse. Worsened by dictatorialgovernance, the negative activities by the United States and Franceand the 2010 earthquake disasters formed the major historicalproblems that have affected Haiti up to date. Haiti now has tostruggle with these historical impacts as it seeks to build thenation.
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Lundahl,M. (2015). Peasantsand Poverty (Routledge Revivals): A Study of Haiti.New York: Routledge
Nicholls,D. (1988). FromDessalines to Duvalier: Race, Color and National Independence InHaiti. London:Macmillan Publishers
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Philippe,R. G. (2011). TheSlaves Who Defeated Napoleon Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Warof Independence, 1801-1804.University of Alabama Press
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