Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, With the Address of the President to Congress December 5, 1916
File No. 838.00/1375
Secretary of Legation Davis to the Secretary of State
Washington, January 12, 1916.
Sir: I have the honor to submit herewith a memorandum of the events attending the overthrow of President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam and the happenings immediately thereafter.
I regret that press of work at the Legation made it impossible for me to prepare this report during the time I was on duty at Port au Prince as Chargé d’Affaires. I have now prepared the same from notes and memoranda made at the time.
I have [etc.]
Summary of conditions existing in the Republic of Haiti immediately prior to the overthrow of the Government of President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam, and of events attending the overthrow of that Government
Pursuant to the request that I prepare a statement of the events attending the overthrow of the Government of President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam and of his assassination, I have the honor to submit the following report:
Since 1886—when General Salomon completed his first term of office—there have been twelve Presidents of Haiti, no one of whom has served his full term of seven years. Of these twelve, four have been killed and six driven from office.
Below is given a list of these Presidents with the duration of their respective terms:
|General Salomon||1879–1886 (full term)|
|General Salomon||1886–1888 (killed after two years)|
|General Hippolyte||1889–1896 (died near close of term)|
|General Simon Sam||1896–1903 (overthrown)|
|General Nord||1903–1908 (overthrown)|
|General Antoine Sam||1908–1911 (overthrown)|
|General Cincinnatus Leconte||1911–1912 (killed in office)|
|General Tancrede Auguste||1912–1913 (killed in office)|
|General Michel Oreste||1913–1914 (overthrown)|
|General Oreste Zamor||1914—Jan. to December (overthrown)|
|General Davilmar Theodore||1914–1915—Dec. to April (overthrown)|
|General Vilbrun Guillaume Sam||1915—April to July (killed in office)|
|Senator Sudre Dartiguenave||1915–|
Before recounting the events of the 27th and 28th of July, 1915, when the Sam Government was overthrown and the President assassinated, I beg to recall briefly to your attention the conditions which existed in the Republic of Haiti immediately prior to this time, conditions which alone made possible the appalling atrocities accompanying the overthrow of this Government.
At the time of my arrival at Port au Prince in August, 1914, General Davilmar Theodore, at the head of a revolutionary army, was attempting the overthrow of the Zamor Government.
This rebellion had been in progress since the inauguration of President Oreste Zamor, who, as a successful revolutionary chief, only a few months prior to this time, had overthrown the Government of President Michel Oreste, after which the Haitian Congress had met and elected him President of Haiti. Prior to my arrival, the revolution of Theodore had assumed such alarming proportions that President Zamor had left Port au Prince personally to assume command of the Government troops in the north.
The Davilmar Theodore Revolution, as are all revolutions in Haiti, was successful. President Zamor after having been forced to retreat as far south as the town of Gonaives, with the remnant of his army which had not already deserted and joined the revolutionists, was there surrounded; and seeing that further resistance was futile he abandoned his army, boarded a steamer and left the Island without ever having been able to return to the Capital.
As soon as the news that President Zamor had quit the country reached Port au Prince, the members of his Cabinet, who in his absence had been charged with the conduct of the affairs of the Government, at once abandoned their posts and sought asylum in the foreign Legations, and for three days chaotic conditions prevailed in Port au Prince as well as in all other parts of the Island. There was no Government of any sort, and in the Capital a self-appointed Committee of Public Safety was the sole authority to which one might look for protection and prevention of pillage, burning, and other forms of disorder. These conditions prevailed until the arrival of General Theodore at the head of his army. He was at once elected President, taking the oath of office on November 10, 1914.
From the outset the Theodore Government found itself confronted by insurmountable obstacles; the treasury empty, revolutionary debts multitudinous, and practically all of the Government revenues, already diminished by the stagnation of business and agriculture resultant from continued revolutions, [Page 312] pledged for the payment of loans contracted by previous Governments. One instance will suffice to illustrate the penniless condition of this Government. A schooner, loaded with coal destined for the use of the Haitian gunboats, Pacifique and Nord Alexis, lay for weeks at the dock with its cargo undischarged because the Government was unable to secure the relatively small sum necessary to pay for the same.
Various expedients were resorted to by the Government in its efforts to rehabilitate the finances of the Republic. An issue of 8,000,000 gourdes, paper currency, was authorized; but the pressing need of money to be immediately available made it impossible for the Government to await the arrival of these bills, which were being manufactured in the United States. To tide over the time until they should become available another issue of bills, to be printed at Port au Prince, was authorized. This proved to be a most disastrous move, the only result being still further to depress the value of the Haitian currency, and to increase popular dissatisfaction against the Government. These bills, printed on cheap white paper, and having nothing of the appearance of the money to which they were accustomed, would not be accepted by the Haitians of the ignorant classes. As the soldiers were paid in this currency, innumerable petty difficulties arose as a result of their attempts to force its acceptance in payment for food stuffs in local markets and other places. This money was no more acceptable to the better classes. Knowing that there was in existence a contract entered into between the Haitian Government and the National Bank of Haiti, which gave to that organization the exclusive right to issue currency, and realizing the weakness of the Theodore Government, it was feared that a succeeding Government would repudiate this issue; and therefore it was accepted only when refusal to do so might lead to trouble with the Government.
Under these conditions the Theodore Government, upon the outbreak of a revolution, could offer no effective resistance, and General Vilbrun Guillaume Sam, at the head of a revolutionary army held together by promises of reward to be had on arrival at Port au Prince, marched to the capital from Cape Haitien meeting with practically no resistance.
Although incapable of offering any real opposition, President Theodore stubbornly refused to resign, until it was feared by the people of Port au Prince that he intended, with the few Government troops which remained, to attempt to prevent the Sam forces from entering the city, and thereby cause at this place a repetition of the happenings at the town of Gonaives during the previous year, when in a fight in the streets between warring revolutionary factions a number of the townspeople had been shot and the town partially burned.
However, before the arrival of General Sam with the main body of revolutionary troops, several smaller bands arrived outside of the town, closed the roads to prevent any food stuffs from being brought into the town and at the same time cut off the water supply of the city. A message was sent to the President that until he resigned these conditions would continue. After three days, during which time no food stuffs or water came into the city, resulting in great suffering among the poorer classes, the President sent his resignation to the Senate, and embarking on a Dutch ship which was in the harbor sailed for Curasao. Shortly thereafter General Sam entered the city at the head of the revolutionary troops, and once more the Haitian Congress met in the joint session for the election of a Presdent. Naturally, as General Sam had several thousand troops with him within the town, the election was a mere matter of form, and on March 4, 1915, he was declared President of Haiti.
All of the above-referred to revolutions were undertaken solely for the purpose of gratifying the personal ambition and desire of the leaders for power. There was no real grievance against any of the constituted Governments, nor any reason for their overthrow which rose above the plane of a desire for power of some revolutionary chief. With certain groups of foreigners willing to advance funds for the prosecution Of revolutions, when assured that upon the successful conclusion thereof they would be repaid at an enormous rate of interest, the temptation for an ambitious politician, whose conception of patriotism was to use the country for his own personal advancement, was irresistible; especially as he was practically sure that at the head of a revolutionary army he would be able to overthrow the Government and place himself in power. The fact that the advances of funds for conducting these revolutions were made at enormous interest rates, sometimes going to the extreme of advancing gourdes to be repaid by an equal number of dollars [Page 313] was not taken into consideration by revolutionary chiefs when contracting these loans. Upon the successful termination of a revolution its debts are always assumed by the Government; therefore the chiefs, inasmuch as the debts in no way affect them personally, would accept any conditions as long as the money for conducting the revolution was forthcoming.
During the early days of the Sam administration, the hope and the belief that this Government” would be stable was very current. There were several causes contributing to this impression. The President was supposed to be very popular in the North, in which section all revolutions have their beginning, and it is also true that the people generally desired nothing more than to see an end of revolutionary conditions. Financially the condition of the Sam Government was very much better than that of the two preceding Governments. The arrival of a portion of the issue of paper money authorized by the preceding Government, and the passage of a law taking away from the National Bank of Haiti the service of the Treasury and placing its management in the hands of the Government itself, gave the latter sufficient funds with which to meet current demands. It is true that after the Government took over the service of the Treasury it applied to its own use all of the revenues collected, including the large proportion pledged for the payment of existing debts, and thereby subjected itself to the probability of future complications with foreign creditors who had loaned money on the faith of these guarantes. Still it was believed that by its use of these funds, even temporarily, the Government would establish itself sufficiently firmly to be able to put down any revolution which might be begun.
Although the Government itself was in a less desperate condition financially than had been the preceding Governments, the opposite was true of the people. Since each succeeding revolutionary army passed that portion of the Island between Gape Hatien and Port au Prince, living on the country as it went, all of that section was completely devastated and agriculture was practically at a standstill. Chaotic financial conditions reacted upon the business in the cities, and rapid fluctuations in currency caused practically a stagnation of all business enterprises.
The belief that the inauguration of President Sam would mean an end of revolutions and that the country would have time to recover to some extent, at least, from the enormous drain occasioned by the continual state of revolution, did not prove to be the case.
In the spring the North was again in arms; this time under the leadership of Dr. Ronsolvo Bobo, and although the Government sent a large number of troops to that section and weekly expended from 120,000 to 140,000 gourdes in maintaining this army, it seemed impossible to put down this revolution. As time went on and there was no change in revolutionary conditions in the North, there was a marked change in the policy of the Government at Port au Prince.
While every Haitian Government maintains itself by its military strength, during the latter part of the Sam administration militarism was carried to such lengths as to make the name “Republic” a farce. In effect the people lived under a military monarchy of the most absolute kind, with the President exercising a practically unhampered and unlimited authority, a condition which produced results at Port au Prince which became well-nigh unbearable. This was particularly true after it became known that a certain body of conspirators, whose identity was unknown to the Government, was furnishing financial aid to the revolutionists in the North. Every one was suspected, every one was spied on, and a denunciation by a Government agent was sufficient for throwing the suspect into prison, without according him either the formality of a trial or any opportunity to prove his innocence. Under these conditions some 200 men were imprisoned, while foreign Legations and Consulates were filled with those who, having been warned that they had been denounced, had taken refuge before the Government had had an opportunity to secure their arrest. Practically all of these prisoners and refugees were from the better classes, but conditions were no less unbearable for the laboring people.
Forced military service became so rigid that the men of the poorer class feared to go upon the streets, as the Government seized practically every man of this class capable of rendering military service, and in some cases seized boys from thirteen to fourteen years of age. Squads of soldiers were sent out into the country to search for men to augment further the ranks of the [Page 314] Government troops, and returning would drive their recruits, arms pinioned behind them and tied together, to the barracks to await their time to be sent to the North.
The above set out conditions caused the Government to lose what little there remained of its popularity; yet so rigid had become its policy that no one contemplated any attempt at organized resistance or open rebellion against Port au Prince.
Under these conditions I, in common with every one else, was at an absolute loss to account for or understand its significance when on the morning of July 27 I was awakened by terrific firing down in the town. It was evident from the sound that the firing was somewhere in the neighborhood of the palace. At first I believed that it was a demonstration begun by the Government. In Haiti this is not an unknown means of inducing political refugees to leave the Legations and Consulates in which they are seeking shelter, and thereby giving to the Government an opportunity either to apprehend or shoot them. After the firing had continued for more than an hour I became convinced that this was not the case, but that it was an uprising against the Government. The firing continued for two hours without cessation, and spasmodically throughout the day. At about 8 o’clock I drove down into the town and attempted, on my way to the Legation, to discover what had happened. The streets were filled with armed men and in the one before the palace was an overturned engine which I found had been used by the attacking party as a barricade from behind which they first opened fire. I was informed that Charles de Delva and some fifty other men, all of whom had been refugees in various Consulates and Legations, had managed in some way to communicate with each other and had planned the outbreak of that morning. They had secured control of the machine guns which were in the grounds of the palace, it was reported, by having some of their sympathizers enroll themselves as members of the palace guard, and had turned the same on the guards shortly after the attack had begun, putting them to flight with a loss of about fifty men killed and 200 wounded.
The President himself and several of his officers had taken refuge in the palace and barricaded themselves there, where they were at the time that I got down into the city. I was further informed that it was the intention of the revolutionists to burn the palace and thereby force him to attempt to escape. The oil had already been sent for which was to be used, and all smaller buildings which might afford him a means of protection, should he attempt to leave the palace, had either been burned or torn down. As I went further down into the city I found squads of soldiers at practically every corner, but it was not until later in the day that I learned that these were Government troops and that the military posts in the lower part of the town held out for the Government until about eleven o’clock.
Shortly after this hour some one rushed into the Legation and said that the President had succeeded in escaping from the palace and was at that time, along with his family, a refugee in the French Legation, whose grounds adjoin those of the palace. He further stated that the President had ordered General Oscar, in command at the prison, to kill every political prisoner in case the revolutionists succeeded in driving him from the palace, and, that following these orders, General Oscar with the assistance of the jailers, had massacred all the political prisoners who were in the jail, and that General Oscar himself, who had taken refuge in the Dominican Legation, had been followed there by the father of three boys who were among those killed, had been dragged into the streets and shot before the door of the Legation.
Putting little credence in this rumor, as in revolutionary times in Haiti one always hears rumors of the wildest sort, I went around to the Dominican Legation, which is just around the corner from the American, to ascertain whether there was any truth in the report. Arriving there I found a crowd collected before the door, in the midst of which lay the body of General Oscar, already mutilated by blows from the infuriated people. So intense was the feeling of the people against Oscar that no one could be found who would touch the body to carry it away for burial, and for the rest of that day, and until some time the following morning, it lay in the gutter to be spat upon and mutilated by passers-by, when, after being saturated with oil, it was burned in the streets.
The report of the massacre at the jail proved to be no less correct, and I found that almost two hundred men had been butchered in an indescribably brutal manner. General Oscar, with a few jailers, had gone from cell to cell [Page 315] opening them one by one, and driving the prisoners out into the court had there despatched their victims. The bodies lay piled together just as they had fallen, and from their appearance it looked as if every sort of weapon had been used in accomplishing the slaughter. Among the prisoners there were a few who escaped to recount later the horrors through which they had passed. One told me that when the murderers had arrived at his cell, no key could be found which would open the door. By standing back in the corner he was out of gun range, and could not be reached by a machete. After several attempts the jailers had passed on to the next cell and for some reason did not return. He was released several hours later, when the jail was entered by those who discovered the massacre. Another was struck by a machete as he stepped from his cell, and just as he fell wounded the body of another man who had been shot fell across him, shielding him from further blows. By lying perfectly still and feigning death—even the jailers, simulating a rescue party, called out for all who were not dead to seize the opportunity to escape, and thereby discovered several who like himself had fallen wounded but not killed—he escaped the fate which befell those who betrayed the fact that they were still alive. He said that even more vivid than the horror of the hours which he spent lying upon the floor soaked in his own blood and that of the dead man who had fallen across him, was the memory of the agonized prayers for death of a young boy of about eighteen whose cell was opened prior to his. He said that the jailer, whose enmity this boy had in some manner incurred, before killing him had taken a pair of tweezers and pulled out his teeth, one by one, and then gouged out his eyes. The cries of this boy as he begged the man to use his machete, he said was his one indelible impression of all the horror.
As soon as the news of the massacre in the prison became current and the people began to realize what had happened, the town became absolutely hysterical. An enormous crowd collected around the jail and everywhere that one looked in the streets could be seen little processions headed by two men carrying on a plank on their heads the body of some victim, followed by the friends and relatives whose curses against the President mingled with those of the people who stood in the streets and watched.
Between two and three o’clock I left the Legation and drove back through the town on the way to my house. A very marked difference in the attitude of the people was apparent. While in the morning everybody had been in the wildest state of excitement, there was not apparent at this time any of the surly vindictiveness which was noticeable later on in the day. Just how it had become generally known that the massacre was the result of an order given by the President, I was unable to ascertain. But even at this hour there seemed to be a conviction in everyone’s mind that the President himself was directly responsible for the outrage. Shortly after my arrival at my house, which was in a portion of the city very much removed from the scene of the outrage and comparatively quiet, I received a note from the French Legation saying that they were having a good deal of difficulty in preventing a mob from entering and forcibly taking out the President, and requesting that I come down and render such assistance as I could.
I went at once, passing on my way numerous groups of people of all classes, and the excitement and indignation against the President was at even higher pitch than it had been when I passed through the town an hour earlier.
Arriving at the French Legation, I discovered that a leaderless mob had already invaded the Legation grounds and that the French Minister with the assistance of Mr. Kohn, the British Chargé d’Affaires, had with the greatest difficulty succeeded in getting them to disperse without entering the Legation and doing bodily harm to the President. Naturally everyone was very apprehensive, especially as Madame Girard and the two daughters of the French Minister were at the Legation.
Inside the Legation I found the President, his wife, and several small children, four officers of the army, the Ministers of Finance and Foreign Relations, and numerous servants of the President. The President himself was in a perfect frenzy of fear, creeping about the house like a hunted animal, so terror stricken that when passing an open window he would crawl on all fours for fear some one on the outside would see him and shoot him.
During the afternoon several small crowds invaded the Legation grounds, but were gotten rid of without a great deal of difficulty. Just before nightfall a friend of the two Ministers who were seeking refuge in the Legation came and after some conversation with him both of them left. Through this man [Page 316] we got the report that an organized mob would come to the Legation that night, take out the President and assassinate him. We had already heard this rumor from a number of different sources, but when we saw that the two Ministers preferred to leave the asylum which they had gained at the Legation and trust to passing through the streets unharmed, rather than remain there during the night, we became convinced that the warnings which we had received of the coming of the mob that night were true. This conviction was strengthened when General Charles Zamor, who for ten months prior to that day, had been a refugee in the French Legation, came and told the French Minister that although he had previously told him that he would return to the Legation that night, so that in case anything should happen the Minister might have his assistance, he regretted that he had found it impossible to fulfill that promise, adding at the same time that the populace was so enraged and so out of hand that no one’s influence would be of any weight if they should attempt any act of violence against the President.
Mr. Kohn and myself remained at the Legation that night but for some reason no demonstration of any kind against the President was attempted, and in the morning the town was more than usually quiet. Between nine and ten o’clock I left and went down to the American Legation to see if there was any reply to my cable asking that a ship be sent. The British Chargé and myself had decided that we go to our respective Legations, one by one, so as not to leave the French Minister alone at his Legation, although all of us thought that as the excitement of the previous day had somewhat calmed, the danger at the French Legation was passed. Arriving at the American Legation I found a telegram stating that the U. S. S. Washington would arrive sometime in the forenoon, which assured me that the vessel which was just visible on the horizon when I came down to the town was the United States warship.
I then started back to the French Legation so as to allow Mr. Kohn to leave and go to the British Legation to see if he had a reply to his telegram of the day before, when he and the French Minister both had cabled for ships. Before I had reached the Legation there was one terrific howl of fury from that direction. Turning into the street which runs behind the French Legation, I found my way completely blocked by a mob which filled the street from wall to wall, making it an absolute impossibility for me to reach the gates of the Legation. I could see that something or somebody was on the ground in the center of the crowd, just before the gates, and when a man disentangled himself from the crowd and rushed howling by me, with a severed hand from which the blood was dripping the thumb of which he had stuck in his mouth, I knew that the threatened assassination of the President was accomplished. Behind him came men with the feet, the other hand, the head, and other parts of the body displayed on poles, each one followed by a mob of screaming men and women. The portion of the body that remained was dragged through the streets by the crowd.
I finally managed to turn, and, going around the block, entered the Legation from the other side. There I learned what had transpired in the Legation building itself.
After my departure everything had remained perfectly quiet, so quiet that Mr. Kohn, deciding that it was useless for him to wait until my return, left for his Legation. The French Minister, his wife, and two daughters were sitting in the drawing room, which runs entirely through the building, and from which can be seen the gates at either end of the grounds. As these gates are some hundred and fifty yards from the house, the doors were left open. Before anyone knew that there was even a threat of danger, a mob of some 75 or 80 men were on the porch. They had entered an adjoining property, climbed the wall at one side of the house, and were actually at the door before anyone had even an intimation of their presence. This mob was composed of young men of the best class of Haitians of Port au Prince, and we learned later that they had assembled immediately after attending the funeral services of the three sons of General Polynice, all of whom had been victims of the massacre of the day before. The Minister, assisted by Madame Girard and his two daughters, attempted to close the heavy doors and bar the mobs entrance, but they were inside of the house before this could be done.
The leaders of the mob demanded that the French Minister tell them where the President was hiding, which he refused to do, whereupon they immediately began to search the house. A man, who resembled the President very much and who had taken refuge in the Legation the day before, was seized by several members of the mob who thought him to be the President, dragged [Page 317] from his place of hiding and into the drawing room where he would have been killed had it not been that someone recognized him and apprised his captors of their mistake, just in time to save his life.
The first search of the house was fruitless and the leaders again demanded that the Minister give up the President. He repeated his refusal and another search was begun.
Shortly before the arrival of the mob, a doctor had been at the Legation—in fact was there at the time the mob entered, making his escape as soon as he learned what was happening. He had just finished dressing the bullet wound which the President had received in his leg the previous day, and in the dressing had used iodoform. It was the odor of this drug that betrayed the hiding place of the President. The members of the mob knew that the President himself was the only wounded person within the Legation, and on entering the bed room of the French Minister and noticing the odor of this drug in the room, they began a more careful search there and discovered that there was a closed door behind the head of the bed, which had been moved so as to hide it. The President was found in the bath room into which this door opened. He was seized by the mob, stabbed two or three times in his face, knocked down and dragged by his heels down the stairs, through the drawing room and out into the grounds, vainly protesting that he was innocent of any connection with the massacre of the day before, and begging most piteously for his life. No attention was paid to his protestations, and before the eyes of his wife and children he was dragged down the long driveway which leads to the gates. As he was being dragged along he clutched the spokes of a wheel of a buggy which stood at one side of the driveway, attempting to free himself from his captors. A blow of a club broke his arm and loosened his grip.
While these events were transpiring within the Legation itself, another mob composed of the rabble of Port au Prince had collected in the street before the Legation. Arriving at the gates, which were locked, the President was thrown over to the mob that waited on the outside. No sooner had his body touched the ground than it was literally torn to pieces, as above recounted. No injury was clone to anyone else within the Legation, although if it had not been for a few members of the mob less bloodthirsty than the rest, the suggestion that the President’s wife and children be killed also would have been accepted.
Although the French Legation was the center and objective point of mob’s activities, the wildest disorder prevailed in all the city. There was absolutely no semblance of authority, and there was no one who could be called upon for protection. Every man had to depend upon himself for the protection of himself and property, and there was the gravest apprehension, not only among the foreigners but also among the Haitians themselves. The people were in an absolute frenzy of excitement and rage, and it was feared that, maddened by the bloodshed of those two days, this opportunity would be seized by the people to settle old scores. Besides this there was a great deal of actual suffering, amounting almost to starvation, among the poorer classes, and pillage down in the city was feared. It was believed that the mob would invade the British Legation where Philogene, Chief of the Secret Police under the Sam administration, was in hiding. He was intensely hated, as a number of the victims of the massacre of the day before were in prison as the result of his denunciation, and his assassination would almost certainly have followed that of the President had it not been for the timely arrival of the U. S. S. Washington.
For foreigners the situation was extremely critical. The foreign Legations, up to this time, had never been invaded, but the invasion of the Dominican Legation, where General Oscar had taken refuge, followed the next day by the invasion of the French, took away this last safeguard against violence from the natives. The ignorant classes, having seen these Legations violated with apparently no evil results to the invader, could not be expected to respect their inviolability as they had in the past; and as a result there remained no place of safety, nor was there any Haitian authority which could be looked to for protection.
Under the conditions above briefly set forth, it was believed that for the protection of life and property and the maintenance of law and order, in the absence of constituted authority, it was an absolute necessity that the American forces be immediately landed to assume control of the city until such a time as there should be formed a constitutional government capable of maintaining itself and of affording protection to Haitian and foreign life and property.[Page 318]
After the landing of these forces it was realized that before order could be restored it would be necessary to disarm the native soldiers and police who, in the absence of authority, had become simply an armed rabble. The average Haitian soldier is utterly ignorant, usually unable to either read or write, and as long as such men were allowed to carry arms, roaming at will as they were in the city, no assurance of safety or orderly conditions could be given.
It was also found necessary to assume control of the customs service in order to assure the conservation of the funds derived from this source and to secure their proper and full collection.
As there existed in the other towns of the republic conditions similar to those existing at the capital, it was necessary to take similar action in these places as troops became available.
In the light of all the facts and under the then existing conditions it is respectfully submitted that any action short of that taken could have been but temporary in effect and could neither have produced lasting results nor offered any solution of the questions involved.
There had to be considered:
First, a means of affording immediate protection to foreign and American life and property.
As has been above set forth, at the time of the arrival of Rear Admiral W. B. Caperton aboard the U. S. S. Washington, the head of President Sam was being carried on a pole through the city and what remained of his body was being dragged through the streets by a mob, mad from the sight of blood, and at the same time emboldened by having assassinated the arch oppressor without having experienced the swift retribution which, in the past, had been visited upon those who dared oppose one in authority.
During the thirty-six hours preceding the arrival of the American warship, two Presidents had been murdered, ex-President Zamor having been one of the victims of the massacre in the prison. Two foreign Legations had been violated. There was no authority to which one could look for protection save a self-appointed revolutionary committee whose powers were simply nominal. Mob law held sway, jeopardizing the lives and property of foreigners.
There was no immediate prospect of a change in these conditions. The leaders of the outbreak at Port au Prince declared themselves to be adherents of Dr. Bobo, who at this time was in the vicinity of Cape Haitien, in the extreme north of the Island, and who could not be expected to arrive for some days at the capital to assume in person the reins of Government and to attempt, with the assistance of his revolutionary army, to produce some semblance of order out of existing chaotic conditions.
Each hour which elapsed with the mob rule unchecked added to the danger for Americans and foreigners and largely increased the chance that property would be destroyed and looting begun by the half-starved natives.
In this emergency which could neither have been foreseen nor provided for, the immediate landing of the American forces was deemed absolutely necessary to meet the pressing demands of the situation.
Second, the administration and maintenance of civil order pending the establishment of a constitutional Government.
During the period which lapsed between July 28, the day on which the American forces were landed, and August 12, the day on which President Dartiguenave was elected, there was no Government of any description, as in Haiti the overthrow of a President, ipso facto, dissolves his Government. There was, it is true, the self-appointed revolutionary committee with whose consent the American forces had been landed and with whom, as far as it was possible, Rear Admiral Caperton cooperated in maintaining order and administering the affairs of Government.
However, when this committee arbitrarily declared the Senate and Chambers dissolved, its action could neither be approved nor permitted to be effective. The members of the Haitian Senate and Chambers of Deputies had been in office the four preceding administrations and it could not be admitted that a band of professional revolutionists had either the right or power, in the furtherance of their own ends, arbitrarily to dissolve these bodies.
It was known that the action of the committee was taken as a result of its fear that these bodies, in the exercise of the duty imposed upon them by the Haitian constitution, would elect some other than Doctor Bobo to the Presidency. Knowing that he would not be allowed to lead his army through the [Page 319] country and into the capital and, by its presence, force the Legislative Bodies to name him President, and fearing the action they might take unless so coerced the revolutionary committee issued a proclamation declaring the Senate and Chambers dissolved.
The members of these bodies were notified shortly after the appearance of the proclamation that the action on the part of the committee was not recognized by the United States and the assurance was given that they should convene for the election of a President. This promised protection was accorded, and on August 12th Sudre Dartiguenave, President of the Senate, was elected President of the Republic. This election could not and would not have been held unless the members had been protected when they met for the purpose of choosing a President. It was only the presence of the United States marines on guard throughout the city and around the Legislative Chambers which prevented the revolutionary committee from attempting to prevent the election by force.
Third, the support and maintenance of constituted authority.
After the Haitian Congress had met and under the protection of the American forces held an election for the presidency, possibly for the first time exercising this right freely and not as some chief, backed by his army, dictated, it was seen that it was impossible for this Government, regularly and freely elected, unaided to sustain itself.
Although a general disarmament had been undertaken there were still forces under arms in the Island. The new Government had no military strength. The President was not from the military class and had no army to enforce his authority. Doctor Bobo and his adherents were very much dissatisfied and disgruntled that he had not been the choice of the Congress in its election of a President. A withdrawal of the armed support of the United States would immediately have resulted in the overthrow of the Dartiguenave Government, probably with the repetition of the outrages which accompanied the overthrow of the preceding President. That its existence was dependent upon the support of the United States was an accepted fact by the members of this Government, and it was realized by everyone in touch with the situation that withdrawal of this support would be tantamount to signing the death warrant of the President and members of his Government.
Aside from the necessity of supporting the new Government temporarily, and until it became sufficiently strong to maintain itself, it was incumbent from a humanitarian viewpoint to aid the Haitian people to free themselves from the hopeless conditions which continued revolution and a policy of despotic militarism had produced. In a large portion of the Island agriculture was practically abandoned and in those sections through which successive revolutionary and Government armies had passed the country was devastated, nothing remaining of the crops of the small landowners, as the armies lived on the country as they went. The absolute prostration of the country districts reacted on business in the cities and business was almost at a standstill.
Following the American intervention, and as soon as the ignorant classes found that they were not to be made slaves and their lands confiscated, as the politicians, seeing in foreign intervention an end of conditions which had permitted their exploitation of the country for personal gain, had taught them to believe, conditions rapidly began to improve. Believing that an end of revolution, so long desired, was at last a reality, the landowners began again to cultivate their farms. The men, who under the old régime, through fear of forced military service, had remained at their homes, began to appear upon the streets and to attempt to secure employment. Work of various sorts was resumed, giving employment to laborers and thereby to some extent alleviating the suffering among this class which at times amounted to actual starvation.
Fourth, a means of enabling constituted authority permanently to maintain itself.
Before it could be expected that orderly conditions could prevail in Haiti and a Government possess any degree of stability, or the strength to maintain itself, it was necessary to discover a means of permanently putting an end to revolutionary uprisings.
If this was to be accomplished it was essential that militarism be abolished, that the funds derived from the customs be in some way safeguarded, and [Page 320] their expenditure for the payment of debts contracted by revolutionary chiefs in the prosecution of a revolutionary operations, made impossible.
As has already been pointed out, certain groups of foreigners have financed the successive Haitian revolutions, advancing the money for their prosecution at enormous interest rates and with the assurance that these loans would be regarded as Government obligations and provision made for their payment upon the successful termination of the revolution.
Naturally if a means be found to make such procedure impossible, the procuring of funds for the prosecution of revolutions would no longer be a thing so easy of accomplishment, and without funds no revolution can succeed.
Those who have been on the Island and who, in consequence, have had an opportunity to observe existing conditions, believe that under the operation of the treaty, signed between the United States and Haiti, these results would be accomplished.
The article of the treaty which contemplates the abolition of the army and the establishment of a constabulary to be composed of native Haitians, officered by Americans, presents a plan which should put an end to the militarism which has been productive of so much unrest and suffering in the Island. This not only does away with the menace of a large armed force, the maintenance of which is an enormous drain upon the resources of the country, but the elimination of Haitian officers removes the possibility that some one of them might use military strength to overthrow the President and place himself at the head of the Government.
The articles of the treaty which contemplate American customs control and the appointment of an American Financial Adviser provide, it is thought, an effective means of preventing the use of Government revenues for the payment of revolutionary obligations, and give the assurance that they will be expended only for legitimate demands.
Therefore, with the army abolished and the finances of the country so safeguarded as to make it impossible for them to be considered and counted on as security for loans made by those who consider the financing of a revolution a legitimate business enterprise, it should not be difficult for the Government to sustain itself, and with the support of the constabulary to maintain order, a condition which must exist if the Republic of Haiti is to overcome the well-nigh insurmountable difficulties which a constant state of revolution has produced.