Freedom is the Foundation of Peace. Without freedom, there is no peace. America, by nature, stands for freedom, and we must always remember, we benefit when it expands. So we must stand by those nations moving toward freedom. We must stand up to those nations who deny freedom and threaten our neighbors or our vital interests. We must assert emphatically that the future will belong to the free. Today's world is different from the one we faced just several years ago. We are no longer divided into armed camps, locked in a careful balance of terror. Yet, freedom still has enemies. Our present dangers are less concentrated and more varied. They come from rogue nations, from terrorism, from missiles that threaten our forces, our friends, our allies and our homeland.
Since the signing of the Treaty of Ryswick between the kingdoms of Spain and France in 1697, the island of Hispaniola has played host to two separate and distinct societies that we now know as the nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. At first encounter, and without the benefit of historical background and context, most observers find it incongruous that two such disparate nations - one speaking French and Creole, the other Spanish - should coexist within such limited confines. When viewed in light of the bitter struggle among European colonial powers for wealth and influence both on the continent and in the New World, however, the phenomenon becomes less puzzling.
By the late seventeenth century, Spain was a declining power. Although that country would maintain its vast holdings in mainland North America and South America, Spain found itself hard pressed by British, Dutch, and French forces in the Caribbean. The Treaty of Ryswick was one result of this competition, as the British eventually took Jamaica and established a foothold in Central America. The French eventually proved the value of Caribbean colonization, in an economic as well as a maritime and strategic sense, by developing modern-day Haiti, then known as Saint-Domingue, into the most productive colony in the Western Hemisphere, if not the world. Haiti, today, is a country situated on the western third of the island of Hispaniola and the smaller islands of La Gonave, La Tortue (Tortuga), Grande Caye, and Ile a Vache in the Caribbean Sea, east of Cuba. Its total land area is 10,714 square miles and its capital is Port-au-Prince on the main island of Hispaniola.
The Hispaniola's indigenous Arawak population suffered near-extinction in the decades after Christopher Columbus's arrival in 1492. The island was eventually repopulated by the late 17th century with African slaves to work the sugar plantations. In 1697 Spain ceded the western third of the Hispaniola, which was then called Saint-Domingue, to France. It became one of the richest colonies in the 18th century French empire. On August 22, 1791, the slave population revolted, which led to a war of attrition against the French. They defeated an army sent by Napoleon Bonaparte and declared independence on January 1, 1804, establishing the world's first Black republic.
Haiti embarked on a path to end slavery in the Caribbean, and to help Venezuela, Peru and Colombia to achieve independence under the revolutionary leadership of Bolivar and Miranda. Toussaint L'Ouverture soon abolished slavery in the neighboring Dominican Republic. Threatened by this attack on slavery and colonialism, the United States and Europe initiated sanctions. In addition to this economic blow, in 1825 France demanded that Haiti pay the French government 150 million gold francs to compensate French plantation slave-owners for their financial losses, and in exchange for France's recognition of Haiti's independence. Years later, the amount was reduced to 90 million gold francs. The Haitian elite who had gained control of the country following independence, caved in to the pressure, seeing this ransom as an inevitable and necessary financial obligation if the country were to be allowed to live in peace and freedom, and resume trade with its former colonizers. It took Haiti close to 100 years to pay off this debt and the debt was paid, not out of the money made by the elite through the export of raw goods, but rather on the backs of the Haitian people who continued to work the land. All the public schools in Haiti were closed in order to make the first payment, the first example of the imposition of a structural adjustment program. Haiti continued to make payments to France until the 1950s.
Today, the people of Haiti have joined with their democratically elected government to demand that France return to the Haitian people this debt - $21.7 billion in today's currency. On behalf of the people of Haiti, President Jean Bertrand Artistide made an official request to France, which has formally recognized slavery to be a crime against humanity. French legislators have verbally recognized the legitimacy Haiti's request for restitution. Although several international lawyers are working on the case for restitution, the hope is that France will act according to its stated principle and pay its debt to the Haitian people without the recourse of international law. Unfortunately, in an echo of the ugly "1825" past, the French government has reacted to this request by placing Haiti on a list of "undesirable" countries not to be visited. "Some analysts believe that France's refusal to support the deployment of an international peacekeeping force to Haiti until after the president's departure was linked to Aristide's unpopular - in Paris - demand for reparations."
Many people, particularly in France and Haiti, are protesting this vindictive response.
American President Woodrow Wilson sent sailors and marines to Port-au-Prince on July 28, 1915, and within six weeks, representatives from the United States (U.S.) controlled Haitian customs houses and administrative institutions. For the next nineteen years, the its U.S. neighbor guided and governed the country. During this period the legal government of Haiti was, both technically and effectively, the U.S. Marine Corps. The specific order from the Navy to the invasion commander, Admiral William Deville Bundy, was to "protect American and foreign" interests.
Representatives from the U.S. wielded veto power over all governmental decisions in Haiti, and Marine Corps commanders served as administrators in the provinces. Local institutions, however, continued to be run by Haitians, as was required under policies put in place during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson.
Philippe Sudre Dartiguenave, the mulatto president of the Senate, agreed to accept the presidency of Haiti after several other candidates had refused on principle. With a figurehead installed in the National Palace and other institutions maintained in form if not in function, Admiral Caperton declared martial law, a condition that persisted until 1929.
In 1917 President Dartiguenave dissolved the legislature after its members refused to approve a constitution written by U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt. However, a referendum subsequently approved the new constitution (by a vote of 98,225 to 768), in 1918. One of the controversial provisions of the constitution allowed foreigners to purchase land. Dessalines had forbidden land ownership by foreigners, and since 1804 most Haitians had viewed foreign ownership as anathema.
The occupation by the United States had several effects on Haiti. An early period of unrest culminated in a 1918 rebellion by up to 40,000 people. The scale of the uprising overwhelmed the Gendarmerie, but marine reinforcements helped put down the revolt at the estimated cost of 2,000 Haitian lives. Thereafter, order prevailed to a degree that most Haitians had never witnessed. The order, however, was imposed largely by white foreigners with deep-seated racial prejudices and a disdain for the notion of self-determination by inhabitants of less-developed nations. These attitudes particularly dismayed the mulatto elite, who had heretofore believed in their innate superiority over the black masses. The whites from North America, however, did not distinguish among Haitians, regardless of their skin tone, level of education, or sophistication. This intolerance caused indignation, resentment, and eventually a racial pride that was reflected in the work of a new generation of Haitian historians, ethnologists, writers, artists, and others, many of whom later became active in politics and government. Still, as Haitians united in their reaction to the racism of the occupying forces, the mulatto elite managed to dominate the country's bureaucracy and to strengthen its role in national affairs.
The occupation greatly improved some of Haiti's infrastructure. Roads were improved and expanded through the use of forced-labor gangs. This violent form of "corvee labor," with chain gangs and armed guards permitted to shoot anyone who fled compulsory service, was widely regarded as tantamount to slavery. The education system was re-designed from the ground up. This involved the destruction of the pre-existing system of "Liberal Arts" education inherited from the French. Due to its emphasis on vocational training, the American system that replaced the French was despised by the elite. Thus, between the two major programs carried out by the government of occupation, the use of forced labor enraged the lower classes of rural Haiti, and the educational reform enraged the urban elite.