A COMMERCIAL (NEO)COLONY? THE ROLE OF THE MERCHANT LOBBY IN FRANCE’S RECOGNITION OF HAITIAN INDEPENDENCE, By Mary D. Lewis
A COMMERCIAL (NEO)COLONY? THE ROLE OF THE MERCHANT LOBBY IN FRANCE’S RECOGNITION OF HAITIAN INDEPENDENCE
On May 20, 2022, the New York Times published an important series of articles on the impact of the “ransom” Haiti paid to former French planters for their losses during the Haitian Revolution. As the Times made clear, the indemnity demanded in exchange for formal recognition by France of Haitian independence in 1825 – initially 150 million French francs, later reduced to 90 million – was unpayable from the start, forcing Haiti to borrow money, creating a “double debt” and a cycle of sovereign indebtedness that has constrained the Haitian state for generations.
What gets left out of this story is why French leaders entertained the notion of recognizing the Haitian state in the first place. To be sure, recognition was not on French policymakers’ agenda in 1804, when Haiti first declared independence, or even in 1814. With the restoration of the Bourbon Monarchy, the deeply reactionary settler lobby pushed to “restore Saint-Domingue,” complete with the slavery and violence that was the basis of their previous wealth. “Plans of reconquest [and] redevelopment programmes cropped up everywhere,” according to Gabriel Debien, and the former colonists of Saint-Domingue emerged as “more pro-slavery in 1814 than they were in 1789.” At the same time, however, at the close of the Napoleonic Wars, merchants who were eager to get back to business were quicker than planters to acknowledge that the Haitian Revolution was irreversible. It was they who advised French authorities to recognize Haitian independence.
Read the rest here: https://ageofrevolutions.com/2022/06/20/a-commercial-neocolony-the-role-of-the-merchant-lobby-in-frances-recognition-of-haitian-independence/