Three years after the outbreak of the French revolution, the island of Santo Domingo faced a slave insurrection. A bloody struggle ensued for nearly thirteen years, in which, France, Spain and Britain attempted to gain control over the island. Spain eventually ceded her rights to the western parts of the island to France in 1795 and withdrew from the conquest. The whole island eventually established its freedom by soundly defeating the French forces and forcing an evacuation in late 1803. The independent state of Haiti was declared on 1 January 1804, the first such black state to be established anywhere in the world. The first Head of State was the successful commander of the nationalist forces, General Jean-Jacques Dessalines. He was proclaimed Emperor Jacques I later that same year and crowned on 8th October 1804, two months before his white contemporary, Napolon. The new Emperor did not enjoy his new dignity very long. An insurrection led by disgruntled army generals led to a division of the country between a northern zone, controlled by blacks, and a southern zone controlled by mixed-race mulattos. The struggle resulted in the death of the Emperor while leading his troops against the insurgents in 1806. The subsequent history of the country owes much to the bloody struggle for control between these two racial groups.

General Henry Christophe, C-in-C of the army and unofficial heir to Emperor Jacques I, succeeded him but was only able to establish a stable government in the north of the country. He did not assume the Imperial mantle, styling himself Lord President of a Republic instead. However, a new constitution in 1811 declared the island a kingdom with Christophe as King.

King Henry constructed magnificent monuments, reformed the government, the civil administration and the army. He established a navy, founded a system of public instruction and several learned societies, opened diplomatic relations with foreign governments, and corresponded with societies and institutions in Europe. By all accounts, a successful, learned and enlightened ruler. He was a lifelong admirer of King George III and modelled his court on the Court of St James. At his Coronation he founded Haiti's first Order of Chivalry and a peerage, creating Princes, Dukes, Counts, Barons and Chevaliers. Some of these titles, such as the Duke of Marmalade and Count of Limonade, caused ridicule within certain quarters in Europe and America. However, these were territorial designations based on actual place names in Haiti. No more or, no less reason for merriment than a Prince of Orange or a Duke of Bouillon.

Faced with an army insurrection inspired by the southern mulatto republic, King Henry shot himself before the southern forces were able to take his palace. On their eventual arrival they destroyed Henry's institutions and killed his adherents, and abolished the monarchy in an orgy of bloodshed, beastliness and cruelty. His magnificent palaces, the citadel, fortresses and public buildings were left ruin. In the years since then, earthquakes and cyclones have taken their toll, but their shells remain a proud testament to better days.

Although the whole island was now "united" under mulatto rule, chaos and instability did not subside. In 1843 the eastern, Spanish speaking parts of the island declared full independence and established the separate Dominican Republic. The western parts of the island continued as the Republic of Haiti under the control of French speaking mulattos. Relations were far from peaceful and intermittent warfare between these two states continued for most of the century.

The mulattos attempted to paper over the rift between themselves and the blacks by appointing a series of aged black military officers to the Presidency. They believed that they could control affairs behind the scenes while having a figurehead accepted by the blacks as one of their own. In 1847 they plumped for Faustin Soulouque, an officer of the Presidential Guard, believing him to be a pliable puppet. Within two years however, he succeeded in establishing a new constitution, which revived the monarchy for the third time. Soulouque was proclaimed as Emperor Faustin I in 1849 and was crowned in an opulent ceremony at Port-au-Prince three years later. He revived the nobility on a larger scale than King Henry I and founded four orders of chivalry. However, he ruled as a virtual dictator, ignoring parliament, popular opinion and the powerful mulatto oligarchy. The instruments of his rule included a repressive secret police (les zenglens) and a reliance on the terrifying voodoo sects. Although Faustin reigned longer than his predecessors, he succumbed to an inevitable coup d'etat in 1859. Refused protection by the French Consulate, he sought refuge onboard a British warship and was taken into exile with his family. Faustin lived at Kingston in Jamaica for many years in near poverty, despite press reports that suggested that he had taken great quantities of jewels and gold with him. Eventually permitted to return to Haiti in old age, he died at Petit-Gove, his place of birth, in 1867.

A fourth and final attempt at founding a monarchy supposedly took place in the following year. Haydn holds that General Sylvain Salnave, who had already declared himself President-for-Life, proclaimed himself Emperor in August 1868. However, Haiti was in a state of utter confusion at that time, three rival regimes competing for power in different parts of the country. It is therefore impossible to completely verify Haydn's claim. Salnave was captured, tried and shot by his rivals in 1870.

It is interesting to note that several republican Heads of State were either closely related or connected with their regal counterparts, or received noble titles from them. These included, Jean Louis Pierrot (1845-1846) created a Baron by King Henry I and promoted to Prince by Emperor Faustin I; Fabre Nicolas Gffrard (1859-1867) created Duke of Tabara by Emperor Faustin I; Pierre Nord-Alexis (1902-1908) a grandson of King Henry I through his natural daughter, Blsine Georges.

See under individual dynasty.

See under individual dynasty.

See under individual dynasty.

See under individual dynasty.

Almanach Royal d'Hayti, l'Imprimerie Royale, Sans-Souci, Haiti, 1816, 1817, 1818, & 1820.
Timoleon C. Brutus. L'Homme d'Airain. Etude monographique sur Jean-Jacques Dessalines, fondateur de la nation Haitienne. Imprimerie de l'etat, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 1947.
Hubert Cole, Christophe: King of Haiti, Eyre & Spottiswoode, London, 1967.
Prince Saunders, Esq. Haytian Papers, A collection of the very interesting proclamations and other official documents; together with some account of the rise, progress, and present state of the Kingdom of Haiti. London, 1816.
Gnalogie of Hati and Saint Domingue. http://www.rootsweb.com/~htiwgw/
Thophile Gurin, Biographie de L'Empereur Soulouque, Solution de la question Hatienne. Chez Auguste Durand & E. Dentu, Paris, 1856.
Vergniaud Leconte, Henri Christophe dans l'Histoire d'Haiti. ditions Berger-Levrault, Paris, 1931.
Marceau Louis, L'Imperatrice Marie Claire Heureuse d'Haiti. Les Presses Libres, Port-au-Prince, 1953.
Marceau Louis, Marie-Louise d'Haiti, Prix du Dpartement de l'Education Nationale, Port-au-Prince, 1951.
Sir Harry Luke, KCMG, Caribbean Circuit. Ivor Nicholson & Watson Ltd., London, 1950.

Jacques Petit
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Copyright Christopher Buyers, August 2000 - July 2008


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