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8784: This Week in Haiti 19:19 7/25/01 (fwd)

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                           HAITI PROGRES
              "Le journal qui offre une alternative"

                      * THIS WEEK IN HAITI *

                        July 25 - 31, 2001
                          Vol. 19, No. 19


(The Second of Two Parts)

We continue this week with our presentation of extracts from Hans
Schmidt's "The United States Occupation of Haiti: 1915-1934"
(Rutgers University Press, 1995). Last week's selection explained
how U.S. Rear Admiral William B. Caperton landed marines in Haiti
on July 28, 1915 and orchestrated the election of a puppet
president, Sudre Dartiguenave. The invasion met fierce resistance
from guerilla fighters called "cacos." They were led by
Charlemagne Péralte, who was killed by marines in 1919.

Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan summed up the
prevailing ignorance and arrogance of U.S. officials and officers
toward Haiti when he declared: "Dear me, think of it! Niggers
speaking French." Schmidt's excellent history lays bare the
racism and brutality which underpinned the intervention, as well
as the hegemonic designs of blossoming U.S. imperialism.

Dartiguenave was elected president on August 12, 1915, by the
Haitian legislature, which convened under the protection of
United States Marines instead of under the protection of a
revolutionary caco army. [Secretary of the Navy Josephus] Daniels
later stated that Dartiguenave's election "was undoubtedly not
the choice of the mass of the Haitian people but only of those
who felt that intervention by America was essential." After his
election Dartiguenave personally thanked Caperton's chief of
staff Captain Beach and insisted that Beach ride in the same car
with him in the inaugural procession. Later Beach remarked that
"Since his election, he [Dartiguenave] has repeatedly and
publicly made known his intention, without reservation, to do
everything the U.S. wishes." Beach felt that Dartiguenave, who
was subsequently nicknamed "The Cat" by members of the American
colony in Port-au-Prince, honestly believed that the interests of
Haiti could best be served by complete cooperation with the
United States.

As had been anticipated by American authorities, the client-
government established by Dartiguenave was unable to control
political unrest without direct American military support.
Because of this as well as increasing uneasiness in Port-au-
Prince and inflammatory propaganda against the government and the
American occupation, Admiral Caperton declared martial law on
September 3, 1915, less than a month after Dartiguenave's
election. Along with the declaration of martial law, Caperton
issued a contingent censorship promulgation which stated: "The
freedom of the press will not be interfered with, but license
will not be tolerated. The publishing of false or incendiary
propaganda against the Government of the United States or the
Government of Haiti, or the publishing of any false, indecent, or
obscene propaganda, letters signed or unsigned, or matter which
tends to disturb the public peace will be dealt with by the
military courts."

Martial law, by which Haitian political offenders were tried in
United States military courts, continued in effect until the
strikes and riots of 1929. Dartiguenave informed the Americans
that the declaration of martial law would greatly facilitate the
passing of the proposed Haitian-American treaty that was to
legalize the occupation.

Even with effective military occupation, control of all custom-
houses and governmental revenues, and a handpicked client-
president, the Wilson administration felt it necessary to
legalize the occupation by means of a formal treaty with the
client-government in Haiti. This treaty, in effect a unilateral
declaration by the United States, was to be cited throughout the
1920s as a solemn moral and legal commitment to continue the
occupation. Immediately after the election of Dartiguenave,
[State Department Counselor Robert] Lansing instructed the
American chargé at Port-au-Prince to negotiate a treaty that
would incorporate all the demands made by Bryan during the
unsuccessful negotiations which preceded the intervention. In
addition, the United States took advantage of its greatly
improved bargaining position and privileged relationship of a
marine bodyguard, to exact new concessions. Lansing wrote to
Wilson that the new treaty was "along the lines of the treaty
which was sought to be negotiated a year ago last July (1914).
It, of course, makes several alterations and additions covering
the ground far more thoroughly and granting to this Government a
much more extensive control than the original treaty proposed."
The additions included the appointment of an all-powerful
financial adviser by the president of the United States,
establishment of a constabulary organized and officered by
Americans, settlement of foreign claims, and American control of
public works.

Despite the presence of a strong American military force and the
cooperation of President Dartiguenave, Caperton experienced
difficulties in getting the proposed treaty ratified by the
Haitian legislature which, during the first two years of the
occupation, was allowed to remain in existence. Caperton's
patience and diplomacy were tried to the utmost, and at times he
thought that the United States might have to set up a military
government and abandon efforts to work through established
Haitian political institutions. Part of the difficulty was
disappointment among the legislators in Dartiguenave's client-
government, which had been unable to bestow offices and expend
public funds because of American control over all revenue. More
than this, Caperton's repeated pledges of a loan and American
financial aid were not backed up by the State Department.

In pressing for ratification of the treaty, Caperton had promised
funds to alleviate the desperate financial embarrassment of the
Dartiguenave government and made allusions to a bright economic
future for the whole country. Caperton's requests to the State
Department for a loan and for the release of government funds
held by the American-controlled Banque Nationale were denied. The
American chargé also urged an advance of funds, saying: "I am
convinced that the Government is using its best efforts to secure
ratification by Congress but its efforts are being seriously
hampered and ratification endangered by the withholding of the

Caperton urgently recommended a loan to bail out the Haitian
government, which had unpaid salaries and was suffering sinking
prestige, and, moreover, has incurred expenses "in educating
country to realize necessity of ratifying treaty." He argued that
unkept promises made by the State Department were weakening the
position of the Dartiguenave government and that "enemies of the
United States and of the treaty are taking advantage of this
apparent lack of support.... American prestige is involved in
this matter." For its part, the State Department had decided to
withhold funds as a means of forcing ratification of the treaty
and advised Caperton and Chargé Davis that the embarrassment of
the Dartiguenave government would only be temporary. After
passage of the treaty the State Department maintained that a loan
could not be procured until after a settlement had been reached
between the Haitian government and the Banque Nationale. In
playing the proffered loan for all it was worth Lansing, who
earlier had suggested increasing the salaries of Haitian
legislators "to avoid their being liable to graft temptations,"
was apparently being more cynical in his attitude toward Haitian
politics than was Caperton.

With the poor coordination in tactics employed by Caperton and
the State Department and the breakdown of efforts to secure
ratification by persuasion, Caperton employed threats and
intimidation which proved successful. In early November 1915, he
asked Dartiguenave for the names of the senators hostile to the
treaty so that personal pressure might be applied, and a week
later he relayed orders from Daniels to inform the Haitian
Cabinet that "rumors of bribery to defeat the treaty are rife,
but are not believed. However, should they prove true, those who
accept or give bribes will be vigorously prosecuted. [Caperton
had been instructed to make the threat of prosecution]...
sufficiently clear to remove all opposition and to secure
immediate ratification."

The treaty was ratified by the Haitian Senate the next day, and
went into effect as a modus vivendi pending action by the United
States Senate, which ratified the treaty unanimously and without
debate in February 1916.

The treaty provided that the United States would aid Haiti in
economic development and establish Haitian finances on a firm
basis. An American-appointed financial adviser and general
receiver of customs would have extensive control over Haitian
government finances, and Haiti was forbidden to modify its
customs duties or increase its public debt without United States
approval. The United States would organize and officer a Haitian
gendarmerie, and the Haitian government agreed to execute an
arbitration protocol with the United States for settlement of
foreign claims. The treaty was to remain in force for ten years
from the date of the exchange of ratifications, which was May 3,
1916. Efforts by the Dartiguenave government to effectively
participate in the drafting of the treaty were thwarted. A later
State Department memorandum noted that "The Haitian Government
attempted to make it appear that this treaty had been negotiated
rather than dictated and suggested several changes in
phraseology," but the department had insisted on its own

Admiral Caperton and Captain Beach, who had successfully
completed their assigned mission of forming a client-government
and procuring the treaty, left Haiti early in 1916. Caperton had
been the senior officer in charge of the occupation for a year
and in this capacity had attempted to rule by persuasion rather
that force. He took great pains not to offend Haitian pride and
was personally liked by the Haitian elite. One Haitian
contemporary referred to him as a "beau vieillard svelte" and an
indefatigable dancer who held his partners tightly. Captain
Beach, Caperton's representative ashore, spoke excellent French
and paid social calls at Haitian homes where he made friends
among the elite.

Caperton's policy of sympathy and consideration toward the
Haitians was officially encouraged by Daniels, who later stated
that he had ordered "all officers to regard themselves as
friendly brothers of the Haitians sent there to help these
neighbor people." Some effort was also made to instruct American
troops that it was desirable to make a good impression. The
detachments that landed at Cap Haïtien were ordered to treat
Haitians with "utmost kindness and consideration" and to make
friendly, if patronizing, gestures toward them. The troops were
advised that "A cheerful word, a friendly pat on the man's back
or the horse's rump, goes far to vitiate the sting of humiliation
and will do much to change the natural feeling of resentment to
one of respect and friendship." Cursing and shoving were
prohibited. In general, the problem of personal relations between
occupying forces and Haitians was not acute at the time of the

With the departure of Admiral Caperton the occupation entered a
new phase. Colonel Littleton W.T. Waller, who had been commander
of the Marine Expeditionary Forces in Haiti and was now the
commander of the First Marine Brigade, succeeded Caperton as the
senior United States officer in Haiti. American Financial Adviser
Addison T. Ruan later remarked: "We have used two policies in
Haiti, one of force and one of conciliation. Admiral Caperton
employed conciliation. He made personal friends of leading
Haitians, by associating with them. general Waller, seconded by
Colonel (now Brigadier General) Butler, adopted a policy of

As Caperton's subordinate in charge of marines ashore, Waller had
not gotten along well with the admiral, whom he referred to as
"insane", complaining that, "Instead of backing up the men who
are working for him, he knifes them when they do well." After
Caperton's departure Waller asserted, "Since he left I have
accomplished a great amount of work."

Colonel Waller apparently recognized that tact was necessary in
dealing with Haitians and once cautioned his impulsive friend and
subordinate, Major Smedley D. Butler, not to be crude in his
treatment of the elite because, "There is more harm done by such
an act than can be remedied by months of work and labor."
Waller's own relations with Haitians, however, were difficult and
strained. This was largely because of his racial prejudices,
which approached outright scorn. He referred to one Haitian
supplicant as "the blackest bluegum nigger you ever saw" and
wrote to his friend colonel John A. Lejeune that "These people
are niggers in spite of the thin varnish of education and
refinement. Down in their hearts they are just the same happy,
idle irresponsible people we know of."

Waller disliked Haitians of the elite governing class, believed
that client-President Dartiguenave was "as big a crook as any of
the others," and stated that "There is not an honest man in the
whole of Haiti of Haitian nationality." His racial prejudice
precluded cordial relations even at the ceremonial level; he
confided to Colonel Lejeune: "They are real niggers and no
mistake - There are some very fine looking, well educated
polished men here, but they are real nigs beneath the surface.
What the people of Norfolk and Portsmouth would say if they saw
me bowing and scraping to these coons - I do not know - All the
same I do not wish to be outdone in formal politeness."

By undiplomatic behavior and insulting directives Waller quickly
incurred the enmity of Dartiguenave. At one point Waller
threatened to leave Dartiguenave unprotected in hostile Port-au-
Prince by withdrawing American forces for twenty-four hours if
Dartiguenave continued to complain to the State Department.

Waller and many other marines made a sharp distinction between
the masses of Haitian peasants and the elite, whose cultural
accomplishments they derided. Toward the end of his stay in
Haiti, Waller said, "I find myself intensely popular with the
people but not on good terms with the ministers of the
government." Major Smedley D. Butler shared this bias. In 1916 he
wrote his father, Congressman Thomas S. Butler, concerning the
death of an elite antagonist: "Last night the nephew of one of
the prominent politicians attacked one of our Gendarme sentries,
firing three shots at him. The Gendarme pursued him, and, finally
blew a hole in him as big as your fist, thus ending the life of a
miserable cockroach. This morning there is a big uproar among the
prominent citizens over the 'unjustifiable' shooting of this
leader of society. However, if all the leaders will only get busy
and attack sentries we will soon clean up this country."

Butler divided the Haitian population into two categories: the 99
percent who went barefoot and the 1 percent who wore shoes. He
expressed affection for the poor peasants but despised the elite,
whom he "took as a joke," observing that "Without a sense of
humor you could not live in Haiti among those people, among the
shoe class." Given the pride and sensitivity of the Haitian
elite, Butler's sense of humor was not appreciated. Disdain for
the educated elite and complementary expressions of affection for
the uneducated, impoverished peasant masses paralleled
contemporary racist values in the United States, where Negroes
were accepted, sometimes with fondness, so long as they "stayed
in their place," while those who exhibited wealth, education, or
ambition were subject to attack as "uppity niggers."

Despite the fact that the client-government was completely
dependent upon American military protection, relations between it
and the Waller-Butler team deteriorated rapidly. In mid-1916,
Butler wrote Colonel Lejeune: "I have told these miserable
ministers what I think of them and if I stay here [Butler
remained in Haiti until March, 1918] they know exactly what to
expect.... There will be a deadline drawn between me and the
Haitiens, the same as there is in Egypt - between the British
agents and the Egyptians.... This Government has lied to me two
or three times, and I do not intend again to trust it or anybody
in it."

In fact, both Waller and Butler favored unimpaired military
government to the client-government arrangement with
Dartiguenave. Waller wrote the United States military governor of
Santo Domingo that "There has never been any doubt in my mind
that a just military government is the method of controlling

The arrogant treatment characteristics of the Waller-Butler
period served to disillusion many Haitians, even some of those
who had welcomed the American intervention as an opportunity for
constructive reform. Dr. William W. Cumberland, the leading
American civilian official of a letter period, observed that "I
regret to say that some of the earlier authorities were in
constant turmoil with the Haitians, usually on racial and
personal grounds." Cumberland described Butler as a "misfit" and
"a man with about as little tact as one could ever meet," and
added that, "For years some of us had the job of trying to heal
up the scars which that gentleman left."

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