Haiti indemnity controversy

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The Haiti indemnity controversy culminated in an agreement by Haiti to a 1825 gold demand by France for a FR F 150 million indemnity (later reduced to FR F 60 million in 1838, comparable to US$40 billion as of 2010 with consideration to inflation) to be paid by the Republic of Haiti in claims over property lost through the Haitian Revolution in return for diplomatic recognition.[1] The gold demand was delivered to the country by 12 French warships armed with 528 cannons. Diplomatic recognition by France of Haiti came in 1825, twenty-one years after Haiti's declaration of independence in 1804.[2][1] The payment of an indemnity to the former French plantation owners was originally suggested by Haitian president Pétion in 1814 as a way to deter a possible French attack on his country.[1]

Independence debt[edit]

Haiti’s legacy of debt began shortly after gaining independence from France in 1804. In 1825, France, with warships at the ready, demanded Haiti compensate France for its loss of slaves and its slave colony. In exchange for French recognition of Haiti as a sovereign republic, France demanded payment of 150 million francs. In addition to the payment, France required that Haiti discount its exported goods to them by 50%.[3] In 1838, France agreed to reduce the debt to 90 million francs to be paid over a period of 30 years to compensate former plantation owners who had lost their property.[4] The modern equivalent of $21 billion was paid from Haiti to France.[5]

The transfer of wealth from Haiti to the French government and from Haiti to the various banks that financed the Independence Debt is well established. Detailed claims, submitted by former slave owners for compensation, including the monetary value of the "lost" slaves, and which formed the basis for the French government's demands have been documented.

Likewise, the terms of the 1825 Ordinance and accounts of its negotiation have survived.

The French government finally acknowledged the payment of 90,000,000F in 1893. It took until 1947 for Haiti to finally pay off all the associated interest of the debt.[6] The story of the first payment – 24,000,000 gold francs – being transported across Paris, from the vaults of Ternaux Gandolphe et Cie to the coffers of the French Treasury was recorded in detail. Historians have traced loan documents from the time of the 1825 Ordinance, through the various refinancing efforts, to the final remittance to National City Bank in 1947.[4]

2003 demand for reparations[edit]

In 2003, President of Haiti Jean-Bertrand Aristide demanded that France pay Haiti over 21 billion U.S. dollars, what he said was the equivalent in today's money of the 90 million gold francs Haiti was forced to pay Paris after winning its freedom from France.[7][8]

The United Nations Security Council, of which France is a permanent member, rejected a February 26, 2004, appeal from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) for international peacekeeping forces to be sent into its member state Haiti, but voted unanimously to send in troops three days later, just hours after Aristide's controversial resignation.

"I believe that (the call for reparations) could have something to do with it, because they (France) were definitely not happy about it, and made some very hostile comments," Myrtha Desulme, chairperson of the Haiti-Jamaica Exchange Committee, told IPS. "(But) I believe that he did have grounds for that demand, because that is what started the downfall of Haiti," she says." [7][8][9]

The cost to Haiti was arguably much higher than the original sum, because Haiti had to raise the money via loans that carried interest. Conversely, had the sum been invested, it would have yielded 69 trillion dollars by 2014 at a nominal rate of 4% after inflation, or 90 thousand trillion at an 8% annual return commonly assumed for equities.

Following the 2004 Haitian coup d'état, provisional prime minister Gerard Latortue rescinded the reparations demand, calling it "foolish" and "illegal".

2010 earthquake[edit]

Following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the French foreign ministry made a formal request to the Paris Club on January 17 to completely cancel Haiti's external debt. A number of commentators drew references from the early 19th-century indemnity demand and how it had severely depleted the Haitian government's treasury and economic capabilities.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c France urged to Pay 40 Billion
  2. ^ The Briefest History by Africa Speak
  3. ^ https://www.thenation.com/
  4. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-11-12. Retrieved 2011-03-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Sommers, Jeffrey. Race, Reality, and Realpolitik: U.S.-Haiti Relations in the Lead Up to the 1915 Occupation. 2015. ISBN 1498509142. Page 124.
  6. ^ Marquand, Robert (2010-08-17). "France dismisses petition for it to pay $17 billion in Haiti reparations". Christian Science Monitor. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved 2019-08-31.
  7. ^ a b Jackson Miller, Dionne (March 12, 2004). "HAITI: Aristide's Call for Reparations From France Unlikely to Die". Inter Press Service news. Archived from the original on 2 December 2008. Retrieved 20 April 2009.
  8. ^ a b Frank E. Smitha. "Haiti, 1789 to 1806". Archived from the original on 2009-05-14. Retrieved 2009-04-20.
  9. ^ "A Country Study: Haiti – Boyer: Expansion and Decline". * Library of Congress. 200a. Archived from the original on 2009-05-19. Retrieved 2007-08-30.

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