The United States Occupation of Haiti began on July 28, 1915, when 330 US Marines landed at Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on the authority of US President Woodrow Wilson to safeguard the interests of US corporations. The first invasion forces had already disembarked from USS ''Montana'' on January 27, 1914.〔http://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/u/us-occupation-of-haiti-1915-1934.html〕
The occupation ended on August 1, 1934, after Franklin D. Roosevelt reaffirmed an August 1933 disengagement agreement. The last contingent of US Marines departed on August 15, 1934, after a formal transfer of authority to the Garde d'Haïti.
Between 1911 and 1915, a series of political assassinations and forced exiles saw the presidency of Haiti change six times. Various revolutionary armies carried out this series of coups. Each was formed by ''cacos'', or peasant brigands from the mountains of the north, along the porous Dominican border, who were enlisted by rival political factions under the promises of money, which would be paid after a successful revolution, and the opportunity to plunder.
The United States was particularly apprehensive about the roles (real and imagined) played by Germany, which had intervened in the Western hemisphere—including Haiti—at several points over the past few decades to exert its influence as a rival power that was increasingly hostile to American domination under the Monroe Doctrine. In the lead up to the First World War, the strategic importance of Hispaniola, its manpower, material wealth, and port facilities were grasped by almost all naval staffs operating in the Caribbean, including the German and still-neutral American navies. This led to considerable German military and intelligence investment across the island as part of a wider network of German espionage and military interests in Latin America and the Caribbean during the latter 19th century, 1900s, and 1910s.
This fear of German imperial ambitions was mirrored by apprehension and rivalry with the small German community in Haiti, which numbered approximately 200 in 1910 and wielded a disproportionately high amount of economic power.〔(of Haiti, 1915-34 )〕 German nationals controlled about 80 percent of the country's international commerce, owned and operated utilities in Cap Haitien and Port-au-Prince, the main wharf and a tramway in the capital, and owned a railroad serving the Plain of the Cul-de-Sac.〔Schmidt, 35.〕
The German community proved more willing to integrate into Haitian society than any other group of white foreigners, including the more numerous French. Some Germans married into the nation's most prominent mulatto families, thus bypassing the constitutional prohibition against foreign land-ownership. They retained strong ties back to their homeland and often to German military and intelligence networks in Haiti, and also served as the principal financiers of the nation's innumerable revolutions, floating loans at high interest rates to competing political factions.〔 Because of this, they posed an economic threat to American monetary interests and made American political and military leadership fear they were acting as a stalking horse for the imperial government in Berlin.
In an effort to limit German influence, in 1910–11 the State Department backed a consortium of American investors, assembled by the National City Bank of New York, in acquiring control of the ''Banque Nationale d'Haïti'', the nation's only commercial bank and the government treasury.〔Douglas, Paul H. from Occupied Haiti, ed. Emily Greene Balch (New York, 1972), 15–52 reprinted in: Money Doctors, Foreign Debts, and Economic Reforms in Latin America. Wilmington, Delaware: Edited by Paul W. Drake, 1994.〕
In February 1915, Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam, the son of a former president established a "dictatorship," but in July, facing a new anti-American revolt, he massacred 167 political prisoners. All of them were from elite families, particularly from the better educated and wealthier mulatto population with German affiliations. Sam was then enthusiastically lynched by a mob in Port-au-Prince immediately after word of the executions reached them.〔.〕
It is alleged that this anti-American revolt against Sam threatened American business interests in the country (such as the Haitian American Sugar Company HASCO). Because of these competing interests and the possibility of the ''caco''-supported anti-American Rosalvo Bobo emerging as the next President of Haiti, the American government decided to act quickly to preserve their economic dominance over Haiti.〔Weinstein, Segal 1984, p.28.〕
American President Woodrow Wilson sent 330 U.S. Marines to Port-au-Prince on July 28, 1915. The specific order from the Secretary of the Navy to the invasion commander, Admiral William Deville Bundy, was to "protect American and foreign" interests. An additional motivation was to replace the Haitian constitution which prohibited foreign ownership of land.〔"Haiti's Tragic History" http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/01/books/review/haiti-the-aftershocks-of-history-by-laurent-dubois-book-review.html?pagewanted=2〕 However, to avoid public criticism the occupation was labeled as a mission to “re-establish peace and order… () has nothing to do with any diplomatic negotiations of the past or the future" as disclosed by Rear Admiral Caperton.〔Weston 1972, p. 217.〕 The Marines met with resistance from only one soldier, Pierre Sully, who stood by his post and was killed.
On November 17, 1915, U.S. Marines captured Fort Rivière, a stronghold of the Cacos rebels, which ended the First Caco War.〔
The Haitian government had been receiving large loans from both American and French banks over the past few decades and was growing increasingly incapable in fulfilling their debt repayment. If an anti-American government prevailed under the leadership of Rosalvo Bobo, there would be no promise of any debt repayment, and the refusal of American investments would have been assured. Within six weeks of the occupation, representatives from the United States controlled Haitian customs houses and administrative institutions such as banks and the national treasury. Through American manipulation, 40% of the national income was used to alleviate the debt repayment to both American and French banks.〔Weinstein, Segal 1984, p. 29.〕 Despite the large sums due to overseas banks, this economic decision remained controversial. While it helped improve the economic stability and credibility of the Haitian government, it happened at the cost of other expenses, leading to allegations that it froze economic development. For the next nineteen years, advisers of the United States governed the country, enforced by the United States Marine Corps.〔
Philippe Sudré Dartiguenave, the mulatto president of the Senate, agreed to accept the presidency of Haiti after several other candidates had refused. In 1917, President Dartiguenave dissolved the legislature after its members refused to approve a constitution written by Franklin D. Roosevelt (then Assistant Secretary of the Navy)〔Roosevelt asserted his authorship of the Haitian Constitution in several speeches during his 1920 campaign for Vice President - which was at best a politically awkward overstatement and caused some controversy in the campaign. (Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., ''The Crisis of the Old Order'', 364, citing 1920 Roosevelt Papers for speeches in Spokane, San Francisco, and Centralia.)〕
However, a referendum subsequently approved the new constitution in 1918 (by a vote of 98 225 to 768). It was a generally a liberal document. The constitution allowed foreigners to purchase land. Jean-Jacques Dessalines had forbidden land ownership by foreigners, and since 1804, some Haitians had viewed foreign ownership as anathema.〔( U.S. Haiti Rebellion 1918 )〕
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