IV. 1821 to 1845
Once Haiti was reunited, President Jean-Pierre Boyer’s top priority was to preserve Haiti’s independence. While he did not trust Spain’s intentions in eastern Hispaniola, he was even more apprehensive toward Dominican separatists who in 1821 declared independence from Spain and asked Simon Bolívar to admit the new nation into Gran Colombia. Boyer assembled an army and in 1822 reannexed eastern Hispaniola. Meanwhile, he cultivated ties with European abolitionists and tried to encourage African Americans to migrate to Haiti. Also he asked other nations, such as Russia, to acknowledge Haiti’s independence. But no nation would cross France to formally recognize Haiti. Finally, in 1825, France decided it would officially recognize Haiti’s independence provided Boyer pay an indemnity. Boyer had little choice but to accept since French ships were already in position to attack had he declined. This debt was a terrible burden, especially since Boyer had to take on French loans to make the initial payments on the indemnity, and he was unable to restore the plantation economy with his repressive 1826 rural code. The Haitian people were fiercely independent. Determined to live as autonomous peasants, many rural Haitians established extended family households known as "lakou" on small properties that were passed down over generations and closely tied to the practice of Vodou as a family-based religion.
Boyer had other problems, too. Haiti remained in schism with the Roman Catholic Church. In eastern Hispaniola, Dominican separatists organized a secret independence movement. Haiti’s cities were threatened by massive fires. The Great Barbados Hurricane laid waste to the south in 1831. And an earthquake struck Cap-Haïtien in 1842. Boyer had political problems, as well. In 1843, he was overthrown by Charles Rivière-Hérard, who promised to make Haiti more democratic. However, no sooner was Hérard in power than he sent his rival, Lysius Salomon, into exile. Discontented with Hérard, peasants mobilized behind a defiant rural police chief named Jean-Jacques Acaau. An even worse blow to Hérard was a costly war to try to suppress a revolution in eastern Hispaniola that resulted in Dominican independence in 1844. Boyer’s former supporters took this opportunity to overthrow Hérard and return to power behind popular proxies, Presidents Philippe Guerrier and Jean-Louis Pierrot.