V. 1846 to 1873

In 1846, President Jean-Baptiste Pierrot was overthrown by Christophe’s former lieutenant, Jean-Baptiste Riché. Riché was sixty-seven years old when he became president, and he died the next year. Boyer’s former supporters in the senate selected Faustin Soulouque, a military commander who had served under the late president, to take his place as their proxy in power. To ensure that no European nation would retake the Dominican Republic and threaten Haiti’s independence, Soulouque went to war with the Dominicans. Soundly beaten, however, he lost support back home and had to consolidate power. Much to the senate’s disapproval, he ruled as emperor. Resentment brewed until he was overthrown by his own lieutenant, Fabre Geffrard.

In the 1860s, Haiti experienced prosperity, in part due to the United States Civil War. Once America’s slave-owning states had seceded, President Abraham Lincoln saw no reason not to answer Senator Charles Sumner’s plea to formally recognize Haiti’s independence in 1862. Also the Union blockade on the Confederacy made cotton a scarce commodity, which enriched Haiti’s own cultivators. Meanwhile, Geffrard and his ministers built new schools. They invited African Americans to move to Haiti, and resolved Haiti’s schism with the Catholic Church. This last accomplishment, however, would renew hostility toward Vodou. Geffrard was not without detractors. One such figure, Sylvain Salnave, took over Cap-Haïtien in 1865 with an army. When Geffrard surrounded the city, Salnave escaped into exile. Nevertheless the president’s march on Cap-Haïtien hurt his popularity. When Salnave returned in 1867, he was able to seize power. Salnave’s time as president was consumed by altercations. First the Church disliked his conciliatory attitude toward Vodou. Then his former ally, Jean-Nicolas Nissage-Saget, and a new opponent, Michel Domingue, rebelled. Saget won the war. By 1869, however, Dominicans led by Buenaventura Baez had convinced United States President Ulysses S. Grant to propose to Congress a treaty to annex the Dominican Republic. Hispaniola's independence was nevertheless preserved when senators, mobilized by Charles Sumner, voted to reject the treaty in 1870.