"Boyer and the Outside World" by Erin Zavits
Zavits is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of Florida. Her dissertation will explore how history is commemorated in Haiti.
An outcast, or pariah, among nations that still had slavery in the nineteenth-century, Haiti has often led characterized as isolated from the rest of the world. Although the island-nation did face extensive foreign hostility, international relations were not absent. The development of foreign diplomacy specifically increased under the twenty-five year rule of Jean-Pierre Boyer. These foreign relations fall broadly into three categories: emigration, recognition, and trade.
First, as part of Haiti’s image as a haven for people of African-descent, Boyer, in cooperation with African Americans and abolitionists from the United States, supported an emigration campaign for free people of color. The first wave of migrants arrived in the mid-1820s. Although many faced hardships with adjusting to a new climate and cultural and linguistic environment, some remained and started a new life in Haiti. They would be later joined by a second wave of migrants in the 1850s and 60s.
Beyond increasing the population, Boyer’s diplomacy centered on two goals, recognition of Haiti’s independence and increased foreign trade. Steps towards recognition climaxed in 1825 with a royal decree from France’s Charles X that acknowledged independence in exchange for an indemnity of 150 million francs and favorable trade relations. With French warships resting in Port-au-Prince’s harbor, Boyer agreed to the decree, but over the next decade negotiated more reasonable trade benefits for both countries and a reduced indemnity of 60 million francs. The treaty with France led to other negotiations with European powers such as Britain, a key trading partner, which moved to formalize relations following Charles X’s decree. While the results of Boyer’s diplomacy can be debated, he did secure international recognition and trading rights that gave Haiti an entry into the outside world.