"Prosperity at Mid-Century" by Benoit Joachim

An excerpt from Joachim’s Les racines du sous développement en Haïti (1979). Joachim was a renowned Haitian economic historian whose book won the Prix Deschamps.

The years 1860 to 1864 appear to have been a golden age. This was made possible by two simultaneous factors: one, a bourgeois economic progressivism promoted by young advocates of vocational education who expressed themselves in newspapers like L’avenir [and] Le travail [and, two,] the United States Civil War made cotton scarce and its price high, which in Haiti encouraged its production. This was a time when Haitian coffee brought to the Place de Marseille commanded a price that was not seen since 1824.

Under these conditions and with measures taken by the government—to build mechanical mills to replace the ones operated by foot, to invite immigrants to [come to Haiti] to cultivate cotton, and to provide incentives—there was an increase in production and commercial transactions blossomed more than in earlier decades.

But the collapse would be brutal. The end of the American Civil War corresponded with a fall in cotton prices and other Haitian commodities.