"The Restoration" by Joseph Châtelain

An excerpt from Châtelain’s La banque nationale (1954). Châtelain was a respected Haitian economist and banker.

The government [of President Michel Domingue] proclaimed "a restoration." More precisely, its true leader, General Septimus Rameau, who was vice-president of the [governing] council, intended to promote recovery on all levels and inaugurate new policies for prestige and economic development. His program seemed grand and ambitious to his contemporaries. It included the construction of a national palace and a pantheon to glorify the heroes of national independence, the establishment of two railways [and] the installation of six lighthouses… The most dynamic part of the plan was the creation of a national bank to stimulate and support investment in the private sector.

To control the economy, he instituted a radical centralization… Activities likely to contradict the actions of the government were threatened with ruthless repression. In fact, repression went even further and became "preventative." Claiming that there were conspiracies against him, Rameau decapitated the Radical Party by assassinating those whom he considered most dangerous, Brice and Momplaisir Pierre.

Rameau’s ["restoration"] could only be achieved with a loan… At the end of June 1875, the Crédit Général Français issued a loan of 50 million francs to the Haitian government… For the Parisian institution that issued the [loan], it turned out to be very lucrative… The initial payment on the loan issued in March 1875 immediately absorbed 14,528,935 francs. The Haitian treasury received only 7,313,300 francs. Given such meager means, the government had to modify its original plan. It abandoned the idea of repaying the double-debt and also gave-up on its public works…. Facing an almost complete failure to achieve his "restoration," Septimus Rameau hung on fanatically to one part of his plan, the creation of the bank, which he intended to pursue at any cost.

In order to protect Haiti’s citizens, who were violated by this "odious and criminal tyranny," and rescue the country from bankruptcy caused by the financial misconceptions of "a demented mind," General Louis Tanis, the commander in Jacmel, started a revolution [against Domingue and Rameau] on March 7th. The movement quickly spread to all the other areas of the country. On April 15th, President Domingue fled from a riot and took refuge in the French embassy while Septimus Rameau tried to move all the money that was deposited in the national bank to les Cayes by sea. Trapped by the rioters at the wharf, his convoy was scattered, Septimus Rameau was killed [… and] the boxes and bags of money were stolen.