"From Salomon to Légitime" by Jacques Nicolas Léger (1859-1918)

An excerpt from Léger’s Haïti, son histoire et ses détracteurs (1907). Léger was a Haitian statesman who served under many presidents and wrote numerous volume’s about Haiti’s diplomatic history.

Salomon’s term as President would have ended on 15 May 1887. But the National Assembly attempted to keep him in power. Toward this end, the constitution, which prohibited a new term, was altered. And on 30 June 1886 Salmon was reelected president for seven more years.

There was great discontent proceeded [Salmon’s] reelection, which seemed like a move to reestablish presidency-for-life. General Seide Thélémanque, the commander in province near Cap-Haïtien, led those who were malcontent. And on 4 August 1888 he publically stated that he would no longer recognize Salomon’s authority. That same month on the 10th a hostile crowd gathered in Port-au-Prince, whereupon the president immediately announced that was willing to step down.

The task to maintain order was entrusted to a provisional government led by ex-president Boisrond-Canal.

Two candidates eagerly disputed the presidency: General Seide Thélémanque, who had been the commander at Cap-Haïtien, and an ex-senator, F.D. Légitime, who had been the Minister of Agriculture. The elections were hotly contested. And on 17 September 1888 the constituents were elected. Their duty was to choose the new president and most seemed to have been leaning toward Légitime.

On 28 September at night there was an unfortunate clash between partisans of the two candidates in Port-au-Prince. General Seide Thélémanque went with his soldiers to quell the disturbance when, in the darkness, he was struck in the abdomen by a stray bullet and died several hours later. This sad accident had very serious consequences. The Department of the North, the Northwest, and the Artibonite blamed Légitime for his rival’s death and demanded that he withdraw his candidacy. The Departments of the West and the South, however, sided with Légitime.

"The protestants," as the late General Thélémanque’s supporters were called, created a provisional government in Cap-Haïtien. General [Florvil] Hyppolite was made its leader. Meanwhile the constituents in the West and the South met in Port-au-Prince on 14 October 1888 to elect F.D. Légitime as the executive leader.

While the United States was undecided on how to respond, the European powers recognized Légitime’s authority. Hyppolite [ultimately] won-over the Americans because they were uneasy with the intimacy between the new president and the French minister, the Comte de Ses Maisons.

[United States] partiality nearly provoked serious complications. On 22 October 1888 the Haitian man-of-war, the Dessalines, captured an American steamship, the Haytian Republic, as it leaved Saint Marc. [The American ship] had been to several ports in the south with a commission on board whose mission it was to try to turn them against Légitime. The same steamship was also transporting soldiers, arms, and ammunition for General Hyppolite.

The case was submitted to the courts. [But] the State Department in Washington, D.C., intervened. And with some long negotiations the Haitian government agreed to surrender the Haytian Republic which had been taken. On 20 December the ship was given back to Rear-Admiral Luce.

Unable to uphold his authority, Légitime set-sail and left Port-au-Prince on 22 August 1889.