"The Battle with the Bank" by Frédéric Marcelin (1848-1917)

An excerpt from Marcelin’s "Question Sociale" (1905). Marcelin was Nord Alexis’s Minister of Finance. Like Alexis, he was upset when French administrators at Haiti’s national bank withheld money to try to make the state accept their every term. Marcelin wrote a letter to Haiti’s daily newspaper, le Nouvelliste, to say that Haiti would sooner starve than yield; the state would revoke the bank’s charter to serve as the national treasury; but there was still time to reopen talks.

For months and months the affair [at the bank] has absorbed and hypnotized everyone in the country. Like the Trouée des Vosges [a deep valley in France], it [consumed and] paralyzed every initiative.

Today, all is consumed. The obsession is over: life, it seems, can be reborn. Most importantly we can also now examine our economic situation that arose when the Banque National imposed on us "conditions that if accepted would have denied all that has led to order in our administration and have been the most blatant insult to our laws and institutions."

Based on these official words, we have come to say that even though the bank was the cause of our problems, it would not help us resolve them. Instead it wanted to profit from our humiliation when it tried to force us to sign a general amnesty. We resisted. We are victorious. What was the cost? 10 million new paper bills and [economic] ruin.

We can affirm that this was a necessary sacrifice for justice, for a sacred cause, imminent in the laws that protect us against the bank which is guilty. Tomorrow, when history is written, it will explain that the bank had its hand over its coffers when it imposed on us [a choice:] shame or hunger. The Haitian people chose hunger.

It seems improbable to me that the Banque Nationale d’Haïti, a French institution stung by our determination, has not made a patriotic attempt to defend the interest of its own race. From its perspective, it needs to be convinced that we will not abandon it, that our history, our language, our mentality will not make us leave to seek aid somewhere other than France.

In light of this experience, we would like to hope that this institution will lend itself to an honorable agreement, fruitful to us both. Such an entente would definitively end the cruel misunderstanding that has always existed between it and the Haitian people. Because once [its charter to serve as the state’s treasury] is revoked, the word "national," in the name it has known for over a quarter century, will be obsolete.