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U.S. Army Judge Advocate
General School Library
F O R G O T T E N MY L A I S:
U.S. Intervention, Occupation and Pacification in Haiti (1915-1920)
FORGOTTEN MY LAIS:
U.S. Intervention, Occupation and Pacification in Flaiti (1915-1920)
The Judge Advocate General's School, U.S. Army
The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of the individual student author and do not necessarily represent the views of either The Judge
Advocate General's School, U.S. Arry, or any other government agency. References to this study should include the foregoing statement.
Major Leonard H. Dancheck, U.S. Army
This article is a case study of the causes
and background of the 1915 United States intervention in Haiti, the subsequent United States occupation of the country, the suppression in 1919-1920 of an insurrection that developed in opposition to American control, the alleged atrocities committed during the suppression, the reaction to the alleged atrocities by the nation's press, and the investigations of the alleged atrocities by the'Navy, Marine Corps and the United States Senate.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. THE COUNTRY .R. .
Political and Economic Outlook
Haiti Before 1915
II BACKGROUND TO ITERVE102ION . . 13
Development of American Security Interests
American Economic Interests
The Crisis Approaches
Events in Haiti Prior to Intervention
III. INTERVENTION AND OCCUPATION 31
The Americans Land
American Political Control
The Treaty of 1915 De Facto Occupation
The Intervention in Retrospect
IV. RISING DISCON1TENT WITH THE OCCUPATION. . 42
V. INSURRECTION 62
VI. CRITICISM AND INVESTIGATION . 79
The Barnett Letter
Ferment In The Press
The Press Leak
-"The Chaim Of Military Investigations
The Criticism Continues The Senate Investigates
The Past Is Prologue . 105
The Treaty Of 1915
The Constitution Of 1918
Precept Of The Mayo Court Of Inquiry
Map Of Haiti and Guide
REPORTS UNLAWFUL KILLING OF HAITIANS BY 0 U R MARINES
EVIDENCE OF "INDISCRIMINATE" SLAYING IS ALLEGED BY BRIGADIER G E N E R A L BANIETT.
CUT-MARTIAL G A V E C L U E "SHOCKING CO. NITIONS" REVEALED IN TRIAL OF TWO PRIVATES
-BLAMES CORVEE SYSTEM.
3,250 IN A.LL W E R E SLAIN
--New York Times, October 14, 1920, p. 1.
-HAITIAN INQUIRY AID PUNIRSHEINT
Courts-Martial for Accused Marines and Court of Inquiry
"US.ELAWFUL KILLINGS" FEW
Board of Officers Says They Were Isolated Cases----General -Record Good.
DANIELS NOT INFOIED
Secretary Says He Had No Knowledge of Barnett Charges
--New York Times, October 16, 1920, p. I.
These people are niggers in spite of the thin varnish of education and refinement. Down in their, hearts they are just the same happy, idle, irresponsible people we know of.
--BG Littleton Waller to Colonel John A. Lejeune,
quoted in Hans Schmidt, The United States Occupation of Haiti, l915-1934. Rutgers University
Press, New Brunswick, Niew Jersey, 1971, p. 79.
They are real nigger and no mistake--There are some very fine looking well educated polished men here but they are real nigs beneath the surface. What the people of Norfolk and Portsmouth would say if they saw me bowing and scraping to these coons--I do not know-All the same I do not wish to be outdone in formal politeness.
.--BG Littleton Waller to Colonel Lejuene, ibid. p. 79.
Haiti lies almost directly south of New York
on the eastern side of the Windward Passage, which separates her from the eastern tip of Cuba by 48 miles. The Republic of Haiti occupies the western third of the, island which Columbus called Hispaniola, and the Dominican Republic occupies the eastern portion. Haiti has an area of about 10,700 square miles and an estimated population of 4,768,101 according to a statistical estimate made in August 1969. The Dominican Republic is nearly twice as large in area, but its population is about twothirds that of Haiti.
Appropriately called "Haiti," meaning "'mountainous," by the Indians, at least two-thirds of the country is covered by mountains, which create a massive background for every Haitian city. The mountains cover about 8,000 square miles; the plains, about 2,700 square miles. Largely because of these formidable heights, the principal cities are seaports. Port-au-Prince, the capi-
:a' ,nd largest city, has some 240,000 inhabitants. )ther coastal cities--Cap-Haitien, Gonaives, Jeremie, :ayes, Jacmel, St. Marc, and Port-de-Paix--have populations of less than 30,000. Thus the majority of iiaiti's 4,000,000 inhabitants live in the rural areas.
All parts of the republic have a warm and nota1
bly equable temperature. .Frost, snow, and ice probably do not form anywhere, even at the highest altitudes. The annual mean temperature at Furcy in the mountains is about
66 F.; at Port-au-Prince at sea-level, about 81. The hi."dity is rarely so great anywhere as to cause much physical discomfort. It is probably less than in many tropical regions. Over a period of many years, the rela0
tive htmidity at Port-au-Prince ranged from a low of 63. in February to a high of 750 in October. The daily fluctuation ranged between about 500 at midday and 800 some2
where between midnight and 4 a.m.
There are two well-defined wet or rainy seasons, one in the spring, the other in the autumn. December to February inclusive are the dry winter months and July is
almost always the driest summer month. Generally the southern peninsula is well-watered, with 60 inches or more of rain, except on the southern slope of the western end. The northern plains and mountains receive more than 50 inches, with as much as 100 on the higher mountains., Rainfall decreases from 60 inches on the mountains of the northern peninsula near Port-de-Paix to 20 inches at Mole St. Nicolas on the western-tip. The eastern central region has from 40 to 60 inches, but with a sharply marked dry season. The entire east coast, from Mole St. Nicolas to the Cul-de-Sac plain at Port-au-Prince, is relatively dry with 20-40 inches. This semi-arid region extends from t-he-,coast to the mountains,
The national economy depends on agriculture, primarily exports of coffee, sisal and sugar. There is now some light industry, mainly assembly of consumer articles (portable radios, baseballs) geared to the United States markets. Tourism has been restored as an earner of foreign credits since the death of Dr.
Poverty and neglect, the extent of which is
merely hinted at by the absence of a functioning modern infrastructure, are ineradicably Haitian. Together they condition the direction of contemporary and future political development. The national average per capita gross
national product is the equivalent of about $67, the median is even lower and, according to any of the accepted indices of national wealth, Haiti ranks at the bottom of the Latin American and near bottom of most global scales. Her people are poorer than those of Bolivia, at $164, the second lowest in the Western Hemisphere; the Dominican Republic, $230; Barbados, $370; Martinique, $440; Jamaica, $460; Zambia, $200; and even India, $90. Haitians ranked on the same scale of relative poverty with Tanzania, $73, and Chad, $72, and per capita in advance only of such countries as Botswana, $55, Malawi, $52, and Ethiopia, $52--and these are all figures for 1965 and 1966, since
which time Haiti's relative position probably has worsened.
Haiti's extreme poverty has attracted some
rather bizarre forms of knerican enterprises. Haitian government officials, for example, are involved with North
,ericans in the export of cadavers for medical schools in the States and Canada. The opportunity for a steady supply of product arises from the fact that the usual death list includes a few people without names and ages and the rest: Inconnu, male; Inconnue, Femme; Inconnu, enfant. Very little effort is made to discover thenames and connections of those found dead, and if no one claims them, they can be kept in the deep-freeze or embalmed and sold as an export commodity. Haitian human protein, endlessly augmented by a burgeoning population and atrocious infant mortality, helps to supplement the A.inishing sugar and coffee harvests.
Another business draws blood from donors, returns the red parts, keeps the plasma, and this procedure can be repeated every few days. For both diagnostic and treatment purposes, this plasma is very valuable. Honegrown American plasma drawn from.skid rows tends to be of inferior quality, greatly contaminated with distressing particles such as those that cause venereal disease and
Political and Economic Outlook
Haiti's economic problem is the chronic one
for underdeveloped countries--overpopulation and insufficient natural resources to create an industrial base. Despite the American occupation, from 1915 through 1934, and substantial American assistance following World War II and continued up to 1962, Haiti remains an impoverished and marginal state. Politically, Haiti remains a predatory and unstable state, ruled by a family oligarchy, the Duvaliers, and their shifting coterie.
Haiti Before 1915
During the _eightgenth century the French
colony of Saint Domingue was the richest and the most prosperous of the European possessions in the West Indies. Upon its great plantations, operated by slave labor, was produced an important fraction of the world's sugar supply, besides great amounts of indigo, cacao, cotton and other tropical products. This wealth was concentrated, however, in a relatively few hands, and many of those who owned property lived in Paris and left the management-of their affairs to overseers. Out of a population of more than half a million, there were only 32,000
whites and 24,000 black freedmen. The rest were black slaves working under conditions so destructive of life and so unfavorable for reproduction as to require the constant replenishment of the supply by new importations from Africa. A-ong the whites, there were rivalries and hatreds between the official class, the creole aristocracy, and the poorer Frenchmen,--the petits blancs. All of the whites were set apart by rigid caste distinctions from the free blacks and mulattoes, although many of these had been educated abroad and owned
plantations and slaves.
The natural enmities between the different
elements in'the ruling class found expression in armed strife when the mother country's control became less effective at the time of the French Revolution. Each faction attempted to take advantage of events in France to improve its own position. The mulattoes, exasperated by the white colonists' violent opposition to the StatesGeneral's ineffective efforts to remove the restrictions against them, organized a revolt which was cruelly suppressed. A black uprising in the rich Plaine du Nord destroyed many lives and much property. France's enemies,
Spain and England, occupied portions of the colony. Their troops were eventually driven out by a black leader, Toussaint L'Ouverture, who had formerly served in the Spanish army but who went over to the French in 1794 and soon after became the real ruler not only of the French but also of the Spanish end of the island.
In December 1801, when a temporary peace with England freed his hands in Europe, Napoleon sent a large army which defeated the black leaders and regained control of the colony. Toussaint was arrested, by. treachery, and sent to die in a French prison. Yellow fever, however, almost wiped out the French forces. A new revolt compelled the evacuation of the island in November 1803, and on January 1, 1804, the independenc9 of the Republic of Haiti was formally proclaimed. Those whites who had not already fled were systematically exterminated. During the long period of almost continuous civil strife, marked by appalling cruelty and excesses on both sides, the towns had been burned, the sugar mills' had been destroyed and even the fine residences of the French proprietors had been torn down stone by stone.
Dessalines, who had led the final revolt,' later proclaimed himself Emperor of Haiti, and ruled until his assassination in 1806. The former colony was then divided for a time between Henri Christophe's kingdom in the north and a Republic under Petion; a mulatto leader, in the south, but it was reunited after Christophels suicide in 1820. For the next ninety-five years, Haiti led a troubled existence, disturbed by revolutions at home, by wars with the neighboring Dominican Republic, and by frequent military demonstrations by foreign powers to obtain redress for real or alleged injuries suffered
by their nationals.
Although the overwhelming numerical predominance of the pure-blooded African element always made the black military leaders a powerful political factor, and frequently enabled them to rise to supreme power, the Republic was really ruled, during much of this period, by a small mulatto aristocracy living in the principal towns. There was an impassable gulf between this class and the peasants, who cultivated their small garden patches in the plains or the hills and whose very language, a primitive patois of French-African-Spanish origin,
was different from that of the French speaking elite. Descended for the most part from slaves who at the time of the French Revolution had but recently been imported from Africa, the peasants had inherited none of the European traditions which were the basis o the culture of the townspeople. To them, the Government was merely an alien force, oppressing and exploiting those who could not keep out of reach of the petty military despots who represented it in each locality. They knew nothing of-political affairs and for the most part participated in the civil wars only when forcibly impressed as soldiers by one side or the other. Entirely illiterate, they naturally had no conception of the meaning of the ballot. As this class comprised at least ninety per cent of the population, it was obvious that real republican institutions could not e~xst.
The elite, on the other hand, naturally came to regard the Government as the patrimony of their own class. They alone possessed the education and the intelligence which were required in official positions. The black military chiefs who generally occupied the Presi-
dency were compelled to rely upon them for the greater part of the work of administration. As the native business men found themselves unable to compete with German and other foreign merchants who appeared in increasing numbers with the development of commerce, and who derived great advantages from the protection afforded by their own Governments, the Haitian upper class were forced more and more to depend upon the public treasury for their livelihood.' The condition of the country and the lack of capital made it impossible for those who owned land to develop it, and agriculture remained almost exclusively in the hands of the peasants. The ruling class had little interest in the construction of roads or the improvement of conditions in the rural districts, and the revenues were expended almost entirely for the benefit of the city population.
At the end of the nineteenth century, political conditions in Haiti appeared to have become somewhat more stable, and successful revolts were less frequent. There had been a series of strong presidents, and high coffee prices,--for coffee was by this time the one important export crop,--had brought a measure of prosperity. Un-
fortunately, however, a new.period of disorder began about 1908, with the increasing frequency .of the socalled caco revolutions. The cacos were turbulent, adventure-loving peasants living in the wild mountain country along the northern part of the eastern frontier. Under chiefs who were virtually professional revolutionists, they supported any political leader who wished to purchase their services, and retired to their homes, ready for a new revolt, after the government had been overthrown. The administrations established by their aid at Port-au-Prince had no forces with which to combat them after the caco armies had been disbanded and paid off. Revolutions consequently succeeded one another with increasing frequency, and between August 1911 and July 1915 there were six Presidents, none of whom served so much as a year. During the latter part of this period, new Presidents barely established themselves in office before they were compelled to flee at the approach of the same caco forces which had placed them there.
BACKGROUND TO INTERVENTION
Development of American Security. Interests
A-Merican interests in Haiti were linked to our emerging strategic considerations. These considerations were determined by simple facts of geography. The influence of geography upon history can hardly be overestimated. Even now, although the physical barriers are less obstructive to communications between nations, it continues to play an important role in national and international policies. No nation can ignore the consideration of geography in evaluating the basis of its historical development.
A glance at the map of the Caribbean Sea provides the key for a partial understanding of the history of the island which today comprises the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Lying almost directly between Cuba and Puerto Rico, it is not surprising that it would be discovered by Spain; become intimately involved with any larger powers in that region; and morc importantly be an important strategic link between the east coast of North
America, Europe and the Panama Canal. Geographically, Haiti and the Dominican Republic are at a point commanding the entrance to the Caribbean and even the whole of Central America. This strategic position has historically meant that both countries would be affected in some way by the world's great sea powers and expecially the United States. Indeed, if Cuba is only "ninety miles from American shores;" then Haiti and the Dominican Republic are not much farther. The United States has long maintained a military-political-strategic interest in this area which has frequently been referred to as
Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century southern Americans sought to isolate Haiti in order to prevent the possible spread of "black power" to the United States, while their cousins from New England pushed the sale of fish and rum there as intensively as they could. However, during the last thirty or forty years of the century--especially after the recognition of the republic by the United States in 1862--The Americans grew more aware of the potentialities of Haiti, and looked
with a covetous eye upon the Mole St. Nicolas, a wellprotected harbor on the northwestern coast of Haiti and a mere sixty miles across the Windward Passage from Cuba. American policy essentially consisted of ignoring Haitian internal problem's and of making absolutely certain that no foreign power gained control of the Mole. At times American administrations sought to persuade Haitian governments to cede the Mole, and there were some influential Americans who were willing to use martial means in order to acquire it, but successive Haitian leaders resisted all blandishments and promised firmly to oppose any and all encroachments upon Haitian sovereignty. Never-, theless, the American navy successfully visited Haitian ports in order to protect American life and property on eight occasions between 1857 and 1900. After the turn of the century, when the construction of the Panama Canal made the Mole strategically that much more important, and when Haitian instability became even more apparent, ships of the United States Navy interfered on behalf of Americans 10
and American interests an additional eleven times.
In the second half of. the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, the general policies of the United States in this area developed primarily in response to three separate, but interrelated setsof events:
(1) the- Spanish-American War, which turned the Caribbean into an American lake; (2) the acquisition of canal rights in Panama; and (3) the application of the Roosevelt Corollary of the Monroe Doctrine that the United States 'would ensure against European" interventions in the Latin American and the Caribbean area by assuming the burden of policing those countries in this area that were delinquent in honoring their international debts.
A former Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American affairs, Mr. Sumner Welles, has provided the best exposition of our interests in the Caribbean area:
The interest of the United States in the
preservation of peace and in the maintenance
of order in certain of the Republics which lie to the noa:th of tho South 4raerican continent is not defined by the Monroe Doctrine
except in the limited senL-e announced by
President R'oosevelt in his message of 1905
to the United States Senate regarding the
Dominican Republic. In the event that there
exists in any of those Republics an 'impotence
resulting in the loosening of the tics of
civilized society,' of so grave a character
as'to threaten to make possible the noxious
intervention of some non-American Power, the
United States will use its power to remove
the cause of that peril.
.The protection of the Panama Canal is
a question of vital importance to the Government-of the United States. Any chaotic condition in a Republic adjacent to the Canal
which actually, not theoretically, threatens
the security of the Canal must in itself be cause for action on the part of the United
It may confidently be asserted that since
the acquisition of the Panama Canal Zone by
the United States every American Secretary of
State has regarded the preservation of peace and maintenance of the orderly procedure of
CGovernment in the region of the Caribbean as
a matter of deep concern to the United States.ll
[Emphasis supplied by author.]
,merican Economnc interests
Between 1870 and 1913, the United States increased its share of the Haitian market from 30 to about
60 per cent. Haitian imports from the-United States,
primarily in pork, lard, flour, soap, fish, and cotton
textiles, were worth about $6 million, but this figure
represented less than 2 per cent by value of total United
States exports. Nor were American investments of startling
magnitude. Two wasteful railway concessions (of 1876 and
1904) were originally owned by Americans, but by 1910
both had been assumed by German firms In that same year
James P. McDonald, an American entrepreneur, gained.control of a comprehensive port improvement and rail network concession for which the government of Haiti guaranteed all investors, in exchange for evidence of progress, the payment of principal and interest on its constriction bonds. (McDonald had intended to grow bananas along the line of rail, with Haitians, typically, expecting to defray the bond guarantees by the payment of export taxes on the bananas.) A New York syndicate led by W. R. Grace & Co. and numbering among its stockholders several officers of the National City Bank of New York purchased half of McDonald's concession, the other half going to a British syndicate. It was intended that this consortium should build a national railway from Port-au-Prince to Cap Haitien, but by 1914, when Haiti grew dissatisfied with the line and refused to make further payments, the company could claim merely to have constructed three poorly maintained and badly separated sections of the railroad. There were lengthy gaps between St. Marc and Gonaives and Ennery and Bahon; through traffic was impossible, three-sets of rolling stock had to be maintained, what was completed seemed shoddy, and, as if to add insult
to injury, the main section had been sited two miles out or Port-au-Prince, in the middle of a mire.
American interest in the railway coincided
with and contributed to an involvement in the only other significant Annerican investment in Haiti before 1915. The republic's Banque Nationale had been controlled by French investors since its inception in 1881. It collected the principal revenues of the country, acted as a depository for official funds and the national paymaster and, in sum, exerted a control over the republic's finances which was intended primarily to serve tht interests of foreign creditors. In 1905, after the discovery of blatant and outrageous frauds (several men who subsequently became presidents of Haiti were implicated along with the bank's French directors), the Banque Nationale lost its most lucrative quasi-governmental functions. in 1909-10, however, after the inauguration of a new haitian government, French and German interests sought a contract for a reorganized Banque which would enable them to collect Haiti's custoias revenues, obviously the republic's most accessible and most negotiable
financial resource. By this time the Germans in Haiti numbered about 200. They controlled nearly 80 per cent of all international commerce (imports of textiles and consumer goods and exports of coffee), owned the public utilities in Cap Haitien and Port-au-Prince, the main wharf in the capital, the Chemin de Fer de la Plaine du Cul-de-sac (the railway serving the sugar producing area near Port-au-Prince. in addition, the Hamburg-American was the principal steamship line serving Haiti. German merchants in Haiti also were notorious for financing revolutions that periodically ezrierged from the North of
The National City Bank, to a large extent because of the personal interest of two of its, officers in the national railway, had become equally interested in obtaining access to Haitian revenues which could easily
be earmarked. At the same time, the State Department in Washington indicated its tunwillingness--for strategic reasons already implied by the Roosevelt corollary to the Monroe Doctrine--to accept increased German and French economic influence in Haiti. They were less opposed to
financial hegemony per se than to the possibility that such financial stakes would, in the event of future Haitian instability, provide an excuse for German or French intervention and occupation of an island coMmanding the Windward Passage. The American government forcibly made its opposition known to the Haitians as well as the German and French consortia. Yet, this antagonism to an agreement "so detrimental to American interests, so derogatory to the sovereignty of Haiti, 14
and so inequitable to the people of Haiti," failed to deter the Haitians, many of whom hoped to profit personally from signing away their national financial independence. But it gave the Franco-German consortia pause. The German banking interests decided to play a less dominant role; 40 per cent of the ownership of the Banque was divided among four American firms, including National City, and the remaining German financial house,
having 10 per cent ownership, agreed to subordinate itself .o .leadership. The trench consortium retained a 50 percent stake. Even so, the State Department was only with reluctance persuaded by National City personnel to withdraw its objections to the Banque con-
tract. The department finally acceded to the verytprofitable arrangements whereby the new bank would collect a commission on all monies received and expended on the government's own account, with a further commission for payments in foreign currencies, would purchase a French loan at a mere 72.3 per cent of pay (a recent Dominican bond issue had been bought at 98.5' per cent), and would replace the existing and depreciated paper currency with
imperfectly secured notes of its own issue. In addition, the Banque became responsible for the service of external debts (in which its managers obviously had a distinct personal interest) and, onerously, the supply--on a monthly basis--of the operating funds of the Haitian government. But the State Department balked at Haiti's own willingness to transfer control over customs revenues to the Banque, and this provision, which was to become an important source of friction, was eliminated from the concession as implemented from 1911.
It immediately became apparent that the directors of the National City Bank regarded Haiti with special concern. Roger L. Farnham, a vice-president of
National City, became a central figure in the operations of the Banque Nationale and the national railway. Still, overall American investment (in the railway, the Banque, a cotton plantation, a small copper mine, and other miscellaneous operations) amounted in 1913 to no more than $4 million at a time when total American direct investment in Latin America amounted to $1.7 billion, in16
cluding $800 million in Mexico and $220 million in Cuba. Considered as an aspect of dollar diplomacy, therefore, Haiti was of only marginal concern to the United States before 1915. Yet it was geographically proximate aid, Washington tended to argue, if it fell into the wrong hands, it would prove a source of acute embarrassment 17
to the United States.
The Crisis Approaches
President Wilson and William Jennings Bryan, his first Secretary of State, were unusually fearful of strategic embarrassment in the Caribbean. They persuaded themselves that interference and intervention in the affairs of smaller countries represented a legitimate exercise of .Aerican power if the implicit and explicit aims of each intervention were demonstrably progressive. The
Haitian policy of the Wilson administration, although failing with in this rubric and its corollary--that the introductic-I of American capital into the Caribbean would, in accord with a new Gresham's law, drive out the lucre of Europe--was also directly influenced by the fact that Bryan depended primarily upon one man--Farnham of the Banque Nationale, the railway, and National City-18
for information about Haiti. At the same'time, Farnham and his colleagues contributed to the continued instability of Haiti (by restricting the income of the Haitian government and causing defaults on debts) in an attempt to compel the introduction of an American run customs receivership.
and, ultimately, American intervention. There was the Dominican precedent, and there is abundant evidence that Farnham continually pressed the short-lived Haitian governments of 1912-15 for a voluntary cession of their customs houses. As a result of his influence upon Bryan, Farnham was ideally placed to encourage a decision to intervene. He was able to magnify the threat of German and French interference, and, after the outbreak of World War I, to remind Bryan and Wilson of the (then improbable) prospect
that Germany would find the Mole St. Nicolas an attractive coaling station for her warships and an ideal harbor for her U-boats. Simultaneous, Farnham and the Banque could tighten the screws internally and stress the dangers of Caribbean instability when advising Bryan and Wilson.
War in Europe intensified the pressures on Haiti. As a proportion of the funds of the Banque Nationale were tied up in France, credit became tighter, and the customary advances to exporters, and to the speculators, or middlemen, upon whose efforts the collection of the 191415 coffee crop depended, were largely denied. Combined with a shortage of shipping, this meant that the movement of coffee was severly curtailed. Subsequently, too, France ceased all purchases of the Haitian coffee on which the republic's economy largely depended. The Banque, which had always serviced debts before supplying the goverinment with funds for its own purposes, became even more reluctant to provide monthly "allowances." The Banque finally promised funds, but only if the government would accept an American receivership. In turn the Haitian government, driven by financial necessity and alarmed at
the quality of its three piece railway, defaulted on national railroad bonds, threatened to seize the line, and raised punitive loans internally, the majority of which were subscribed to by the German business houses. Polit20
ically, too, Haiti had reached the brink of chaos. Cacos held successive governments at their mercy and no single man, or group of men, seemed capable of overcoming the structural shortcomings of the country. Certainly, the officials of the Banque, and the equally grasping German and French representatives, actively undermined what was left of Haitian stability. By early 1915 the ziachinations of these various parties had even resulted in abortive negotiations for a voluntary occupation. Bryan and Wilson, pushed by Farnham and frightened that the Germans and French might--even in the middle of a distant war--choose to intervene, were disposed to act preemptively themselves.
Events in Haiti Prior to Intervention
On July 2, 1914, the America Minister at Portau-Prince had been instructed to sound out the Haitian Government regarding its willingness to enter into a
treaty giving the United States control over the Haitian
customs. Negotiations had hardly been begun, however, before a new revolution occurred. The Department of State had apparently been prepared to uphold by force President Zamor, with whom it had been negotiating, in order to bring about not only the signature of the desired treaty but also an agreement similar to that recently effected in the Dominican Republic for the holding of an election under American supervision. The Government fell so suddenly, however, that there was no opportunity for such
On November 12, 1914, two days after the inauguration of President Theodore, the American Minister was instructed to inform him that he would be recognized when a commission had been named with full powers to negotiate with the United States (1) a convention providing for the establishment of customs control, (2) a settlement of questions affecting the National Railway and the National Bank, (3) an agreement by Haiti to give full protection to all foreign interests in Haiti, and (4) a pledge never to lease any Haitian territory to any European government
for use as a naval or coaling station. The Department subsequently added to these conditions a requirement that a protocol be signed for the arbitration of pending
American claims. President Theodore, however, declined to accept the proposed customs control and the American Minister was instructed that the Government of the United States had no desire to assume any responsibility in connection with Haiti's fiscal system except in accord with the wishes of the Haitian Government and 24
that he was not, therefore, to press the matter. Renewed revolutionary activity soon interrupted the negotiations again. Mr. Bryan, nevertheless, continued his effort to apply in Haiti the same policy which had been followed with apparent if not lasting success in the Dominican Republic. In November 1914 he had sent to the American Legation a copy of the so-called Wilson Plan, with the suggestion that it might serve as a basis 25
for the establishment of peaceful conditions in Haiti, and on February 20, 1915, ho informed the Legation that President Wilson was sending to Haiti the same commissioners,--Ex-Governor Fort and Mr. Smith,--who had re26
cently established peace in the neighboring Republic.
The commissioners arrived just after the proclamation of Guillaume Sam, Theodore's successor, and they returned
to Washington ten days later, apparently without having carried on any important negotiations with the Haitian Government. Mr. Paul Fuller, who was sent to Port-auPrince about two months later to make a new effort to negotiate a treaty, appears to have accomplished equally
little. It was clear by July 1915 that no Haitian Government would be likely to accept the measure of control ,:hich the Department of State considered necessary for the establishment of political and financial stability.
Guillaume Sam had been proclaimed President on March 4, 1915. A new revolution began almost immediately in the north, and a large number of persons suspected of complicity, including many members of prominent families, were im.mprisoled in the penitentiary at Port-au-Prince. On July 27, when an uprising occurred in this city, 167 of these prisoners were massacred by order of the commander of the prison, who subsequently fled to the Dominican Legation but was found there by a mob and killed. On the following day a mob invaded the French Legation,
where the President'had taken refuge, dragged him -ut of his hiding place, and literally tore him to pieces in the streets. There was a complete disappearance of constituted authority at Port-au-Prince, for the revolutionary army was still in the north. A self-appointed revolutionary committee assumed authority in the city but was unable to control either the disorganized soldiers or the hysterical populace, and there was intense apprehension for the safety of foreigners.
INTERVENTION AID OCCUPATION The Americans Land
The manner by which the intervention was accomplished established a pattern for Haitian-American relations. On July 28, 1915, Admiral William B. Caperton, commanding the U.S.S. Washington, landed 330 sailors and Marines in Port-au-Prince. Meeting almost no organized resistance, Caperton very quickly gained command of the city. By the end of the first week, the American military command had made its presence felt in nearly all of Haiti's major towns. Within the first six weeks Marines (there soon were 2,029) had taken over the country's customs houses and assumed control of its other administrative organs. By then, too, the Marines had disarmed and dispersed the 1,500 cacos who had accompanied a Dr. Bobo to the capital in support of his candidacy for president.
There had been little organized military opposition to the landing of United States forces in July,' 1915. Those Haitians who were determined to resist the
United States occupation withdrew into the interior of the country where a number of caco armies, supporting the revolution against President Sam and the candidacy of Dr. Bobo, were already in the field. Subjugating these bands of poorly equipped guerrillas was the original an'd continuing military objective of the Marine forces in Haiti.
Caco armies consisted of peasant soldiers who were enlisted in short-term military adventures by regional military chiefs in the interior of Haiti, especialy in the wild and mountainous north. The regional chiefs, self-styled "generals," were allied with urban politicians who provided funds and political leadership. Prior to the American intervention, cacos had provided the military punch behind the numerous Haitian revolutions, serving as mercenary armies on behalf of successive Presidential candidate. They were armed only with machetes and obsolete rifles, but possessed great tactical mobility and were able to disappear into the countryside when pursued by superior forces. A caco soldier was indistinguishable from an ordinary peasant once he had discarded
his weapon and removed a small identifying red patch from his clothing. Cacos continued to be characterized simply as bandits in American military reports, irrespective of the fact that caco efforts were eventually directed solely toward the nationalistic political objective 28
of driving the Pmericans into the sea.
The initial pacification in 1915 was carried
out by the complementary devices of bribing cacos to turn in their weapons, and by forceful Marine pursuit and extermination. While the Marine landings and the establishment of American authority in the coastal cities were accomplished with ease, the problem of pacification in the interior was complicated and difficult. Numerous caco bands remained loyal to exiled presidential candidate Dr. Rosalvo Bobo. Cacos interfered with food supplies to American occupied coastal cities, raided Marine encampments, and impeded railroad communications. Pacification of these bands was achieved during the six months following the intervention. Thereafter, with the establishment of Marine outposts throughout the interior, caco activities declined until the American forced labor road building program of 1918 and the massive Haitian uprising
American Political Control
Admiral Caperton, on orders from President Wilson, had started searching for a suitable President of
Haiti. Both President Wilson and Secretary of State Lansing knew that the American occupation rested upon no legally secure ground; instead of straightforward direct rule by the military, they sought to install a pliable Haitian government which could be counted upon to cooperate with the United States and, most importantly, 31
to sign a treaty of abnegation. Philippe Sudre Dartiguanave, the mulatto president of the Senate, offered himself as president after three other distinguished Haitians declined to sully their patriotism and Dr. Bobo had been rejected as a candidate by Admiral Caperton's chief emissary. "For you," he told Dr. Bobo, "I have nothing but kindly feelings. .but Admiral Caperton directs me to inform you that you are not a candidate for the Haitian presidency. And further, that instead of be32
ing a patriot, you are a menace and a curse to your country."1
The election of an acquiescent president was only the beginning of American involvement. Widely expressed disaffection in Port-au-Prince,-and Dartiguenave's
own anxieties, encouraged Admiral Caperton to declare martial law (censorship accompanied it) on September 3, 1915. And "martial law," as an American editor later wrote, "is martial law. It cannot be camouflaged into 33
a tea party or a benefit performance." This state, which lasted until 1929, permitted political offenders to be dealt with according to American military codes (military justice in contemporary Haiti, which is widely used for political offenders, is still based on United 34
States naval regulations).
The Treaty of 1915
Martial law, the threat of military pressure,
and the withholding of budgetary support also facilitated the passage through the reluctant Haitian legislature on November 11, 1915 (the United States Senate ratified it in February 1916) of a treaty which, technically at least, 35
legitimized the occupation.
Under the terms of the treaty the United States undertook to use its good offices to aid the Haitian government in the proper and efficient development of its agricultural, mineral, and commercial resources and in
the establishment of the finances of Haiti on a firm and solid basis. It was authorized to nominate, and Haiti to appoint, not only a general receiver to supervise customs but also a financial adviser. (This article obviated the difficulty that the United States was then having with the Dominican Republic over the appointment of a financial adviser,) Haiti was not to increase its public debt except by previous agreement with the United States, and undertook to create an efficient Haitian constabulary, organized and officered by Americans. The treaty stipulated that Haiti agreed "not to surrender any of the territory of the Republic of Haiti by sale, lease, or otherwise, or jurisdiction over such territory, to any foreign power or powers that will impair or tend to impair the independence of Haiti." A protocol with the United States was to provide for the settlement of all foreign pecumiarv claims. Engineers, nominated by the United States would lend "efficient aid for the preservation of Haitian Independence and the maintenance oZ a Government -dequate for the protection of life, property and individual liberty." The treaty was to remain in force for ten years
from the date of ratification "and further for another term of ten years if, for specific reasons presented by either of the contracting parties, the purpose of this 36
treaty has not been fully accomplished."
De Facto Occupation
The Haitians who had signed and ratified the treaty primarily in order to escape foreign military government even if it meant surrender to a certain degree of civilian supervision were dismayed as months passed with Admiral Caperton's naval appointees continuing to collect the customs, dispense the public funds, and control municipal administration, public works, sanitation, and other civil functions in addition to ordinary police duty. Even after the belated arrivqi of regularly appointed treaty officials the officers of the occupation and the constabulary (actually named the Gendarmerie pursuant to the Agreement of September 16, 1915, between Haiti and the United States establishing 37
this paramilitary, Marine-officered police force) showed "reluctance" to turn over to them "the functions 38
that properly would come within their cognizance."
When, finally, all the treaty services had been organized and the Cendarmerie had shown itself capable of maintaining order, it was expected, on the basis of American assurances, that the Marines would be withdrawn, to return only in the event of fresh disturbances, as had been the case in Cuba, but instead the military regime was continued in the sense that for nearly twenty years the ultimate authority in Haiti was vested in the senior American officer rather than in the president of the republic and was derived from Caperton's proclamation of "martial law" rather than from the treaty or the Haitian constitution.
Caperton's successors exercised their proconsulship from their capital at Santo Domingo,. where they were personally discharging the functions of the Dominican
presidency. Their sub-proconsuls for Haiti were the commanding officers of the Marine brigade, who ruled the la-nd by ruling the Haitian president rather than by taking his office themselves. The Gendarmierie, nominally a treaty service subject to presidential control, but actually a subsidiary of the occupation, relieved the Marines of police duty, so that the military government
came into direct contact with the people only through the provost courts, which continued to enforce "martial
law." However, on occasion the brigade commander revealed his absolute power to intervene in any phase of Haitian affairs without reference to any treaty pro41
American Marine officers who commanded the gendarmerie were veritable potentates in their re42
spective districts. Within their districts, which numbered eighteen, they exercised normal police functions, supervised travel and traffic and weights and measures, prevented smuggling, collected vital statistics, enforced the sanitation code, supervised the prisons and, simply speaking, were fully "in charge" of their rural fiefs. Like district administrators in colonial Africa, an officer in the Gendarmerie found himself with virtually
unlirmiited power. "He is the juege of practically all civil and criminal cases," wrote a contemporary observer. "He is the paymaster for all funds expended by the national government, he is ex-officio director of the schools, inasmuch as he pays the teachers. He contrbls the mayor and city council, since they can spend
no funds without his O.K. As collector of taxes he exercises a strong influence on all individuals in the
The Gendarmerie was actually controlled and directed by the Americans, despite the contrary intent expressed in the formal terms of the Gendarmerie Agreement. In Article IV this police force was to be "subject only to the direction of the President of Haiti." Article XI reiterated this, stating the "Haitian Gendarmerie shall be under the control of the President
of Haiti." The Marine officers in command of the Gendarmerie did take up matters directly with the Haitian President; but the latter, in spite of the agreement, does not appear to have exercised exclusive superior 45
authority over the Gendarmerie, and the American brigade commander frequently gave orders to the chief of
The Intervention in Retrospect
Although the excesses of Vilbrun Guillaume Sam's government, the resultant disorders in Port-auPrince, and the possibility of renewed clashes between the forces of President Sam and Dr. Rosalvo Bobo, his
sometime minister of the interior, provided the immediate pretext for the American interference in the affairs of Haiti, Wilson's government had long before decided upon the desirability of American occupation and had drafted the necessary plans. Landing operations were sanctioned as early as July 1914, notices of an occupation of Haiti, with spaces for the appropriate day and month, were prepared at about the same time, and there was a "Plan for Landing and Occupying the City 6f Port-au-Prince" which 47
dated from November 1914. American warships cruised in Haitian waters throughout this period, and made their presence felt during the abortive negotiations of 1915. Only the departure of Bryan from office in June 1.915, his replacement by Robert Lansing, who distrusted Farnham but was also a pronounced German-ophobe, and the outbreak of renewed disorders (any riots would do) were needed to make the contingency plans real. Wilson declared that the intervention in Haiti was a humanitarian response to the total collapse of indigenous abilities to maintain law and order, but a compassionate examination of the -available evidence suggests a deeper concern for America's national interests than for her moral
responsibilities in a troubled and disturbed world.
RISING DISCONTENT WITH THE OCCUPATION The Corvee
The need of highways in Haiti, not only for
military purposes and economic development, but also to bring the people of the South and North into closer social relations, was realized by the Americans from the very beginning of the occupation. Lacking adequate funds for a major road building program because of the fiscal pauperage of the client-government, the Americans revived an 1864 Haitian law, discovered by Major, later Brigadier General, Smedley Butler, the first Chief of the Gendarmerie, by which peasants were required to perform labor on local roads in lieu of paying a road tax. This law, Article 54 of the Rural Code of the Republic of Haiti, provided that:
.public highways and communications
will be maintained and repaired by the inhabitants, in rotation, in each section
through which these road3 pass, each time
repairs are necessary.49
This system, known as the corvee, had its historical roots in the unpaid labor which French peasants owed their feudal lords.
The enforcement of this law being in the hands of the police, the Gendarmerie took the necessary steps to recruit laborers. Working parties obtained under this law, similar in effect to the old road tax laws in the United States whereby citizens were either required to pay a certain road tax or work in lieu thereof for a certain period on the public highways, were called corvees. The mayors of the various localities in which road construction was to take place furnished lists of the inhabitants in their jurisdictions, whereupon the Gendarmerie prepared and delivered notification cards directing these people to report at a designated place near their homes for work on the roads or, in lieu thereof, pay a specified tax. The poverty of the inhabitants prevented almost all from paying the tax and obligated them to work instead. The Gendarmerie built co~vee camps at which these workmen were housed end furnished with food, drink and entertainment.
In time, the corvee became an impressment
system of road labor complete with internment camps. Orders were issued that no inhabitant should be compelled to perform corvee work outside his own district,
or should be forced to exceed the period of labor required by law. But in most cases this rule was not observed. Most of the roads constructed ran through districts that were sparsely populated, and even in settled districts the inhabitants quite naturally avoided the corvee if possible. The official system issued cards notifying the people that on a certain date they must report for road work or pay a tax. When their three days' work had been completed these cards, endorsed by the Gendarmerie officers of the district, were supposed to be evidence of adequate performance and to exempt the holder from further work. In most districts, however, the official system was disregarded. In many instances cards which had been endorsed were destroyed by Gendarmes. to force peasants back on the road gangs.
General Butler later described the operation
of the corvel in glowing terms:
Mr. Howe. During the continuance of this
system, ur,,til your departure, did you ever receive any protest against the use of the corvee?
Gen. Butler. I never did, except in the
case of employers who would come and ask that
the dates of the working of the men might be
shifted from one date to another in order that
they might work on the plantations.
Mr. Howe. But there was no protest against
Gen. Butler. No.
Mr. Howe. How long did the corvee workers
have to work?
Gen. Butler. I do not remember the exact
time prescribed by the law.
The Chairman. That is in the record, in
the statement originally filed by the departmet.
Gen. Butler. They worked exactly according
to the Haitian law, no longer and no less.
Mr. Howe. Did they ever attempt to escape
or run away before their time was up?
Gen. Butler. No; and, in fact, after the
completion of the road to Cape Haitien, it was with the greatest difficulty that we got 4,000 of them to go home. They were on our hands for a month, and it worried me to death to get food to feed them. They enjoyed this dancing; they enjoyed the food; and they enjoyed the housing.
Mr. Howe. How far away did they live?
Gen. Butler. Right around in the neighborhood; but they liked this collection, they liked the big assembly, they liked the voodoo dancing,
they liked the visits. 51
. . . . . . . . . . .
The corvee was inherently offensive to Haitian
peasants, who prized their independence as small landholders and feared the return of slavery at the hands of
white men. As the system became ridden with abuses, resistance increased proportionally. In 1920 Admiral H.
S. Knapp, the military governor of Santo Domingo and
the administrative commander in Haiti, reported to
Secretary of the Navy Daniels that "it appears to be
undeniable" that Haitians had been forced to work outside of their home districts, had been kept at work under guard, and had "been marched to and from their 52
work bound together." The corvee gangs were always kept under Gendarmerie guard, and native Gendarmes
practiced brutality on their charges. The roping together of workers was especially upsetting to the peasants, since it recalled legends of French colonial slave gangs.
Because of rising hostility, the corvee was
officially abolished in August, 1918. The brigade com-mander's August proclamation informed the citizens:
The time has come to put a stop to further
bloodshed. . .The corvee has been done away
with entirely. Work on the road is entirely
voluntary and will be paid for daily. The workmen will be free to come and go when it pleases
them Pziy injustices committed by native
or smerican officials should be reported to nerican MiTitary Officials and justice will
be done and the offender punished.54
The succeeding brigade commander, Colonel
Russell, decided on his arrival that, while the corvee had been a "source of continual trouble" and it was desirable to discontinue it, this would not be feasible
until "certain roads, needed for military purposes, had
been opened up." A second and final order abolishing the corvee was issued in October, 1918.
Despite official termination, the corvee was continued illegally in the northern and central regions of Haiti by district Marine commander Major Clarke H. Wells, who denied continuation of'-the corvee in his 56
reports to headquarters. This.mountainous region had been the traditional center of caco activity and was the area where road construction was most difficult and most important to military accessibility. It became the center of the 1918-19 caco uprising and the region in which most confirmed atrocities were committed.
The reality of the perverted corvee was graphically established by an American missionary, the Reverend Ton Evans, an important witness in the Senate investigation into the Marine conduct of the occupation. In sharp contrast to the roseate picture conveyed by Brigadier General Butler, Reverend Evans described a brutal system of forced labor attended with physical
Mr. Evans. I will say that the corvee
business was brought to my attention not long after I returned. It was an old custom in Haiti, but never I think a law. It is customary in backward countries for farmers, or those who have their small habitations or small holdings in Haiti, once or twice a year to devote two or three days or so to help repair the roads opposite their own farms.
The occupation in Haiti, however, intentionally or ignorantly put a new and altogether an erroneous meaning to it by actually turning it into an instrument for oppressing and torturing the Haitian people, and-exciting their passions, and apparently some times for no other purpose than to provide then with an excuse to beat, if not shoot them down. Excitable Ckndarmes in the United States Marines' employ and often, under influence of liquor, when arresting, roping, then driving along roads, and mountains as gangs of African slaves rather than as citizens of the Haiti Republic, whom the great American Government by a sacred treaty, had officially pledged to protect, were very often roughly and brutally handled, for no native could be expected to voluntarily submit to such humiliation. From what I have seen and heard I verily believe that more have met their deaths through the corv:ee thus illegally practiced, wilfully or ignorantly, by Marines and Gendarmes and acquiesced in by those in supreme co=rnd and at Washington than were killed in open conflict with Cacos, if it was not indeed the chief cause and mainstay of Cacoism.
Senator Icing. Who did this?
Mr. Evans. The American occupation.
Senator King. Who?
Mr. Evans. There was a captain or lieutenant at every town or village throughout Haiti in official charge of these Gendarmes (Negro soldiers), armed and chosen by these white Marines of the American occupation. Many of these Marines, and probably most of
the Gendarmes, were fond of drink. The lat-
ter under official orders of the Marines would
catch, arrest, and rope the natives and drive
them to prison, and from prison to work on the roads, and under such conditions often cruelly
deal with them.
The last Sunday of June, 1918, going on Sunday afternoon from Gros Morne's service toward
Jacmel, in the far southeastern part of the
Republic, I met several gangs, altogether perhaps 60 or 80 or more, and in charge of Gendarme officials who rode along side and well
armed. On inquiry from the Gendarme officers,
I was informed that these were paid 1 gourde
or, in American money, 20 cents a'week; without any food. It is therefore to imagine how
such ill-paid, ill-fed native driven to work
like these, many miles away from homes and
families as there were, become uneasy, irritated,
and even revolt, which invariably means death.
The Chairman. Will you give specific instances that you saw yourself?
Mr. Evans. I have repeatedly secn ill
treatment. Both in and outside of St. Marc,
perhaps 2 or 3 miles on the way to Gonaive, I
have seen in the gangs at work men, for merely
turning the head and without the slightest provocation as far as I could see struck until
actually stunned. Prisoners from St. Marc working
around the Gendarme barracks, almost opposite
where we lived, I have seen on week days and on
Sunday unmercifully striking the poor native,
and I have walked on and intervened at times on my way to church with my family.57 [This passage
is garbled in the text of the printed Senate
Another witness at the Senate investigation,
Brigadier General Catlin, conceded under cross-examination,
but under protest that his knowledge was derived from
third parties, that the corvee was nothing but a mass
forced labor system:
Mr. Angell. You testified, General, that
to the best of your knowledge the corvee had
actually been in operation only on the Port au Prince-Cape Iiaitien road. Was that just
your understanding of it, or are you reasonably confident of that?
Gen. Catlin. That is my understanding.
I know nothing personally of it; it is only from hearsay, what I heard in regard to it.
Mr. Angell. Are you able to give us any
estimate of the number of menwho had been
engaged at any one time in forced work on
the roads under the corvee?
Gen. Catlin. No; absolutely. As I say,
all my information is hearsay. I heard of
camps of 2,000 men, etc., but that is all. As to the actual number I have not any idea. Gen.
Butler would be the only man I know of who
could give the actual number, probably.
Mr. Angell. Did you see any of those camps
yourself, or what was left of them, when yov
Gen. Catlin. I saw places which were said
to have camps, one or two.
Mr. Angell. Did you ever hear whether or
not those camps were surrounded by barbed-wire inclosures? You never heard of any such rumor?
Gen. Catlin. Not barbed wire; no. I heard
they had inclosed camps, and the men were kept
Mr. Angell. And kept in them by armed guards?
Gen. Catlin. Yes. 58
The corvee disaster was just one grievance
that the Americans had created in their administration
of an unwilling protectorate. Others were to follow.
In the political field, there were sources of discontent as well.
In 1917 a National Assembly, consisting of
both chambers of the Haitian legislature, was convened to consider the adoption of a new American-sponsored constitution. According to the Constitution of 1889, then in effect, only the National Assembly could alter a constitution or replace it with a new one. The Haitian legislature, unlike the Dartiguenave client government, had repeatedly demonstrated its political vitality and independence by protesting against and frustrating American designs. The 1917 National Assembly refused' to pass the American-sponsored constitution. Instead, the Assembly drafted a new anti-American constitution of its own, and was in the process of passing this when proceedings were dramatically interrupted by Major Smedley Butler, who read a dissolution decree signed by President Dartiguenave. Butler observed privately that the Assembly had become "so impudent that the Gendarmerie had to dissolve them, which dissolution was
effected by genuinely Marine Corps methods." The obstreperous Haitian legislature did not sit again until after the strikes and riots of 1929.
The dissolution of the legislature was nominally achieved by the action of client-President Dartiguenave. Dartiguenave actually succumbed to the tirades and personal pressures exerted by Smedley Butler. In any case, American authorities had agreed.to dissolve the Assembly by force if Dartiguenave did not cooperate. The American minister reported to Lansing:
.the Assembly was in every way reactionary and opposed to the best interests of Haiti, refusing to adopt any article permitting foreign ownership of land in any manner whatsoever, and when matters in the Assembly had proceeded thus far. .it was decided in a conference held at the legation on June 18
.to prevent the Assembly from passing such
a Constitution by causing its dissolution, if
occasion demanded it, preferably by a Presidential Decree, but if necessary by order of
the Cow lander of the Occ-opation.61
After the dissolution of the Assembly, the drafting of a second American version of the constitution proceeded, with the participation of President Dartiguenave, the State Department, Admiral Knapp, the
charge d'affaires and the brigade commander. When the
drafting had been completed, -the American officials
decided upon an extralegal plebiscite to vote on the con63
Although American authorities deplored the
fact that 95 per cent of the Haitians were illiterate, they were considered capable of casting intelligent votes. They were given little time to have the constitution explained to them, and they had to approve or reject it as a whole. A device comparable to that used in some of the new African states facilitated the voting--different colors indicated approval and rejection. Again the Gendarmerie played a key role. Senior officers sent down the word that "it was desirable that 64
this constitution pass," and Marine officers openly conducted a campaign in favor of it. The result was 65
a foregone conclusion: 69,337 in favor and 335 opposed.
The Constitution approved in the plebiscite began with the words "the Republic of Hziti is one and indivisible, free, sovereign and independent. Its territory, including the islands dependent thereon, is inviolable, and cannot be alienated by any treaty or 66
by any convention." It provided for a popularly chosen Senate and Chamber of Deputies, and for the
election by those two bodies meeting in joint session as the National Assembly of a President whose term of office would be four years (as opposed to the previous term of seven years). Deputies were reduced in number from 72 to 36, and Senators from 39 to 15. Provisions were made for a Council of State composed of 21 members appointed by the President, which in addition to its regular duties of advising the President, would exercise the legislature. Freedom of the press, trial by jury, and the right of assembly were guaranteed. The burning issue of foreign ownership of land was treated by Article V of the Constitution, which read: "The right to own real estate shall be given to foreigners residing in Haiti and to the societies organized by foreigners for purposes of residence, and agricultural, commercial, industrial or educational enterprises. This right shall cease after a period of five years frcn the date when the foreigner shall have ceased to reside in the country or the activities of said companies shall have ceased." A special article ratified the acts of the American Occupation, Finally, the Gendarmerie d'Haiti was established as the country's only legal armed force.
The escape clause in the American-drafted
Constitution of 1918 lay in Title VIII, the Transitory Provisions. After establishing the term of the incumbent President so that it would expire on May 15, 1933, Title VIII went on to provide that "the first election of merfbers of the legislative body after the adoption of the present Constitution shall take place on January 10 of an even-numbered year. The year shall be fixed by a decree of the President of the Republic purlished at least three months before the meeting of the primary assemblies. The session of the legislativebody then elected shall convene on the constitutional date immediately following the first election." This, coupled with the provision giving the legislative power (including the power to elect the President) to the presidentially appointed Council of State, actually made it possible for the incumbent President to remain in office indefinitely and to rule without benefit of an elected legislature by the simple devices of not naming a date for the legislative elections and by packing the Council of-State with his own men. A final provision
under Title VIII suspended the irremovability of judges for a period of six months from the date of the promulgation of the new Constitution.
Following the adoption of the Constitution by "plebiscite", more erosion of Haitian sovereignty ensued, this time--American control of all legislation. Following instructions received from the Secretary of State, Robert Lansing, the American minister in Haiti (Bailly-Blanchard) began a round of moves in an exchange of notes to obtain a concession for the submission of all proposed legislation to the United States for approval. After much maneuvering between the parties the President of Haiti acceded to the American demands in the following note:
The two Governments of the United States
of ATuierica and Haiti having concluded, in 1915, a convention \herein the two Governments agreed
to cooperate in the remedying of the Haitian Finances, in e main= n,.Ceance of the tranquillity of Haiti, and in the carrying out of a
program for the economic development and prosperity of that Republic, the Secretary of State
for Foreign Affairs has the honor to advise
the Minister of the United States that in conformity with the understanding-had between them any project of law bearing upon any of the objects of the Treaty, prior to being submitted to the Legislative Body, of
Haiti, shall be communicated to the Representative of the United States for the
information of his Government and if necessary for discussion between the two Governments.67
In sum, the creation of this adhesive legal
infrastructure served to consolidate the legal and constitutional position of both the occupation and clientgovernment. It also laid the basis for the American plan of rehabilitating the Haitian Republic and transforming it into a model democratic state.
Amongst the elite there were many sources of
dissatisfaction. Patriotism was challenged by a foreign occupation. Politicians had lost their opportunities for power and profit. Strict control of finances, the end of graft, and the requirement that those on the public payroll actually work were added irritations. The suspension of elections' and'of the National Assembly caused grave concern. A serious depression increased hardships for all social classes.
In the economic field there was likewise a pattern of friction between Haitians and treaty officials. A continuing struggle was waged in particular
over the powers of the American Financial Adviser. Finally, his ultimate control over all fiscal matters was consolidated in-two agreements: August 24 and 68
December 23, 1918.
Even this failed to solve the touchy problem, and there followed a direct confrontation. The Council of State (which had replaced the former National Assembly) refused to pass a finance bill strongly favored by the treaty officials. "By virtue of his authority 69
under martial law," Colonel Russell then took unilateral action on November 13, 1918, to stop all fund payments to the Haitian government for a period of
three months. This step has been cited as proof that the real power in Haiti "existed in the fact of the military occupation, apart from any interpretation of the treaty."71
With all these sources of discontent, the
year 1918 was to reap the whirlwind that had been sown in many places and in many forms in the years before.
Into this explosive situation came a native
rebel leader of considerable talent and great force of
personality, Charlemagne Peralte. Charlemagne was a clever and resourceful leader, a member of a family for generations very influential in the central plain, and to a lesser degree throughout the North. A former caco chief from Hinche, he had been convicted in January, 1918 of complicity in a caco raid on the Gendarmerie headquarters there and had been sentenced to five years'
hard labor. On September 3, 1918, he escaped with 73
his guard and fled to the mountains. There he rallied the local cacos, augmented his forces with discontented peasantry, forcibly impressed into military service additional reluctant recruits, and raised the cry to drive the American invaders out of the land. The existing Haitian government must go too, he said, and to this end he set up his own "government" with a "cabinet,"
"generals" etc. Added to this was a superior system of intelligence and a fighting force in the field that
eventually grew to 5,000 men.
The opening batLtle came on October 17, 1918, when 100 cacos attacked Hinche in the night. A stout 76
defense killed thirty-five of the rebels and the rest fled. The next operation was against Maissade where
sixty cacos made an assault on November 10. No Marines
were present here; the ten-man Gendarmerie garrison was
routed and the town was sacked.
Still the commander of the Marine Brigade,
Colonel Russell, was inclined to minimize the threat.
He reported on November 11:
A few bandits are operating in the mountains surrounding the Hinche plain, making
occasional descents down on the plain.
Numerous small patrols have, however, been
sent to this district and a troop of cavalry is now operating there, and it is hoped that
they will soon be completely broken up.78
-Shortly after this a change in command occurred,
and Brigadier General Albertus W. CaElin, 'hero: of Belleau
Wood in France, took command of the Marine Brigade on
December 7, 1918.
From here on the tempo of combat quickened.
In the next four months:
more than twenty contacts with major caco
forces were made by the hard-pressed Gendarmerie. Among these were toe-to-toe battles
at or near Mirebalais again, Las Cahobas,
and St. Michel. In some instances odds were
20 or 30 to 1; as at Ranquitte, where a
Marine sergeant and two Gendarmes, aided by
a few 1nsmen, held their post against 70
Thus 1918 started with the corvee and ended in a blaze of action, as a full scale native uprising exploded.
As 1919 began it was estimated that one quarter of the country and one fifth of the population were in81
volved in the uprising. Charlemagne was in charge of caco operations in the North, and his right hand man, Benoit Batraville, was the leader in the central part of Haiti. In all, some 17,000 natives were subject to
their call. It was too much for the Gendarmerie to handle.
On March 16, 1919, their commandant, Lt. Colonel Williams, admitted that it had become a full-scale rebellion and requested that the Marine Brigade be com83
mitted to the campaign. Besides the caco onslaughts, there were two other key problems: Gendarmerie units "were in poor shape, with ragged uniforms, ill-kept 84
weapons, and low marksmanship ability," and the Marine Brigade was at skeleton strength. It had entered the crucial year of 1919 with just the Second Regiment and a headquarters unit--a total of only 64 officers and 85
884 enlisted Marines. By the end of March, however, four companies had been detached from the Seventh
Regiment which were now deployed in trouble spots: two companies to Hinche, two to Las Cahobas, one to Mirebalais, and one to St. Michel. Another, and more novel, reinforcement was Squadron E, Marine Aviation, which 86
came in with thirteen planes on March 31, 1919.
From April to September the revolt continued at a high pitch of intensity: "Marines and Gendarmes fought 131 actions ranging from skirmishes to pitched
battles." Included were some cases of mistaken identity, where separate Marine and Gendarmerie patrols ended up shooting at each other. And still the elusive Charlemagne (receiving money, food, modern arms, and information from "certain Germans and Haitians" in
Port-au-Prince) eluded his pursuers and continued to organize the cacos for further battle. His ability carried the revolt along in spite of the fact that 89
1763 rebels were killed in this four month span alone. Yet Brigadier General George Barnett, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, in a report a year later to the Secretary of the Navy dismissed the whole campaign with the off-hand observation that "the small revolution
started in the latter part of 1918, under the leadership of Charlemagne Peralte in North Haiti, continued in a 90
small way throughout the year 1919, 9.
In Haiti, however, the Marine command responded to the new challenged New commanders appeared to direct the Marine Brigade and the Gendarmerie. One officer was assigned to command operations in the critical
northern area. Recognizing that the "existing organization, strength, and efficiency of both the Brigade and the Gendarmerie had not been adequate to deal with the caco uprising,9 the new commanders set to work to reorganize their forces in order to exert more pressure on the rebels.
Steps were begun to improve the Marines' intelligence organization; the whole country was divided into areas of responsibility for better co93
ordination of field operations; more intensive patrolling was instituted to harry any Saco bands as soon as contact was made; the brigade staff was reorganized for greater efficiency; and living and sanitary 94
conditions of the men in the field were improved.
Moreover, the Eighth Regiment was reconstituted on
December 17, 1919, in the United States, ordered to
Haiti, and assigned to the Department of the North.
Parallel with these preparations for intensified -action, an appe-a:l was malTe to the people of Haiti
for cooperation. On August 22, 1919, the Brigade Commander issued a proclamation:
The time has come to put a stop to further
bloodshed. It has been necessary to use stern measures to repress the disorders in the North, and with the recent arrival of military engines
we can use even sterner methods, but I hope,
with your help, to be able to abandon such
means. I ask your assistance.
The corvee has been done away with entirely
All good inhabitants should give the
greatest assistance to officers and men of
the occupation in suppressing the bandits
On September 2, 1919, Rear Admiral Thomas
-Srowden, -military representative of the United States
in Haiti, made a tour of the interior. He reported
A most sot-isfactory condition was found to
exist. While the bandits were still acting in
small bands, here and there, they were much broken up and the leaders were trying to obtain favorable terms of surrender from the military authorities. The handling of the
operations by the military authorities is
m satisfactory, and, while unsettled conditions still exist and will so exist for
,some time to come, matters can be said to be
well in hand.98
Certainly the next event in the caco uprising was not "most satisfactory." On October 6 Charlemagne and his assault force had gathered some fifteen miles outside Port-au-Prince. From there an ultimatum was dispatched to the British Legation. It demanded that the diplomatic corps bring about a surrender of the Haitian government to him, Charlemagne. When no reply was forthcoming, Charlemagne sent .300 cacos storming into the capital at 4 A.M. the next morning (October 7,
The Marines and Gendarmerie were waiting for
them. A series of counter-'attacks was quickly launched, and the rebels were driven from the town. An aggressive pursuit located the caco camp which was immediately attacked. Numerous weapons, including an artillery piece were captured, and thirty cacos out of 200 were killed. But once again the native leader had eluded 100
the net and stolen away.
Clearly the solution lay in trapping and assas101
sinating Charlemagne, for it was now obvious that he would never allow himself to be cornered in a pitched
battle. Accordingly, the Chief of the Gendarmerie issued a brief and pointed order to the commanding officer of the Department of the North, Major James J. Meade, "Get Charlemagne." Commenting on this later, Colonel Wise observed:
It was a pretty big order. It meant running
down one Haitian out of several millions of Ha.itians in a country as big as the state of
New York. And that one Haitian was surrounded
by his friends, operating in a country almost entirely sympathetic to him, was protected by a fanatical body-guard, never slept two nights
in the same place, and must be run down in a
tangled maze of mountains and valleys and jungles, of which there were no accurate maps.102
Meade turned to a veteran Marine sergeant,
Herman H. Hanneken, who was serving as a captain of the Gendarmerie in charge of the District of Grande Riviere du Nord. It was this area in which the chief caco strength in the North was concentrated. Hanneken realized that any large-scale forces would be futile, for they would have to operate in a terrain where Charlemagne could vanish at a moment's notice. Guile was the only possible solution.
Accordingly, he devised a plan which sent Jean-Baptiste Conze, a well-known citizen of Grande Riviere, out into the bush, proclaiming allegiance to
ca'co cause. Well supplied with food, rum, and money, and based securely at Fort Capois, Conze soon achieved considerable prestige as a rebel leader. Charlemagne was originally suspicious of the newcomer, but when a Gendarmerie attack, led by Hanneken, "failed" to capture Fort Capois, Charlemagne warmed to his new "ally." Caco morale rose still higher when word came that the Gendarmerie captain had suffered a sorely wounded arm, bandaged and bloodstained.
The time had come for Conze to make his move. He persuaded Charlemagne to join forces for an assault on Grande Riviere. The capture of a major town such as this would be a sensational propaganda victory for the cacos.
On October 26, Charlemagne arrived at Fort
Capois with 1,000 followers. Conze got word through to Hanneken that the attack would come on the night of October 31. An &mbush was laid outside Grande Riviere and strong reinforcements of Marines and Gendarmes were slipped secretly into town by Major Meade. Some 700 cacos were passed through the ambush as Hanneken,
a Marine corporal named Button (both stained with burnt cork), and sixteen picked Gendarmes waited for Charlemagne to fall into the trap.
A messenger from Conze brought the devastating information that the caco leader was waiting back in the hills near Fort Capois for news of the assault. There was only one thing to do. Hanneken and his band set out to find Charlemagne. It was a desperate gamble, but they knew the password of the moment. Six caco outposts let them pass, and then they came to a campfire. Eanneken drew his .45 caliber pistol and put two shots through the chest of the rebel chief who had boasted he could not be killed. Button sprayed the area with his automatic rifle and the men clung to their position all night, with Hanneken holding tightly onto the corpse of Charlemagne.
In the morning, Hanneken and his men searched the area, found Charlemagne's confidential files (which revealed the names of many highly-placed supporters),. and then trussed the body on a mule and brought it back in triumph to Grands Riviere where Meade had easily repulsed the assault.103
There the corpse Was photographed, spreadeagled on a door laid flat on the ground, so that the picture could be circulated throughout an illiterate country as proof of Charlemagne's death. Planes of Squadron E dropped thousands of these photographs 104
throughout the nation. This picture gave rise to a belief in Haitian folklore, still rampant, that the 105
Americans had crucified the great caco chief. Hanneken and Button both received Congressional Medals of
Immediately following Charlemagne's death, patrols fanned out to keep any cacos from fleeing to the central region to join up with Benoit Batraville there. More than 300 rebels were captured in the en107
suing week. Hanneken finished mopping up the Northern area by assaulting--in earnest this time--Fort Capois. Under heavy fire they captured and burned the caco 108
headquarters on Novenber 2. This brought peace again to northern Haiti.
Thus the Brigade Commander was able to report on December 28, 1919:
The military situation in spite of the
small force at my command is gradually improving. num.erous groups of bandits still exist and are prowling throughout the country. These must be harassed and finally
run down--a most difficult matter--but
gradually we are working out plans for the
sections and clearing them up, keeping up at
all times the most aggressive action by constant patrolling .109
The year 1919 ended with 83 officers and 1,261 110
enlisted men of the Marines still on very active duty.
The annual report of the Secretary of the Navy, in
typical official style, made passing reference to "suppressing banditry and robbery by the criminal and
disaffected elements," but then went on to eulogize
"the development of the country, the education and welfare of the people, improvement in agriculture, the ll
firm and kind administration of justice."
In the field, a somewhat more realistic point
of view prevailed. Colonel Russell, the Brigade Commander, inaugurated the new year of 1920 with an intensive Calfpaign to crush Benoit, who had been recognized
by the 6acos as Charlemagne's heir and now had some 112
2,500 men under his command, and "about twice as 113
many 'part-time' bandits in sympathy with his cause."
Earlier Benoit had received some unusual harassment when the Marine captain commanding at Mirebalais had devised a novel scheme of attack. Working with two planes from Squadron E, he had guided the pilots to a gathering of Benoit's forces, and the planes had come diving down, machine-guns strafing, and as the terrorstruck cacos scattered, they ran headlong into the rifle fire of the surrounding Gendarmes. Later this was supplemented with bombing attacks, using homemade bomb racks. It was "the first recorded instance of coordinated air-ground combat action in the annals of 114
the Marine Corps."
As the pressure of ground patrols grew heavier and heavier, Benoit was forced to make a gesture. At 4:00 A.M. on the morning of January 15, 1920, he dispatched 300 of his men, some disguised in stolen Gendarmerie uniforms, in direct assault on Port-au-Prince. The Marines and Gendarmes coimter-attacked aggressively. After suffering casualties of "over 50 per cent," the
A hot pursuit produced another pitched battle not far from Port-au-Prince in which another segment of
Benoit's band was wiped out almost to the man.
The caco uprising was now nearing its end. Colonel Russell put a price of $1,000 on Benoit's
head. Various rebel bands broke up in discouragement, and several important leaders surrendered, 118
leaving only three chiefs with Benoit.
On May 19 a Gendarmerie patrol caught up with Benoit anl, when he opened fire, Marine Sergeants
Passmore and Taubert shot him dead.
So it was that on June 19, 1920, th" Brigade Commander was able to report: "The pacification of 120
Haiti mnay therefore be said to be completed
The Marines employed search and destroy tactics in the conduct of the suppression of the insurrection. Their tactics closely resembled those employed in Vietnam. Small unit operations at the squad level were the keys to success.
The overall pacification plan is best described by an extract from the report submitted by the Marine Brigade Commander to the Commandant of the Marine Corps in 1920:
5. After carefully considering reports from all sources I arrived at the following estimate of the situation:
6. In the North the supreme chief, Charlemagne Peralte, had approximately 3,000 men in the field. Charlemagne further had organized a so-called government with a cabinet and ministers and had made many attempts to get into Ciplomatic correspondence with foreign Governments.
7. He used well-considered propaganda
throughout all Haiti to influence the Haitians against the occupation. He had a wellorganized system of supply and espionage and further was assisted by disgruntled politi cians and others.
8. Charlemagne's object was the overthrowing of the de facto government and driving the whites out of Haiti either by force or discouraging them to such an extent that they would withdraw.
9. In the South the bandits, while under control of Charlemagne, were actually under the command of Benoit Batraville, a man of little education but a hero to the Haitians on account of his lack of fear and his aggressiveness.
10. Benoit controlled about 2,500 men in the South.
11. Besides the 5,500 men actually in the field, both Charlemagne and Benoit could from time to time augment their forces by recruiting men for raids in certain districts. From all accounts and from the number of surrenders the number of men available to Charlemagne and Benoit to draw from was at least 17,000. .
17. My decision was (1) to reorganize the supply system, provide better accommodations, food, clothing, comforts, and recreation for the men in the field; (2) to place every available man and officer in the field and by a wellorganized and intensive campaign to stamp out an organized bandit or revolutionary force that appeared to be growing stronger as time passed.
18. The plan decided on was to take up the trail of a group of bandits and by a system of changing patrols follow and-pound the bandits until all semblance of organization was lost, and further, to make frequent patrols in all parts of the infected district so as not to allow the scattered groups to rest and reorganize.
19. Propaganda was used to induce the bandits to surrender and all magistrates were instructed to publish same at the public market places.
20. Charlemagne was invited to surrender with the alternative of being killed or captured.
30. It was especially imperative that before any concerted or well directed operations could be carried on a reliable and rapid system of communication must be established.[sic] Additional radia[sicT stations were established, telephone lines overhauled, and everything possible done to improve the system of communications with the means available. In addition, airplanes were always at the disposal of the commanding officer of troops in the field.
31. In general, the plan of campaign consisted in dividing the theater of operations into blocks of 25 square miles eaech[sic]. One of these blocks was then redivided into blocks of one square mile. To accomplish this, an entirely new map of Haiti was made under the direction of G-2, the intelligence officer, Major Sheppard. This work consisted of taking the various old maps of Haiti in existence. A better one is now being prepared by the intelligence section.
In addition to the patroling during
the month of all squares within the theater of operations, on the receipt of information,
whether reliable or not, of the presence of a group of bandits in any subsquare a partol
was immediately sent to that section, with instructions to obtain contact and maintain
it until the band scattered. At the same time other patrols were sent out in order
to cut off any possible line of retreat.121
From October 1, 1919, to October 1, 1920,
there were 298 battle encounters, and 7,608 cacos sur122
render4d. Marine strength at the end (June 30,
1920) totaled only 86 officers and 1,282 enlisted,
while the Gendarmerie stood at 2,720.124
All the accounts of the caco uprising vary in
the figures they give for casualties. The "official"
figures in-the Senate testimony were:
One Marine officer was killed in action and two officers wounded in action with Haitian bandits during this period. Twelve enlisted
men of the Marine Corps were killed in
action or died of wounds received in action
and 26 were wounded. 125
In contrast to this fairly modest toll, the
cacos had suffered a fearful attrition. The "official"
figur waz 2,250 dead for the whole period of the Mariine
occupation to date (July 28, 1915, to June 30, 1920),
with 2,009 of these coming during the years 1919 and
These "body counts" defy rational explanatEion.
At the 1921 Senate investigation of the occupation,
General George Barnett, Commandant of the Marine Corps
from 1914 to 1920, was asked to comment on the striking
contrast in Haitian as opposed to Marine casualties
during the first five years of the.occupation. The
It was largely like it was in the
Philippines. There were a great many
natives down there who would be friends
to-day [sic] and so-called [sic] Cacos to-morrow [sic]. They had no uniform,
and it was hard to distinyuish [sic] one
from the other, and they were not wellarmed. They were brave, but they would have no show against well-armed troops, especially with machine guns, and it is
perfectly natural to suppose that the
.contrast would be very marked and that a Very great number should be killed in
comparison with the number of white
people who were killed.
Mr. Anaell. To what extent were
machine guns used, do you know?
Gen. Barnett. I do not. They had
them there and used them if they found
necessity f- it.
M-r. Angell. Was there an artillery
Gen. Barnett. Yes; and they likewise used airplanes.
Mr. Angell. Do you know to what
extent tiey used airplanes?
Gen. Barnett. No.
Mr. Ang .m. Were airplanes used
to bomb out supposed nests of Cacos?
Gen. Barnett. I do not know the particular uses to which they were put. The reports which came to the commanding officer from them would not necessarily
come up here at all.
Mr. Angell. So, in your opinion, the
contrast between the figures of the respective casualties on both sides were due largely zo the superior military armament
and equipment of our forces?
Cen. Barnett. Entirely so, I think.
Every Marine is a good shot, almost of
necessity got to be.127
The official body count may well have included prisoners, detainees, and innocent civilians illegally executed, since one officer, Major T. C. Turner, who conducted a Marine Brigade investigation into the 128
atrocities, estimated that 400 prisoners had been shot. Subsequent investigations indicated, on the basis of a chain of admittedly circumstantial evidence that these were but particularly extreme manifestations of the inability of the Marines to cope with the frustrations of insurgent warfare in Haiti. Although they overcame the tacos the Marines probablycaused more devastation and loss of life than had ten prior civil wars involving
The Marine "bandit suppression" was soon to become a national and a presidential campaign issue.
CRITICISM AND INVESTIGATION The Barnett Letter
The Commandant of the Marine Corps in 1919 was Major General George Barnett, an extremely hardworking and conscientious officer. In September of that year while reviewing the records of courts-martial convened by the First Provisional Brigade in Haiti, he was struck by certain allegations made by the defense counsel, one Lieutenant F. L. Spear, in the trial of Privates Walter E. Johnson and John J. McQuilkin, Jr. The two men were charged and convicted of having struck Haitian prisoners in their custody, and their defense was that they had done so in obedience to the orders of their 129
superior offices, a Lieutenant Brokaw. Brokaw had
later shot and killed the prisoners, but was not tried due to reasons of insanity, for which he was then confined
in a rue ntal' institution.
The allegations by Lieutenant Spear were that "practically indiscriminate killings of Haitians" had occurred over a period of years. General Barnett became alarmed at the statement because, as he later explained,
"in all my experience of 44 years in the service I have taken it as a matter of course that a statement made to 130
me by a commissioned officer was true."
The General immediately drafted an official letter to the Brigade Commander in Port-au-Prince, Colonel John H. Russell, Colonel Russell had recently returned to Haiti, at the express request of Secretary of State Lansing, for a second tour as Brigade Commander. By virtue of his prior experience he was considered the most knowledgeable officer on Haitian affairs then in the service, and what was more, he was known to have the confidence of the Haitian Government. General Barnett's letter ordered Russell to take immediate steps to end "unlawful executions of Haitians" and to make a thorough investigation of the charges made by Lieutenant Spear in his argument as defense counsel in the Johnson-McQuilkin court-martial. This letter was followed up by a second letter marked "personal and confidential." on October 2. That letter is quoted in part:
My dear Colonel:
Since you left here several things have
come to my notice with reference to the affairs in Haiti, especially in relation to the duties'
of the Gendarmes in the interior. The courtmartial of one private for the killing of a
native prisoner brought out a statement by his
counsel which showed me that practically indiscriminate killing of natives had gone on for
some time.I was shocked beyond expression to hear of
such things and to know that it was at all possible that duty could be so badly performed by
Marines of my class .
I want personal instructions sent to every
officer and non-commissioned officer, both with
the Marines and Gendarmerie, that conditions as shown by the evidence in the trial of the private above referred to must be corrected,
and such action cannot be tolerated for a
moment; and I want every case thoroughly sifted
and the guilty parties brought to justice. I think this is the most startling thing of its
kind that has ever taken place in the Marine Corps, and I don't want anything of the kind
to happen again. I think, judging by the
knowledge gained only from the cases that have been brought before me, that the Marine Corps
has been sadly lacking in right and justice,
and I look to you to see that this is corrected and corrected at once.131
Though the letter had been marked "personal
and confidential," General Barnett had a copy of it
placed in the official files of the Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, along with a copy of his earlier
Colonel Russell acknowledged receipt~of both'
letters and responded to the Commandant's letter. He
published a "confidential" order to the Marines in Haiti
on October 15, 1919:
I. The brigade commander has had brought
to his attention on alleged charge against
Marines and Gendarmes in Haiti to the effect
that in the past prisoners and wounded bandits
have been summarily shot without trial.
Furthermore, that troops in the field have
declared and carried on what is commonly known
to be an "open season," where care is not
.taken to determine whether or not the natives
encountered are bandits or "good citizens"
and where houses have been ruthlessly burned
merely because they were unoccupied and native
property otherwise destroyed.
2. Such action on the part of any officer or enlisted man of the Marine Corps is beyond belief; and if true, would be a terrible smirch upon the unblemished record of
the corps, which we all hold so dear.
3. Any officer, noncommissioned officer,
or private of the Marine Corps, or any officer or enlisted man of the United States
Navy attached to this brigade, or any officer,
noncommissioned officer, or private of the
Gendarmerie d'Haiti, guilty of the unjustifiable and illegal killing of any person whomsoever will be brought to trial before a general
court-martial or military commission on a
charge of murder or manslaughter, as the case
4. The unjustifiable maltreatment of
natives and the unlawful violation of their person or property will result in the trial
and punishment of the offender.
5. All officers and noncommissioned
officers are enjoined-to see that the provisions of this order are most strictly enforced, and anyone having a knowledge of
the violation of this order and not promptly reporting it will be considered an accessory
to the crime.
6. This order will be furnished all
cormmnding officers, and the contents of
this confidential order will be carefully and fully explained to every officer, noncommissioned officer, and private in the
Marine Corps and Gendarmerie d'Haiti in
7. Commanding officers will report
in writing to the brigade commander when
every officer and enlisted man in their
respective commands have been thoroughly informed and are fully aware of the contents of this order.
8. The chief of the Gendarmerie
d'Haiti will report in writing to the
brigade commander, when every office [sic]
and enlisted man in the Gendarmerie and coast guard is fully conversant with the
contents of this order.
9. Upon arrival in Haiti, all commissioned officers and enlisted men of the
Marine Corps will immediately be fully informed of the contents of this order and the commanding officer of units to which they are assigned will report in
writing to their immediate senior in command that this has been done.132
Ferment In The Press
In the meantime, another factor emerged in
the burgeoning affair. Certain journals of opinion
began to critize the conduct of the occupation. The
United States by this time was tired of foreign adventures. It longed for a return to the days of freedom from foreign involvement. The mood of the public had changed; the pacificism and isolationism of the times demanded attacks on our foreign adventures. It is important to remember that this was a period of disillusionment with Wilsonian idealism, including the League of Nations and other foreign enterprises spawned by the Democratic administration. One commentator, Walter Lippman, who lived through those years of turmoil,. diagnosed the reaction as "the backwash of the excitement and the sacrifice, when the people were war weary and angry at the disappointing peace which followed the
The catalyst in the ferment was Mr. Herbert J. Seligman's article "The Conquest of Haiti," which appeared in The Nation on July 10, 1920. Mr. Seligman had made a visit to Haiti earlier. in the year and he returned to the United States with a scathing indictment of the Marine's occupation:
The history of the American invasion ol
Haiti is only additional evidence that the
United States is among those Powers in whose international dealings democracy and freedom
are mere words, and human lives negligible
in face of racial snobbery, political chicane,
and money. The five years of American Occupation, from 1915 to 1920, have served as a
commnentzrv upon the white civilization which still burns black men and women at the stake.
Co: Uaitian men, women and children, to a
number estimated at 3,000, innocent for the
most part of any offense, have been shot
down by American machine guns and rifle bullets; black men and women have been put to
torture to make them give information; theft,
arson, and murder have been committed almost
with impunity upon the persons and property of
Haitians by white men.wearing the uniforms of
the United States. . .In this five years'
massacre of Haitians less than twenty Americans
have been killed or wounded in action. .
The Haitians in whose service United
States Marines are presumably restoring
peace and order in Haiti are nicknamed 'Gooks'
and have been treated with every variety of
contempt, insult, and brutality.This militarist, imperialist burlesque
on the profession with which the United
States entered the war in behalf of weaker
states leaves the Haitians little to do but to wonder what the United States intends. . In the absence of any plans for
Haiti's regeneration except through 'develop-ent'of the country by exploiters, the Haitian
may derive what spiritual nourishment he can
from the Wilsonian phrases with which the
United States thuggery disguises its deeds.
"The Conquest of Haiti" created a sensation.
The State and Navy Departments were flooded with demands
for information. The National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People denounced the administration's
policy in Haiti. The Republican Party joined in denouncing the Haitian occupation.
On September 18, 1920, Senator Harding, the
Republican nominee for president created a sensation.
Using the conduct of the Haitian occupation to excoriate
the Administration, Harding stated:
How can we then, in reason and with confidence make sure of fulfilling our mission
on earth? The first step is plain. We must
strictly maintain and scrupulously observe,
in letter and in spirit, the mandates of the
Constitution of the United States. We are not doing so now. We are at war, not alone technically with Germany, but actually with
the little helpless republics of our own
There is this difference. The wars
against the Central Powers were decreed by
Congress in the exercise of the authority conferred upon it by our fundamental law,
but the wars upon our neighbors in the
South were made and are still being waged
though never declared through the usurpation
by the Executive of powers not only never bestowed upon him, but scrupulously withheld by the Constitution.'
Of the fact there can be no question.
It is admitted, even boasted of, by the Democratic candidate for Vice President,
between whom, if elected, and the Presidency
itself would be but a single life.
"You know,' he said to the people of Montana, as his words were quoted by the press, 'I have had something to do with the running of a couple of little republics. The fact is, that I wrote Hayti's [sic] Constitution myself, and, if I do say it, I think it is a pretty good Constitution. Until last week I had two votes in the League Assembly, now Secretary Daniels has them.'
To the best of my information, this is the first official admission of the rape of Haiti and Santo Domingo by the present Administration. To my mind, moreover, it is the most shocking assertion that ever emanated from a responsible member of the Government of the United States. Talk about selfdetermination! Talk about American ideals! Talk a--out eaal rights for small nations!o:: c-es-ion of deeds such as this, what becomes of the smooth rhetoric of vaunted righteousness to which we have so long been accustomed?
True, we know little of the conduct of these wars of occupation and the imposition of laws upon our helpless neighbors. The censorship is no less strict than it was during the secret conferences and conspiracies in Paris. Congress has not been informed. The people are kept in ignorance.
But gradually the torch of truth is illuminating those dark places. Practically all we know now is that thousands of native Haitians have been killed by Americah Marines, and that many of our own gallant men have sacrificed their lives at the behest of an Executive Department in order to establish laws drafted by an Assistant Secretary of the Navy to secure a vote in the League, and to continue, at the point of the bayonet, a military domination which at this moment requires the presence of no less than 3,000 of our armed men on that foreign soil. 134
The Press Leak
The Administration quickly responded to these latest charges. The Secretary of the Navy began a rebuttal. He turned to Major General Barnett who was Commandant during the critical 1915-1920 period. Barnett had been replaced as Commandant on June 30, 1920, by General Lejeune. On September 18, 1920, the Secretary of the Navy summoned Barnett who was on leave to Washington for consultation. Barnett then spent until October 11, 1920, compiling a voluminous report of Marine activities in Haiti during his tenure as Commandant. Documenting that report were copies of his correspondence with Colone. Russell, including the "personal'and'confidential" letter of October 2, 1919. The complete report was delivered to the Secretary of the Navy on October 12, in the presence of the Assistant Secretary, General Lejeune, and Mr. Daniels; public relations assistant, a Mr. Jenkins. It was released to the press on October 13. Mr. Daniels was apparently intending to use the Commandant's report to counter the ever growing criticism of the occupation. The report, containing the explosive Barnett letter, only led to greater criticism of the occupation and demands for investigations. Two mysteries surround the report. Why did Major General Barnett include the confidential
letter in his final report when he knew it would be
released to the press? How did a certain reporter have
advance knowledge that the Barnett report contained a
letter from the Commandant which would corroborate news
accounts of atrocities in Haiti?
One inside account of the events was published by General Lejeune's aide, Captain John H.
Craige. In a book published in 1934, Captain Craige
The report was turned in .to the office
of Secretary Daniels. Here Destiny intervened once more. The usually astute josephus and his assistants slipped up. Perhaps they
did not see the confidential letter, or perhaps
they failed to realize its significance. In view of the enormous size of the document and
its apparent innocuousness, no complete copies were made for the press. Merely a short formal
handout was prepared.
The handout on the report was distributed
at an afternoon press conference. The usual throng of reporters covering naval activities
was present. Other matters were. discussed.
The Barnett report came in for a few words of
'Does the handout cover everything of
interest in the report?' queried a reporter.
'I think so,' replied Nlr. Daniels. .1
haven't read it but I am informed that it contains nothing but dry official records.'
One of the men of the Fourth Estate
seemed especially interested. His name was
Clifford Snmith and he was a reporter for the
Associated Press. 'I'd like to see the full report,' he said.
'All right, replied Daniels, 'I'll get it for you.'
The report arrived. Mr. Daniels patted
its cardboard cover. Had he known what was in it he would have preferred to caress a rattlesnake.
'Anybody else want to see this thing?' said Smith.
The other reports looked wearily at the
huge bulk. 'Oh, no,' hastily replied a chorus. 'You read it if you want and let us know if there is anything in it worth writing about.'
The conference adjourned. Smith stuck
the report under his arm and went out. After that his movements became obscure. There was a rumor later that he knew exactly what was in the document and where. If he did not he read and digested the enormous volume with remarkable speed. At any rate, Smith and the report vanished without trace for the rest of the day from the sight of the other reporters covering Navy matters. 'in the evening he turned in a story that made the deckmen at the Associated Press gasp. They put it on the late wire. The night was far along then, and it was too late for the other news services or the Democratic papers that were supporting the Administration to do anything about it.
Next day the story blossomed forth on the front pages of daily newspapers from Maine to California. There was no rebuttal. It had made its appearance too late for that. The yarn was a great 'beat' for the Associated Press and a major achievement for Mr. Smith. As a Republican campaign document it was a masterpiece. The stories in The Nation of atrocities committed by Marines on Haitians were quoted in detail and were capped by the statement from Barnett's letter that in his
belief 'practically indiscriminate killing
of the natives had been going on for some
The Chain of VMilitary Investigations
All of the publicity in the nation's newspapers and magazines, dating from the summer of 1920, produced a collection of investigations of varying intensity: the findings of a Naval Court of Inquiry dated November 9, 1920, an investigation by General Lejeune, dated October 12, 1920 and one by Admiral Knapp, dated
October 14, 1920.
Another investigation was the one undertaken by
Brigade Commander Russell in response to the Commandant's order of October 1919. This investigation was apparently completed in March 1920 but was never received in Washington. Its absence was not discovered until September, 1920 when General Lejeune, the successor Commandant to Major General Barnet% made inquiries. The Marine authorities in Haiti claimed that they had mailed the investigation to 17ashington but that it must have lost in the mails. This investigation concluded that at least 400 prisoners in the 137
Department of the North had been illegally executed.
The Naval Court of Inquiry headed by Rear Admiral Mayo was appointed to investigate the performance of the Marines in Haiti. It met in Washington in October and journeyed to Haiti shortly thereafter, arriving in Port-