Saturday, January 16, 2010

Charity for Haiti is Urgently Needed, but so are Reparations

If this Guardian story doesn't move you in that direction, well, I'm sorry, we differ. But I think France has some moral debt here. Haiti of course has been the epicenter of quite a few hurricanes and other disasters. But the colonialism of the French left the deepest marks on the land and people.

Economically, French occupation was a runaway success. But Haiti's riches could only be exploited by importing up to 40,000 slaves a year. For nearly a decade in the late 18th century, Haiti accounted for more than one-third of the entire Atlantic slave trade. Conditions for these men and women were atrocious; the average life expectancy for a slave on Haiti was 21 years. Abuse was dreadful, and routine: "Have they not hung up men with heads downward, drowned them in sacks, crucified them on planks, buried them alive, crushed them in mortars?" wrote one former slave some time later. "Have they not forced them to eat excrement? Have they not thrown them into boiling cauldrons of cane syrup? Have they not put men and women inside barrels studded with spikes and rolled them down mountainsides into the abyss?"

Not surprisingly, the French ­Revolution in 1789 raised the tricky question of how exactly the Declaration of the Rights of Man might be said to apply both to ­Haiti's then sizeable population of free gens de couleur (generally the offspring of a white plantation owner and a black concubine) – and ultimately to the slaves themselves. The rebellion of Saint-Domingue's slaves began on the northern plains in August 1791, but the uprising, ensuing bloody civil war and finally bitter and spectacularly brutal battle against Napoleon Bonaparte's forces was not over for ­another 12 years. As France became ­increasingly distracted by war with ­Britain, the French commander, the ­Vicomte de Rochambeau, was finally defeated in November 1803 (though not before he had hanged, drowned or burned and ­buried alive thousands of rebels). Haiti declared independence on 1 January 1804.

As Stephen Keppel of the Economist Intelligence Unit puts it, Haiti's revolution may have brought it independence but it also "ended up destroying the country's infrastructure and most of its plantations. It wasn't the best of starts for a fledgling republic." Moreover, in exchange for diplomatic recognition from France, the new republic was forced to pay enormous reparations: some 150m francs, in gold. It was an immense sum, and even reduced by more than half in 1830, far more than Haiti could afford.

"The long and the short of it is that Haiti was paying reparations to France from 1825 until 1947," says Von Tunzelmann. "To come up with the money, it took out huge loans from American, German and French banks, at exorbitant rates of interest. By 1900, Haiti was spending about 80% of its national budget on loan repayments. It ­completely wrecked their economy. By the time the original reparations and interest were paid off, the place was basically destitute and trapped in a ­spiral of debt. Plus, a succession of leaders had more or less given up on trying to resolve Haiti's problems, and started looting it instead."

It's obscene that the slaves and their descendants were forced to pay "reparations" to their abusers.

It's obscene that this has never been redressed.

It's time for France (and the U.S. too) to step up and help make Haiti whole, after the rebuilding is done.

Send charity, request justice.


Adam said...

I'm posting the gist of this on Facebook. Thank you for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

Hello Every body,

My name is Mrs. Monica Roland. I live in UK London and i am a happy woman today? and i told my self that any lender that rescue my family from our poor situation, i will refer any person that is looking for loan to him, he gave me happiness to me and my family, i was in need of a loan of $250,000.00 to start my life all over as i am a single mother with 3 kids I met this honest and GOD fearing man loan lender that help me with a loan of $250,000.00 U.S. Dollar, he is a GOD fearing man, if you are in need of loan and you will pay back the loan please contact him tell him that is Mrs. Monica Roland that refer you to him. contact Mr. Mr James Bone via email: (

Unknown said...

HELLO Are you faced with stress in the acquisition of a loan? Have you be dissadpionted by your bank? Did you need a personal loan to secure a home, car and evaluate the finances? will help meet their financial obligations, especially with the current financial crisis. We offer Commercial loans, Personal / Residential and Others. At 3% annual interest. Apply for a minimum of $ 5000.00 to a maximum of $ through or Following is the borrower application form FullName :_________ Gender :_________ Marital Status :_________ Contact Address:_________ City:________ Country :_________ Date of Birth :_________ Amount required as a loan :_________ Term loan :_________ Monthly / annual income :_________ Occupation :_________ Purpose of Loan :_________ Phone :________ Best Regards Mr Paul Robinson(MD

Keren molina said...

Hi, are you looking for a legal and reliable lender? Do you need a loan? Do you need urgent financial assistance? Do you need an urgent loan to pay off your debt or do you need a capital loan to improve your business? We offer all types of loans to individuals and companies at an interest rate of 2% on clear and understandable terms. We will deliver any amount anywhere, if you are interested in a loan from our company, please contact us for further information


thank you