The War of the Catholic Church and Haitian elites against Vodou practitioners in Haiti in the early 20th Century

December 28, 2017
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From the signing of the concordat of 1860, the Catholic clergy began a merciless war against the Reformed cults and voodoo. The offensives It leads against the latter, motivated by a civilizing and moralizing ideal, have a particular character. Voodoo is considered a shameful "superstition", revealing the primitive aspect of religious beliefs in rural areas. In a report addressed to the Minister of Cults in 1861, Father Pascal proposes axes and means of intervention with a view to "moralizing and civilizing the Haitian Republic". In this perspective, he wants to "abolish the Vodou", to put an end to the "diabolical meetings" that are detrimental to "the progress of the Gospel" and "to the tranquility of the country".

This is where the conspiracies are, 
it is there that the idolatrous cult is still in the honor.  The historian Philippe Delisle remarks correctly that the clergy concordat considers Vodou as the persistence of superstitious practices "all the more scandalous that the country appears to him as a land of Catholic tradition."

The first missionary observations seize the voodoo "sectateurs" as Catholics who have not given up their animist practices and beliefs. Already, in 1843, Father Tisserant evoked the existence of the "old fetishism of Africa, mixed with some shreds of Catholic beliefs, the latter most often disfigured in their turn by a crude superstition."

In 1867, in a report addressed to the archbishop of Port-au-Prince, the vicar general Alexis Jean-Marie Guilloux assures that several Catholics indulge in Vodou: "The inveterate superstition, whose empire is so great still on the people, that it is felt even on those who practice their religious duties."Until the 1960s, particularly marked by the nationalization of the clergy and the holding of the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican (1962-1965), it was above all the denigrating label of "superstition" that served to qualify Vodou in Catholic circles. . Thus, in 1942, in a collective book titled Apostolate of Eighty Years, the bishops of Haiti reminded the Catholic faithful:

"When one says superstition, one does not speak only of these vain fears and these vain confidences. It is this word that is used to designate all these religious beliefs and practices that originally came from Africa, and which, even if they have undergone certain transformations, even if one admits, that they have assimilated certain foreign elements, without exception the Christian elements, remain a religion which addresses offerings to divinities which are certainly not the God of the Christians. [...] The word superstition, in the usual language of this country, is synonymous with Vodou, and it serves to designate as Vodou paganism in the form in which it is lived here, as much as the superstitions proper. The Church condemns superstitions wherever they are, both in civilized circles and in the peasant mode (though it excuses them more) in both Britain and Haiti. All the more, it condemns what we here call superstition, since it is nothing more, as we have just seen, than paganism. So, how to qualify this statement: "you have to be Catholic to be a voodooist"? [...] Catholicism can not mix with Vodou any more than the day can mix with the night. There is the same incompatibility between them as between truth and lies. "

With regard to voodoo, the strongest reactions of the Catholic Church, which should not be confused with the religious policy of the Haitian state, are anti-superstitious campaigns. They derive from a climate of hostility towards all rival ideologies maintained in a context of constitutional officiality of Roman Catholicism. In the religious history of Haiti, there are three anti-superstitious campaigns (1896-1900, 1911-1912 and 1939-1942). This article provides some details about the second "crusade", so little documented, whose centenary passed unnoticed.

Causes of the anti-superstitious campaign

After the first anti-superstitious campaign, a decade elapses without burying the rancor that the Catholic Church has towards Vodou. Nevertheless, it was impossible for him to revive the anti-superstitious campaign under the presidency of Pierre Nord Alexis (December 22, 1902-2 December 1908).

The latter, as Faustin Soulouque (March 1, 1847 - January 15, 1859), did not hide his adherence to Vodou. In this regard, The New York Times points out:

"North Alexis fought off the degrading superstitions and the disgusting rites which are the Vodou prophet's gospel and daily practice until late in life, when for many years Governor of various northern provinces. It was only, indeed, when he became President, when the papalois cunning promoted his wife, Mother Alexis, to be a priestess of theirs, that the old man's good sense was undermined. [...] Today, the African poisoners, and medicine men whom I will endeavor to describe in my next letters. These are the real and unhappily the natural leaders of the world, and they have accepted the code. the lowest ideals of the Guinea Coast."

On the other hand, the accession of General Antoine Simon to the presidency of Haiti (6 December 1908-3 August 1911) gradually reassures the Breton clergy on the possibilities of reviving harmonious relations with the State. On 25 July 1909, at a reception given at the National Palace, the Minister of the Interior recalls that the President "had a Catholic chapel raised in the courtyard of the National Palace, to hear Mass every morning, and to bequeath this pious example to his successors." But the minister also notes that the people "mingle, it seems, with the practices of Catholicism those of a fetishism day by day more ardent. Our priests lose their Latin."

For him, General Antoine Simon has a particular conception of power:

"One could find that General Antoine Simon goes a little far when he asserts with unshakable strength that" his power comes from God ". Never was the ferocious theocrat, even before the exposition of his doctrine, our head of state in his celebrated speech of the 5th of March, 1911, when, speaking to his soldiers, he exclaimed: "The authority comes from the Most High. Whoever resists perishes. We have had the proof at Ouanaminthes where the blasphemers fell victim to their pernicious advice. "- It is Louis XIV or the purest William II."

The clergy officially resumed the fight against voodoo around 1912. Two main reasons may explain this decision. In the first place, there is the anger aroused in Haiti by the publication of a book written by a former French minister in Haiti named Eugene Aubin Coullard Descos. According to the newspaper Le Nouvelliste, he seems to undertake his observations of social life in remote areas of the country around 1905:

 "The sympathetic diplomat who leads the Legation of France in Haiti, discovering with his clever intelligence that all the relations made so far about the country were either incomplete or contrived, has given himself the desire to travel all over the island to study closely the Haitian physiognomy still very close to the French physiognomy, to practice the environments where it shows itself in its truest light, to examine our laws and the customs that temper or modify them, to follow the functioning of our institutions, courts, schools and other administrative services."  Le Nouvelliste, No. 2053, Monday, June 26, 1905, p. 2.

His book discusses the roots and recurrence of "superstition" practices in every corner of the country. Eugène Aubin largely dispenses with the fusional contact of the Catholic religion with African religions and correspondence, in popular representations, between lwa and Catholic saints. The author says:

"I visited most of Haiti; apart from the missionaries, there is no white man who has long since traversed such long routes. Except in the plain of Cul-de-Sac, where the roads are passable to cars, I have always traveled on horseback, accompanied by Negro servants. The military authorities took me from post to post; in the towns, the Breton priests gave me hospitality. On the other hand, the complacency of Haitian friends or French Creoles put me in touch with the popular superstition and the worship of Vadou. I saw meals, dances, African ceremonies; I visited the sanctuaries of famous wizards. More than anyone else of my color, I think I have found myself able to observe the custom of the Haitian countryside. I admit to having taken extreme pleasure. In a magnificent setting, I had before me an uninterrupted series of popular demonstrations, of incomparable strangeness, which occurred in an idiom derived from our language, in forms whose African origin was influenced by our culture and by our history."

In other words, the diplomat implicitly emphasizes that the first anti-superstitious campaign was a bitter failure. Frédéric Marcelin, former finance minister, reproaches him, however, the fact that he does not talk enough about "our cities, our economic and moral movement, what could constitute our social anatomy, but focuses on the " eternal Vodou " which is none other than "the setting where the country was always shown." But was Eugene Aubin mistaken about the extent of Vodou practices in Haiti?

Between 1900 and 1912, the Haitian press never stopped reporting the extent of "superstitious practices" even in Port-au-Prince. For example, the newspaper Le Matin mentions that a "macabre scene" occurred at the cemetery at the funeral of a notable of the capital. At the time of descending the coffin of the deceased in his vault, an individual threw a mysterious packet there by executing "cabalistic signs". The participants understood immediately that it was a "maker of ouangas" (Le Matin)

Another article in the same paper addresses the issue of supernatural diseases in Haiti. The author, probably the physician and esoteric Arthur C. Holly, states that "often patients, given the powerlessness of the doctor, were forced to resort to the practices of" Bocors ", these doctors who are followers of the campaign, to get a quick and radical cure.

As for the daily newspaper Le Nouvelliste, dean of the Haitian press, it also related facts that, in the popular imagination, touched witchcraft and secret societies related to Vodou. Thus, in Its delivery of January 27, 1912, It alludes to a seemingly new phenomenon, the "Zo-Bop"

"Are you asking me what is it? Come on, old joker! Approach a little, and tell me, frankly, to what social environment you belong. - Are you high or low? in other words, are you "good" people or, say ... wrong people? [...] In recent days, Port-au-Prince trembles with the arrogance of a company of young men and women who wander at night and perpetrate evil acts. It is said that these young people are "high", if you like better, people ... good. Already, it is said that this company has eaten several children, has cut off the tongue to a man that, moreover, can not be named or found. The purpose of this company is naturally to provide the fortune to the partners.

Is it an urban legend? What are these accusations of ritual cannibalism based on? Nothing so far is clear enough about the organization and practices of the secret societies that abound in Haiti. This is the second reason that can justify the anti-superstitious campaign. Obsessed by this fear of being held hostage by "Zo-Bop", the population of the capital reacts emotionally to defend itself. Thus, complaints are addressed to the police against certain individuals for their supposed connection with this nebulous association. In this context, Le Nouvelliste reports a case brought to the police court:

"Yesterday, at the Court of Peace, southern section, a whole curious crowd pressed to witness the trial in simple police of three individuals charged with ... zobopisme. At least, we do not know; it was for the people, these flesh-and-blood men, the nocturnal shadows that wander through our streets and commit, according to many, many misdeeds or strange things. Hear what happened to these accused on the night of January 26th. They were together, either intoxicated or by joyful walkers, when at the corner of St Honoré and Revolution, they met with the name Leonce Legrand who was frightened, believing himself in front of zobops . He fired a revolver which missed, and fled, pursued by one of these men, a certain Theodore Benjamin. Thus saved miraculously, he hastened to complain, and yesterday afternoon, appeared in Justice, under the accusation of superstitious practices, the aforesaid Theodore, with Charles Favard and Alphonse Montauban."

This case arises while the criminal assizes are held in Port-au-Prince. Among the cases under discussion is a murder committed by the named Soiriné François and Brévilus Saintilus:

"They are farmers. Soirine's child died; it was presumed that Argentina Jean-Francois, known as a witch and who had to look after the child, had eaten her. From there, the crime, perpetrated by night, by the two accused, on the house Decloche, in the plain of Cul de Sac. Argentina succumbed to horrendous wounds. "

The jury, chaired by citizen Saint-Armand Lerebours, acquits the accused after half an hour of deliberation. The judgment of such a case, which is not even unique since the beginning of the twentieth century, must be disturbing for the good reputation of the country abroad. In the nineteenth century, the Claircine case had sufficiently affected the image of Haiti, which then carved out a place of choice in horror literature. This is probably one of the reasons that motivates the Executive to officially engage in the repression of Vodou.

Lastly, Protestant competition is constantly disturbing the clergy. First, the Protestant minority maintains the idea that their religious affiliation imposes a radical break with Vodou and gives them protection against all evil. It symbolizes, in this sense, that space of purity that superstition can not defile. Then, the numerical progression of the Protestants expresses that the Catholic Church is in deficit of hearing. It is worth mentioning that, in the context of this new anti-superstitious offensive, the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Bishop Conan, warns the Saint-Jacques Seminary:

"Haiti is no longer exclusively ours, it will struggle to maintain the integrity of faith, in our mornes even more than in our cities. Leogane is invaded, Jacmel contaminated, Marigot, Bainet reached, Côtes de Fer and Petit Goâve and Grand Goâve hold good. The great sect of these quarters is the Baptist Church; as these confer baptism only to adults, our people of the mountains still baptize their children by the priests. But certain points are so much won to the heresy that it is by several thousand (5 to 6 000 in Léogane, one says) that our people of the mountains become Protestant."

Under these conditions, the climate of hostility toward Vodou encourages the Catholic bishops to caress the idea of launching a new anti-superstitious campaign. The latter is especially necessary to prove that the Breton clergy did not give up their missionary commitment. This is the perfect time to join the secular arm of the state and strengthen the symbolic authority of Roman Catholicism in Haiti. 

The implementation of the anti-superstitious campaign

On April 28, 1911, by a confidential circular, the bishopric of Cap-Haïtien addresses the priests of its jurisdiction to be informed of the extent of the "superstition" in their parishes:

"Desiring to have on superstition in this country, on its organization, its causes, its effects, etc., information as exact as possible, I ask you to communicate to me what you yourself observed on this or that of your people worthy of faith.

To this circular is annexed a corpus of nine questions among which: 

"2. Would you know more specifically the existence, in your parish, of one or more superstitious cults? (petro, Vodo,u lwas, saints, angels, marassa, cult of sources, rivers, trees, fetish stones). In this case, give it: the exact name, the distinctive signs, the organization, the essential rites, beliefs, moral. [...] 4. Are there any buildings in your parish devoted to superstitious worship and in what proportion? Could you give an exact description of some of these buildings, their layout, their content, indicative signs of their destination, the layout of the surroundings? 5. In which class of society are adherents of this cult recruited? What do you think is the proportion of the faithful who participate in this cult? [...] 7. Where do you get grayscale, necklaces, rings, prayers, superstitious cult materials in your parish? [...] 9. What, in your opinion, would be the most effective means of stopping the advance of these superstitious practices? "  

Preparations for the anti-superstitious campaign were clearly launched. The Bishop of Les Cayes, Bishop Morice, seized, for him, a particular opportunity to implement the anti-superstitious campaign in his diocese from 1911. In a pastoral letter, published the day after the fire of the "episcopal city", he openly accuses the superstition of being at the origin of this sinister:

"In the aftermath of this terrible fire that has ruined Our city, the unanimous voice of the people proclaims that the main cause that unleashed the scourge of divine wrath is superstition."

He pursues :

"An unprecedented crime was committed in the public cemetery of Les Cayes a few days before the catastrophe that has just destroyed Les Cayes. A troop of bandits has made an appointment for nocturnal orgies, about fifty meters from the cross that dominates and protects the graves of our deceased, under a tree that the followers of the Vodou watch as a main piece, a roast pork intermingling their bacchanalia with libations and cabalistic rites. This fact came to our knowledge only by chance, when it was already known in the city, and the people closest to the cemetery, when we interrogated them, were at first under the influence of such a fright,  that they pretended to know nothing. Soon, however, gathered in groups around us, they became bold to speak. [...] Is there, after cannibalism, a crime more frightful than that of profaning the sanctity of the tombs by saturnalia which would have excited, in such a place, the horror of the pagan peoples? [...] We invite the faithful of the Cathedral and the Sacred Heart to a procession of reparation and penance that will leave today, after vespers, from the Sacred Heart Church to go to the cemetery, to the song of the Miserere. We ask you to attend in droves, to emphasize the respect you have for the memory of your deceased, and the unanimous disapproval of fetishism. "

But it was in 1912 that the campaign really took off. President Cincinnatus Leconte (14 August 1911-8 August 1912), by circular to the district commanders (15 March 1912), recalled the need to implement the articles of the Penal Code repressing superstitious practices:

"General, the penal code, you must not ignore it, by its articles 405, 406 and 407, strictly prohibits the practices of Vodou and enacts the most severe penalties against any infraction to its provisions which are of public order.

Now, it is well known that dances, which are the common prerogative of these manifestations of popular superstition, frequently reunite farmers in the towns and suburbs more or less distant from the cities; these dances are accompanied by all the usual practices of this vulgar worship. These meetings, when they are made and last the night, fall, moreover, under Article 111 of the rural code which prohibits any dance or feast beyond midnight. You will have a duty, General, to ensure the execution of all these legal provisions which the legislator has rendered for a high purpose of civilization. The Government, which knows how much such a state of things is due to the backward condition and uneducated manners of our people, does not intend to prescribe in this circumstance any violent means. You must first remove any encouragement from these meetings, because quite often it is the tolerance of the authority that perpetuates these constant breaches of the law. By explaining to your constituents the motives of this course of action, which you will be careful to share with the commanders of the communes and the heads of rural sections under your command, you will thus succeed in convincing them first of all, of the state. offense in which these unlawful meetings expose them to be. I must warn you that I will not care for those of the representatives of the authority who will not strictly comply with this part of the instructions contained in this circular. If this attitude does not bring about any significant change in the current state of affairs, then you will take the measures necessary to ascertain the crime and to bring the repression to regular justice against any offender. Convince yourself, General, that by holding hands with these injunctions, you will assist the Government in the most efficacious part of its work of nationalization and civilization. Acknowledge me receipt of this, by accepting the new assurance of my perfect consideration. "

Then, in a message to the National Assembly dated June 28, 1912, President Leconte inscribed the orientation of the religious policy of the State in a project of "moralization and civilization". He regrets that despite the efforts of the State, the Catholic Church and Protestant missions, "the darkness of ignorance and superstition continue to dwell heavily on the shady mentality of the peasant populations." The Haitian president also supports:

"If, at the time we are, it is repugnant, it is impossible to employ the violent methods which the colonial ordinances of Toussaint Louverture put into effect to fight in the habitations barbarous manners and gross beliefs, it must be remembered that, as in his day, superstitious practices might still serve as a harmless means apparently to ward off public order. In any case, they remain a provoked cause of stopping in the development of consciousness, the control of initiative, the continuous collapse of cerebrality and hereditary physical decay.

Of course, we can no longer, as it was a hundred years ago, think of bayoneting en masse the farmers who give their time, their strength and their reason to dance and Vodou worship, nor can they be subjected to torturous flogging using the bayahonde's chins and on the sound of the drums. "

As a result, President Leconte particularly relies on the contribution of the teacher and the priest instead of focusing on the traditional repressive role of the cultural inspector. The state thus supports the idea of ​​a new anti-superstitious campaign. After the assassination of Leconte (August 8, 1912), by circular to the district commanders (October 26, 1912), the president Tancrède Auguste (August 8, 1912-2 May 1913) requires the local authorities to grant their assistance "to the God's ministers, in their work of moralizing and contributing with them to eradicate from our campaigns superstitions and superstitious practices that cause so much harm to our people. " In a pastoral letter, written during the Lent of 1912, the Bishop of Les Cayes questions the extent of "superstition":

"Does the blood of Jesus Christ circulate among these masses to raise them and to supernaturalise? Alas! your pastors are obliged to refuse the sacraments to a large number; some have returned to superstitious practices; others violate the sanctity of marriage; the majority live in bonds that God has not blessed. "

Our Lords the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince and the Bishops of Cap-Haïtien and Les Cayes, for the Lent of 1913, publish a collective pastoral letter in which they define "superstition" as "rendering a creature the honor and the worship which are due only to God alone, or to render to God a worship which he does not approve ". In a broader sense:

"Superstition refers to certain practices by which, by means of a tacit or express pact with the devil, an extraordinary effect is expected or expected from a cause which is not capable, by itself, of producing that effect.  It gives us a vain and excessive confidence in certain things, or inspires an equally frivolous and exaggerated fear of others, such as having a supernatural virtue that they do not have, or as having a greater than they do not have in reality. "

The Catholic Church, from 1911 to 1913, multiplies initiatives to fight the "vain observances", the art divinatory and the magic. Pastoral tours are organized to fight "superstition and ignorance". But the clergy did not achieve the expected results:

"If the clergy has not been more successful, would not the reason be that it has not been helped enough by the struggle so far? It must not be alone in this business. We are entitled to the competition of all classes of society, "

It recognizes, however, the effectiveness of the State's collaboration in the implementation of the anti-superstitious campaign:

"Are we not already assured of the assistance of the military authorities? [...] We will no longer see, as in the past, military commanders not only turn a blind eye to superstitious practices, but encourage them and sometimes even make them a source of revenue by granting, for a fee, the authorization of do a "dance" or celebrate a "service". All, in the future, will be inspired by the spirit of the Presidential Circulars of March 25th and October 26th. "

But, almost immediately after the publication of this pastoral letter, President Jean Antoine Tancrède Auguste dies after a month of illness (May 2, 1913). Haiti is now sinking into an era of political instability and slowing down the pace of the anti-superstitious campaign. Bishop Jean-Marie Jan, in a book published in 1959, lets the spirit of the time transpire:

"The remarkable Pastoral Letter of the bishops of Haiti on superstition should draw our attention to one of the most shameful forms of fetishism, which is so attractive to rude people, Vodou. [...] Vodou is also a cause of misery. Our countrymen could enjoy a certain ease. But many do not have a small piece of furniture to put in their miserable huts and can not dress appropriately to go to church to hear the word of God, to pray and to attend the sacraments. These people are always penniless. When their children are sick, not the least economy to buy remedies and see a doctor. No savings bank. All the assets of the inhabitant pass in tafia and victuals, to offer the public a Vodou. (...) Vodou is not only immoral and anti-social, it is anti-religious. Everyone knows that the goal of those who give a Vodou is to attract the favors of some African god. They are convinced that a Vodou dance gives luck or places, diverts diseases, provides health. "

What is the reaction of practitioners of vodou? By reading the writings of the time, particularly the newspapers and the missionary archives Spiritual Chevilly-Larue and priests of Saint-Jacques in Britain, it is clear that there is little information on this subject. It must also be emphasized that, in the historiography of the first two anti-superstitious campaigns, there is not enough emphasis on the experiences and reactions of the practitioners persecuted by the Catholic Church. The little information about Vodou is, in fact, transmitted and often made by newspapers, travelers or Breton priests in office in Haiti. This is also a reason that requires some caution in handling this information. In the context of the anti-superstitious campaign of 1912, an "incredible scandal" and perhaps isolated, which occurred in the Catholic chapel of Sainte-Anne in Port-au-Prince, caught the attention of the daily Le Matin:

"Yesterday morning, at half-past five, Monseigneur Beaugé was just beginning to officiate when Jeanty, said Senator, accompanied by two others, whose names we do not know, burst into the Church. He and his companions, their hands laden with candles, went and sat down at the epistle, and there improvised a macabre office, which was worthy of the words of profanation which made the timorous people tremble.

Putting in the back of each chair, in the row where they were seated, a candle, - Senator playing the part of Bocor and the two others that of assessors - the three young people began the ceremony. They drew cards, invoked St. Rush, and all the laws Azibloco, Houngan Assan, Badagris, whistled the cry "in the fire" as their candles flamed, red, intoned, at full throats, at the moment of the consecration, Erzulie Ninninn ' o, inviolate the priest, who demanded silence, did so well that the police had to be summoned to the door. When the police arrived, Senator and one of his friends had already abandoned the place and the third was retiring by a side door."

Unlike the first antisuperstitious campaign, intellectual elites seem to be more cautious. Recall that in 1896, a committee of the League against Vodou was made up of Catholic intellectuals in support of the initiative of the Catholic Church to uproot Vodou in Haiti.

His main figures were Alfred Box, Toussaint CA, Mercier, Saint-Amand Blot, Alphonse Béliard, Anténor Firmin, S. Papillon, J. Adhémar Auguste, A. Duvivier, Félesmin Étienne, Father Gloux, B. Jean Pierre, General Béliard , JJ Thales Manigat, etc. The latter is undoubtedly, with J. Adhémar Auguste and Monseigneur Kersuzan, the personality that will have marked this hostility against Vodou.

The lack of commitment of the intellectual elites of the moment in the anti-superstitious campaign probably reflects the weakening of the symbolic authority of the Catholic Church. At the same time, in the columns of Medical Haiti, Dr. Jean Chrysostome Dorsainvil published his first studies on Vodou. A journalist and doctor, he had created a name for himself by articles he regularly signed in Le Matin. In a book written in memory of his memory, Mr. Pericles C. Verret reproduces his confidences concerning the first contacts of Dorsainvil with Vodou.

After high school, says the doctor,

"I was struck by the immense, incredible role played by Vodou in the general idea that is made outside the Haitian people. In the course of several years, beside my medical studies, I had to undertake the rather heavy task of reading as much as possible all that had been published about this people, especially since their liberation in 1804. "

Dorsainvil's interest in studying Vodou is not surprising. His reflections are commented in the newspaper Le Matin, known for Its propaganda in favor of Leplaysian ideas, in which he collaborated. Against the opinion of Dorsainvil who believes that it is enough to liberalize the instruction to remove Vodou, the newspaper replies:

"His study, which deals with a kind of pathological examination of the fund of African superstition that remains in the constitution of our society, apart from highlighting very interesting points in the history of the religious and moral origins of Haitians, it raises again the important question of the struggle between heredity and education in our formation as a people. [...] Does not it seem to you that these affirmations of a man of science have a certain air of inevitability too rigorous and that they involve a doubt too formal about our capacity to locate us, a day next, in this Aryan civilization to which, according to MM. Joseph Janvier and Firmin, a powerful element of our ethnical formation and our intellectual and moral descent, make us irresistibly tender with chances of attaining it. "

A few months later, Le Matin publishes a critique of the state's religious policy that makes Vodou a low-risk popular religion:

"In the past, there have been representatives of this Vaudouphobe regime, who still deserve our stigma. We will inflict on them the most infamous nail in the pillory of history. And when they have made their souls evil of illustrious manes, we will form a great pyre of their ordinances and their laws, then, with the low thud of the drums, the sound of the "assons", we will turn frantically all around, in the round of clodoches Hieratic, while burning with the fire of this pyre, with their effigy, with these heterodox exterminators, their memory forever impious. Must we name the names of those schismatics who tried, but in vain, to wrest our people from religion according to their genius? Yes ? Well ! these are simply those who commanded the country from Rivière-Hérard ... going back to Toussaint-Louverture. Those who, being neighbors of the origin, could excusably have the most complaisance for the African Theodicea, and yet, O subversion of the laws of history, reveal themselves the greatest contemptors, the most bloodthirsty persecutors of Vodou. [...] The customs change with time; formerly it was the meetings Vodou that were considered contrary to public order, today they pass for honest entertainment and what is seditious, which is considered a case pendable is to practice at shooting and anywhere, anytime. "

Such a position should not be surprising. Already, in 1908, Dr. Léon Audain, who was an intern at the Paris hospitals and knight of the Legion of Honor, sees Vodou as a dance "universally practiced in our countryside" and "in the suburbs of Port-au-Prince . For him, it is a distraction that allows the people to let off steam and rush "tintamarresque orgies. Far from seeing a ceremony in which the participants engage in ritual cannibalism, he believes that this dance should "Stop the public shedding of the blood of animals, put a brake on the tafia fury of the initiates"

But this first effort to deconstruct anti-Vodou discourses was already underway in other writers. In the line of the writings of Dr. Elie Lhérisson, a certain Eddah wrote that "Vodou is a true religion for the populations of the campaigns of Haiti and that it is not necessary

"To confuse the practice of Vodou[...] with that of Vin-Bin-Dingues demonomaniacs . Vodou differs essentially from Vin-Bindingues. While here we find the names of Mackandal, Don Jean Petro, Caprelata, Bizangos and the mysterious diabolical ceremonies to which only the followers are initiated; in Vodou, on the contrary, things happen in the open. "

Literature is perhaps the place where a change of epoch in the Haitian social life is blatantly noted. At the end of the first anti-superstitious campaign, the era of realistic novels begins, in which the existence and anchoring of Vodou in popular circles is attested. Without favoring Vodou, novelists give access to the popular imagination that maintains myths and legends structuring life in community. It is in this perspective that, for example, is one of the first "Haitian novels": The revenge of Mama of the intellectual Frédéric Marcelin in 1902. Four years later, Antoine Innocent makes Mimola appear who gets the good graces of the Haitian readership despite the fact that Vodou occupies a key place in the story. Besides, Innocent confesses to have "wanted quite simply to show, given the unfavorable opinion of the foreigner, the analogies, the affinities which exist between "Vodou" and the" religions "of antiquity. The Catholic Church does not officially react to the publication of these novels which implicitly call into question the progress of evangelization.


The second anti-superstitious campaign is activated in a context where the Catholic Church tries to prove that it is the only institution capable of uprooting Vodou and to point out the path of civilization and moralization to Haitian society. It also came at a time when the Haitian state, on its side, tries to reassure the spirits of citizens exposed to rumors of witchcraft and malicious acts within the capital itself. These two institutions, in their own way, engage in a struggle against Vodou whose details are not sufficiently recounted in the writings of the time. What was the scale of this anti-superstitious crusade? What perception did Vodou practitioners have of the latter? What was the situation of the various Reformed cults present in Haiti? There is still much to discover to enrich this historiography. What remains certain is that the anti-superstitious campaign is gradually weakening because of political instability. Already the American occupation of Haiti was announced.


  • Sources archivistiques

    • Archives générales spiritaines
      12 rue du Père Mazurié - 94550 Chevilly-Larue
    • Archives des Œuvres Pontificales Missionnaires
      Centre de Documentation et d’Archives
      12, rue sala 69287 Lyon cedex 02
    • Archives de la Société des Prêtres de Saint-Jacques
      Saint-Jacques en Guiclan BP 40319 29403 Landivisiau Cedex
    • Bibliothèque Haïtienne des Frères de l’Instruction Chrétienne
      180, rue du Centre HT 6110 Port-au-Prince, Haïti
  • Bibliography

    • Anonyme, « Assises criminelles. Sorcellerie et meurtre », Le Nouvelliste, n° 4073, 14 mars 1912, p. 2.
    • Anonyme, « Des Zobops au Tribunal de simple Police » in Le Nouvelliste, n° 4038, vendredi 2 février 1912, p. 2.
    • Anonyme, « S. M. Bamboula » in Le Matin, n° 1675, lundi 14 octobre 1912, p. 1.
    • Anonyme, « Scène macabre au Cimetière » in Le Matin, n° 1552, mercredi 22 mai 1912, p. 2.
    • Anonyme, « Un scandale inouï » in Le Matin, n° 1732, jeudi 26 décembre 1912, p. 2.
    • Anonyme, « Une étude du Dr Dorsainvil » in Le Matin, n° 1369, mercredi 12 juin 1912, p. 1.
    • Aubin Eugène, En Haïti. Planteurs d’autrefois. Nègres d’aujourd’hui, Paris, Librairie Armand Colin, 1910.
    • Audain Léon, Le mal d’Haïti. Ses causes et son traitement. Port-au-Prince, Imprimerie J. Verrollot, 1908.
    • Bonsal Stephen, « The Passing of Nord Alexis of Haiti » in The New York Times, 21 février 1909.
    • Clorméus Lewis Ampidu, Entre l’État, les intellectuels et les religions. Redécouvrir la campagne anti-superstitieuse de 1939-1942, Thèse de doctorat, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales/ Université d’État d’Haïti, 2012.
    • CollectifApostolat de Quatre Vingts ans, Cap-Haïtien, Presse Almonacy, 1942.
    • CollectifLettre pastorale et mandement de Nos Seigneurs l’Archevêque de Port-au-Prince et les évêques du Cap-Haïtien et des Cayes pour le Carême de l’an de grâce 1913, Port-au-Prince, Imprimerie H. Amblard, 1913.
    • Delisle Philippe, Le catholicisme en Haïti au xixe siècle. Le rêve d’une « Bretagne noire » (1860-1915), Paris, Éd. Karthala, 2003.
    • Département de la JusticeBulletin des Lois et Actes. 1er janvier – 30 juin 1952. Édition officielle, Port-au-Prince, Imprimerie N. A. Théodore, 1953.
    • Département de la JusticeBulletin des Lois et Actes. Année 1916. Édition Officielle, Port-au-Prince, Imprimerie Nationale, 1917.
    • Dorsainvil J. C., Histoire d’Haïti. À l’Usage des Candidats au Certificat d’Études Primaires, Les Frères de l’Instruction Chrétienne, Port-au-Prince, Éditions Henri Deschamps, 1942.
    • Eddah, « Le Vaudoux » in Le Nouvelliste, n° 2119, mardi 12 septembre 1905, p. 1.
    • Évêché du Cap-Haïtien, Circulaire confidentielle, Évêché du Cap-Haïtien, n° 161, Cap-Haïtien, 28 avril 1911.
    • François Kawas, L’État et l’Église catholique en Haïti aux xixe et xxe siècles (1860-1980). Documents officiels, déclarations, correspondances, etc., Tome I, Paris, Éd. L’Harmattan, 2009.
    • Guilloux A., Lettre-Circulaire de Monseigneur l’Archevêque de Port-au-Prince au clergé de son diocèse à l’occasion de son départ pour Rome, Port-au-Prince, 22 mai 1867.
    • Guilloux A., Rapport adressé à Monseigneur Testard du Cosquer, Archevêque de Port-au-Prince, par son Vicaire Général, sur l’ensemble des œuvres et des travaux accomplis pendant l’année 1869 dans les différents diocèses de la République d’Haïti, confiés à son administration. Port-au-Prince, 25 mars 1868.
    • Hédor, « Les Zo-Bops » in Le Nouvelliste, n° 4033, samedi 27 janvier 1912, p. 1.
    • Her Mael, « Les maladies Surnaturelles existent-elles ? » in Le Matin, n° 1559, jeudi 30 mai 1912, p. 1.
    • Innocent Antoine, Mimola, Port-au-Prince, Imprimerie F. Malval, 1906.
    • Jan J. M., Un siècle de l’Église du Cap Haïtien 1860-1960, Port-au-Prince, Éditions Henri Deschamps, 1959.
    • Le Nouvelliste, n° 2053, lundi 26 juin 1905, p. 2.
    • Leconte Cincinnatus, « Pour l’Ordre Rural. Circulaire Présidentielle aux Commandants d’arrondissements » in Le Nouvelliste, n° 4083, mardi 26 mars 1912, p. 2.
    • Magloire Félix, « Comment meurent les chefs » in Le Matin, n° 1624, mercredi 14 août 1912, p. 1.
    • Manigat J. F. Thalès, Conférence sur le vaudoux, Cap-Haïtien, Imprimerie-Librairie La Conscience, 1897.
    • Marcelin Frédéric, Au gré du souvenir, Paris, Augustin Challamel Editeur, 1913.
    • Marcelin Frédéric, La Vengeance de Mama, Paris, Société d’éditions littéraires et artistiques, 1902.
    • Marcelin Frédéric, Les finances d’Haïti. Emprunts nouveaux – Même Banque, Paris, Imprimerie Kugelmann, 1911.
    • Morice Jean-Marie-Alexandre (Mgr.), Lettre pastorale de Monseigneur l’Évêque des Cayes à la population de sa ville épiscopale, Archevêché des Cayes, n° 86, 4 mars 1911.
    • Morice Jean-Marie-Alexandre (Mgr.), Lettre pastorale et Mandement de Monseigneur l’Évêque des Cayes pour le saint temps de carême de l’an de grâce 1912, Cayes, Imprimerie de l’évêché, 1912.
    • Seabrook W.-B., L’île magique, Traduit de l’Anglais par Gabriel des Hons. Préface de Paul Morand, Paris, Firmin-Didot et Cie Éditeurs, 8e édition, 1929.
    • Verret Périclès C., « Le docteur J. C. Dorsainvil. Sa vie et ses œuvres » in J. C. Dorsainvil, Essais de vulgarisation scientifique et question haïtiennes, Port-au-Prince, Imprimerie Théodore, 1952, p. XXXI-XXXII.

    • Notes
      Rapport adressé au ministre des cultes par le père Pascal, septembre 1861. Archives de la Congrégation du Saint-Esprit à Chevilly-Larue (Arch. CSSP). 5P1.2.3. Correspondance du père Pascal avec l’autorité civile.

      Philippe Delisle, Le catholicisme en Haïti au xixe siècle. Le rêve d’une « Bretagne noire » (1860-1915), Paris, Éd. Karthala, 2003, p. 83.

      Fonds de Lyon. Archives des Œuvres Pontificales Missionnaires. Dossier : F.145. Haïti (1844-1922). Document : F07709. Lettre du père Tisserant à Messieurs les membres du Conseil de la Propagation de la Foi, Belgique, octobre 1844.

      A. Guilloux, Rapport adressé à Monseigneur Testard du Cosquer, Archevêque de Port-au-Prince, par son Vicaire Général, sur l’ensemble des œuvres et des travaux accomplis pendant l’année 1869 dans les différents diocèses de la République d’Haïti, confiés à son administration. Port-au-Prince, 25 mars 1868. Arch. CSSP. 5P1.3.3. L’Archevêque de Port-au-Prince, dans une lettre-circulaire du 22 mai 1867, parle aussi d’« envahissements sauvages des superstitions Africaines ». A. Guilloux, Lettre-Circulaire de Monseigneur l’Archevêque de Port-au-Prince au clergé de son diocèse à l’occasion de son départ pour Rome, Port-au-Prince, 22 mai 1867.

      Collectif, Apostolat de Quatre Vingts ans, Cap-Haïtien, Presse Almonacy, 1942, p. 9-10.

      L’expression est de Philippe Delisle qui parle du « temps de la croisade » pour évoquer les deux premières campagnes antisuperstitieuses. Philippe Delisle, op. cit., p. 91.

      Stephen Bonsal, « The Passing of Nord Alexis of Haiti » in The New York Times, 21 février 1909.

      Il est nécessaire de signaler ici, pour nuancer le portrait d’Antoine Simon, des propos du journaliste américain William B. Seabrook paru dans son livre best-seller sur Haïti : « Il avait installé au palais, comme première dame du pays, sa fille Célestine, elle aussi négresse paysanne, et n’ayant d’autres beauté que celle d’une superbe taille, au galbe tout rustique. […] Bien que n’ayant pas encore trente ans, elle passait pour être secrètement la grande mamaloi de tout Haïti, sa plus haute prêtresse. Et ce n’était pas seulement Célestine, mais aussi son père Antoine Simon, président de la République, qui passait pour s’adonner activement à la sorcellerie noire. On disait communément que les rites magiques étaient pratiqués dans l’enceinte même du palais, et vraisemblablement il en était ainsi. En apparence, toutefois, le président et sa fille étaient bons catholiques. Ils allaient exactement à la messe, comme d’ailleurs tous les officiers et les fonctionnaires du palais présidentiel. » W.-B. Seabrook, L’île magique, Traduit de l’Anglais par Gabriel des Hons. Préface de Paul Morand, Paris, Firmin-Didot et Cie, 8e édition, 1929, p. 133.

      Frédéric Marcelin, Les finances d’Haïti. Emprunts nouveaux – Même Banque, Imprimerie Kugelmann, Paris, 1911, p. 121.

      Ibid., p. 122.

      Ibid., p. 122-123.

      Eugène Aubin, En Haïti. Planteurs d’autrefois. Nègres d’aujourd’hui, Paris, Librairie Armand Colin, 1910.

      Le Nouvelliste, n° 2053, lundi 26 juin 1905, p. 2.

      Eugène Aubin, op. cit., p. 42-61. Mais, dans tout l’ouvrage, il fait des allusions à des personnalités et des pratiques liées au vodou.

      Ibid., p. XXVII-XXVIII.

      Frédéric Marcelin, Au gré du souvenir, Paris, Augustin Challamel Éditeur, 1913, p. 13.

      Ibid., p. 13.

      Extrait de : Alfred Métraux, Le vaudou haïtien, Paris, Gallimard, 1958, p. 164.

      Anonyme, « Scène macabre au Cimetière » in Le Matin, n° 1552, mercredi 22 mai 1912, p. 2.

      Her Mael, « Les maladies Surnaturelles existent-elles ? » in Le Matin, no 1559, jeudi 30 mai 1912, p. 1.

      Extrait de : Patrick Woog, Haïti Métamorphoses, Cavaillon, éditions Haïti Futur, 2004, p. 260. On notera l’erreur orthographique issue de la phonétique.

      Le « zobop » serait, d’après les rumeurs populaires, une société secrète aux pratiques criminelles qui fonctionnent essentiellement durant la nuit et surtout en milieu rural.

      Hédor, « Les Zo-Bops » in Le Nouvelliste, n° 4033, samedi 27 janvier 1912, p. 1.

      Peut-être s’agit-il, à l’époque, d’une propagande orchestrée par le pouvoir politique, à la faveur de la crédulité populaire, à dessein de mieux contrôler le territoire durant la nuit. Dans cette logique, cette rumeur aurait fondé une légende urbaine dont s’est appropriée la plupart des communautés rurales du pays. Rappelons tout de même que le président Leconte meurt dans l’explosion inexplicable du palais national durant la nuit du 7 au 8 août 1912.

      Anonyme, « Des Zobops au Tribunal de simple Police » in Le Nouvelliste, n° 4038, vendredi 2 février 1912, p. 2.

      Anonyme, « Assises criminelles. Sorcellerie et meurtre », Le Nouvelliste, n° 4073, 14 mars 1912, p. 2.

      Il s’agit d’accusations de cannibalisme rituel contre la personne d’une fillette en 1863. L’historien Jean Chrysostome Dorsainvil résume ainsi l’affaire : « En décembre 1863, une petite fille nommée Claircine fut sacrifiée, à Bizoton, dans une cérémonie de vaudou. Huit personnes, parmi lesquelles Jeanne Pelé et son frère Congo, furent condamnés à mort après qu’elles eurent avoué leur crime affreux. C’était justice. Mais la trop grande publicité faite à cette affaire procura une réputation regrettable à tout le pays et mécontenta l’opinion publique ». La question est aussi abordée dans : Lewis Ampidu Clorméus, Entre l’État, les intellectuels et les religions. Redécouvrir la campagne anti-superstitieuse de 1939-1942, Thèse de doctorat, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales/Université d’État d’Haïti, 2012. J. C. Dorsainvil, Histoire d’Haïti. À l’Usage des Candidats au Certificat d’Études Primaires, Port-au-Prince, Les Frères de l’Instruction Chrétienne, Éditions Henri Deschamps, 1942, p. 170.

      Archevêché de Port-au-Prince, 22 mars 1912. Archives de la Société des Prêtres de Saint-Jacques. Correspondance Séminaire Saint-Jacques avec l’Archevêque de Port-au-Prince, Cote : 3K8A (PP)-1.

      Extrait de : Mgr J. M. Jan, Collecta III. Pour l’Histoire Religieuse du Diocèse du Cap-Haïtien, Port-au-Prince, Éditions Henri Deschamps, 1958, H.T. p. 80-81.

      [Mgr Kersuzan] Évêché du Cap-Haïtien, Circulaire confidentielle, Évêché du Cap-Haïtien, n° 161, Cap-Haïtien, 28 avril 1911.


      Monseigneur Jean-Marie-Alexandre Morice, Lettre pastorale de Monseigneur l’Évêque des Cayes à la population de sa ville épiscopale, Archevêché des Cayes, n° 86, 4 mars 1911, p. 1.

      Ibid., p. 2-3. À noter que ces détails n’apparaissent pas dans le récit des événements tels que relatés par le père Joseph Bellec : J. Bellec, « Récit de l’incendie de février 1911. Cayes, 12 mars 1911. » Archives des Prêtres de la Société de Saint-Jacques. Dossier : Les Cayes. Documents Épiscopaux. 1895-1914. Mgr. Morice. Cote : 1MD4-2.

      Le président Jean-Jacques Dessalines Michel Leconte est descendant direct de Jean-Jacques Dessalines, le premier chef d’État haïtien (1804-1806). Ce dernier était très hostile aux pratiques du vodou. Leconte est né à Saint-Michel du Nord le 29 septembre 1854 et fit ses études particulièrement en Allemagne. Il débute dans l’enseignement (1874-1876) avant de devenir secrétaire du conseil municipal, puis chef de bureau de la douane du Cap-Haïtien. Il fut élu député de la Marmelade à 27 ans, puis constituant. Il fut aussi Secrétaire d’État des Travaux Publics (1897-1902). Avili par le procès de la consolidation, il voulut engager le pays dans la voie d’une réforme générale qu’il n’aura pas eu le temps de réaliser. C’est peut-être dans cette idée qu’il crut nécessaire d’engager officiellement l’État dans la campagne antisuperstitieuse. Après sa mort, Félix Magloire rappela que « chrétien, il ne mêlait pas les saintetés de la religion aux profanations et aux scandales du sabbat. Il ne servait qu’un seul Dieu ». Félix Magloire, « Comment meurent les chefs » in Le Matin, n° 1624, mercredi 14 août 1912, p. 1.

      La petite histoire rapporte que Joséphine Laroche, la première dame, était une fervente servante des lwa. Avec ces derniers, elle aurait négocié l’accession à la présidence du général Leconte. Voir : Rémus Rémy, Vaudou, magie et sorcellerie. Superstitions africaines, 1937, p. 54. Miméo. Document d’archives incomplet conservé à la Bibliothèque de Saint-Louis de Gonzague, Cote : K-3a68.

      Cincinnatus Leconte, « Pour l’Ordre Rural. Circulaire Présidentielle aux Commandants d’arrondissements » in Le Nouvelliste, n° 4083, mardi 26 mars 1912, p. 2.

      Kawas François, L’État et l’Église catholique en Haïti aux xixe et xxe siècles (1860-1980). Documents officiels, déclarations, correspondances, etc., Tome I, Éd. L’Harmattan, Paris, 2009, p. 180-181. L’intégralité de ce discours est publiée, d’après les indications du père Kawas François, dans le supplément du Moniteur (mercredi 19 février 1913, n° 15).

      Ibid., p. 180-181.

      Patrick Woog, op. cit., Carte postale du Palais, p. 74. « Le 8 août 1912 à 3 heures du matin, sous la présidence de Cincinnatus Leconte, la poudrière du Palais explose et le Palais s’embrase en un éclair. Le chef de l’État péri carbonisé dans ce sinistre qui cause près de 70 victimes et une centaine de blessés. » (p. 76.)

      Collectif, Lettre pastorale et mandement de Nos Seigneurs l’Archevêque de Port-au-Prince et les évêques du Cap-Haïtien et des Cayes pour le Carême de l’an de grâce 1913, Port-au-Prince, Imprimerie H. Amblard, 1913, p. 3.

      Jean-Marie Alexandre Morice, Lettre pastorale et Mandement de Monseigneur l’Évêque des Cayes pour le saint temps de carême de l’an de grâce 1912, Cayes, Imprimerie de l’évêché, 1912, p. 5.

      Collectif, op. cit., p. 4.

      Ibid., p. 5.

      La magie est définie comme « l’art d’obtenir par certains procédés des résultats qui ne peuvent être produits par des moyens naturels et sont étrangers à l’intervention divine ». Ibid., p. 6.

      Ibid., p. 8.


      J. M. Jan, Un siècle de l’Église du Cap Haïtien 1860-1960, Port-au-Prince, Éditions Henri Deschamps, 1959, p. 322.

      Anonyme, « Un scandale inouï » in Le Matin, n° 1732, jeudi 26 décembre 1912, p. 2.

      J. F. Thalès Manigat, Conférence sur le vaudoux, Cap-Haïtien, Imprimerie-Librairie La Conscience, 1897.

      Mgr J. M. Jan, Collecta III. Pour l’Histoire Religieuse du Diocèse du Cap-Haïtien, op. cit., H. T. p. 80-81.

      Alfred Métraux, op. cit., p. 161.

      Périclès C. Verret, « Le docteur J. C. Dorsainvil. Sa vie et ses œuvres », in J. C. Dorsainvil, Essais de vulgarisation scientifique et question haïtiennes, Port-au-Prince, Imprimerie Théodore, 1952, p. XXXI-XXXII.

      Ce point de vue sera largement diffusé dans les milieux officiels et intellectuels en Haïti. Par exemple, dans sa Proclamation du 1er janvier 1916, le président Sudre Dartiguenave affirme qu’il faut « combattre résolument les pratiques superstitieuses par l’École et par les grands préceptes moraux de la Religion ». Département de la Justice, Bulletin des Lois et Actes. Année 1916. Édition Officielle, Port-au-Prince, Imprimerie Nationale, 1917, p. 6. Bien plus tard, au cours de la séance de l’Assemblée Constituante du vendredi 17 novembre 1950, l’intellectuel catholique Dantès Bellegarde déclare qu’il est nécessaire de « débarrasser » les « populations paysannes » des « superstitions qui les maintiennent dans la misère et l’abjection » par l’éducation et « élever leur niveau moral et religieux ». Département de la Justice, Bulletin des Lois et Actes. 1er janvier – 30 juin 1952. Édition officielle, Port-au-Prince, Imprimerie N. A. Théodore, 1953, p. 250. Cette position sera longtemps véhiculée par la gauche marxiste-léniniste haïtienne selon laquelle le vodou n’est rien d’autre qu’une forme courante de l’aliénation religieuse des masses paysannes. Dans ce cas, par son caractère révolutionnaire, la modernité devrait affranchir définitivement ces dernières d’une telle aliénation.

      Anonyme, « Une étude du Dr Dorsainvil » in Le Matin, n° 1369, mercredi 12 juin 1912, p. 1.

      Anonyme, « S. M. Bamboula » in Le Matin, n° 1675, lundi 14 octobre 1912, p. 1.

      Patrick Woog, op. cit., p. 84.

      Léon Audain, Le mal d’Haïti. Ses causes et son traitement. Port-au-Prince, Imprimerie J. Verrollot, 1908, p. 55.

      Ibid., p. 56.

      Ibid., p. 57.

      Eddah, « Le Vaudoux » in Le Nouvelliste, n° 2119, mardi 12 septembre 1905, p. 1.


      Frédéric Marcelin, La Vengeance de Mama, Paris, Société d’éditions littéraires et artistiques, 1902.

      Antoine Innocent, Mimola, Port-au-Prince, Imprimerie F. Malval, 1906.

      Ibid., p. XIII.


Germany, Mole Saint Nicholas and the United States occupation of Haiti in 1915

February 23, 2016
America had been watching very closely the relationship between Germany and Haiti; some 50 years after Haiti had gained its independence, German interests on the half island had grown considerably.

Haiti in the late 1800s had a small German population of around 250, which was in control however of 80% of the country's wealth. 

They maintained, operated and controlled all utilities in Port-au-Prince as well as in Cap-Haitian. They operated the ports, the tramway in the Capital, and the extensive...
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How Haiti helped Greece in its fight for independence

January 11, 2016

Many know that Haiti's help was crucial in the liberation of many Latin American countries, the most remembered being the liberation of Venezuela, however most are unaware that the first Black Republic also helped many other countries well beyond its shores in the Americas.

This Article will analyze the role of Haiti in the establishment of Greece, as an independent country.

Between 1821 and 1832, the Greek revolutionaries waged wars against the Ottoman Empire, which had been ruling most of Gre...

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Impact of the Haitian Revolution around the world (Part I)

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The slave revolution that two hundred years ago created the state of Haiti alarmed and excited public opinion on both sides on the Atlantic. Its repercussions ranged from the world commodity markets to the imagination of poets; from council of the great powers to slave quarters in Virginia, Philadelphia, Cuba and Brazil and most points in between. But one of the most fascinating aspects of the Haitian revolution is that Its success did not deter the slave-holders from continuing with the vile...

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The conditions and treatments of slaves in the French Colony of Saint Domingue

April 24, 2015
In 1685, then king of France Louis XIV passed the Code Noire (Black Code), a decree defining the conditions of slavery in the French colonial empire and the activities permitted by free Negroes. The Code Noire also placed limits on the physical violence on slaves and instituted punishments for masters who murdered slaves; in practice however, these provisions were rarely enforced.

The Code Noire for example, ordered that the slaves should be given, every week, two pounds of salt beef or three ...

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The connection of the French Revolution to the Haitian Revolution

February 13, 2015

Whether we Haitians like to admit it, there is a profound connection between the French Revolution and its Haitian counterpart, denying their intertwining would be a disservice to our own History, since it was the discrimination of people of color and the plights of the slaves in the colony of Saint Domingue, today Haiti, that pushed the French General Assembly of 1793 to pass The Declaration of man and of the Citizen.

"Sad irony of human history" said Jaurès. "The fortune created at Bordeaux...

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The Black Code

December 27, 2014
In 1685, the king of France Louis XIV passed the Code Noir (Black Code), a decree defining the conditions of slavery in the French colonial empire and the activities permitted by free Negroes.

The document comprised of 60 Articles and specified the following:

  • Jews cannot reside in the colonies.
  • Slaves must be baptized in the Roman Catholic Church
  • No other religion can be exercised other than Roman Catholic
  • Slaves masters must be Roman Catholic
  • Non-Catholic subjects must not interfere with the Catho...

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Social classes in Saint Domingue

December 27, 2014
During French colonization, Saint Domingue was populated by three classes of inhabitants, divided by the color of their skin. The white colonists at the top, the mulattoes and free blacks in the middle; the black slaves at the bottom. The lowest class was mainly of Africans born, they outnumbered the other races by a ratio of 10 to 1. Due to poor living conditions: Overwork, inadequate food, clothing, shelter and medical care, the death rate among them was extremely high. Nearly half a millio...

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France's Colonial Exclusive Policy

December 27, 2014
Colonial navy of France

The rigidly regulated Saint Domingue commerce was known as the Exclusive; a policy whose sole goal was to guaranteed that the wealth of Saint Domingue would benefit France exclusively.

Whatever manufactured goods the colonists needed they were compelled to buy from France. They could sell their produce only to France. The goods were to be transported only in French ships manned by french sailors or captains. The colonist were not allowed to refine sugar or cacao which had to be exported to Fra...

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Saint Domingue Became the Richest Colony in the World

December 27, 2014
French colonial navy in Haiti

With the encouragement of then King Of France, Louis XIV, the growing of tobacco, indigo, cotton, coffee and cacao began on the fertile northern plain, the most fertile in the entire Island of Hispaniola and, slaves were imported from Africa to work the fields. The economy of Saint Domingue gradually expanded; by 1767, Saint Domingue became the richest colony in the world, and was called the "Pearl of the Antilles" "Queen of the West Indies" "Pride of France in the New World" due to its wealt...

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