Cincinnatus Leconte

Posted by on Thursday, December 28, 2017
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Michel Cinnatus Leconte, was the great Grandson of Jean Jacques Dessalines, Haiti's father of independence.

A lawyer by profession, Cincinnatus served as Minster of the Interior during the presidency of Pierre Nord Alexis, until he was forced into exile in Jamaica in 1874, after the ousting of Nord Alexis which resulted in François C. Antoine Simon to succeed as president.

Returning from exile in Jamaica with the help of the dissatisfied elites with the corrupt and inefficient administration, in the fall of 1911, Leconte gathered a large contingent of military force, leading a successful revolution that overthrew Antoine Simon.

Just a week after his triumph, Leconte  was unanimously elected president of Haiti by Congress on 14th August, 1911, for a seven-year term.

President Leconte quickly instituted a number of much needed reforms. He paved the streets throughout the capital, installed telephones lines, increased the pay of public school teachers and decreased the size of the army. 

However, facing pressure from the already established Haitian business community, President Leconte enforced a discriminatory policy against the growing Syrian migrants who were now important merchants and started to establish themselves permanently in the country. The Haitian-Syrians started to gain monopoly in the importation of goods to Haiti, both in the field of provisions as in beverages. Syrian traders also were, at present, the only foreign traders willing to work under native conditions than other groups of traders that were rejected. 

To satisfy the elites, President Leconte launched a witch hunt against the Syrian traders; requiring them to obtain a $150 business licence yearly; a licence other Haitians did not have to pay. He also banned the Syrians from setting up new businesses, bank accounts and even adopted a slogan that advocated for their deportation. Cincinnatus Leconte's racist policy towards the Syrian traders would prove to be disastrous for the new republic, which needed foreign investments and new businesses. Then imperial United States and former colonizer, France would gain much more influence in the economic and political affairs of the country as a result.

Despite a 7 year mandate, the controversial presidency of Cincinnatus Leconte was short lived. On 8 August 1912, a violent explosion destroyed the National Palace, killing the president and several hundred soldiers. 

Political Science Quarterly, an American double blind peer-reviewed academic journal covering government, politics, and policy, published since 1886 by the Academy of Political Science, then reported: "An accidental ignition of ammunition stores caused the death of General Cincinnatus Leconte,

An Associated Press report at the time noted:

"So great was the force of the explosion, that a number of small cannon, fragments of iron and shell were thrown long distances in all directions, and many of the palace attendants were killed. Every house in the city was shaken violently and the entire population, greatly alarmed, rushed into the street.

Conspiracies about the death of President Leconte emerged; fueled by racism against the small Syrian population, who were accused of 
the destruction of the palace to cover up the fact that they had assassinated the President.