François. C Antoine Simon

Posted by on Thursday, January 15, 2015

François C. Antoine Simon was born in the small town of Savane in les Cayes, on October  10 1843, nothing is written about his childhood, however as a young man he joined the municipal police to then enlist into Haiti's National Army as an officer, before being promoted as commander of the South Department's troops in 1883.
Shortly thereafter he went on to work as President Tirésias Simon Sam's aide-de-camp who would promote him to colonel and then General.

After President Tirésias Simon resigned, the 82 year old Pierre Nord Alexis succeeded him by storming the country's Chamber of Deputies with his troops behind him, installing himself as the new president for the next 6 years.

After the resignation of  President Tirésias Simon Sam, Pierre Nord Alexis became his successor, and promoted Antoine Simon as a Colonel then a general.

Though Alexi's presidency was marked with great  rebellions, he took to justice all statesmen accused of corruption in 1904, after he passed " Le procès de la consolidation" law allowing everyone who stole the state's money to be judged and condemned.

Pierre Nord Alexis proclaimed himself president for life of Haiti in 1908, this led to revolt for his overthrow, leading by Anténor Firmin; one of Haiti's greatest writers,  and one of the most important black intellectuals in the 20th century. While the revolt was crushed it awoke the country's social and economic problems. A famine was ravaging the South Department at the same time, leading to food riots and a new rebellion, this time led by General François Antoine Simon  who would successfully overthrow him on December 2nd 1908.

On December 6th 1908, François Antoine C.Simon was appointed President of Haiti, and took his oath of office on December 19th 1908 before Senator Paulin.

Although he had a marginal formal education, he assembled an advisory groups as well as a 19 member cabinet of influential and highly educated men who would help make his presidency one of the best in Haiti's history.

Antoine Simon's first act as president was to allow exiled Haitians to return home through his appeasement policy, to assure stability.

One of Tirésias main ambitions, was the plan to build a nationwide railway network.
Under the "MacDonald Contract" negotiated by the president, several American companies were hired to build a railway line between Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien. Including the creation of a joint company with the United States, seeking to produce and sell sugar and other commodities such as bananas in Haiti and the Unites States.  The Haitian American Sugar Company (HASCO)The company was registered with a capital of $5 million on August 5th 1912 in Wilmington, Delaware by Charles Steinheim, John A Christie, and Franck Corpay.

Despite much critics of the poor preparation of the contracts with the Americans, at first they were beneficial to the country; they directly led to the pavement of the streets. and, the electrification of the country's capital, Port-au-Prince.

HASCO would become Haiti's largest employer with 3.500 workers at the Port-au-Prince refinery and about 40.000 contracted cane farmers.

President Antoine Simon made one of the biggest mistakes during his presidency,the one that would result in a successful coup d'état against him.

To satisfy American banana plantations, he taxed Haitian companies, resulting in unrest by small landowners who were paying the price. Famers in the north (Cacos) began the revolt in June 1911. His minister of agriculture, Cincinnatus Leconte led a coup in Port-au-Prince and overthrow him and forced him into exile in Jamaica for several years, before returning to Haiti, where he died in Les Cayes.

The unrest that followed the overthrown of Antoine Simon, led to the United States' invasion and occupation of Haiti, to protect "American interest" i.e. HASCO
The American Occupation would last 19 years.