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The Haitian Revolution was a successful anti-slavery and anti-colonial insurrection between 1791 and 1804 and led by Toussaint L'Ouvrture.

Haiti paid reparations to French slave-holders set in 1825 at 150 million francs, which was then reduced in 1838 to 60 million francs. In today's money this is around $40 billion.

Q. How much of this was actually paid and when was the last payment made?

Q. What was the indemnity actually for? Was it for land that the slaves lived upon or was it another case of former slaves having to pay for their freedom?

  • @semipaiscuba: No, it's not. The article is a bit iffy, really. For example right at the beginning they say that the total payment amounted to $40 billion and then later they say that the Haiti government demanded $21 Billion from France for this forced payments (the demand for payment was accompanied by 10 warships with around 500 cannon). The articles ok as a pointer but it's not really good enough as a scholarly account. – Mozibur Ullah Nov 11 '18 at 19:16
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    Code of Conduct Please help us to create a welcoming environment focused on scholarship and learning. – Mark C. Wallace Nov 11 '18 at 20:08
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    I asked a question to clarify what you were asking for. That is what comments are meant to be used for. You said you weren't clear how 90 million gold francs could be converted to $21 billion in 2003, but $40 billion in 2010 and that you were after a 'scholarly account', rather than Wikipedia - which is what I provided. Having done so, I deleted the earlier comment. I can un-delete it if that helps? – sempaiscuba Nov 11 '18 at 20:10
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    @MoziburUllah My impression is that questions that are detailed and specific, and which show evidence of prior research (as per our help centre), tend to attract better responses. But 'wild-goose chases', as you call them, are part and parcel of historical research. It can be very helpful to document sources that you have searched that didn't provide the answers/information that you are looking for. That way you don't revisit them. – sempaiscuba Nov 11 '18 at 21:12
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    It would have helped if you had included that information in your question as part of your prior research. – sempaiscuba Nov 11 '18 at 22:49
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This question is dealt with in some detail by Ana Lucia Araujo in her book Reparations for Slavery and the Slave Trade: A Transnational and Comparative History, Bloomsbury, 2017, pp 84-88. Much of what follows is based on her research.


tl; dr

Q. How much of this was actually paid and when was the last payment made?

Reparations totalling 90 million francs were paid to France. This was the initial instalment of 30 million francs, plus the reduced balance of 60 million francs agreed in 1838. Since Haiti was forced to borrow from European banks in order to make these payments, they would also have had to pay interest on those loans.

The last payment to France was made in 1867. However, repayments on the loans taken out from European banks continued until 1883.


Q. What was the indemnity actually for? Was it for land that the slaves lived upon or was it another case of former slaves having to pay for their freedom?

The payment was:

"financial compensation to France for the loss of plantations and slave property during the slave revolt"

  • Araujo, 2017, p86

It was also in exchange for French (and, by extension, international) recognition of Haiti's independence.

So it was both payment for the land and former slaves paying for their freedom. However, it is wrong to describe it as "another case" of former slaves having to pay for their freedom. As Ana Lucia Araujo observed:

Haiti's example was singular. It was the only case that former slaves provided financial indemnities to the slaveholders.

  • Op. cit. p87

Background

In the decade after Haiti declared independence in 1804, France used its influence to persuade the Danish West Indies and the United States to introduce economic embargoes against Haiti. They also convinced European countries and the United States to refuse to officially recognise Haitian independence. The Treaty of Paris in 1814 effectively recognised French sovereignty over Saint-Domingue (Haiti), and this recognition would be confirmed by the European powers the following year at the Congress of Vienna.

It is worth remembering that despite the best efforts of the French government, Haiti was not entirely isolated during this period. In her book Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World: Recognition after Revolution, Julia Garfield points out that many British and American merchants (together with some from other European nations) continued to trade with Haiti despite the official barriers.

Nevertheless, the lack of official recognition (and therefore also of officially sanctioned trading relations) did have a significant impact on Haiti, exacerbating their social and economic problems.


French Negotiations with Haiti

In 1814, following the Bourbon restoration in France, French representatives returned to Haiti. They:

"... proposed that Haiti pay financial compensation to France in exchange for the recognition of its independence."

  • Araujo, 2017, p85

The negotiations were hampered by the fact that Haiti had split into two following the assassination of Jean-Jaques Dessalines in 1806. The Kingdom of North Haiti was ruled by Henri Christophe, and the Republic of South Haiti by Alexandre Pétion. While Pétion seems to have inclined towards accepting the French proposals, Christophe was adamant in his opposition.

Christophe's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Julien Prévost, wrote:

"Is it conceivable that Haitians who have escaped torture and massacre at the hands of these men, Haitians who have conquered their own country by the force of their arms and at the cost of their blood, that these same free Haitians should now purchase their property and persons once again with money paid to their former oppressors?"

  • "The Duke of Limonade to Thomas Clarkson, November 20 1819", quoted in Araujo, 2017, p86

While these negotiations were going on the international restrictions on trade with Haiti remained in force and Haiti's economic decline continued.


Alexandre Pétion died in 1818, and was succeeded by his deputy, Jean-Pierre Boyer. Following the death of Henri Christophe and the assassination of his son & heir in 1820, Boyer was able to reunite Haiti under a single ruler. Boyer then agreed, in principle, with the proposals by the French government, although negotiations over the exact amount of reparations to be paid continued.


Agreement of terms

In 1825, King Charles X of France proposed an agreement which:

"... included advantageous duties for French imports and the payment of financial compensation to France for the loss of plantations and slave property during the slave revolt. In exchange, France would finally recognise Haiti's independence."

  • Araujo, 2017, p86

The terms of the agreement, and the amount of reparations, were set out in a royal ordinance dated 17 April 1825. The document:

"... ordered opening Haitian ports to all nations. It also determined that duties for ships and products that either entered of left these ports were equal for all countries, except for the French, whose duties would cost half of the amount charges to other nations. It also stipulated that Haiti would pay 150 million francs in five instalments in order to allow France to compensate the former colonists. The calculation of the amount was based on the annual revenues obtained by Saint-Dominigue's planters from sugar, coffee, cotton, indigo, and other commodities during the colonial period, and also included the value of the urban properties they lost in 1789"

  • Araujo, 2017, p86

Boyer accepted the French terms.


In order to pay the agreed reparation instalments, Haiti had to take out loans from European banks. However, it soon became clear that Haiti would be unable to repay these loans and also pay the subsequent instalments to France (in part because some nations - notably the United states - still refused to officially recognise Haiti's independence). A new treaty, signed in 1838 reduced the outstanding balance from 120 million to 60 million francs, and also extended the repayment period to 1867 (ibid).

Although Haiti paid the agreed reparations to France by the agreed date, they would not finish repaying the debt to European banks until 1883 (ibid).


Sources

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