Nation in the West Indies, occupying the W third of the island of Hispaniola (discovered by Columbus in 1492, settled 1493), SE of Cuba. Port-au-Prince is the capital. The area, then known as Saint-Domingue, was ceded by Spain to France in 1697 by the Treaty of Ryswick. The colony became prosperous through slave labor on coffee and sugar plantations. The population came to consist of three groups, Frenchmen, mulattoes, and blacks, among whom there was much tension.
In 1790 Vincent Oge, a mulatto, led an unsuccessful rebellion sparked by the French Revolution. In 1793, during the Napoleonic Wars, the British invaded Haiti, and in 1795 Spain ceded the eastern two-thirds of the island , now the Dominican Republic, to France. Francois Toussaint Louverture, a former slave, became the leader of the blacks. At first he cooperated with the authorities, but in 1801 he overthrew French rule, abolished slavery, and proclaimed himself ruler of the whole island . General Leclerc was sent from France in 1802 to restore authority.
Although unable to reconquer the interior, he arranged a peace with Toussaint, then seized him by trickery. Toussaint died in a dungeon in France. Spain regained control of the eastern two-thirds in 1809. Yellow fever ravaged the French forces, which withdrew, and in 1804 Haiti proclaimed its independence, the first nation in the Western Hemisphere after the United States to achieve this status. Jean- Jacques Dessalines, a former slave, declared himself emperor, but after his death in 1806 Haiti split into northern and southern parts. The north was controlled by blacks, with Henry Christophe as emperor; the south was mulatto, ruled by President Alexand re Petion. When these two died, Jean-Pierre Boyer, a mulatto, unified the country, was president from 1818 to 1843, and conquered the rest of the island in 1822. Haiti held the whole island until 1844, but Boyer’s presidency ruined the nation financially. He was succeeded as president by Faustin Elie Soulouque, a black, in 1847. In 1849 Soulouque declared himself Emperor Faustin I and ruled until 1859. His reign was extravagant and corrupt. Nicholas Fabre Geffrard led a revolt that overthrew the emperor, and he became president until 1867.
In 1915 Haiti was in chaos. The United States, fearing loss of its investments and German seizure of the island, sent marines and took control of customs receipts. Haitian sovereignty was violated, and the marines remained until 1934. The United States retained customs control until 1947. During this period, in 1937, long-stand ing disputes between Haiti and the Dominican Republic resulted in an invasion by the latter during which about 10,000 Haitians were massacred. Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier was elected president in 1957 and made himself dictator. He ruled until his death in 1971, practicing voodooism, terrorizing the people with the idea that he had supernatural powers, and torturing and killing hundreds of opponents. His brutal rule was accompanied by serious economic difficulties in an overpopulated island , the poorest in the Caribbean. When Duvalier died he was succeeded by his son, Jean-Claude, an undistinguished 19-year-old, who was also declared “president for life.” In 1986, Duvalier fled the country as the economy was in ruins from years of corruption. In the late 1980s there were a number of attempts at democratic rules punctuated by military coups. In 1991, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s first freely elected president, was forced to flee the country after a coup. The United States and the Organization of American States imposed a trade embargo on Haiti, and in 1993, a UN-sponsored oil embargo was imposed. An agreement in 1993 providing for Aristide’s return was rejected by the army, which used terrorist violence to maintain power. In 1994, the UN imposed a full trade embargo and the United States threatened to invade the country. Aristide returned after the military was granted amnesty as U.S. and UN peacekeepers arrived to keep order. In 1995, Rene Preval was elected to succeed Aristide. After a number of political killings in the late 1990s, the U.S. cut off financial aid. In 2000, Aristide was reelected with 92% of the vote, but his government set about repressing opposition, and by 2004, parliament was dissolved and Aristide was ruling by decree. An uprising forced Aristide to flee the country (although he later accused the French and Americans of kidnaping him). U.S., French, Canadian, and Chilean forces arrived to maintain order, and an interim government headed by Gerard Latortue, a former foreign minister, was established. The initial peacekeeping force was replaced by a UN force led by Brazil. The Caribbean Community refused to readmit Haiti until it has a democratically elected government. So elections are scheduled for 2005. Haiti has suffered from the many hurricanes and tropical storms that have land ed on its shores in the last 10 years because of flooding, which has been enhanced by the near total deforestation of the country.