Jean-Pierre Boyer Agrees to Payment of Crippling Financial Indemnities to France in Exchange for Haiti's Recognition as an Independent Country
Boyer was anxious to remove the threat of France and opened negotiations.
An agreement was reached on July 11, 1825, when (with fourteen French warships off Port-au-Prince) Boyer signed an indemnity stating that in return for 150 million francs paid within five years, France would recognize Haiti as an independent country. While this sum was later reduced to 60 million francs (1838), it was a crushing economic blow to Haiti.
Boyer had to negotiate a loan from France of 30 million francs to pay the first part of the indemnity. Most of the largely rural Haitian population meanwhile was retreating into an agricultural subsistence pattern, defying Boyer's attempt to enforce the semi-feudal fermage system.
The people of Haiti were distressed at their situation. Boyer resurrected a land distribution program. He broke up some of the large plantations and distributed land to the small farmers. To try to produce enough products for export to generate revenue, the government "tied" the rural population to their smallholdings and established production quotas.
Boyer's rule lasted until 1843, when the poor economic situation was worsened by an earthquake. The disadvantaged rural population rose up under Charles Riviere-Hérard in late January. On February 13, Boyer fled Haiti to nearby Jamaica before settling in exile in France, where he died in Paris. Descendants of Boyer still live in Haiti.
Boyer perceived that France's continued refusal to settle claims remaining from the revolution and to recognize its former colony's independence constituted the gravest threat to Haitian integrity. His solution to the problem--payment in return for recognition--secured Haiti from French aggression, but it emptied the treasury and mortgaged the country's future to French banks, which eagerly provided the balance of the hefty first installment. The indemnity was later reduced in 1838 from 150 million francs to 60 million francs. By that time, however, the damage to Haiti had been done.