United States Begins Occupation of Haiti

American President Woodrow Wilson sent 330 U.S. Marines to Port-au-Prince on July 28, 1915.

The specific order from the Secretary of the Navy to the invasion commander, Admiral William Deville Bundy, was to "protect American and foreign" interests. However, to avoid public criticism the occupation was labelled as a mission to “re-establish peace and order...[and] has nothing to do with any diplomatic negotiations of the past or the future” as disclosed by Rear Admiral Caperton.

The Haitian government had been receiving large loans from both American and French banks over the past few decades and were growing increasingly incapable in fulfilling their debt repayment. If an anti-American government prevailed under the leadership of Rosalvo Bobo, there would be no promise of any debt repayment, and the refusal of American investments would have been assured. Within six weeks of the occupation, representatives from the United States controlled Haitian customs houses and administrative institutions such as banks and the national treasury. Through American manipulation, 40% of the national income was used to alleviate the debt repayment to both American and French banks. Despite the large sums due to overseas banks, this economic decision ignored the interests of the majority of the Haitian population and froze the economic growth the country needed. For the next nineteen years, advisors of the United States governed the country, enforced by the United States Marine Corps.

Representatives from the United States wielded veto power over all governmental decisions in Haiti, and Marine Corps commanders served as administrators in the provinces. Local institutions, however, continued to be run by Haitians, as was required under policies put in place during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. In line with these policies, Admiral William Caperton, the initial commander of United States forces, instructed Bobo to refrain from offering himself to the legislature as a presidential candidate. Philippe Sudre Dartiguenave, the mulatto president of the Senate, agreed to accept the presidency of Haiti after several other candidates had refused on principle.