United States Occupation of Haiti

In an effort to limit German influence, in 1910-11 the State Department backed a consortium of American investors, assembled by the National City Bank of New York, in acquiring control of the Banque National d'Haïti, the nation's only commercial bank and the government treasury.

In February 1915 Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam established a dictatorship, but in July, facing a new revolt, he massacred 167 political prisoners, all of whom were from elite families. Sam was then lynched by a mob in Port-au-Prince.

It is alleged that a popular uprising against Sam threatened American business interests in the country (such as HASCO). Because of these competing interests and the possibility of the cacos-supported anti-American Rosalvo Bobo emerging as the next President of Haiti, the American government decided to act quickly to preserve their economic dominance over 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 labeled 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.[3]

The Haitian government had been receiving large loans from both American and French banks over the past few decades and was 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, advisers of the United States governed the country, enforced by the United States Marine Corps.