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Date: 1850

Obverse: Crowned bust of Emperor facing left / FAUSTIN 1er EMPEREUR D'HAITI / 1850


Haiti does not have a mint. All of the coinage of Haiti has been minted outside the country. The sophisticated artistry and production of this coin suggest that it was minted in in France, Italy, Britain, the United States or a private operation in one of these countries such as the Heaton Mint in Birmingham. The Heaton mint began operation in 1850 and did produce coins for many colonies and developing countries and it also is known to have minted bronze 5, 10 and 20 centimes for Haiti in 1863, the last issues of the First Gourde. It is likely this coin was minted in Europe, possibly France as, at this time, Haiti still had regular contact with its former colonial masters as they owed them money and Faustin is known to have procured things he wanted and needed there like his crown and royal vestments. There is mention in primary sources that along with the far more common, and relatively worthless, paper gourde there was also various forms of coinage also in circulation during his rule.

The obverse of the coin shows a rather sophisticated portrait of the emperor Faustin I wearing his crown with the text:

FAUSTIN 1er EMPEREUR D'HAITI with the date 1850 (Very early in his reign) / Faustin 1st the Emperor of Haiti

The Reverse of the coin shows the coat of arms of the new empire and the text:

LIBERTE INDEPENDENCE and below the Coat of arms SIX CENTIMES UN QUART / Liberty (and) Independence - Six and a Quarter Centimes.

The coat of arms shows two crossed cannons with a crowned eagle displayed in front of a palm tree. To the left and right are two lions rampant with a crown above. Below is what appears to be a medal similar to the one shown on this page which is the Medal for the Military Order of St Faustin.

This bronze coin with a somewhat strange denomination of 6 ¼ centimes is dated 1850. It depicts Faustin Soulouque, also called Faustin I, and was minted for the Second Haitian Empire. Haitian coins minted between 1813 and 1870 are commonly referred to as First Gourde. The Gourde is the name for Haitian currency and much like the dollar it is divided into 100 centimes. The word is derived from the Spanish 'gordo' (fat) and the 'Pesos Gordos'. The strange fractional denomination suggests some significance of 6-1/4 centimes, possibly there was something common that sold for this amount at the time enabling someone to be able to pay with a single coin with no change needed.

Race in Haiti: It is important to understand that the colony of Saint Domingue, and later Haiti, was a highly stratified society as a consequence of it being an insulated island that imported large amounts of slaves to work the coffee and sugar fields which made it one of the most profitable of French colonies. This stratification would begin during the colonial era and would continue after independence. As a colony there were three different castes and many sub-castes and in many ways these racial divisions became interwoven in Haitian culture and would be the root of racial divisions and violence, often extremely brutal and on a large scale, through its history.

Black - During the colonial era most blacks were enslaved and made up the largest part of the population. The black population would continue to make up the vast majority of the population after independence and throughout its history. At the time of the slave uprising there were at least 500,000 to 700,000 slaves, far more than both whites and gens de couleur combined, and all slaves were not created equal. Even within the slave population there were divisions. Blacks born on the island were called Creoles and they generally looked down upon new slaves brought to the island. There were free blacks in Saint-Domingue and many of them were also land owners and also owned slave. In fact Toussaint Louverture, one of the most important founding fathers of Haiti and, like George Washington in the United States, a leading figure in the the revolution and commander of revolutionary troops, was a free slave who owned his own land and was a slave owner himself. However he joined the uprising of slaves and the black revolutionary army that formed soon after and advocated for the freedom of blacks in Saint-Domingue.

Gens de Couleur Libres - Free People of Color, or Mulattos, represented the sizable bi-racial population in Haiti. Unlike today in the United States, 'People of Color' was a distinct group that included half black and half white people and did not include the Black population or any other population that wasn't white. This population was significantly smaller than the black population but larger than the white population, and had many different divisions separated by differences in race mixture, skin tone, wealth and education that determined social status. In Saint-Domingue there were more divisions between mix race than most other places. They recognized percentages of black ancestry from 7/8 to 1/64 by name (example: 7/8 black is a Sactatra, 1/4 is a Quarteron, 1/16 is a Mamelouk, etc.) Many Gens de Couleur were free (libre), many obtained a high level of education in France and many also owned land and property as well as slaves to work their property. Their general disinterest in assisting in freeing the black slaves caused a significant and long standing rift between blacks and people of color. They did not associate themselves with the Black population however they were not accepted as equal by the white population and even the wealthiest and most educated people of color were denied certain rights like voting. When men like Vincent Ogé, a very wealthy and educated member of this caste (a Quarteron) vocally demanded equal rights, when he did so, he made it very clear he was not advocating to free the slaves saying "I did not include in my claims the condition of the negroes who live in servitude." He also makes clear that to him, the term mulatto is an "injurious epithet." Today the term is not used for the small amount of mixed-race people in Haiti, not because it is seen as a derogatory term but because the majority black population sees the term as denoting a privileged status. During the purges of this population, the wealthier of the caste often went to France while those of more modest means fled to other Caribbean colonies like Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Cuba.

White - The white population was the smallest caste often called "planters." During the slave rebellion, the revolutionary wars and the purges of 1802, this population was largely killed or driven from the island. Wealthy white planters and merchants were referred to as "Grand Blancs", poorer white laborers and craftsmen were "Petit Blancs". Many of the Grand Blancs did not live full time in the colony as their wealth afforded them the ability to keep homes both in France and Saint-Domingue. During the purges, most of this population that was not killed returned to France or to Louisiana. As owners of large plantations that had made large profits for years, they had extracted fortunes that would, in some cases, last generations. The Petit-Blancs were not as fortunate. Not having the financial means of the wealthier whites, many fled to other side of the island and other colonies in the Caribbean.

The French historian Paul Fregosi best described the racial situation in Haiti thus:

"Whites, mulattos and blacks loathed each other. The poor whites couldn't stand the rich whites, the rich whites despised the poor whites, the middle-class whites were jealous of the aristocratic whites, the whites born in France looked down upon the locally born whites, mulattoes envied the whites, despised the blacks and were despised by the whites; free Negroes brutalized those who were still slaves, Haitian born blacks regarded those from Africa as savages. Everyone-quite rightly-lived in terror of everyone else."

Haiti and the Life and Times of Faustin Soulouque

In his long life, Faustin Soulouque bore witness to the formation and early history of his country. Beginning as a slave in the French Colony of Saint-Domingue, he witnessed the brutal rebellion, the revolutionary wars, the first Kingdom, the first Empire, and then the first six Haitian Presidents before he was ushered into power. In many ways the end of his rule marked the end of an era, the end of the formidable early foundational years of Haiti, now a free and sovereign state. He is the last head of state that was born into slavery. Unfortunately, many of the problematic aspects of those early years largely informed the cultural and political norms that would prove so damaging to the country in its later years. The abuse of power, corruption, extreme racial divisions and violence, perpetual economic problems and poverty, the excessively high regard for the military and most of all, successive governments through time that usually did more more harm than good for the long suffering population.

The Haitian Revolution was more like a series of wars rather than one long one. It began with rumblings in the white and gens de couleur population as plans of possible revolt against the French, but rather quickly turned into an all out revolt of the majority slave population who rained down violent retribution on their former masters. Next it was a defensive war against an invasion by the British. With the defeat and exit from the Island of British forces it quickly became a civil war. Finally it became a true revolution against their former French masters who sought to regain their highly profitable colony. The last two stages could also be rightly be seen as having elements of a race war.

General / President / Emperor Faustin-Élie Soulouque

The man who would be emperor began life in the most humble circumstances. Faustin-Élie Soulouque was born into slavery on August 15, 1782 at Petit-Goâve, a small southern coastal town in the French colony of Saint Domingue on the Island of Hispaniola. His father is unknown and his mother was Marie-Catherine Soulouque, a creole slave born in Port-Au-Prince, who it said to have been of Mandinkan (Western African) decent.

The white settlers who operated the profitable plantations in the French colony of Saint-Domingue were debating the possibility of declaring independence. Like the British colonists on the eastern coast of North America, the wealthy colonists believed they would be better off if they broke from their colonial masters. Around the same time free people of color, many of them well off planters themselves, pushed the French colonial government to give them full rights as citizens. There was a brief uprising by some in this population led by a wealthy gens de couleur by the name of Vincent Ogé which ended rather quickly with his brutal execution.

Partially driven by the well publicized and brutal death of Ogé, the growing conflict between the gens de couleur and whites, the rumblings of revolution, and the very real fear that they would never be free if the white planters became the masters of the colony and they would lose the few protections they had under the French, the revolution began in earnest in August of 1791 and it was not the revolution the white colonists had hoped for. In the north where the largest plantations and the lion's share of the colony's roughly 500,000+ slaves were, long suffering slaves rose up starting the first phase of the revolution as they sought revenge against their white masters. A fulfillment of every slaves dreams and every planter's worst nightmare, the black slaves, who vastly outnumbered their white masters, rampaged across the countryside enacting violent reprisals upon their oppressors. Emboldened slaves dragged surprised white colonists from their homes, beating them, killing them, mutilating and dismembering them. They spared no one, even the women and children, including infants, were purged. However the planters were well armed and, after the initial slaughter they stuck back. Within several months about 4,000 whites were killed and about 15,000 black slaves were killed in the fighting and, in the end, the slaves took control of much of the northern part of the colony.

At the age of eleven Soulouque was freed by the emancipation decree of 1793 that abolished slavery during this upheaval of the early Haitian Revolution. The decree that officially freed Faustin Soulouque, as well as all slaves on the island in the end, was issued by Leger-Felicite Sonthonax, the Civil Commissioner of Saint-Domingue. Sonthonax likely did not issue this decree out of concern for the enslaved Black population. It is more likely that he issued the decree because he sought to gain the support and cooperation of the slaves to bolster his military force of about 7,000 French Soldiers to face incursions by the British and the Spanish and secure the island for France. It is also possible that he sought to become the Governor General and break from France and he would need the support of the slave population that vastly outnumbered the whites and gens de couleur and had shown themselves a formidable force to reckon with once they broke their chains and organized. He was opposed by the white population who had allied with Britain and sought to break from France, as well as many free men of color who, like the whites, also opposed abolition and demanded equal rights. The long conflict would continue to rage and in the end, the best he could manage was to eventually leave the island while he could still draw breath.

The revolution would go through many phases and was marked by numerous instances of extreme violence and purges of both whites and gens de couleur as well as the violent deaths of a large number of black slaves, many of whom went straight from slavery into the new revolutionary military. They fought to control Saint-Domingue, the most profitable French colony providing 40% of all the sugar, and 60% of all the coffee consumed in Europe, so the events in Haiti were of great concern to the French and other European powers as well as the newly formed United States of America. Like many of the events in the Americas, what was playing out in Haiti was closely linked to the events playing out in Europe. The conflict attracted all the great colonial powers like vultures to road kill. The British, who controlled nearby Jamaica, were in conflict with France and sought to take control of the colony sending large numbers of soldiers and offering refuge to both gens de couleur and whites fleeing the violence. Spain, who was camped out on the other side of the island, crossed over to help the rebellious slaves who were gathering behind Toussaint Louverture to form an army to deny both France and Britain their prize. The U.S., especially the southern US, watched in horror as black slaves rose up and murdered their masters but did relatively little during this time to intervene directly.

Two outstanding portraits of the ex-slave general and statesman Toussaint Louverture who was a driving force for revolution, largely responsible for turning a slave revolt into revolutionary war and ex-slaves into an army. For a time he served as Governor General of the colony and commander in chief of the black revolutionary army. He was captured by the French, imprisoned and died there soon after.

Faustin Soulouque was born in the south, well away from the savage brutality of the initial uprising, but it did not take long for the revolution to cross the northern mountain chains into the river valleys around Port-Au-Prince and the southern part of the island where many of the Gens de couleur population and free black population made their home, many of whom also operated plantations and kept slaves. No place on the western part of the island of Hispaniola would escape the revolutionary war unscathed. The south was also where the British, who had resolved to take the Colony from the French, landed in September of 1793 and set-up operations, first in the town of Jerome and later, after the arrival of a much larger force, they set-up shop in Port-Au-Prince. In the beginning the British were met with capitulation, but they also acted to restore the institution of slavery which made them popular with the whites, but very unpopular to the very large black population who were quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with thanks to training and arms provided by the Spanish. Over the course of the next year the British would lose more than half of their soldiers to Yellow Fever and would be almost paralyzed and unable to venture very far out of their base of operations. They seemed only able to watch as the leading general of the revolutionary gens de couleur forces, Andre Rigaud, again allied with the French, retook much of the south and took no prisoners.

Instead of cutting their losses, the British doubled down sending an invasion force of roughly 30,000 soldiers to take the island. Their first target was the French held coastal city of Léogâne where British forces were repelled by the gens de couleur General Alexandre Pétion, forcing a British retreat to Port-Au-Prince where many more would fall victim to yellow fever. When they managed to muster the strength for an offensive they were pushed back by troops under the command of the leading black revolutionary general Toussaint Louverture and the able gens de couleur general Andre Rigaud. While the British were able to finally repel the attacks, it was clear, much to their astonishment, that these former slaves had been molded into a disciplined and formidable fight force. By 1798 the British had negotiated a ceasefire, and an agreement that the rebels would not try to interfere in the affairs of Jamaica in return for British forces taking leave of Saint-Domingue. The British left the island having spent millions of pounds and sacrificed tens of thousands of soldiers for nothing.

It is difficult to say to what extent the violence and upheaval of the time affected young Faustin Soulouque. Certainly as he grew older he would begin to fully understand the events playing out in his country and all around the little town of Petit-Goâve. If he had thus far been spared the horrors of war close up by this point, the 18 year old Soulouque would now see it in clear focus. After the British took their leave, the direction of the war would abruptly switch focus again turning into a a civil war, a battle for dominance of Saint-Domingue. The French still asserted some influence over the colony and both Rigaud and Louverture had been raised to the rank of Brigadier General by the French National Convention in 1795. While Louverture was considered the superior officer and acted as commander in chief of the military forces in the colony, both in the North and South, there was certainly a rivalry and bad blood between the black and gens de couleur generals and their forces. The two worked together to defeat the British and bring a semblance of peace to the land, then quickly retreated to their own spheres of influence, Louverture in the North and Rigaud in the South, both attempting to restart the plantations and get the people back to work in the fields to produce sugar and coffee for export to repair the collapsed economy.

Louverture in the North, a black ex-slave in command of a very large military force of mostly black ex-slaves who were now rather well trained veterans, and Rigaud in the South, a gens de couleur with a strong connection to the French who enjoyed the loyalty of most, if not all, of the gens de couleur population, as well as many free blacks who viewed Louverture as having been too friendly with the British. Rigaud was also in control of a formidable fighting force of veterans under the command of highly capable officers. The two would clash in the south in a bitter fight to decide who would rule the colony. This new stage of the war would begin in and around the towns of Petit-Goâve and Grand-Goâve in June of 1799 where forces loyal to Rigaud would fall upon northern troops routing many and causing some, like Alexandre Pétion, the future president of the Republic, to change sides and join him. This would begin what would later be called the War of the Knives or the War of the South. It was now a civil war.

The Northern Generals Toussaint Louverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, and Henri Christophe would waste little time countering and purging those who rose in support of Rigaud in the North before marching south. Louverture made a deal with the American government, who distrusted Rigaud due to his close ties to France, to offer direct support to the Northern armies. In one of the few cases of direct involvement by U.S. forces at this early stage of Haitian history, they provided logistical support, engaged and defeated Rigaud's armed barges and bombarded southern gens de couleur strongholds. After intense fighting, the Northern army, with significantly superior numbers of about 50,000 against Rigaud's 15,000, and the distinct advantage of US support, won the day. Rigaud and many of his supporters fled the colony, many others would be slaughtered by Dessalines, and Louverture would take tentative control of the colony as Governor General for life.

Painting depicting a battle between Polish soldiers, fighting on the side of the French, against revolutionary black soldiers.

In the final stage of the war, France, now under the control of Napoleon Bonaparte, decided it was time to retake control of their colony. French forces under command of Napoleon's brother-in-law Charles Leclerc, joined with gens de couleur forces under the command of Rigaud and Pétion, landed at Le Cap in February of 1802. Henri Christophe set the city on fire before abandoning it to the French, the beginning of a scorched earth policy Louverture would implement hoping to deny the French safe haven until the rainy season, and the yellow fever it would bring. Louverture refused the command by Leclerc to parley and was named, along with any who followed him, an enemy of the French Republic.

Battle of Vertières in 1803: Painting depicting a Battle between the French Army and the Black Revolutionary Army. Original illustration by Auguste Raffet.

It was at this time that many black ex-slaves would join the revolutionary army because of the belief that the French aim was to re-institute slavery. Whether this was true, or just a way to motivate blacks to join the revolutionary army, the threat of the loss of their new found freedom was an effective recruiting tactic. Certainly it worked on Faustin Soulouque who joined as a private in 1803. Jean-Jacque Dessalines did not need much incentive as he had already engaged the French in Léogâne where he defeated French forces there and slaughtered all whites that came into his possession. Here we see the fiercest fighting of the war to date, and while far more black soldiers lost their lives, they would hit French forces as an overwhelming mass destroying everything in their path. By the end of March of 1802 Louverture's plan had worked. The French were exhausted, the rainy season had come and thousands were dying of Yellow Fever.

By late April Henri Christophe went over to the French bringing large numbers of his forces with him, then Dessalines and Louverture were offered incentives to join with French with assurances that slavery would not not be reinstated. Probably weary from more than a decade of intense warfare Louverture took the offer with assurances that his forces would combine with French soldiers and all would remain free and become citizens of France. Jean-Jacques Dessalines is commonly seen as the man who soured this deal and assisted the French in the capture of Louverture who was then removed from the country to eventually die in a French prison. After joining the French Dessalines was awarded the Governorship of Saint-Marc. The capitulation of all the major generals and the elimination of Louverture did not stop the resistance of many to the occupation of the French. That opposition was generally dealt with harshly by the French who began to secure their hold over the colony and brought fresh troops in to assure success and to make up for soldiers lost to Yellow Fever.

Jean-Jacques Dessalines was an ex-slave Revolutionary General who, along with Alexander Pétion, defeated French Forces and ended the revolution. He would give the new nation the name 'Haiti' and become the first head of state of the new nation. He would later be proclaimed Emperor by his troops and followers. Although there was brutality and purges on all sides, Dessalines was particularly brutal in his efforts to purge the new nation of all white people.

It was not long before Dessalines switched sides again in October of 1802. French forces were severely weaken by sickness which took their commander Leclerc soon after in November 1802, but not before he ordered all blacks in Le Cap to be killed. His successor, Vicomte de Rochambeau, already disposed to severe tactics, began to purge the black population when ever and where ever he came across them. In answer, Dessalines began to kill whites by decapitating them and putting their heads on spikes around Le Cap in view of French forces. It had become a race war where both sides struck out at anyone with the wrong skin color and thousands were put to death in this way. French troops under Rochambeau finally faced off against black forces under Dessalines at the Battle of Vertieres in November of 1803. The fighting was fierce with many casualties on both sides but ultimately ended with a win for Dessalines and a full retreat under the cover of a rain storm by French forces. Rochambeau is said to have sent a messenger during the fighting saying "General Rochambeau sends compliments to the general who has just covered himself with such glory!"

While the extent of the purges under Dessalines and other participants on all sides of the Revolutionary Wars, is unknown, Dessalines gained a reputation of being particularly zealous in purging whites both during and after the wars.

The fierceness, bravery and skill of the black soldiers engendered a begrudging respect from the French who sued for peace. They were given ten days to leave the country forcing them to leave their many wounded and sick behind with promises they would be well treated until they could come back and retrieve them. However once the French had departed the French prisoners were executed by drowning, One last broken promise and one last purge by Dessalines who would soon after declare himself emperor of the new nation / empire he called Haiti. He would continue his efforts to kill every white person who remained in his domains and by decree he expected his people to do their part in purging the whites in their cities and towns. This was a goal he zealously pursued which led to the elimination of most of the white population that remained.

Most contemporary sources have little good to say about Faustin Soulouque including his long military career post revolution. At best it was described as "unremarkable", but most reiterate the less than objective assessments offered by the historian Gustave D'Alaux whose work 'Soulouque and his Empire', while quite informative, passes a never ending stream of subjective and always derogatory judgments of every aspect of his life. In addition he often expresses what appears to be a general negative view of the blacks of Haiti as being inherently limited in their capacity for understanding simple things, let alone the complexities of government. His appraisal, which is oft repeated through the years, is that in his young life and long military career Soulouque "had passed through all the events of his county's history, without leaving any trace of himself either good or bad", that he was a complete non-entity up until he was ushered into power.

D'Alaux then gives us a description of this ".good, fat, and peaceable negro." On his physical appearance and mannerisms he marvels at how young he looks for a man of such an advanced age and how it is the " privilege of negroes of good stock, not to begin to grow old, but at an age when decrepitude overtakes the whites." On his mannerisms he compares him to a child saying "From his eyes, which are of extreme softness, and slightly closed, there issue rather uncertain flashes, which recall, by turns, the limpid and wondering expression of a child of six years old, and the intelligent and drowsy finesse of a tom-cat going to sleep." Objectivity was certainly not a high priority for monsieur D'Alaux.

Cringe worthy depictions of Soulouque and Haitians in western political cartoons.

However, it is apparent that Soulouque must have made quite an impression on someone quite early on in his military career. Fearing as many did that the French planned to re-enslave the black population once they regained control of the colony; he enlisted in the revolutionary forces as a private in early 1803, probably when the forces under the command of Colonel André Juste Borno Lamarre took control of the fort at Petit-Goâve in March of that same year. It is likely that Soulouque was among the defenders of that town who repelled the attacking French forces, killing the French General in the process. It is also likely that he was still under the command of Lamarre during the final and decisive Battle of Vertieres where the French were defeated and subsequently forced to leave the island and relinquish any claim to their former colony. With the end of the Revolutionary wars, select soldiers were allowed to enlist and serve in the new Haitian army and young Faustin Soulouque would be rewarded for his service with a commission into the new Haitian army as a Lieutenant beginning in earnest his lengthy military career. He seems to have made an impression on Lamarre since he made this young ex-slave an officer, and later his aide-de-camp, This was not offered to all soldiers, it is clear something about Soulouque stood out to warrant this relatively rapid promotion.

Top: Alexandre Pétion, The first President of the new Republic of Haiti. Bottom: Henri Christophe, offered the presidency, he refused seeing it as too restrictive. He instead founded an independent state in the north called The Haitian State where he would rule as King Henri I.

After the assassination of Dessalines, Lamarre sided with the Republicans in the South and West. This would eventually put him in opposition to Henri Christophe who would create an independent state in the north called the Haitian State of which he would be president and later proclaim himself King. Alexandre Pétion, now president of the new republic, saw an uprising against Christophe at Port-de-Paix as an opportunity and sent troops under the command of General Lamarre in 1807 to offer support to the insurgents. In July Lamarre engaged troops loyal to Christophe and was force to flee, taking refuge in the fort at the nearby town of Môle Saint Nicolas. After a long three year defense, and many pleas for reinforcements that went unanswered by Pétion, Lamarre was struck dead by a cannon fired by the enemy on July 10, 1810. Through the years Soulouque remained by his general's side and, upon the death of Lamarre, he retrieved his heart which he carried back to Pétion. This act certainly made an impression on Pétion who appointed him to his mounted guard.

After the death of Pétion, his successor Jean-Pierre Boyer, who declared himself president for life, a disturbing trend, and served in that position for 25 years, promoted him to captain. Boyer would not only unify Haiti, but with the annex by force of the eastern half of the island, Santo Domingo, he would unify the whole island under Haitian rule by 1822. Like so many Presidents after him, the good will of the people would eventually diminish and he would be driven into exile in 1843, first to Jamaica and then to France. In fact no fewer than 17 Haitian heads of state would end their time in office in exile, most seeking refuge in Jamaica.

Jean-Pierre Boyer was the highly influential second President of Haiti. After his 25 year rule his partisans, often
called 'Boyerist', would be the power behind the presidents and the object of Soulouque's purges.

For a man who was, as many sources insist, a relative unknown, a non-entity, it seems that every successive president seemed to recognize the value of having Faustin Soulouque in their service. Boyer's successor, the man who drove him from office and the island, Charles Rivière-Hérard, Put him in charge of a squadron. Within a year Hérard was removed from office to be replaced by Philippe Guerrier who promoted Soulouque to the rank of Colonel. Guerrier died in office after just 11 months to be replaced by Jean-Louis Pierrot who was quickly driven from power into retirement by his successor Jean-Baptiste Riché who awarded Soulouque with the rank of General and Chief Commander of the Palace Guard. This ex-slave who is so often depicted as unremarkable was now the highest ranking military officer in the Republic of Haiti. Riché, like all the successors to Boyer, would not last a year, dying in office on February 27, 1847.

So while it is true that Soulouque had lived through all of the most important early events of Haitian history, serving six presidents and one emperor with fidelity as he rose through the ranks of the military, it seems dishonest to say that his life up to that point was unremarkable. He had navigated the treacherous and fickle world of early Haitian military and political intrigue and, not only survived, but thrived. Just the fact that he served so long, remained loyal, never joining a coup or being tried, imprisoned, executed or exiled at some point is remarkable. Even in a country of ex-slaves, his life and his rise to the highest ranks was quite remarkable. By 1847 he was 65 years old and if he had retired at this time, it is true that he probably would have been just a footnote in Haitian history, but one that had served with honor and distinction, risen to the highest ranks and retired in good standing, a rare thing indeed. He may have, as early chroniclers asserted, been relatively unknown to the people at large, but he was certainly known by those in high offices as a man they could trust and wanted in their service.

At this time in Haitian history, the young nation was not democratic. All the earliest leaders, while they obviously valued freedom, once in power did not embrace democracy. Louverture declared himself Governor General for life, Henri Christophe declared himself King, Dessalines declared himself Emperor and the first two presidents of the Republic, Pétion and Boyer, declared themselves Presidents for life. After the deaths of Dessalines and Christophe, and the rise of the Republic under Pétion, the government was now largely controlled by the gens de couleur who also drove and oversaw the economy. The black population, mostly former slaves, found that once freed, there was an urgent need to defend that freedom, thus most ended up in the military and many stayed in the military since it was all they had known as free men. It was also a good place where a man who was illiterate with little training could make a better wage and it would keep them from having to go back to the plantation and work in the fields as they had when they were slaves.

The gens de couleur population was largely literate as most were the offspring of white men and black women and their free white fathers often took interest in their bi-racial children and sought to educated them, often in good schools overseas. They were also, in the absence of the mostly purged white population, the wealthier population, the ones who now operated a majority of the plantations, businesses and banks that imported and exported goods and contributed most to the economy. The Republic was founded and largely controlled by the gens de couleur elite with much of the black population serving as either the work force for their enterprises or in the military. Presidents during this time were generally appointed by the Council of State, or Senate, that was largely dominated by Boyerist (those who followed the policies of Jean-Pierre Boyer) who were mostly gens de couleur.

With the death of Riché, the Boyerist Council of State was tasked with appointing a replacement and they were not unified as to who was the best candidate for the job. The chamber was divided between two candidates; both black generals who they hoped would serve as figureheads. While popular, General Souffrant was well known to the army, but had shown disloyalty in the past, and General Paul was worthy of the office and loyal, but was raised to high rank only recently and was relatively unknown to the military. In an effort to break the tie, the Chief Magistrate M. Beaubrun Ardouin proposed a third candidate, the General Faustin Soulouque. Few objected to the idea as they may have seen him as a man who had long served the government with loyalty and who was, contrary to some sources, a well known entity by both those in the government and the military. It also could be they saw a man who was able to take direction, follow orders, a man who could be trusted not to act against the state, and maybe a man who could be controlled. So on March 2, 1847 Faustin Soulouque became the 7th President of Haiti and few were as surprised as him by this turn of events.

Depiction of Faustin Soulouque.

When Soulouque took office he feared for his life, certainly not without cause, as the last four presidents before him did not reach their first year anniversary in office. Many early sources write this off to the inherent fearful and superstitious nature of blacks in general and his adherence to voodoo. At one point in July of 1847, suspecting that senators and his ministers, mostly Boyerist hold-over's from the previous administration, were plotting to overthrow him, he offered to resign the presidency but was assured by the senate that this was not the case. Through his first year in office Faustin generally retained the ministers of his predecessor and continued the policies of the gens de couleur elite who put him in power but, by the later months of 1847, he had begun consolidating his power and increasingly surrounded himself with men who would serve him with the loyalty he had shown his own commanders. Contrary to what they may have believed about Faustin, he may have been, as some condescendingly called him a "poor unlettered negro", he was far from a simpleton and the old general had a sharp mind and was a survivor first and foremost.

He did not appoint a successor to his previous position as Chief Commander but retained that position for himself appointing instead a man named General Augustin Maximilien, commonly known as Similien, as his second in command in the presidential guard who reported directly to the president. Similien was not only loyal but he was part of what was referred to as the 'Ultra Black' movement who despised the gens de couleur ruling class. He also appointed General Jean-Louis Bellegarde as military governor of Port-au-Prince, and Colonel Dessalines (the son of the first emperor) as the police chief. All these men, especially Similien, would factor heavily in his plans for the near future.

Although he was illiterate like many ex-slaves, he had several men who would read him dispatches and news from around the world. He was keenly aware of the possibility of deception so he would often have one man read, and then have another read it again to him to insure they were not withholding information from him. In this way he was able to keep informed of what was going on in government, in his country and in the world. When he wanted to make formal decrees or announcements he dictated to a trusted aide who would assist in the compositions and wording and when he gave a speech, it was largely contemporaneous if not practiced a bit beforehand. Although sources state he showed interest in learning to read and write and took steps toward becoming more literate, at his advanced age he did not make great progress and remained functionally illiterate through his time in power.

Soulouque and his minsters.

It was probably not a coincidence that not long after he crossed the threshold of his first year still alive and in office, Faustin became more emboldened and began acting more independently and unilaterally. He accepted the resignation of the ministers from the previous administration before leaving to deal with problems in the north. In doing so he let loose Similien on the population of Port Au Prince resulting in the massacre of the gens de couleur population of that city on April 16, 1848. It is unclear if this was planned and ordered by Faustin himself, if this was Similien acting unilaterally, if it was a failed coup by Similien and ultra black supremacists blamed on Boyerists or a suppression of a Boyerist coup, but either way, the result was the same, it was the beginning of the end of Boyerist control and the first steps towards the total domination of the Haitian state by Soulouque. Upon his return Faustin would wrap it up with arrests, executions and further purges across the countryside of those who dared stand against him and anyone who might dare to do so in the future. There was a great exodus of the gens de couleur population who survived, fearing for their lives, they sought any means to leave the country to seek sanctuary on friendlier shores.

Faustin had many enemies, not the least of which was the Dominican Republic which shared the island of Hispaniola. Once a Spanish colony, it was taken by Boyer in 1822 who unified the island but the Dominicans managed to regain their independence 22 years later and there had been an uneasy division between the two states ever since. Soulouque saw the existence of the Dominican Republic as an affront and "It became his fixed idea, that he has never since for a moment abandoned, to subjugate the Dominicans and re-annex their territory into Haiti." To this end, he set off at the head of a force of 5,000 or more men (depending on the source) in March of 1849 to conquer the Dominicans and unify the island under his rule.

On hearing of the approaching invasion force, the Dominicans feared the worst. The Dominican population was far smaller than that of Haiti but, although they were vastly outnumbered, they were well equipped and their first President, Pedro Santana, was an able general who had fought successfully against Haitian rule during their war for independence. Faustin led his forces deep into Dominican territory with little resistance. The Haitian force was cut off from the coastal areas as the superior naval power of the Dominicans bombarded his troops on the shore, so Haitian forces took an inland route but were unable to be resupplied or reinforced from the sea. Upon reaching the town of Azua, about 100 miles from the capital of Santo Domingo, President Santana and his forces, possibly as few in number as 200 riflemen, engaged the Haitian forces but were routed, and a Dominican counter offensive was also repelled. As Soulouque and his forces advanced they were again engaged, this time by the Dominican General Francisco Dominguez who defeated a detachment of the Haitian advance force then retreated. On April 21, Santana, now in command of 800 well armed men, attacked the main force and routed the Haitian army personally commanded by Soulouque at the Battle of Los Carreras. The Haitians lost many men including several high ranking commanders, cannons, guns, horses and Soulouque was almost captured during the battle that lasted several days. The retreating Haitian army looted and burned houses and mills as they went. The Dominicans retaliated by sending men and naval forces to bombard Haitian coastal towns.

Upon his return, Soulouque downplayed his defeat as a series of triumphs followed by a tactical retreat saying "But entirely favorable as may have been the circumstances, wisdom recommended me to return to the capital." Back in the capital, the returning conqueror quickly began to lay the groundwork for his elevation to imperial power. The much diminished Senate, now with the tables turned, was the puppet of the President and they complied with all his requests with a decree in August of 1949 that stated "The Haytien people, jealous of preserving intact the sacred principle of liberty, appreciating the inexpressible benefits which His Excellency, President Faustin Soulouque, has conferred upon the country. recognizing the incessant and heroic efforts he has manifested in consolidating the institutions , ... do bestow upon him, without further ceremony, the title of Emperor of Hayti."

Soulouque as Emperor.

The new emperor wasted no time ordering from France a crown, mantel, scepter and all the other trappings of imperial majesty, using engravings of the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte as inspiration. These, as well as a later lavish coronation and a high imperial salary for himself and his extended family and favorites came at great expense to the state. With the purge of the gens de couleur elite who were intricately involved with Haitian commercial enterprise, the proscription of close to 25,000 men into the military to fight in his expensive failed military expeditions, his imperial dream was a significant strain on the already struggling and fragile economy of this poor nation. The Haitian economy had never fully recovered from the sharp decline during the revolution and while the Boyerist government had seen some improvement in commerce, agriculture and stabilized the economy, Soulouque's purge of the gens de couleur, which nearly extinguished that population, caused a stark decline of the economy early in his rule and resulted in a loss of confidence by Foreign governments and business interests who began to look elsewhere.

"the murders and imprisonments ; the flight of the greater number of the retailers ; and the serious fears, which such a condition of things caused the importers to feel, with regard to the solvency of others-arrested transactions."

In an effort to stabilize the economy Soulouque oversaw a government take-over of private enterprise, specifically cotton, sugar and coffee, and issued large amounts of paper currency that would be highly devalued before it even left the presses. Higher prices set by the government combined with an unwillingness of most merchants to accept the highly devalued Haitian currency only exacerbated the ever worsening problems. Although the government monopoly was abolished in 1850, still 1/5 of all income from trade that came through the 11 Haitian ports went to the emperor. There was little improvement in the economy and the country at large as Soulouque lived a life of luxury and did not suffer the same harsh realities as his people, he seem oblivious to their plight as long as they did not complain too loud.

Faustin never abandoned his quest to unify the island under his rule. Visitors to the island reported that Soulouque was always engaged in preparation for his next campaign which he finally launch in earnest on November of 1855 when he march a significant force, possibly as large as 35,000 souls, into Dominican territory. After initial success, Dominican troops struck back taking out close to 700 Haitians who retreated in disarray and another contingent was defeated on the same day at Cambronal. On January 24, 1856 Haitian forces numbering as high as 22,000 men engaged a significantly smaller Dominican force of about 800 in what is known as the Battle of Sabana Larga where forces under direct command of the emperor were routed and another contingent was defeated near Puerto Plata. After several more defeats at Savana Mula and Ouanaminthe, Haitian forces retreated with around 2,000 dead or wounded. While Faustin would never give up his dream of conquest, and he would continue to plan his next invasion, ultimately he would never get another chance.

The Imperial Crown and Sword of Faustin I.

Although he was quite popular in the beginning of his rule, he began to fall from favor with almost every class of Haitian for one reason or another. His once trusted Similien would fall out of favor and end up in a cell, the popular hero and leader of the Piquets (National Guard with its roots in the war for independence), Pierre Noir, was shot, many of his most trusted generals would pay the price for lost battles with their lives, many of his ministers would fall, many of his governors would come to ruin, the gens de couleur would be purged almost to extinction, the merchants and planters blamed him for their ruin, mothers lamented the loss of their sons in his wars, the people continued to toil in poverty and could hardly feed themselves. Even those he had ennobled were dissatisfied playing the sycophant and a title without financial benefits did not feed their children.

The soldiers who were made to work menial jobs for low pay (5 centimes a day) when not marching into war, and receiving severe punishments if found to be idle, along with repeated failures on the battle field which dashed their dreams of conquest, which were replaced with harsh manual labor working in the royal plantations, they were not happy, When an emperor loses the loyalty of his soldiers, this usually means the end is probably near. The emperor was not loved he was feared, he was a despot and not a beneficial one, and at a certain point that fear turns to hatred and hatred drives men to action. With forced labor, forced army service, worthless money and poverty, the people began to see that the man who had overthrown the gens de couleur elite under which they were so oppressed, was no longer on their side, and maybe he never was. He had proven the worse of the two options and they were open to making a change and in Haiti, there is always someone willing to step in at such times.

This someone was a man named Nicolas Fabre Geffrard. Although Geffrard opposed extremist supremacy movements (gens de couleur or black), was educated and there were few things the two men agreed upon, he was, never the less, well liked by Faustin, in good graces with the imperial family and godfather to Faustin's daughter Princess Célita. He was also a capable general who served in both of Faustin's Dominican campaigns and in both instances he stood out for his competence and bravery and, on one occasion, his actions saved the Haitian force from complete annihilation. Faustin appointed him to his cabinet and bestowed upon him the royal title of Duc de la Tabarra in honor of his victory at the battle of La Tabarra in the second campaign against the Dominicans, a rare high point in an otherwise disastrous outing. Ironically this man who would soon stand against him and all he stood for had earlier stood before a court marshal trial under President Riche and Faustin had acquitted him. He was popular and that popularity bought him a level of trust from the population.

By late 1858, Geffrard was the focal point of a plot by generals and ministers to remove Faustin from power. The emperor had grown more and more distrusting of those closest to him, little by little they fell from grace and Geffrard would soon be in his sights. Some sources state it was Faustin's own wife, the Empress Adélina, who warned Geffrard of the danger he was in. However he was alerted, he was driven on the night of December 20, 1858 to flee the capital to Gonaives where he rallied the support of the rural inhabitants. On December, 23 1858 he declared the empire abolished and a restoration of the Republic, issuing the Act of Forfeiture which read in part:

The Imperial Military Order of St Faustin.

"In the name of the Nation, the Departmental Committee, sitting at Gonaives, considering that General Soulouque has abused the power that has been conferred upon him.considering that his whole administration is nothing else but a series of depredations, under which the honest citizens have fallen victims...[followed by a list of crimes]"

With this condemnation Geffrard then marched towards the capitol at the head of 6,000 men. In an address to the people on Christmas, Faustin defended himself and stated he had "remembered the good sense of the people but had forgotten the ingratitude and ambition of the incorrigible revolutionaries." The old emperor, now 77, gathered a force numbering about 3,000 and personally led them against the rebels. After a bout of dysentery and numerous desertions, Faustin retired to the capital to await the results. By January 15, 1859 Geffrard and his forces were entering the city unchallenged.

With the realization that his rule was at an end and his court had abandoned him, Faustin gathered up his valuables and paid his guards handsomely to help him to the French embassy where he would seek asylum. Geffrard, showing a mercy that certainly would not have been afforded him if his rebellion had not succeeded, dispatched a contingent of men to escort and protect the fallen emperor to his final destination. Once there, Soulouque drew up a formal announcement of his abdication as rioters gathered around the embassy. This announcement read:

"Haitians, called by the will of the people to rule the destinies of Haiti, all my care, all my efforts, have constantly been bent to the happiness of my citizens and to the prosperity of my country. I had hoped to be able to count on the affection of those who have elevated me to supreme power, but the latest events that have come to pass do not permit me any doubt of the true sentiments of my fellow citizens. Too much a friend of my country to hesitate to sacrifice myself to the interest of all, I believe I must resign the high functions with which I have been clothed. I abdicate and I make but one single vow: It is that Haiti will be as happy as my heart has always wished it."

He and his family where then escorted to a British ship which carried them, reportedly for a large sum, to Jamaica where traditionally most Haitian exiles went. Because of this, he was met at the port by an angry mob of people, exiles themselves who were there because they fled for their lives or were otherwise forced to leave the country during his rule.

Left: Mainville Joseph Soulouque, Nephew of Emperor Faustin I of Haiti, Crown Prince under the Second Empire and Marshal of the Imperial Army / Right: Prince Jean Joseph Soulouque, brother of the Emperor Faustin, Duke of Port-de-Paix, Grand Duke Haiti, and Father of Mainville-Joseph.

While the rule of Geffrard was also despotic, one could argue that it was an enlightened despotism and stood in stark contrast to the rule of Faustin Soulouque. He did not entertain the designs of black, or gens de couleur, supremacists, he founded and built schools, worked to rehabilitate the economy and reformed the monetary system. He planned and began building roads and infrastructure, reduced the military and reopened immigration to blacks from the US. He was the first to open up negotiations with the Dominican Republic, his government supported the North in the American civil war, one of the few in the Caribbean that did, and he enjoyed a good relationship with the US who officially recognized Haiti as a sovereign nation.

Soulouque did little if anything to benefit the people of Haiti while in power, to invest in education, business or stimulate production, to exploit the natural resources of Haiti to help galvanize and stabilize the economy. In fact in most cases his actions exacerbated the problems of his country. He stifled free press, he fanned the flames of racial hatred, he controlled the courts of law and bribery was worse than ever, and it had always been bad. He lavishly spent the money of his already poor nation with little regard for the people who suffered from crushing poverty all around him. He is credited with enforcing peace and domestic tranquility although he did so with a heavy and brutal hand. He is credited as being a ruthless politician and diplomat but it is probably more correct to say that once in power he was simply ruthless. While illiterate, he was far from stupid, and his actions cannot be explained away as simply being 'simple' or ill suited for the position, or not possessing a natural ability and temperament to occupy this highest of office. It seems likely he knew exactly what he was doing and the affect he was having on the country but had, like so many others, become self-serving, as well as self-defensive, the latter of which was simply a requirement of the job. Although he put his personal gain over the needs of his people, there is little doubt that this man, who served his country for close to 50 years before his assumption of power, saw himself as a patriot, and he may have been so before his ascension.

In the end, many leaders have come and gone in Haiti and even the good ones, who seemed to aspire to work towards the betterment of the country and the people, have had to contend with repeated attempts to remove them, send them into exile or kill them. It may be that Faustin Soulouque was smart enough to know that no leader could last or be a boon to his people in Haiti without obtaining complete control, and once he had it, he had killed or alienated those who could help him. Once there he may have found he was ill suited for the task on his own, so he retreated into self indulgence and self-preservation until at last, the time had come, like so many before and after him, to be removed.

Faustin would live in Jamaica until he passed away at the ripe old age of 84. Depending on the source, he either died in Kingston, or he returned to Haiti shortly before his death and passed away in his home town of Petit Goâve. After the death of her husband, Empress Adélina went to Spain, where she remained at the Royal Palace in Madrid from 1868 to 1874. She then left for France and remained there from 1875 to 1877. She finally traveled to Rome in 1879 and lived there until her death at the age of about 84 years old. She was buried first in Rome near the Vatican and then in Haiti near her husband in 1907, 28 years after his death.