On Saturday, March 19, 1870, Mr. Nissage Saget was voted president of Haiti by a Constitutional Assembly. According to information found on RootsWeb, Saget, was the son of Polymene Dessalines, a sister of one of Haiti’s founding fathers, Jean-Jacques Dessalines.
The book Haiti and Her Detractors by Jacques Nicolas Leger recount that Haiti was at odds with two major European powers towards the beginning of the 1870s. Leger recounts that France and Germany were at war and Haiti sided with France. Germany won the war, and stalked Haiti’s waters, seizing two ships on Haiti’s harbor on June 18, 1872, in an attack that caught Haiti’s navy by surprise. Haiti quickly handed Germany an undisclosed sum and Captain Basch, the German navy leader, who had headed the surprise attack on Haiti’s harbor, took it and left Haiti’s shores. Leger maintains that while a full war was prevented, Haitian nationals were incensed and resentful over the incident.
Photo Above: Haiti’s president for much of the early 1870s, Jean-Nicolas Nissage Saget.
The other European power with whom Haiti had issues, was Spain, asserted Leger. Haiti had given asylum to hundreds of Cubans seeking Cuba’s independence from Spain. Writing in the book Haiti and the Americas, historian Matthew Casey recounts how a ship The Hornet, flying under the U.S. flag, but which had been purchased by Cubans hostile to Spain living in Haiti, arrived on the island’s shores. Spain, writes Casey, demanded that the ship—carrying arms and other contraband for the Cuban exiles in Haiti, be handed over back to Spain or “else. Haiti outright refused, and gave arms to the rebels on the ship to defend themselves. So how did this episode end? Leger’s account states that in January of 1872, the United States sent a ship Congress to escort The Hornet from the Port-au-Prince harbor, and further incidents were thus avoided.
The book To Set the Record Straight: From Slavery – Independence – Revolution To the United States of America Intervention and Occupation 1915-1934 by the historian Max Laudun explained that Saget faced three rebellions during his presidency, one in which exiles in the Dominican side of Hispaniola tried to take over forts in Cap Haitien. Another was started by opponents who tried to storm a garrison in Port-au-Prince. In both cases, Saget had his enemies subdued.
Saget’s four-year term ended in May of 1874, and he retired to the city of St. Marc, where he would live until his death in the 1880s.
The book W. Cameron Forbes and the Hoover Commissions to Haiti, by Robert Melvin Spector states that Michel Domingue was elected on June 11, 1874 for a term of eight years. In November of that year, Haiti and the Dominican Republic signed a friendship treaty. Historian Dantes Bellegarde maintains that Domingue’s nephew Septimus Rameau was basically the brainpower behind Domingue.
Septimus Rameau in a portrait. Photo Credit: via Florida International University, Miami, Florida.
Leger infers that the downfall of Domingue started with the issuance of a loan of 26 million francs from France that Rameau initiated, most of which allegedly went directly into his pockets. Furthermore, arrest warrants were issued for three highly-regarded individuals in Domingue’s government: Pierre-Theoma Boisrond Canal, Pierre Momplaisir, and General Brice. The trio was accused by Rameau of conspiring against Domingue, and armed soldiers were sent to apprehend them.
Brice, recounts Leger, was able to escape from his aggressors and later died of a thigh wound at the Spanish Consultate. According to Spector, Monplaisir Pierre put up a huge fight, and gave soldiers to arrest him a taste of his skills as a fine military men, before being subdued by reinforcement sent from the artillery. Spector also stated in his book that Boisrond-Canal was forewarned. Leger goes on to say that Boisrond Canal was at his estate in an area called Freres in Petionville, and managed to escape to the U.S. Consulate, which at the time, was in a suburb called Turgeau.
According to Leger, following the death of Brice and Pierre, and still pissed at the loan that was reportedly used for Rameau’s gratification, Port-au-Prince rose up against Domingue and Rameau. Rameau went to the Bank of Haiti to withdraw the remaining stash he had saved there, and was killed in the streets before he could make a run for it. Domingue was able to escape and make his getaway to Jamaica.
[Above] This was Haiti’s National Palace during Michel Domingue’s term as president. It was actually a family home called Maison Bellegarde used by Haiti’s presidents while a new one was built. Image and Source Credit: Duke University, North Carolina