1843-1847: A Time of Coasting and Jockeying for Power

Between 1843 and 1847 there were four presidents of Haiti, none of them accomplishing very much, but the last three had a special place in setting the stage for the presidency of Faustin Soulouque, and of instituting an especially disturbing practice of government in Haiti.

Charles Riviere-Harard led the revolt again Boyer and took over when he fled. He mainly spent his time trying to hold on to power, which he couldn't do and in turn gave way to Phillipe Guerrier.

Guerrier, who became president on May 3, 1844 ignored the elaborate new constitution and ruled by decree. However, he was 87 when put into power and died only 11 months later on April 15, 1845.

Guerrier was quickly followed by Jean-Louis Pierrot, who, like Guerrier was in his last days, becoming president when he was already 84. He wasn't much into his role as president and in effect became president and retired to his plantation in the same week! He also lasted 11 months, and in a coup d'etat was replaced by Jean-Baptist Riche.

Riche was a youngster in this crowd, being only 70 years old. He soon died. The Heinls describe his death as " overdose of the aphrodisiac cantharides, seeking, wrote Dorsainvil, 'a vigor incompatible with his advanced age.'" (Heinl, 1978, p. 191)

The rule of these three do-nothing presidents was mainly an attempt of others to consolidate power and bring some unity to a divided nation. Their most important place in Haitian history as I see it is that they are the first, and perhaps most extraordinary examples, of the policy known as "governement de doublure." That is, a puppet leader.

In all three cases the presidents were blacks. They were chosen because of who they had been, that there were black, and old and believed to be malleable. They were controlled by the mulatto Boyerist elite who knew they had to address the concerns of the black masses and particularly black generals and revolutionaries.

The role of the three was to do what they were told and give the appearance of black rule.

This strategy was then continued the fourth time with the election of Faustin Soulouque, but, as we shall see, completely backfired.

However, after the relatively long rule of Faustin Soulouque and his successor, Fabre Geffrard, the politics of the double or the puppet would return often to Haitian politics in the waning years of the 19th century. It would even rear it's head in the mid-20th century when on November 22, 1957 a "puppet" was put into office, Francois Duvalier! I would say, that was a policy ending with a bang, but it didn't even end with Duvalier, no matter how much it failed, even more fully than with Soulouque, but the policy has been revived in the post-Duvalier days at least twice with Leslie Manigat and during the coup with the presidency of Louis Jolissant.


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