Benevolent Imperialism: Haiti during the First U.S. Occupation (1915–1934)

  • Philippe R. Girard


On March 4, 1915, Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam was inaugurated as president of Haiti. The exact length of his term remained uncertain, as there had been no election to begin with, but Sam’s immediate predecessors had generally declared themselves presidents for life, then left for exile within a year. Sam was the sixth man to reach the presidency since Cincinnatus Leconte in 1911; there had been three different presidents in 1914 alone. Sam had replaced his predecessor only by dint of a large force of cacos, or mercenaries, and feared, with some justification, that an ambitious rival might quickly overthrow him by dint of an even larger force. Sam, who had had a hand in many of the revolutions that had plagued his predecessors, understood that the rich mulattoes of the capital financed presidential hopefuls in the hope of securing lucrative governmental positions, and that the cacos who had brought him to power would soon look for another patron. He accordingly set out to secure his power base by jailing two hundred hostages picked from the most prominent families of Port-au-Prince and gave the warden orders to execute the hostages should a revolution break out.


Dominican Republic Paradise Lost American Imperialist Prominent Family Occupation Authority 
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  1. 1.
    Quoted in Hans Schmidt, The United States Occupation of Haiti, 1915–1934 ( New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers, 1971 ), 48.Google Scholar

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© Philippe R. Girard 2005

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  • Philippe R. Girard

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