The island of Hispaniola was founded by Christopher Columbus in 1842 and claimed for Spain. The island was neglected by its mother country due to the lack of minerals on the island. The French came to Hispaniola in 1586. They saw the island as a strategic location to ambush Spanish ships full of gold.
In the Treaty of Ryswick, Spain gave to the French the western third of the island and Haiti was born. Haiti quickly became a very valuable asset to the French. Now under "French rule it became one of the wealthiest of the Caribbean communities" (Haiti). By the mid-eighteenth century the island was accountable for "about 60 percent of the world's coffee and about 40 percent of the sugar imported by France" (Haggerty). The only downfall was the great number of slaves imported from Africa to the island.
There were anywhere from five to seven-hundred thousand slaves on the island by 1791. The slave population, fed up with the way they were treated, led a revolt against the French. The rebellion left an "estimated 10,000 blacks and 2,000 whites dead and more than 1,000 plantations sacked and razed" (Haggerty). This was the first and only successful slave rebellion and is the reason for the ethnic background of Haiti today.
Following the rebellion Haiti declared it's independence from France. There were then many different leaders who were overthrown or even assassinated. One of the main generals during the revolution, Jean Dessalines, became the emperor in 1804 only to be assassinated two years later. Next was Jean Boyer who reunited Haiti (Haiti). Boyer's army conquered the Dominican Republic and for twenty-two years the island was one.
In 1957, a former physician, Francois Duvalier, known by his followers as Papa Doc, was a candidate for the presidency of Haiti. Being the military favored candidate, "the military went on to guide the campaign and the elections in a way that gave Duvalier every possible advantage" (Haiti). These events lead to a downward spiral of an already devastated Haitian government.
Papa Doc manipulated the current government to his own desires. He created a new constitution, "replaced the bicameral legislature with a unicameral body and decreed presidential and legislative elections. Despite a 1957 prohibition against presidential reelection, Duvalier ran for office and won with an official tally of 1,320,748 votes to zero" (Haggerty). Seven years later Duvalier appointed himself president for life.
Duvalier created various military groups that would ensure his role as dictator of Haiti would not be threatened. One of these groups was the Presidential Palace army, whose sole purpose was to maintain his power. A secret police force the Tontons Macoutes, a Creole term for bogyman, was also created. These "bogymen" had the ability to make those that were not in favor of Duvailer disappear. The Tontons became more powerful than the army of Haiti and thousands fell to them. Both leaders and supporters of the opposition went into hiding or exile.
In January of 1971, Francois Duvalier named his son Jean-Claude as his successor. Three months later, the day after the death of Papa Doc, Jean-Claude (aka Baby Doc) became president for life at the age of nineteen. At such a young age and having no experience in politics Jean-Claude left most of the "administrative matters in the hands of his mother" (Haiti). In the...