Haiti, the double debt of Independence


This article is available in four languages: French, Creole, English, and Spanish.

In exactly one year's time, it will be two hundred years since Baron de Mackau, emissary of the King of France, transmitted the Ordinance of Charles X to the then President of Haiti, Jean-Pierre Boyer, on April 17, 1825.

As Haitians, we have a duty to remember, and we believe that revisiting this event, which marked the course of our country's history, is an essential part of our duty to ourselves and to future generations. Let us first consider the facts of history.

The loss for France of its richest colony at the end of the turbulent 18th century, the failure of the expedition to re-establish slavery, the victory of the indigenous army over Napoleon's troops, the declaration of independence by the new state - the first and only one made up of former black slaves and a few freedmen - the sequence of these events in a relatively short space of time was intolerable for France and for all the great powers of Europe still involved in the slave trade and in slavery.

For 21 years, France attempted reconquest by seeking alliances with England, Spain and the United States, and as a last resort, it chose to impose the ordinance in which it is written: “We concede under these conditions... to the present inhabitants of the French part of Saint-Domingue, the full and complete independence of their government”.

Haiti is not named.

Two clauses to remember, which will weigh heavily on the future of our young republic: firstly, customs duties levied in ports, either on ships or on goods, both on entry and exit, will be reduced by half for French flags. Secondly, “... The present inhabitants of the French part of Saint-Domingue will pay to the Caisse générale des dépôts et consignations de France, in five equal terms, from year to year, the first due on December 31, 1825, the sum of one hundred and fifty million francs, intended to compensate the former colonists who will claim an indemnity.”

On July 3, 1825, 14 warships armed with 528 cannons arrived in Port-au-Prince harbor. On board was Baron de Mackau, commissioned by King Charles X to impose France's terms, by force if necessary... Under the threat of a naval blockade and military intervention, on July 8, 1825, President Boyer agreed to pay the indemnity. To pay it, Haiti would have to take out a loan with French banks. The whole package - the indemnity and the loan - is commonly referred to as the double debt of independence.

Over the coming months, we will be looking back at the key historical events that preceded and followed the signing of the ordinance by the government of the day and its successors, over the course of Haiti's long 19th century, and at the analyses offered by historians from Haiti and elsewhere.[1]

[1] We would like to salute Florence Alexis, the Curator, and the Scientific Council of the excellent exhibition held at the beginning of 2024 at the Panthéon in Paris, entitled "Oser la liberté" ("Daring Freedom"). Charles X's ordinance was on display, along with a wealth of documentation on "Figures in the fight against slavery". We also salute the excellent work of the Fondation pour la Mémoire de l'Esclavage - https://memoire-esclavage.org - , co-organizer of this exhibition.


For morre information :


Books : 

  1. Jean-François Brière. Haïti et la France, 1804-1848: le rêve brisé. Éditions Karthala, 2008.
  2. Marcel Dorigny, Jean Marie Théodat, Gusti-Klara Gaillard, Jean Claude Bruffaerts. Haïti-France Les chaînes de la dette – Le rapport Mackau (1825). Éditions Hémisphères, 2021, 201 p.


Texts available online : 

  1. Gusti-Klara Gaillard-Pourchet. La dette de l’indépendance d’Haïti. L’esclave comme unité de compte (1794-1922)



  1. Gusti-Klara Gaillard-Pourchet. Haïti-France. Permanences, évolutions et incidences d’une pratique de relations inégales au XIXe siècle



  1. Beauvois, Frédérique. L'indemnité de Saint-Domingue: « Dette d'indépendance » ou « rançon de l'esclavage » ? French Colonial History, vol. 10, 2009, p. 109-124. Project MUSEhttps://doi.org/10.1353/fch.0.0021.



  1. Beauvois, Frédérique. Monnayer l'incalculable ? L'indemnité de Saint‑Domingue, entre approximations et bricolage, Revue historique, vol. 655, no. 3, 2010, pp. 609-636.



  1. Oosterlinck, Kim and Panizza, Ugo and Weidemaier, Mark and Gulati, Mitu, A debt of dishonor. (April 30, 2022). Boston University Law Review, vol. 102:1247



Press and online videos :


par Lazaro Gamio, Constant Méheut, Catherine Porter, Selam Gebrekidan, Allison McCann et Matt Apuzzo, The New York Times, 20 Mai 2022


French Version :

  1. Les Milliards Envolés



  1. À la racine des malheurs d’Haïti: des réparations aux esclavagistes



Creole version :

  1. Milya Ayiti pèdi yo



  1. Rasin mizè Ayiti: Reparasyon yo bay Mèt esklav yo



English version :

  1. Haiti’s Lost Billions



  1. The Root of Haiti’s Misery: Reparations to Enslavers



In Spanish :

  1. La 'doble deuda' con la que Francia ahogó a Haití en el siglo XIX

Silvia Nieto, ABC Internacional, 05/06/2022




  1. “La dette de l'indépendance haïtienne, un sujet tabou en France”. Haïti Inter, 6 juin 2023



  1. Thomas Piketty : l'économie en Haïti. Emission "Éco d’ici Éco d’ailleurs, RFI, 19 octobre 2019



  1. Why did Haiti agree to pay reparations to France after the Haitian Revolution ? Choices programs. 6 oct. 2021, The Haitian Revolution. Anthony Bogues, Brown University.



  1. La multimillonaria indemnización que Haití le pagó a Francia por su independencia

//www.youtube.com/@BBCMundo">BBC News Mundo, 22 mars 2024




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