Haiti’s Debt to France

Haiti paid $21 billion to compensate France for the loss of a colony and slaves

Published in
3 min readSep 15, 2020


Credits: https://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/women-holds-a-haitian-flag-and-roses-as-people-pray-news-photo/96143976?adppopup=true

Haiti is a nation which has been persistently impoverished ever since its independence in 1804, following the most successful slave rebellion in history the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804) and has remained impoverished primarily due to the nations external debt. Haiti was formerly under French colonial rule (1625–1804) and was known as Saint-Domingue, and was one of France’s most profitable and valued colonies. Which France ensured it would be compensated for the loss of.

Shortly after Haitian independence in 1804, France demanded that the newly formed country pay the French government, French slaveholders and for French recognition of Haiti as a sovereign state, a total of 150 million francs; with France frequently threatening Haiti with its warships if Haiti did not cooperate. Not only did France demand compensation but also that Haiti discounts its exported goods to France by 50%, leaving Haiti to operate almost as a colony despite it being a sovereign state (Jacobin, 2017).

France in 1834 reduced Haiti’s “Independence Debt” to 90 million francs (the modern equivalent of $21 billion) and was to be paid back over 30 years, as a form of compensation to plantation owners who lost “property” and the “theft” of slaves (Sommers, Race, Reality, and Realpolitik: U.S.-Haiti Relations in the Lead Up to the 1915 Occupation, 2015, p. 124).

Haiti continued to pay this “Independence Debt” to France up until 1947 by which point Haiti was forced into a position of submission and forced to adopt new loans in order to pay France as well as new creditors like the U.S. All of which only led to the furthering of the nations suffering.

Haiti was invaded by the U.S. in 1915 who sought to maintain hegemony in the Western hemisphere — in what is known as the Monroe Doctrine — with the U.S. fearing the anti-American revolts against the Haitian leader Vilbrun Guillaume Sam and how this would affect debt repayments. Other fears were the effect these revolts would have on U.S. business interests and when the anti-American leader, Rosalvo Bobo, rose to prominence and became president the U.S. hastily intervened to protect their economic dominance and interests (Brian & Segal