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An island of the Greater Antilles

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Haiti (Sp. SANTO DOMINGO, HISPANIOLA), an island of the Greater Antilles.

I. STATISTICS.—The area is 28,980 square miles; population, about 1,900,000. The chief products are coffee, sugar, cotton, and tobacco.

POLITICAL.—The island is divided into the Republic of Santo Domingo in the east, and the negro Republic of Haiti in the west. The latter covers 11,070 square miles with 1,579,630 inhabitants in 1909 (Church statistics). The language is a debased French (Creole); the religion, Catholic, although the natives are still widely infected with African fetichism (Voodoo or snake-worship). Education is deficient; it requires a yearly appropriation of about 1,000,000 dollars. In addition to nearly 400 State free elementary schools, there are five public lycees.

The president is the head of the Republic (salary, £4800). The Chamber of Deputies consists of ninety-five members. The Senate numbers thirty-nine members. The revenue amounted for the financial year ending September 30, 1907, to $2,547,664 (U.S. gold), and 7,718,291 paper gourdes (value 20c., 10d.). The expenditure for the financial year 1907-08 was $2,651,249 (U.S. gold), and 6,885,660 paper gourdes. In 1907 the foreign debt was $11,801,861; the home debt, $13,085,362. The army consists of 6828 men; there is a special “guard of the government,” numbering 650 men, commanded by 10 generals. The Republic possesses a fleet of six small vessels. The exports were valued in 1907 at $14,330,1887, of which nearly $3,000,000 went to the United States—in 1906-07, $2,916,104, while the imports from the United States to Haiti for the same period were only $1,274,678. The capital is Port-au-Prince (population, 75,000).

I. POLITICAL HISTORY.—Haiti (i.e. the “hilly country”) was discovered by Columbus, December 6, 1492. In December, 1493, Columbus founded Fort Isabella, which was soon renamed Santo Domingo.—As the aborigines soon became extinct the importation of negroes began about 1517. But the colony fell into decay, when, about 1638, the filibusters obtained a footing on Santo Domingo, and harassed commerce. After 1659 French settlements were established on the west of the island with the help of the filibusters, which led to the definite occupation by the French at the Peace of Ryswijck (1697). While the parts left to the Spaniards became more and more impoverished and depopulated, the French colony flourished greatly until the French Revolution also affected Haiti, and there led to an insurrection of the blacks in which the negro Toussaint L’Ouverture finally in 1800 made himself dictator, declared Haiti’s independence, and gave the country a constitution. He was soon overthrown by the French general Leclerc and sent to France. The negro Dessalines, the author of a massacre of whites in 1804, was proclaimed James I Emperor of Haiti, October 8, 1804, but he was murdered two years later in a conspiracy under Christophe and Petion.

Christophe thereupon established another negro State in the north which he ruled from 1811 to 1820 as King Henry I; while Petion in the south founded a mulatto republic, and Spain reconquered the eastern part which she had surrendered to France at the Peace of Basle (1795). Christophe’s successor, Boyer, united all three parts of the island in 1822, but he was driven out in 1843, and the eastern part declared itself the independent Dominican Republic on February 27, 1844. The western part became again an “empire” under Soulouque (Emperor Faustin I) in 1849, but a republic was again proclaimed by the mulatto Geffrard after the expulsion of Soulouque in 1859. Geffrard was displaced by the negro party under Salnave, March 13, 1867. Then followed a succession of presidents, who were nearly all disturbed by revolutions, and under whom the republic was brought to the verge of ruin by civil wars, financial maladministration, corruption, and thoughtlessly occasioned conflicts with European Powers. Even today (1909) the country has not yet settled down after the last revolution in the autumn of 1908.

II. MISSION HISTORY.—On the erection of the Dioceses of Santo Domingo and Concepcion de la Vega, in 1511, the whole island was divided between these bishoprics. In 1527 Concepcion was suppressed, and its territory united to Santo Domingo, which was the only diocese till 1862. Many regular clergy came with the French into the French territory, especially Dominicans and Capuchins. The Dominicans devoted themselves especially to the mission in the western part of the colony, and were for a time supported therein by other orders and secular priests.

The Dominicans were also designated as missionaries to the southern part of the island. The Capuchins, who looked after the northern part of the island, and were likewise assisted by other orders and by secular priests, soon were unable to supply enough missionaries. On that account they gave up this mission in 1704, and in their place came the Jesuits, who worked there until their expulsion at the end of 1763. Secular priests followed, but after five years they were superseded by Capuchins.

The Revolution brought confusion into the ranks of the clergy; several priests took the constitutional oath, and in the northern part of the colony Divine worship ceased, while the mission in the west, uninterfered with under the British occupation (1794-8), was able to improve more and more. But in the south the prefect Apostolic, Pere Viriot, was murdered. When Toussaint L’Ouverture came to power in 1800, he restored its rights to the Catholic religion. But mean-while the council of Constitutional bishops at Paris had nominated a bishop of Santo Domingo, who, however, obtained no recognition either from Toussaint or the Capuchins. In 1802 General Leclerc restored the former jurisdictions of Cap-Haitien and Port-au-Prince, and named as prefects Apostolic Peres Corneille Brelle, O.Cap., and Lecun, O.P., these arrangements being confirmed at Rome. On account of the massacre in 1804 nearly all the clergy left the colony, so that for two years the only religious services given at Port-au-Prince were held by a former sacristan. After the overthrow of James I (1806) some missionaries returned.

After many years of fruitless negotiations, a concordat was signed at Rome, March 28, 1860. In December, 1860, Msgr. Monetti arrived as Apostolic delegate.

The Concordat provides that the Catholic religion shall enjoy the special protection of the Government. The president nominates the archbishop and bishops, but the pope can refuse them canonical institution. The clergy receive an annual salary of 1200 francs from the State.

Five bishoprics were erected in 1861; the Archbishopric of Port-au-Prince, and the suffragan Sees of Cap-Haitien, Les Cayes, Gonalves, and Port-de-Paix. The Archbishop of Port-au-Prince at first administered all the dioceses. A separate bishop was not appointed to Cap-Haitien till 1873, and was at the same time entrusted with the administration of Port-de-Paix. In 1893 a separate bishop was appointed for Les Cayes; while Gonaives is still administered by the archbishop. On the conclusion of the Concordat three fathers of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost and of the Holy Heart of Mary were sent to Port-au-Prince. These restored the regular parish organization in the capital. The first archbishop, du Cosquer, and his successor, Quilloux, visited France to enlist new priests. Owing to the unhealthy tropical climate, death caused serious gaps in the ranks of the clergy; thus, at the beginning of 1906, out of 516 priests who had come from France since 1864, 200 had died, 150 were still at their posts, and the rest were invalided to Europe. To ensure recruits, Msgr. du Cosquer established at Paris in 1864 the Saint-Martial Seminary, which was united with the Colonial Seminary conducted by the Fathers of the Holy Ghost; it received a State subvention of 20,000 francs per annum, the payment of which, however, was suspended owing to the political troubles of 1867, and in 1869 it was entirely abrogated. When, in 1870 owing to the war, the Fathers of the Holy Ghost gave up the direction of the seminary, Msgr. Quilloux founded a new seminary in Pontchateau (Loire inferieure) in 1873 under the direction of the Fathers of the Society of Mary. Finally in 1893 the seminary was removed to St-Jacques (Finisterre), and its direction entrusted to secular priests; Pontchateau Seminary had sent 196 priests to Haiti, and St. Jacques in 15 years (down to 1909) 171. In 1864, in the whole of Haiti, there were only 34 priests devoted to the care of souls in the 65 parishes and 7 annexes. The progress which the Church has made in Haiti since then is shown by the fact that there are now (1909) 182 priests and 92 parishes.

Of ecclesiastical seminaries and schools, Haiti has: (I) at Port-au-Prince the “Petit Seminaire-College“, under the Fathers of the Holy Ghost and of the Holy Heart of Mary. There is affiliated to it a children’s school; also a meteorological observatory. A second observatory was founded by the Christian Brothers; (2) in Cap-Haitien, the College of Notre-Dame-du-Perpetuel-Secours, directed by four secular priests. The religious societies include: (I) the Brothers of Christian Instruction, who direct a secondary school at Port-au-Prince, besides nine primary schools elsewhere; (2) the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny direct a pensionnat in Port-au-Prince, and eighteen primary schools elsewhere (also 2 hospitals); (3) the Sisters de la Sagesse, who direct a pensionnat in Port-au-Prince, 5 primary schools and 3 hospices. Of ecclesiastical benevolent institutions there are: an orphan asylum for girls and 2 hospitals, of which one is supported at the cost of the clergy, while the other is directed by the Dames Patronesses. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul also labors in Port-au-Prince. Among the religious associations mention may also be made of: the Third Order of St. Francis, and the Confraternities of the Sacred Heart, the Holy Rosary, the Children of Mary, the Christian Mothers, La Perseverence, etc.


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