America and Haiti
The United States interest in Haiti, as mentioned above, began a huge increase in the first decade of the twentieth century. The extent of U. S. economic penetration was not as great as that of France and Germany, but by 1910 it controlled sixty percent of Haiti’s import industry. Unfortunately, the Haitian banking system did not follow this path and was, at this time, "perilously close to domination by European interests." (Langley, 1982, 70) In an effort to gain more control over Haitian economic affairs, the United States engaged in a battle with France and Germany over the Banque Nationale. Two banks from the U. S. attempted to obtain control of the bank but lost out to a German bank, which proceeded to ally itself with the Banque’s French managers in an effort to acquire domination. But the United States protested the exclusion of American banks so forcefully that the French and Germans folded and agreed to let the two American banks have a fifty percent share in the Banque Nationale. With a foot in the door, the Americans essentially took control of the Banque’s management. In doing so they gained much influence over the Haitian government executives, who relied on the Banque to cover monthly expenses. This would prove to be a huge asset in terms of fulfilling American interests in Haiti in the future.
The administration under William Taft that was in power in the United States at this time saw Haiti experience almost continuous insurrection and political disorders. American warships were constantly present in the region, and by 1911 there were never less than five patrolling the Haitian waters at any given time. Things became so unstable in August that the Naval Command in Haiti was granted the power to act freely in an effort to maintain peace and stability, and to protect American lives and property in the region. As U. S. Secretary of State Philander Knox stated, "If hostilities between rival factions become imminent, define neutral zone and prevent fighting in the city. Land forces if necessary, safeguard American interests, and in general prevent any action detrimental to foreign interests." (Challener, 333) However, the predicted time bomb of Haiti never went off, and the situation was left for Taft’s successor Woodrow Wilson to deal with.
The Wilson Administration also saw political instability as Haiti’s primary and immediate problem. Between 1911 and U. S. military intervention in 1915, seven Haitian presidents had either been assassinated or removed from office by force. This lack of stability gave the United States yet one more excuse to get involved in Haitian matters – in order to keep European powers at bay and from taking advantage of the politically vulnerable state. In creating his Haitian political agenda, Wilson relied—to a great extent—on the advice of Banque Nationale’s American manager Roger Farnham. As stated above, Farnham and the Banque had a great deal of power over the Haitian executives....