Haiti, reviewing French ruins now that the Americans have left

When todays stamp was new, Haiti had a new government and perhaps reviewing assets while determining where to go from here. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

Todays stamp could easily be mistaken for an issue of a British colony transitioning toward independence. Except that the de facto colonial power was the USA. The architecture, all of which are relics of colonists are displayed in the issue. The style of printing was also very much in the American style. The big difference is that the architecture was left over from the much earlier French. Although you would not know it from the stamps, the scenes on the stamps were already in ruins.

The issue today is A53, a 5 centimes stamp issued by Haiti in 1933. The stamp displays an aqueduct built by the French to assist with sugar cane production near Port-au-Price. It was part of a 9 stamp issue showing various architectural sites around Haiti. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents used.

Haiti had gained independence from France during the turmoil of the French Revolution. During the colonial period a large number of slaves had been imported in Haiti to work the sugar cane plantations. An uprising among the slaves had been met with a French decree for their freedom. This being a period of increased interest in human rights arising from the French revolution. The French proved unable to hold on to the colony as many of their troops were freedom fighting Polish troops who en masss switched sides to the mostly black revolutionairies. The French were removed from Haiti and a new constitution was passed that decreed that white people could not own land but that all mixed race people were decreed black. This was an attempt to end a class system that broke down on race. Interestingly the Poles were exempted from this and many stayed after the war.

Things did not go smoothly. Sugar caine exports came to a halt because of the inability to maintain commercial level cultivation without slavery. There was small scale cultivation for local rum. The French did not recognize the new government until payment was extracted for French losses and displacement. This left Haiti in debt. Some recovery occurred over time as Germans came in. They avoided the anti white people laws by marrying in to promenant mulatto families. Around World War I, the Americans occupied Haiti to collect debts and end German influence.

The American occupation saw some advances. A non political civil guard was trained by the American Marines that was different from the previous regional and political attempts at armies. It consisted of black soldiers and mulato officers. This was also soon reflected in the Haitian government left by the departing Americans in the 1930s. The alignment of these Haitian rulers with neighboring Dominican Republic strongmen was useful to the United States. It is understandable that this tended to discredit them with the people and Haiti continued to wither.

The aqueduct on the stamp is now but a ruin. It was further damaged in the earthquake of 2011 and the area was used as a displaced persons camp.

Well my drink is empty and it is time to open the discussion in the below comment section. In retrospect, the 30s stamps should have perhaps celebrated local institution building rather than relics from a long ago troubled era. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

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