President Antoine Simone, Haiti c.1910
François Antoine Simon (Les Cayes, 1843-1923), Président d’Haïti (6 Decembre 1908 - 3 Août 1911)
From @haitianhistory “In 1910, then President Antoine Simon decided re-structure the country’s National Bank (which charter’s was in existence since agreements made with French interests in 1880). As Simon noted, the Haitian Bank was ridiculously corrupted, both by Haitian nationals and especially by foreign parties. When Simon initiated this procedure, what was seemingly the President’s legitimate right to re-organize the Bank — (that not only took care of Haiti’s foreign debt (mostly directed to France because of the 1825 indemnity and the successive loans it generated) but was also in charge of financing the government) — ended up in a “diplomatic” dispute between French, German and American interests. (Interesting sidetone: Apparently the Royal Bank of Canada also wanted to join the party, but was completely bypassed by the U.S.) As it stood, to make a long story short, the Americans negotiated with the French and German to make sure American interests would be represented in the new Bank’s charter. One of the most powerful parties that came to represent those American interests was the New York City Bank (NYCB).”
President Simon played the balancing act of national vs European vs North American interests. His presidency oversaw the electrification of Port-au-Prince and also a snubbed attempt to placate foreign, large plantation owners by offering generous tax concessions. As with previous presidents, the struggle to create a diverse agricultural export economy failed to take into account neither the inclusion of habitants (small-medium sized land-owners) nor the worker rights of the landless or dispossessed peoples who would typically work on the foreign plantations. I’m reticent to blame Simon, because he faced a difficult balancing act between international and local powers, presided during a period when the presidency would be declared often by a coup, and he did take many first steps that showed at least some concern for the nation’s future. It would be the small farmers from the North, draped in the cloak of the cacos and emboldened by foreign money, who would be his undoing. In June 1911 the insurrection began, by August, Simon fled into exile and Cincinnatus Leconte proclaimed president. This is ironic because he had brandished Southern anger with the overly Nord presidency of Nord-Alexis to claim the national palace in 1908. Furthermore, Simon’s connection to the McDonald railroad cemented his infamy amongst Northerners, whilst the Ouanaminthe massacre horrified the international imagination.
It was also during his presidency that OJ Brandt first arrived on Haitian shores. As well, he was quite a dapper Edwardian, though very stern in photos. Lastly, I must note that European capital found Simon to be too pro-North American. This could be because of the National Bank fiasco, the McDonald Railroad failure, or because many Germans found it easier to work with Nord presidents. They were generally displeased with his consideration of President Taft’s warnings about European coaling stations in Haiti. Merchants felt Taft was being paranoid, whereas Taft feared a naval base on Môle Saint Nicolas. Always the Môle it seems.
On the McDonald affair, it appears that Simon wanted to work with McDonald to create export-oriented large plantations as well as a modern railroad linking the 2 largest cities. It would have made more sense to negotiate with the local population to determine what to do with the land beside the railroad; inviting competition from other sources of capital may have lowered the price.