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Chapter IX.



Reference has been made in a preceding chapter to the high degree of prosperity reached by the Spaniards in Santo Domingo during the earliest decades of their occupation there, and to the statements of authorities to the effect that the annual exportations consisting in part of sugar, coffee, cotton, tobacco, indigo, etc., created a trade that made the colony the emporium of the New World. All this paled, however, before the subsequent prosperity of the French colonists in Haiti. They pushed forward the development of the natural resources to such a point that immediately preceding the Revolution of 1789, the annual value of their imports ran up to 193 millions of livres tournois and that of their annual exports to 200 millions of livres tournois. The livre tournois, which was superseded by the franc in 1795, but in which the official money returns were made up as late as that date, may, for convenient calculation in round numbers, be set down at 20 cents American money. (Its more exact value was 19% cents). The annual value of the foreign commerce of Haiti at that period was somewhat more than $78,000,000. It kept in constant service 1,400 vessels, about only half of them being under the French flag, and more than 11,000 seamen were employed in the trade between Haiti and Europe alone.

The value of personal property in the colony was returned at 1,487,840,000 livres tournois, which was equal to about

$297,568,000. This return, however, included a valuation of 455,000 slaves at $500 per capita. The value of real estate was set down at a round thousand millions of livres tournois or $200,000,000. ("Les propriétés foncières pouvaient être évalueés à un milliard de livres tournois."-M. Robin.)*

The exports consisted (for the year 1791) of—

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It is to be remembered that this was wholly confined to the French colony now known as Haiti, and that about 30 per cent must be added to these figures to bring them up to those of the exports of 1787-1789, because the insurrection in August, 1791, caused a falling off for that year.

Of course, the high state of material prosperity was reached under the enforced labor of slaves, but it shows something of the natural capabilities and marvelous productiveness of the soil. Is there any essential reason why the same remarkable degree of prosperity can not under free institutions be reached and maintained, if not even surpassed there, if only the internal peace and domestic tranquillity be assured and wise economical conditions open to all alike be established and kept in vigor? Probably, some such end will be sooner or later attained, because the general interests of all concerned and the increase of population will demand it. There are already evidences of a trend in that direction.

* See Bryan Edwards's History of the West Indies, Vol. IV, pp. 200 et seq. See also the Abrégé de l'Ile d'Haïti par M. E. Robin, Vol. I, pp. 68 and 69.

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It would require a wide range of knowledge to affirm with confidence that the soil of Haiti is unsurpassed in its possibilities of production. It is quite safe, however, to assert that its capacity in that respect has been proved to be prodigious. There is no article of commerce produced in the tropics that is not found or could not be produced in Haiti. It seems, besides, as if almost anything that will grow elsewhere can be grown in either the uplands or the lowlands of that beautiful country. Apples, peaches, strawberries, blackberries, and other temperate-zone growths are to be found in the uplands, though of course not as yet in any great abundance.*

In the colonial times, the most important article of export was sugar, of which 176,476,557 English pounds were exported in the single year of 1791. Its value as given in the returns for that year was 117,612,348 livres tournois or about $23,522,469. For the same year, the export of indigo, which amounted to 1,004,417 English pounds, was valued at 10,875,120 livres tournois or about $2,175,024. Since the independence, production of these two articles has been almost wholly neglected, only comparatively small quantities of sugar in the crude form having been shipped abroad during the past few years.

The soil seems especially adapted to the cultivation of the sugar cane. It grows there with remarkable rapidity and to astonishing proportions, sometimes attaining a height of more than 20 feet and a diameter at the base of more than 4 inches. Once planted, it requires very little, if any, further care, except to be cut down when it reaches maturity. As soon as it is cut, the root begins to sprout again, and thus for years no replanting is at all necessary. It is said that on the average, one carreau, which is equivalent to about three and one-fifth acres of land, devoted to the

*"In richness and variety of vegetable products, Haiti is not excelled by any other country in the world. All tropical plants and trees grow there in perfection, and nearly all vegetables and fruits of temperate climates may be successfully cultivated in its highlands." See Encyclopædia Britannica, Art. Haiti.

cane, will readily yield 9,000 pounds of raw sugar a season. The products of this crop are at present very nearly all consumed in the country. They are rum, tafia, sirup, molasses, and raw sugar.

If now, in view of the foregoing statements, it be borne in mind that there are to-day invested, so it is stated on good authority, as much as $13,000,000 of French, English, German, and American capital in the sugar-producing industry in Santo Domingo, it is easy to see what a promising field lies open for the same industry in Haiti.

The long neglected cultivation of indigo could be easily revived and $2,000,000 annually realized from its export. The plant grows everywhere spontaneously and two full crops of it could be grown every year.

To those who have watched the rise and remarkable growth of the export of fruits from the neighboring island of Jamaica within the past few years, and who at the same time have any knowledge of the fertility of Haiti in this respect, no argument need be used to show that under reasonably favorable conditions that export could easily be made profitable.

The list of this class of exports could be made to include not only oranges (sweet and sour), citrons, lemons, shaddocks, bananas, plantains, pineapples, and cocoanuts, but also mangoes, sapotilles, alligator pears, artichokes, and the like, which are not yet plentiful in the northern markets because of the difficulty heretofore experienced in keeping them in good preservation during transportation and sale. Probably, the most popular of all the fruits in Haiti, except the plantain, which is used as a very nourishing food at all seasons, is the mango. It is estimated there that during the height of its season, which covers the months of May and June, the sale of breadstuffs of all kinds falls off as much as 40 and sometimes 50 per cent.

The one feature essential to the creation and success of the fruit trade in Haiti is the establishment of a line of swift-going

steamers which could touch at and sail from the fruit-exporting ports at positively stated, regular dates, and make the voyage to New York in four days, which is quite feasible. The steamers of Messrs. James E. Ward & Co. make the passage between Havana and New York in less time than that.

What a promising field is here open any day to peaceful and promising enterprise alike to Haiti and the foreign capitalist, especially when it is considered that the consumption of tropical fruits in northern climes more than keeps pace with the increase of the population.

Another industry awaiting development is that of tobacco. No attempt has, since the secession of Santo Domingo in 1844, been made to open up this industry in Haiti, but a goodly part of the exports of the neighboring Republic of Santo Domingo consists of tobacco, which is cultivated everywhere there, especially throughout the extensive Cibas district, where the man of small means, as well as the larger capitalist, can engage profitably in the raising of it. Most of it goes directly to German ports, where it is regarded as an important import. Statistics show, and in fact, it is a matter of common information and knowledge, that the consumption of tobacco is steadily on the increase, and it is certain that the plant could be at least as readily and as extensively cultivated in Haiti as it is to-day in Santo Domingo.

Then, again, the number of plants in Haiti possessing marked and well-known medicinal qualities is quite extensive. "It is asserted," says Mr. James Redpath, in his work, page 47 (edition of 1861), "by scientific men that the flora of Haiti, only partly explored by Tussae, Descourtilz, and others, contains still many secrets which, if known, would render invaluable aid to the medical art, for medical plants abound there, and everything that is brought, for pharmaceutical purposes, from Africa and South America is to be found in Haiti." And then Mr. Redpath goes on to enumerate by name more than one hundred and sixty of

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