Soulouque, Faustin Élie (1785–1867)

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Soulouque, Faustin Élie (1785–1867)

Faustin Élie Soulouque (b. 1785; d. 1867), president of Haiti (1 March 1847–28 August 1849), emperor of Haiti (29 August 1849–15 January 1859). Faustin Soulouque was the fourth president selected to govern by the Haitian army between 1844 and 1859. Faustin, an illiterate, conducted an extremely incompetent administration. In 1847 he was elected by the Assembly to succeed President Jean-Baptiste Riché because he was perceived as being docile, and thus easily manipulated. Once in power, however, he began a twelve-year regime of terror conducted by his secret police.

A plot to eliminate him in his first year in office failed. Following the example of Jean Jacques Dessalines, in his second year in office, Soulouque named himself Emperor Faustin I and created a peerage drawn from black generals that included 4 princes, 59 dukes, 90 counts, 215 barons and 30 knights. These men had no governmental or bureaucratic functions to perform; they were merely reflections of Soulouque's desire for grandeur.

To legitimate his empire, in 1849 Soulouque created his own constitution. Under Soulouque, the Haitian economy was completely destroyed. He lived like an over-indulgent aristocrat, defaulting on the national debt and increasing the deficit of the Haitian government. Soulouque's desire for more power motivated him to lead costly wars against the Dominican Republic, which resulted in the intermittent occupation of Dominican territory. During his reign, Soulouque openly practiced and encouraged voodoo (vodun). It was the first time in Haitian history that voodoo flourished openly, with official approval. Nevertheless, his unpopularity and the opposition to his regime increased until the end of 1858. In January 1859 he fled Haiti to escape the forces of General Nicolas Geffrard, who became his successor.

See alsoDessalines, Jean Jacques; Geffrard, Fabre Nicolas; Haiti.


Selden Rodman, Haiti: The Black Republic (1955).

Cyril L. R. James, The Black Jacobins, 2d ed. (1963).

James G. Leyburn, The Haitian People (1966). A more recent work is Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Haiti: State Against Nation (1990).

Additional Bibliography

Dorigny, Marcel. Haïti, première république noire. Saint-Denis, France: Société Française d'Histoire d'Outre-Mer, 2003.

                              DariÉn Davis