On August 8, 1915, Rear Admiral William B. Caperton, Commander in Chief, Atlantic Reserve Fleet, arranged a meeting at the American Legation in Port au Prince with the two most prominent candidates for election as President to Haiti. He intended to ascertain their feelings toward the United States, and, in truth, to choose who would be the next President. Before the meeting took place he already had a sense of where each stood, but he wanted to hear their intentions directly. Relying on his chief of staff, Captain E. L. Beach, to translate, Caperton began when the two men arrived:
Gentlemen, it seems likely that one of you will be elected President of Haiti. Haiti is in great trouble; she has suffered much. The United States has come to Haiti as a good friend, interested only in Haiti’s welfare, in her happiness, in her prosperity. The United States has determined that revolution and disorder and anarchy must cease in Haiti; that unselfish and devoted patriotism must characterize hereafter the acts of the Haitian Government. Senator Dartiguenave and Dr. Bobo, realizing this momentous crisis in Haitian history, with the eyes of Haiti and the United States upon you, do you promise that if elected President of Haiti you will, in your official acts, be guided solely by earnest devotion to Haiti’s honor and welfare?
Both men replied emphatically in the affirmative, and Admiral Caperton continued:
Senator Dartiguenave, in case Dr. Bobo should be elected will you promise that you will exert every influence in your power to assist him for Haiti’s good; that you will join with him heartily and helpfully and loyally?
To which Dartiguenave responded:
If Dr. Bobo is elected president I will give him the most loyal, earnest support in every effort he may make for Haiti’s welfare.
Admiral Caperton repeated the question to Dr. Rosalvo Bobo:
Dr. Bobo, if Senator Dartiguenave is elected president, will you help him loyally and earnestly in his efforts to benefit Haiti?
No: I will not! Dr. Bobo shouted. If Senator Dartiguenave is elected president I will not help him. I will go away and leave Haiti to her fate. I alone am fit to be president of Haiti; I alone understood Haiti’s aspirations, no one is fit to be president but me; there is no patriotism in Haiti to be compared with mine; the Haitians love no one as they love me.
It was decided in that moment, that Senator Dartineguave would be President. Admiral Caperton explained his decision thusly to the Select Committee on Haiti and Santo Domingo, six years later:
My idea was that the man most suitable for the Haitian presidency was one in whom the Haitians confidence, one whose animating purpose would be Haiti’s welfare, to which purpose he would give unselfish devotion; and also, one who combined such qualifications with confidence in the United States. There was never any bargaining of any kind whatever with Dartiguenave, as far as I know.
Three days after the meeting, Dartiguenave was elected in a landslide by the National Assembly. This conversation, held in private, but which had very public implications, marked the beginning of the new diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and Haiti and her people. In the U.S. political imaginary, the political subjectivity of Haitians had become only legible in their acquiescence to the U.S. Individual actors within the political sphere, and the political actions of the population at large, were not only subsumed to the needs and agenda of the U.S., but were in fact written with a pre-determined structure of what constituted a “proper” political subjectivity.
It is precisely in redefining political subjectivity for those under control – a denial not only of a sophisticated sense of political subjectivity, but also a resistance to recognizing legitimate enactments of citizenship – that citizenship of the Haitian governing body and its constituents was negotiated from across an ocean, transnationalizing citizenship, as an extension of an imperial project. When Dr. Bobo threatened to leave Haiti forever, he was not having a moment of “theatrics” (as it is described by Admiral Caperton), but rather, he materialized what was both discursively and politically occurring – an exiling. Like so many Haitians before him, Dr. Bobo faced exile if not elected President, but he also faced a much deeper exile – an exiling from his own country even if he stayed.
What does it mean to be exiled while still in one’s own country? And what does it have to do with citizenship? I’ve been chewing on this problem for quite some time. In re-reading Said’s “Reflections on Exile”, what does come clear is the “unhealable rift” required of any man who would accept the Presidency under the U.S. occupation – the rift between not only himself and his country, but of his own citizenship to Haiti – which would be a much deeper estrangement from his political subjectivity.
But i think, at root, is a deeper exiling – one of the Haitian people, more generally. This happens at multiple levels, but i am interested in two: political and body. On the one hand, Haitians were systematically stripped of their rights, coming under martial law within weeks of the U.S. marines landing, coming under severe censorship within months, and finding that the hearings that were held through the court martial system were neither fair nor productive. This was partially dependent upon the imaginative construction of Haitian bodies in the eyes of the commanding forces, the U.S. State Department, and the Secretary of the Navy. Repeatedly, Haitians are configured as dirty and diseased – both reasons to instantaneously disregard them as political subjects or citizens. Their citizenship is diminished in the eyes of the Americans, as written through disease.
 This conversation is taken from Admiral Caperton’s testimony in the Hearings before a Select Committee on Haiti and Santo Domingo, United States Senate, Sixty-Seventh Congress.
 Beginning with the fourth President of Haiti, Jean Pierre Boyer, who was overthrown and exiled first to Jamaica and then France, 13 of 26 Presidents since independence had been in exile – most of them in Jamaica.