Louis Étienne Félicité Lysius Salomon (June 30, 1815 – October 19, 1888) was the President of Haiti from 1879 to 1888. Salomon is best remembered for instituting Haiti's first postal system and his lively enthusiasm to modernize the country.
Salomon was born in 1815 in Les Cayes. His family was influential in the tiny black elite of the south. Prominent and educated, his family often clashed with the relatively more powerful mulatto elite of south Haiti. During the regime of Charles Rivière-Hérard, the Salomons were wanted for arrest after a heated battle with the mulattoes and exiled to Neyba. As Faustin Soulouque came into power, Louis returned along with other powerful black leaders to serve the new government. Louis became the minister of finance under Faustin and began to monopolize export transactions in coffee and cotton, run foreign imports through state monopolies, and impose levies on capital. As a result, smuggling and piracy exploded during Soulouque's reign. After the fall of Soulouque, Louis was exiled to Paris and London, where he read and traveled widely.
On August 18, 1879, Louis returned to Haiti and became president with huge support from the people. His plan as president was to restart public education, fix Haiti's financial woes, restore agriculture productivity, improve the army, and to fix the public administration. Within 4 months, he established the National Bank, and by 1880 he resumed debt payments to France. The 1880s saw a huge amount of effort by the Salomon administration to bring modernization to Haiti. He adhered to the International Postal Union and issued its first postage stamp. In October, he granted a British cable company the right to connect Port-au-Prince and Kingston, Jamaica, and by 1887 he negotiated to link Môle Saint-Nicolas to Cuba. He restructured the medical school, imported teachers from France for the Lycées, and more. The armed forces were reorganized to 16,000 and assigned to 34 infantry regiments and 4 artillery regiments. Also, Salomon reorganized the ranking distribution in the Haitian army, which only included privates and generals.
In May 1883, Salomon offered the United States the island of Tortuga in return for U.S. protection. In November, Salomon offered Môle Saint-Nicolas or Tortuga to the United States, but both offers were rejected.
Conspiracies and Rebellion
Within the 4 months of Salomon’s presidency, Haitian refugees from Kingston were in contact with the elite community in Port-au-Prince in order to stage a coup. When Salomon went to tour the south, general Nicolas headed to St. Marc to plan another coup, but was met with government soldiers. In 1883, exiled Haitian rebels from Jamaica and Cuba, including Jean-Pierre Boyer-Bazelais and Desormes, reached Haitian shores to start another coup against Salomon.
While Salomon fixed some of Haiti's problems, he also was draining resources to pay Haiti's debt to France. During 1881–1882, an outbreak of smallpox spread throughout the country and consumed most of the finances in those years. In April 1883, the infamous Cacos from the north rebelled against Salomon and his administration, but were crushed by government troops mixed with former piquets.
From 1884 to the end of his presidency, Salomon faced numerous rebellions from the Cacos. By May, Cacos from the south rebelled in Jérémie, and in July Jacmel rebelled. In October, a huge outburst emerged between Salomon's government forces, the exiled rebels from Cuba and Jamaica, and Cacos from different cities from the south and north. Flames engulfed government records and buildings, and mass murder was being dealt to the elite class, foreigners, and merchants. This conflict was known as the "Bloody Week".
Following the rebellion, inflation grew, and a scandal called r=the "Affaire des Mandays" became known involving the national bank, a French director, a British chief accountant and the Haitian government.
Resignation and death
In 1886, Salomon was "re-elected" for a 7-year term because of his re-writing of the constitution. In 1887, Port-au-Prince rebelled because of lack of individual freedom and the tyrannical system of the republic. Government officials withdrew support from Salomon and by 1888 Le Cap rebelled in the north. Overwhelmed by the political challenges he faced, Salomon left Haiti and returned to Paris, where he died at number 3 Avenue Victor-Hugo on October 19, 1888.