Blogs > Cliopatria > FDR Did Not Write the Constitution for Haiti

Mar 5, 2004 12:33 pm

FDR Did Not Write the Constitution for Haiti

In 1915 President Woodrow Wilson sent in the Marines to take-over Haiti. This is a fact.

It is also a fact that many Haitians resisted the American intervention, which was ostensibly initiated to stop European powers from invading the island-nation to collect millions of dollars in debts.

But did Franklin Roosevelt, then assistant secretary of the navy, write the constitution we imposed on Haiti? FDR hmself claimed he did in a speech during the 1920 presidential election when he was running for vice president. It wasn't true. He lied.

But the myth endures and continues to trip up the unknowing. makes the mistake of falling for the FDR myth in its otherwise sound review of the history of the American occupation of Haiti. So does the Los Angeles Times in its March 4, 2004 account of the history of Haiti:

The Americans who landed in 1915 ended up staying 19 years and ruling Haiti by means of a military government. In the provinces, Marine Corps commanders served as administrators. In the capital, the legislature was dissolved after its members declined to adopt a constitution reportedly written by Franklin D. Roosevelt, then assistant secretary of the Navy.

To its credit the paper hedged through the use of the word"reportedly." But that's just short-hand for a journalist who isn't sure what to think. In this case we know. FDR didn't write that constitution. Check any FDR biography. His false claims about Haiti are always used to demonstrate his extraordinary capacity for prevarication.

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John H. Kimbol - 7/26/2006

"Practically all we know is that thousands of native Haitians have been killed by American Marines, and that many of our own gallant men have sacrificed their lives at the behest of an Executive department in order to establish laws drafted by the Assistant Secretary of the Navy...I will not empower an Assistant Secretary of the Navy to draft a constitution for helpless neighbors in the West Indies and jam it down their throats at the point of bayonets borne by US Marines." - Warren G. Harding