While the influence of racial policy has long been a factor in American foreign policy, one particularly evident example is U.S. relations with Haiti. The troubled relationship began under George Washington, who authorized the dispatch of arms and ammunition to help the French planters of Saint Dominique, present day Haiti, suppress the black rebellion. Washington’s support for the defense of slavery in this regard, proved to be important precedent in the formulation of a proslavery policy in the White House, the State Department, and the Congress. Matthewson explores this stormy legacy and discusses the tension between racial and economic imperatives that would continue to plague relations with the island nation for decades to come.
The policies of Adams, Jefferson, and Monroe would follow lines similar to Washington’s, particularly America’s nonrecognition of Haiti, which would last until the Lincoln administration. The Monroe Doctrine of 1823 would include a racial exception to the ban on European expansion in the Americas. America even refused to attend the first Pan American Congress of 1826, because Haiti was on the agenda.