Amidst the world’s focus on Haiti, we might remember another time of focus on Haiti—involving Utah and a senator from Utah.
The story was told in the Spring 1973 Utah Historical Quarterly in an article by Lawrence M. Hauptman. Here are the highlights:
In 1915, U.S. marines invaded Haiti and established the country as a U.S. protectorate. The U.S. military occupied Haiti until 1934.
In the meantime, Senator William H. King of Utah denounced the occupation.
“The United States has too often landed military forces upon friendly shores and has interfered in the internal affairs of friendly peoples.” (1926)
“The Haitian people are in a condition of political servitude. Their Government has been taken from them, their constitution has been destroyed, they have no national assembly, no local self-government, no control over their own fiscal affairs, and no controlling voice in their domestic affairs. Ninety-nine percent of the Haitian people bitterly resent the course of [the United States] and the subjugation of their country by the armed forces of this powerful nation.” (1927)
In 1922 King introduced resolutions to pull out troops, and once tried to amend the naval appropriations bill to withhold all monetary support for marines in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, or Nicaragua.
He never got his resolutions through Congress, but he helped raise the issue of Caribbean policy in the public mind. He conferred with--and influenced--presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt on the issue. And he helped formulate the final withdrawal plan.
So why did King so fervently go to bat for Haiti?
According to author Hauptman, he thought “the occupation of Haiti and other protectorates and insular possessions was immoral, for he believed that the existence of an American empire was demeaning to the honor of the United States and contrary to American tradition….
“King argued that an America bent on foreign conquest could not remain a free, liberal democracy at home.”
In addition, King was a fiscal conservative. He condemned the millions of dollars it took to support the troops in Haiti and other protectorates.
King had another motivation: sugar. Utah’s important beet sugar industry was in crisis at the time, because Cuban sugar was flooding the market. Sugar from Cuba and other U.S. protectorates and possessions could come into the country tariff-free.
So one solution would be to give these countries their independence—and then make them pay tariffs on imports. That way, sugar from Haiti could never become a threat.
Senator King truly did oppose imperialism. But his stance was bolstered by at least a couple of other reasons.