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Alexandre Sabès Pétion
(2 April 1770 – 29 March 1818)
Alexandre Sabès Pétion

Alexandre  Petion was the Haitian independence leader and president, remembered by the Haitian people for his liberal rule and by South Americans for his support of Simón Bolívar during the struggle for independence from Spain.

Early life and education

Petion was born in Port-au-Princeto a black mother and a French father. He was sent to France in 1788 to study at the Military Academy in Paris. He returned to take part in the expulsion of the British (1798“99). His mulatto heritage meant that when tensions arose between blacks and mulattoes he supported the mulatto faction. He allied with General Andra Rigaud  and Jean Pierre Boyer against Toussaint L'Ouverture,  in the failed rebellion, the so-called War of Knives, which began in June 1799. By November the rebels were pushed back to the strategic southern port of Jacmel,  the defence was commanded by Petion. The town fell in March 1800 and the rebellion was effectively over. Petion and other mulatto leaders went into exile in France.

He returned in February 1802 with Boyer, Rigaud and the 12,000 strong French army commanded by Charles Leclerc. Following the treacherous treatment of Toussaint and the renewed struggle he joined the nationalist force in October 1802 following a secret conference at Arcahaie and supported Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the general who had captured Jacmel. The capital was taken on October 17, 1803 and independence was declared on January 1, 1804. Dessalines was made ruler for life and had himself crowned emperor on October 6, 1804.

Following the assassination of Dessalines on October 17, 1806, Petion championed democracy and clashed with Henri Christophe. Christophe was offered a democratic presidency, but this failed. The country divided between them and the tensons between the blacks and mulattoes were reignited. After the inconclusive struggle dragged on until 1810 a peace was agreed and the country was split in two. While Christophe made himself king of the northern Kingdom of Haiti, étion had himself elected President of the southern part of Haïti in 1806. Initially a supporter of democracy, he found the constraints imposed on him by the senate onorous and suspended the legislature in 1818. In 1816 he turned his post into President for Life.

He was active in seizing the commercial plantations and divided the land thus gained amongst his supporters and the peasantry, earning himself the nickname Papa Bon-Couer ("good-hearted daddy"). The land grab dealt a serious blow to the economy of the country and most of the population did little more than subsistence farming. He started the Lycice Petion in Port-au-Prince. He gave sanctuary to Simon Boli­var in 1815 and provided him with material support.

Boyer was made the successor of Petion and took control following the death of Petion through yellow fever in 1818.

Death and legacy

Petion 29 March 1818 at the age of 47.

The town of Pétionville near Port-au-Prince was founded and named in his honor.

There's a square named after Pétion, with a bronze standing statue of him in the Champs de Mars area of Port-au-Prince.

The Pétion-Bolivar square and avenue in Jacmel are both named after him and South American leader Simon Bolivar.

The Haitian 500 gourdes currency bears his portrait.

The early nineteenth century fortress, Fort Alexandre overseeing Port-au-Prince on one of its surrounding hills at Fermathe, was named after him.

The Lycée Pétion, oldest in the capital, was founded by him in 1816, bears his name.

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Alexandre  Petion
OCCUPATION: Politician
BORN: 2 April 1770
BIRTHPLACE: Port-au-Prince, Saint-Domingue
DIED: 29 March 1818 (aged 47)
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
President of Haiti: 9 March 1807 – 29 March 1818
Haiti Haiti
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