Dominican War of Independence
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|Dominican War of Independence|
"El Trabucazo" (lit. "The blunderbuss shot")
|Commanders and leaders|
| Pedro Santana
Juan B. Cambiaso †
Juan B. Maggiolo
José Mª. Cabral
José Mª. Imbert
J. J. Puello
Pedro E. Pelletier
| Charles Hérard
The Dominican Independence War gave the Dominican Republic autonomy from Haiti on February 27, 1844. Before the war, the island of Hispaniola had been united under the Haitian government for a period of 22 years when the newly independent nation merged with Haiti in 1822. Previously known as the Captaincy General of Santo Domingo, the criollo class within the country overthrow the Spanish crown in 1821 before unifying with Haiti a year later.
At the time Haiti had been more economically and militarily powerful and had a population 8 to 10 times larger than the former Spanish colony, having been the richest colony in the western hemisphere before the Haitian Revolution. Dominican military officers agreed to merge the newly independent nation with Haiti, as they sought for political stability under the Haitian president Jean-Pierre Boyer, and were attracted to Haiti's perceived wealth and power at the time. However, due to the Haitian government's mismanagement, heavy taxes, military disputes, and an economic crisis the Haitian government became increasingly unpopular, thus the Dominican people decided to forcefully overthrow the Haitian government with no compromises.
After winning the war and ousting the Haitian occupying force from the country, Dominican nationalists had to fight against a series of Haitian incursions that served to consolidate their independence (1844-1856). Haitian soldiers would make incessant attacks to try to gain back control of the territory, but these efforts were to no avail as the Dominicans would go on to decisively win every battle henceforth.
At the beginning of the 1800s, the colony of Santo Domingo, which had once been the headquarters of Spanish power in the New World historically was in its worst decline. Spain was during this time embroiled in the Peninsular War in Europe, and the various wars to maintain control of the mainland of the Americas, this is recalled by Dominicans as the España Boba era. The population of the Spanish colony stood at approximately 80,000 with the vast majority being European descendants and mulattoes. Santo Domingo's plantation economy never truly flourished, because of this the black slave population had been significantly lower than that of the neighboring Saint-Domingue, which was nearing a million slaves before the Haitian Revolution.
During this period in time the Spanish crown wielded little to no influence in the colony of Santo Domingo. Some wealthy cattle ranchers had become leaders, and sought to bring control and order in the southeast of the colony where the "law of machete" ruled for a while. On November 9, 1821 the former Captain general in charge of the colony, José Núñez de Cáceres, influenced by all the Revolutions that were going on around him, finally decided to overthrow the Spanish government and declared independence from Spanish rule, and thus the short-lived nation of Spanish Haiti was founded.
Unification of the island
A group of Dominican politicians and military officers had expressed interested in uniting the entire island, while they sought for political stability and support under Haiti, which at the time was still seen as having a great deal of wealth and power (Haiti had been by far the richest colony in the western hemisphere and was known as the Pearl of the Antilles).
Haiti's president, Jean-Pierre Boyer, promised his full protection and support to the frontier governors, and thus he ceremoniously entered the country with around 10,000 soldiers in February 1822, after most of the cities and towns proclaimed their allegiance to the Republic of Haiti between November 1821 and January 1822, including Puerto Plata (December 13, 1821) and Santiago (December 29, 1821). On February 9, 1822, Boyer formally entered the capital city, Santo Domingo, where he was met with enthusiasm and received by Núñez who offered to him the keys of the Palace. Boyer rejected the offer, while saying: "I have not come into this city as a conqueror but by the will of its inhabitants". The island was thus united from "Cape Tiburon to Cape Samana in possession of one government."
Eventually the Haitian government became extremely unpopular throughout the country. The Dominican population grew increasingly impatient with Haiti's poor management and perceived incompetence, and the heavy taxation that was imposed on their side. The country was hit with a severe economic crisis after having to pay a huge indemnity to France, this would give rise to many anti-Haitian plots.
In 1838 Juan Pablo Duarte, an educated nationalist, founded a resistance movement called La Trinitaria ("The Trinity") along with Matías Ramón Mella and Francisco del Rosario Sánchez. It was so named because its original nine members had organized themselves into cells of three. The cells went on to recruit as separate organizations, maintaining strict secrecy, with little or no direct contact among themselves, in order to minimize the possibility of detection by the Haitian authorities. Many recruits quickly came to the group, but it was discovered and forced to change its name to La Filantrópica ("The Philanthropic"), and continued agitating against the Haitians.
In 1843 the revolution made a breakthrough: they worked with a liberal Haitian party that overthrew President Jean-Pierre Boyer. However, the Trinitarios' work in the overthrow gained the attention of Boyer's replacement, Charles Rivière-Hérard. Rivière-Hérard imprisoned some Trinitarios and forced Duarte to leave the island. While gone, Duarte searched for support in Colombia and Venezuela, but was unsuccessful. In December 1843, the rebels told Duarte to return since they had to act quickly because they were afraid the Haitians had learned of their insurrection plans. When Duarte had not returned by February (because of illness), the rebels decided to take action anyway with the leadership of Francisco del Rosario Sánchez, Ramón Matías Mella, and by Pedro Santana, a wealthy cattle-rancher from El Seibo who commanded a private army of peons who worked on his estates.
On February 27, 1844, thereafter celebrated as Dominican Independence Day, the rebels seized the Ozama Fortress in the capital. The Haitian garrison, taken by surprise and apparently betrayed by at least one of its sentries, retired in disarray. Within two days, all Haitian officials had left Santo Domingo. Mella headed the provisional governing junta of the new Dominican Republic. On March 14, Duarte finally returned after recovering from his illness and was greeted in celebration.
For years, Santana's military forces continued to defend the Republic against all the Haitian attacks, defeating them in the battles of March 19, March 30, El Memiso, and at Puerto Tortuguero. In early July 1844, Duarte was urged by his followers to take the title of President of the Republic. Duarte agreed, but only if free elections were arranged. However, Santana's forces took Santo Domingo on July 12, 1844, and they declared Santana ruler of the Dominican Republic. Santana then put Mella, Duarte, and Sánchez in jail.
On November 6, 1844 a constituent assembly drafted a constitution, based on the Haitian and United States models, which established separation of powers and legislative checks on the executive. However, Santana included in it Article 210, which granted him unlimited power during the current war against Haiti. The war continued throughout September and November 1845 being the Haitians defeated at Estrelleta and Beler. Santana remained as President until 1848, when he lost the election, only to seize power by a coup d'état the year after, when the Haitian President Faustin Soulouque attacked and was defeated at El Número and at Las Carreras.
Battles of the Dominican War of Independence
- Battle of Fuente del Rodeo (March 13, 1844)
- Battle of Cabeza de Las Marías (March 18, 1844)
- Battle of Azua (March 19, 1844)
- Battle of Santiago (March 30, 1844)
- Battle of El Memiso (April 13, 1844)
- Battle of Tortuguero (April 15, 1844)
- Battle of Estrelleta (September 17, 1845)
- Battle of Beler (November 27, 1845)
- Battle of El Número (April 19, 1849)
- Battle of Las Carreras (April 21, 1849)
- The members of La Trinitaria.