Unification of Hispaniola
|Department of Ozama and Cibao
Départements de l'Ozama et du Cibao
Departamento del Ozama y del Cibao
|Languages||French, Haitian Creole, Spanish|
|-||Haitian occupation||February 9, 1822|
|-||Independence||February 27, 1844|
|Area||76,480 km² (29,529 sq mi)|
|Today part of|| Dominican Republic
The Unification of Hispaniola by Haiti lasted twenty-two years, from February 9, 1822 to February 27, 1844. This unification ended the first brief period of independence in history of the Dominican Republic, which had been known as the Republic of Spanish Haiti.
The occupation is recalled by some as a period of strict military rule, though the reality was far more complex. It led to large-scale land expropriations and failed efforts to force production of export crops, impose military services, restrict the use of the Spanish language, and suppress traditional customs. The 22 year unification reinforced the Dominican people's view of themselves as different from the Haitians in race, language, religion and domestic customs. This period also definitively ended slavery as an institution in what became the Dominican Republic, though ironically forms of slavery, particularly child slavery, are still practiced in Haiti today.
By the late 18th century, the island of Hispaniola had been divided into two European colonies: Saint-Domingue, in the west, governed by France; and Santo Domingo, governed by Spain, occupying the eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola.
In 1804, following uprisings since 1791, the French colony declared its independence as Haïti after a revolt spearheaded by elite mulattos and black freedman overthrew the French colonizers. Independence did not come easily, given the fact that Haiti had been France's most profitable colony, and the richest in the hemisphere. The colony was dubbed the Pearl of the Antilles, as a result of the sugar plantations worked by African slaves; sugar had become a very expensive commodity in Europe.
Meanwhile, on the eastern side, what was once the headquarters of Spanish colonial power in the New World historically had fallen into decline. At the time, Spain had most of its own resources focused on the Peninsular War and the various hard-fought wars to maintain control of the American mainland. The economy of Santo Domingo was stalled, the land largely unexploited and used for sustenance farming and cattle ranching, and the population was much lower than in Haiti. The accounts by the Dominican essayist and politician José Núñez de Cáceres cite the Spanish colony's population at around 80,000, mainly composed of European descendants, mulattos, freedmen, and a few black slaves. Haiti, on the other hand, was nearing a million former slaves.
Independence from Spain
On November 9, 1821 the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo was toppled by a group led by José Núñez de Cáceres, the colony's former administrator, and the rebels proclaimed independence from the Spanish crown on December 1, 1821. The new nation was known as Republic of Spanish Haiti (Spanish: República del Haití Español), as Haiti had been the indigenous name of the island. On December 1, 1821 a constitutive act was ordered to petition the union of Spanish Haiti with Gran Colombia.
Prelude to the unification
A group of Dominican politicians and military officers favored uniting the newly independent nation with Haiti, as they sought for political stability under Haitian president Jean-Pierre Boyer, and were attracted to Haiti's perceived wealth and power at the time. A large faction based in the northern Cibao region were opposed to the union with Gran Colombia and also sided with Haiti. Boyer, on the other hand, had several objectives in the island that he proclaimed to be "one and indivisible": to maintain Haitian independence against potential French or Spanish attack or reconquest and to maintain the freedom of its former slaves.
While appeasing the Dominican frontier officers, Jean-Pierre Boyer was already in negotiations with France to prevent an attack by fourteen French warships stationed near Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital. The Dominicans were unaware that Boyer made a concession with the French, and agreed that France would sell the territory to the Haitian rebels for a sum of 150 million Francs (more than twice what France had charged the United States for the much larger Louisiana territory in 1803) thus the Haitians would essentially be forced into paying to maintain their freedom from the French.
The Dominican nationalists who were against the unification of the island were at a serious disadvantage if they were to maintain their nation's sovereignty. At the time, they had an untrained infantry force. The population was eight to ten times less than Haiti’s, and the economy was stalled. Haiti, on the other hand, had formidable armed forces, both in skill and sheer size, which had been hardened in nearly ten years of repelling French Napoleonic soldiers, and British soldiers, along with the local colonialists, and military insurgents within the country. The racial massacres perpetrated in the later days of the French–Haitian conflict only added to the determination of Haitians to never lose a battle.
After promising his full support to several Dominican frontier governors and securing their allegiance, Boyer ceremoniously entered the country with around 10,000 soldiers in February 1822, encountering little to no opposition. On February 9, 1822, Boyer formally entered the capital city, Santo Domingo after its ephemeral independence, where he was met with enthusiasm and received by Núñez de Cáceres who offered to him the keys of the Palace; Boyer rejected the offer 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."
In order to raise funds for the huge indemnity of 150 million francs that Haiti agreed to pay the former French colonists, and which was subsequently lowered to 60 million francs, the Haitian government imposed heavy taxes on the Dominicans. Since Haiti was unable to adequately provision its army, the occupying forces largely survived by commandeering or confiscating food and supplies at gunpoint. Attempts to redistribute land conflicted with the system of communal land tenure (terrenos comuneros), which had arisen with the ranching economy, and some people resented being forced to grow cash crops under Boyer and Joseph Inginac's Code Rural. In the rural and rugged mountainous areas, the Haitian administration was usually too inefficient to enforce its own laws. It was in the city of Santo Domingo that the effects of the occupation were most acutely felt, and it was there that the movement for independence originated.
Haiti's constitution also forbade white elites from owning land, and the major landowning families were forcibly deprived of their properties. Many emigrated to Cuba, Puerto Rico (these two being Spanish possessions at the time) or Gran Colombia, usually with the encouragement of Haitian officials, who acquired their lands. The Haitians, who associated the Roman Catholic Church with the French slave-masters who had exploited them before independence, confiscated all church property, deported all foreign clergy, and severed the ties of the remaining clergy to the Vatican. Santo Domingo's university, the oldest in the Western Hemisphere, lacking both students and teachers had to close down, and thus the country suffered from a massive case of human capital flight.
Although the occupation instated a constitution modeled after the United States Constitution throughout the island, several resolutions and written dispositions were expressly aimed at converting average Dominicans into second-class citizens: restrictions of movement, prohibition to run for public office, night curfews, inability to travel in groups, banning of civilian organizations, and the indefinite closure of the state university (on the alleged grounds of its being a subversive organization) all led to the creation of movements advocating a forceful separation from Haiti with no compromises.
In 1838 a group of educated nationalists, among them, Juan Pablo Duarte, Matías Ramón Mella, and Francisco del Rosario Sánchez founded a secret society called La Trinitaria to gain independence from Haiti. In 1843 they allied with a Haitian movement that overthrew Boyer in Haiti. After they revealed themselves as revolutionaries working for Dominican independence, the new Haitian president, Charles Rivière-Hérard, exiled or imprisoned the leading Trinitarios. At the same time, Buenaventura Báez, an Azua mahogany exporter and deputy in the Haitian National Assembly, was negotiating with the French Consul-General for the establishment of a French protectorate.
In an uprising timed to preempt Báez, on February 27, 1844, the Trinitarios declared independence from Haiti, backed by Pedro Santana, a wealthy cattle-rancher from El Seibo who commanded a private army of peons who worked on his estates. This marked the beginning of the Dominican War of Independence.
Neighboring towns and cities like Hincha (now Hinche), Juana Méndez (now Ouanaminthe), San Rafael de La Angostura (now Saint-Raphaël), San Miguel de la Atalaya (now Saint-Michel-de-l’Atalaye), or Las Caobas (now Lascahobas), among others, remained isolated with little communication with the Dominican capital whilst there were a growing Haitian influence as the gourde circulated and in addition to the Spanish language, Haitian Creole was also spoken; eventually becoming Haitian territories, however these cities would often be disputed between the two countries.
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La actividad de los agentes haitianos, más los pronunciamentos de los pueblos de la zona Norte y de otras en la zona fronteriza, en favor de la unidad con Haití, y los constantes rumores sobre la entrada a la colonia del ejército de Boyer,... (...) El 15 de diciembre, Andrés Amarante, comandante de Dajabón, comunicó al presidente Boyer que la bandera de Haití había sido enarbolada en aquella ciudad y cinco días después, una junta popular organizada en Santiago denunció la obra de Núñez de Cáceres como "antisocial", llamando en su auxilio a Boyer. (...) En Haití, donde el movimiento unionista de los pueblos del Cibao Central y fronterizos había sido recibido calurosamente, el movimiento independentista de Núñez de Cáceres no encontró simpatía. Por ello, el periódico La Concordia "gazeta del gobierno de Haití" (...) censura la proclamación de la independencia de Núñez de Cáceres, cuestionando la confederación del nuevo Estado con Colombia. El periódico resaltaba que la confederación debió hacerse con Haití pues a su entender era "la confederación legítima preparada por la naturaleza"... (...) Boyer salió de Puerto Príncipe a finales de enero con su ejército que se dividió en dos partes: una que cruzó la frontera por el Norte y otra por el Sur, y el día 9 de febrero de 1822 hizo su entrada a la ciudad de Santo Domingo, donde luego de los actos de recibimiento oficiales de rigor que encabezó el Dr. Núñez de Cáceres, que envolvieron un tedéum en la Catedral y la entrega de la llave de la ciudad, que no quiso aceptar expresando «que no había entrado en ella como conquistador sino por la voluntad de sus habitantes»; poco después, en acto público solemne efectuado en la plaza principal, tomó su primera ejecutoria como Gobernador del territorio antiguamente español, proclamando la abolición de la esclavitud.
- Terrenos comuneros arose because of “scarce population, low value of the land, the absence of officials qualified to survey the lands, and the difficulty of dividing up the ranch in such a way that each would receive a share of the grasslands, forests, streams, palm groves, and small agricultural plots that, only when combined, made possible the exploitation of the ranch.” (Hoetink, The Dominican People: Notes for a Historical Sociology transl. Stephen Ault Pg. 83 (Johns Hopkins Press: Baltimore, 1982)
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