Unification of Hispaniola

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Unification of Hispaniola
Haitian territory
Capital Port-au-Prince
Languages French
Haitian Creole
Government Republic
 •  1822–1843 (first) Jean-Pierre Boyer
 •  1843–1844 (last) Charles Rivière-Hérard
 •  1822–1832 (first) Jérôme-Maximilien Bargella
 •  1843–1844 (last) Léo Hérard
 •  Haitian annexation February 9, 1822
 •  Independence February 27, 1844
Area 76,480 km2 (29,530 sq mi)
Currency Gourde (HTG)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Republic of Spanish Haiti
Kingdom of Haiti
Dominican War of Independence
First Republic (Dominican Republic)
Today part of  Haiti
 Dominican Republic

The Unification of Hispaniola was a forceful annexation of briefly independent Republic of Spanish Haiti (formerly Santo Domingo) into the Republic of Haiti, that lasted twenty-two years, from 9 February 1822 to 27 February 1844.[1][2]

Haitian president Jean-Pierre Boyer had previously unified north and south Haiti before uniting the entire island. Upon reunification, he divided the island into six departments, that were subdivided into arrondissements (administrative districts) and communes. The departments established in the west were, Nord, Ouest, Sud, and Artibonite, while the east was divided into Ozama and Cibao.[3] This period is recalled by some[who?] as a period of strict military rule, though the reality was far more complex. The territory functioned as a self-governing entity with Dominican soldiers as overseers. Dominican citizens also had more rights than the Haitians who were under Jean-Pierre Boyer's code rural.[4] However, this period 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. There was also a resurgence of the decades-old rivalries between the governing Haitian elite (mulattoes) and the masses of the black population, most notably throughout the western end.

In February 1844 a group of conspirators moved to destroy Haitian rule in the Spanish-speaking two-thirds of the island. Called the trinitaria ("trinity"), this cabal was composed entirely of whites, most of whom were from the Iberian peninsula, the Canaries, and the Balearic Islands.[5] Independence was proclaimed in the city of Santo Domingo on 27 February 1844, but on the following day a group of ex-slaves led by an African-born black, Santiago Basora, announced its opposition to the rebels. These blacks suspected that the white rebels intended to reintroduce slavery; if this was true, the blacks were ready to fight alongside the Haitians. Trinitaria leaders realized the explosive nature of this situation and moved rapidly to defuse it. On 28 February provisional President Tomás Bobadilla and Vice-President Manuel Jimenes conferred with Basora and his supporters, and on the following day slavery was again declared abolished.[5] Thereafter, the struggle against Haiti moved toward a successful conclusion, free of racial acrimony.


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.

First unification under the French[edit]

During the second half of the eighteenth century the French side of the island quickly developed into the most prosperous plantation colony of the New World. French Saint-Domingue was dubbed the Pearl of the Antilles, as a result of the sugar plantations worked by African slaves; sugar had become an indispensable commodity in Europe.[6] By the Peace of Basel of 22 July 1795, Spain ceded its two-third of the island to France in exchange for the return of the province of Guipuzcoa occupied by the French since 1793. Although Hispaniola was now unified under a single administration, it proved difficult for the French to consolidate their rule since their part of the island had been experiencing uprisings by elite mulattos and black freedman since 1791, and in 1804 the leader of the Haitian revolution, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, declared Haiti's independence. Independence did not come easily, given the fact that Haiti had been France's most profitable colony.

By 1795, the eastern side, what was once the headquarters of Spanish colonial power in the New World had long fallen into decline. The economy 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.

While the French had lost their former colony of Saint-Dominque by 1804, the French commander of the former Spanish side had been able to repulse the attacks of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, but in 1808 the people revolted and the following year, with the help of a British squadron, ended French control of the city of Santo Domingo. Spanish rule was reestablished.[citation needed] However, this short period under which the whole of Hispaniola was de jure under French rule was to be the chief justification of the freed Haitians in their quest to reunite the island under their rule.

Independence from Spain[edit]

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,[7][8] and the rebels proclaimed independence from the Spanish crown on December 1, 1821.[9] 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.[8] On December 1, 1821 a constitutive act was ordered to petition the union of Spanish Haiti with Gran Colombia.

Prelude to the unification[edit]

Épinal print showing Mackau forcing Boyer to agree to pay 150 million francs to compensate French planters.

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.[9][10][11][12][page needed]

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 to the French, and agreed to pay France 150 million gold francs destined to compensated the former French slave owners. Thus, Haiti would essentially be forced into paying reparations for its freedom.[13]

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".[12] The island was thus united from "Cape Tiburon to Cape Samana in possession of one government."[9]


Map of the island of Haiti (1839)

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 Balthazar Inginac's Code Rural.[14] 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, and led to the abolition of slavery as an institution in what became known as the Dominican Republic,[15][16] forms of slavery persisted in Haitian society.[3] Several resolutions and written dispositions were expressly aimed at converting average Dominicans into second-class citizens as Boyer had done with the Haitian peasantry under the aforementioned Code Rural:[17] 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.


La Trinitaria meeting.

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. The Trinitarios took advantage of a Haitian rebellion against the dictator Jean-Pierre Boyer. The Trinitarios won the loyalty of two Haitian regiments made up of Dominicans from the city of Santo Domingo. They rose up on January 27, 1843, ostensibly in support of the Haitian Charles Hérard who was challenging Boyer for the control of Haiti. Known as "The Reform" (La Reforma), the rebellious Dominicans seized the capital, Santo Domingo, on March 24 in the name of Hérard. The movement soon discarded its pretext of support for Hérard and now championed Dominican independence. In the meantime, Hérard overthrew Boyer and marched against Santo Domingo in order to resubjugate the Dominicans. Hérard entered the capital on July 12, executed some Dominicans, and threw many others into prison; Duarte escaped.

Upon returning to Haiti, Hérard, a mulatto, faced a rebellion by blacks in the continuing racial strife between those two elements within Haiti. The two regiments of Dominicans were among those used by Hérard to suppress the uprising. Their loyal participation convinced Hérard that the Dominican troublemakers had been eliminated.[18] Surviving members of the La Trinitaria, now led by Tomás Bobadilla, planned another uprising. Once again, the conspirators persuaded the two Dominican-manned regiments to participate. 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. Over the next decade, the Haitians conducted military campaigns against the newly formed Dominican Republic.

The Haitian military campaigns involved more than 40,000 Haitian soldiers against 15,000 Dominicans.[19] Despite their numerical superiority, the Haitian forces were not supported by their compatriots, who feared that the cost of the conflict would drain the national economy. Furthermore, internal divisions prevented a succession of Haiti's presidents from forming a united front against the rebellious Dominicans.[19]

Territorial disputes[edit]

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), and 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.[20]


  • Jérôme-Maximilien Bargella (9 February 1822 – 1832)
  • Bernard-Philippe-Alexis Carrié (1832 – February 1843)
  • Charles Rivière-Hérard (1843)
  • Léo Hérard (1843 – 27 February 1844)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ United States Geographic Board, ed. (1890–1891). "First Report of the United States - Board of Geographic Names 1890-1891". Washington Government Printing Office. p. 45. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  2. ^ World Leaders Index: Dominican Republic
  3. ^ a b Coupeau, Steeve, ed. (2008). "The History of Haiti". pp. 51–52. ISBN 9780313340895. Retrieved 10 May 2017. 
  4. ^ Historical Dictionary of Haiti. 
  5. ^ a b Rout, Leslie B. (July 30, 1976). The African Experience in Spanish America. CUP Archive. p. 285. 
  6. ^ Haggerty, Richard A., ed. (1989). "Haiti: Growth and Structure of the Economy" (Haiti: A Country Study ed.). Library of Congress. 
  7. ^ Lancer, Jalisco. "The Conflict Between Haiti and the Dominican Republic". All Empires Online History Community. Retrieved 2007-12-24. [dead link]
  8. ^ a b "Haiti - Historical Flags". Flags of the World. Retrieved 12 May 2017. 
  9. ^ a b c Gates, Henry Louis; Appiah, Anthony (1999). "Dominican-Haitian Relations". Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. Retrieved 2007-12-24. 
  10. ^ Matibag, Eugenio (2003). Haitian-Dominican Counterpoint: Nation, State, and Race on Hispaniola. Retrieved 2007-12-24. 
  11. ^ Corbett, Bob. "1818-1843 The rule of Jean-Pierre Boyer". The History of Haiti. Retrieved 2007-12-24. 
  12. ^ a b Franco Pichardo, Franklin J. (2009). "Capítulo XVIII: Período de Integración con Haití". Historia del Pueblo Dominicano (in Spanish) (8th ed.). Santo Domingo: Ediciones Taller. pp. 175–178. 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. 
  13. ^ Tharoor, Ishaan, ed. (11 May 2015). "Is it time for France to pay its real debt to Haiti?". Washington Post. Retrieved 10 October 2015. 
  14. ^ 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)
  15. ^ Trouillot, Michel-Rolph (1990). "Haiti: State Against Nation". p. 48. ISBN 9780853457558. Retrieved 12 October 2015. 
  16. ^ Bryan, Patrick E. (1984). "The Haitian Revolution and Its Effects". p. 43. ISBN 0435983016. Retrieved 12 October 2015. 
  17. ^ Lundahl, Mats, ed. (2015). "Peasants and Poverty (Routledge Revivals): A Study of Haiti". p. 350. ISBN 9781317593911. 
  18. ^ Scheina, Robert L. (2003). Latin America's Wars: Volume 1. Potomac Books. 
  19. ^ a b A Brief History of the Caribbean. Infobase Publishing. 2008. p. 115. 
  20. ^ "Groupe Immobilier d'Haiti". Retrieved 25 May 2014. [dead link]