In 1821 the once-vibrant economic powerhouse known as the Colony of Santo
Domingo began its fight for what is known as the Ephemeral Independence, but
this was not to last. By 1822 the newly independent Haitians were fearful that
the French would use the eastern portion of the island to mount an attack on
Haiti, and re-establish slavery. Under the leadership of Jean Pierre Boyer, the
Haitians invaded the eastern side of Hispaniola, outlawed slavery, and unified
the island once again. |
However, conditions under Haitian rule were no better than they had been under
the Spanish, and a growing part of the population became dissatisfied with the
situation. In response, Juan Pablo Duarte, together with fellow patriots Juan
Isidro Perez, Pedro Alejandro Pina, Jacinto de la Concha, Felix Maria Ruiz, Jose
Maria Serra, Benito Gonzalez, Felipe Alfau and Juan Nepomuceno Ravelo, formed a
secret society called La Trinitaria on July 16, 1838, aimed at undermining
Haitian rule on the island.
Duarte also founded La Filantropica, a more visible organization, which spread
its separatist ideas by staging theatrical events. Unfortunately for the
revolutionary movement and for Duarte, he was forced into exile in August 1843
as a result of his dissident activities. But La Trinitaria’s other members
continued the fight in Duarte’s absence. One of them was Francisco del Rosario
Sanchez, who corresponded with Duarte during the latter’s exile in Venezuela,
and Ramon Matias Mella, who along with Duarte and Sanchez became known as the
founding fathers of the Dominican Republic
On January 16, 1844 La Trinitaria’s manifesto in favor of independence was
released, and the fight for independence began to gain the necessary momentum.
On the heels of La Trinitaria’s work, and after many battles and much bloodshed,
the Dominican Republic was born on February 27, 1844, claiming independence from
Haiti with a declaration at the Puerta del Conde.
Juan Pablo Duarte eventually returned on March 15, 1844 in order to help in the
building of this new nation, but Duarte and the Dominican Republic faced many
obstacles, both internal and external.
Skirmishes with Haitian resistance fighters continued across the island, and on
July 24, 1844 Duarte, along with most of those who had fought to free the
country from Haitian rule, were declared traitors by Pedro Santana, and forced
to leave the Dominican Republic.
Though many of those involved in La Trinitaria had also fought alongside
Santana, they didn’t share his viewpoint that the new nation would survive
without Spanish aid, so he immediately embarked on a quest to eliminate the very
Independistas that fought alongside him.
After the Dominican Republic gained its independence from Haiti in 1844, Juan
Pablo Duarte, father of the revolution, had envisioned a strong democratic
republic that would protect its citizens from the dictatorial rule which had
marred the country’s history. On November 6, 1844 the first constitution of the
new republic was signed in San Cristobal, and Santana, fearing political
instability, controlled revisions to the newly written constitution that allowed
him to stay in power, and declared himself president of the nation, a post he
would hold from 1844-1848, 1853-1856, and 1858-1861.
In the process of ridding himself of potential enemies, Santana pledged
allegiance to the Spanish crown, (and was named Captain General of the Province
of Santo Domingo) and in 1861 the Dominican Republic, at the urging of
Buenaventura Baez, was annexed to Spain, but this was to be temporary.
In August 16, 1863 civil unrest led to revolutionary rebellions that started the
Guerra de la Restauracion (War of Restoration), and by March 1865 the Spanish
crown decreed the cancellation of the annexation process. 1865 marked the end of
the War of Restoration, and Dominicans had once again gained their independence,
but it was only a matter of time before this new freedom was challenged, by both
external and internal factors. On March 9, 1849 another Haitian invasion took
place. In November 1855 the Haitians invaded again, and a failed invasion in
1860 finally brought Haitian hostilities to an end.
Buenaventura Baez, who was president of the Dominican Republic for five
different terms beginning in 1849, was a former soldier during the independence
years, but he was most notable for his almost all-consuming obsession with
annexing the Dominican Republic to other countries. It was a desire for personal
wealth and political power, more than beneficial politics for his country that
drove Baez’s obsession.
Beginning in 1846 Baez tried to annex the Dominican Republic to the French, a
proposal that was vehemently refused. After this failed proposal Baez sought
help from the Americans, but this proposal was also denied. Baez eventually went
to the Spanish in 1861, which consequently resulted in annexation attempts that
were later abandoned in 1865. Finally, in 1870, Baez tried to have the Dominican
Republic annexed to the United States with the help of Ulysses S. Grant, but
like his previous attempts, this too was denied, and became a political
embarrassment for Grant.
Living in luxury most of his life, Baez died in exile in 1884 in Puerto Rico,
but his legacy of self-involved politics and accumulated personal wealth was
already carved into the political framework of how politics would be structured
in the Dominican Republic.
Continuing in Baez’s footsteps was military leader Ulises Heureaux. During his
seven-year rule (1882-1889) Heureaux can be credited with certain
infrastructural advances for the country, like the initiation of a railroad
system that was aimed at connecting the whole country, and aid in commerce, but
“Lilis,” as he was known, was also responsible for taking secret loans from many
European lending houses and banks.
With the economy in tatters and most of the money given to the Dominican
Republic directed towards his personal wealth, Lilis defaulted on most of his
loans, prompting eventual military action from his creditors, most notably the
Westinghouse, of the Netherlands. In July of 1899 Heureaux was assassinated in
In order to avoid interference in the hemisphere by European powers (an
attribute of the Monroe Doctrines, and its corollaries), the United States
intervened and took control of Dominican customs. The Dominican Republic
eventually declared bankruptcy; the economy became even more unstable.