Dominican Republic History: 1821-1916 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 Moca.

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.
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