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Hayti-Santo Domingo War 1851-55

Colonel Buenaventura Baez was chosen on December 24, 1849 for his first term as president of the Dominican Republic. Baez, who was to play a leading part in the history of his country during the next thirty years, was the antithesis of Santana in manners and education. Born in Azua in 1812, the oldest of a family of seven childern, his father had sent him to Europe to study and he returned one of the most polished and best educated Dominicans of his day.

Under Haitian rule he was a member of the Haitian congress and of one of the Haitian constitutional assemblies. Almost white himself, he here distinguished himself by his boldness in opposing measures restricting the rights of whites in Haiti. After the declaration of independence of Santo Domingo he was a member of the first constitutional assembly and speaker of the first congress, being elected from the province of Azua, where his influence was similar to that enjoyed by Santana in Seibo. Until he became president he was a close friend of Santana.

Baez determined to take the offensive against Haiti, and a small naval campaign was undertaken in which Dominican government schooners captured Anse-a-Pitre and one or two other villages on the southern coast of Haiti, which were sacked and burned by the Dominicans. At the same time Baez requested the mediation of the United States, France and England to put an end to the struggle between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Soulouque, who had meanwhile proclaimed himself Emperor of Haiti, offered to agree to peace and recognize Baez, but on condition that the Haitian flag be raised in Santo Domingo and the sovereignty of Haiti be admitted.

His conditions were naturally rejected by the Dominicans, and the mediating powers informed the negro emperor that if he persisted in his plans of invading Santo Domingo they would be obliged to impose a suspension of hostilities for ten years. Nevertheless his forces continued to mass on the frontiers and small bodies actually entered Dominican territory, but were driven back.

In a circular of February 22, 1850, addressed to the American, British, and French consuls at Santo Domingo City, the minister of foreign affairs of the Dominican Republic solicited the mediation of the Governments of the United States, France, and Great Britain for the purpose of bringing about a peace between the Empire of Hayti and that Republic.

They agreed to act together, the basis of their coperation being defined in instructions given by the British Government to its consular representatives. The general object of the powers was declared to be to stop the effusion of blood and to end hostilities abhorrent to humanity, destructive to commerce, and threatening, by stirring up jealousies or differences between the great powers interested in this question, to disturb the good understanding between them. To this end they decided to insist upon an immediate cessation of hostilities, and, in case the Haitian government should refuse, then to warn it that they would feel themselves justified in immediately taking such steps as their interests and those of humanity might seem to render proper.

This plan received the entire adhesion of the very conservative administration of President Fillmore. Mr. Webster, who was then Secretary of State, in an instruction of January 18, 1851, to Robert M. Walsh, the special agent to Haiti and Santo Domingo, said:

"The material interests of the three countries [France, Great Britain, and the United States] are largely involved in the restoration and preservation of peace between the contending parties in Santo Domingo. France is a creditor of the government of the Emperor Soulouque to a large amount. She cannot hope for a discharge of her debt when the resources of his country, instead of being developed by pacific pursuits and in part, at least, applied to that purpose, are checked in their growth and wasted in a war with a conterminous state. Great Britain and France are both interested in securing that great additional demand for their productions which must result from the impulse to be expected for industry in Haiti and the Dominican Republic from a termination of the war; and the United States have a similar interest. . . .

"If the Emperor Soulouque shall insist upon maintaining a belligerent attitude until all his demands shall have been satisfied by the opposite party, you will unite with your colleagues in remonstrating against this course on his part. If the remonstrance shall prove to be unavailing, you will signify to the emperor that you shall give immediate notice to your government, that the President, with the concurrence of Congress, may adopt such measures, in coperation with the governments of England and France, as may cause the intervention of the three powers to be respected.

"As in co-operating for this end the three governments are actuated by philanthropic views, to which they believe any material interests which all or either may have in the question are quite subordinate, you will endeavor, in all your communications with your colleagues, and with either the Dominican or the Haytian governments, to keep your mind free from any prejudice resulting from color or forms of government. You will not deny justice to the Emperor Soulouque because he and his subjects are of African extraction and his government professes to be monarchical; and you will not be partial in your judgments in favor of the Dominican government because its officers are supposed to be for the most part of the Castilian race, and because it claims to be republican in its form."

In 1851 the government of Haiti was induced to desist from hostilities against the Dominican Republic and virtually to concede its independence through the joint intervention of England, France, and the United States.

Upon the protests of the three powers, Soulouque explained the incursions as having been due to disobedience to orders, and under pressure agreed to a truce for one year, during which negotiations were to continue for a definite treaty of peace or an armistice of ten years. In December, 1852, the minister of foreign affairs of France notified Haiti that the maritime nations of Europe were disposed to maintain the independence of Santo Domingo.

Under fear of foreign complications Haiti had remained quiet for several years, but in 1855, when England and France were engaged in the Crimean war, the emperor Soulouque made a last determined effort to subjugate Santo Domingo. One army advanced by way of the south, another through the central valley; both captured the border towns and drove the Dominican outposts before them; and both were defeated on the same day, December 22, 1855, the southern army at Cambronal, near Neiba, by a Dominican force under General Sosa, and the other on the savanna of Santome, by a force under General Jose Maria Cabral. Not to be deterred, Soulouque rallied his men within Haitian territory, shot a few of his generals, and, believing all the Dominican forces collected in the south, marched north to invade the Cibao. Here he was met by another band of Dominicans at Sabana Larga and again defeated, retreating precipitately to his dominions. It was the last Haitian invasion, but Haiti did not formally recognize the independence of the Dominican Republic until 1874.

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Page last modified: 25-06-2017 18:27:31 ZULU