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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 the nation's history, the Republic of Spanish Haiti, which had been known as the Captaincy General of Santo Domingo.

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 Spanish Haitian people perception of themselves as different from the Haitians in race, language, religion and domestic customs.[1] This period also definitively ended slavery as an institution in what became the Dominican Republic, though ironically forms of slavery still remain an integral part of Haitian culture.[2][3]


European colonizationEdit

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 five-eighths of Hispaniola.

In 1804, following black slave uprisings since 1791, the French colony declared its independence as Haïti. 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 slaves; sugar had become a very expensive commodity in Europe.[4]

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.[5] 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 SpainEdit

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,[6][7] and the rebels proclaimed independence from the Spanish crown on November 30, 1821.[8] 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.[7] On December 1, 1821 a constitutive act was ordered to petition the union of Spanish Haiti with Gran Colombia.

Jean-Pierre Boyer

Jean Pierre Boyer, the mulatto ruler of Haiti

Prelude to the unificationEdit

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; to maintain the freedom of its former slaves; and to liberate the remaining slave minority on the Dominican side of the island.[8][9][10] While appeasing the Dominicans, 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. They soon agreed that France would sell the territory to the Haitian rebels for 150 million Francs (more than twice what France had charged the United States for the much larger Louisiana territory in 1803). The Dominican nationalists who were against the unification of the island were at a serious disadvantage if they were to prevent this from occurring. At the time, they had no trained military forces whatsoever. 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 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 great enthusiasm and received from president Núñez de Cáceres the keys to the Palace.[9] The island was thus united from "Cape Tiburon to Cape Samana in possession of one government."[8]


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, Haiti 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 newly emancipated slaves resented being forced to grow cash crops under Boyer's Code Rural.[11] In rural 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. Most 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 effectively eliminated colonial slavery and 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.



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. 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.

See alsoEdit


  1. Moya Pons, Frank Between Slavery and Free Labor: The Spanish-speaking Caribbean in the 19th Century. Baltimore; Johns Hopkins University Press 1985
  6. Lancer, Jalisco. "The Conflict Between Haiti and the Dominican Republic". All Empires Online History Community. Retrieved 2007-12-24. [dead link]
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Haiti - Historical Flags". Flags of the World. Retrieved 2007-12-24. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Gates, Henry Louis; Appiah, Anthony (1999). "Dominican-Haitian Relations". Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience.,M1. Retrieved 2007-12-24. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Matibag, Eugenio (2003). Haitian-Dominican Counterpoint: Nation, State, and Race on Hispaniola.,M1. Retrieved 2007-12-24. 
  10. Corbett, Bob. "1818-1843 The rule of Jean-Pierre Boyer". The History of Haiti. Retrieved 2007-12-24. 
  11. 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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