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THE REPUBLICS OF THE CARIBBEAN SEA
THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Peculiar interest attaches to the Dominican Republic for the reason that the territory upon which it stands was the first upon which Christian civilization was established this side of the Atlantic. The island of Santo Domingo, called by Columbus, as if by way of distinction, La Isla Española, "The Spanish Island,” discovered on December 6, 1492, thirty-nine days after Cuba and fifty-five after Guanahanee, or San Salvador, was from the beginning, and continued to be for a long time, the metropolis of the vast colonial empire founded by Spain in the New World, a noble and magnificent capital, which resisted for not less than four centuries the inevitable destruction to which all things human are doomed.
In addition to the fact that this island was, as might be said, historically, as well as legally, the foundation upon which that ponderous empire was built, there is another fact which attracts to it most intensely the attention of the student and arouses his sympathies. The history of Santo Domingo will bring bim face to face with interesting problems of the philosophy of history, causing him to meditate with more than usual reverence over the ways of Providence, should he endeavor to inquire, in the proper spirit, into the trials and calamities to which the Dominican people have been so long subjected.
During the whole of the sixteenth century and for a considerable part of the seventeenth Spain retained without opposition the undivided control of the island; but in 1630 French adventurers and pirates, afterwards called “buccaneers,” who escaped the persecution of the Spanish fleet commanded by Don FEDERICO ALVAREZ DE TOLEDO, which in those days policed with marked success the waters of the Caribbean Sea, took refuge in the island of Tortuga, where they settled, and from where not long afterwards they sent expeditions, more or less predatory, and more or less irresistible under the circumstances of the times and localities, against the neighboring coast of Santo Domingo.
This Tortuga settlement, and the other settlements, most of them very small, which were established on the above-mentioned coast, became the nucleus of a French colony, which grew little by little in
importance, until attracting the attention of the Governor-General of the French Antilles, who put it under the immediate control of one of his officers, whom he appointed its Governor. This was in 1641.
A period of constant clash between the French invaders and the Spanish settlers of the island was then inaugurated. But in the summer of 1680, under an arrangement entered into between the Spanish Governor of the island (Don FRANCISCO DE SEGURA) and the French Governor of Tortuga (Captain LEVASSEUR), the Rebouc River became the dividing line between the two territories, and peace was established among the inhabitants of the bordering localities. The learned Dominican historian Don José GABRIEL GARCÍA remarks, with reason, that this instrument,a the first one of official character on the subject, implied the acknowledgment of the French sovereignty over the territory on the west side of the dividing line.
Later on, under the new situation created in the world in 1697 by the “ Peace of Riswick," this French title to the western part of the island became perfect, by virtue of the formal cession of that territory made then by treaty in favor of the King of France by the King of Spain.
Ninety years thereafter, another treaty concluded at Basle on July 22, 1795, between Spain and the French Republic, made the whole island French, and through it Spain ceded to France “the whole of the Spanish part of the island of Santo Domingo in the Antilles.” But the situation thus created was almost ephemeral, because in 1809, when Spain rose in arms against France and allied herself with Great Britain, a combined force of British and Spaniards besieged and captured (July 11) the city of Santo Domingo, and the Spanish rule was reestablished in the ceded territory.
Later, on December 1, 1821, the inhabitants of that territory proclaimed their independence of Spain, and established a provisional Government, republican in form, under a temporary constitution, to which they gave the name of Acta constitutiva del Gobierno provisional del Estado (an Act for the establishment of a State provisional constitutional government), article 4 of which provided that the new State should be annexed to Colombia and become a State of the Union created under this name by SIMON BOLIVAR.
As this movement did not meet with favor in the neighboring Republic of Haiti, where the President proclaimed that the existence in the island of two different Governments endangered the preservation of the liberty of both, a period of open hostility was at once inaugurated, which ended in the Haitian occupation of the whole island on February 9, 1822.
Twenty-two years thereafter (February 27, 1844) the people of the eastern part of the island asserted again their independence and established the Dominican Republic. A constitutional convention (Soberano Congreso Constituyente) met at San Cristobal on September 21 of the same year, and framed a Constitution, which was promulgated on November 6,1814. From that date to the present time the two political divisions of the island have been maintained.
Subsequent to the promulgation of the Constitution of November 6, 1844, and during the period intervening between this date and March 18, 1861, at which time the Dominican Republic ceased to exist and became
a Compendio de la Historia de Santo
Santo Domingo, 1896, vol. 1, p. 173