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    Dominicana On Line - El Portal de la República Dominicana

    Annexation and Restoration

    Crisis situation.  The first period of the Republic, dedicated to defending against Haitian attacks and struggles for internal political organization, was marked by a permanent economic crisis.  Productive activities were subjected to the needs of defense; exportation and importation levels decreased significantly and in some moments, were paralyzed.  To defray military and government costs, the authorities resorted to the small businesses of foreign and local traders and to the issuance of paper money without backing.  The losses caused by these issuances, especially for the productive and commercial sectors developed around Cibao tobacco, paved the way for a civil war in 1857 that eventually resulted in two simultaneous governments (one in Santo Domingo and another in Cibao, which would further impoverish the country.

    Annexation to Spain. In 1858, a possibility loomed on the Dominican horizon that the United States would take advantage of the political weakness and economic crisis to do what it had done in Nicaragua, that is, overthrow the government and occupy the country.  Alarm grew when, in 1860, the Dominican government was forced to capture a group of U.S. adventurers that had “taken possession” of the island adjacent to Alta Vela to exploit its guano deposits.  After the incident, negotiations with Spain for protectorate status changed.  The Dominican President at the time was Pedro Santana, who decided to request an agreement of reincorporation or annexation of the country to Spain.  The conditions that Spain was required to follow for the annexation were:

    • Preserve individual liberty and not reestablish slavery in Dominican territory.
    • Consider Dominican territory a Spanish province, allowing it to enjoy the same rights as others.
    • Use the services of the greatest possible number of Dominican public and military officials in the new Spanish government.
    • Pay out all circulating paper money.
    • Recognize as good and valid all of the acts of the Dominican governments from 1844 to date.

    With these measures, the plans of the conservative political elites, (especially those that followed and had benefited from Santana) to guarantee the enjoyment of the privileges that a possible U.S. occupation or the strengthening of the liberal forces would bring, were placed in danger.

    On March 18, 1861, the annexation to Spain was proclaimed in the esplanade of the Cathedral of Santo Domingo.

    First reactions.  The popular reactions contrary to annexation began to manifest themselves a few days after its proclamation.  There were towns that attempted to mutiny, General José Contreras rose up in arms, and Francisco del Rosario Sánchez (exiled years earlier) formed an expedition that, entering through Haiti, attempted the “Regeneration of the Republic”.  All of these patriotic expressions were smothered and their leaders, shot.

    Measures and attitudes of the new colonial government.

    • Loss of Santana’s authority.  In spite of being named Captain General of the Province of Santo Domingo, Pedro Santana depended on the Captain General of Cuba and his functions and decisions were subject to the supervision and authorization of his superiors in the Spanish bureaucratic hierarchy.
    • Replacement of all officials and military supporting Santana.  Despite the commitment made by the Spanish Crown to use the largest number of Dominican officials and military possible in its government in Santo Domingo, the reality was that many Dominicans in positions of public and military administration were exchanged at the time of the annexation for Spanish officials, generally from Cuba and Puerto Rico. 
    • Discrimination against the mulatto and black Dominican population.  As Spain continued to support slavery, the authorities and families that arrived to the Province of Santo Domingo treated the Dominican population in an offensive and discriminatory manner, as the majority was mulatto.
    • Delayed payment of Dominican reserve soldiers’ salaries and prohibition of the use of the Spanish uniform by Dominicans.  The salary paid to Dominican military men was inferior to that of the Spanish.
    • Baggage System.  Put into practice by the Spanish army, it consisted of requisitioning, without guarantee of return, all animals of burden the Spanish troops needed for their military missions, though said animals were being used at the moment of requisition.
    • Imposition of higher taxes on the non-Spanish goods and boats that arrived to the Province.
    • Attempt to establish a monopoly on tobacco production in favor of metropolitan interests.
    • Attempt to obligate the Dominican public, who generally cohabitated or had common-law marriage, to obtain ecclesiastical marriage.
    • Confrontation of the new Archbishop from Spain, Bienvenido de Monzón, with the Dominican clergy, as the Dominican priests often had children or were Masons.  He also wanted to require priests to receive a fixed salary of only fifty pesos monthly and to give the rest of the offerings received from ecclesiastical services to the Church.  The clergy, accustomed to giving a minimal portion of their income to the Church, rejected the idea.

    War of Restoration.  From the start, the Dominican people expressed the deep discontentment with the annexation.  They rejected the discrimination and oppression of the treatment of the Spanish authorities.  Consequently, the provincial period did not last long, as the uprisings began in early 1863 (in Neiba and in Santiago), and by August 16, the War of Restoration broke out, when a group of 14 men, commanded by Santiago Rodríguez, raised the Dominican flag over the hill of Capotillo.

    Provisional Restoration Government and the Act of Independence.  On September 6, some 6000 men expelled the Spanish from the city of Santiago in a fierce battle that resulted in the burning of the city.  The following day, the liberators formed a Provisional Restoration Government, electing General Jose Antonio Salcedo as President.  This Government proceeded to write an Act of Independence that was signed by 10,000 Dominicans residing in the Cibao region.

    Restoration Leaders.  During this war, which lasted almost two years and cost Spain more than 10,000 casualties and 33 million pesos, Santiago Rodríguez, General Gaspar Polanco, General Gregorio Luperón, Benito Monción, Pedro Francisco Bonó, Benigno Filomeno Rojas, Ulises Franco Espaillat, José Antonio Salcedo and Gregorio de Lora were some of the heroes.

    Factors in favor of the Dominican victory

    • All Dominicans supported the War of Restoration.
    • Use of the guerrilla war tactics of attack and hide.  Each of the country’s communities organized its own forces in small independent groups that harasses and pursued the Spanish troops.
    • The Dominican occupation of all of the mountain passes of the Cordillera Central and the Cordillera Septentrional, such that the Spanish had to cross them in other ways.  These difficult passages caused them to contract serious diseases that killed 1,500 per month.

    Decree of the Spanish Crown.  March 3, 1865, the Kingdom of Spain signed the decree repealing the annexation and the following July 10, Spanish troops began to embark.  The Dominican Republic had recovered its independence.

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