La Trinitaria. On July 16, 1838, the secret society La Trinitaria was founded with the goal of disseminating independence ideas and effectively attaining the country’s independence. The young Juan Pablo Duarte, son of traders and part of the small middle class of the city of Santo Domingo, was the leader of this liberal association, which embodied the highest ideals of the Dominican Republic.
The oath written by Juan Pablo Duarte, which sealed the foundation of La Trinitaria, expressed the following:
“In the meantime, we will be recognized as the Trinitarians, with the sacred expressions of God, Country and Freedom. I promise this before God and the world. If I do this, may God protect me, and if not, may He take it into account; and may my associates punish me for perjury and treachery if I betray them.”
There were nine founding members of la Trinitaria: Juan Pablo Duarte, Juan Isidro Pérez, Félix María Ruiz, Felipe Alfáu, José María Serra, Juan Nepomuceno Ravelo, Jacinto de la Concha, Pedro Alejandrino Pina and Benito González.
As they acted secretly, to avoid discovery, they structured the group in cells of three people each, called iniciados. Each one of the members responded to a pseudonym, and they communicated among each other with a cryptic alphabet created by Juan Pablo Duarte.
Work of dissemination
The Trinitarians developed a powerful educational effort on nationalist and independence ideals. They created two cultural societies to this end (La Filantrópica and La Dramática) that brought theatrical works to the stage that represented the struggle against the oppression of other peoples.
The Trinitarians and the overthrow of Boyer. While the Trinitarians established and strengthened the group in old Spanish Santo Domingo, the Haitian side was building strong opposition to President Boyer under the “Society of the Rights of Man and Citizen”, also known by the name “La Reforma”. The Trinitarians collaborated with this movement, which brought Charles Hérard to power in early March 1843. Ramón Matía Mella and Juan Nepomuceno Ravelo (members of La Trinitaria) served as special emissaries for the coordination of the conspiracy between both sides of the island. The conspiracy effort was so great that even Juan Pablo Duarte took the responsibility of helping to organize popular groups for the election of new local authorities in various towns.
Other separatist groups. The removal of Boyer intensified the activity of the separatist sectores that had been forming on the eastern side of the island:
Triumph of the Trinitarians in the Popular Juntas. As a foundation for the establishment of a new group that would reform the Haitian Constitution, the government of Charles Hérard planned elections for the Popular Juntas, in order to then form the corresponding electoral colleges. The triumph of the Trinitarians in all of the districts of the Dominican side in June 1843 caused the Haitian government to decree the persecution of the political party: the government ordered the imprisonment of its known members (Ramón Matías Mella, José Joaquín Puello, Juan Nepomuceno Ravelo, Pepillo Salcedo and Esteban Roca, among others, were jailed). Juan Pablo Duarte was forced into exile in Venezuela.
The separatist manifesto of January 16, 1844. Despite their momentary dissolution, the Trinitarians regrouped under the leadership of Francisco del Rosario Sánchez, Vicente Celestino Duarte and Ramón Matías Mella, released a short time after his imprisonment. They took advantage of Hérard’s oversight and the new Haitian authorities, who had the attention focused on the consolidation of their power in Haiti. But they also were urged on by the pro-French group’s actions together with the French consulate in Puerto Príncipe, M. Levassuer, to acquire the “protection” of France and start a coup for the Haitians on the eastern part of the island, on April 25, 1844.
For this coup, after the group led by Buenaventura Báez and Manuel María Valencia presented a manifesto that justified their intentions to separate the Dominican people from Haiti, placing it under French protection, the Trinitarians hurried to produce, on January 16, 1844, their “Demonstration of the people of the East of the Island formerly known as Hispaniola or Santo Domingo, on the causes of its separation from the Haitian Republic”. In this act of independence, they cited essential cultural characteristics of dominicanidad and the basic principles of the new State were established on the basis of the fundamentals stated in the Trinitarian oath:
Written with the participation of Tomás de Bobadilla, a Dominican that had been an official in the Haitian government during the Boyer period, the Manifesto of January 16, 1844 sealed the pact between the Trinitarians and a significant portion of the conservative Dominican forces, which would allow it the imminent declaration of independence.
Proclamation of independence. The Trinitarians proclaimed the independence of the Dominican Republic on February 27, 1844, with a shot fired by Ramón Matías Mella in the Puerta de la Misericordia in the city of Santo Domingo. Immediately afterward, they went to the Puerta del Conde, where Francisco del Rosario Sánchez lifted the national flag and where the Constitutive Act of the Dominican State was read and sworn.
The next day, February 28, the Haitian authorities capitulated.
The Republic in chaos. The conspiracies.
Consolidation of the independence. The first Haitian attacks against the new state were carried out in early March. The Generals Pierrot and Agustín Souffront and President Hérard advanced simultaneously over Dominican territory, the former in the north and the others in the south.
The Dominican resistance was organized under the command of a cattleman of Seibo, Pedro Santana, the colonels Manuel More and Feliciano Martínez, Ramón Matías Mella and Francisco Antonio Salcedo, Antonio Duvergé, Vicente Noble and many others.
The key struggles that served to establish the new sovereign state were the battles of Fuente del Rodeo (first armed encounter, March 3, 1844), the battle of Azua (March 19, 1844), the battle of March 30, El Memiso (April 13, 1844), the battle of la Estrelleta (September 17, 1845), the battle of Beller (October 27, 1845), El Número (April 17, 1849), Las Carreras (April 21, 1849), Battle of Santomé (December 22, 1855), Battle of Sabana Larga (last confrontation with the Haitians, January 24, 1856).
Political domination of the annexationist conservatives. The conservative forces were indispensable for the declaration and first military support of the independence, and they proved to by decisive in internal politics from the first days of the Republic. The representatives of the predominant economic sectors, with little faith in the possibilities of the new country, quickly rejected the liberal nationalist current embodied by the Trinitarians.
The presidency of the Central Governing Junta, installed on March 1, 1844, fell to Tomás Bobadilla, former official of the Boyer government, who had great prestige among the upper class of Santo Domingo. One of the first measures of this Junta was to attempt to solidify the “Plan Levasseur”, which would guarantee protection from France.
While the Trinitarians carried out a coup d’etat to avoid the implementation of the Plan (June 9, 1844), they did not control the situation for long, as Pedro Santana deposed the Governing Junta, led by Juan Pablo Duarte, reinstating the previous government on the condition that he, Santana, would assume the presidency.
Santana then persecuted the Trinitarians. He declared many traitors, unfaithful to the country, and exiled them forever, including Juan Pablo Duarte, Ramón Matías Mella, Francisco del Rosario Sánchez, Pedro Alejandrino Pina, Gregorio del Valle, Juan Evangelista Jiménez, Juan José Illas and Juan Isidro Pérez.
Constitution of November 6, 1844. It was the first Magna Carta of the Dominican Republic. It was called the Constitution of San Cristóbal, as it was written and ratified there. Though in principle, it established the separation of powers and the preeminence of the Legislative Power over the Executive Power, Santana, who arrived with a battalion of soldiers to the constituting assembly, forced them to include an article in the text that gave the president of the Republic all power to carry out his will, without institutional counterbalance. In effect, article 210 expressed the following “…during the current war and while a peace has not been signed, the President of the Republic can freely organize the armyand navy, move the nation’s guards; and is therefore able to give all orders, provisions and decrees necessary, without being subject to any responsibility.”
The search for protectorates. The successful, though arduous, rejection of the Haitian troops, which often attempted to enter Dominican territory, was not an obstacle to part of the political leadership, as it continued to garner the favor of powerful countries: Haiti was seen as a threat. In 1846, President Santana sent Buenaventura Báez on a diplomatic mission to the governments of Spain, France and England to negotiate the recognition of the Dominican Republic as an independent state and at the same time, attempt to reach a treaty of protection with the power that offered the greatest benefits. For the moment, he did not achieve his desired objective, but he did impress upon these countries, as well as the United States, which had also received the petition for support, to be extremely aware of the political life of the nation.
France, the United States and England showed the most interest in the Dominican offer. In the case of the first two, the possibility of possessing the bay and peninsula of Samaná represented a large incentive. England, on the other hand, for maintaining or increasing its level of commercial exchange with the Dominican Republic, supported the nation by the signing of the Treaty of recognition, peace, friendship, trade and shipping between the two states in 1850, which sought to rein in the influence that the other two countries planned to wield (including the possession of Samaná). The country’s interest in preventing the Dominican Republic from needing the protection of another world power led it to attempt to hamper Haiti’s attacks on its neighbor to the east for a time. Consequently, between 1851 and 1855, inhabitants of the Republic enjoyed relative tranquility.
As Spain still considered that it maintained rights to the eastern part of the island of Santo Domingo, it denied, on principle, recognition of Dominican independence. But in 1855, it was forced to change this policy. Advances in negotiations of the United States with the Dominican government to rent the Bahía de Samaná encroached on Spain’s maritime interests in the Antilles, which motivated the country to sign a Treaty of recognition, peace, friendship, trade, shipping and extradition with the Dominican Republic (February 18, 1855). Likewise, it sent a new Consul to Santo Domingo in the same year. His name was Antonio María Valencia and his mission was to offer political support to all enemies of then President Santana and to those that opposed the agreement with the United States, registering them as Spaniards and consequently protecting them from Dominican government persecution.
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