The Annexation of Santo Domingo
The Annexation of Santo Domingo was an attempt to annex “Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo, known officially as Santo Domingo de Guzmán, is the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic. Its metropolitan population was 2,084,852 in 2003, and estimated at 3,294,385 in 2010. The city is located on the Caribbean Sea, at the mouth of the Ozama River...

” by an expansionist movement in 1870 during the Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

, for the United States of America to acquire the Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of La Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries...

 as a U.S. territory and given eventual statehood. This movement was preceded by three other attempts at annexation in 1856, 1866 and 1868. The 1870 attempt included famous politicians and political activists such as Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass was an American social reformer, orator, writer and statesman. After escaping from slavery, he became a leader of the abolitionist movement, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writing...

 and Charles Sumner
Charles Sumner
Charles Sumner was an American politician and senator from Massachusetts. An academic lawyer and a powerful orator, Sumner was the leader of the antislavery forces in Massachusetts and a leader of the Radical Republicans in the United States Senate during the American Civil War and Reconstruction,...

, who were at odds over the issue. This movement appeared to have been widely supported by the inhabitants of the Dominican Republic, according to the plebiscite ordered by the Dominican President, Buenaventura Baez
Buenaventura Báez
Buenaventura Báez Méndez was the President of the Dominican Republic for five nonconsecutive terms. He is known for attempting to annex the Dominican Republic to other countries on multiple occasions.-Early years:...

. He wanted to annex the country because he believed the Dominican Republic had better survival odds under a protectorate
In history, the term protectorate has two different meanings. In its earliest inception, which has been adopted by modern international law, it is an autonomous territory that is protected diplomatically or militarily against third parties by a stronger state or entity...

 and could sell a much wider range of the national goods to the U.S. than could be sold in European markets. The country's unstable history was one of invasion, colonization, and civil strife.

In 1869, President Grant commissioned Orville E. Babcock
Orville E. Babcock
Orville Elias Babcock was an American Civil War General in the Union Army. Immediately upon graduating third in his class as United States Military Academy in 1861, Babcock would go onto serve efficiently in the Corps of Engineers throughout the Civil War and was promoted to Brevet Brigadier...

 and Rufus Ingalls
Rufus Ingalls
Rufus Ingalls was an American military general who served as the 16th Quartermaster General of the United States Army.-Early life and career:...

 to negotiate the treaty of annexation with President Báez. The treaty included the annexation of the country itself and the purchase of Samana Bay
Samana Bay
Samaná Bay is a bay in the eastern Dominican Republic. The Yuna River flows into the Samaná Bay, and it is located south of the town and peninsula of Samaná....

 for two-million American dollars. The treaty was ratified by the Dominican Congress, but in 1871 it was defeated in the United States Congress. It lacked public support. The schism between Frederick Douglass and his counter-part, Charles Sumner impaired the annexation further.

The United States wanted to gain control over the island for many reasons. The United States wished to establish a naval base nearby to protect the projected canal across the Isthmus of Darien, as well as its abundance of natural resources. Other reasons included a plan to expatriate there freed southern Blacks.

Thus, in an age of U.S. Imperialism, the militaristic, socio-economic and cultural idea of the annexation of the Dominican Republic by the United States of America, while well-supported by many popular reasons, ultimately failed due to political turmoil and misunderstanding between the administration of President Ulysses S. Grant and Congress.


On November 30, 1821, José Núñez de Cáceres
José Núñez de Cáceres
José Núñez de Cáceres was a Dominican politician and writer. He was the leader of Dominican independence when Spain ruled the country and he was also the first person in the country to use literature as weapon of social protest and politics.- Early years :José Núñez de Cáceres y Albor was born on...

, Spanish lieutenant governor of the Spanish portion of Hispaniola, announced the independence from Spain as the state of Spanish Haiti. But in a few months the Haitian President, Jean Pierre Boyer
Jean Pierre Boyer
Jean-Pierre Boyer , a native of Saint-Domingue, was a soldier, one of the leaders of the Haitian Revolution, and President of Haiti from 1818 to 1843. He reunited the north and south of Haiti in 1820 and also invaded and took control of Santo Domingo, which brought all of Hispaniola under one...

, answered a call from one of the Dominican parties and occupied the entire island. The Haitian occupation lasted for about 22 years. On February 27, 1844 Juan Pablo Duarte
Juan Pablo Duarte
Juan Pablo Duarte y Díez is one of the Founding Fathers of the Dominican Republic. He was a visionary and liberal thinker who along with Francisco del Rosario Sánchez and Matías Ramón Mella is widely considered the architect of the Dominican Republic and its independence from Haitian rule in 1844...

, Francisco del Rosario Sanchez
Francisco del Rosario Sánchez
Francisco Del Rosario Sánchez was a politician and founding father of the Dominican Republic. He is considered by Dominicans as the second leader of the 1844 Dominican War of Independence, after Juan Pablo Duarte and before Ramón Matías Mella. The Order of Merit of Duarte, Sanchez and Mella is...

 and Matias Ramon Mella led a successful rebellion against the Haitian government. This day is now known as Dominican Independence Day. Some devious leaders, manipulating fear of a repeated invasion by Haiti
Haiti , officially the Republic of Haiti , is a Caribbean country. It occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Ayiti was the indigenous Taíno or Amerindian name for the island...

, wanted an imperial country to annex them to as a means of protection.


Although Baez’s plebiscite said that many in the Dominican Republic supported the annexation, there were also many detractors that called for the Republic to remain an independent nation. One in particular, Gregorio Luperón
Gregorio Luperón
Gregorio Luperón , is best known for being a Dominican military and state leader who was the main leader in the restoration of the Dominican Republic after the Spanish annexation in 1863....

 among many others, was a patriot opposing the annexation because he understood the dangers that it entailed. He and others helped give voice to the majority of people who did not want to lose their national freedom. In fact, the U.S. immediately called Luperón a thief and terrorist because he was against the imperialist expansion.

In the United States, Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

 Senator Charles Sumner was among the leading detractors to the annexation. He argued counter point to Frederick Douglass, that by annexing the small mostly freed Black Country, it would only lead to the exploitation of the freed blacks on the island. Sumner’s standpoint which drastically differed from Douglass’s, was one of the primary reasons that the annexation did not pass in congress.


The primary reasons the annexationists offered for the annexation of the Dominican Republic into the U.S. were the rich natural resources the island offered, the Monroe Doctrine
Monroe Doctrine
The Monroe Doctrine is a policy of the United States introduced on December 2, 1823. It stated that further efforts by European nations to colonize land or interfere with states in North or South America would be viewed as acts of aggression requiring U.S. intervention...

 being weakened by European business ventures, a potential canal across the Isthmus of Darien, a strategic naval basic granting the U.S. control of the Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

, and to encourage the Southern U.S. to grant civil rights to recently freed blacks. The island of Hispaniola, for them, offered many resources such as sugar cane. However, they thought the country did not have the infrastructure to export its goods. If the U.S. would had annexed the Dominican Republic it would had also cut back on importing raw materials from other places, and have a new market for its manufactured goods. Alongside manufactured goods, the free-black labor force in the American south, according to President Grant, would have been granted more civil rights by their employers. This was assumed because many free-blacks would leave for Dominican Republic causing a shortage of cheap labor in the South where most work was done through harsh, manual labor. In order to encourage them to stay, President Grant figured they would have no choice, but to give them the civil liberties they had been asking for.

The spirit of Manifest Destiny
Manifest Destiny
Manifest Destiny was the 19th century American belief that the United States was destined to expand across the continent. It was used by Democrat-Republicans in the 1840s to justify the war with Mexico; the concept was denounced by Whigs, and fell into disuse after the mid-19th century.Advocates of...

 in the westward expansion had been fulfilled to a large extent in the American public’s eye and it was time to expand beyond the continent’s borders. Rising European industries like the Dutch East India Company
Dutch East India Company
The Dutch East India Company was a chartered company established in 1602, when the States-General of the Netherlands granted it a 21-year monopoly to carry out colonial activities in Asia...

 had begun encroaching on the Caribbean’s potential market. In turn, a portion of the U.S. government wanted to annex the Dominican Republic so that they would have a foothold in the market and gain from the enormous profits that could be made exporting goods off the island. In addition to an economic foothold, the island presented an opportunity to build a canal across the Isthmus of Darien, which would cut back on the time it took for trade vessels to travel throughout the Caribbean. An idea for a naval base was also presented as another solid reason to annex the small country. The naval base would allow the U.S. to prevent current and future enemies from stationing dangerous units close to its own shoreline.


The annexation of the Dominican Republic, under the Grant administration, failed to take hold of the American public’s interest. President Grant tried to explain in his State of the Union Address on December 5, 1870 the dire necessity of the treaty to Congress from both the American and Dominican side of the deal. In a bold strategy, Grant tried to muster up support by pointing out that it is in the Dominicans’ interest and hopes that the United States would annex the island in order to spread the United States’ free society and way of law to a country that was unable to support itself under its established government. Grant also explained what kind of factor geography played by pointing out that this positioning could give the United States an “entrance to the Caribbean Sea and the Isthmus transit of commerce”. Following this, President Grant pushed the points of the island being able to prevent external enemies from ever reaching our coast (naval importance), the annexation forcing Puerto Rico and Cuba to abolish slavery in order to keep its work force from emigrating to the Dominican Republic, an increase of American exportation through cheap furnishing of the people, vanishing of the national debt without raising taxes, the opening of new markets for American products, and ultimately being “an adherence to the ‘Monroe Doctrine’”. None of these reasons ever took the country or Congress by storm, and in his last State of the Union Address on December 5, 1876, Grant left Congress with speculation about what could have happened if the annexation had been ratified. His main points consisted of everything produced in Cuba could have been produced in the Dominican Republic, the luxury of free commerce, and the freed slaves could have used the free labor in the Dominican Republic as leverage against the people denying them of their rights, therefore making the freed slaves “’master of the situation’”. The driving force of Congress not supporting the annexation can be accredited to the feud between Frederick Douglass and Massachusetts United States Senator Charles Sumner. These two men were allies on abolition and civil rights for African Americans, but their views on the annexation differed. Douglass was appointed to assistant secretary to the Commission of Inquiry for the annexation of the Dominican Republic. He strongly believed that the people of the Dominican Republic were craving and needed this annexation. He stated, “San Domingo asked for a place in our union…Santo Domingo wanted to come under our government…” Sumner, who was traditionally an ally in most racial politics with Douglass, saw this as an example of the imperialistic politics and agenda of the Grant administration to promote greedy capitalists who wanted to exploit the Dominican Republic and African Americans. Sumner also saw this as an infringement on self-determination of the black race because it would be taking sovereignty away from one of the few self-governing black countries. Too many politics got in the way in Congress, therefore preventing the Grant administration from fomenting support from the American people.


Despite the failure of the treaty to annex Dominican Republic, the United States did occupy the island for eight years (1916–1924) in order to ensure payments on its foreign debt and as a broader imperial project, which scholars today call "Dollar Diplomacy
Dollar Diplomacy
Dollar Diplomacy is a term used to describe the effort of the United States—particularly under President William Howard Taft—to further its aims in Latin America and East Asia through use of its economic power by guaranteeing loans made to foreign countries. The term was originally coined by...

". The United States also got the canal in Central America by constructing it intervening in Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

. The naval base was established at Guantanamo Bay, again coat-tailing from the United States efforts to annex the Dominican Republic.

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