1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Santo Domingo (state)

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13766701911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 24 — Santo Domingo (state)

SANTO DOMINGO [San Domingo, Dominican Republic, or officially República Dominicana], a state in the West Indies. It occupies two-thirds of the island of Haiti (q.v.) and has an area of about 18,045 sq. m. The administration is in the hands of three co-ordinate “powers”—the executive, the legislative and the judicial. Under the constitution of 1844, modified in 1879, 1880, 1881, 1887, 1896, and 1908, the president is the head of the executive. He is chosen by an electoral college and serves for six years, and he is assisted by a cabinet of seven ministers. The legislature, called the National Congress, consists of a Senate of 12 members, and a Chamber of Deputies of 24 members elected for four years by a limited suffrage. The Supreme Court comprises a chief-justice, six justices appointed by the Congress, and one justice appointed by the president. The republic is divided into six provinces and six maritime districts. Each province and district is administered by a governor appointed by the Cabinet. There is a small army, most of which is stationed at the City of Santo Domingo, and military service is compulsory in the event of foreign war. The navy consists of one small gun-boat. Primary education is free and compulsory: elementary schools are supported largely by the local authorities, and the higher, technical and normal schools by the government. There is a professional school with the character and functions of a university. The Roman Catholic is the state religion, but all others are allowed under certain restrictions. The monetary unit is a silver coin of the value of a franc, called the dominicano, but in 1897 the United States gold dollar was adopted as the standard of value. The roads in the interior are primitive, but the government encourages the construction of railways. A line runs between Sanchez and La Vega, and another between Santiago and Porto Plata. The republic joined the Postal Union in 1880. The exports include tobacco, coffee, cacao, sugar, mahogany, logwood, cedar, satinwood, hides, honey, gum and wax. The collection of the customs and other revenues specially assigned to the securance of bonds was in the hands of an American company until 1899, when this defaulted in the payment of interest and the government took over the collection. In 1905, to forestall foreign intervention for securing payment of the State debt, President Roosevelt made an agreement with Santo Domingo, under which the United States undertook to adjust the republic's foreign obligations, and to assume charge of the customs houses. A treaty was ratified by the United States Senate in 1907, and an American citizen is temporarily receiver of customs. In June 1907 the debts amounted to $17,000,000.

Santo Domingo has the finest sugar lands in the West Indies; tobacco and cacao flourish; the mountain regions are especially suited to the culture of coffee, and tropical fruits will grow anywhere with a minimum of attention. During the earlier years of the Spanish occupation gold to the value of £90,000 was sent annually to Spain, besides much silver. Platinum, manganese, iron, copper, tin, antimony, opals and chalcedony are also found. In the Neyba valley there are two remarkable hills, composed of pure rock salt. Only an influx of capital and an energetic population are needed to develop these resources.

Santo Domingo, the capital of the republic, is situated on the south coast. At a distance of 45 m. N. lies the town of Azua (pop. 1500) founded in 1504 by Diego Columbus. It stands in a plain, rich in salt and asphalt, which was the scene of the first planting of sugar in the West Indies. Santiago (pop. 12,000), the capital of the Vega Real, stands on the banks of the Yaqui river, 160 m. N.W. of the capital, in the richest agricultural district in the state. It controls the tobacco trade which is chiefly in German and Dutch hands. Its port, Porto Plata (pop. 15,000), is the outlet of the entire Vega Real district. La Vega, perhaps the most beautiful city of Santo Domingo, lies in the midst of a lovely savanna, or plain, surrounded by well-wooded hills, and has a magnificent old cathedral. Six miles away is the Cerro Santo, a hill 787 ft. in height, rising abruptly from the plain, on the summit of which Columbus planted a great cross on his first visit in 1493. Seybo (5000), Monti Cristi (3000) and Samana (1500) are the only other towns of any size. The population of the republic is about 500,000. The people are mainly mulattoes of Spanish descent, but there are a considerable number of negroes and whites of both Creole and European origin. Politically the

whites have the predominating influence. The people, on the whole, are quiet, lazy and shiftless, but subject at times to great political excitement. They are Spanish in their mode of life and habits of thought. Spanish too is the common language, though both French and English are spoken in the towns.

History.—After the downfall of Toussaint l'Ouverture (see Haiti) there followed the initiation of the black Haitian Empire under Jean Jacques Dessalines in 1803. Spain, however, established herself anew on the eastern end of the island in 1806, Haiti remaining independent. Santo Domingo continued thus a Spanish possession until 1821, when, under the authority and flag of Colombia, a republic was proclaimed, and the Spaniards withdrew. In the following year the Haitian president Boyer invaded Santo Domingo, joined it to Haiti and ruled the entire island till his fall in 1843. The Spanish part of the island again became independent of Haiti in 1844, when the Dominican Republic was founded, and since that time the two political divisions have been maintained, and their respective inhabitants have grown more and more estranged. The earlier years of the new republic were marked by the struggles between Pedro Santana and Buenaventura Bäez, who with the exception of a few months under Jiminez, occupied the presidency in turn until 1861. In that year Santana, with the consent of the people, proclaimed the annexation of Santo Domingo by Spain. The Spaniards, however, did not long enjoy their sovereignty, for the harshness of their rule provoked a successful revolution under José Maria Cabral in 1864; and in the following year they withdrew all claim to the country. Bäez was again chosen president, but was driven out by Cabral after a year of power.

From 1868 to 1873 Bäez was once again in office, and during this term overtures were made to the United States with a view to annexation. General O. E. Babcock was despatched by President Grant to report on the condition and resources of Santo Domingo, and while there, in 1869, he negotiated a treaty by which the republic was to become part of the United States. Although ratified by the Dominican Senate, this treaty was opposed in the United States Senate, under the leadership of Charles Sumner, and was finally rejected. In 1871 three commissioners were appointed by President Grant to report further, but although their report was favourable to annexation, no action was taken.

Bäez was succeeded by Gonzalez (1873-1879), under whom the country enjoyed a period of tranquillity. Great political agitation followed, which terminated in 1882 with the election of Ulises Heureaux, a negro, and capable statesman. Under his despotic rule of nearly 17 years, the republic enjoyed greater prosperity and tranquillity than it had ever known. He was assassinated in July 1899, and was succeeded by Jiminez, who was driven out by General Vasquez in 1902. Vasquez, in turn, was deposed by a revolution headed by General Wos y Gil, who became president in 1903, but was overthrown by Jiminez in November of that year. In 1904 Jiminez was expelled and C. F. Morales became president. Ramon Caceres was installed in 1906, and in 1908 a new constitution was proclaimed and Caceres was elected for the term 1908-1914.

Bibliography.—B. Edwards, Hist. Survey of the Island of Santo Domingo (London, 1801); Monte y Tejada, Historia de Santo Domingo (Havana, 1853); J. de Marles, Hist. descript. et pittor. de Saint Dominique (Paris, 1869); S. Hazard, Santo Domingo, Past and Present (London, 1873); J. G. Garcia, Compendio de la Historia de Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo, 1879); F. A. Leal, La République Dominicane (Paris, 1888); H. Thomasset, La République Dominicane en 1890 (Santo Domingo, 1890); J. R. Abad, La República Dominicana (Santo Domingo, 1889); El Padre Merino, Elementos de geografia fisica, politica, e historica de la República Dominicana (Santo Domingo, 1889); Bureau of American Republics, Bulletin No. 52, 1892. (See also Haiti.)