1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Santo Domingo
SANTO DOMINGO (see 24.194).—The decade 1910-20 witnessed a succession of abrupt changes in the political status of Santo Domingo, accompanied by corresponding economic and social developments. The civil security and material well-being ushered in by the Dominican-American Convention of 1907 came to an end with the assassination of President Ramon Caceres on Nov. 19 1911. Gen. Alfredo M. Victoria, the dominant military figure, secured the selection of his uncle Eladio Victoria as president. Revolutionary outbreaks of the traditional type followed, culminating in the appointment of a special commission by the President of the United States, to aid in the reëstablishment of peace and order. Conferences resulted in the resignation of Victoria and the election of Archbishop Adolfo A. Nouel as provisional President. Friction developed, and on March 31 1913, Monsignor Nouel resigned and embarked for Europe. The Dominican Congress selected as provisional successor, Gen. José Bordas Baldez. Revolutionary disturbances again broke out and the United States once more lent its good offices by sending a commission, with whose advisory aid Dr. Ramon Baez was selected as provisional president Aug. 27 1914. Some months later Juan Isidro Jiménez was chosen as constitutional president. A brief period of peace and progress ensued, terminated in April 1916 by an outbreak led by Gen. Desiderio Arias (a chronic revolutionist from Monte Christi), which President Jiménez, aged and infirm, failed to check. Arias seized the military control of the capital, practically deposed Jiménez and assumed the executive power. With another civil war thus imminent, with its patience strained by the events of the preceding years, and with the international situation developed by the World War threatening foreign intervention, the United States now took definite action. Naval forces were landed. President Jiménez resigned the presidency and retired to Porto Rico, and in May-June 1916 the pacification of the country was effected with nothing more serious than minor encounters with revolutionary forces. On July 25 1916, the Dominican Congress selected Dr. Francisco Henriquez Carvajal as temporary president. The United States, refusing recognition until assured of the non-recurrence of civil disorder, proposed a new treaty based upon the convention just adopted between the United States and Haiti (see Haiti), which should repair the shortcomings of the 1907 convention in providing for the collection of customs under American auspices, the appointment of an American financial adviser and the establishment of a constabulary force officered by Americans. President Henriquez refused to enter into this arrangement, with a resultant deadlock intensified by the withholding by the American authorities of the revenues collected by its officers. Matters came to a head with Henriquez's intention not to retire from the presidency upon the expiration of his provisional term but to present himself as a probable successful candidate for popular election. On Nov. 29 1916 by proclamation of the American commander of the forces of occupation, Santo Domingo was placed under the military administration of the United States. Executive departments were taken over by American naval officers, ex-president Henriquez left the country, order was quickly established, and Santo Domingo entered upon four years of civil quiet and economic improvement. The termination of this status was foreshadowed Dec. 24 1920 by a proclamation of the military government that “the time has arrived when it may, with a due sense of its responsibility to the people of the Dominican Republic, inaugurate the simple processes of its rapid withdrawal from the responsibilities assumed in connexion with Dominican affairs.” Announcement was made that a commission of representative Dominicans with a technical adviser was to be appointed, entrusted with the formulation of constitutional amendments and the revision of the laws of the republic, such proposals upon approval of the military governor to be submitted to a constitutional convention and to the national congress.
The economic experience of the country in the decade reflected closely the successive political changes outlined above. Agriculture continued the mainstay of the country's life; and cacao, sugar and tobacco leaf remained its staple crops. Increased production in the years following the convention of 1907 showed arrest in 1912-4 changing to abrupt increase in 1915. With the war-induced rise in prices and the conditions born of military occupation, the upward movement in export values continued through 1920, assuming sensational proportions in the last-named year. The combined volume of imports and exports was less in 1914 than in 1911; but the increase in 1915 over 1914 was greater than the total exports in 1905, and the increase in 1916 over 1915 was almost as much as the combined exports and imports of 1905. The combined value of imports and exports was $105,257,117 in 1920, as compared with $61,621,019 in 1919 and $17,945,208, in 1911. An increasing proportion of this trade has been with the United States, 77.17% of imports and 87.03% of exports in 1919, as compared with 59.29 and 52.31% respectively, in 1911. In the first half of the decade political disturbances delayed the course of financial extrication ensured by the convention of 1907; but after 1916 rapid progress was made. On Dec. 31 1920, the sinking fund established for the $20,000,000 U.S. customs administration loan amounted to $11,457,373, ensuring amortization long before maturity. A loan of $1,500,000 authorized by the United States to discharge internal debts contracted in 1911-2 was finally liquidated in 1917. A further issue of $4,000,000 authorized in 1918 to liquidate and fund all outstanding internal indebtedness, as adjusted by a claims commission appointed by the military government, will be paid off by Dec. 31 1922. Economic and social conditions, although suffering from the political agitation prior to 1916, remained throughout far above the preconvention state. Since the military administration progress was notable. Roads and bridges were built, schools established, public sanitation extended, steps taken to clear up the complicated land title situation, internal taxation made effective and competence and regularity introduced in administrative service. Whether this was achieved at the expense of weakened capacity for
self-government may be doubted. The policy of the United States was to make evident to the best elements in Santo Domingo what honesty and efficiency in administration could accomplish, as well as the futility and cost of “government by revolution.”
The military government of Santo Domingo completed in 1921 the first census ever taken of the republic, and reported the number of inhabitants as 897,405. The population is scattered chiefly in a fringe along the shore and in the Cibao Valley especially in the region thereof known as the Royal Plain. In the mountainous interiors are vast uninhabited stretches and valleys which have not been visited since the days of the Conquest.
See Otto Schoenrich, Santo Domingo: A Country with a Future (1918); Report of Military Governor on Conditions in Santo Domingo, in Annual Report of Secretary of the Navy (1920).