Friday, August 1, 2014
To stabilize the country and guard against any aggression from Haiti, Santana formally approached the Kingdom of Spain with the offer to return the Dominican Republic to the Spanish Empire. Naturally, not being in the best of circumstances itself and wary of the United States, Spain had not been quick to jump at the opportunity to have the territory back. However, by 1861 the United States was embroiled in a civil war and not in a position to get belligerent about the enforcement of the Monroe Doctrine. Doing so against Spain might provoke the French and British Empires into recognizing the southern Confederacy and going to war against the United States in support of Spain. So, on March 18, 1861 Her Catholic Majesty Queen Isabella II of Spain was formally declared sovereign over the former Dominican Republic and the Cross of Burgundy waved over Santo Domingo once again. It was the only time that a Spanish colonial possession would return to Spain after having gained independence. At the same time, the Empire of Brazil was being provoked into war with republican Uruguay and later Paraguay while in Mexico conservative forces were making progress in persuading the Emperor of the French to intervene on their behalf and eventually restore the Mexican Empire. It seemed that while the United States was at war with itself, monarchy was on the march across the New World.
|Santana becomes Governor-General
At first, General Santana, who had been given the title of Marquis of Carreras by Queen Isabella II, was in command of the Spanish forces opposing the rebels but despite his high reputation, he proved unable to stem the tide. After disobeying orders to concentrate his forces for a decisive battle, Santana was dismissed and ordered to Cuba to face a court-martial but he died in the summer of 1864 before that could happen. Under the Spanish General Jose de la Gandara y Navarro the situation immediately improved. He began a determined counter-offensive against the rebels and soon had forced them into a desperate position as evidenced by the fact that they began calling for peace and offering to discuss terms. It seemed that the Crown of Spain was on the cusp of total victory in Santo Domingo. However, events overseas, in both Europe and North America were working against the Spanish army in Santo Domingo. In Spain itself, opposition to the war was widespread. In short, Spain simply didn’t see it as being worthwhile as the amount of blood and treasure being expended was too high for the very modest gain that their half of the island produced. For the Spanish, Santo Domingo was proving to be more trouble than it was worth. Furthermore, American intervention was also a growing concern as it became clear that the Union forces would be victorious against the southern Confederates and once that was done, it could be expected for the U.S. government to order Spain out of Santo Domingo at which point all of their effort would have been in vain. It seemed far better to cut their losses and get out before any more was wasted.
What many failed to realize was that claiming independence is a far cry from actually being capable of being independent and most of these countries ultimately traded one imperial ruler for another. In the case of the Dominican Republic, independence brought considerable instability and economic hardship (due almost entirely to government interference and mismanagement) which ultimately ended in threats of European intervention in the name of debt collection. American President Teddy Roosevelt stepped in to prevent this, putting the United States in charge of customs for the Dominican Republic in 1905. In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson ordered the military occupation of the Dominican Republican after political instability there and the country remained under American occupation until 1922. However, the U.S. kept a close eye on local politics and American military occupation returned in 1963 when President Lyndon Johnson ordered troops in to prevent a communist takeover of the country. A little more than a year later, they were withdrawn but certainly few could argue that the Dominican Republican has been much of a success nor has it been very truly independent since breaking, again, from the Crown of Spain. On a more optimistic note, however, if the country could return to loyalty to the Crown once, perhaps it can do so again and set a different kind of example for its neighbors.