The 1844 Decree that Reinforces the Abolition of Slavery in the Dominican Republic

Status

Slavery was first abolished in the Spanish part of the island of Santo Domingo in 1801. The following year it was reinstituted by the arriving French expedition lead by General Leclerc, although the ex-slaves that were freed in 1801 were not reduced to slavery again. The reinstitution of slavery took place with the introduction of new slaves into the Dominican territory, in this period almost all were taken from Haiti. It was abolished for a second time in February of 1822. Since that time slavery has been prohibited in the Spanish part of the island.

After the Dominican independence movement became successful on February 27, 1844 (43 years after most slaves had been liberated and 22 years after slavery was prohibited for a second time) there were rumors that spread among the Dominicans of color that the new Dominican authorities planned to reinstitute slavery again. It has always been presumed that the rumor was created by Haitian agents that were present in the Dominican territory. The motives for these rumors was to debilitate the national union and the newly created Dominican state. These rumors were also meant to create over the long term the proper mental condition for the Haitians to reconquer the Dominican people.

Due to the fact that these rumors were completely false, on July 17, 1844 the Dominican government published a decree meant to destroy the unfounded rumors. This decree was promulgated almost four months after Dominicans had gained their independence. It also was three months after the Haitians initiated the fourth Haitian military invasion of Dominican territory and initiated the War of Dominican Independence (also known as the Dominican-Haitian War) that lasted twelve years.

Observations of the Decree

  • Reinforces that slavery would never be reinstituted in the Dominican Republic.
  • Dictates that any black that arrives on Dominican soil as a slave would gain his freedom as soon as the sole of his feet touches Dominican soil.
  • Threatens to punish with the death penalty any Dominican, regardless of social class or rank, that dedicates himself to the buying or selling of slaves. The decree makes no mention if this prohibition was limited to Dominican soil, as such it must be taken as a general prohibition on Dominicans found anywhere in the world.
  • Pedro Santana promulgates this decree in addition to other leading Dominican men that signed the document (Mr Bobadilla, Mr Delorbe, Mr Felix Mercenario, etc).

The Decree 

God, Country, and Liberty
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
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The Central Governing Board

Considering:

1st. That despite in the manifestation of the Spanish towns of January 16 of this year it was established that slavery will forever remain abolished among our people, some bad intentioned people want to plant the seed of division and mistrust are spreading false and malicious rumors. They claim that those that in another time unfortunately were slaves will be subjected to that dishonorable condition again. 

2nd.  That slavery goes against the natural liberty of the people, the eternal religious principles, reason, and good policies. 

3rd. That it is of great necessity for the government to secure  by any means possible the tranquility and union of the Dominican people. 

Taking into consideration what all civilized and cultured nations have done and are doing to abolish and destroy slavery, and to protect civilization everywhere.

DICTATES:

Article 1.  The introduction of new slaves into the Dominican Republic, regardless if it is directly from Africa or any other place, is absolutely prohibited. The slaves that place the sole of their feet on the territory of the Dominican Republic are to be immediately considered and accepted as completely free. 

Article 2.   Any Dominican citizen, regardless of any social or personal distinctions, that prepares or hires boats to go to Africa to extract slaves, or that lends himself and works for this dishonorable traffic, inhumanly buying and selling them, will be considered as a pirate and will be judged and punished with the death penalty. 

This decree will be printed, published, circulated, and executed in the entire Dominican territory. 

Given at Santo Domingo on July 17, 1844, 1st Year of the Nation. 

The President of the Supreme Chief Board: Mr Pedro Santana – Mr Felix Mercenario – Mr Francisco Sánchez – Mr Delorbe – Mr C. Moreno – Mr Jiménez – Mr Toribio Mañon – Mr Bobadilla – Mr Santamaría, Ad-hoc Secretary. 

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                 Santo Domingo, National Press.       
                           

The Spirit of the Dominican Republic

This decree, one of the first to be promulgated in the Dominican Republic, coincides with the values with which the Dominican Republic was founded. Juan Pablo Duarte himself, the main ideator of the creation of the Dominican Republic as an independent country, once said:

The whites, the blacks, the indigenous, and the mixed;
Marching serene, daring, and united;
Save our country from horrible tyrants;
And show the world that we are brothers.

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