The Campaign of the East of 1805 was the second Haitian invasion of Dominican territory, then the Spanish part of Santo Domingo, governed since 1802 by Jean-Louis Ferrand. Ferrand was at the head of about 2,000 French and installing the French government on the Spanish side after he was sent along with a French army from France by Napoleon Bonaparte to capture as prisoner Toussaint Loverture and pacify the revolting French part of the island. Upon the arrival of the French army, all the Dominican towns in the eastern part of the island succumb to his rule at the expense of the Haitians who took control of the Spanish part during the first Haitian invasion in 1801. Despite the reason the Haitian leader Jean Jacques Dessalines put in practice the second Haitian invasion in 1805 was a decree enacted by the government of Jean-Louis Ferrand in re-establishing slavery in the Spanish part using young Haitians only as new slaves captured on the border and not Dominicans of color that were already free and who were granted their freedom in 1801. Dessalines equated the Dominican population, which was the vast majority in the Spanish part, as worthy of being punished along with the French and to be subjected to their destruction including the civilians, the mixed, and the blacks that were free.
In this article we will focus on an aspect of the Haitian invasion of 1805 that is usually ignored or glossed over, yet it was an intrinsical part that concerns all Dominicans alive today and future Dominicans to be born. People have a right to know their true history and more so of pivotal moments when their possibility to exist in later years was at play. Unlike most people of the Western Hemisphere, many subjected to succesful invasions by a foreign group, it never implied the destruction of the people and, by consequence, of the ancestors of the current people. Instead it would had implied that today they would have a different mother tongue, different political allegiance, and a different culture. Not so with the Dominicans. A successful Haitian invasion of 1805 would had spelled the end of the ancestors of Dominicans in their entirety and, by consequence, the current Dominicans would had never been born.
The plan that Jean Jacques Dessalines had to destroy the ancestors of modern Dominicans is mentioned in the report of the siege of Santo Domingo in 1805 by Jean-Louis Ferrand, a copy published in its entirety in the newspaper “The Enquire” of Richmond, Virginia, United States on October 29, 1805; page 2. The original was made in French, but this one is the translated version to English.
White and Free Spaniards – No Concern for Race and Color
In the report it mentions “white and free Spaniards” in reference to the population living in the Spanish part of Santo Domingo, now the Dominican Republic. These are infact the ancestors of most modern Dominicans and descendants of Dominicans wherever in the world they are found. It is well known that the whites never were slaves in any part of the Western Hemisphere and the Spanish part of Santo Domingo was no exception. Hence, it doesn’t makes sense to refer to the whites as “free” in a place where all whites were always free. While white Spaniards are the ancestors of many modern white Dominicans and due to racial mixture that has continued since then, many are ancestors of many modern Dominicans of color too. However, the “free Spaniards” was in contrast to those that were slaves. The only people that were slaves were people of color, yet the vast majority of people of color in the Spanish part of Santo Domingo in 1805 was free.
While slavery was abolished in 1801, even then the slaves were a minority of the population. This is evidenced in Moreau de Saint-Mery’s description of the Dominican population in his 1798 two volume work “A Political Description of the Spanish Part of Santo Domingo.”
The minority that were slaves in the Spanish part of Santo Domingo had the peculiarity of receiving a much more lenient treatment than was typical of slaves in the rest of the non-Spanish Caribbean. There is much evidence pointing this out, but we will limit to two.
The Plan to Eliminate the Ancestors of Modern Dominicans
The report by Jean-Louis Ferrand mention the escaped French doctor forced to accompany the Haitian army from Cap Haitian during the Haitian invasion of 1805, Mr Gailard. Through his increase¡ing familiarity with Jean Jacques Dessalines and the rest of the leading Haitians in the Haitian army became aware of their plans during the invasion. Among them was the following intention for the white and free Spaniards (the ancestors of most modern Dominicans) living not just in the town of Santo Domingo, but also in the entire country once the Haitians had control of Santo Domingo.
It goes without saying that if the plan had been committed to the perfection, not a single Dominican and descendant of Dominicans in other countries alive today would had ever been born. This also applies to mixed and black Dominicans as the plan to massacre the entire population included the “free Spaniards” or the mixed and black people who were free at the time. These were almost all of the mixed and black ancestors of modern Dominicans.
The Failure of Applying the Plan in its Entirety
The fact that Dominicans still exist not jas a people but also as human beings is a testament to the failure of Jean Jacques Dessalines plan in 1805. If it was up to him, not a single Dominican alive today would exist. The failure to massacre the entire population and destroy Santo Domingo (what today is the Colonial Zone) happen by mere chance. Everything was favoring the victory of the Haitians and their intention of destroying forever all Dominicans, but the following changed the course of things.
Jean Jacques Dessalines camped in the western immediacy of Santo Domingo (today approximately where the Centro Olímpico Juan Pablo Duarte is located in Santo Domingo). He witnessed several French vessels off the coast of Santo Domingo and they seem to be heading in a west direction. He thought they were headed to Haiti to attack the towns which were unprotected because the entire Haitian army was involved in the siege of Santo Domingo. With this premise, he ordered for the entire Haitian army to cease the siege on Santo Domingo and march back to Haiti. The plan to take over Santo Domingo, destroy the town, and massacre the population living in the town and in the rest of the country had been thwarted.
The people within the walls of Santo Domingo at the time of the siege didn’t consisted of the permanent inhabitants of the town only, but also of many other ancestors of modern Dominicans that entered its gates in search of safety. This also included slaves as even the black ancestors of modern Dominicans faced agony and death at the hands of the Haitian invaders.
The Part of the Plan to Destroy the Ancestors of Modern Dominicans that was Enacted
Despite Jean Jacques Dessalines promptly abandoned the plan to successfully siege Santo Domingo until it capitulated and massacre the entire population, it didn’t mean that in the retreat of the Haitian army part of the plan to destroy the Dominican civilian population was abandoned too. Although it couldn’t be complete, something Dessalines lamented once back in Haiti, the destruction committed in the entire Dominican territory was quite extensive. The following is what the ancestors of many modern Dominicans lived through during the retreat of the Haitians and many other would be Dominicans who never were born because their ancestors were killed by the Haitians.
Dessalines Promise to Return
It would be naive to assume that the abrupt ending of the siege on Santo Domingo and the retreat to Haiti of the Haitians with horrors, fire, and murder accompany them all the way was the intentional end of it. In practice it was because a new invasion by Jean Jacques Dessalines never happened. However, the fact he was killed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti the following year of 1806 by people close to him is most likely the reason why Dessalines didn’t return to the Spanish part of Santo Domingo, now the Dominican Republic. The intention to return was not held as a secret.
For another time? What were they going to do? Finish what they started in the invasion of 1805? Enact the plan in its entirety to massacre all the ancestors of most modern Dominicans? To bring destruction even to the mixed and black ancestors of most modern Dominicans? What would had happened if Jean Jacques Dessalines was never killed in 1806?
Some Modern Dominicans and of Dominican Origin Who Would had Never Existed
The following is a small sample of people that are or were Dominicans or of Dominican origin who would had never been born (neither their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc on one hand and their children, nieces, etc on the other) had Jean Jacques Dessalines plan in the Haitian invasion of 1805 had been fully successful. This invasion had no concern for race or color, everyone that was free was planned to be killed by the Haitians.