The Haitian Historian Jean Price-Mars and the Invasion of Jean Jacques Dessalines


Jean Price-Mars was the most reknown Haitian historian in the XX century. Despite that all of his opinions of the Dominican society were not all correct, the influence that he had on how the Haitian society view the Dominican Republic has no comparison. Jean Price-Mars mentions the invasion of the Dominican territory by Jean Jacques Dessalines in 1805, known among Haitian historians as “The Campaign of the East.”

Important Details of Jean Price-Mars Description of the 1805 Invasion

  • Jean Price-Mars recognizes that Haiti was founded with excesses when he says The desire for blood became widespread among the [Haitian] community.”
  • Despite that Jean Price-Mars attempts to justify the crime that Jean Jacques Dessalines committed against the Dominican population, on occassions refers to this act in terms of “inhumane“, “poor victims“, “dramatic and bloody events“, etc.
  • Jean Price-Mars recognizes that Jean Jacques Dessalines felt pride for ordering his men committing such an injustice against the innocent and defenseless Dominican population.
  • Jean Price-Mars accepts that the attempt of genocide against the Dominican population was not just made against the whites, but also the mixed and the black Dominicans. He claims that Jean Jacques Dessalines ordered the torture until death to all “the whites and anyone he considered such not due to their skin color, but due to their sentiments, even when these were blacks or mixed.”

“The Campaign of the East”

Jean Price-Mars is quoted from his book (translated from his native French to Spanish) “La República Haitiana y la República Dominicana” regarding the atrocities made by Jean Jacques Dessalines against the civilian population of the Spanish Part of the Island of Santo Domingo.

They were the enemy, and Dessalines the vengeance and resentment.”

-Jean Price-Mars

Upon nightfall [Dessalines] left the Gala region [today in Santo Domingo] and rapidly marched back. In four days of an impetuous calvary reached Marchand (in Haiti).    

There, with great bewilderment, he became conscious that at no point along the Haitian coast was seen suspect boats. Haiti was not threatened. He was later informed that the maritime activities that he witnessed offshore from Santo Domingo had no other reason than a simple maneuver of its return from Martinique and about to start its return back to France. He also learn that the maneuver was a help sent by Ferrand from the city of Santo Domingo, the last place on the island that still had the flag of France.    

Since he saw his hope completely dashed by the circumstance, Dessalines became very angry. His anger had no limit. He was very proud that he ordered his soldiers to destroy everything and everyone on the eastern part of the island as they return to Haiti.  

In that sense, the return of the Haitian army was one of the most dramatic and bloody episode of a dramatic and bloody history. Fires of towns, destruction of cattle, firing of Dominican hostages, capturing of countless Dominican women and children, the brutal transferring of them to Haiti; behind the Haitian army nothing was spared of such sad situation of useless horrors. For Dessalines, the Dominican people…

…reminded him of the white French, his everlasting enemies. He made sure that his victims would know his power, based on the threat he made on his proclamation to the Dominicans. They were his enemies and he the vengeance. From the deepest aspect of his soul, starting with the hunters in the African jungle and taken to the island of Santo Domingo, surged his resentment.    


With great happiness he ordered the extermination of the whites and the people he considered as such – if not by their skin color, then by their sentiment -, blacks or mixed.      

They were the enemy and he the resentment.    



Dessalines said: “There is much cruelty in what we are doing. However, it’s necessary to secure our independence. I want the crime to be national, that everyone covers their hands in blood. The weak and the moderates will not be able to say one day: We haven’t participated in those horrible acts, it was Dessalines, Jean Jacques, the bandit, the real responsible. What do I care of what the future thinks of my measures, if the politics makes it necessary for saving my country.”  


Should we be surprised that under those conditions and the failure of the campaign of the East, Dessalines and his generals felt obligated to commit a retaliation on the Dominican population in the east? They were accused of complicity to the resistance against his plans. He was greatly convinced that the Dominican territory, as was found vast and very populated, was an incentive for foreigners, an advantaged bridge for an eventual invasion. Since the Dominican population was associated to the most adversaries to his plans…

…due to that reason alone they were in compliance of a criminal act and deserved the harshest of the punishments.  

They were the enemy and Dessalines the vengeance and resentment.  

That was the extreme reason of his inhuman attitude towards those poor victims of the campaign of the East.    

Who cares what the future thinks of his conduct, of what he did, and of his own mission! His only purpose was to liberate his people and defend such liberty. He did it ruthlessly and taking total responsibility for his actions.