In 1871, the United States almost acquired the Dominican Republic. President Ulysses Grant wanted “the entire American color” to move to the island.


Crowd of soldiers in the fort as part of annexation demonstrations, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 1871

Crowd of soldiers in the fort as part of annexation demonstrations, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 1871Library of Congress

  • In 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant worked on the acquisition of the Dominican Republic.

  • Grant was concerned about the long-term future of the newly liberated black Americans and how they would coexist with the white Southerns.

  • Historians told insiders that they believed the story could inform broader conversations around the province of Puerto Rico.

As the call gets bigger De-colonization Puerto Rico, its territorial status, serves as a reminder of the not-so-distant colonial past of the United States.

Before Puerto Rico was merged into the United States in 1898 during the Spanish-American War, the United States attempted to merge other territories of Latin America, including Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

On June 30, 1871, a bill entitled Annexation of Santo Domingo failed in the US Senate with only eight votes. If so, the country would have acquired the Dominican Republic and moved to make it a state.

The political situation in the United States, which began in the late 1860s, was full of doubts about what would happen next to black Americans. Historians told insiders in the early 1860s, before the end of the Civil War, that Washington, DC politicians were concerned about how whites would treat newly liberated black Americans. One of the ideas some politicians considered was to encourage black Americans to leave the mainland altogether.

Some politicians and activists, including Frederick Douglass, supported the merger of Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic) as a place where black Americans could own property and live freely. Douglas saw it as an opportunity to increase the black-American population. Other politicians also had an expansionist view of the United States.

When asked about the desire for expansion in the United States, Dominican leaders reached out to make a deal.

Lauren Hammond, associate professor at Augusta University, said, “I think it’s a really impressive moment in American history when it comes to how people think about the black Diaspora as well as the African Americans. “. insider. “You can use it almost as a comparative example and ask questions about Puerto Rico’s status and nation.”

Ulysses Grant writes memoirs, June 27, 1885

Ulysses Grant writes memoirs, June 27, 1885Library of Congress

Ulysses Grant said the biggest conflict in the United States was “color bias.”

A few years after the Civil War, the people of Washington became aware of the following: Reconstruction efforts It failed in the southern states that were formerly dominated by the South Army. President Ulysses Grant has become worried about the long-term future of African Americans.

Using a previous conversation in Washington, Grant came up with a solution. According to the memo, he wrote:Prejudice against color“This was the biggest conflict in the country, and the solution was to move African Americans to the island.

forgive I have written“Cast does not have a foothold in Santo Domingo. If you choose to relocate, you can support the entire U.S. colored race … Colored people are spared until his place is provided. You can’t, but there are shelters like Santo Domingo. His value here will soon be discovered. “

Despite being Last known US President To own a slave, Grant grew up in an abolitionist family and fought as a Union general with black soldiers who might have influenced his view of slavery. Grant was not the first US politician to consider sending liberated blacks out of the mainland.He also feared that black and white Americans could not coexist peacefully, and President Abraham Lincoln suggestion Send the liberated blacks to Liberia or Central America.

Printed matter showing that Ulysses Grant has signed the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution

Printed matter that Ulysses Grant has signed the Fifteenth Amendment, admitting that voting rights cannot be denied based on race or colorLibrary of Congress

Hammond was an insider and Grant was interested in the racism faced by black Americans, but he also believed it In Monroe doctrine, A policy from 1823 that urged European forces not to interfere with the Western Hemisphere. Grant was initially interested in the acquisition of Cuba, a Spanish territory, but turned to the Dominican Republic because it would not have been possible without the war.

Historians told insiders that there was evidence that the United States had considered merging Panama or Brazil at the same time to serve the same purpose, but held a professorship in Moore’s history and African-American studies at the University of Houston. Retaining historian Dr. Gerald Horne told insiders that these countries quickly failed because they were skeptical about why the United States sent only the black population there.

“In the Dominican Republic, there was less concern than in other Latin American countries about accepting what is considered a” Trojan horse, “” said Horn, author of the “Trojan horse.”Confront black JacobinIt details the history of the Dominican Republic, “he told insiders.

Dominican leaders wanted the United States to annex the island, historians said.

later Recovery war The Dominican Republic was seeking protection from Spain, Hammond said. President Buenaventura Baes contacted the United States because they are in serious debt and are likely to be conquered by Spain.

Baez knew that President Grant was trying to acquire territory from the mainland, so he asked if he could annex the Dominican Republic.

A vote was held on February 16, 1870 in the Dominican Republic. 15,695 residents voted for the annexation, and only 11 voted against it. With more than 99% of the votes, the referendum was passed in the Dominican Republic.

Hammond said he didn’t trust the outcome of the vote.

“There was a threat from Buenaventura Baes,” Hammond told insiders. “Therefore, it is actually very difficult to know exactly what is happening in the Dominican Republic.”

In the US Senate, the merger bill to obtain DR failed on June 30, 1871, 28-28. It took 2/3 of the votes, or 66%, to pass.

1872 caricatures attacking Republicans against the Grant administration's move to the annex of Santo Domingo

1872 caricatures criticizing Republicans, including Sumner, who opposed the Grant administration’s move to the Santo Domingo AnnexLibrary of Congress

Much of the opposition to the bill was led by Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner. Grant spent months getting Sumner on board, but Sumner had one major problem.

Sumner did not think the United States needed to acquire Caribbean or Latin American territory. Dr. Nicholas Guyatt, a professor of North American history at the University of Cambridge, told insiders because Sumner believed that warm climates belonged to blacks in particular.

“He made these speeches on racist citizenship, and then he also said on this question that the tropics belong to blacks,” Gaiat told insiders. “Then what are you talking about in other regions, such as the subtropical regions of the United States?”

Gaiat also said he believed that the United States would have given the Dominican Republic a state status if the annexation vote had taken place, given the conversations and speeches in Washington, DC at the time. Many politicians emphasized that the United States cannot be like any other empire without colonies. But decades later, the country’s position changed.

“I had [annexation] If it happened, I think it would have created a new impetus within the federal system and would have made it very difficult to hold the 1898 conquest in these territories like Puerto Rico for long periods of time, “Gaiatt told insiders.

Most white Southerners did not support the annexation, historians said

During this time, White Americans were broadly divided into three groups on the issue of annexation, Dr. Horn told insiders. One group helped remove black Americans from the mainland in order to remove slavery reminders. Another group supported the exclusion of African Americans because they did not want the United States to become a multi-ethnic republic. And the third group wanted to keep blacks on the mainland because blacks were a cheap labor force.

In the South, Hammond said the main sentiment was against annexation, as many Southerners were uncomfortable with the addition of more non-whites to the United States. There was also a whisper that if the United States annexed the Dominican Republic, it wouldn’t stop there. Some were worried that they would soon occupy the entire island, including Haiti.

“The fear that additional blacks and those additional blacks will probably be entitled and treated as equal US citizens after slavery is over is very unpleasant and disturbing to the majority of Southern Democrats. It was, “Hammond said.

Overall, Hammond and Horn said the bill failed because there was no widespread support outside Grant’s circle.

Frederick Douglass's Glass Negative, 1870-1880

Frederick Douglass’s Glass Negative, 1870-1880Library of Congress

According to historians, Frederick Douglass’s decision was “cloudy” when it came to annexation.

A complex part of this story is Frederick Douglass’s role in the country’s desire to buy the Dominican Republic.

After the bill failed in the Senate, President Grant asked Congress to approve a committee of three to go to Santo Domingo. According to Grant, the Commission’s goal was to go to a “fact-finding team” to see if the Dominicans supported becoming part of the United States.

Frederick Douglass was one of three people assigned to the committee.

“My choice to send commissions to visit Santo Domingo was another point that showed the difference between the old and the new,” Douglas said after him. Selection..

Historians told insiders that Douglas’s understanding of why the United States annexed Santo Domingo seemed a bit misguided.according to Chicago TribuneIn a December 1871 speech, Douglas stated that the United States was annexing Santo Domingo through “native consent” rather than “intervention.”

But Horn said historians have long struggled with how to tell this part of Douglas’ story.

Douglas was born as a slave, freed, and an important abolitionist who advised former President Abraham Lincoln on the badness of slavery. Douglas also understood European colonialism in the Western Hemisphere and supported efforts for independence. However, some historians say that when it comes to the United States, he did not understand the essence of conquest and colonialism. Douglas also did not understand the US domestic motives for the acquisition of the Dominican Republic, such as sending African Americans to the island.

“This wasn’t Frederick Douglass’s best time,” Horn told insiders. “Many people are very grateful and very happy to be freed from slavery, and I think it’s clouding a sort of thought. They’re willing to go to any plan Washington came up with. I was on the way. “

Hammond said she would read Douglas’ statement through a slightly different lens from that time. Hammond believes Douglas saw the annexation of the Dominican Republic as a victory for the Black Americans. They can add voters to black voters, thereby increasing their chances of gaining the civil rights of black Americans.

“One thing we have to remember is that Frederick Douglass lived in a very complex era and was a very complex individual,” Hammond told insiders.

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