The calls are getting louder Decolonization Puerto Rico, its territorial status serves as a reminder of the not-too-distant colonial past of the United States.
Before Puerto Rico was annexed by the United States in 1898 during the Spanish-American War, the United States made attempts to annex other regions of Latin America, including Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
On June 30, 1871, a bill titled Inclusion of Santo Domingo in the US Senate failed by only 8 votes. If it was passed, the state would have moved on to take possession of the Dominican Republic and make it a state.
The political climate of the United States beginning in the late 1860s was filled with questions about what was next for black Americans. Historians told Insider that in the early 1860s, before the end of the Civil War, politicians in Washington, D.C., were concerned about how whites would treat newly liberated black Americans. One idea that some politicians took was to urge black Americans to stay away completely from the mainland.
Some politicians and activists, including Frederick Douglass, supported efforts to annex Santo Domingo (now, the Dominican Republic), as they saw it as a place where black Americans could own property and live freely. Douglas saw this as an opportunity to grow the black American population. Other politicians also had an expansionist mindset for the United States.
Upon hearing the United States’ desire to expand, the leaders of the Dominican Republic reached out to cut a deal.
“I think it’s a really telling moment in US history, in terms of how people think not only about African Americans, but also how they think about black people in the diaspora,” said Dr. Lauren Hammond, associate professor of history at Augusta College. from the inside. “You can kind of use it as a comparative case and raise questions about Puerto Rico’s status and country.”
Ulysses S. Grant said the biggest conflict in the US was “color bias”
A few years after the Civil War, it became clear to those in Washington that Reconstruction Efforts In the former Southern states controlled by the Confederacy were failing. President Ulysses S. Grant is concerned about the long-term future of black Americans.
Relying on previous talks in Washington, Grant came up with a solution. According to a note he wrote:compromising color“The biggest conflict in the country was the solution to that being to move black Americans to the island.
Grant Wrote“Caste has no foothold in Santo Domingo. She is able to support all the people of color of the United States, if she chooses to emigrate… The man of color cannot be saved until his place is provided, but with a refuge like San Domingo, his value here will soon be discovered” .
despite being The last known American president To own a enslaved person, Grant grew up in a home that abolished slavery and, as a Union general, he fought alongside black soldiers, which may have influenced his views on slavery. Grant was not the first American politician to consider sending freed blacks off the mainland. President Abraham Lincoln also feared that black and white Americans could not coexist peacefully Suggestion Send black liberators to Liberia or Central America.
Hammond told Insider that while Grant was concerned with the racism facing black Americans, he was also expansionist. Believes In the Monroe’s principle, a policy from 1823 that urged European powers not to interfere in the Western Hemisphere. Grant was initially interested in acquiring Cuba, a Spanish territory, but once that was not realistic without war, he turned his interest to the Dominican Republic.
While historians have told Insider that there is evidence that the United States is also considering annexing Panama or Brazil at the same time to serve the same purpose, Dr. Gerald Horn, a historian who serves as the Morris Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, told Insider that that quickly What failed because those countries were skeptical about why the United States would only send its black population there.
“There was less concern in the Dominican Republic than in other Latin American countries about accepting what was considered a ‘Trojan horse,'” Horne, author.Confronting the Black Jacobinsdetailing the history of the Dominican Republic, told Insider.
The historian said that the leaders of the Dominican Republic wanted the United States to include the island
distance recovery war Hammond said the Dominican Republic was looking for protection against Spain. They were deeply in debt and were at risk of being occupied by Spain again, so President Buenaventura Páez reached out to the United States.
Bayes was aware that President Grant was looking to acquire territories outside the mainland, so he asked if the Dominican Republic could be annexed.
On February 16, 1870, a vote was held in the Dominican Republic. 15,695 residents voted in favor of annexation, and only 11 voted against it. With over 99% of the vote, a referendum was passed in the Dominican Republic.
Hammond said she did not trust the results of that vote.
“We ended up receiving threats from Buenaventura Báez,” Hammond told Insider. “So it’s very difficult to get a real pulse of what was happening in the Dominican Republic.”
In the US Senate, the annexation bill failed to take possession of the German Democratic Republic on June 28–28, 1871. It needed ⅔, or 66%, of the vote to pass.
Senator Charles Sumner led much of the opposition to the bill. Grant spent several months trying to get Sumner on board, but Sumner had one major sticking point.
Sumner did not believe that the United States should acquire any territory in the Caribbean or Latin America. That’s because Sumner believes that warmer climate regions are specifically for blacks, Dr. Nicholas Gayat, professor of North American history at the University of Cambridge, told Insider.
“He gave these speeches about race-blind citizenship, but he also said specifically in this question that the equatorial region is for blacks,” Gayatt told Insider. “If you say so, what do you say about other regions, such as the subtropics in the United States.”
Gayat also said that, given the talks and speeches that took place in the capital at the time, he believed the United States would have given the Dominican Republic a state had the annexation been voted on. Many politicians have stressed the point that the United States cannot be like other empires with individual colonies. However, after a few decades, the country’s attitude changed.
“It was [annexation] It happened, I think, it would have created a new dynamic within the federal system, which would have made the 1898 invasion very difficult to hold these lands like Puerto Rico for an extended period of time,” Gatet told Insider.
The historian said that most white southerners do not support annexation
During this time, white Americans were largely divided into three groups on the issue of annexation, Dr. Horne told Insider. One group supported the removal of black Americans from the mainland to remove any reminders of slavery. Another group supported the removal of black Americans because they did not want the United States to become a multiracial republic. A third group wanted to keep blacks on the mainland because they represented cheap labour.
In the South, Hammond said the main sentiment was against annexation because many Southerners were uncomfortable with more non-white people joining the United States. There were also whispers that if the United States annexed the Dominican Republic it would not stop there. Some were afraid that they would soon take the entire island, including Haiti.
“Once slavery ended, the fear of including more blacks and those additional blacks, perhaps being given their rights and treated as equal American citizens, was very disturbing and disturbing to the great majority of Southern Democrats,” Hammond said.
Overall, Hammond and Horn said the bill failed because it did not have broad support outside of Grant’s circle.
The historian said Frederick Douglass’ judgment was “ambiguous” when it came to the annexation
A complicated part of this story is Frederick Douglass’s role in the country’s desire to have the Dominican Republic.
After the bill failed in the Senate, President Grant asked Congress to approve a three-person committee to go to Santo Domingo. The purpose of the commission, according to Grant, was to go on a “fact-finding mission” to find out whether the Dominicans were in favor of becoming part of the United States.
Frederick Douglass was one of the three appointed to the commission.
“My choice to visit Santo Domingo with the commission sent there was another point that indicated the difference between the old and the new,” Douglas said afterwards. Selection.
Historians told Insider that Douglas’ understanding of why the United States annexed Santo Domingo seemed a bit misleading. according to Chicago TribuneDuring a speech in December 1871, Douglas said that the United States was annexing Santo Domingo through “indigenous consent”, rather than “intervention”.
However, Horn said historians have long struggled to figure out how to tell this part of Douglas’ story.
Born a slave, made free, Douglas was a leading abolitionist, advising former President Abraham Lincoln about the ills of slavery. Douglas also had an understanding of European colonialism in the Western Hemisphere and supported independence efforts. However, some historians say he failed to understand the nature of conquest and colonization when it came to the United States. Douglas also did not understand the United States’ domestic motives for the acquisition of the Dominican Republic, such as sending black Americans to the island.
“This hasn’t been Frederick Douglass’s best time,” Horne told Insider. “Many were very grateful, and very pleased with their freedom from slavery. And I think that’s a bit of a vagueness of thinking. They were willing to agree to whatever plan Washington came up with.”
Hammond said she’s read Douglas’ comments since that time through a slightly different lens. Hammond believed that Douglas saw the annexation of the Dominican Republic as a victory for black Americans. They would be able to add voters to the black electorate and thus increase the chances of obtaining civil rights for black Americans.
“I think one thing to remember is that Frederick Douglass lived in a very complex time and was a very complex individual,” Hammond told Insider.