Saint-Domingue is the French equivalent of the Spanish term Santo Domingo. Spain once controlled the entire island of Hispaniola, which was also known as Santo Domingo. But in the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697, Spain recognized that France had established control of the western one-third of its territory.
19th and early 20th century U.S. and British authors often referred to Saint-Domingue as "St. Domingo" or "San Domingo," which can lead to confusion with the former Spanish colony which is today the Dominican Republic.
The name was changed to Haiti when Jean-Jacques Dessalines declared independence from the French in 1804. Like the term Haiti itself, Saint-Domingue may sometimes be used to refer to all of Hispaniola, but sometimes only to the western part now occupied by the Republic of Haiti.
Island of St-Domingo from its discovery by Columbus to the present time, illustrating, as much as possible, its scenes and people by his own sketches, and photographs and engravings gathered from various sources. At a time when the masses of the people of the United States were watching with interest the action of their representatives in Congress on the question of the admission of St-Domingo into the Union, the author was surprised to find how little was really known, either of the present or the past of that historic isle; and in endeavouring to obtain this information for himself, he was astonished to find the great lack of books (at least accessible, and in the English language) giving connected information of an island that had for so long a time, and in so many ways, played such an important part in the history of the world. Joining afterwards, on the island, the Commission sent out by the United States Government, the author, after almost entirely circumnavigating the island, and traversing its length and breadth, was amazed. to find so magnificent a part of the New World so generally uncultivated and even uncivilised, after having been the first chosen spot of settlement of the discoverers from the Old World. Having seen the comparatively advanced condition of affairs in the sister isle of Cuba (which is not nearly so highly favoured by Nature), and comparing it with the present deplorable state of St Domingo, the curiosity of the author was roused to know, if there were not other reasons than the reputed one of climate why an island so attractive and valuable in every way as St Domingo certainly is, should remain for so long a time unsettled and uncivilised. Coming to London, and consulting almost every early writer of note upon the Island of St Domingo found in the treasures of the British Museum, the author is satisfied that the past history, especially of the Spanish part of St Domingo, is little known to the general reader of to-day, and that in that history is found ample reason for the present condition of St Domingo and Hayti-a condition, he thinks, arising only from the fact that this beautiful island has simply been the:'victim of misfortunes," brought upon it by its being successively the battle and disputed ground of the Spaniards and Indians, the' Buccaneers, the English, the French, the Spaniards, the Haytians, and, finally, the Dominicans themselves. " The truth is not always to be told," is an old adage, and it is possible that the notes on Hayti may give offence to some; but the author does not see that anything is to be gained by glossing over the present utterly hopeless condition of this part of the island, simply in consideration of the feelings of a few over-sensitive " patriots," because, even in the definition of this word, they and the writer might not agree. He has been surprised, however, to find, on reading over the accounts of the different writers who have visited Hayti since the expulsion of the French, how perfectly justified are their remarks and experiences by the condition to-day of affairs in that Republic (?). The author is sure no one more ardently hopes to see a change for the better, as well in the government as in the people of Hayti, than he, feeling as he does, that not only will the people of Hayti be benefited, but' so will be the great causes of humanity and civilisation. As there may be readers who would like to follow out
Chapter 1: Santo-Domingo
" Nymphs of romance, Youths graceful as the fawn, with rapturous glance Spring from the glades, and down the green steeps run To greet their mighty guests, 'the children of the sun."' SANTO DOMINGO-Its Extent, Location, Physical PeculiaritiesThe Aborigines-Their Habits, Customs, etc. FIVE days' good steaming from New York, or about twelve from Land's End, England, lies in the South Atlantic a famous island-famous in ages past, and to be celebrated in the time to come, as the " Cradle of the New World "-St Domingo.
Notorious for its misfortunes and those of its inhabitants in many decades of years, it had in the past almost lost its existence in the political world; and the names even of St, Domingo and Hayti were held by many intelligent people to be those of two separate countries, until the efforts of the Republic of St Domingo to find a place of safety and protection among the United States of America has attracted attention to this almost forgotten yet historic isle. Probably no spot on earth, take it all together, and looking at it in its natural aspects, can be found more lovely: and it is safe to say, probably no extent of territory, the world over, contains within itself, under proper auspices, so many elements of prosperity, worldly success, and happiness as the Island of St Domingo. Many circumstances serve to render the history of this island peculiarly interesting to every intelligent mind, for here we have realised, in almost every part, the actual existence and daily life of Columbus; here we have the place first colonised in the New World by Europeans-the starting point of that civilisation which, spreading itself out in the New World, is now penetrating to those Indies of which the " Grand Admiral" thought this very island was a portion; here we have also the spot where was first inaugurated the beginning of African slavery in the Western World, as well as the real movement that has served to end it.
Upon this spot has been wielded the power of almost every European Government, the blood of whose children has been lavishly poured forth upon its soil. Though fire and sword, cruelty, persecution, and bloodshed have traversed this noble isle in almost every part, and often hand-in-hand, yet to-day it rests upon the bosom of those tropic seas, as beautiful, majestic, and fruitful in all its natural gifts as when Columbus first discovered it, waiting only the assistance of law and sound government, accompanied by intelligence, industry, and enterprise, to take its place in the political arena as one of the most favoured of states.
Lying in the Atlantic Ocean at the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico, second of the Great Antilles to Cuba in size only, Santo Domingo yet, by its position and natural advantages, ranks first of all the beautiful islands in these waters; and though to-day impoverished and a beggar, yet she will prove, under proper care, such a precious jewel to the power that may be induced to take her under its protection, as many kings would be glad to place in their crowns. The territorial extent of the whole island, from its extreme eastern point to its most western cape (Tiburon), is about 400 English miles; and the extreme breadth of its widest part nearly 180 miles-the area within its boundaries, exclusive of the adjacent isles, being of about the same extent as Ireland, or 25,000 square miles. Of this territory, the negro Republic of Hayti occupies at the western end something less than one-third the whole extent, the remainder being nominally under the control of the Dominican Republic.
Situated in 18~ 20' north latitude, and in longitude 68~ 40' west from Greenwich, St Domingo has for near neighbours Cuba, from which it is distant about 70 miles south-east; from Jamaica, 130 miles north-east; and about 60 miles west-north-west of Puerto Rico; possessing all the advantages and few of the disadvantages of those three islands. Such is the peculiar formation of this magnificent land, that within its boundaries is found almost every variety of climate; while in the character of its soils and vegetation, it is equally varied. This fact is due to certain peculiarities of its position, and to the singular manner in which its principal mountain ranges are placed. These consist generally of long chains, of which there are two principal ones, stretching the whole length of the island, their general direction being from east to west. From these principal ranges, which on each side leave a space nearly equal between them and the coast, but which do not always run parallel to one another, go a number of secondary chains, which, running in different directions, divide the land between into valleys as various in depth as extent; and these valleys are again divided by hills and ridges of dimensions as various as are the valleys they divide, so that the secondary chains and ridges appear like so many supporters given by Nature to the principal mountains. The secondary chains that run from the sides of the principal ones towards the sea, divide the intermediate space into plains of various figures and extent; and these plains are subdivided and sheltered by other ridges, which, going NGO. sometimes even to the beach, serve them as a sort of boundaries or ramparts. The two great chains of mountains rise as they advance from the east; but this progressive elevation does not continue for more than forty leagues, after which the heights remain the same for a considerable distance. They seem to widen as they approach the west, till, coming to the middle of the narrow part of the island, they narrow again, still preserving their height, until, in fact, towards the western part, the mountains are almost piled on top of each other. For this reason, seen at sea, the whole island appears completely mountainous. But in this mountainous form lies the very secret of its great fertility, for these mountains act as immense reservoirs, whose waters, by means of innumerable rivers, are afterwards borne in every direction. They are the barriers erected by Nature to repel the violence of the winds, to temper the rays of a scorching sun, and to vary the temperature of the air. With occasional exceptions, all these mountains are covered with vegetation of some sort, but principally of the most valuable kinds of trees, the wood of which is used in commerce; and though the summits of some raise their rocky peaks bald of trees or vegetation, yet the majority are covered with mould, rich in the accumulated vegetable manure of centuries of decay. For the general reader, it will suffice to make himself familiar with the names of only the two principal ranges of mountains, the longest of which is the most southern; beginning at the extreme eastern end of the island, and running nearly through its centre, it ends near Dondon in the Haytian part, thus dividing the Dominican portion into two districts, the North and South. This range is familiarly known as the Cordillera or Cibao range. Nearly parallel, and to the north of the Cibao, extends the great range known as the Monte Cristo mountains; beginning at the bay of that name, and running almost parallel with the line of the north coast, it finally ends in the peninsula of Samana. Between these two ranges lies probably one of the most fertile, beautiful, well-watered plains or valleys in the world, -the famous " Vega Real," or Royal Plain of Columbus.
The valleys of the Dominican part are more numerous and of greater extent than those in the Haytian, while the mountains of the former are notably rich in valuable mines and minerals; the climate and soil being equally varied throughout the two portions. Having given thus a casual glance at the general physical peculiarities of the island, we shall be better able to enjoy a journey over it, especially after glancing at some of the principal events of its history.
The Dominican Republic having, by a vote of its people, expressed a desire to annex itself to the United States, application to this effect was made by the Dominican authorities in 1869, and after much discussion in the national halls of legislation, a commission was appointed by the United States Government to proceed to St Domingo, and investigate the condition of affairs on that island and report thereon. This commission, sailing from the United States in the American man-of-war Tennessee, January 17, 1871, reached the island at Samana Bay, January 24. For his own purposes, as well as to act as an independent newspaper correspondent, the author left New York on the 1st day of February 1871 in the steamer Tybee, the only steam-vessel that keeps up communication between the Republic of St Domingo and the United States. The voyage, begun in the bitter weather of a Northern winter, was without any event of interest to the general reader, and he cannot do better, therefore, than occupy the time in reading over with me a few chapters of the history of the famous island for which we are bound. Those of us who had been in the tropics before, looked forward to the time when we should once again breathe the delicious air of the balmy climate of the Antilles; for there seems to be something particularly fascinating about the tropics, as well to Governments as to individuals: and we find it the same with both; having tasted of the delights of the tropic clime, there remains always a desire to renew either acquaintance or possession once made therein. Looking back to the period when the New World was first discovered, we see, in the histories of the most prominent nations of the time, the intense desire of their rulers to become the possessors of domains described invariably in such glowing terms by the subjects sent out on voyages of discovery to those new and wondrous lands comprised in the general name of " The Indies;"' desires which, being fulfilled, gave to the monarchies of the Old World, in almost every case, colonies and possessions in the Western World, some of which to this day, notwithstanding changes in government, domestic trouble, and long and bloody foreign wars, still remain attached thereto. Turning over the pages of the ancient chroniclers, we find they all agree in their descriptions of the flowery lands, uniting as they all do in using the most glowing language, as well as the most highly-coloured hyperbole, in their accounts of these new countries. Even those adventurers who came from the sunny lands of the South of Europe, and who, it might be supposed, were well familiarised to the charms and novelties of the azure skies, gorgeous colouring, and luxuriant vegetation of the tropics, are in nowise behind their more phlegmatic brethren of the North in their glowing eulogies of the new " Paradise." Reading some of the descriptions of the great Columbus himself, written to his benefactors under the influence of his first impressions of the West Indies, we seem rather to be reading the warm and glowing descriptions of romantic youth, than the staid, cautious relation of a man of mature life, such as he is described to have been at this period; and
Page 7 COLUMB US. as we scan the outlines of the picture that seems more likely to be a true likeness than many of the others of him, we look in vain in the features of the calm, dignified man before us for the writer of such lines as these concerning St Domingo:"I swear to your majesties there is not in the world a Columbus. (Charton.)* better nation nor a better land; they love their neighbours as themselves, and their discourse is ever sweet and gentle, * From the portrait in the gallery of Paolo Giovo (born at Como in 1483), who had a beautiful collection of portraits of the distinguished men of his time, and who always considered this as representing with fidelity the features of Columbus.
Page 8 8 SANTO DO1IINGO. and accompanied with a smile; and though it is true that they are naked, yet their manners are decorous and praiseworthy." When Columbus, traversing, in his first voyage in December 1492, the narrow channel that separates Cuba from St Domingo, came in sight of the latter island, he found a land even more beautiful in his eyes than that of Cuba, in the description of whose shores he had already almost exhausted the language of panegyric; and of the actual superiority of St Domingo in every respect he gave practical illustration by founding a colony on its north coast, giving to the island the name, it seems, in honour of his adopted country, of Hispaaola, or Little Spain, imagining that it resembled the " most favoured provinces of Andalusia." As to the number of the. original inhabitants found on this island at the time of its discovery, the authorities of the time differ in placing the total at from one to three millions; but of the appearance, manners, and customs of the natives they all fortunately pretty nearly agree. Columbus himself states, that sending a party of men to one of the villages, now thought to be Grosmorne, in Hayti, they found it to consist of nearly a thousand houses, showing that there were at the time towns of some extent. The original inhabitants were a mild and peaceful race, recommending themselves to Columbus by their "sweetness of temper;" of rather tall and graceful form, but, on the part of the men, of hideous visage, with nostrils wide and open, and teeth badly discoloured. Their skin was of a yellowish brown colour naturally, but from the habit of anointing their bodies with "roucou," and other extracts of vegetable matter, to protect the skin from the attacks of insects, it had a reddish appearance. The women were considered as rather comely in face as in form, it being related that they took great fancy to the Europeans; and the Spanish chronicles are filled with romantic episodes of the connections formed between the natives and the adventurers.