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French Domain on the Island. The History of French Colonies

The Dominican Republic was founded as a colony of Spain, but it was only under its domain until the French arrived in 1605 and left a great stamp on the island. They settled in the northwest part of La Española from where they manage to get the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo.

Let’s go step by step: the Spanish colonists believed that buccaneers activities (mainly French colonists) were smuggled and therefore, they were expelled from the territories. Under this circumstances, the settlers move to Tortuga Island, north of La Española, to expand from there to the west area, known as Santo Domingo, and the center of the island.

They practiced piracy and created different settlements such as the colony founded on 'TrouBord', where they built a hospital that gives name to the region of 'Hôpital'. The Turtle colony was formally established in 1659 under King Louis XIV.


Meanwhile, under the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697, Spain formalizes the transfer of the western third of the island to France. Thus the French side was called Saint-Domingue. A great producer of sugar and coffee, known for a while as the Pearl of the Antilles, was one of the richest colonies of the French Empire.

The French population was made up by black slaves who had escaped from Spanish plantations and took refuge under French authorities. There was also a significant number of people called gens de couleur, which consist of freedmen and descendants of black and Indian. In 1685, Louis XIV promulgated the Black Code to give certain human rights to slaves and thus take the first steps to abolish slavery in the New World.

French revolution

While this was happening in the colonies, the French Revolution put an end to the absolute monarchy in France and proclaimed the Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen. These events had consequences in Saint-Domingue where white colonists feared losing their privileges, while slaves saw the opportunity to achieve equal rights and therefore, they swore to fight for their freedom in a voodoo ceremony held in August 1791. This gives rise to a rebellion of slaves, origin of the Haitian Revolution that ended with the abolition of slavery in Saint-Domingue and the independence of Haiti in 1804.

One of the protagonists of the rebellion was François Dominique Toussaint Louverture who after defeating the French he joined them and was appointed life governor of the island in 1801. One of his first measures was precisely the abolition of slavery. On July 22, 1795, under the Treaty of Basel, France gained the transfer of the Spanish colony of Saint-Domingue, and thus took control of the whole island. However, this transfer did not come into effect until 1800.

Leclerc and Dessalines

Once slavery was abolished, Napoleon intended to re-establish it sending an army that conquered the island. In 1802 the French captained by General Leclerc intend to reconquer the island. The Haitian General Jean Jacques Dessalines (a black leader) and André Rigaud (mixed race leader) joined them and together managed to defeat Toussaint-Louverture, who is captured, victim of deception, and imprisoned in Fort Joux, where he died in April of the following year. Slavery was restored in La Española. In 1803 Dessalines expelled and defeated the French forces at the Battle of Vertieres and a year later declared the independent Republic of Haiti, proclaiming himself Emperor of it. From this moment, Saint-Domingue renamed Haiti. In 1806 he was assassinated by his colleagues Alexandre Pétion and Henri Christophe, who divided the country.


Another important event took place in 1808. This was the Battle of Palo Hincado, in which French troops were virtually wiped out in the city of Santo Domingo by the Creoles (so far faithful to the French), led this time by Juan Sanchez Ramirez. Thus the stage called La España Boba begins (1809-1821).

In November, 1821 the annexation of the Spanish territory to the Republic of Haiti takes place and a year later, the twentytwo year period of Haitian occupation of the entire island began under the leadership of Jean-Pierre Boyer, successor of Petion.

After this domain, in 1844, the Dominican Republic became independent of Haiti. The island still maintains its ties with France in different areas such as political, economic or cultural.




TEXTO: Marta Marcos; IMÁGENES: Archivo