How The Dominican Republic Was Nearly Annexed And Made a US State
One of Ulysses S Grant’s first major efforts as president of the United States was an attempt to annex the independent nation of Santo Domingo. The island nation had fought a war to become independent from neighboring Haiti. Santo Domingo — today known as the Dominican Republic — declared its independence in 1844. The nascent nation of Haiti attempted to reclaim its lost territory but bumbled its way into a series of defeats and never regained control of the Dominican territories.
Twenty-five years later the nation was in serious talks to become a part of the United States. A bill was put together to approve the annexation of Santo Domingo and the entire effort was spearheaded by President Grant. If the treaty had been approved the Dominican Republic would have been annexed by the United States and put on a fast track to statehood. But the effort fell short.
So what happened? Why did President Grant want the Dominican Republic? Why did the effort fail?
A Political Stew
The efforts to annex Santo Domingo emerged from a chaotic political stew that was brewing at the end of the Reconstruction Era in the United States. President Grant wanted to annex the Caribbean nation for a series of reasons. First, he was afraid the island would be annexed or invaded by a hostile European power looking to regain a foothold in the Caribbean. Second, he wanted to shore up American influence around the volatile nation of Hait. Third, he was hoping to create a safe place for persecuted African Americans to flee from the racist south.
Grant believed that a new state in the Caribbean could act as a stabilizing force on Haiti and help pressure other nearby nations, like Cuba, to abandon slavery.
The newly elected president appointed officials to begin negotiations with the president of Santo Domingo and to also begin drawing up official treaty papers to put before the Senate. President Grant did not expect the stiff resistance that…