This is an excerpt taken from this document of the notes that were written about Santo Domingo. It is so interesting to read the views of the writer at this time. I put in bold the parts I really enjoyed reading. It seems that Port-a-Prince (Haiti) was the largest town on the island at this time and much more cosmopolitan.(To read the entire 259 page document refer to the link above.)
Taken from the Library of Congress - American Memory
On our coming in sight of St Domingo, a gentleman, a Mr P., on board the schooner, who had been resident some time there engaged in mercantile pursuits, gave me the following account of it:--This island, now the centre towards which all the eyes of Europe are turned, as developing the working of a republic of black population, has not come up to the expectations of the speculator on the system of precipitate emancipation. The Negroes of St Domingo or Hayti, about forty years ago, expelled their masters, the French and Spaniards, from the island, and after several leaders had ruled different divisions, and been successively put down, one of them, Christophe, a Negro from an English island, and who had been a servant in the town of Cape Hayti, governed for several years the northern division of the island, of which Cape Hayti is the capital.
Another of them, Petion, an intelligent coloured man, had the address to establish a republic, of which he was made president, and finding himself secure in the support of a considerable portion of the inhabitants, resolved to expel his competitor, Christophe, with the view of establishing his power over the whole island. After several engagements had taken place between them, in which Christophe had the worst, that chief was latterly reduced to such straits
(page 218) as to prefer committing suicide in his palace of Sans Souci, near Cape Hayti, to falling into the hands of his enemy. On his death his subjects submitted, since which the whole island has been under one government, with its seat of legislature at Port-au-Prince, composed of a president, now Boyer, the successor of Petion, a senate, and a house of representatives. In reality, here the term president signifies absolute monarch, for his power is nearly equal to that of the first despots; indeed, many of his measures are very arbitrary, but certainly called for to meet the contingencies the subjects of this island are liable to. The well-known indolence, consequent destitution and crime, forming the general character of the Negro, compel the ruler to take most despotic steps to enforce his power for their interests. Let the advocates of immediate abolition go to St Domingo, and they will there be speedily cured of their mania. At one time the most productive island in the West Indies, it is now amongst the least, though the population is considerably increased. No reasonable man sends his coat to the carpenter to be mended; he knows that a carpenter is not a tailor, his trade is quite distinct; before the carpenter can profess the trade of a tailor, he must serve an apprenticeship to the latter, that he may be fitted for the trade, Again, boys and girls are not fitted for the work of, men and women, they require experience and practice; and is not the Negro's an analogous case? Unmercifully torn from his home and friends, treated like a dog, generally compelled to a labour he never before heard of, to
(page 219) adopt customs and views totally foreign to his nature, is it to be supposed that he works willingly, or that he has any desire to learn? It can only be time that will modify his mind and practice, and bend him to his situation, and, combined with other causes, may ultimately stimulate him to exertion for himself. To set him free at once, is analogous to opening the door of a prison to let loose the hundred criminals, who, as experience has shown us, generally return to their old habits. Here lie the difficulties even the rulers of this republic have to contend with; and what have the other islands not to contend with?
St Domingo is, in point of size, next to Cuba, and is very mountainous. The plains are fertile, and have yielded abundant crops of sugar, coffee, rice, tobacco, &c. The northern parts of the island are most healthy, being exposed to more regular sea breezes from the Atlantic, which in winter are sometimes so cold as to render a fire necessary. The principal produce of the island for exportation is coffee, cotton, tobacco, and cigars, to which may be added mahogany and logwood. Rice, which, in the time of the French, formed one of the principal articles of export, is now largely imported for the use of the inhabitants, and in 1836 very considerable quantities of East India rice were even imported from Liverpool. Although at one time as much sugar was made here as on all the other West India islands together, now barely sufficient for their own use is raised. The imports consist principally of British, German, and French linens, (page 220) cottons, cloth, silk, and hardware and cutlery, with American flour, salt fish, and lumber.
The population is supposed to be about 700,000, seven-tenths of whom are entirely black. The French language is used in all the legislative proceedings, though Spanish is the prevalent language in that part of the island formerly called Hispaniola.
Port-au-Prince is said to be the most populous town in the island, having nearly 22,000 inhabitants, and at which a great proportion of the foreign trade of the island is carried on. Here the President Boyer resides. The town has a pretty appearance from the harbour, but is very irregularly built, the houses of wood principally, though some of the merchants have both stores and houses of brick. These materials are better suited to the climate, there being less expense and danger to be apprehended from earthquakes, shocks of which are of frequent occurrence, and sometimes very injurious to property. The town is situated in the beautiful bay of the same name on the west side of the island.
The story continues on.....
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