10. The Battle of Santo Domingo
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229 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 10 THE BATTLE OF SANTO DOMINGO Despite Grant’s desire to keep the annexation project a secret until December 31, 1869, speculation regarding negotiations with Santo Domingo arose before that date. In late November the press carried reports of Babcock’s second trip and his instructions to pursue an annexation agreement. On December 23, two days after Babcock’s return and Grant’s presentation of the treaty to the cabinet, the 1HZWKDWLVWKHSURWHFWRUDWH@ZRXOG not be established by the President’s treaties.” And yet, astonishingly, the senator raised no objection to Babcock. Indeed, in a letter six months after their meeting, Babcock asserted that Sumner had “volunteered to say that he could not think of doing otherwise than supporting the Administration in this matter,” a point the senator repeated when the two met a few days later. Babcock probably exaggerated in his description of those meetings, but when another senator read Babcock’s letter during the debate, Sumner made no direct response, suggesting that he could not deny its essential accuracy. Raised only in retrospect, Sumner’s point about a protectorate appeared to be an invention designed to explain away his VHHPLQJO\ favorable response at the dinner. Taken all together, Sumner’s version of events is less plausible than those of the guests at his house, even though their accounts are not in perfect accord. At the very least, upon bidding Sumner good night, Grant had good reason to believe that the senator would come on board.11 CHAPTER 10 234 Under pressure from other senators, Sumner further massaged his version of events. He did not admit saying he would support the treaty, but he acknowledged his error in failing to make his opposition clear right away. Indeed, precisely when and why Sumner’s opposition began remained cloudy. As Fish later wrote, when he met Sumner during the period immediately after Grant’s evening visit, the senator raised QRREMHFWLRQWRWKHDQQH[DWLRQWUHDW\7KHSUHVLGHQWR΀FLDOO\VXEPLWWHG that treaty and the Samaná lease agreement to the Senate on January 10, 1870; they were then referred to Sumner’s committee, where they lay dormant. As committee member James Harlan put it, “I was not able WRXQGHUVWDQGIURPKLP>6XPQHU@ZKDWKLVMXGJPHQWZDVIRUVHYHUDO weeks after that treaty went to committee.” On January 15 Grant expressed to Fish his surprise that the annexation treaty had “not attracted as much attention or excitement as he had anticipated.” Two weeks later Sumner informed Fish there was no support for the St. Thomas treaty in the Senate, but he omitted any mention of Santo Domingo. Although Sumner had opposed the St. Thomas purchase from the start, he told Fish, “I have a tenderness for Denmark which would make me support it now if there were any reasonable chance for carrying it.” This was a remarkable admission in light of the senator’s self-proclaimed fastidiousness on foreign policy matters and in light of St. Thomas’s price WDJZKLFKZDVÀYHWLPHVWKDWIRUWKH'RPLQLFDQ5HSXEOLF$V:LVFRQVLQ VHQDWRU7LPRWK\+RZHODWHUUHFDOOHG´:KHQWKH>'RPLQLFDQ@WUHDW\ KDGEHHQLQ&RPDORQJWLPHKH>6XPQHU@DVNHGPHZKDW,WKRXJKWRI it. I told him frankly I was very sorry it was ever negotiated. But he did not intimate the slightest objection to it.” “Mr. Sumner’s special error,” Boutwell later wrote to Fish, “was that he neglected to return the President ’s call or in any way to inform the President that he could not support the treaty. . . . I once presented the case to Mr. Sumner very much in this way and he admitted his error in neglecting to return the call of the President.”12 Some observers concluded that Sumner was waiting for the president to purchase his support by reinstating his friend Ashley. After hearing Sumner’s version of the encounter at his house, Howe thought, “He did not intend to commit himself, by a distinct promise to support the treaty, but did mean to commit Grant to the restoration of Ashley E\PDNLQJKLPEHOLHYHKHZ>RXO@GVXSSRUWWKHWUHDW\µVLF@WKH\ZLOOµ14 Meanwhile, the administration kept its promise to protect the Dominican government while annexation was put to a popular vote. Potential threats to that government came not only from Báez’s political enemies but also from Haiti. In January the Dominican opposition leader Cabral lent his assistance to forces rebelling against the Haitian government , resulting in...


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