is the second largest island in the Caribbean , at 29,273 sq miles, (75,843 sq km). The island of Cuba lies 80 kilometers (50 mi) to the northwest across the Windward Passage; to the southwest lies Jamaica, separated by the Jamaica Channel. Puerto Rico lies east of Hispaniola across the Mona Passage. The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands lie to the north. Its westernmost point is known as Cap Carcasse.
The island has five major mountain ranges: The Central Range, known in the Spanish part as the Cordillera Central, spans the central part of the island, extending from the south coast into northwest, where it is known as the Massif du Nord. This mountain range boasts the highest peak in the Antilles , Pico Duarte at 3,087 meters (10,128 ft) above sea level. The Cordillera Septentrional runs parallel to the Central Range across the northern end of the Dominican Republic, extending into the Atlantic Ocean as the Samaná Peninsula. The Cordillera Central and Cordillera Septentrional are separated by the lowlands of the Cibao Valley and the Atlantic coastal plains, which extend westward into the French colony as the Plaine du Nord. The lowest of the ranges is the Cordillera Oriental, in the eastern part of the country.
The Sierra de Neiba rises in the southwest and continues northwest, parallel to the Cordillera Central , as the Montagnes Noires, Chaîne des Matheux and the Montagnes du Trou d'Eau. The Plateau Central lies between the Massif du Nord and the Montagnes Noires, and the Plaine de l'Artibonite lies between the Montagnes Noires and the Chaîne des Matheux, opening westward toward the Gulf of Gonâve, the largest gulf of the Antilles.
Columbus claimed Hispaniola in 1492. It later became the major launching base for the Spanish conquest of the Caribbean , as well as the American mainland. As Spain conquered new regions on the mainland of the Americas , its interest in Hispaniola waned, and the colony's population grew slowly. By the early 17th century, the island and its smaller neighbors (notably Tortuga) became regular stopping points for Caribbean pirates. In 1606, the king of Spain ordered all inhabitants of Hispaniola to move close to Santo Domingo , to avoid interaction with pirates. Rather than secure the island, however, this resulted in French, English and Dutch pirates establishing bases on the now-abandoned north and west coasts of the island.
In 1665, French colonization of the island was officially recognized by King Louis XIV. The French colony was given the name Saint-Domingue. In the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick, Spain formally ceded the western third of the island to France. Saint-Domingue quickly came to overshadow the east in both wealth and population. Nicknamed the " Pearl of the Antilles," it became the richest and most prosperous colony in the West Indies and one of the wealthiest in the world, with sugar, coffee, indigo and cotton becoming important export crops. These couldn’t be achieved without black slaves, the average annual importation of slaves varying between 10,000-15,000.
To regularise slavery, in 1685 Louis XIV had enacted the “Code noir”
, which accorded certain human rights to slaves and responsibilities to the master, who was obliged to feed, clothe and provide for the general well-being of his slaves. The Code noir
also sanctioned corporal punishment, allowing masters to employ brutal methods to instill in their slaves the necessary docility, while ignoring provisions intended to regulate the administration of punishments. Thousands of slaves found freedom by fleeing into the mountains, forming communities of maroons and raiding isolated plantations.
Saint-Domingue also had the largest and wealthiest free population of color in the Caribbean. While many free people of color were former slaves, most members of this class appear not to have been free Africans, but rather people of mixed European and African ancestry, or mulattoes. Typically, they were the descendants of the enslaved women that French colonists took as mistresses; through plaçage, a type of common-law marriage planters enjoyed with their slave mistresses, many were able to inherit considerable property. As their numbers grew, they became subject to discriminatory legislation, being forbidden from taking up certain professions, marrying whites, wearing European clothing, carrying swords or firearms in public, or attending social functions where whites were present. However, these regulations did not restrict their purchase of land.Port de Paix
, the capital of Saint Domingue, is a town laying in the Northern part of the French colony, just across Tortuga. An important harbour, it was founded in 1665 by French filibusters, driven from Tortuga Island by the British occupiers. Coffee, bananas, tobacco, sugar, rice and cacao are cultivated locally on slave-intensive plantations and exported through this port to France... or smuggled elsewhere. In 1679 the town saw the first black slave revolt, and every 10-15 years since then another one.
In July 1719, the governor Charles Joubert de la Bastide, marquis de Châteaumorand, protector of pirates and smugglers, was replaced with the marquis Léon de Sorel. What could the new appointment bring to the far too shifty peace of the area?