Modern history

30

Only the Poor Speak Ill of the Slave Trade

Comment at a luncheon in Havana in the 1830s, reported in a letter of Domingo del Monte

“When we were in the barracoon, the country people said that the reason of our being stopped . . . was that the Spaniards said that the ships of war belonging to the English kept us from going to the Spaniards’ country.”

James Campbell, once a slave, afterwards a mason in Sierra Leone, to Hutt Committee, 1848

IN THE 1830s, four substantial societies of the Americas depended on black slaves: first and second those of a coffee empire, Brazil, and a sugar colony, Cuba, whose reliance on the slave trade was absolute, and where slavery itself lasted another three generations, till the late 1880s (Puerto Rico should be considered with Cuba, though its wealth was far less); third, that in the cotton republic in the South of the United States, which was scarcely involved in the transatlantic trade, though its slave population was essential to it; and finally, that in the British and French West Indies, where the slave trade had ended, in 1808 and 1831 respectively, where slavery itself would disappear, in 1838 in the British islands and in 1848 in the French, and where the old sugar eminence was now in precipitous decline.

Of these slave societies, Brazil, with her long history of reliance on slaves from Africa stretching back to the mid-sixteenth century, would take pride of place. For two years after 1831, when the slave trade had formally been abolished, few Africans were brought in, because of the earlier heavy import when planters thought that slavery would end forever. But then, in the mid-1830s, the trade recovered and was reorganized, on an illegal basis, to serve plantations of cotton, though they were stagnating; of sugar, especially in new plantations near São Paulo and Campos; and, increasingly, of coffee in Rio, Minas Gerais, São Paulo and, above all, in the valley of the river Paraíba. Coffee was the great new Brazilian product. Brought to Pará in the north as long ago as 1727, it became the dominant slave crop in the 1830s. The slave was needed—or at least used—for clearing and laying out the new plantations, weeding and cultivating the coffee plants, and then harvesting them.

Some of these coffee plantations were the result of investment by new European immigrants. They were places where slavery implied harder work than that encountered by the domestic slave in Rio, or even than in many of the old sugar plantations, where (as in the Soledada, in Minas Gerais) a captive might be asked to spend his time in an orchestra, playing the clarinet or the violin.

The transition from legal to illegal trade in slaves in Brazil was curious. A nineteenth-century Brazilian wrote that “the date for the cessation of the slave trade approached, and then the planters, and the whole population, saw that no preventive measures whatever were being taken or attempted; the slave traders, therefore, wanted to take advantage of the time still left to them and they filled up their ships again and again with immense cargoes of slaves.”1 The idea of continuing the slave trade in this semisurreptitious manner distressed a few anglophiles, including the royal family, but most of the officials of the new country, and all the merchants, recalled that Britain had been until recently the monarch of the trade, and knew that most of the British merchants who had recently established themselves in Rio sympathized with them. Indeed, there continued to be collaboration between slave dealers and British businessmen who often, even now, provided what they knew would be used as “trade goods” for the exchange of slaves in Africa. There were also in Rio de Janeiro English slave merchants who became naturalized Brazilians. Thus the terrible slave warehouses of the city had a renewed trade; and so did the cemetery in the nearby Misericórdia hospital.

In these years, most Brazilian slaves seem to have come from the now forbidden territory of Dahomey or Lagos, north of the equator, despite the presence of the British navy: three-quarters, according to the long-serving British consul in Bahia, William Pennell, because, said his colleague Robert Hesketh in Maranhão, the slaves from the north (Dahomey, Benin, Bonny) “were accustomed to hard work in their homeland.” All the same, Rio remained a good customer for slaves from Angola, especially Benguela.

The new slave trade included several interesting new procedures. There was, for example, the technique of sending two ships to Africa. One, slow and old, would carry the merchandise, and perhaps some money, which the slave dealers used to exchange for slaves. The other (and there might be two or three of them) would be fast and small, well equipped to carry the slaves, who would have been assembled beforehand in Africa, to avoid any delay between the arrival and departure, as had always prevailed in the past. Indeed, the stay in the African port might now be a matter only of hours.

Another technique was to discharge the merchandise and then prepare the return voyage with some worthless slaves paraded ostentatiously. The slave merchants hoped that the nearby British naval vessel would be drawn to that place, supposing that they would there catch the malefactor (as they saw him) red-handed. But the captain himself would return swiftly to where most of the good slaves had been assembled.

The reception of slaves in Brazil also differed in the nineteenth century from in the eighteenth. Rio remained the most important port, but Bahia declined, its place being taken by Pernambuco, Maranhão, and Pará. Ships left Rio with ostensible cargoes of tobacco or rum for the legitimate African trade, or for another Brazilian port, but they returned with illegal cargoes of blacks. These boçal slaves were then kept in camps where an attempt would be made to teach them Portuguese, so that they could be easily sold alongside already acclimatized ladinos and locally bred crioulos: but “again and again,” wrote a traveler, “I have seen troops of slaves of both sexes who could not speak a word of Portuguese . . . from twenty to a hundred individuals . . . marched inland for sale.”2

Rio de Janeiro, like Bahia, had long been both a slave-receiving and a slave-seeking port. The most prominent dealer in slaves in the 1820s in the first of these handsome harbors was Joaquim Antonio Rio Ferreira, who must have brought over 15,000 slaves across the South Atlantic between 1825 and 1830. Running him close was Joaquim Ferreira dos Santos. Others from that city who each carried over 5,000 slaves in those hectic years were Miguel Ferreira Gomes, João Alves da Silva Porto (he specialized in slaves from Mozambique), Lourenço Antonio do Rego, and Antonio José Meirelles. These men were great merchants in their own right, dealing in all kinds of goods, as well as slaves. They were not merely the representatives of Angolan merchants, as had tended to be the case in respect of slaves in the eighteenth century.

In the 1830s, when the business became formally illegal, ships no longer sailed direct into the harbors of Rio or Bahia to unload their live cargoes in the middle of the city. They made their deposits some way outside, and the slaves had often to endure a rough march—perhaps as much as fifty miles—to the markets, to prepare for which they were usually accommodated not in the old slave streets, such as the Rua do Valongo, but in new depositaries in, for example, the Rua da Quitada, the fortress of São João, or the Ponta do Cajú. Unpleasant though the Valongo had been, it was as nothing to the hardships in these new improvised quarters. Despite the introduction of vaccination against smallpox, deaths were still frequent, and the hospital of Santa Casa da Misericórdia seemsto have buried seven to eight hundred every month in the early 1830s. There was thus much to be said for the view that the illegalization of the slave trade created worse conditions than ever.

Another change was that the buyers in the coffee plantations of the nineteenth century preferred young slaves to full-grown men and women. Such statistics as survive suggest that between two-thirds and three-quarters were boys.

As in the past, many captives were sold by auction. An American traveler, Thomas Ewbank, recalled an “auction store at the corner of the [Rua dos] Ourives and [Rua do] Ouvidor,” which he found full of “cheeses, Yankee clocks, kitchen utensils, crockery-ware, old books, shoes, pickles etc.” These were sold every day, but once or twice a week slaves were sold. Once Ewbank saw eighty-nine persons for sale. He saw the black-whiskered auctioneer: “A hammer in his right hand, the forefinger of his left pointing to a plantation hand standing confused at his side, he pours out a flood of words. [The slave] had on a canvas shirt, with sleeves ending at the elbows, and trousers of the same, the legs of which he is told to roll above his knees. A bidder steps up, examines his lower limbs, then his mouth, breast and other parts. He is now told to walk toward the door and back to show his gait. As he was returning, the hammer fell. . . .”3 A similar sight was observed in the late 1820s by an English clergyman Robert Walsh: “The slaves both men and women were walked about and put into different paces, and felt exactly as I have seen butchers feel a calf. [The overseer] occasionally lashed them, and made them jump to show that their limbs were supple, and caused them to shriek and cry, that their purchasers might persuade themselves that their lungs were sound.” These auctions were legal, for no one questioned the internal trade in slaves, and officials did not as a rule interfere to demand the provenance of the person who had been put up for sale.

The illegal trade to Brazil seems to have been begun by Portugueseborn merchants, such as José Maria Lisboa, who, in the early 1830s, began to use old ships which were destroyed soon after landing the slaves. Even so, the profits of these merchants seem to have been much greater than they had been in the eighteenth century.I Lisboa bought slaves in Africa for twenty or thirty thousand reis each, and sold them in Rio for as much as ten times that. Another Portuguese to take advantage of the new opportunity was José Bernardino de Sá, who made a point of always using English goods—cotton textiles, especially—for his traffic, and who was among those who established a system of permitting payment for slaves by installments. But the slave merchant in Brazil who carried through most changes necessary in the new era was José de Cerqueira Lima. He, too, had been born in Portugal but, by 1830, was already the owner of a luxurious palace in the Corredor da Victoria, in Bahia which, before independence in 1821, had been the residence of the governor of the province.II This building had been adapted to communicate, by an underground passage, with the beach where new slaves were landed. Cerqueira was known for the variety of his business interests, as for the grandeur of his way of life. His most successful ship, the Carlota, named after his beautiful wife, made at least nine voyages to Africa in the 1820s. The fact that several of his vessels were captured by the British and taken to Sierra Leone (the Cerqueira in 1824, theIndependencia, theBahia, and even the Carlota in 1827, as well as the Golfinho in 1839) made no difference to his social standing in Bahia.

Almost as important during the illegal days in Bahia were João Cardozo dos Santos, the master and owner of the swift-sailing Henriquetta, Domingos Gomes Bello, Antonio Pedrozo de Albuquerque, and finally Joaquim Pereira Marinho (a grand seigneur who became baron, viscount, and finally count in Portugal). The latter was interested in the sale of dried meat, as well as of slaves, and was a director both of the Joazeiro Railway and of the new Bank of Bahia. He was responsible for about half the slaving journeys from Bahia between 1842 and 1851. He sent at least thirty-six voyages to Africa for slaves, and would die—prosperous, locally philanthropic, admired, and envied—only in 1884.

A more curious figure in the oligarchy of slave merchants of Bahia was Francisco López Guimarães, whose son married the sister of the poet Castro Alves, who was famous for his passionate verses against slavery; when López Guimarães died, his widow married the poet’s father. These unusual relationships interrupted neither the flow of the slave trade nor the production of verse directed against it.

In Rio, the equivalents of Cerqueira and Marinho were Manoel Pinto da Fonseca, a Portuguese merchant who was a specialist in providing slaves from Mozambique; Antonio Guimarães; Joaquim dos Santos; Joaquim and José Alves de Cruz Rios (father and son); and Francisco Godinho. Though most of these men had begun life humbly, they were, in their last years, largely because of their success in trading African slaves, able to live like kings. Pinto da Fonseca was a leading figure in society in Rio, the intimate friend of ministers and officials, especially of the chief of police in that capital.

Some of these businessmen, like Bernardino da Sá, had, as will be seen, interests in Africa in the form of factories or barracoons, where slaves in Angola or Mozambique could be held before they were shipped.

Lesser merchants, the so-called volantes, might sail themselves to Africa in small boats and bring back, say, forty slaves. The slave trade employed many thousands of people. For example, there were the owners and crews of boats who escorted the slaves ashore, the guards who took the slaves inland, and also the teachers of Portuguese whose task was to enable Africans to speak the language of the empire. Port officials, underpaid bureaucrats, small-scale judges and police chiefs, army officers and naval officers all shared in both profits and bribes, the last sometimes themselves made in the form of slaves. The secretary of the Portuguese legation in Rio was said to receive a thousand milréis each time he allowed a slave ship to leave harbor under a Portuguese flag. A certain Colonel Vasques made the fortress of São João, at the entrance of the harbor of Rio, into a slave depot from which he himself landed over 12,000 slaves in 1838 and 1839, and the commander of the adjacent fortress of Santa Cruz did the same. Officials or magistrates who refused to collaborate could go in fear of their lives, as occurred in the case of Agostinho Moreira Guerra, a judge whose criticism of the slave trade led to threats of assassination and his resignation in 1834.

Two regents of Brazil,III Nicolau Vergueiro and Pedro de Araújo Lima, later marquis of Olinda, seem to have been themselves engaged in trading slaves; the former was directly concerned through a company over which he presided and which bore his name.

For a time in the 1830s, all the same, the government seemed to condemn the trade: “The shameful and infamous traffic in blacks continues on all sides,” the Minister of Justice Feijó complained in 1832, because, he added, the authorities themselves were “interested in the crime.”4 Brazilian warships seized one or two slavers. But in the end the perceived needs of the planters, and the wealth of the merchants, succeeded in reducing such intervention to naught. Most magistrates and governors of provinces were prepared to connive at slave dealing, for they themselves were usually landowners and slave employers. Slave ships were openly insured.

Coffee was Brazil’s biggest export in the 1830s, and slaves on farms providing those beans constituted the largest division of the captive labor force in the country. The convention, as so often noticed before in respect of the sugar industry, was that this army of Africans had to be constantly replenished, as a result of deaths from disease, overwork, and excessively brutal discipline. The owners continued feckless in their attitudes to their slave property: one planter asserted that the high death rate “did not represent any loss to him for, when he bought a slave, it was with the intention of using him for a year, longer than which few could survive, but that he got enough work out of him not only to repay this initial investment, but even to show a good profit.” The shortage of slaves initiated yet one more innovation in the history of slaving: theft. In the 1820s and 1830s, the newspapers of Rio were full of stories of gangs organized for stealing slaves in the capital, men working for the benefit of planters or ranchers in the north. O Diario de Pernambuco in 1828 reported: “It is public knowledge that slave-stealing goes on in this city almost daily, and that there are men who make a business of this. Some entice and lure the blacks. . . . they meet in the streets, others take them into their homes and keep them there until they can be put aboard ship or otherwise be got out of the city; others make a deal with the first ones they meet and take them to some distant place to sell them.”5 In 1846, Father Lopes Gama, in his O Sete de Setembro, would even accuse planters from illustrious families, including the Cavalcantis and the Rego Barroes, of slave stealing.

By the late 1830s, imports of slaves into Brazil had reached “fearful and impressive” levels, according to the British minister in Rio (whose legation was virtually the abolitionist headquarters on the continent). The illegal trade was now responsible every year for landing over 45,000 slaves. The law of 1831 was a dead letter. One conservative prime minister, Bernardo Pereira de Vasconcelos, declared, before he entered office: “Let the English carry into execution this treaty which they have forced upon us by abusing their superior power; but to expect that we should co-operate with [them] . . . in these speculations, gilded with the name of humanity, is unreasonable.”6 In 1836, a report was published in Rio which sought to show that the slave trade was to the benefit of the slaves; “without slavery,” the author went on to ask, “what would become of America’s export trade?IV Who would work the mines? The fields? Carry on the coastal trade?”7

In the early days of the illegal trade, planters in Brazil had feared British threats and the commercial consequences of a serious quarrel with London. But by the late 1830s, they were more perturbed by fears of a successful black revolution, as had occurred in Haiti. They had reason to be anxious. For another serious rebellion of slaves, the “revolt of Malé,” with a strong Islamic undercurrent, broke out in 1835. It was repressed with brutality: whippings with five hundred or even more strokes were common punishments for mullahs accused merely of teaching friends to read the Koran in Arabic. Even the planter-dominated legislature of Bahia began in consequence to talk of ending the slave trade, with the corollary that the large population of free Africans of Brazil should be expelled and re-established in a new Sierra Leone or Liberia in Africa. A distinction then began to be made between those freed slaves who had come originally from Africa, and who, it was thought, might reasonably be deported; and those who had been born in Brazil, of slave parents, who might be expected to remain. Some of the former, horrified at the unjust punishments which they had seen (they were usually carried out in public), did set off on return journeys to Africa. One of these was in 1836 on the English schooner Nimrod, hired by two rich Brazilian free blacks. It returned 150 slaves to Elmina, Winneba, and Agué on the Gold Coast. What then happened to them is obscure. But it was in this atmosphere that, in the summer of 1837, Canning’s ex-interlocutor, the marquis of Barbacena, introduced a new bill on the slave trade into the Brazilian Assembly. He was unsuccessful; but he comforted himself that Wilberforce had had to wait for nearly twenty years between his first move against the trade and his triumph in 1807.

•  •  •

Cuba, alongside Brazil, was the other great consumer of slaves from Africa in the nineteenth century. In comparison, Mexico, independent after 1822, now could only afford about 3,000, concentrated in the regions of Veracruz and Acapulco. It was easy enough for the conservative criollos who ran that country after independence to prohibit the slave trade in 1824, and even to suppress the institution itself in 1829: Indian workers were available. But Cuba was different.

In the early part of the century, it seemed that the island might be known as much for its coffee as for its sugar, but that dream vanished when the two thousand or so coffee plantations in Cuba (which, for a time in the 1830s, exceeded the land under sugar cane) were ruined by hurricanes. Sugar had anyway captured the imagination of the Cuban criollos. There were nearly a thousand sugar plantations in 1827, more than twice as many as in the late eighteenth century. The average number of slaves on these was about seventy, some of them being specialized drivers or engineers.V

The biggest Cuban sugar mill, San Martin, which belonged for many years to a company in which the queen regent of Spain was a prominent shareholder, employed 800 slaves and in 1860 produced 2,670 tons of sugar a year; in comparison, the biggest Jamaican estate, in the great days of that island’s prosperity, a hundred years before, belonging to Philip Pittucks, had employed only 280 slaves and produced less than 200 tons. The difference was thus enormous.

Probably the slave population of Cuba was 200,000 in 1817, or two-fifths of Cuba’s population. Slaves were everywhere to be seen, above all as servants in the city of Havana, whose 100,000 inhabitants made it one of the great cities of the Americas, ranking in size after the City of Mexico and Lima, and before Boston and New York. There was a relatively large number of free blacks: say, 24,000, perhaps 12 percent of the total population. This was the consequence partly of a tradition of owners’ granting favorite slaves their freedom on their deathbed, and partly of a custom enabling purchase of freedom, sometimes done on the basis of payments over many years (coartación). In 1825, Humboldt commented: “In no part of the world where slavery exists is manumission so frequent as in the island of Cuba.”8, VI Mulattoes, too, were more numerous than elsewhere in the Caribbean, the women being the heroines in a thousand songs about returning Spanish entrepreneurs, the “indianos” of many novels.

Slaves in the city of Havana were often looked after well: “You see pampered slaves exceedingly well treated, and indulged over much; but the contrast between them and the slaves on the plantations is as great as can well be conceived. . . . It is the worst sort of slavery I have seen anywhere,” remarked the outspoken British consul David Turnbull in 1850.10 A businessman, Joseph Liggins, from the same country, in Cuba in 1852, said that his impression was that the slaves worked eighteen hours a day, and seven days a week during the six-month harvest. So “the annual mortality is considerable and the deficiency is, of course, supplied by the slave trade.”11 The priests made sure that the slaves were baptized at birth or capture, and absolved on their deathbed, but on no other occasion did the Church pay much attention. Despite the high-flown doubts of the Vatican on the matter, articulated every fifty years or so, in the most direct of language, no priests in Cuba seem to have admonished their flock for buying, or even selling, slaves. Indeed, the sales of slaves were sometimes announced in church for the following Sunday, “before the church doors.” The British commissioners in Havana commented in 1826: “The exhortations of the clergy upon this subject [that is, the slave trade] are, we suspect, neither zealously given nor seriously listened to.”12

Slaves were similarly to be seen in Puerto Rico, though her landowners never embarked on the grandiose exploitation of sugar and coffee which characterized Cuba. The import of slaves into that island was about 1,250 a year in the 1820s. But that trade seems to have been extinct on a regular basis by 1835,VII for economic rather than moral reasons. Still, as Lord Palmerston once pointed out, in relation to Cuba, “a feeling which arises from other circumstances is perhaps as sure a foundation on which to build upon as one that arises from moral opinion.”13

The prosperous Cuban colony offered a good example, in the first half of the nineteenth century, of an old oligarchy adapting itself to a new industry. Some of the families who controlled the production of coffee and sugar in Cuba in 1820 had been landowners for generations. Several were noblemen, many more would become so (a good and cheap way of keeping the planters loyal), and sometimes their titles were most agreeable: there was a Marqués de la Real Proclamación and a Marqués de las Delicias, as well as a Marqués del Prado Ameno. Their family connections were endless, their hospitality generous. They were adapting to new technology. In 1827, fifty out of the thousand or so sugar plantations were driven by steam engines. Steamboats carried slaves from Africa; and railways—introduced in Cuba before Spain—carried sugar to the ports.VIII

As in Brazil, the British attitude to the slave trade after 1820 was considered either absurd or Machiavellian. The British commissary judge Henry Kilbee wrote in 1825 to Canning: “It is universally believed that abolition was a measure which Great Britain, under the cloak of philanthropy, but really influenced by jealousy of the prosperity of this island, forced upon Spain by threats or other means.” There were, of course, many who still remembered the thousands of slaves brought from Africa before 1807 by firms such as Baker and Dawson of Liverpool, and sold successfully by that company’s Cuban representative, Philip Allwood. Many of the slaves so imported were still alive. Cuesta y Manzanal had also used experienced Englishmen to teach backward Spanish sailors how to carry out the trade when he and his partners first began to send ships to Africa for slaves.

In Cuba, after 1825, in the light of the unrest of slaves and the threats of rebellions by criollos against Spanish imperial authority, despotic powers had been given to the Spanish governors, the captains-general. Brazil had a parliamentary assembly, however ineffective it might seem, and a free press, however little it might feel inclined to criticize the status quo. True, Cuba sent deputies to the Cortes in Madrid, but that legislature was often bypassed, and was never strong, while the Cuban deputies were a tiny minority among many whose main attention was concentrated on pressing domestic problems. In any case, after 1838, the Cuban deputies were not seated any more.

In Cuba, the illegal slave trade began earlier than it did in Brazil, and it lasted longer. The Spanish official who managed the transition from legal to illegal trading in Cuba was the skillful and cynical treasurer, Alejandro Ramírez. He dominated captains-general and slave merchants alike. Just after his death, a new captain-general, General Francisco Dionisio Vives, arrived in Havana and confirmed all Ramirez’s innovations, in which he was afterwards helped by the new treasurer, Claudio Martínez de Pinillos. Vives, who was sixty years of age when he went to Cuba, and who had served throughout the peninsular war, could, like his predecessors, justify, to himself as to the king of Spain, his support for the slave trade by reference to the necessity of pleasing the planters at a time when there were possibilities of a liberal invasion from Venezuela inspired by Bolívar, and rumors of other plots which could have led to the independence of the island—something which every Spaniard hoped to prevent, because of the every day greater importance of Cuba in the Spanish economy.

Vives, an Anglophobe through and through, sometimes insisted to English and North American visitors that he had done what he could to prevent the continuation of the slave trade: had he not permitted, in January 1826, the circulation of a letter from the archbishop of Cuba to all parish priests that they should look on the trade as “a true crime”? But privately he had written the previous year to his minister of foreign affairs: “I conceal the existence of the slave trade and the introduction of slaves as much as is possible, given the treaty obligations, because I am completely convinced that, if there is no slave labor, the island’s wealth will disappear within a few years, for prosperous agriculture is dependent upon these laborers and, at the moment, there is no other means of obtaining them.” (No doubt he had seen, or knew of, the letter sent by the king in 1817 asking for the trade to continue, to which Governor-General Tacón referred in the 1840s.14, IX)

When the British complained that, though they had pointed out that a slave ship, the Mágico, had landed half its slaves before being captured by the British naval schooner, the Union, Vives insisted that it was not his business to prosecute the slave trade when the captives had reached land. A similar dispute occurred with respect to the Spanish schooner Minerva, in August 1826. The ship was chased into the harbor of Havana by two British cruisers. One British captain then sought unsuccessfully to search the ship. Thwarted, he placed a watch and, at night, he and his colleagues observed six boatloads of slaves being landed from the Minerva at a wharf. Vives refused to allow any case to be heard by the court of mixed commission since the events complained of had not occurred on the high seas.

As well as privately backing the slave trade, Vives encouraged gambling, neglected dealing with robbery in the streets, smiled on corruption of every kind, and even turned a blind eye to piracy (a gang of Muslim pirates were for a time active in the bay of Havana). “Si vives como Vives, vivirás,” it was said of him in Havana, “if you live as Vives lives, you will live well.” He became count of Cuba on his return to Spain in 1832: the only time that that appropriate title was granted.

Between Vives and Kilbee, the British judge in Havana, there was a permanent duel. Kilbee was energetic and ambitious, and wanted to offer rewards to informers who observed breaches of the treaty. He wished slaveholders to prove that they had obtained their slaves legally. But Spanish officials insisted that, since the trading of slaves within the island was not prohibited, the scheme was pointless and the idea of rewards impracticable. Kilbee could point out innumerable cases of the law being broken. From merely reading El Diario del Gobierno, he could see that over forty slavers set out from Havana in the eight months June 1824 to January 1825. The information was passed on to Canning in London who, in turn, informed the minister in Madrid, and asked him to tell the Foreign Ministry there that, unless they supported Britain over the slave trade, they could not expect help with their own weak position in the Caribbean in relation to the United States and France.

It is true that, in 1826, the Spanish government proclaimed that any slave who proved his own illegal importation could claim to be free. Logbooks of ships coming from Africa were also henceforth to be given to the port authorities, so that the latter could assure themselves that no slaves had been introduced. Kilbee and his staff, isolated moralists in a labyrinth of evasion, were for a time encouraged by these innovations. But the port authorities were slow, and the logs always bland, even when there was evidence that, as in the case of the brig Breves in 1827, the vessel had landed 400 slaves on the coast near Havana. Kilbee reported to London that such things were “regarded by the public as marks of the ingenuity displayed by this government in thwarting the attempt made by His Majesty’s commissioners.”15

Nor had there been anything like a permanent solution of the problem of the emancipados. In the 1830s, most of them had been allocated to individuals—perhaps 3,800 were disposed of in 1832—and were working as slaves in all but name. The government ensured that as many as possible were allocated to work on public projects, such as aqueducts, or prisons. But the continuing threat, as it seemed to be, of the arrival of new free labor from Africa disturbed the criollos’ peace of mind; the entry, for instance, of H.M.S. Speedwell, with over 600 slaves from the slaver Águila, caused much anxiety. The new treasurer, Martínez de Pinillos, begged the new British judge to send the men to Sierra Leone. But that needed an agreement between the governments of London and Madrid. In the short term the “liberated” Africans were distributed in the old way, as laborers were throughout the island.

The British came to accept that they had some responsibility for suggesting a solution to this problem. Kilbee’s idea was that these Africans should be taken to Trinidad, now part of the British West Indies, where labor was short. Spain would pay for the journey there, each shipload would have to have an equal number of men and women, and a month’s notice was to be given. These conditions were difficult for the Cubans to fulfill, for few female slaves were ever brought to the “ever faithful isle” but, all the same, and under the impact of fear caused by an epidemic of cholera, about 1,100 such captives were sent, the fruit of British intervention against five ships during the years 1833-35.

By now, even in the imperial dictatorship which Cuba had become, there were dissentient voices. José Verdaguer, a Catalan judge in Havana for nine years, shared most of the British views. Then, in 1830, a prize essay by Pedro José Morillas suggested that white labor was as effective as black. Several well-known sugar planters, such as the Aldamas and the Alfonsos, tried out the idea. There were a number of candidates: Gallegos, for example, who might be attracted by Cuba’s relatively high level of living; Canary Islanders, contracting to work for a specified number of years only; Irishmen, who would soon work on the railways; and, above all, Chinese, who had first been seen in the West Indies in Trinidad as early as 1806.

Captains-general in Havana changed, but their policies remained the same. Thus General Vives was succeeded by General Ricafort, who survived only a year before giving way to General Miguel Tacón, in 1834. Tacón, the most remarkable individual to govern Cuba in the early nineteenth century, was, as Vives had been, a veteran of the wars against Spanish American independence. In the course of many terrible marches and countermarches in the tropics, he had learned to despise the criollos in South America. He looked on them as illogical, self-centered, brutal, lazy, and narrow-minded. The death of his wife had made him misanthropic. In Spain, he had sided with the constitutional revolution of Riesgo, and he owed his appointment in Havana to the liberal statesman Martínez de la Rosa (in respect of whom the historian Raymond Carr wrote, “Liberty was no longer a furious bacchante, but a sober matron”). But in Cuba, Tacón conducted himself, as did most similar generals, autocratically and ruthlessly, interested in making money where he could, and supporting the slave trade. “Servile in Spain, tyrannical in Cuba,” was the comment of the writer whom he exiled, José Antonio Saco. Tacón was said to receive half an ounce of gold per slave safely landed and, in his four years of government, he was rumored to have gained 450,000 pesos. Tacón was bitterly anti-British, hated the United States, feared Methodists and Baptists as revolutionaries, and even despised railways as “Anglo-Saxon ironwork.”

George Villiers, the British Minister in Madrid, told the Spanish Foreign Minister that he knew “the slave trade in Cuba has never been so prevalent as since the period when the present Captain-General was appointed. . . . the persons engaged . . . appear to be acting in the full confidence not only of escaping with impunity but almost of meeting with open protection.”16

Tacón saw abolitionism in truth as the real threat to the island and thought that, in those circumstances, no concessions on political liberty could be made. His secret agent, Captain José Ruiz de Apodaca (whose hatred of Britain was due to having been captured at Trafalgar), went to Jamaica and “confirmed” that Britain was training Methodists as agents to destroy Cuba by inspiring a rebellion of slaves. Two prominent slave dealers, Joaquín Gómez and Francisco Martí y Torres, became not just Tacón’s chief advisers but his best friends. The Captain-General charged the latter with the sale of emancipados. He and his friends devised a Cuban version of Gogol’s Dead Souls: when a slave died (and 10 percent a year did so), an emancipado was often given his name and his place. The price of an emancipado in 1836 was a third the price of a slave. In these years, the governors of British islands, such as Trinidad, were crying out for the Cuban emancipados to be sent to them, but Tacón had found a better use for them. When Tacón left for home, the merchants of Havana appropriately presented him with a seven-foot black footman in token of their gratitude.

Captain-General Tacón was assisted in his support of the slave trade by a clever and charming official, the United States consul in Havana, Nicholas Trist, who had arrived in Havana in 1833, having previously been secretary to Thomas Jefferson, whose granddaughter he had married. He helped the Cuban slavers by making United States registration, and hence flags, easily available to all their ships—and by being distinctly unhelpful to Judge Kilbee of the Mixed Court at Havana. Trist owned property in Cuba. He poured out his prejudiced views to the British commissioners in an “extraordinary” memorandum, in Palmerston’s expression. His conduct was investigated by a United States minister in Madrid, Alexander Everett, and he was condemned, and later dismissed. All the same, he would be President Polk’s emissary to Mexico in 1848 and draw up the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.17

Trist must have been responsible for securing the entry of a great many slaves into Cuba. Kilbee’s successor as British judge at the mixed court of arbitration in Sierra Leone, Henry Macaulay, son of Zachary and a brother of the historian, told a House of Commons committee that, in 1838 and 1839, there were about thirteen ships which he thought “were not American . . . but [which sailed] under the American flag, and with American papers, supplied to them by American authority,” almost always in Havana. “The whole thing,” said Macaulay, “was a complete fraud. . . . In some cases the vessels that were boarded one day by the cruisers under the American flag were boarded afterwards with the Portuguese or Spanish flag hoisted, and full of slaves.”18 But sometimes, the traders were avowedly United States citizens such as James Woodley of Baltimore who collaborated with a compatriot, William Baker, a resident of Cuba, in the dispatch of slave ships such as La Cintra (with a French captain) in 1819.

Some, perhaps many, of the slaves helped into Cuba by Trist were afterwards carried to the new independent Republic of Texas, still an ideal place for disembarking slaves intended for the United States slave market in New Orleans. (North American settlers in Texas had pursued independence partly in order to reinstate slavery, abolished by Mexico in 1829.) Tolmé, the British consul in Havana, in 1837 thought that 1,500 slaves might have been secretly carried to Texas in the previous few years.

But for the masters of Cuba, the era between 1820 and 1865 renewed, as the Countess Merlin put it, “the charms of the golden age.” There were some remarkable town houses, theaters, and hotels in which balls, bullfights, and even goosefights were held.19 In October 1840, Hunt’s Merchant Magazine and Commercial Review declared that Cuba was “the richest colony in the world.” The island in the 1840s was producing two-thirds more sugar than the entire British West Indies, and twice as much as Brazil. Speculation in property was even greater than that in slaves. Immigration by adventurous merchants and gamblers was continuous from all countries, from Venezuela as well as from the United States, and above all from Spain. Nor was the life of slaves always as grim as it was on the sugar plantations. For example, Edouard Corbière, in his novel Le Négrier, published in 1832, says: “These blacks, fat and portly, lazy and jolly, whom I saw joking all day in the streets seemed much happier than our workers in Europe and than most sailors. . . .”20 A picture of the life of slaves in Havana in the late 1830s was given by “Fanny” Calderón de la Barca, who with her husband, the first Spanish minister to Mexico, stopped in Havana on their way to their designated legation. As well as recording dinners at which she was offered 350 dishes, by beautiful countesses dressed in satin, she was fascinated by the “little black boys, like juvenile apes, their arms folded, standing behind the chairs” in spacious Spanish-style town houses, on marble floors. She loved, too, the French beds with blue silk drapery, attended by slave girls, dressed in white mantillas and white satin shoes. Two black orchestras might play Mozart and Bellini alternately in the moonlightX and, in front of the ocean, the guests would drink champagne from golden cups. There might then be heard “that continuous hiss [with] which the languishing habañera calls upon her ebony attendants so that the uninitiated might imagine himself suddenly transported amidst a sea of serpents.”21

Among these charming people, and in these beautiful houses, listening perhaps to “The Last Rose of Summer” played on the harp, there would be men who had made their fortunes, not just on sugar plantations but from trading in slaves: for example, that “very civil and good-natured” giant, the count of Reunión, who had been, before his ennoblement in 1824, none other than the famous and innovatory slaver, Santiago de la Cuesta y Manzanal. Fanny Calderón was entertained lavishly by the count of Fernandina (the word for Cuba in the early sixteenth century), whose wife seemed “full of revolutionary and reformatory projects,” even if her jewels were worth $300,000, while her husband’s sugar and coffee plantation, La Angosta, was among the most successful of all. All believed that their slaves were fortunate; indeed, sometimes they must have been. For example, at a ball of the Fernandinas, the Calderóns were “amused to see numbers of negroes and negresses helping themselves plentifully to sweetmeats, uncorking and drinking fresh bottles of champagne, and devouring everything on the supper tables, without the slightest concern for the presence of either master or mistress.” The countess of Fernandina, it seemed, had just offered an old slave his freedom, and he had refused it, to become later the master of other slaves in the household.22 When the equally charming, equally epistolary Countess Merlin, another traveler but Cuban-born,XI returned home to Havana after many years in Paris in 1840, she found herself immediately surrounded by black African slaves and servants, as well as cousins: “At last there arrive the blacks and their ladies, happy, affectionate, each presenting their right to look at me. This one had brought me up, that one had played with me, a third had used to make my shoes. Each of them owed their liberty to the care they had devoted to me in my childhood.” Then came her nanny: “And then, voilà, in front of me, the good old woman, sitting on the best armchair in my room, her hands on her knees, head held high, devouring me with her eyes and replying to every question which I put to her about members of her family . . . .”23 But, of course, all these were domestics, not workers on plantations. The comments reminded us that there was as big a difference between black Cubans as there was between them and white ones.

The slave trade seemed in these days essential to this island: it was taken for granted that the way to the wealth to which all aspired was to cultivate more and more land, and that could only be done by slaves. Despite Morillas’s prize essay, European labor was considered impractical and less reliable. It was also thought in Spain that an increase in the black population would make it certain that the Cuban criollos would remain faithful to the mother country, since the planters would have to rely on Spanish armies to deter, and if necessary defeat, a slave revolt.

As in Brazil, the slave merchants dominated the economy. Also as in Brazil, men from the madre patria played a large part in this illegal stage of the commerce. Thus there was Joaquín Gómez, whom we have met before as a friend of General Tacón, a Freemason from Santander, who rejoiced in the inappropriate Masonic name of Aristides. Perhaps it was of him that the Reverend Abbot was speaking when he described the typical Havana merchant as arriving from Spain “in poverty, [they] begin with a shop six or eight feet square, live on a biscuit, and rise by patience, industry and economy to wealth and, unlike the Yankees, never fail.”24 In the mid-1820s, Gómez was not only the pioneer of illegal trading from Africa, but was also one of the first Spanish-born slave merchants to buy sugar mills (two of them, in the western province of Pinar del Río) which he would himself provide with slaves. He was later a founder-director of the first bank in Cuba, the Royal Bank of Ferdinand VII, and was the first Cuban planter to introduce iron rollers imported from England for use in his mills. Captain-General Vives asked him to organize the distribution of freed slaves in Cuba, the emancipados. Gómez’s palace, at the corner of the Calle Obispo and the Calle Cuba, was the site of legendary receptions. In the 1830s, he became the special confidant of Tacón, with whom he would be seen daily walking, deep in conversation about the iniquities of the United States and the hypocrisy of the British. Gómez’s slave vessels were still setting off for Africa in the 1840s. Late in his life, he was blinded by a deranged doctor from Catalonia, a certain Verdaguer, who threw vitriol in his face when he was leaving church: the vengeance of God for his slaving activities, it was said. All the same, when he died in 1860, and despite his Masonic ties, Gómez left money to the Church for its distribution to the poor, including enough for the purchase of a new organ for the cathedral. His nephew and heir, Rafael de Toca Gómez, became first count of San Ignacio, was a founder of the Banco Español (when the son of that nobleman died in 1881, he left a great fortune of 183 million reales).

Associated with Gómez was a Gaditano, Pedro Blanco, whose activities in Africa will be discussed later,XII and whose nephews, Fernando and Julio, would carry on their own substantial slave trafficking, in Havana, sometimes carrying slaves to New Orleans, and becoming specialists in the swift interchange of flags which was such a necessary part of the commerce in mid-century. Then, in the 1850s, they turned themselves into respectable London general merchants, with interests in both Liverpool docks and Manchester textiles.

Another formidable slaver in Cuba of the early nineteenth century was the Catalan Francisco Martí y Torres. He had fought for a time in the peninsular war alongside the guerrillero Marqués de Romana, but reached Havana as early as 1810, where he embarked on a career as a pirate in the agitated Caribbean. A Cuban Vautrin, he eventually found employment as a naval lawyer concerned to punish smuggling, a sinecure in which he placed himself at the orders of Joaquín Gómez, using his position to make a fortune from receiving bribes from the slave traders whom he was theoretically intended to control. He soon began to send slave ships himself to Africa and, like Gómez, helped to manage the sale of emancipados on behalf of Tacón. Later, he organized the dispatch (as well as the kidnapping) of innumerable Yucatec Mayas to work in Cuba, including children, in conditions tantamount to slavery; at the same time, he received honors for capturing pirates, he became a philanthropist and, on behalf of Tacón, he built a theater, whose grandeur rivaled all others in the Americas at the time.25

Though Martí died a multimillionaire, his fortune was surpassed by that of Juan Manuel de Manzanedo, a native of Santoña, in northern Spain, who emigrated to Cuba in 1823. By 1845, he had already amassed vast wealth, partly in providing sugar equipment to mills, partly by making loans, partly by selling sugar in Spain and England, and partly in financing slaving expeditions. He was a member of all the important institutions of Cuba, such as the Tribunal de Comercio and the Junta de Fomento (Development Commission). He returned to Spain, bought property in Madrid near the Puerta del Sol, acted as Cuba’s representative in that capital, and became a deputy, a marquis, and then a duke (of Santoña). His services to the restored Bourbon monarchy after 1876 did not prevent him from acquiring a collection of 138 pictures, among them two Velázquezes, two Goyas, and a Leonardo, all to be seen on the walls of his palace in the Calle Principe. Manzanedo died worth about 180 million reales, most of which sum was then invested in Spain.26

Julián Zulueta, a Basque from the tiny village of Barambio in Alava, Spain, was an even more powerful merchant. At the end of the 1820s, Zulueta came to Cuba to work for an uncle, Tiburcio de Zulueta, who owned coffee farms. Julián Zulueta became his heir and seems to have dropped the particule. He married Francisca, niece of his partner, the slaver Salvador Samá y Martí, who had become marquis of Marianao. In the 1830s, Zulueta also became interested in slaves, partly because of his wife’s family, but more because of the interest of another uncle, Pedro Juan Zulueta de Ceballos, a successful London merchant, for whom he, Julián, had acted as the Cuban agent. Later, he became the slaver-planter par excellence of Cuba, ensuring, like Gómez, that slaves for whose journey he himself had arranged would be delivered direct from Africa to one of his properties, such as his large sugar plantation, the Alava, the name of the Basque province whence he came. Zulueta was the originator of the scheme to make up for the shortage of labor in Cuba with Chinese, from Macao, and he also financed the Caibarién Railway. He had too an office for the purchase and sale of slaves in New Orleans. He both lent money and made sugar on a large scale. He probably brought into Cuba most of the 100,000 or so slaves imported in the years 1858 to 1862.

At that time, Zulueta was the chief shareholder in a company, the “Expedición por Africa,” which owned about twenty ships. One of these was the Lady Suffolk, which disembarked 1,200 slaves in the Bay of Pigs in May 1853.XIII Zulueta received them in person, though he sold some of them to his coplanter and fellow slaver, José Baró, marquis of Santa Rita, owner of the Luisa and Rita mills, respectively the seventh- and ninth-best mills of Cuba, who controlled the manufacture and supply of the molds used in Cuban sugar manufacture.

The British consul denounced the affair of the Lady Suffolk, and the then mildly humanitarian captain-general, General Cañedo, ordered the arrest of Zulueta. That great merchant was in consequence detained for two months in the most disagreeable fortress of La Cabaña, and only released on the appeal of his doctor. Despite this, honors fell to Zulueta in later life, since he led the Spanish interests on the island during the civil war which began in Cuba in the late 1860s. Zulueta became a senator for life in Madrid, and a marquis. When he died, he was worth 200 million reales, a fortune which made him the richest man in both Spain and the Spanish empire, unless the landed wealth of the old aristocratic families of Andalusia is reckoned. The correspondent of the Times (of London), a repentant revolutionary, A. N. Gallenga, sometime secretary to the Italian revolutionary Manzini, described Zulueta as “a king of men . . . almost the father of the gods and of men . . . another Cosimo de’ Medici.”27 There continues to be a street named after Zulueta in Havana: his Alava sugar mill also survives; but he himself seems quite forgotten.

Other slave merchants in Cuba included Pedro Martínez, who moved into the shipment of sugar in the 1840s but retained slaving interests until the late 1850s. (In Africa, he had agencies at both Lagos and on the Brass River.) He was said then to be the owner of “thirty ships engaged in the traffic.”28

Only a little less powerful and almost as rich were two merchants originally from Bordeaux, Pierre Forcade and Antonio Font, of Forcade y Font (Cádiz), of whom the first owned the sugar mill Porvenir, near the town of Colón, and the latter Caridad, near Cienfuegos, a city founded by the recent captain-general of that name, on the south coast of the island. Forcade had owned the slave ship L’Orthézienne, which had been among the first to leave France for Africa after the Napoleonic Wars, before he moved to Havana where, according to the protagonist in Pío Baroja’s brilliant novel, Los Pilotos de Altura, he lived grandly with two houses and two families “one with a Spaniard to whom he was married, the other with a very pretty Cuban.”

The roll of merchants in Cuba who financed slave voyages is thus long. It should include Antonio Parejo, who came from the mother country about 1840 with a “very immense capital,” apparently the portfolio of María Cristina, the queen mother of Spain, on whose behalf Parejo invested in the large San Martin plantation. Nor should we forget Manuel Pastor, founder of the Banco Pastor.

Occasionally in the 1840s, a change in prices for slaves in Brazil in comparison with those in Cuba would cause the slave traders of the two lands to collaborate. Thus Forcade in Cuba made common cause with Manoel Pinto da Fonseca in Rio de Janeiro. Francisco Rubirosa, a well-known dealer in slaves in Havana in 1840, moved to Rio in the late 1840s, became known as Rubeiroza,XIV and then returned to Havana in the 1850s.

Many leading merchants in Havana, including slave merchants, had close connections with London firms, several of which, as in Brazil, saw no reason why they should not supply goods for the slave trade, even if they seem to have hesitated before concerning themselves very directly. One or two enterprises, such as Thomas Brooks, which established their agents in Havana in the 1840s, to their profit included slave merchants in the ample credits which they extended. Samuel Dickley of London lent 12 million reales to Francisco Martí, the Catalan merchant, in 1834, enabling that pirate of finance to buy a new oceangoing vessel, which he surely used for the slave trade; and the same firm provided 10.6 million reales for Salvador Samá, Zulueta’s father-in-law. Dickley’s biggest loan in Cuba, for sixteen million reales, was to Rafael Torices who, though an experienced slave merchant, was, at that time, interested in the traffic in Chinese from Macao. Then Hudson Beattie of London lent to both Manuel Pastor and to Tomás Terry, a substantial merchant of Venezuelan origin, “the Cuban Croesus,” established in Cienfuegos. Both concerned themselves with slaves at different periods of their long and prosperous lives. Lizardi of Liverpool included Julián Zulueta among their creditors, and so did the firms of Simeon Himely and Aubert Powell. Other London firms, such as Barings, Kleinwort and Cohen, and Frederick Huth (the London banker, incidentally, of the Madrid land speculator, the marquis of Salamanca, as well as of the queen mother) were chiefly interested in sugar from Cuba, especially after 1846, when the tariff against foreign-produced sugar was abolished by Sir Robert Peel. Kleinwort had a special relation with the Cuban family of English origin, the Drakes; while Barings were close to the Aldamas, who sought, in 1840, to use nonslave labor on their plantations, without much success.29

Some of these London firms, however, had a Spanish or a Cuban origin: for example, Murrieta, great wine producers which began as a business exporting wine from Cádiz to London; the Ayalas from Santander, who were sugar planters in Cuba, sugar importers in England, champagne makers in France, and stockbrokers in Madrid; and, perhaps above all, the firm of Pedro Juan de Zulueta, already mentioned in connection with Julián, which did for a time concern itself in slaves in Havana; this became evident at the trial of the founder’s son and heir, Pedro José, for slave trading, partly in collaboration with his cousin Julián in Havana. (He was fortunate to be acquitted.XV)

These London connections make it understandable that over half of the Cuban capital invested abroad in the mid-nineteenth century was placed in England. This included some fortunes of slave traders, such as that of the brothers-in-law Gabriel Lombillo and José Antonio Suárez Argudín, who began to invest in textiles in Manchester and coal mines in Wales after 1830 (the year when the first of these two onetime slave merchants was poisoned by the second, a crime of which he appears to have escaped the consequences, spending only a most modest spell in prison). In Spain, the investments of these Cuban entrepreneurs were so substantial that the banking system of the country was really their creation. There was no bad conscience about the investment of such slave-based fortunes in Spanish concerns, any more than there had been in England and the United States a half-century before.30 The British minister in Madrid in 1836, George Villiers—subsequently, as Lord Clarendon, foreign secretary under Gladstone—wrote in that year to his brother: “All those Spaniards who are not absolutely indifferent to the abolition of the slave trade are positively averse to it. We think that an appeal to humanity must be conclusive. The word is not understood. . . . Cuba is the pride and hope and joy of Spain . . . the place where revenue comes, and whither every bankrupt Spaniard goes in order to rob ad libitum.”31

•  •  •

In 1835, John Eaton, the United States minister to Madrid (previously a controversial secretary of war under Andrew Jackson), told the Spanish foreign minister, the liberal count of Ofalia (Narciso de Heredia), that the United States had no need to worry about British abolitionist activities, since slaves in North America were well taken care of, the proof being that they multiplied as fast as whites.

Slaves were certainly traded within the United States. Firms such as Franklin and Armfield made money by buying slaves in Virginia and dispatching them by sea, just as in the old transatlantic slave trade, to New Orleans, for possible subsequent shipment to Natchez or other places up the Mississippi. The same firm sent hundreds of slaves a year overland to the South. It was once suggested that the profit obtained by selling slaves gave the capital for westward movement. That cannot be true since slave movements from Eastern to Western states were on too small a scale for that to have been the case. All the same, some slaveowners in the American South, especially in the border states and in states along the Atlantic coast, did breed slaves “systematically,” and for sale, thus encouraging polygamy and promiscuity, the progeny being usually sold to the Southwestern states.

It was in the international trade, though, above all the trade to Cuba and Brazil, in which United States sea captains were still chiefly engaged during the first half of the nineteenth century, rather than in a clandestine traffic to the United States. Probably most United States administrations desired to stop this commerce, but slaving interests remained strong in Congress, and no government in Washington could accept that a British ship could capture a United States ship and condemn the master to death for slaving.XVI

Britain in the 1830s carried through a complete emancipation of slaves in her empire, as had most states of the United States and of the new independent South American nations. This occurred partly as a result of renewed agitation by the antislavery movement headed in Parliament by Thomas Fowell Buxton; partly because of the destructive Jamaican slave revolt of December 1831; and partly because the Whig government was ready, after the Parliamentary Reform Bill of 1832, to turn its attention to something new. Between 1830 and 1832, the antislavery movement held thousands of meetings. Even so, the Whigs were only willing to act when certain of Tory support; which in turn was forthcoming only when the leaders of that party knew that the planters of the West Indies (who still included many members of Parliament such as the elder Sir Robert Peel and Gladstone’s father) were satisfied with the terms.XVII

The ambiguities and the consequences of this famous measure have been amply discussed. Suffice it to say that the immediate consequence was to cause disillusion among the adult slaves: if they were to be free, why did they have to wait five years? The long-term effect was to cause the decline of British West Indian sugar: the number of sugar plantations in Jamaica, for example, fell from 670 in 1834 to 330 in 1854; and there was no compensating improvement in production, as would occur in similar circumstances in Cuba. Indeed, the amount of land devoted to sugar fell in those twenty years by nearly 170,000 acres on that island.

Though the end of slavery in the British dominions had an effect on international opinion, it did not inspire the final abolition of the international traffic, which Wilberforce and his friends had begun to attack a generation before. The abolitionists—with antislave societies in every big British town, distributing 35,000 items of propaganda every year, collecting innumerable sums of up to £50 each, organizing petitions—did not have precise figures any more than a historian does. But it seems that, even in the 1820s, slaves shipped from Africa to the New World totaled about sixty to seventy thousand a year, or well over half a million in the ten years: close to the late-eighteenth-century peak. Gross profits per slave delivered were in these days above the levels of the eighteenth century: perhaps between three and five times higher than the past. Prices went down in Africa, and the interference—as it seemed to be—of the British raised prices in the Americas.


I See page 725.

II This palace is now the Secretariat of Education and Public Health in Bahia.

III Dom Pedro, emperor after 1831, was a minor till 1842.

IV Citizens of the United States may wish to remind themselves that the people of Brazil and the Spanish empire, too, all regarded themselves as living in “America.”

V The tobacco plantations of the west of the island, which produced Cuba’s famous cigars, were usually worked by free black labor.

VI Slaves could buy their freedom by the system of coartación: they had to make an initial payment to their master, and then buy freedom by installments, recovering a percentage of the original payment at each step. For that reason, said the Spanish abolitionist of the 1860s, Rafael Labra, “the position of the free Negro is much better than elsewhere, even among those nations which have for ages flattered themselves as being the most advanced in civilization.”9

VII The last slave ship to arrive in Puerto Rico was apparently in 1843.

VIII A priest in the excellent novel of the 1880s Cecilia Valdés asked why there were so many more slave rebellions on steam-powered sugar mills. The answer is that such modern institutions were more inhumane.

IX See page 602.

X One had to be careful what was performed: to play “Suoni la tromba,” from Bellini’s Puritanic risked condemnation, because rousing words about freedom accompanied it.

XI She was daughter of that count of Jaruco who had been the first to put a steam engine on his sugar plantation, and a descendant of that cubanized Richard O’Farrill who, after the Treaty of Utrecht, had been the South Sea Company’s factor on the island.

XII See page 687.

XIII Presumably the ship was named after the mistress of King George II of England.

XIV See page 701.

XV See Appendix 2.

XVI When a United States brig bound for Cuba was brought into Boston Harbor in 1841 by a British naval vessel, the outcry was such that the owners might have been heroes, not criminals.

XVII The act of 1833 provided for the emancipation of 750,000 slaves. Children under six were to be free from August 1, 1834; while adults and older children were to be apprentices for six years and then be free, though all would be legally free from August 1, 1838. The promise of £20 million in compensation gained the support of the planters.

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