Title Page
 Table of Contents
 List of Tables
 The Atlantic slave trade
 The Cuban slave trade 1817-183...
 The Cuban slave trade 1835-186...
 The problem of how many
 Cuban censuses
 The demographic tale
 Theory and practice
 A suggested reason for the differential...
 Biographical sketch

Group Title: Cuban slave trade, 1820-1862
Title: Cuban slave trade, 1820-1862 : the demographic implications for comparative studies
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00091564/00001
 Material Information
Title: Cuban slave trade, 1820-1862 : the demographic implications for comparative studies
Series Title: Cuban slave trade, 1820-1862
Physical Description: Book
Creator: Kiple, Kenneth F.
Publication Date: 1970
Subject: Caribbean   ( lcsh )
University of Florida.   ( lcsh )
Spatial Coverage: Caribbean
North America -- United States of America -- Florida
Cuba -- Caribbean
General Note: Disserations presented to the Graduate Council of the University of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00091564
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000561454
oclc - 13534080


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Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
    Table of Contents
        Page vii
    List of Tables
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page x
        Page xi
    The Atlantic slave trade
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
    The Cuban slave trade 1817-1835
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
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        Page 37
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        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
    The Cuban slave trade 1835-1865
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
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        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
    The problem of how many
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
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        Page 139
        Page 140
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 145
        Page 146
    Cuban censuses
        Page 147
        Page 148
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
        Page 152
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    The demographic tale
        Page 167
        Page 168
        Page 169
        Page 170
        Page 171
        Page 172
        Page 173
        Page 174
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        Page 193
        Page 194
        Page 195
        Page 196
        Page 197
        Page 198
        Page 199
    Theory and practice
        Page 200
        Page 201
        Page 202
        Page 203
        Page 204
        Page 205
        Page 206
        Page 207
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        Page 222
        Page 223
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        Page 225
        Page 226
        Page 227
        Page 228
    A suggested reason for the differential mortality rates and some final comments on comparative studies
        Page 229
        Page 230
        Page 231
        Page 232
        Page 233
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        Page 274
        Page 275
        Page 276
    Biographical sketch
        Page 277
        Page 278
Full Text

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TITLE: The Cuban slave trade 1820-1862 : (record number: 561454)

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Along with the greatly accelerated quest for Negro

equality in the United States following the Second World

War, there has occurred a search by social scientists for

the reasons why the achievement of this equality has been

so long delayed.

Frank Tannenbaum's interpretive examination of

Slave and Citizen: The Negro in the Americas (New York:

Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1946), made the uncomfortable obser-

vation that among the former slave holding areas of the

New World, only North America was experiencing serious

racial problems in the mid-20th century. This while the

societies of Cuba and Brazil, for example, had long since

made great strides toward the elimination of racial preju-


It was true, asserts Tannenbaum, that both the

British and Latin Americas shared the common experience

of slavery. Yet their respective slave institutions which

developed differed widely, and contained in this difference

were the seeds of racial harmony for the Latin American

countries and racial discontent for North America.

The difference, the argument continues, was largely

one of attitude, which is easily perceptible in the

respective legal codes of the two slave societies. The

Latin American societies recognized the Negro slave as a

human being and accorded him a mass of legal safeguards,

while the North Americans regarded the slave as mere

chattel, and,as such, he had few, if any, rights. Obvi-

ously, then, the Latin American slave was "better off"

than his North American counterpart.

More recently, this thesis has been elaborated

and expanded upon by other historians with the result that

there is an identifiable "school" of historians which

contends that the Latin American slave experienced a much

greater degree of well-being than the slave in the United

States. Yet the dangers of interpreting the past in terms

of the present are well known to historians, and criticism

has been leveled at this school for the methodology employed,

as well as the criteria used to compare the two slave


Perhaps a major difficulty with the recent comparative

studies of slavery in the Americas is that they have con-

spicuously ignored or refused to give attention to the

demographic experience of the slaves in their respective

societies. A major difficulty because the most basic

indicators of a society's well-being are the levels of

natality and mortality it experiences.


Moreover, although these studies have dealt at

length with 19th century slavery in the southern United

States, they have largely ignored 19th century Latin

American slavery. Yet the creation of huge slave popu-

lations.in the United States, Cuba, and Brazil was strictly

a 19th century phenomenon, occasioned by agricultural

revolutions in each of these countries.

Viewed in this light, it should seem significant

that to obtain the desired growth of their slave populations,

both Cuba and Brazil were forced to rely on a continuing

Atlantic slave trade, while the slave population of the

United States was increased by natural means.

For this reason, one cannot escape the suspicion

that Cuba's 19th century slaves, for example, were scarcely

so well off as Herbert S. Klein suggests in his examination

of Slavery in the Americas; A Comparative Study of Virginia

and Cuba (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967),

when the Island was forced to have recourse to a slave

trade during a period of more than forty years after Spain,

the mother country, had declared it illegal.

This work, then, intends to pursue this suspicion.

It will do so first by examining the nature of the 19th

century slave traffic to the Island, with the hope of

determining the number of Africans imported. With this

number determined and thus accounted for, there will next

be an attempt made to ascertain levels of natality and

mortality among the Island's slave population. Following

this, the demographic experience of Cuba's slave population

will be compared with that of the United States in an

effort to shed a bit more light on this matter of relative

slave well-being.

Then, the subject of recent comparative studies

will again be taken up, and some attention will be given

to gaps between institutional theory and actual practice

regarding the protection afforded enslaved Africans in

Cuba. Finally, the matter of bias contained in these studies

when interpreting the 19th century United States slave sys-

tem will be considered in making some final comments on

slavery within these two distinct societies.

The completion of this study has, of course, left

me deeply indebted to several people. Without the initial

encouragement of Dr. David Bushnell, and the many insights

provided by Dr. T. Lynn Smith, it might never have been

attempted. Without the guidance and inspiration offered

by Dr. Lyle N. McAlister, who supervised this dissertation,

it might not have been completed. Special thanks, too,

must go to Dr. Neill Macaulay for his patience in permitting

me to "talk out" many of the problems encountered in this

study and for the suggestions he has offered. I should

also like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude

to Dr. John Mahon and Dr. George Winius for all of their

enormous efforts over the years in guiding my graduate


A word of thanks should also go to the personnel

of the British Museum, the Archivo General de las Indias,

and particularly to the staff of the Archivo Hist6rico

Nacional in Madrid for the many kindnesses shown me and

all the assistance provided.

.I am, of course, extremely grateful to the Fulbright-

Hays Fellowship Program, which provided the funds for a

year's research in the libraries and archives of Great

Britain and Spain, and,in this connection, I must single

out for special thanks, Miss Mary Lou Nelson, Program

Officer, whose efforts in my behalf can never be repaid.

To Robert Rose I owe a special debt for his

assistance on quantitative matters, and to my wife, Ruth

Ann, who accompanied me on my research and aided in every

phase of its preparation, I dedicate this work.


PREFACE ..........................................

LIST OF TABLES ...................................

ABSTRACT .........................................














THE CUBAN SLAVE TRADE 1817-1835 ..........

THE CUBAN SLAVE TRADE 1835-1865 ..........

THE PROBLEM OF HOW MANY ..................

CUBAN CENSUSES ........................

THE DEMOGRAPHIC TALE .....................

THEORY AND PRACTICE ......................

ON COMPARATIVE STUDIES .................

APPENDIXES .......................................

BIBLIOGRAPHY ......................................

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ..............................














Table Page

1. Estimates of the Number of Slaves
Imported to Cuba by Year-1810-1861 ....... 132

2. A Projected Estimation Showing the
Effects of Natality, Mortality,
and Migration on Cuba's Slave
Population by Year, 1810-1861 ............. 156

.3. Loss by Age Group of the United States
Slave Population Between the Years
1820 and 1830 ............................. 187

4. Loss by Age Group of the United States
Slave Population Between the Years
1850 and 1860 ............................. 188

5. A Projected Estimation Showing the Effects
of Natality, Mortality, Emancipation,
and Manumission on Cuba's Free Colored
Population by Year, 1825-1861 ............. 219


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council in
Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of
Doctor of Philosophy



Kenneth Franklin Kiple

June, 1970

Chairman: Dr. Lyle N. McAlister
Major Department: History

During the first half of the 19th century, the

slave populations of both Cuba and the southern United

States increased roughly four times in response to the

agricultural revolutions that these slave societies were

undergoing. Yet only Cuba relied on the slave trade to

provide the bulk of this increase, while the slave popu-

lation of the United States grew by natural means.

This suggests a fundamental demographic difference

between the two slave societies not considered by recent

comparative studies which have asserted that the Cuban.slave

was much "better off" than his North American brother.

Cuba's 19th century slave trade has served to

obscure the fact that there existed on the Island two

distinct types of slavery-sugar and non-sugar. After a

careful examination of the nature of the Cuban 19th century

slave trade, and an analysis of the British estimates of

slave importations to the Island in conjunction with the

amount of capital equipment available to transport slaves

from Africa and with the Cuban census data, a calculation

has been made of the number of slaves imported by the Island

during the 19th century. This, in turn, makes it possible,

by factoring out importations, to determine the levels of

mortality that prevailed within the two distinct slave

systems. One discovers that, largely because of the excessive

mortality experienced by the sugar slaves, the Cuban slave

population as a whole experienced a level of mortality nearly

three times greater than that of the slave population of the

United States.

With this in mind, it becomes important to re-examine

the "slave better off in Cuba" thesis. The argument is based,

of course, on the contention that superior Spanish laws

protected the slave, while the church was continually con-

cerned with his welfare and served to mitigate his plight,

and that both the legal and religious institutions encouraged


Spanish archival materials indicate plainly that

this was not, in fact, the case. As the Island's slave

population increased in size, the laws became harsher and

more repressive and failed almost completely to protect the

sugar slave from the increasing pressures of capitalistic

agriculture. The church, for its part, remained indifferent

to the plight of the sugar slave, even after it became

obvious that the Island's slaves were committing suicide at

an alarming rate. Finally, large scale manumissions occurred

only after 1850, and even then were more often than not the

result of economic expediency, rather than humanity.

No doubt slavery in Cuba prior to the 19th century

was much more humane, and, of course, it is from this period

that most of those who have viewed Cuban slavery in this

light have drawn their examples and evidence. Yet the

Island, as late as the last quarter of the 18th century,

possessed fewer than fifty thousand slaves and was doing

little in the way of large scale plantation agriculture.

For this reason, the studies of comparative slavery which

consider Cuba are extremely misleading.

On the other hand, scholars in the United States

have been so preoccupied of late in painting slavery in the

South in dismal colors that they have failed to note its

comparative brightness. In terms of mortality levels, at

least, 19th century Cuban slavery was three times worse.



An extensive traffic in African slaves by Western

Europeans began in the middle of the 15th century, during

the Portuguese exploration of the African Coast under

Prince Henry.' Portuguese traders, often of unsavory back-

ground, began to settle along the upper Guinea Coast and

became intermediaries in slave transactions between the

Africans and Europeans.2 By 1461 the slave trade was

firmly established in Portuguese hands, and Spain promptly

became Portugal's best customer.

In 1501 Governor Ovando received permission from

the Spanish Crown to transport Christianized slaves, who

were peninsular born, to the Indies, and in 1518 Charles

granted the first license to carry slaves directly from

Africa to the New World.4 The Atlantic slave trade, "one

of the greatest intercontinental migrations of world

history," had begun and was not to cease until slavery

itself was abolished in the Americas some two and one-half

centuries later.5

Thus the African, who in his native land had

developed a familiarity with an agricultural way of life,

became an effective, if reluctant, means of colonizing

- 1 -

- 2-

much of the vastness of the Americas.6 Additionally, he

became a valuable cargo in the famous triangular trade

system which provided three profits-the first on the sale

of consumer goods to the slavers themselves who traded

these goods in Africa for slaves, the second on the sale

of slaves to eager buyers in the Americas and the third

on the sale of American raw materials in Europe.

This flourishing seaborne commerce, in turn,

provided employment at countless tasks. It required

"thousands of ships' carpenters, joiners, ironmongors,

painters, sailmakers, braziers, boatbuilders, coopers,

riggers, plumbers, glaziers, gunsmiths, breadmakers,

carters, and laborers and used a good deal of copper for

ships' bottoms."8

To share in this trade became the desire of almost

every seafaring European country. To prevent them from

sharing was the desire of Portugal and Spain who by virtue

of various papal donations and the Treaty of Tordesillas

in 1494 claimed exclusiveness in both Africa and the

Americas.' This made conflict inevitable, for in an age

where the seafaring powers of the Atlantic subscribed to

mercantilistic traditions, "trade wars were regarded as a

legitimate and necessary function of the state."10

Despite early English incursions in the Caribbean,

it was the Dutch who led the assault during the 17th

- 3 -

century on the Portuguese and Spanish position. In 1621

the West India Company was chartered, with its offensive

role against the American empires of Iberia receiving the

utmost emphasis. Part of the offensive called for seizing

control of the slave trade.11

During the years 1637-1642, the Dutch company

captured almost every important African slave trading post

of the Portuguese, while at the same time thoughtfully

seizing the island of Curagao as an entrepot for slave

trading in the Caribbean.12 By the middle of the century,

the Dutch had established themselves as the leading supplier

of slaves to both Spanish and Portuguese America and to

the English and French plantations then being established

in the West Indies and on the North American mainland.13

Yet Holland, despite this success, was not destined

to retain its privileged position. England, following the

Dutch pattern, also seized a Caribbean island, and Jamaica,

along with Barbados, would serve the same function for them

as Curacao did for the Netherlands.14 A Dutch company had

taken the African Coast from the Portuguese; in 1672 the

English Royal African Company was formed to snatch the

African Coast from the Dutch. By the end of the century,

this had been largely accomplished, and the English became

the world's leading slave traders, a position they were

- 4 -

not to relinquish until the beginning of the 19th century.15

The slave trade, in turn, became the nucleus of the rapidly

expanding British trade, a trade which was steadily providing

the capital for the infrastructure upon which the Industrial

Revolution of England would rest.16

In the Caribbean and North America the English were

quickly becoming the greatest employers of slave labor, in

addition to being the greatest slave traders. The last half

of the 17th century marked the complete emergence of the

plantation as a basic unit of capitalistic agriculture and

the beginning of the "sugar revolution." It was, in fact,

a revolution because sugar was a "rich man's crop" requiring

great amounts of initial capital and vast amounts of land

and labor.17 Entire societies were transformed as the small

farmer was forced out and his lands converted to great

plantations. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of African slaves

were imported.18

Barbados, which had only 5,860 slaves in 1645,

increased this number to 82,032 by 1667, and Jamaica, with

a population of 45,000 slaves in 1658, boasted of 205,000

in 1778.19 Between 1680 and 1786, slave importations into

the British West Indian colonies have been estimated at

something over two million.20

Truly, the slave trade and slavery were profitable

for Great Britain in a mercantilistic era, yet by the last

5 -

decades of the 18th century the English economy had changed

substantially from that of the late 17th century. New

industries had come into being which were concerned with

foreign markets for their finished goods and the importation

of raw materials at the cheapest possible price. The new

industrialists were impatient with the restrictiveness of

the old navigation laws and eager to have done with them.

Free trade, not mercantilistic restrictions, was viewed as

the avenue to even greater wealth.21 Yet doing away with

the navigation laws meant stripping away the time-honored

protection enjoyed by the West Indian planters, and the

latter were not without considerable power, if a direct

assault was mounted against them.

An indirect attack, however, was a different matter.

Abolitionism, for example, was becoming fashionable among

a large segment of the English public, and abolitionism

represented an attack on the great pillar that supported

the West Indian planter class-the slave trade. Without

the slave trade the institution of slavery would soon

wither and die, and without slavery the British West Indian

planter could not survive. This support of the aboli-

tionists given by the industrial class has been referred

to as "lucrative humanity."22

The West Indian planters were in trouble and, in

fact, had been since the conclusion of the Seven Years War

- 6 -

when the French, having lost Louisiana and Canada, began

to direct more energy to their own West Indian colonies.

Because the soil of the French islands was less exhausted,

they were soon producing more sugar and molasses than the

British and selling it at a much lower price.23 Distillers

and refiners of sugar, as well as grocers in England, needed

cheap sugar and cared less whether it was British or not.

Their voices were added to the rising clamor.24

Then the American Revolution saw heavy fighting in

the Caribbean and a commercial garrote applied to the

British West Indian Islands by the French and Spanish

fleets. The islands emerged from the war severely damaged

economically, with their monopoly in North America gone


The final blow, however, came during the Napoleonic

Wars. While neutral sugar producers found a ready market

in Europe, British West Indian sugar surpluses rose rapidly

in England. Between 1799 and 1807, thirty-two Jamaican

plantations were sold for debts, while another sixty-five

were abandoned, and by the latter date there were suits

pending against one hundred and fifteen others.26

As their fortunes declined, paradoxically, many of

the planters found themselves in agreement with the move

to end the slave trade. Their best hope, as they saw it,

lay in the contraction of the world's sugar production

- 7

which would only come about if the new sugar producing areas

were deprived of slave labor. Temporarily, at least, the

British planters had enough slaves. The French sugar colony

of St. Domingue had dissolved in the revolution of 1791,

so only Cuba represented an immediate Caribbean threat to

the British planters.27 And Cuba had relatively few slaves.28

With this hope in mind, many of the planters also joined

in the abolitionist movement, and the British government,

urged on by the West Indies, began a campaign to force all

countries to abandon the slave trade, knowing full well that

abolition would ruin Cuba."

In this manner, the nation which had been the

world's greatest slave trader for over a century, the

nation that in 1713 had forced the slave asiento from Spain

as the price of peace, now became a crusading zealot de-

termined that all nations give up the slave trade."s

First, England abolished its own slave trade, while

Wellington's army, in an effort to aid Spain's war for

independence, was engaged on the Iberian Peninsula.

If the British government expected Spain to dis-

play its gratitude by abolishing the slave trade, they

were to be disappointed. In the first Treaty of Paris

(May 30, 1814), France was persuaded to enter the lists

against the slave trade, and the two powers jointly

brought pressure on Spain to do likewise.31 Nonetheless,

- 8 -

Spain, in the Treaty of Madrid (July 5, 1814), promised

to do little more than think about it.32

Madrid's reluctance to end the Spanish slave trade

is hardly surprising, for during the period when Britain's

West Indian colonies were creating great wealth for their

mother country, Spain's colonies-Puerto Rico and Cuba-had

remained relative economic backwaters.33 As late as 1774

the Cuban census revealed a slave population of only

44,333 i4 The Island's staple crops-tobacco and coffee-

required relatively few slaves as they were grown for the

most part in a family farming system. The plantation

system had not yet taken root in Cuba.35

Its coming was, nonetheless, anticipated in the

royal cedula of February 28, 1789, which opened Cuba to

a free slave trade. The cedula was, in large part, the

result of effective lobbying by Francisco Arango y Parreno,

who acted as the agent for the ayuntamiento of Havana.36

Two years later, Cuba's moment arrived. The French

sugar colony of St. Domingue, largest sugar producing

island in the West Indies, dissolved in revolt. Arango,

perhaps more than any other man, grasped the true signifi-

cance of that slave rebellion.37 Acting largely on his

advice, but not without some trepidation, Madrid in 1791

renewed the open trade in slaves.38 Next, the duty on

- 9 -

imported slaves was discontinued, and to further encourage

the slave trade, Spain announced that it would permit

traders of any nationality, who imported Africans to Cuba,

to export rum and other trade commodities free of duty.

Finally, provisions from North America might be imported

to feed slaves, and import duties on all tools and equip-

ment used in sugar production were removed.39 Clearly,

if opportunity was knocking, Spain wanted Cuba to open

the door.

England, on the other hand, was determined to

keep it closed. British naval power during the Napoleonic

Wars had been largely successful in cutting off Cuba from

Africa, thus curtailing the Island's attempts at massive

slave importations.40 Then, at the Congress of Vienna,

the English attempted to force immediate abolition of the

slave trade by all countries, pointing out that both they

and the United States had abolished their traffic in 1808.

Due largely to Spanish and Portuguese opposition, however,

Britain was able to secure only a condemnation of the

traffic in slaves. The individual countries would abolish

it if and when they chose.41

After this rebuff, Great Britain switched tactics.

Its policy became one of negotiating separate anti-slave

trade treaties with individual nations. Almost immediately

the pressure on Spain resumed.

- 10 -

Ferdinand and his ministers held out for a time.

But finally, tempted by British promises to mediate between

Spain and her rebellious mainland colonies if Madrid would

give up the slave trade, and terrified by British threats

to recognize the independence of the colonies if Madrid

did not cooperate, Ferdinand surrendered.'2 Spain agreed

to abolish the slave trade immediately from points on the

African Coast north of the equator and three years hence,

on May 20, 1820, to prohibit the trade south of the

equator as well.3

In return, Great Britain was to pay to Spain

400,000 as compensation for any loss of legitimate trade

resulting from the treaty. Theoretically, the navies of

both nations would insure compliance, and two mixed com-

mission courts, to be created in Sierra Leone and in

Havana, would try offenders.4

It is doubtful that the Spanish officials had any

long range intention of complying with the treaty.45 Cuba

had already demonstrated that the groundwork laid in the

late 18th century could pay handsome dividends. In 1803

the Island's sugar production was double that of 1788.

By 1815 production hit 42,000 tons annually, about half

that of Jamaica's annual production, and by 1860 the

Island would be producing an amazing 500,000 tons per


- 11 -

Cuba, then, was committed to a system of agriculture

which demanded a constant supply of labor, and for the

first time in the Island's long history, it had an oppor-

tunity to become prosperous. The planters of Cuba were in

no mood to worry about legalities in satisfying this labor

demand, particularly not when it seemed patently obvious

that Britain's missionary zeal to end the African trade

was motivated largely be a desire to deny Cuba the labor

which would insure her successful supplantation of Jamaica

as the world's leading sugar producer.47

The Cuban planters were acutely aware, for example,

that their British West Indian counterparts had been put

on notice some twenty years prior to 1808 that the British

slave trade would eventually be ended.48 That they had

ample time to "stock up" on Africans is evidenced by the

growth of Jamaica's slave population from approximately

200,000 in 1787 to some 350,000 in 1807.49

Yet selfish and hypocritical as British motives

may have been, Spain was in no position to be openly

defiant. Its history throughout the 19th century was one

of continual tragedy and disaster. In 1807 Napoleon's

armies entered the country, and the following year saw

the beginning of a long and bloody war on the part of

the Spanish to regain their independence.50 While this

- 12 -

war was in progress, most of Spain's New World empire

dissolved in revolution.

Then in 1823, following the liberal revolt of

1820, 100,000 Sons of San Luis stormed into Spain to

restore absolute power to Ferdinand VII. Ten years later

the first Carlist War began, to decide the question of

the Spanish succession. In 1840 the Regent Maria Cristina

was exiled, beginning twenty stormy and unsettled years

which saw Isabel II attain her majority in 1844, only to

discover that the ultimate power of the state lay in the

hands of its generals. The prestige of the monarchy hit

a new low in 1868 when Isabel was exiled, and,in this

year, due in part to a crisis of power in the mother

country, the first Cuban war for independence began.

Obviously, then, throughout this chaotic period,

any consistent policy on the part of Spain toward Britain,

the slave trade question and Cuba was impossible. The

only consistent objective on the part of the rapidly

changing Spanish governments was to keep Spain's "ever

faithful isle" faithful.

There were two threats to this faithfulness as

Madrid saw it, and Spain alternately worried about one or

the other. On the one hand, a slave rebellion was feared

like the one which had ruined Haiti, and, for this reason,

a desire was often manifested to curtail the slave trade.

- 13 -

On the other hand, Madrid feared a revolt on the part of

those classes on the Island which had a pronounced interest

in a continued slave trade. Madrid saw the slave trade,

then, as a question of being "damned if it did and damned

if it didn't."

Largely because of Madrid's vacillation and there-

fore an inability to arrive at any consistent policy, the

slave trade continued to bring large quantities of Negroes

to Cuba until the end of the American Civil War. Britain,

despite all its exertions, was unable to put a stop to the

Cuban trade and was painfully reminded of the dubious

value of treaties made when the other party was under


This, however, was in the future. Because the

Treaty of 1817 was not to become fully effective until

1820, the Cuban planters had, in effect, a three year

grace period. They took advantage of it, importing

67,059 slaves during this period, according to the custom

house returns."2

But these new slaves were a meager addition. In

1817 the Cuban slave population stood at 199,145. This

compared unfavorably with Britain's West Indian slave

population of 756,074 in the same year, despite the fact

that the latter had been without fresh imports from

Africa since 1808.53

14 -

And so, in 1820, with the Cubans defiant, Madrid

reluctant, and Great Britain optimistic, the Treaty of

1817 went into effect. It remains next to examine the

slave trade itself.


1. Basil Davidson, The African Slave Trade, Precolonial
History, 1450-1850. Originally published as Black
Mother (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown and Company,
1961), pp. 35-36. According to Davidson, the first
twelve Africans to be enslaved and taken back to
Portugal were captured by the Gongalvez expedition in
1441, in what is now the Spanish colony of Rio de Oro.
Two of these Negroes subsequently ransomed themselves
by giving the Portuguese ten more blacks.

2. Charles R. Boxer, Race Relations in the Portuguese
Colonial Empire, 1415-1825 (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1963), pp. 8-9.

3. Antonio Dominguez Ortiz, "La esclavitud en Castilla
durante la edad moderna" Estudios de Historia Social
de EsanRa, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones
Cientificas (Madrid: Instituto Balmes de Sociologia,
1949), Tomo II, pp. 369-428, 372-373; Sir Arthur Helps,
The Conquerors of the New World and Their Slavery in
the West Indies and America (2 vols.; London: William
Pickering, 1848-1852), I, 29-79.

4. C. H. Haring, The Spanish Empire in America (New York:
Harbinger Books, 1963), pp. 203-204.

5. Philip D. Curtin (ed.), Africa Remembered: Narratives
by East Africans from the Era of the Slave Trade
(Madison, Milwaukee, and London: University of
Wisconsin Press, 1967), Intro., p. 3.

6. Melville J. Herskovits, The Myth of the Negro Past
(Boston: Beacon Press, 1958), pp. 57-59. It is
important to note, however, that the large scale
employment of Negro slave labor in the Caribbean re-
sulted only after the indigenous Indian populations
were first enslaved and succumbed to excessive labor,
poor diet, white man's diseases, and the restrictive
environment of slavery. Even then, in the case of the
British, it was not the Negro but members of their own
destitute and criminal class which were next enslaved
through the device of the indenture system. Mercantile
theory of the era urged the compulsory labor of the

- 15 -

- 16 -

poor, both for purposes of colonization and to relieve
the poor rates at home. Thus the ultimate use of Negro
slaves in the Caribbean was an economic rather than a
racial phenomenon. See Jose Antonio Saco, Historia de
la esclavitud de los Indios en el Nuevo Mundo seguida
de la historic de los repartimientos y encomiendas (La
Habana: Cultural, s.a., 1932), pp. 1-10, 58-98; James
B. Butler, "British Convicts Shipped to American
Colonies," American Historical Review, hereafter cited
as AHR, I (October, 1896), 17-29; Eric Williams, Capi-
talism and Slavery (Chapel Hill: Duke University Press,
1943), pp. 7-19.

7. The triangular trade system was "pioneered" in a sense
by Sir John Hawkins who in his four voyages to the West
Indies during the 1560's demonstrated that slave trading
in the Indies could be highly profitable, but risky so
long as the Caribbean remained a "Spanish lake." See
Spanish Documents Concerning English Voyages to the
Caribbean, 1527-1568, Hakluyt Society, Series II, Vol.
LXII (London: -Cambridge University Press, 1929), Intro.,
28 and Deposition of Robert Barrett, Jalapa, Oct. 8,
1568, Doc. 11, 153-160.

8. Tannenbaum, p. 19.

9. John H. Parry, The Spanish Seaborne Empire (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1966), pp. 239-240. Although initial
difficulty arose because Spain had no legal means of
trading on the Guinea Coast and Portugal could not
legally enter the Indies, the union of the crowns in
1580 pointed to a solution. The first of a lengthy
number of slave asientos was given to a Portuguese
contractor in 1595.

10. Walter Lewis Dorn, Competition for Empire, 1740-1763
(New York and London: Harper and Brothers, 1940),
p. 8.

11. Charles R. Boxer, The Dutch SeaborneEmpire, 1600-1800
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965), p. 25; Irene A.
Wright, "The Dutch and Cuba," The Hispanic American
Historical Review, hereafter cited as HAHR, IV, No. 4
(November, 1921), 604-605; David William Davis, A
Primer of Dutch Seventeenth Century Overseas Trade
(The Hague, Netherlands: M. Nijhoff, 1961), p. 117.

12. Davis, p. 117.

- 17 -

13. Ibid., pp. 117-118; Arthur P. Newton, The European
Nations in the West Indies, 1493-1688 (London: A.
and C. Black, Ltd., 1933), pp. 166-167.

14. John H. Parry, The Establishment of the European
Hegemony, 1415-1715: Trade and Exploration in the
Age of the Renaissance (New York: Harper, 1961),
pp. 174-175.

15. Newton, pp. 208-209; Daniel P. Mannix, Black Cargoes:
A History of the Atlantic Slave Trade (New York:
Viking Press, 1965), p. 29. For a history of the
Royal African Company see K. G. Davies, The Royal
African Company (London, New York and Toronto, 1957).

16. This is essentially one of Eric Williams' arguments
in his work on Capitalism and Slavery.

17. John H. Parry and P. M. Sherlock, A Short History of
the West Indies (2d ed.; London: Macmillan and Co.,
Ltd., 1963), pp. 63-80.

18. Ibid. See also Williams, pp. 23-28.

19. Williams, p. 23; Frank Wesley Pitman, The Development
of the British West Indies, 1760-1763 (New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1917), p. 631; George W.
Roberts, The Population of Jamaica (Cambridge: The
University Press, 1957), p. 36.

20. Pitman (pp. 69-70) says simply, "over two million."
Bryan Edwards put the figure at 2,130,000 Negroes
for the period in his study of The History, Civil and
Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies
(5 vols.; London: G and W. B. Whittaker, 1818-1819),
II, 64-65.

21. Williams, pp. 135-153.

22. Ibid., p. 135.

23. Pitman, pp. 70-71; Parry and Sherlock, pp. 128-130.
By 1767, for example, the French islands were ex-
porting 77,000 tons of sugar, to the British 92,000.

24. Parry and Sherlock, pp. 128-130.

25. Davidson, p. 74.

- 18 -

26. Williams, p. 149.

27. Ibid., pp. 149-150.

28. See Table 2, p. 156 below for Cuban census data.

29. Williams, p. 169.

30. Historical opinion regarding Britain's motives for
ending the trade has, as one might expect, shown con-
siderable diversity. For the role of the "awakened"
middle and lower classes see Frank J. Klingberg, The
Anti-Slavery Movement in England: A Study in English
Humanitarianism (Hamden, Conn.: Anchor Books, 1968).
For the part played by a group of determined abolition-
ists see Earl L. Griggs, Thomas Clarkson: The Friend
of Slaves (London: George,Allen and Unwin, Ltd., 1936).
For a brilliant relation of the economic forces at work
to bring about abolition of the slave trade see Eric
Williams, op. cit. For a view of the abolition struggle
from the mother country see Thomas Clarkson, History of
the Rise, Progress and Accomplishment of the Abolition
of the African Slave Trade by the British Parliament
(London: John W. Parker, 1839). For a view from the
West Indies see William Law Mathieson, British Slavery
and Its Abolition, 1823-1838 (London: Longmans, Green
& Co., Ltd., 1926). Finally, for a "great humanitarian
enterprise" undertaken personally by Lord Palmerston
see Herbert C. F. Bell, Lord Palmerston (2 vols.;
London: Longmans, Green & Co., Ltd., 1936).

31. See Arthur F. Corwin, Spain and the Abolition of Slavery
in Cuba, 1817-1886 (Austin and London: University of
Texas Press, 1967), pp. 17-34; and Hubert H. S. Aimes,
A History of Slavery in Cuba, 1511-1868 (1st ed.; New
York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1907), pp. 54-84, for the
series of events leading to the first Anglo-Spanish
Treaty of 1817. As this diplomatic event has been
treated so ably by so many, this work will outline
only its most important details.

32. Corwin, pp. 24-25.

33. Aimes, pp. 18-19.

34. Jacobo de la Pezuela y Lobo, Diccionario geografico,
estadistico historico, de la isla de Cuba (4 vols.;
Madrid: Impr. del Estab. de Mellado, 1863-1866), IV,

- 19 -

35. In 1778 there were over 10,000 tobacco planters in
Cuba, each with a small property which he worked with
the help of his family (Parry and Sherlock, pp. 222-
223). See also Fernando Ortiz Fernandez, Cuban
Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar, trans. Harriet de
Onis (New York: A. Knopf, 1947), for a discussion of
the family farming system in "pre-sugar" Cuba.

36. William W. Pierson, "Francisco Arango y Parreno," HAHR,
XVI, No. 4 (November, 1936), 456-457; Duvon C. Corbitt,
"Immigration in Cuba," HAHR, XXII, No. 2 (May, 1942),

37. Corbitt, 282.

38. Ibid. Corbitt notes that the Haitian revolution almost
frightened Madrid into giving up the slave trade en-
tirely. Arango soothed fears of Cuba becoming another
Haiti by noting that "instead of a sprinkling of whites
in a sea of blacks as in Saint Domingue, Cuba had
nearly as many whites as Negroes."

39. James F. King, "Evolution of the Free Trade Principle
in Spanish Colonial Administration," HAHR, XXII, No. 1
(February, 1942), 51-55.

40. Ibid., pp. 55-56.

41. Jose Antonio Saco, Historia de Za esclavitud de la
raza africana en el Nuevo Mundo y en especial en los
paises Americo-Hispanos (4 vols.; Habana: Cultural
s.a., 1938-1940), III, 121-125.

42. Ibid. Pezuela, II, 283-287. The text of the treaty
is given on pages 286-287.

43. Real c6dula de Su Majestad y seiores del consejo, por
la cual se manda guardar cumplir el tratado que va
inserto, concluido entire S. M. y el rey del reino
unido de la Gran Bretana e Irlanda para la abolici6n
del trafico de negros. Aio de 1818. Madrid en la
Imprenta Real. Archivo Hist6rico Nacional (hereafter
cited as A.H.N.), Ultramar, Leg. 2547, L. 2, No. 26.
The treaty was signed on September 23, 1817. The
royal cedula of December 19, 1817, threatened the
masters of slaving vessels who violated the treaty
with ten years imprisonment. All confiscated slave
cargoes were to be freed.

- 20 -

44. Ibid.

45. Pezuela, for example, notes that immediately after the
royal cedula of December 19 was promulgated the Spanish
negotiating minister for the Treaty of 1817, Jose
Pizarro, sent the following secret instructions to
Cuba: "In order to avoid violence by the English,
and to provide for the further increase of the Negro
race, you will take particular care that those who
fit out expeditions to Africa, and the ships that
are used be Spanish, and that at least half of the
cargo be females, to the end that, by propagating
the species the abolition of the trade may be less
noticeable in the future." Jacobo de la Pezuela,
Historia de la isla de Cuba, IV, 49-50, cited in
Corbitt, p. 289.

4-- Pezuela, Diccionario, I, 61; Parry and Sherlock, p. 223.

47. Nor were the Cubans the only ones to give voice to this
suspicion. Abel P. Upshur, the United States Secretary
of State, in a letter to the United States Minister to
Great Britain observed, as late as 1843, that, "It is
impossible to believe . that England is activated
in this matter [of suppressing the Cuban slave trade]
by a mere feeling of philanthropy. England has a
strong motive to destroy the competition of slave
labor in that Island . she is not free from the
suspicions of having already attempted it." Abel P.
Upshur, Secretary of State of the United States to
Edward Everett, United States Minister to Great
Britain (Washington, September 28, 1843), in William
R. Manning (ed.), Diplomatic Correspondence of the
United States: Inter-American Affairs, 1831-1860
(12 vols.; Washington: Carnegie Endowment for Inter-
national Peace, 1936-1939), VII, Great Britain, 17.

48. Eric Williams (ed.), The British West Indies at
Westminster; Extracts from the Debates in Parliament,
1789-1823 (Trinidad, B.W.I.: Government Printing
Office, 1954), pp. 14-35.

49. Roberts, p. 39.

50. The brief discussion below of Spain's history during
the 19th century is based on Antonio Ramos Oliveira,
Historia de Espana (3 vols.; Compania General de
Ediciones, s.a., Mexico, 1952), II, 169-270; and
Raymond Carr, Spain: 1808-1939 (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1966).-

- 21 -

51. "Painfully" at least in an economic sense. In 1850
the British government was informed by a Select Com-
mittee of the House of Lords that the payments and
liabilities incurred by Great Britain "on account of
Portugal and Spain [to put an end to the slave trade]
amounting to 3,958,145 bear only a small proportion
to the expense which Great Britain incurred in the
endeavor to suppress the African slave trade."
"Report of the Select Committee appointed to Inquire
into the Treaties and Engagements between Great
Britain, Spain, and Portugal respecting the Slave
Trade," August 12, 1853. British Museum, Peet Papers,
238. The total effort may have cost close to
15,000,000 (Mannix, p. 214).

52. Alexander von Humboldt, The Island of Cuba. Trans.
from the Spanish with notes and a preliminary essay
by J. S. Thrasher (New York: Derby and Jackson,
1856), pp. 218-219. Between the years 1790-1820
some 225,574 slaves had been imported. Yet in 1817
the slave population, according to the official
census was only 199,145. One might conclude, then,
as Humboldt (p. 199), that the seemingly great amount
of slave mortality would make a continuing demand for
an African slave trade inevitable.

53. Great Britain, Parliament, House of Commons, Sessional
Papers, Accounts and Papers (London: His Majesty's
Stationery Office, 1824), XXIV, 80-81. (Hereafter
cited as Accounts and Papers and understood to be
from the House of Commons unless otherwise specified.)



The ink was scarcely dry on the Treaty of 1817

when the Madrid government passed a measure hardly calculated

to contribute to an early demise of the slave trade. In

a royal c6dula of October 21 of that year, special land

privileges were granted to settlers, which represented a

determined effort on the part of Spain to increase the

Island's population. Obviously this served to increase

the already considerable number of whites flocking to

the Island.1 Many of them were fleeing from the chaos in

Spain's collapsing New World empire. Others were trickling

in from East and West Florida and Louisiana.2

As they became settled, they required slaves,

both for new estates and for domestic service in the

cities. Demand for slaves, then, was increasing even as

time was running out for the legal slave trade.

Nor did the Spanish Crown seem to display an over-

abundance of abolitionist zeal in matters more directly

related to the slave trade. In 1818, for example, the

Island was given permission to introduce gunpowder from

foreign sources in order to fit out expeditions to Africa.

Moreover, Spain viewed with approval Puerto Rico's efforts

- 22 -

- 23

to lay in a surplus of slaves for later re-exportation to

Cuba.3 Whether by design or not, the groundwork was being

laid for a contraband slave trade, and those who would

become its participants drew encouragement from Madrid's

complacent disposition.

Some violations of the treaty were, of course,

anticipated, and provisions had been made for the establish-

ment of a mixed commission or admiralty court to try offenders.

It was decided to locate these courts in Sierra Leone and

Havana, respectively.

The treaty was to become fully effective in 1820,

yet the convocation of the Havana court was delayed when

Madrid became concerned that England's 400,000 would not

be sufficient compensation for disturbances to Spanish

shipping. For this reason, it was not until August, 1821,

that Spain's commissioners at Havana were ordered to proceed

against violators.4 These were the Intendent of the Island,

Alejandro Ramirez, and Francisco Arango. J. T. Kilbee and

R. F. Jameson were their British counterparts, appointed

by the Foreign Office.5

It soon became evident that a substantial clan-

destine trade in Africans to Cuba existed. In 1822 the

British commissioners reported to London that "certain

suspicious vessels" were entering Havana Harbor and that

there was "reason to believe that many Negroes have been

- 24 -

lately introduced into several uninhabited parts of the

coast" as well.6 Their next words were prophetic-"Indeed,

considering the extent of the coast and the almost organized

systems of smuggling of every description carried on in this

Island it [the slave tradeJ will be very difficult to

prevent. "7

Madrid was not unaware that the treaty was being

constantly violated. In May of 1822 the Council of State

noted that "it should have been easy to see that we were

going to have this kind of trouble. Slave trading is a

lucrative business. Now our seamen find themselves

excluded . not only that but visited and detained for

carrying them [slaves]."8 The Council gloomily complained

that it had experienced "nothing but trouble" since the

Treaty of 1817 was signed, but admitted that it could see

no remedy. On the one hand, the Island lacked labor for

agriculture and industry and would continue to do so for

many years to come. But on the other, it was obvious that

Britain was "influenced by something other than philosophy

and philantropy," and Spain could not expect a nation which

"tolerates the Berbers taking Christian captives to

permit the slightest treaty infraction."9

In this, the Council was correct. Britain was not

going to permit any infractions. At least not any that

could be prevented. Hoping to set a good example, Britain

S25 -

informed Madrid of the rigor with which she was proceeding

against her own citizens or any person residing in British

territory who was employed aboard a slaving vessel as a

captain or supercargo.10 These persons were now to be

subject to capital punishment, with penalties for the

employees and crew somewhat less severe.11

Britain's suggestion that Spain take similar

action against her own subjects caused the council to

remark indignantly that England be told that soTe "proportion

ought to exist between crime and punishment" and that "the

punishments prescribed in the Treaty were about as far as

Spain cared to go."12

By July of 1822 it was obvious that the Spanish

officials in Cuba were not even making a pretense of

honoring the treaty. Indeed, freshly imported slaves were

being held in, and sold, from barracoons on the edge of

Havana in the same places as they were during the legal

slave trade.13

-If the sale of bozales on the Island was blatant,

their introduction to the Island was not. (The Spanish

term bozal means a Negro slave proceeding from Africa

and/or a newly imported slave.) Slaving captains were

careful to sufficiently conceal their operations, thus

making it easy for the.authorities to ignore them. The

"modus operandi" varied.

- 26 -

One method was to put into Havana under a foreign

flag asking to make repairs and then, after permission was

granted, to hustle their human cargo ashore, usually at

night.14 Another was to sail into Havana empty after having

landed Negroes clandestinely on an isolated stretch of coast

and then excuse their arrival from Africa in ballast by

announcing that they had been robbed by pirates.15 Still

another was to not only avoid giving places on the African

Coast as ports of destination or origination, but also to

make certain that the port which the slaving captain was

ostensibly clearing out for or coming from "could hot be

easily verified however well-known it was that a ship had

come from the coast of Africa."16

Complaints by the British commissioners to Captain

General Kindelan elicited (1) an admission that Negroes

were being landed in Cuba illegally and (2) a plea of

helplessness, saying that he had neither the manpower nor

the vessels necessary to patrol the coasts and furthermore,

that his "jurisdiction as civil chief did not extend over

the island, but was confined to the province of the


An incident in late November of 1824 served to

underscore the inability of the Captain General to put

down the contraband traffic, had it seriously occurred to

him to do so. The Spanish brig "Romano" was reported off

- 27 -

the coast of Cuba about to land a cargo of 350 bozales.

This was obviously a flagrant breech of the treaty, yet

the Spanish sloop of war "Bellona," although nearby,

preferred not to investigate, for it mounted only ten

guns and was manned by an "incomplete crew," while the

"Romano" mounted "fourteen guns" and had a "crew upwards

of 150 men."118

It was not until December of 1824 that the first

slave ship was taken by the British and condemned at

Havana. A delighted Commissioner Kilbee reported to his

government that "the emancipation of the slaves brought

in the Spanish schooner 'Relampago' has excited considerable

sensation among the inhabitants of this place; and I

understand that several representations have been addressed

to the government, pointing out the injurious consequences

which, it is supposed, are likely to result from this


An interval of a few days found Kilbee somewhat

more subdued. When making his annual report on the state

of the slave trade to Cuba, he listed "no less than 44

vessels having sailed for the Coast of Africa [during

the preceding year] and 17 having arrived from thence."

The latter were "all announced as being in ballast and

as coming from the Coast of Africa itself, from St. Thomas'

[sic] or some other West Indian Island and frequently of

late from Sisal."20

- 28 -

Furthermore, these vessels represented only the

trade to Havana, or about half the total clandestine

traffic to the Island. Placing the average cargo at 250

slaves, the Commissioner glumly concluded that the year

1824 had seen the Island illegally import at least 8,500


The worth of the capital equipment employed in

this effort was calculated at two and one-half million

dollars.22 Much of it "undertaken by a number of individuals

who take shares of one thousand dollars each; which shares

are again not infrequently subdivided."23 A great many

persons of the Island, then, were actively conspiring

to break the law, for they regarded the trade not as

criminal but as patriotic and "merely thwarting the selfish

views of Great Britain."24

In fact, obstructing England's efforts to enforce

the treaty had become something of a national pastime.

Typical was the example of the Spanish brig "Magico"

chased into the port of Cabafas the following month by

His Majesty's brig "Carnation."25 The captain of the

latter, suspecting that the "Magico" carried slaves,

asked the Spanish authorities to investigate. Instead

they stalled, while the "Magico" unloaded her cargo of

slaves in full view of the fuming Englishmen.26 Finally

- 29 -

a message arrived from the Spanish naval commander in

the area assuring the British captain that he had inspected

the "Mggico" and that there were no Negroes aboard.27

A bitter protest to the Captain General brought

only silence, and it was an outraged Kilbee who complained

to his superiors that "a vessel notoriously and undeniably

lands a cargo of Negroes near a King's fort and close to

a King's vessel and in an out port where she had no right

to enter" and was "asserted by a Spanish naval officer to

have been actually examined and that she is a merchantman

in ballast from Sisal."28

Insult was added to injury when nearly two months

later the Captain General, finally answering the Commissioner's

complaint, asserted that "the vessel had not landed Negroes

in the Port of Cabanas, where she entered merely for the

purpose of escaping from what she conceived to be insurgent


Kilbee had scarcely recovered from this affront when

the vessel "Relampago" returned to the scene. It will be

remembered that this was the first vessel condemned by the

Havana mixed commission, causing the earnest British

Commissioner a brief moment of optimism. However, after

condemnation the "Relampago" had been sold, by devious

methods, to the same owner as before. Then in March of

1825 the ship, undaunted, reappeared after having been

- 30 -

to Africa and actually sailed into Havana Harbor with a

cargo of slaves. Her captain sent ashore a ship's boat

with the mate aboard "and after receiving instructions,

proceeded to a small port [near] Mariel where it landed

503 slaves, after which she returned and entered [Havana]

Harbor," triumphantly claiming to have just arrived from

Africa in ballast.30

Soon after this, however, disaster struck in the

form of the British navy. The schooner "Relampago" was

again captured and condemned, the brig "Maria de la

Gloria" was seized, the "Feliciana" was lost off the Isle

of Pines, the Spanish brig "Isabel" was captured off Cuba,

and the brig "Victoria" was driven ashore on the Yucatan

coast by H.M.S. "Valorous."3' Then during January of

1826, the "Orestes" ran aground on Grass Cut Keys in the

Bahama Islands with 284 Negroes aboard, to be discovered

high and dry by the British. In the same month, the

notorious "MIgico" was wrecked on the Cuban coast,

attempting to escape a British cruiser.32 Soon after this,

the schooner "Fingal" was captured and condemned, and the

"Iris," surprised in the act of landing Negroes on the

Cuban coast, was deliberately burned by her crew.

To make matters worse, for the slaves, it seemed

as if Spain was again capitulating to English pressure.

- 31 -

British complaints about the magnitude of the slave trade

had extracted from Madrid a royal order of January 2, which

commanded that the captain of a vessel arriving in Cuba

surrender his log book to the naval commandant of Havana

who was to inspect it for evidence of the vessel's in-

volvement in the slave trade. The same order also pro-

claimed that any person, including a slave, could "turn

in" the owner of illegal Negroes and gain his freedom.

A purchaser of illegally imported slaves was subject to

a fine of $200 for each slave acquired in this fashion

and would be compelled to surrender them to the authori-


Stunned by their losses and apprehensive of Madrid's

intentions, many slaving captains adopted a "wait and see"

policy regarding the effects of the royal order. Others

continued to sail, but far less openly, and the British

commissioners were no longer able to discover the size of

a cargo landed, or the place where this was accomplished,

there being "somewhat more mystery observed with regard to

these transactions than formerly."34

There was still another reason for hesitation on

the part of the slavers. This was the arrival on the

Island of the new captain general, Francisco Dionisio

Vives, who might, it was feared, have special instructions

- 32 -

from Madrid regarding the slave trade and orders to

proceed against its participants in a more vigorous fashion

than his predecessor.

That he did not, became obvious in late summer

when the Spanish schooner "Minerva," in what was essenti-

ally a replay of the "Magico's" earlier performance, was

chased into Havana Harbor by a British cruiser. Wiser

this time, the British established a formal "watch" and

that night observed Negroes being disembarked. The com-

missioners then made a report to Vives setting forth the

circumstances of the case and suggesting the vessel's

arrest, only to be severely.rebuked for "exceeding the

bounds" of their official duties by pointing out where

his (the Captain General) duty lay.35

Encouraged, the slavers began to sail for Africa

again. They were still smarting from their losses of the

previous year, however, and consequently devised a new and

almost foolproof method of avoiding Great Britain's cruisers

while slipping slaves into Cuba by concealing them in the

Island's domestic slave trade. The intercoastal transpor-

tation of slaves, of course, was legal, so vessels employed

in this traffic were not liable to British seizure as long

as they remained in Cuban waters. Therefore, local ships,

particularly the new intercoastal steam vessels, would

- 33 -

rendezvous with slaving ships arriving from Africa, take

aboard their illicit human cargo and distribute them to

their new owners with no one running a risk of capture.36

Hardly encouraged by these developments, the com-

missioners in their annual report stated that "the dimi-

nution of the traffic . is to be attributed entirely

to the ill success of the Adventurers and to other temporary

causes," but "by no means to the more effective execution

of the Spanish laws."37

Certainly the "log book rule" was a farce, for

although "the authorities under whom the investigations

took place could entertain no reasonable doubt that the

vessels had been engaged in the slave trade," they were,

nonetheless, "satisfied with perusing the log books with-

out making any other attempt to elicit the truth."38

Actually, the rule gave the captains general an "out," for

they had only to follow a simple procedure. Upon receiving

a complaint from the commissioners that an illegal cargo

had been landed by this or that vessel, the captain general

would ask the commandant of the navy for a report. This

report was always long in forthcoming and almost always

read the same, i.e., "I have examined the log book of

and find no evidence that the vessel has been to

the African Coast." This "information" was then passed

- 34 -

on to the British commissioner, and a copy of the proceedings,

together with a stilted formal report, was forwarded to


Official tolerance for the trade meant, of course,

that contrabnad slave cargoes continued to be slipped into

the Island with relative ease. However, the going was much

rougher at sea. Paradoxically, this was largely due to the

success enjoyed by many of those nations bordering on the

Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, in putting an end to piracy.

The corsairs and pirates finding their old profession too

risky turned to the slave trade "and for thirty years . .

made it the most extraordinary tale of sea adventures of

modern times.""0

Suddenly the slaving captains were keeping just as

wary an eye out for each other as they were for the British

cruisers. Vessels such as the many-gunned and well-manned

Spanish brig "Guerrero" were clearing Havana for Africa "to

plunder the cargoes of weaker vessels on the coast, . .

a practice rapidly becoming general among the Spanish ves-

sels fitted out at this port [Havana]."41

At first, a vessel determined on piracy would carry

a cargo for barter on the African Coast in case no oppor-

tunity for larceny presented itself. But by the summer of

1828 many were discontinuing this practice and setting out

with piracy as their only method of acquiring slaves. The

- 35 -

Portuguese vessels carrying slaves from Africa to Brazil

were the chief victims of these depredations, largely be-

cause of the "superior character of the Spanish vessels."'2

Yet the Spanish vessels occasionally fell upon each

other. Consider, for example, the ill luck of Francisco

Romero, captain of the Spanish slaver "Maria." In December

of 1827 Romero cleared Havana for the coast of Africa ar-

riving at the Calabar River where he bartered for a cargo

of slaves.3 Before he could take them aboard, however,

he was spied by vessels of the British African Squadron,

who set up a close watch on the "Maria." As the weeks

passed, the captain became desperate. Although he had

already paid over his trading goods, he could not take

his slaves on board without being immediately arrested by

the British. Finally, by paying fifty slaves, he engaged

a French vessel, at the time not subject to seizure by the

British, to take the slaves away from the African Coast

for him and meet him at sea. Yet Romero had scarcely re-

claimed his slaves when the "Maria" was set upon by a

Spanish "vessel of superior force" and plundered of her

entire cargo.

At this point, Romero, faced with the prospect of

losing both "the principal and interest of his expedition,"

headed south to do some pirating himself. He successfully

relieved a Brazilian slaver of her "Congo slaves," and

- 36 -

one year after leaving Cuba, again arrived off its coast.

Yet ill luck continued to harry Romero, and he was surprised

in the act of disembarking his slaves by a British cruiser

which suddenly materialized out of the night to challenge

him. At this point, apparently Captain Romero's mind

snapped, and in a paroxysm of rage and frustration he set

fire to the "Maria" "with the horrible intention of destroying

the captors, together with such Negroes as [he] had not had

time to land."45

Mounting pressure on the slave traders by the

British navy brought a more war-like character to the

conflict between them. Increasingly, the slavers were

tempted to "shoot it out," rather than submit tamely to

capture.4 And there were plenty of English naval vessels

to shoot at on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to

their African Squadron, the British at this time had a

squadron of twenty-one ships and 2,400 men at Port Royal,

Jamaica to be used for putting down the slave trade.

Yet even in this conflict some rare moments of

humanity are glimpsed. One such instance came to light

in August of 1827 when a group of shipwrecked British

sailors arrived in Havana and reported to the commissioners

that they had been saved by the captain of the "Tres

Manueles," a notorious slaving vessel, carrying a cargo

of Negroes at the time.

- 37 -

Commissioner Kilbee, with conflicting emotions,

wrote, "It is to be lamented that in this case of illicit

slave trade . we should be indebted to the unquestion-

able testimony which we have been enabled to bring forward,

to the humanity of the Master of the Slave Vessel, in re-

ceiving the shipwrecked British crew on board his vessel

. . although necessarily aware of the risk he ran in

doing so."48

Risks, of course, were part of a slaver's life.

They can be divided into three categories: (1) a risk of

imprisonment, (2) a risk to health or life, (3) a financial


Of the three, the risk of punishment caused the

least concern. By Spanish law, at least until 1835, only

the master and the chief pilot were subject to imprisonment,

and the commissioners doubted that the Spanish laws would

ever "be put into execution against them."49 In fact,

it was a special source of irritation to the British that

the captains and crews of condemned vessels would soon

reappear on board another slaving ship.s5 Those few

unfortunates who were convicted and did not "escape" could

always resort to petitioning the Crown for a pardon, which

normally was granted.51

The risk to life and health was far more serious

for the slaver than that of losing his freedom. In addition

- 38 -

to the usual dangers faced by seafarers of the.period, he

was often called upon to be a warrior with all the added

hazards of that profession. Beyond this, there was the

ever present danger of a slave revolt on board. However,

the greatest threat to a slaver was disease aboard ship,

particularly smallpox, which made no distinction between

cargo and crew. The crew of the "Fama de Cadiz," for

example, which in 1829 had captured 980 slaves from

Brazilian vessels, found that they had taken the dread

disease aboard as well. Before reaching Cuba, the "Fama's"

crew of 157 was reduced to 66, and the 980 slaves had

diminished to 300.52

On December 31, 1829, Commissioner William Macleay

reported that mortality aboard slaving vessels during the

year, due both to smallpox and the proclivity of slaving

captains to fight, had "been dreadful and such as to

materially diminish the profits . of the slave traders."53

The third form of risk faced by a slaver was a

financial one and was not borne by the ship's owner and

shareholders in the expedition alone but as may be seen

in examination of the papers of the "Firme de Cadiz" by

the entire ship's company.

The capture of the "Firme de Cadiz" was unique in

that a great number of ship's records and papers were

captured as well. Normally these were the first items

- 39 -

destroyed when capture was imminent in order to conceal

the real owners of the vessel. From these papers it is

possible to gain an insight not only into the profit

potential of a slaving vessel but into its actual operation

as well.

On this ill-fated voyage, the "Firme de Cadiz"

cleared Havana for the African Coast in February of 1828,

under the command of Juan Sandino, a man of much experience

in the slaving profession. The goods aboard to-be used

for barter were "gold, silver, raw spirits (aguadente) [sic],

handkerchiefs, printed cottons and gunpowder." Their value

was placed at $28,000.54

The crew consisted of sixteen able seamen and

twenty ordinary seamen who were to be paid, respectively,

$40 and $35 per month, yet were to receive nothing if

captured or shipwrecked.55

Expenses for "provisions, ammunition, spars, wear

and tear, etc.," were placed at $10,600. The vessel was

out ten -months, and had the voyage been a successful one

its expenses would have been as follows:

Trade goods $28,000
Crew expenses 13,400
Miscellaneous expenses 10,600

At the time of capture, the "Firme" had 487 slaves

aboard. Since Sandino "was a master of proven talents and

- 40

experience," these slaves were "of the best quality" and

could have "easily sold at the going rate of 300 dollars

per, although those of the 'Firme' would have doubtless

fetched a higher price."56

Had the vessel escaped capture, then, its gross

profit would have been at least $146,700, and after de-

ducting expenses, the net would have been $94,700. Using

these figures, the commissioners concluded that "the adven-

turers in this illicit trade cannot be considered losers

if one slave vessel arrives safe out of every three dis-

patched to the coast."57

Largely because of the enormous profits being made,

the Cuban slave trade was no longer Cuban, at least in terms

of the nationalities of its participants and suppliers.

Newly built vessels were being supplied for the trade by

United States builders; the goods for barter increasingly

came from both the United States and, ironically enough,

Great Britain.58 Not even the captains and crews were Cuban,

but rather a hodgepodge of men from dozens of different

countries, with peninsular Spaniards predominating.

Commissioner Macleay, after studying the muster-

rolls of the captured vessels tried in Havana over a ten

year period, was able to verify "what I had long before

heard, that not one in thirty of the crew of a slave vessel

is a native of Cuba." Instead, the crews and "the most

notorious fitters-out of such expeditions" were Europeans.5

- 41 -

To Great Britain's acute embarrassment, more than

a few of these Europeans were English, and they were not

all simply suppliers abetting the illegal traffic, which

was bad enough. Rather, many were British sailors who had

deserted the navy despite the dreaded punishments for such

deeds (hanging or flogging into idiocy) and were "embarking

on board slave-vessels bound for the Coast of Africa."

This "nefarious system of enticing British sailors to

desert" was apparently due to the great sums paid by a

slaving captain to even ordinary seamen.60

Notwithstanding the decrease of active participation

in the traffic by the Cubans, they were, nonetheless, still

heavily involved financially.61 Even "persons of small

capital" invested in the "traffic which has ever had a

peculiar attraction in the eyes of a nation addicted to

gambling, on account of its presenting enormous profits

and comparatively small risks."62

The trade was also becoming diffused geographically

across the Island with the more remote ports playing a

greater role in receiving the illicit slaves. This was

probably due in part to the success the slavers were en-

joying in the employment of coastal vessels and as well to

the eagerness of local authorities to participate in the

largess. These latter individuals became the suppliers of

passports for the illegal Negroes, which effectively

eliminated all risk from their coastal transportation.63

- 42 -

No doubt this competition from the provinces

galvanized the Havana officials into even greater inactivity

vis-a-vis the extinction of the traffic. In fact, they

seem to have actively abetted it. Illustrative is their

treatment of two proclamations issued by Madrid in response

to English threats and pressure. These were the royal

orders of June 30, 1828, and of March 4, 1830, urging a

rigorous observation in the future of the Treaty of 1817.

These orders seemed to represent a new hard attitude of

Spain toward the continuance of the slave trade. Yet

neither was published in Havana.64 Instead, Captain

General Vives was content to comply "exactly" with the

royal order of January 2, 1826, by "seizing immediately

the log book for examination by the commandant of the

marine" of any vessel entering the Port of Havana from


Vives, of course, was caught in the vice of Madrid's

ambivalence toward the slave trade. He was aware of the

recommendation of a special commission formed in 1829 to

decide how far Spain dared to go in meeting Britain's

demands for ending the trade.66 The commission had urged

that no new restrictions be imposed, as even the old ones

were enough to threaten the state of Cuba's agriculture.67

Yet only two months after the commission adjourned, Madrid,

ignoring its advice, issued the royal order of March 4, 1830,

- 43 -

urging that a severe fine be imposed upon those who entered

into such an "inhuman traffic."68

Vives neither published the royal order nor changed

his "log book" approach and in October found himself apol-

ogizing to Madrid for not taking pains to investigate the

facts in his reports. He vowed in the future to give more

attention to "the proper legal definition of a vessel, its

construction and if it is proper for the commerce it's sup-

posed to be involved in, whether it has come in ballast,"

while at the same time examining "very carefully the cap-

tain and a good part of the crew and practicing much dil-

ligence to assure that the vessel did not come from Africa."69

Vives, despite any good intentions he may have had,

did not display any of this promised zeal. Instead, in the

following year the British minister to the court in Madrid

informed the Spanish government that the slave trade to

Cuba "was being carried on with the collusion of the Captain

General and other government authorities," who made a mock-

ery of all attempts by the British commissioners in Havana

to curtail it.70 Because of this, "vessels sail from the

Havanah almost weekly for the Coast of Africa; they bring

home cargoes of slaves and land them on the back of the

Island, return in ballast to the Havanah where they are

reported to the Governor as Slave Traders and then after

a slight and in fact mock examination, they are reported

- 44 -

back by him as having nothing on board to show any concern

in the traffic."7

During this period, while the British were demanding

that Spain do something to end the slave trade, the British

navy was doing little.72 When the talking stopped, however,

the "war" at sea resumed and again the slavers took pun-

ishing losses.

In April the "Planeta" fell to the English after

choosing to fight. She had 239 Negroes aboard. Soon after

that the "Aguila" was taken with a cargo of 616. In July

the "Indagadora" was captured, her captain having died from

a disease contracted in Africa. The brig "Hebe" and

schooner "Joaquina," as well fell prey to the British, and

in December the "Amistad Habanera" and the "Mosca" were

driven ashore and the latter destroyed, although both crews

were able to salvage their cargoes. The "Manuleta" with

485 aboard was captured as the year drew to an end-a

disastrous year for the slavers.73

It was also a bad year for Cuba as a whole, in

that 1832 saw the beginning of the most severe epidemic

of cholera that the Island had yet experienced. Mortality

was particularly severe among the blacks, further cutting

the labor supply of the country."

Mariano Ricafort, who succeeded Vives as captain

general only a few months before the outbreak of the

- 45 -

epidemic, found himself governing what he conceived to be

a dying island. Frantically he sent Madrid a top secret

report stating that "we are in disastrous straits because

of the enormous loss of slaves" which will "cause the cul-

tivation of sugar and coffee to suffer awfully."75 Because

of this, he feared that the revenues would be lost which

hitherto had "preserved the Island in the face of revolt

throughout the South American continent."76

To save the coffee and sugar plantations which

formed the economic base of the Island and which had made

heavy investments in "laboratories and steamships" would

require a great influx of slaves immediately.77 "Up to

two-thirds of the slaves in the countryside have been

destroyed," asserted Ricafort, yet the "genius of the

country" will remedy the situation by "eluding the author-

ities and breaking the treaty with England. Self-interest

requires it, and if the Spanish Government is not prepared,

it is going to be embarrassed."78 There was no doubt in

the Captain General's mind that for the moment Spain should

"tolerate the introduction of Negroes."79

That Ricafort was overreacting a bit seems obvious.

No doubt it seemed a shame to pass up such an opportunity

to pressure Madrid for even more laxity vis-a-vis the slave

trade. Instead of experiencing the destruction of up to

two-thirds of the rural slaves, the Island probably witnessed

- 46 -

the death of about 30,000, rural and urban combined, or a

little under 10 per cent of the total slave population.80

Still, the epidemic occurred at a time when the

British cruisers were inflicting heavy losses on the slavers.

This, of course, meant that the planters would encounter

extreme difficulty in replacing the slaves they had lost.

Little wonder that in January of 1834 the commissioners

reported "a great demand for African Negroes" in Cuba.81

Paradoxically, there was also at this time some

demand for abolition, which was promoted, in part, by fears

of a slave revolution. Cuba's slaves were well aware that

Great Britain had recently abolished slavery on all of her

islands. Many too were aware of the recent Nat Turner

revolt in the United States and the scattered instances

of Negro unrest that had rippled through the Caribbean

islands from St. Kitts to Tobago.82 Cuba itself had ex-

perienced some scattered slave uprisings during 1833-

nothing serious, but enough to cause great anxiety among

the Island's whites.83 In fact, at this time fear of a

large scale revolt compelled even Arango y Parreio, in the

early part of his career a champion of the slave trade, to

now insist on its cessation.84 He was, for the most part,

ignored as were other Creole liberals such as Saco and


- 47

Dread of a Haiti type slave rebellion, however, was

only one of the motives of those who favored ending the

slave trade. Political and economic factors loomed large

as well. Since 1825 the captain general of the Island had

held virtually absolute power-a power which tended to

exacerbate the division between the peninsula born Spanish

and the native born Creoles.86 The peninsulares were de-

termined to keep the Creoles in "their place," while the

latter were just as determined to shake off what they con-

sidered to be repressive government and at the same time

rid themselves of discriminatory trade regulations and duties

which favored Spanish trade."'

Many of the liberal generation and even a few of

the planters were coming to believe that one of the ways

Madrid intended to maintain the current absolutism was by

secretly encouraging the slave trade. As the black popu-

lation of the Island grew, the relatively fewer whites would

become increasingly more dependent on Spain.88

Certainly to those who favored ending the trade, the

time seemed propitious for reform. Ferdinand VII had died in

1833, and much of Spain seemed in favor of letting the ideas

of the old absolutism die with him. With Isabel II crowned,

and her mother serving as regent, a newly organized liberal

party took the reins of the country. Yet not even Spain's

"watered down" concept of liberalism was destined to extend

- 48 -

across the ocean to Cuba. Instead, Madrid tightened its

grip on Cuba the following year by sending General Miguel

Tac6n to take command. Under Tac6n the peninsulares were

favored over the Creoles, and all reform suggestions were

viewed as unpatriotic. Patriotism, in fact, was equated

with resistance to British abolitionist pressure.89

By this definition, Cuba again became a very

patriotic island indeed. Viscount Palmerston, Secretary

of the British Foreign Office, was informed by the com-

missioners in Havana during August of 1834 that "since the

occupation of his post by the new Captain General the

Slave Trade of this port has been more shamelessly prevalent

than ever before."90 Tac6n's tactics were the same as those

"adopted by his predecessors for the protection of the slave

trade, . ." namely "to remove all responsibility from

himself by the system of devolving the preliminary investi-

gation of all such cases of illegal traffic on subaltern


To encourage volume importation, Tac6n is said to

have reduced the traditional captain general's "fee" per

slave from the ten pesos, which Vives had levied, to only

eight pesos four reales, or a half-ounce of gold.92 Even

the Spanish navy seemed to be aiding the slavers. Not

only did the coast guard vessels fail to arrest anyone for

slave trading until 1842 button the contrary, kept the

slavers informed of the movements of the British cruisers.93

- 49 -

The British were not unaware that a radically

increased demand for slaves, coupled with a host of Spanish

officials on the Island even more eager than before to

connive at importations, would mean a great increase in

the Cuban Atlantic slave traffic. The second Anglo-Spanish

Treaty of 1835 represents an attempt on the part of Great

Britain to prevent this from occurring.

The groundwork for the treaty had taken years to

lay. Slowly and methodically England had concluded treaty

after treaty outlawing the slave trade with nation after

nation. Tactics varied with the situation, but generally

the withholding of diplomatic recognition, or the refusal

to negotiate trade agreements or facilitate a loan brought

a recalcitrant nation to terms.94

The purpose of these treaties was, as Viscount

Palmerston put it, "to enlist in a league against the

slave trade every state in Cristendom which has a flag

that sails on the ocean."95 More specifically, England

was interested in the right to search and seize any vessel

suspected of carrying slaves, regardless of the flag it

was flying.

By 1834 Cuba and Brazil were the only two countries

still importing large numbers of Africans. Yet only Cuba,

at the moment, was being favored with Britain's attention,

largely because the opportunity to negotiate a more rigorous

treaty with Spain had presented itself in the form of a

- 50 -

new Spanish government. Not only was the new government

of a liberal disposition, but,more important, the regent

and her daughter Isabel II owed their triumph in the recent

dispute which had raged over the succession to the diplo-

matic power of Great Britain."9

Almost since the Treaty of 1817 had been negotiated,

the British had wanted three additional clauses in order to

give it some "teeth." These were, the destruction of con-

demned slaving ships to prevent their sale and ultimate

reappearance in the trade; the punishment of the superior

officers and owners of condemned slavers as pirates; and

the ability to inspect and arrest Spanish vessels on the

high seas, even when they were carrying only the equipment

of a slaving vessel and no actual slaves were on board.9

Now, with the Spanish Crown in England's debt,

there was no denying the third Viscount Palmerston, who,

having done what he could to reduce the number of flags

under which a slaver could seek safety, turned his energies

toward a new agreement with Spain.98

If the Spanish could not deny Britain a new treaty,

they could at least forestall it while they considered the

proposals carefully. The Council of State, the Council

of the Indies, the Captain General of Cuba, and a specially

created junta in Havana were all consulted.99 Opinion

varied widely, but the general consensus was that the

trade should not be declared piracy and that Cuba must

- 51 -

not be forced to receive any more of the freed slaves

(emancipados) that resulted from the capture and condem-

nation of a slave ship.100

Thus advised, Francisco Martinez de la Rosa began

negotiations with the British. The interlocutors of the

latter, confronted with two "non-negotiables," immediately

demanded the right of registration over all Spanish vessels

but "finally gave in to reason."11' Instead, a mutual

right of search was established, but only by virtue of

legitimate suspicion was a vessel to be compelled to submit

to registration and examination.102

Britain, for its part, managed to make two of its

three demands prevail. Henceforth, all condemned slaving

ships were to be burned or otherwise destroyed, and the

presence of slaving equipment on board a ship was to be

prima facie evidence of its participation in the trade,

thus rendering it liable to seizure, trial, and condem-


.Nonetheless, Martinez de la Rosa had reason for

rejoicing. Britain had agreed to the principle that the

emancipated Negroes which resulted from the apprehension

and condemnation of a slaver would become the charge of

the country whose navy did the apprehending.104 Thus

Cuba, for the moment, felt spared the worry of a further

increase in its free colored population and Spain "the

cost of transporting and equipping these emancipados."'05

- 52 -

Finally, the treaty failed, as in 1817, to prescribe

punishments for slave trade involvement, leaving it again

up to the individual countries. The declaration of the

trade as piracy, the one move which if enforced might have

ended the Cuban slave trade, was avoided.106 The rest of

the treaty was essentially a repeat of 1817.

Obviously, then, the British were depending on the

increased probability of capture (the equipment clause)

and the almost certain loss of a vessel in this event

(vessel destruction clause) to make the possible gains

from slave trading not worth the increased financial risk.

They again failed to comprehend that any treaty

with Spain to end the slave trade without the full and

active concurrence of Spain in enforcing the agreement

was at best an exercise in futility. For instead of ending

the trade, the Treaty of 1835 merely encouraged and hastened

the complete internationalization of the trade, a process

that had been occurring since the late 1820's. Thus the

only real effect of the treaty was to usher in a new era of

the Cuban slave trade.


1. Aimes, pp. 90-91; Phillip S. Foner, A History of Cuba
and Its Relations with the United States (2 vols.;
New York: International Publishers, 1962), I, 94-99.

2. Pezuela, Diccionario, IV, 239.

3. Comunicaci6n del Intendente de la Isla de Puerto Rico,
10 de Julio de 1820, Archivo Nacional de Cuba, Leg.
144, N. 3, in Jos6 L. Franco, Politica continental
americana de Espaia en Cuba, 1812-1830 (La Habana:
Talleres del Archivo Nacional de Cuba, 1947), pp. 85-86.

4. Consejo de Estado, Expediente sobre el trafico de
Negros, November 18, 1820, A.H.N. Estado, Leg. 99,
No. 16. See also Aimes, p. 96.

5. Aimes, p. 95.

6. J. T. Kilbee and R. F. Jameson to the Marques of
Londonderry, Havana, March 3, 1822, Accounts and
Papers (1823), XIX, 95.

7. Ibid.

8. Consejo de Estado, Consulta sobre un incident relative
al tratado de abolici6n al trafico de esclavos, Madrid,
May 15, 1822, A.H.N. Estado, Leg. 116, No. 9.

9. Ibid.

10. Consulta del consejo de estado respective a la nota
del embajador de Inglaterra en que comunica la pro-
vincia tomado por su gobierno contra los Ingleses que
se ocupen en el trafico, Madrid, July 28, 1821, A.H.N.
Estado, Leg. 107.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid. The punishment in the royal c6dula of December,
1817, called for ten years of imprisonment for the cap-
tain pilot, and master of a vessel condemned as a slaver.
The crew and owner were not liable for punishment.

- 53

- 54 -

13. Accounts and Papers (1823), XIX, July 22, 1822, 98-99.

14. Ibid., November 14, 1822, p. 103.

15. Ibid. Until the successful efforts of the Mexican
Squadron (1826-1827) under Captain David Porter, as
well as those of the United States, England, and Spain
to put down piracy in the Caribbean, this excuse was
almost unchallengeable and often used.

16. Kilbee and Jameson to George Canning, Havana,
November 14, 1824, Accounts and Papers (1825), XXXIII,

17. Ibid., August 2, 1824, pp. 418-419. This reaction,
with some modifications and exceptions, would be
standard on the part of the Spanish captains general
for the duration of the contraband slave trade.

18. Ibid., November 28, 1824, p. 416.

19. Ibid., December 30, 1824, p. 428. Article 7 of the
1817 treaty pledged Spain to emancipate the Negroes
captured, care for them, give them employment, and
guarantee their liberty. Corwin (pp. 40-41) points
out that, from this point forward, the failure of Spain
to comply with Article 7 would create another point of
controversy with Great Britain which would endure for
the next fifty years.

20. Accounts and Papers (1824), XXXIII, January 1, 1825,
429-433. Not all of these vessels were Cuban based.
Many of them were Spanish ships fitted out in the
peninsula. There were also a few French vessels in
the trade.

21. Ibid. Yet in their summary report of January 1, the
commissioners contradicted themselves and placed the
number of imports at 7,650.

22. Ibid.

23. Ibid.

24. Ibid., January 14, 1825, p. 439.

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.

- 55 -

27. Ibid.

28. Ibid.

29. Kilbee and Jameson to George Canning, March 12, 1826,
Accounts and Papers (1826), XXIX, 342.

30. Ibid., March 25, 1825, pp. 343-344.

31. The "Maria de la Gloria" managed to escape the juris-
diction of the Havana mixed commission court by
claiming to be Portuguese. Yet the English charge
d'affaires in Madrid noted that this was a mere
fabrication and that she was actually Spanish.
George Bosanquet, Esq. to His Excellency Don Francisco
de Zea Bermudez, Madrid, February 10, 1825, A.H.N.
Ultramar, Leg. 3549.

32. This, of course, was the same "Magico" which the year
previously had caused Commissioner Kilbee to utter
some angry words. After flaunting her Negro cargo
at the British cruiser "Carnation," the "Magico"
sailed again for Africa on June 26. She arrived off
the coast of Africa on August 16, where she remained
until a full load of slaves could be bartered for.
On December 8, she hoisted anchor and headed west,
arriving off the Cuban coast on January 21, 1826.
She was promptly set upon by a British cruiser and
driven ashore. The crew attempted to salvage what
they could and in driving the Negroes ashore caused
thirty of them to be drowned. Hoping to revenge them-
selves, the Spaniards left a lighted match in the
powder room as a parting "gift" to the British boarders,
but fortunately it did not catch. Macleay to George
Canning, January 22, 1826, Accounts and Papers (1826-
1827), XXVI, 231-232.

33. Corwin (p. 43) states that the foregoing was a "positive
step in attempting to close the slave market." The
British commissioners, however, thought differently:
"The royal order, by committing the examination of the
vessel in the first instance to the Commandant of the
Naval Forces, who is to report to the Captain General
any grounds of suspicion that may appear, almost en-
tirely relieves the latter from the responsibility
which he would necessarily incur from the infraction
of the same were the whole of the proceedings to be
carried on under his immediate directions." Kilbee
and W. S. Macleay to George Canning, Havana, January 1,
1827, Accounts and Papers (1828), XXVI, 130-133. For

- 56 -

royal order of January 2, 1826, see Accounts and Papers
1826-1827), XXVI, 243.

34. Kilbee and Macleay to Canning, June 14, 1826, Accounts
and Papers (1826-1827), XXVI, 248.

35. Ibid., September 2, 1826, pp. 263-265.

36. Ibid., September 4, 1826, pp. 266-268.

37. Accounts and Papers (1826), XXVI, January 1, 1827,

38. Ibid., July 2, 1827, pp. 141-142.

39. Captain General Vives to the British Commissioners,
March 12, 1827, A.H.N. Ultramar, Leg. 3547. See also
Kilbee and Macleay to the Earl of Dudley and the Earl
of Aberdeen, December 4, 1827, Accounts and Papers
(1829), XXVI, 228. For literally hundreds of these
reports see A.H.N. Estado, Leggs 6371, 6372, and 63722.

40. Franco, pp. 203-204.

41. Accounts and Papers (1828), XXVI, July 31, 1827, 143.
The "Guerrero's" career of piracy was short-lived.
Apparently successful in relieving another vessel
of its slave cargo, the "Guerrero" was back in the
Caribbean by December, where she was encountered by
H. M. schooner "Nimble." Choosing not to fight the
weaker vessel, the "Guerrero" was chased onto the
Florida Keys where the crew and 400 Negroes were
taken into custody. They were placed aboard a nearby
American wrecker for safe keeping, but that night the
Spanish crew rose up, took command of the wrecker,
cut the anchor cables, and drifted silently away to
deliver their cargo undamaged and intact to Cuba.
Accounts and Papers (1829), XXVI, December 31, 1827,

42. "A vessel can go to the Brazils very ill found; they
buy an old vessel for a mere trifle. Leaving the
case of Africa, they have nothing to do but to set
their sails and the wind blows them across the Atlantic;
they just traverse the trade wind; the weather is always
find- it never blows but what a vessel might carry top-
gallant sails. Now the vessels from the West Indies
are obliged to be rigged and found in a very different
manner; they must have a very large crew to manage
them, whereas a very small crew would take a Brazilian

- 57

vessel across, and the Cuban vessel must be fit to
withstand very strong breezes, and even hurricanes
in the West Indies; besides that the voyage is more
than double; they require more water and provisions
and are therefore enabled to carry a comparatively
small number of slaves." "Testimony of Captain James
Matson, R.N., Captain in the British African Squadron,
1833-1843," in "Report of the Lords Select Committee
on the African Slave Trade (1850)," Great Britain,
Parliament, House of Lords, Sessional Papers, Accounts
and Papers (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office,
1850), IV, No. 2847, 257.

43. William Macleay to the Earl of Aberdeen, Havana,
December 2, and December 8, 1828, Accounts and Papers
(1830), XXXIII, 134-135.

44. Ibid.

45. Ibid. Only one Negro survived the fire. However, no
explosion occurred, and the British cruiser was able
to withdraw safely.

46. Ibid., July 3, 1829, p. 174. More often than not, the
slaves were the principal sufferers in these exchanges,
being quartered below decks.

47. Kilbee and Macleay to Earl Dudley, January 1, 1828,
Accounts and Papers (1829), XXVI, 230-232, 245.

48. Accounts and Papers (1828), XXVI, August 6, 1827, 145.
Kilbee, nonetheless, denounced the vessel on August 9th
to the Captain General. But on September 3rd, the
"Tres Manuelas" sailed for Africa unmolested. No
answer had been received from the Captain General.

49. Macleay to the Earl of Aberdeen, January 1, 1829,
Accounts and Papers (1828-29), XXXIII, 146.

50. Charge d'affaires George Bosanquet, Esq. to His
Excellency the Chevalier de Salm6n, First Secretary
of State, Madrid, April 7, 1829, A.H.N. Estado, Leg.
8033. Bosanquet protests that, although the captains,
masters, and pi-lots of vessels capturedwere subject to
the royal c.6dula of December, 1817, which proclaimed
ten years banishment to the Philippines, it was not
being enforced. Not only that but "Sierra Leone
reports a reappearance of these people before the
mixed court there."

- 58 -

51. A.H.N. Estado, Legs. 6371 and 63712, both contain these
petitions for pardon, often with an additional plea
for clemency from the Captain General himself. Almost
all were written in the following form:

"Enclosed are the representations to the King
from and captain and pilot of
the Spanish vessel caught with Negroes
aboard asking for clemency and that they be excused
from the penalty of imprisonment as prescribed by
the royal c6dula for the abolition of the traffic.
Those who petition have been involved since
infancy in navigation and in the valiant expeditions
in the commerce of both worlds, making for themselves
a comfortable style of life while upholding their
obligations. But today, due to political upheavals
the Spanish merchant marine has diminished-consider-
ably, leaving so few methods of earning a livelihood
that we embarked on an expedition to Africa in a
slave ship, and due to bad luck were caught by a
British vessel of war, and brought to this port where
by virtue of the royal c6dula of December 19, 1817
and by its first article were condemned to ten years
of prison in the Philippine Islands. Thus, Seiior,
with one blow our families and our own persons have
been reduced to the greatest misery. .
We pray that this petition does not reach you at
an inconsiderate moment. For although we merit the
penalty imposed, you are the arbitrator of the law,
and the ability to pardon is your most beautiful
prerogative. It is well known that the benign heart
of your Majesty has been demonstrated by a multitude
of pardons." Petition of Don Jose Chimet and Ramdn
Cabral, 24 de Julio 1829, A.H.N. Estado, Leg. 63712,
No. 108.

52. Accounts and Papers (1830), XXXIII, July 31, 1829, 187.

53. Macleay to Aberdeen, Dec. 31, 1829, Accounts and Papers
(1831), XIX, 411.

54. Accounts and Papers (1830), XXXIII, January 1, 1829,

55. Ibid.

56. Ibid.

57. Ibid., p. 146.

- 59 -

58. British Museum, Aberdeen Papers, folio 186, "Testimony
of M. Edovard Bouet-Willaumez, Capitaine de vaisseau
et gouverneur de Sen6gal et d6pendances before a
Select Committee to revise Instructions for Her
Majesty's Naval Officers Engaged in the Suppression
of the Slave Trade," March 31, 1845. The first of
these vessels appeared in 1829. It was "a large new
vessel . pierced for sixteen guns and mounting
ten." Gunpowder for the trade came both from the
United States and Great Britain, tobacco largely from
the United States, and piece goods from Manchester and
Glasgow. Furthermore, Gibraltar was becoming a favorite
place for the Spanish vessels to fit out on their way
to the coast.

59. Accounts and Papers (1831), XIX, January 1, 1830, 413
and 420-422. The muster roll of the Spanish vessel
"Midas" captured early 1830, for example, revealed
that of the seven superior officers, nine warrant
officers, fifteen able seamen, thirty-three ordinary
seamen and four cabin boys, a total of sixty-eight
men, all of the superior officers were peninsular
born, as were all but two of the warrant officers.
Of the crew, although most were peninsular born, the
countries of Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, Portugal,
Venezuela, the Philippine Islands, Italy, the Canary
Islands, Majorca, Jamaica, the United States, and
Poland were represented.

60. Accounts and Papers (1831), XIX, December 29, 1830, 403.

61. Accounts and Papers (1831), XIX, May 28, 1830, 439;
Macleay to Viscount Palmerston, December 12, 1832,
Accounts and Papers (1833), XLIII, 54.

62. Accounts and Papers (1833), XLIII, January 2, 1833, 56.

63. Accounts and Papers (1831), XIX, May 28, 1830, 439.

64. H. U. Addington to His Excellency Don Manuel Gonzales
Salmon, Madrid, November 28, 1831, A.H.N. Estado,
Leg. 8033.

65. Captain General Vives to the First Secretary of State,
Havana, October 22, 1830, A.H.N. Estado, Leg. 6372.

66. Espediente promovido por el ministry Ingles .
relative al trafico de negros, La comisi6n especial,
Madrid, 3 de diciembre de 1828, A.H.N. Estado, Leg.
214, No. 24. The commission concluded that Spain must

- 60 -

take care not to consent to anything that would mean
the complete destruction of the Cuban slave trade,
for this in turn would mean the destruction of Cuban
agriculture. The commission also acidly noted that
England, by virtue of holding so many countries and
peoples in virtual slavery, could afford to indulge
in mock humanitarianism.

67. Ibid.

68. Captain General Vives to the First Secretary of State,
May 26, 1830, A.H.N. Estado, Leg. 8033. In this com-
munication Vives acknowledges receipt of the royal
order of March 4, 1830.

69. Captain General Vives to the First Secretary of State,
A.H.N. Estado, Leg. 6372.

70. H. U. Addington to His Excellency Don Manuel Gonzales
Salmon, Madrid, November 28, 1831, A.H.N. Estado,
Leg. 8033.

71. Ibid.

72. Charles Mackenzie and Macleay to Palmerston, January 2,
1832, Accounts and Papers (1833), XLIII, 56. In this
annual report the commissioners glumly remarked on
"the little success of His Majesty's cruizers during
the last eighteen months."

73. Ibid., pp. 54-84. Dispatches dated November, 1831, to
December 27, 1832.

74. Captain General Ricafort to the First Secretary of
State, August 27, 1833 (Estraordinario Reservado),
A.H.N. Estado, Leg. 6374.

75. Ibid.

76. Ibid.

77. Ibid.

78. Ibid.

79. Ibid. It is perhaps best that the British did not
see this communication for they would have been
shocked to learn that from Ricafort's viewpoint
Vives had tried hard to put down the slave trade
"instead of procurring the prosperity of the Island."

- 61 -

80. Jose Garcia de Arboleya, in his Manual de la Isla de
Cuba:. Compendio de su historic, geografica, estadistica
y administraci6n (La Habana: Impr. del Gobie.rno, 1852),
p. 52, cited in Corwin, p. 60, placed the total number
of deaths due to cholera in Cuba during this epidemic
at 30,000. However, from a "Resumen general que mani-
fiesta los cadaveres colericos sepultados en los
cementerios de esta ciudad [Havana] y sus estramuros
y en las diferentes poblaciones de esta Isla desde
el 25 de febrero ultimo hasta el 30 de septiembre
inclusive," A.H.N. Estado, Leg. 6374, No. 181, it is
known that 22,705 Negroes alone died between February 25
and September 30 of 1833 and were buried in church
cemeteries. Because the deaths from the epidemic con-
tinued on a reduced scale into 1834, and because it is
doubtful that all slaves would have been buried in
cemeteries, one feels that the British commissioners
were closer in placing the number of slaves dead at
about 30,000. Accounts and Papers (1835), LI,
December 20, 1833, 82-85.

81. Macleay and Charles Mackenzie to Lord Palmerston,
January 2, 1834, Accounts and Papers (1835), LI, 86.

82. Ramiro Guerra y Sanchez (ed.), Historia de la Nacion
Cubana (10 vols.; La Habana: Editorial Historia de
la Nacioi Cubana, s.a., 1952), IV, 65-72.

83. Captain General Ricafort to the First Secretary of
State, Havana, August 31, 1833, A.H.N. Estado,
Leg. 6374, No. 133. The Captain General reports that
in the largest of these, which broke out on the 13th
of August to the east of Havana, at least 375 slaves
were involved. Ricafort assured Madrid that he was
taking steps to see it would not happen again.

84. Corwin, p. 57. Arango directed "communicaciones" to
Madrid during the years 1828-1832, which "were filed
away and never known outside official circles."

85. Ibid., pp. 58-59.

86. Guerra y Sanchez, Historia, III, 109-122.

87. Ibid. The bulk of Cuba's export trade by the 1830's
was with the United States, as well as "an increasing
percentage of the import trade, namely flour." As
the planters were mostly Creoles, they naturally
wanted a free trade with the United States. The
merchants, however, were mostly Spanish. To maintain
their control of Cuba's trade they needed high tariffs.

- 62 -

The government sided with the Spanish party and the
years of the middle 1830's saw a tariff "war" in
progress with the United States, much to the dismay
of the Creoles. See Foner, I, 170-172.

88. Foner, I, 173; Corwin, p. 57.

89. Corwin, pp. 56-57.

90. Accounts and Papers (1835), LI, August 11, 1834, 124.

91. Ibid., July 18, 1834, p. 123.

92. Miguel Tac6n, Correspondencia Reservada del Capitan
General Don Miguel Tacon 1834-36, Biblioteca Nacional,
Jose Marti (La Habana: Departamento de colecci6n
cubana, 1963), Intro., p. 41. A young, husky male
at the time would bring 400-450 pesos, a boy of ten,
150-200 pesos. The "fee," then, represented about
2-5 per cent of the "worth" of the slave.

93. Ibid., Intro., p. 40; Fernando Ortiz Fernandez, Hampa
afro-cubana: Los negros esclavos: Estudio sociol6gico
y de derecho publico (La Habana: Revista Bimestre
Cubana, 1916), p. 94.

94. In this manner, treaties with Portugal were concluded
in 1815 and 1817; the Argentine Confederation in 1825;
Brazil, Gran Colombia, and Mexico in 1826; France in
1833; Bolivia in 1837; the Kingdom of Naples in 1838;
Chile, Haiti, and Venezuela in 1839, along with ad-
ditional treaties with Argentina and Uruguay in the
same year. Treaties with Texas were concluded in
1840, Ecuador in 1841, the United States in 1842,
and the Dominican Republic in 1850. In all, by 1849
Great Britain had twenty-four treaties in existence,
"ten of which gave the right of search and national
tribunals, and two (with the United States and France)
grant no right of search but do contain a mutual obli-
gation to maintain squadrons on the coast of Africa."
Also by 1849, Great Britain had concluded forty-two
treaties for the suppression of the slave trade with
native chiefs on the coast of Africa. "Report of the
Select Committee Appointed to Inquire into the Treaties
and Engagements between Great Britain, Spain, and
Portugal Respecting the Slave Trade," August 12, 1853,
British Museum, Aberdeen Papers, Folio 236.

- 63 -

95. James F. King, "The Latin-American Republics and the
Suppression of the Slave Trade," HAHR, XXIV, No. 3
(August, 1944), 387; Bell, I, 241-242.

96. Corwin, p. 61.

97. Espediente relative a la trata de esclavos, Aranjues,
13 de mayo de 1834, A.H.N. Estado, Leg. 892, No. 41.
Actually the proposal for a new treaty on the part of
Great Britain came rather late in negotiations which
were begun simply to alter the Treaty of 1817.

98. The policy of stripping the slavers of "protective
flags of convenience" was largely that of John Henry
Temple, the third Viscount Palmerston, who took over
the British Foreign Office in July, 1834, and would
continue to dominate British foreign policy for the
next three decades. Corwin, pp. 60-61.

99. Real orden del25 de Julio de 1835 remitiendo el
espediente sobre la abolici6n del trafico de negros
y nuevo tratado con sus aiejos que fue concluido en
esta corte, 28 de Junio del present afo [1835] entire
el Seior D. Francisco Martinez de la Rosa como
plenipotenciario de S. M. la Reina y el ministry de
S. M. El Rey del Reino unido de la Gran Bretaia e
Irlanda en esta corte como plenipotenciario de. aquel
soberano a fin de que manifieste al consej.o si hay o
no inconvenient en que S. M. lo ratifique por su
parte, A.H.N. Estado, Leg. 892, No. 4.

100. Ibid.

101. Ibid. Martinez de la Rosa, of course, headed the new
constitutional government of Spain. No doubt he
remembered Spain's previous experience with liberal-
ism, which resulted in the French invasion of 1823,
and was anxious not to alienate Great Britain, a
potential ally should Spain have further difficul-
ties with the prevailing European reactionism.

102. Tratado entire S. M. la Reina de Espaa y S. M. el Rey
de IngZaterra para la abolicio'n del trdfico de esclavos,
concluido y firmado en Madrid en 28 de Junio de 1835
(Madrid en la imprenta real, Aio de 1835), A.H.N.
Ultramar, Leg. 3547, L. 2, No. 26. Articles 4 and 5
of the treaty.

- 64

103. Ibid., Article 10. This "equipment clause" placed a
vessel in jeopardy if it was caught with:

(1) hatches with open gratings
(2) excessive divisions or bulkheads in the hold or
on deck
(3) excessive lumber that could be used for the con-
struction of a slave deck
(4 more water and water casks or tanks than would
& be normal for the consumption of the crew
(6) a greater quantity of "mess tubs" than would be
(7) a boiler of unusual size or more than one of
ordinary size
(8) an extraordinary quantity of rice, flour and/or

104. Ibid., Article 13.

105. Real orden de Julio de 1835, op. cit. As things
turned out, however, the Spanish were destined to
make many captures in Cuba of slaves after they had
been landed but before they reached the ingenio which
they were destined for. Consequently, the "unwanted"
emancipado class continued to increase. See Chapter
VII for a discussion of the growth of this class.

106. Ibid. Punishment was extended to the owners as well
as pilots and captains of a slaving vessel. However,
it was cynically noted by Martinez de la Rosa that
"if they can prove that they had no knowledge of the
crime they can always escape punishment."



The immediate effect of the Treaty of 1835 was to

cause a stampede of vessels from Cuba to the African Coast,

since the treaty was not to take effect until two months

after its ratification. The slavers made good use of this

grace period.1 "No less than seventeen slaving vessels

sailed during the month of July" alone.2 This foresight

was rewarded in that all vessels which cleared for Africa

before the treaty became effective and were subsequently

captured, such as the "Ninfa" with 450 slaves aboard, or

the "Zafiro" with 188, could demand and receive a trial

under the old treaty.3

By the first of 1836, however, the jubilant

commissioners could report that the traffic was "paralyzed."4

That this pronouncement was a trifle optimistic soon became

apparent. As in the past, the slavers were merely adjusting

to new problems by developing new solutions. The commis-

sioners began to learn the nature of these solutions almost

immediately when the newspapers suddenly stopped reporting

the arrivals and departures of vessels sailing in the

African trade.5 Soon after this, they noted that the

number of Spanish flags in the trade was decreasing.6

- 65 -

- 66 -

Instead, the slavers were beginning to fly the flags of the

United States and Portugal.' Under international law, the

British had no right to molest any vessel, even a slaver,

that flew the American flag. Only the United States navy

could do this, and except for a brief period in the early

1820's, the United States had maintained few, if any, naval

vessels on the African Coast.8

On the other hand, American vessels which did patrol

the Caribbean waters and the Gulf could not stop or search

a vessel flying the Portuguese flag.9 To insure that these

flags and papers of convenience would go unchallenged, it

became the custom to carry two or three capitanes de las

banderas. These captains of the flags would normally be

highly paid passengers of United States or Portuguese

nationality who would "assume command" at appropriate


In light of this, it is not surprising that the

transfer of ship registrations in Havana became a lucrative

business. It also became the cause of an international

fracas, for the man who was facilitating the transferring

was none other than the United States Consul at Havana,

Nicholas P. Trist.11 An enterprising man, Trist not only

was handling the transfer of Spanish vessels to American

registry, but in 1838 began to act as the Portuguese

- 67 -

Consul in Havana as well. This way he could also handle

those who preferred Portuguese registry.12

The British Foreign Office reacted by denouncing

Trist's conduct as "designedly insulting to the British

government and nation."13 The United States eventually

sent an investigator to Havana to look into Trist's

activities and subsequently recalled him in 1841. But

by then the damage was done. During the year 1838 alone

"there were upwards of one hundred slave vessels trans-

ferred, on which Mr. Trist received the consular fees."14

While Trist was occupied with registering ships

for the slavers, North American shipbuilders were indus-

triously constructing new and better vessels for them. In

late 1836 the first few of a great number of schooners

built in the United States arrived in Havana Harbor, some of

which were "already expressly fitted for the slave trade."'5

"They vary in size from 50-150 tons" and "are called

Baltimore Schooners. Their construction is of the slightest

possi1, -cription; their rig is that of a New York

S. they are furnished with 30 sweeps, are

very light draught of water, and certainly a

.lass of Vessel Admirably adapted for escaping from and

deceiving His Majesty's Cruizers."16

- 68 -

The increased secrecy regarding the movements of

slaving ships, the ambidexterity with which the slavers

moved from protective flag to protective flag, and the

utilization of the newest in vessels all combined to

signal a degree of professionalization of the trade, here-

tofore unknown. Illustrative is the commissioners'

reference to "light, unarmed vessels." The bravado that

characterized the trade prior to 1835 had disappeared.

Not only was it unhealthy to exchange fire with the British

navy, but it was also bad business. Even a successful

fray might result in the loss of a good number of slaves.

Instead, the slavers began to concentrate on outdistancing

and outsmarting their adversary, rather than outshooting


Witness, for example, the system into which these

new United States built vessels were fitted. They would

sail to Africa under the American flag, as American ships

were not liable to seizure for having slaving equipment

aboard, and then, after loading on their cargoes, they

would "leave the Coast of Africa in convoys of three or

four, trust entirely to speed, and in the event of being

hard pressed by chase . .sacrifice one of their number

for the purpose of securing . the safety of the others."1

- 69 -

While the slavers were assiduously working to

frustrate the British at sea, the Cuban government was

doing the same at home by imposing on matters of the slave

trade "a degree of secrecy before unknown."18 In addition

to suppressing all printed information regarding ships

clearing for or arriving from Africa, orders were given

in 1836 prohibiting the hoisting of flags on the Morro

to announce the arrival of these vessels.19

More important, the Spanish authorities began

themselves to insist on a strict observation of certain

clauses in the 1835 treaty. One such clause, for example,

permitted a five day quarantining of a captured slave ship

for reasons of health, while another required the presence

of the commanding officer of the capturing vessel at the

trial before the mixed commissions. By insisting on both

clauses, the Spanish not only prevented a British cruiser

from simply putting a prize crew aboard a captured vessel

and sending it to Havana for trial while the British

cruiser remained at sea, but also were able to insure that

the British commanding officer, by first waiting for the

quarantine period to lapse, and second by requiring his

presence at the trial, would be tied up in port for at

least three to four weeks instead of out capturing more


- 70 -

The reasons for Spain's sudden intransigence so

soon after the Treaty of 1835 and, for that matter, the

royal decree of March 29, 1836, which abolished slavery

on the peninsula, lay between the poles of Spain's

preoccupation with the First Carlist War (1833-1844) and

a desire to keep Cuba loyal while there was a "crisis of

power" in the mother country.21

Cuba, by contrast, was at this time experiencing

a "crisis of labor." In June of 1838 the commissioners

reported that forty new estates had lately been opened,

each one requiring many Negro slaves.22 Again in the

following year the commissioners referred to "the

astonishing number of new estates," many of which were

American and British and which were giving "considerable

impetus to the trade."23

The result was a slaving boom to satisfy the clamor

for Africans on the Island, and even old hands like Captain

Mozzard of the "Socorro" alias "Maria Segundo" returned to

the trade, despite "having amassed a sufficient competency

to purchase a share in a mercantile house of considerable

dealings. But the love of enterprise, as much as the rate

of gain, seems to have taken him off again to his old


- 71 -

The Cuban slaving boom in turn stimulated a Baltimore

shipbuilding boom, while North American shipping as a whole

was in a severe state of depression.2s The Baltimore

schooner with some improvements became the Baltimore clipper

which in the future could be "expected to carry on the

trade."26 It was an inexpensive ship to build, yet its wood

was "very good and light," and it was "much valued for the

property of sailing."27

In 1838 there appeared in Havana Harbor the first

of the large Baltimore clippers, the "Venus," which soon

would revolutionize the trade. She was big enough to

transport.1,000 slaves, yet called in the Baltimore

newspapers "the sharpest clipper built vessel ever con-

structed here" and "according to the opinion of nautical

men" would outsaill anything that floats."28

The "Venus," under the ownership of Don Jose Mazorra,

whose long career covered "all facets of the slave trade,"

soon proved, to the dismay of the British, that she could

do just that. Renamed the "Duquesa de Braganza" and

registered under the Portuguese flag she sailed for Africa

in October of 1838 and "in the almost incredibly short time

of four months" returned to Havana after disembarking on

-he Cuban shores "no fewer than 860 slaves."29 The clipper's

'ican crew boasted in Havana "that though one of the

- 72 -

[British] cruisers watched and saw them take part of their

cargo on board, and attempted afterwards to follow them"

that "the chase was made in vain."30

With the slavers employing better and faster ships,

the Cuban government hostile, and the patrolling of Cuba's

2,000 mile coastline impossible, the British switched

tactics and turned their attention to the source of the

Atlantic slave trade-Africa.31 Beginning in 1840, England

began to negotiate "slave trade suppression treaties with

west African chieftains" in order to bottle up the "notorious

embarkation points for slaves."32

That this policy was often disruptive of the local

economy was put succinctly enough by one African monarch

who told a British naval captain, "We want three things;

powder, ball and brandy, and we have three things to sell;

men, women and children."33 The King of Dahomey, following

this formula, was reported in 1848 to be deriving an income

of some $300,000 annually from the slave trade. The powder

and ball he turned over to his warriors to make war with.

The slaves resulting from the war were then put on the


Yet the British were persuasive, and stubborn chiefs

not receptive to their arguments were liable to discover a

company of marines swarming ashore to "convince" them by

- 73 -

destroying their slaving depots. By 1848 Britain had

concluded forty treaties of this nature which covered the

territory on the African bulge down to 2024'.35 In

addition, the English navy began imposing a rigid blockade

system on the African Coast. By 1841 it was causing the

slave traders a great amount of apprehension and was no

doubt at least partially responsible for the disastrous

year the slavers would experience in 1842.36

More important as a cause of the slavers impending

"time of troubles" was Ger6nimo Valdes who relieved Tacol

as Captain General of Cuba in March of 1841. Almost

immediately upon arrival in Cuba, Valdes "pledged himself

that he will rigorously punish every infraction of the law"

regarding the slave trade." Obviously under instructions

from the liberal government in Madrid which had just com-

pleted another about face regarding the trade, Valdes began

to make good on his promise, first, by closing the public

barracoons and second, by preventing notorious slavers from

sailing.38 Soon after this, the Spanish navy made one of

its only arrests of a slaving ship when the "Aurelia Felis"

was taken.39 By March of the following year slaving vessels

such as the "Venus" were afraid to land their cargoes.40

It was not simply the slave trade which was under

attack, however, but the entire institution of slavery on

- 74 -

the Island. In Spain antislavery views were being aired

openly in the press. Such suggestions as,"Spain which

continues to protect the infamous.slave trade to Cuba ought

instead to repress this traffic, and repression should

merely be the prelude to complete emancipation," were

hardly received with equanimity by the slave interests

of the Island.41 Instead, they fought back. They demanded

that Madrid suppress articles dealing with the question of

slavery and the slave trade.42 Authors with such views

were obviously either "enemies of national prosperity" or

so naive as to be unable to distinguish between the

lamentable state of the Jamaican Negro after abolition and

the "air of decency and happiness" which permeated Cuban

slavery.3 Since everyone knew that a slave in Cuba was

better off than a free Negro in Jamaica or a poor white man

in Europe, why, they asked, was England so anxious to put

an end to Cuban slavery?44

Yet even the Cuban slave interests, who always

suspected the worst of England, were soon to be stunned at

the length to which at least one Englishman would go to

put an end to Cuban slavery. He was David Turnbull, the

famous English abolitionist, who arrived in Havana late

in the year 1840 to take up his duties as British Consul.45

Soon after this, he persuaded the British government to

- 75 -

undertake a plan which he hoped Spain would have no choice

but to accept. The plan was simple enough. Great Britain

was to ask Spain for a new treaty, which would call for a

census of all slaves on the Island to be taken. Those

who had been brought to the Island since 1820 were obviously

illegal and so would be emancipated."6 A not very subtle

trap, the plan, had it been agreed to by Spain and put into

effect, would have meant almost total abolition for the

Island since the great majority of Cuba's slaves had been

imported after 1820. Beyond this, such a plan would have

permitted the direct intervention of Great Briatin in Cuban

affairs to enforce the treaty." The decision of England's

Foreign Office to press for just this sort of agreement

caused Spain to unofficially seek United States reassurances

of support should British insistence be too overpowering.48

These reassurances were a bit slow in coming, but

when they did there was nothing timid about them. Anxiety

that Great Britain had resolved upon Cuba's ruin and was

determined to create a black military republic on the

Island under British protection led Secretary of State,

Daniel Webster, to state that "the United States never

would permit the occupation of that Island by British agents

or forces, upon any pretext whatsoever, and that in the

event of any attempt to wrest it from her she [Spain] might

- 76 -

securely rely upon the whole naval and military resources of

this country to aid her in preserving it."49

Meanwhile, apparently sufficiently intimidated by

the British, Madrid in an extraordinary fit of confusion

ordered Valdds to prepare for the emancipation of all

slaves imported since 1820.50 Valdes, of course, did not

dare publish this at a time when the Junta de Fomento in

Havana was threatening Madrid with rebellion should such a

census be carried out.51 Moreover, the Junta had denounced

Turnbull as "a dangerous man, whose presence threatens the

security of the Island" and demanded his expulsion.52

Fortunately, a crisis was avoided, for at this very

moment a tactful Lord Aberdeen replaced the aggressive

Palmerston in the Foreign Office and promised Madrid that,

at least for the time being, Britain would refrain from

insisting on the registering and subsequent emancipation of

all illegally introduced slaves.53

Turnbull, anticipating this frustration and

apparently determined to demonstrate just how "dangerous"

a man he could be, had been busy planning to attack slavery

in Cuba by another means. This attack was to be nothing

less than the rebellion of the Island, with the new inde-

pendent government to abolish slavery as one of its first

- 77

moves.54 To this end Turnbull had organized a group of

Cuban liberals, free coloreds, and slaves.

The conspiracy, seemingly an extensive one, never

reached fruition but instead, was smashed by Valdes who

thereupon demanded Turnbull's recall.55 Aberdeen complied

and "the entire slave-owning population of Cuba heaved a

sigh of relief."56

Within months, however, they were again holding

their collective breaths, for Turnbull was back, this time

as a superintendent of liberated Africans with a group of

free British Negroes in tow. Ostensibly he was to tour the

Island with the purpose of examining the status of the

emancipados who were now said to be re-enslaved.57

Valdes claimed that instead the Englishman was organizing

another rebellion, had his African companions shot, and

grimly deported Turnbull again with the suggestion that he

never return.58

He did not, but behind him remained the seeds of

rebellion which grew steadily until March of 1843 when a

slave insurrection erupted in Cardenas. The authorities,

spurred on by memories of Haiti, "investigated" with

a rigor that included countless arrests, torture, trials,

and executions.59 Soon another plot, La conspiraci6n

de la escalera, in Matanzas Province was disclosed.60

- 78 -

Turnbull was blamed because the principal architects of the

abortive revolt were "the free Negroes and mulattoes" who

had been "indoctrinated in the principles of the abolition

societies," and only one man could have done that.61 This

class received much of the blame, and Leopoldo O'Donnell,

the new captain general, beligerently suggested doing away

with all of them, preferably by deporting them.62

Nor was O'Donnell the only one to consider drastic

measures because of the abortive revolt. Madrid, for the

moment,.entertained the idea of declaring the slave trade

piracy and found a good deal of Cuban support for the prop-

osition.63 Slowly, however, the panic ebbed. Madrid's

"experts" pointed out that deporting "152,000 people who

do much to aid agriculture would be prejudicial to the

Island," and it was agreed that the Captain General had not

been "thinking too clearly."64

In fact, no one had been thinking very clearly.

Great Britain in permitting Turnbull free rein had managed

to incite the slave interests of Cuba to the point of

demanding the removal of Vald6s who had done more than any

other captain general to end the slave trade.65 They had

also managed to stir up a good measure of anti-British

sentiment in the United States and more than a modicum of

annexationist sentiment in that country.66 Madrid, by its

- 79 -

foolish ambivalence, had in turn created a counterpart to

this sentiment in Cuba. More than a few slave holders held

the conviction that their property would be more secure if

the United States owned the Island.6"

Needless to say, the confusion of these years took

a bit of an edge off the profits of the slave trading

business.18 However, by the end of 1844 the traders could

be more optimistic. Valdes was gone and the new captain

general, O'Donnell, had "renewed the system of receiving

the payments per head for Negroes introduced."69 Palmerston

had been replaced in the British Foreign Office, and England

was pursuing a more reasonable policy. The liberal

Espartero government in Spain had fallen, and, for the

moment, a more conservative group was in control. Best of

all, from the slavers' standpoint, the newly created American

African Squadron, as predicted, was proving more interested

in protecting American flag vessels from British cruisers

than in inspecting them for slaves.70

Not that the slavers had been completely inactive

during these years. A British naval officer reported in

January of 1843 that "America now has vessels all over the

coast." They "sail in pairs, belonging to the same owner

and being all clippers."71 Actually, throughout 1843,

despite the vigilance of Vald6s, there were many landings

- 80 -

at Matanzas, Trinidad, and Santiago de Cuba, whose

governors were "said to be profiting enormously by this

traffic."72 And by the end of the year the slavers were

being credited with "more activity than they have been able

to evince in many years."73

Eighteen fourty-four, of course, had witnessed a

rapid decrease in this activity because of the panic

created by "la escalera" with the result that Cuba was

experiencing an acute labor shortage.7

Yet this demand was not destined to be met, at least

not for the moment. The slavers had scarcely put to sea

when Madrid, with the First Carlist War terminated, made

another of its ill-timed moves. Alarmed by the annex-

ationist talk in both Cuba and the United States and

convinced that it was the friction caused by the slave trade

which kept her continually on the defensive, Spain suddenly

decided to end it. The result was the "ley penal" of

March 4, 1845, which provided a schedule of penalties for

those henceforth convicted of participation in the Atlantic

slave trade.s7 The superior officers, captains, pilots and

mates, and the supercargo were to receive six years in

prison if convicted. Resisting arrest would add two more

years to the sentence. The crew would be punished with a

four to six year sentence. The ship and cargo owners were

to receive the same punishment as the ship's officers.76

- 81 -

Furthermore, the law threatened a prison term to authorities

who connived in the slave trade.

Clearly, if the law of 1845 was to be enforced, the

slave trade to Cuba would suffer. Again the slavers lowered

their sails and began a period of watchful waiting. By

August of 1846 the British commissioners pronounced "the

slave trade to be discontinued at present."7

Pandemonium was the result in Cuba. Proprietors

began selling their ingenios, cries of humiliating concessions

to the British were heard in every quarter, and Captain

General O'Donnell, with.pen in hand, predicted the ruin of

the Island.7 Whether or not O'Donnell's prediction was based

on a genuine concern for the fate of Cuba or rather a worry

of losing his "commissions',' on slaves imported, he none-

theless enforced the law. But he never tired of warning the

Madrid government that they were making a mistake.79

It seems certain that O'Donnell's warnings were

received with attention and concern by Madrid. But the

moment was hardly ripe for crossing swords with the impa-

tient British. Brazil's intransigence in .the face of

England's attempt to renew the slave trade treaty existing

between the two countries had resulted in the Aberdeen Act

of August 1845, which authorized the unilateral search,

- 82 -

seizure, and adjudication by the British of all Brazilian

vessels employed in the slave trade.

By 1848, however, fear of a similar action against

Spain had diminished. O'Donnell's successor as captain

general, Federico Roncali, the Count of Alcoy, apparently

had instructions to tolerate the slave trade, for many of

his reports to Madrid state frankly that he was doing just

that. 8

Spain had again reversed its attitude toward the

slave trade. Terrified of the French Revolution of

February 1848, frightened by the expansionist policy of the

United States, which had brought about the annexation of

Texas and a war with Mexico, alarmed by the amount of sen-

timent to annex Cuba that was appearing in United States

newspapers, and dismayed by President Polk's attempt to

purchase Cuba,Madrid was in no further mood for British

abolitionism which, it was felt, could only serve to further

weaken Cuba's attachment to the mother country.81 Clearly,

the law of 1845 had been ill-advised. It had also been

disastrous for the Cuban slave trade. Reports from the

British commissioners in Sierra Leone indicate that only

one vessel of Spanish colors was tried there between 1845

and the middle of 1848.82 In Havana the commissioners,

having no landings to report, filled their dispatches with

- .83 -

details of the treatment the emancipados received and gossiped

about the depressed state of the sugar industry.83

The lethargic state of the slave trade, however,

ceased abruptly as Madrid again temporized itself into a

position of favoring it, thereby ending a few hard years

that had witnessed the failure of the Pedro Blanco Company,

one of Havana's largest slave importing concerns.84 In a

mood of renewed optimism, the slavery interests were even

able to find some comfort in the law of 1845. Article 9,

previously overlooked, was now scrutinized and pronounced

a godsend, for it was, in effect, a guarantee against any

further attempts at a slave registration, in that it pro-

hibited the "molesting" of "slave holders" by entering

their estates on the pretext of determine the origin of

their Negroes.85

Moreover, the British were finding the equipment

clause in the Treaty of 1835 a bit difficult to enforce,

for it was becoming obvious that even English ships, which

went to the African Coast to carry on legitimate commerce,

were liable to seizure if the treaties were vigorously

applied. All vessels carried extra water (because of the

difficulties of procuring potable water on the African Coast);

all vessels carried extra planks (for building merchandise

display counters and bulkheads to keep merchandise separate);

- 84 -

and all carried gunpowder, tobacco, piece goods, and iron

and copper bars (to be traded with the natives).86 Quick

to take advantage, Madrid, acting on the recommendation of

the Cuban slave interests, began pressing Great Britain for

a modification of Article 10 of the treaty which defined


In Havana, too, things were back to normal. A

fresh outburst of protests from the commissioners to the

Captain General, of widespread slave landings were returned

labeled "vaga e inverosimil" (vague and improbable).88

Alcoy, it was alleged, was not only taking fees but was

conniving in a plan to introduce 40,000 new slaves to the

Island, which would net him about ten pounds or three

doubloons on each one.89

These reports of a revived Cuban slave trade were

particularly maddening to Palmerston's Foreign Office at

this juncture, for since 1848 English public opinion had

tired of Britain's inability to end the slave trade and had

become highly critical of the great amount of money expended

in what seemed to be a useless and endless endeavor.

There was no doubt that "the great crusade for

humanity" was costing a trifle more than had been anticipated.

The London Times placed its annual expense at a half-million

pounds.s9 And two committees, one from each House of

- 85 -

Parliament appointed to examine this question, discovered

that "the payments made and liabilities incurred by Great

Britain on account of Portugal and Spain [to end the slave

trade] amounting to 3,958,145 bear only a small proportion

to the expense which Great Britain has incurred in the

endeavor to suppress the African Slave Trade."91

Spurred on by the need for an immediate success,

London, in the Spring of 1850, determined on a blockade of

Rio de Janeiro. By September the Brazilian Parliament had

been bludgeoned into declaring the trade piracy. Now the

committee could inform the British government that "the

slave trade would soon be extinct if the Cuban market were


Cuba's situation, however, was far different from

that of Brazil. Slavery on the Island was still extremely

profitable, as each year the sugar output rose higher and

more lands were given over to its cultivation. Thus

Britain was extremely vulnerable to charges of self-interest,

not entirely unwarranted, as demonstrated by Lord Carlisle

in a speech before the House on May 30, 1852, when he

observed that, "The free labor of Jamaica cannot compete

with the forced labor of Cuba."93

Moreover, unlike Brazil, Cuba was not weak and

isolated, but rather the possession of an important, if

somewhat impotent, European power. And Spain had indicated

- 86 -

more than once a willingness to go to war should British

humiliations become unbearable. In 1848, for example,

Madrid had ejected Sir Henry Bulwer, the abolitionist ambas-

sador, and in 1850 bluntly refused any suggestion of a cen-

sus to determine the number of "illicit" slaves on the

Island.9" Furthermore, despite Britain's most vigorous

exertions, Spain steadfastly refused to declare the slave

trade piracy.9s

Nor could a war between Great Britain and Spain over

Cuban slavery fail to involve the United States whose own

designs on the Island were hardly secret. In fact, it was

probably not the United States in the role of Cuba's pro-

tector, but rather as a potential aggressor that served to

dissuade Great Britain from taking drastic action against

the Island as it had against Brazil. The L6pez expeditions

against Cuba in 1850-51 had the effect of not only con-

firming Spain's worst fears, but of threatening to "upset

the balance of power in the Caribbean."96 There seems lit-

tle doubt that the refusal of the United States to join with

France and Great Britain in guaranteeing Spanish sovereignty

over the Island had the effect of staying any vigorous uni-

lateral action on England's part.97

With Cuba, then, delicately balanced between the

pressures of British abolitionism and United States

- 87 -

annexationism, vessels continued to clear for Africa "under

different names and with falsely declared destinations."98

Those arriving from Africa were making a much greater at-

tempt at concealment, so as not "to excite the suscepti-

bility of the British Government."99

This "susceptibility" was indeed excited when it

came to the attention of the Foreign Office that Brazil's

role in the slave trade was not yet over. Instead, iron-

ically enough, as soon as Brazil ceased being a major

purchaser of African slaves, it became a source for their

procurement. Spain had long been looking for a way in

which Cuba could receive a sufficient supply of labor which

would not occasion objections from the British. During the

years 1830-32 the transportation of free Negroes to Cuba

from the Canary Islands was attempted with poor results.100

Then in 1847 the first Chinese were brought to the Island

on a contract-labor basis, and in 1849 the first of a num-

ber of Yucatecan Indians arrived.'01 These experiments

would prove equally disappointing. However, at this very

moment a much more satisfactory opportunity for labor

procurement was presenting itself. Many of Brazil's slave

holders, alarmed that abolition of the slave trade was

merely a prelude to total abolition, were anxious to "un-

load" their investments immediately rather than gamble on

compensation when abolition occurred.102

- 88 -

The first Negroes brought to Cuba from Brazil

naturally elicited British complaints of treaty violations.103

The Captain General, however, thought otherwise. He viewed

the treaty as prohibiting the importation of slaves from

Africa only but not from other countries which permitted

slavery.' 0

Lord Palmerston, as might be expected, interpreted

the treaty in a somewhat different light, pointing out that

"the first article of the Treaty of 1835 declares that the

slave trade, on the part of Spain, shall thence forward be

totally and finally abolished in every part of the world,"

and it was "just as much a violation" to bring slaves to

Cuba from Brazil as it was from Africa.105

It could scarcely have escaped the attention of the

Spanish that Palmerston was attempting to deny Cuba that

which England had not denied its own subjects--an inter-

colonial slave trade. Palmerston's interpretation would

apply equally to the transfer of Negroes from Puerto Rico

to Cuba, yet between 1808 and 1833, when slavery was abol-

ished in the British West Indies, the latter sustained a

brisk interisland trade.'06 Perhaps for this reason a

direct confrontation on the matter never transpired. Rather,

Britain seems to have made little effort to suppress an

"inter-American" trade, and the Spanish acquiesced in the

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