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In Puerto Rico the El Morro Castle was able to defeat the attacks by Drake and Hawkins in 1595. However, George Clifford, the Earl of Cumberland, led an attack with 1,400 troops in June 1598 that forced the garrison of 400 men to surrender, but the English lost 400 men to disease and left with slaves, sugar, ginger, and pearls in September.
Puerto Rico governor Juan Perez de Guzman began the policy of granting slaves asylum in 1664, and he urged Spain’s Council of the Indies to adopt this policy. The British objected, and after 1683 they often occupied Vieques in order to catch fugitives and to trade with Puerto Rico. Contraband trading in Puerto Rico had become increasingly popular ever since they prohibited the cultivation of ginger in 1602. In 1691 a clergyman from San German was beaten up for reporting to San Juan illegal commerce in Ponce. As smuggling increased in the 1690s, private ships were encouraged to seize vessels; but this led to plundering any cargo ship.
Puerto Rico fought off minor invasions by the British in 1702 and the Dutch the next year. The mulatto Miguel Henriquez was so successful at privateering that King Felipe V commended him in 1713. In 1731 Governor Matias de Abadia was instructed to curb contraband trading, but he protected the French and Dutch corsairs while punishing British smugglers. Privateers from Puerto Rico seized a fleet of six English ships bound for North American colonies in 1734.
In 1597 the fortress at Castillo del Morro was completed to protect the Havana harbor. During the 17th century Cuba suffered epidemics and attacks by Europeans as the population increased from 20,000 to about 50,000. Tobacco cultivation was banned for ten years until 1614 when it was revived; but the entire crop had to be shipped to Seville. Pirate raids slowed down after the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697 as the English began executing buccaneers.
In 1708 a Spanish royal decree enabled slaves to purchase their freedom, and the vast majority of freed Africans in the West Indies were in the Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico and Cuba. In 1715 the Spanish established the Factoria in Cuba to monopolize the tobacco business, but the growers revolted against this two years later and again in 1720 and 1723. That year a Belgian set up a printing press, and in 1728 Dominicans founded the University of San Jeronimo at Havana. Slaves in the copper mines of Santiago, Cuba revolted in 1729 and again two years later.
Following royal orders in 1605 Española governor Antonio de Osorio ignored cabildo protests and had the settlements at Puerto Plata, Montecristi, La Yaguana, and Bayaja burned to stop smuggling. Some rebelled and were defeated while others fled to Cuba. Only 2,000 livestock out of 110,000 survived in the new pasture. One third of the people from La Yaguana and Bayaja, who were settled at Bayaguana, died of hunger and disease by 1609. During the Thirty Years War (1618-48) the Dutch blocked Spanish shipping, and the sugar mills stopped producing. Governor Chavez de Osorio (1628-36) monopolized defense industries and acquired a fortune as did his successor Juan Bietrian de Biamonte (1636-44) who also controlled export licenses. He brought in 250 Portuguese soldiers to protect his tyranny. In 1662 colonists requested a license to import slaves for their cacao plantations, and the Crown replied that a contract to import 3,500 Africans annually into the Indies had been signed. An effort to recapture fugitive slaves called cimarrones in 1665 gained only seventy. The French attacked Santiago in 1667, and this was followed by a devastating hurricane the next year and a smallpox epidemic that killed about 1,500 in 1669. That year 400 Africans were brought to Española, but the colony could only afford to buy 140. In 1677 twelve slaves escaped from French territory and were given refuge and their freedom in Santo Domingo. In 1681 the Spaniards began selling horses, salted meat, and cowhides to the French. De Cussy’s attack on Santiago de los Caballeros in 1690 burned 160 homes, but the Spaniards retaliated with an attack in the north the next year.
The Spanish colony on Española supplied the populated sugar-producing St. Domingue colony with cattle in the 18th century. When the Spanish governor imposed a tax on the cattle sold to the French in 1721, the people of Santiago rebelled against it until troops subdued them. The French gradually pushed the border east until it was fixed in the agreement of 1731. When the new governor Pedro Zorilla de San Martin discovered in 1741 that the French were taxing the meat, he prohibited the export of livestock. St. Domingue was suffering a drought, and they persuaded the Spanish governor to permit an export quota of 200 cattle per month. The conflicts continued until they signed a treaty in 1764 for the free trade of cattle.
In the 18th century St. Domingue became France’s greatest colony. In 1705 an ordinance required every free man to serve in the militia. In 1734 marriages between Europeans and Africans were banned, and officers were dismissed for marrying mulatresses.
The French began their conquest of the Windward Islands in 1635. Sixty or more slaves fled to a mountain in the French portion of St. Kitt in 1639 and were killed. Tortuga Island is just north of western Española. The English, Dutch, French, and Spanish fought over this island from 1630 until 1659, when the French gained control of what they called La Tortue along with the western portion of Española they renamed St. Domingue. Louis XIV’s prime minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert chartered the French West India Company in 1664. A royal order opened to the French the slave trade from Guinea to the islands, and by 1672 the French had imported 3,000 Africans into their Caribbean colonies. That year all the French colonies were taken over by the Crown. Bertrand d’Ogeron de la Bouere reached La Tortue and Port-de-Paix the next year. He collected women from French jails and married them to settlers, increasing the colony from 400 to 1,500 by 1669. When the Company raised prices by two-thirds the next year, the people revolted. Admiral Gabaret helped suppress the rebellion, and Ogeron persuaded Colbert to pardon them. Tobacco was the chief crop, and exports increased along with immigration. Ogeron was succeeded by Jacques Nepveu, Seigneur de Pouancey, in 1675.
Padrejean was a former Spanish slave, and he led a slave revolt in 1679 that massacred European settlers and burned plantations until the rebelling Africans were killed. When de Pouancey died in 1682, a census of St. Domingue counted 6,658 people with eight priests. In 1687 the Spaniards captured the fort at Petit-Goave, but the French fought back and hanged their leaders. Two years later Louis XIV was at war and ordered the French to invade the Spaniards, and Tarin de Cussy sacked Santiago. In 1691 the Spaniards attacked the north and killed about five hundred. In 1694 Jean-Baptiste du Casse led an attack on Jamaica that burned 200 homes and looted machinery and distilleries while capturing 3,000 slaves and £60,000. A year later the British allied with the Spanish in an invasion that sacked and burned Cap François and Port-de-Paix. Du Casse moved his government to Léogane. In 1697 he led an expedition with 650 buccaneers and 180 African pioneers along with 170 soldiers and 110 volunteers that plundered rich treasures at Cartagena. The Peace of Ryswick recognized French sovereignty over western Española in September 1697.
That year a revolt by 300 slaves was suppressed. The number of slaves in St. Domingue increased from 2,000 in 1681 to more than 10,000 by the end of the century. Louis XIV issued a royal decree in 1685 that came to be known as the Code Noir. Slaves had the rights of marriage and family cohesion, due process of law, and religious instruction in Catholicism. They were forbidden to carry arms, own property, trade, hold meetings, testify against a master, or leave the plantation; theft, assault, and escape had severe penalties. The masters were responsible for the feeding, clothing, and well-being of the slaves; corporal punishment was allowed, but torture, mutilation, and death were prohibited except by law. A slave could get the death penalty for striking a master or his wife, and runaways were mutilated the first two times and executed after a third attempt. A master having sexual intercourse with a slave could have her and the children confiscated. Slaves could be mortgaged as moveable property. Masters could liberate those who had been slaves for twenty years, and freedmen had all the rights and privileges of persons born free.
Francis Drake raided the West Indies in 1585. His men held the plaza of Santo Domingo for a month while he tried to negotiate a ransom. Next he attacked Cartagena and destroyed its buildings while demanding money. Drake avoided Havana as too strong. The next year King Felipe II sent the engineer Juan Bautista Antonelli to strengthen the fortifications at Havana in Cuba, San Juan in Puerto Rico, Puerto Bello in Panama, and Cartagena.
In 1605 the English tried to settle at St. Lucia in the West Indies, but the Caribs drove them away. That year Olive Leigh found Barbados uninhabited and claimed it for England. In 1621 the Dutch formed their West Indies Company, and three years later the British House of Commons chartered the West Indies Association. English colonists led by Thomas Warner landed at St. Kitts in 1623 and at Barbados two years later. The English added Nevis, and the French settled for half of St. Kitts in 1625. That year the English and the Dutch occupied St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, and Bowdoin Hendricks sacked San Juan, Puerto Rico. In response the cabildo (council) at San Juan strengthened the walls around the town.
In 1625 King James I granted the Earl of Carlisle proprietary rights to the “Caribees Islands” between ten and twenty degrees north latitude. In 1627 Captain Henry Powell went from Barbados to Guiana, where his friend the Dutch governor Adrian van Groenewegen was married to a Carib and had friendly relations with the natives for 48 years. He let Powell take 32 Arawaks back to Barbados to advise him on farming cassava, corn (maize), tobacco, and other crops on the understanding that they would be free to return after two years; however, they were made slaves and were not released until 1655.
Warner and the English drove all the Caribs except a few women slaves off St. Kitts. Spaniards led by Fadrique de Toledo attacked the island on 7 September 1629, destroyed the town, and captured seven English ships. Some of the English were taken as hostages and were held as prisoners in Spain for five years. Others who fled to the mountains and the French returned to their plantations after the Spaniards left in 1630 when the Treaty of Madrid resolved this conflict. Cromwell later used it as an excuse to attack the Spanish West Indies.
Near Trinidad the Dutch occupied Tobago in the early 1630s, but this island would change hands twenty times in the next three centuries. English settlers lived on St. Lucia for three years before the Caribs drove them off again in 1641. By then Barbados had more than 30,000 inhabitants, and St. Kitts and Nevis had 20,000. Sugar plantation owners became wealthy fast, though it required three times as many Africans and livestock as other crops. In 1640 a plantation of 500 acres sold for £400 in Barbados, but in 1648 a half share cost £7,000. In 1647 a conspiracy of European servants to revolt was discovered on Barbados, and eighteen were executed. In the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia the Spanish recognized the Dutch colonies in the West Indies. The Spaniards took over St. Croix, but the French drove them out in 1650.
Because of the British Civil War, the Commonwealth government prohibited trade with Barbados, Antigua, Bermuda, and Virginia. Barbados royalist governor Willoughby had 5,000 men to less than one thousand in the Commonwealth squadron led by George Ayscue. Modyford’s men doubled the latter, and in January 1652 he and Ayscue made a treaty with Willoughby. This Charter of Barbados called for the usual governor and his council but also included an assembly elected by local freeholders, and no taxes could be imposed without the consent of the assembly. Between 1654 and 1660 Barbados received 2,331 indentured servants from Europe.
In the middle of the 17th century the Dutch dominated trade with 15,000 of the 25,000 ships. A treaty between England and France in 1660 allowed the Caribs to keep the islands of Dominica and St. Vincent. The Staple Act of 1663 required that all European goods shipped to English colonies be transported in English vessels. After the restoration of Charles II the sugar business at Barbados boomed, using four hundred ships in 1661 to export goods worth £350,000. Willoughby governed Barbados again (1663-70) and imposed a 4.5% tax on all commodities and produce exported. Barbados withstood an attack by the Dutch admiral de Ruyter in 1665, but he captured sixteen English ships from the other Leeward Islands. The Treaty of Breda in 1667 ended the Second Anglo-Dutch War and allowed the Dutch to keep Surinam while the French kept Tobago. The Danish West Indies Company was formed in 1671, and they founded a colony at St. Thomas. The British Plantation Duties Act of 1673 taxed named commodities shipped between colonies.
During the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-78) Tobias Bridge led a force from Barbados and destroyed a settlement at Tobago in 1672, taking four hundred prisoners and as many slaves. The alliance of England and France forced the Dutch West Indies Company into bankruptcy by 1674, giving the French a commercial monopoly in their own colonies. In 1674 Caribs from Dominica raided Antigua and killed English settlers. That year Governor William Stapleton (1672-85) convened an assembly of the Leeward Islands with two representatives from Antigua, Montserrat, Nevis, and St. Kitts. Slaves in Antigua revolted in 1687 and were hunted down. In 1698 Barbados had an average of eighteen slaves for every European male.
During Spain’s War of Succession the Leeward Islands governor Christopher Codrington took over the French portion of St. Kitts in 1702, but in the next two years French privateers captured 163 prizes. Commodore Hovenden Walker brought a British fleet that invaded Guadaloupe in 1703. A French fleet attacked St. Kitts in March 1706, looted the island, and left with 300 slaves. The next month Admiral Pierre le Moyne d’Iberville with 3,000 troops invaded Nevis, forced the English to round up their slaves, and carried off 3,200 Africans. Col. Daniel Parke arrived as governor of the Leeward Islands in July. He complained that the rich could never be convicted by a jury, and so even murder went unpunished. Parke behaved erratically and refused to obey his orders to depart. The Antigua Assembly refused to recognize his authority, and in 1710 he was killed in a riot. His successor Col. Walter Douglas conducted an investigation, and three men were tried for his murder. Yet all the members of the Assembly were re-elected. Douglas was charged with accepting bribes from those he pardoned and was recalled in 1714. In the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht the British were given the Asiento that authorized them to supply 144,000 slaves to the West Indies. In 1730 the governor of Barbados complained that money was corrupting politics. The Barbados Gazette began publishing the next year. In 1733 at the behest of the legislatures of Barbados and the Leeward Islands, the British House of Commons imposed a heavy duty on all foreign sugar, molasses, and rum imported to the northern colonies.
In their colonies the British prohibited the manufacture of copper in 1722, hats in 1732, and iron in 1750. The Danes on St. Thomas occupied nearby St. John in 1716, and the French sold St. Croix to the Danes in 1733. That year slaves in St. John rebelled and killed all the Europeans except a few who fled to St. Thomas. The slaves who revolted in Antigua in 1736 were better off than most but were punished severely. A commission inquired and recommended that slaves be barred from jobs considered proper for free men. In 1739 the British went to war against Spain over Jenkins’ ear in order to maintain control of the slave trade, and in 1744 France declared war on England.
The British Navigation Ordinance of 1651 prohibited importing colonial products into England except on English ships, and European goods sold to their colonies had to go on English ships or on ships from the country where the products originated. This policy led to a war with the Dutch the next year. Oliver Cromwell sponsored his “western design” for the West Indies, and in 1655 Admiral William Penn and General Robert Venables led 2,500 men and captured eleven Dutch ships at Carlisle Bay of Barbados. They recruited 4,000 volunteers and indentured servants, leaving Barbadians unprotected and short of food. After taking on 1,200 more men from the Leeward Islands they attacked Santo Domingo by land in April 1655 and were routed by Spanish cavalry who killed 600. However, Jamaica had only 1,500 Spaniards, and the English easily conquered it for Cromwell, who went to war with Spain to keep it. The English soldiers slaughtered 20,000 cattle in a few weeks, and they even destroyed the crops so that they could go home. An epidemic spread from the English to the Spaniards still in Jamaica, and many Spaniards left in 1657. That year the Maroon leader Juan de Bolas surrendered to the English and was made a colonel in an African regiment. The next year Yassi returned with a thousand soldiers from Spain, but they were driven out in 1660.
Col. D’Oyley was replaced by Governor Windsor, who arrived in Jamaica in 1662 and proclaimed a grant of thirty acres to every male and female over twelve years of age that included military service. He was soon succeeded by Thomas Modyford, who supported the buccaneers that were used in the war against the Dutch. In 1665 Edward Mansvelt captured Sancti Spiritus on Cuba and sacked Granada in Nicaragua, and he and Henry Morgan took over Providence Island.
Pirates captured 260,000 pieces of eight (Spanish dollar) at Maracaibo in 1666. After Mansvelt’s death Morgan plundered 250,000 pieces of eight at Puerto Bello in 1668, and the next year he captured Maracaibo. In 1670 Morgan raided Providence, La Hacha, and the San Lorenzo castle, and the next year his men captured the city of Panama.
The Spanish recognized British West Indies possessions in the 1670 Treaty of Madrid in exchange for the English suppressing buccaneering. Governor Thomas Lynch (1670-74) tried to decrease piracy in Jamaica, and the Assembly prescribed at least one European for every eight Africans. Buccaneers got only 100,000 pieces of eight from Trinidad in 1673. In 1674 Lord Vaughan became governor of Jamaica with Morgan as lieutenant governor, and the next year Modyford was appointed chief judge. In 1678 French buccaneers were active; de Grammont raided settlements in the Gulf of Maracaibo, and the Marquis de Maintenon plundered Trinidad and Margarita. Modyford died in 1679, and in 1683 Morgan was suspended from office for disorderly drinking. That year buccaneers led by Van Horn and de Grammont plundered the rich city of Veracruz. Lynch was governor of Jamaica again 1681-84. The Jamaica Assembly in 1681 put a tax of 5 pounds on each African exported. In 1685 slaves revolted and fled to the hills. A valuable sunken treasure ship was found off Cap François in 1686. When James II became king, he turned Morgan over to Spain for imprisonment; he died in 1688. Slaves revolted again in 1690. Port Royal was destroyed by an earthquake in 1692, dispersing the Jamaican buccaneers.
Archibald Hamilton was appointed governor of Jamaica in 1711, but he was recalled five years later for his association with piracy. In 1717 many pirates were given amnesty in Jamaica. That year England’s attorney general advised that a freed slave who had been baptized in Jamaica was entitled to the rights of a free Christian. A Jamaican law of 1720 set the limit at thirty slaves for each European. In 1721 the pirates Anne Bonney and Mary Read who dressed and fought like men were sentenced to death in Jamaica, but both had their sentences suspended because of being pregnant. In 1722 the weekly Jamaica Courant became the first newspaper published in the West Indies. In 1726 the Jamaica Assembly refused to pass another revenue act, and some believed the government could do without money or laws. In 1731 the governor reported that half the troops were in a woeful state from being drunk on rum. A treaty was made with the Maroons in 1739; they were declared free forever and were given 1,500 acres to grow anything but sugar. Jamaica imported 610,000 Africans as slaves in the first eighty-seven years of the 18th century while exporting 160,000 of them. Edward Trelawny governed Jamaica fairly well from 1738 to 1752.
English buccaneers used the island of Providence off the coast of Nicaragua as a base from 1629, and Robert Rich, the Earl of Warwick, formed a company. In 1631 Captain Anthony Hilton was appointed governor, and Tortuga came under the protection of the Providence Company. In 1634 Spaniards invaded and massacred most of the English settlers and buccaneers. In 1637 the Dutch offered to buy Providence for £70,000, but King Charles blocked the sale. That year Nathaniel Butler replaced Hilton as governor. Spaniards raided again the next year, and slaves revolted in 1639. Spaniards led by Francisco Diaz de Pimienta attacked again in 1641, and only a few English escaped to the Mosquito Coast. In response Captain William Jackson recruited 650 men from Barbados and 250 from St. Kitts to attack the Spanish colonies at Margarita, Puerto Caballo, and Maracaibo. In 1643 he took Santiago de la Vega in Jamaica. After taking several towns on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, he returned to England in 1645. Captain William Sayle led settlers to Eleuthera in the Bahamas in 1646.
New Providence in the Bahamas was raided by 250 Spaniards in 1684. The preacher Thomas Bridges brought settlers from Jamaica while others came from Bermuda. In 1688 suspected pirates were sent back to Jamaica. Proprietors made Bridges governor that June, but the next year Cadwallader Jones arrived with a commission to proclaim William and Mary, but instead he acted dictatorially with help from pirates. In 1691 English pirates left Tortuga and moved to New Providence, but in January 1692 the Council rebelled and put Jones in irons, appointing Thomas Bulkley to prosecute him. However, supporters of Jones on a grand jury restored his power and kept Bulkley in irons for 485 days. In January 1693 the Proprietors appointed Nicholas Trott to replace Jones.
Captain Elias Haskett became governor of the Bahamas in 1700, but the next year he was thrown in jail for trying to imprison Read Elding for piracy. In 1703 French and Spanish privateers cooperated in sacking Nassau, and government broke down in the Bahamas until the end of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13). Edward Teach gained his own ship in 1716 and had an infamous career for two years as the pirate called Blackbeard. A general amnesty for all pirates was declared in September 1717, and Woodes Rogers was appointed governor of the Bahamas. He had sailed around the world from 1708 to 1711 and rescued Alexander Selkirk from Juan Fernandez Island; Rogers’ account of the marooned sailor inspired Daniel Defoe to write Robinson Crusoe in 1719. Rogers arrived in July 1718 while the pirate Charles Vane was burning a French prize. Vane sailed away but was executed at Jamaica in 1720. Rogers declared martial law, set up an admiralty court, and organized a militia that included ex-pirates. He sent three pirates to England for trial and hanged nine in December 1718. Between 1716 and 1726 the British executed about five hundred pirates, and at least twice that many were killed resisting capture. However, Rogers was not supported by the inhabitants and left Nassau for England in March 1721. George Phenney managed to bring order to Eleuthera and governed the Bahamas until Rogers returned in time to convene the Assembly in September 1729 with eight members from Nassau and four each from eastern New Providence, western New Providence, Eleuthera, and Harbour Island. John Colebrooke controlled the Assembly, but Rogers dissolved it. Colebrooke refused to turn over papers and was convicted of sedition; he could not pay the fine of £750 and was detained. By the time Rogers died in 1732 he had done much to solve the piracy problem. The Bahamas prospered in the mid-18th century.
In March 1744 France and England declared war on each other. In 1745 Admiral Isaac Townsend captured thirty French ships on their way to Martinique, and two years later Captain George Pocock captured forty such prizes. In the 1748 Treaty of Aix-la Chapelle the Windward Islands of Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Tobago were declared neutral. At the conclusion of the Seven Years War in 1763 the British annexed Dominica, St. Vincent, Grenada, and Tobago while restoring Guadalupe, Martinique, and St. Lucia to the French. The Sugar Duties Act of 1764 enforced heavy duties on trade to help pay for the Seven Years War. In 1777 Grenada had 27 slaves per European.
The British West Indies suffered economically during the American war of independence. The duty on sugar practically doubled between 1776 and 1782. In 1778 three hundred Europeans fled from St. Kitts to escape prosecution for debts. Governor Marquis de Bouillé of Martinique led a force in September that captured Dominica. Also in December 1778 a British fleet led by John Byron took St. Lucia; but they could not stop France from taking St. Vincent and Grenada the next year. On 26 November 1781 Bouillé captured St. Eustatius. The French also took Tobago and then St. Kitts the next year. In September 1783 by the Versailles Treaty the English recovered Grenada, St. Vincent, St. Kitts, Montserrat, Nevis, and Dominica; France regained St. Lucia and was ceded Tobago; and Spain’s possession of Florida was recognized. The French established a naval base at Martinique the next year. During the 1780s several hundred slaves died of famine in Nevis and Antigua. In 1783 British Navigation Laws regulated commerce with the United States.
The Maroons on Dominica had been armed by the French during their occupation, and in 1785 they killed many Europeans. A Legion was recruited and suppressed them in 1786, executing the ringleaders. In 1797 Andrew James Cochrane Johnstone became governor of Dominica, but he used extortion, traded slaves, and kept a harem. He commanded the 8th West India Regiment which captured St. Martin in 1801 but mutinied on 9 April 1802 at Prince Rupert’s Bay. The British Navy put down the mutiny by killing or wounding a hundred men, and Johnstone was suspended in 1803.
In the 18th century the British West Indies imported goods worth more than twice as much as they exported. The population of the British West Indies in 1787 was 461,864 African slaves, 58,353 Europeans, and 7,706 free Africans. The French West Indies in 1780 had 437,738 African slaves, 63,682 Europeans, and 13,429 free Africans.
In 1792 a General Congress of representatives from Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Lucia, and Tobago met in Martinique and limited the rights of mulattoes, and the next year the Martinique Assembly considered itself independent of the revolutionary French administration. Monarchists in Guadaloupe refused to accept a new governor sent from Paris in 1792. When slaves revolted in 1793, the French colonists appealed to the British for help. The British captured Tobago, and in 1794 they took over Martinique, Guadeloupe, and St. Lucia. In 1795 Fedon led a rebellion in Grenada that lasted two years while a French squadron of seven ships led by the mulatto Victor Hugues invaded Guadaloupe in the Second Black Carib (Maroon) War or Brigand’s War. He raised African troops and moved on to St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Grenada. After these raids, the British regained control while seizing Guiana in 1796 and Trinidad the next year. In the Peace of Amiens in 1802 the British gave their conquests back to France, but Napoleon Bonaparte’s law of May 20 restored slavery in the French colonies. When hostilities broke out again, the British reoccupied them in 1803.
In February 1809 British forces led by General George Beckwith captured Martinique, and a year later he led troops that took over Guadaloupe, St. Martin, Saba, and St. Eustatius. Beckwith governed Barbados 1810-15. On 30 May 1814 the Treaty of Paris was signed, and the British restored to France all the colonies they had captured except Tobago and St. Lucia, paying Sweden £1,000,000 because they had promised them Guadeloupe during the war. A slave revolt began in Barbados on 14 April 1816. Only one European was killed; but several hundred slaves died in the fighting, and even more were executed after a trial. More than a hundred were deported to Belize; but the people there refused to let them stay, and they were sent to Sierra Leone.
The Jamaica Assembly asserted in 1766 that it had all the rights and privileges of the House of Commons and that neither the king nor his representatives could overrule these. Because Jamaica had so many slaves, they were punished severely for even trivial offenses. There were slave conspiracies or revolts in 1765, 1769, and 1776. In 1774 Jamaica reported a population of 192,787 slaves, 12,737 Europeans, and 4,093 free colored people. To prevent famine, the ackee tree was introduced in 1778 and the mango in 1782, but between 1780 and 1787 about 15,000 slaves died of famine in Jamaica. In 1788 a law was passed so that anyone mutilating a slave could be fined £100 and imprisoned for one year, and three years later a European, who had killed a slave, committed suicide to avoid being hanged; but in 1792 the Consolidated Slave Act freed a slave from a master only for the most atrocious mutilation. Jamaica’s Second Maroon War started in July 1795. On December 14 about a hundred dogs were brought from Cuba to Montego Bay by forty Cuban hunters. The Maroons negotiated, and on the 21st an agreement was made that they would not be deported if they surrendered by the 31st; but only 21 did so by the deadline. General Walpole gave them more time, and about 400 Maroons surrendered in January 1796. Because they missed the deadline the Legislature decided they could be deported, and in June 556 Trelawney Maroons were sent to Nova Scotia. On 31 October 1815 Jamaica’s House of Assembly passed resolutions protesting British suppression of the illegal slave trade, and they proclaimed that they should not be bound by laws imposed without their consent.
The Bahamas prospered in the mid-18th century. In 1776 Commodore Hopkins of the new American navy abducted the governor of the Bahamas from Nassau. Many loyalists fled from the United States to the Bahamas, which tripled its population between 1783 and 1788 while the portion of slaves increased from half to three-quarters. John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, was a land speculator and became governor in 1787. He wasted money building massive forts, but the Assembly finally gained control over the budget in 1793. The Act of 1799 limited voting to free white men, but in 1807 the franchise was extended to free African men. That year the British government abolished the slave trade and made it illegal as of the first day of 1808.
In 1828 Mary Prince left Antigua with her master, and they went to London and lived in the home of Thomas Pringle, a founder of the Anti-Slavery Society. Her account of slavery in the West Indies was transcribed there and published in 1831. This was the first slave narrative by a woman published in England, and it had three editions and caused much controversy.
In 1831 slaves in Antigua revolted, and the Governor of Barbados had to send reinforcements to quell the rebellion. On December 25 in Jamaica about 60,000 slaves stopped working and demanded more freedom and wages at half the going rate. Samuel Sharpe was a black Baptist preacher who could read, and he led the uprising. In January 1832 during the 11-day “Baptist War” 207 rebels and 14 whites were killed. Afterward about 325 slaves were executed for various reasons. Sharpe surrendered to save Baptist missionaries and was hanged on 23 May 1832. The British Parliament then met to consider eliminating slavery in its dominions.
On 28 August 1833 Britain passed the Slavery Abolition Act that compensated slave-owners with £20 million. On 1 August 1834 slaves under the age of six were liberated in the colonies. The other slaves became apprentices, and the apprenticeships were to end in two stages on August 1 in 1838 and 1840. In the British West Indies 38,218 owners put in claims for compensation for their 540,559 slaves that included 255,290 in Jamaica, 69,579 in British Guiana, and 66,638 on Barbados. According to Fowell Buxton in the eleven years before 1832 the slave population in British Guiana had decreased by about 52,000 because of more than 20,000 punishments per year that inflicted a total of two million lashes. The British chartered the first Colonial Bank of the West Indies in 1836. The Quaker Joseph Sturge and Thomas Harvey published The West Indies in 1837 to report that slavery and oppression continued despite efforts to develop apprenticeship. East Indians began migrating to the British West Indies in 1838, and then 22,202 came from Calcutta and Madras to British Guiana, Trinidad, and Jamaica. Cannabis sativa was brought to the Caribbean from India about 1850.
In 1839 the French West Indies had 285,956 slaves. The Parisian Victor Schoelcher advocated abolition, publishing his Slavery of the Negroes and Colonial Legislation in 1833, French Colonies: Immediate Abolition of Slavery in 1842, and History of Slavery during the last Two Years in 1847. That year Sweden liberated 600 slaves on the island of St. Barthelémy. The Emancipation Proclamation of 1848 was intended to free the slaves in the French West Indies. In July that year slaves in the Danish Virgin Islands revolted for three weeks, and on 22 December the Danish government accepted the Emancipation Proclamation.
Port-au-Prince became the capital of St. Domingue in 1749. François Macandal led a major slave revolt during the 1750s that caused the death of about 6,000 people before he was captured and burned at the stake in 1758. After that, hommes de couleur were prohibited from carrying side-arms. Many Jesuits were sympathetic to the slaves, and in 1763 they were expelled from the colony. The conflicts continued in the St. Domingue colony until they signed a treaty in 1764 for the free trade of cattle. Trade was further facilitated by the treaty of 1777. The Spanish also agreed to return runaway slaves to St. Domingue. In 1764 the Gazette de St. Domingue became the first newspaper on the island. In 1766 people of color were forbidden from many professions, and they were subject to the corvée labor on highways from which Europeans were exempt. In 1779 curfew regulations were imposed on them. Escaped slaves fled into the mountains, and in the 18th century the numbers of these marrons increased. In 1782 the French officer Saint-Larry initiated a political settlement with the French and Spanish authorities that gave the marrons their own territory under royal authority; there they kept alive African traditions.
St. Domingue imported 800,000 African slaves between 1680 and 1776. Most of the plantation owners lived in France. By 1783 St. Domingue accounted for more than one third of France’s foreign trade. Their sugar plantations had profits from eight to twelve percent compared to four to six percent for most other islands; according to Jamaicans, St. Domingue had better soil. In 1789 St. Domingue imported 40,000 slaves. In 1791 it had 7,466 plantations—3,097 in indigo, 2,180 in coffee, 792 in sugar, 705 in cotton, 632 in subsistence crops, and 69 in cocoa. About 40,000 Europeans discriminated against 28,000 free Africans (affranchis) while controlling 452,000 slaves. The census of 1774 recorded that 5,000 of the 7,000 female affranchis were the mistresses of Europeans.
On 4 July 1789 the French National Assembly seated six delegates from St. Domingue; but Mirabeau wanted to know why only white settlers were speaking for the mostly black population, and in October the Assembly seated a mulatre (mulatto) delegation. Vincent Ogé went to London and asked for money from the abolitionist Thomas Clarkson and bought arms. Ogé landed on the north coast of St. Domingue in October 1790 and petitioned Governor Comte de Peynier for the right to vote for all taxpayers as passed by the French National Assembly in March. When this was denied, Ogé gathered 300 mulatres and disarmed all the Europeans in the parish. He refused to arm slaves and marched with Jean-Baptiste Chavanne to the Cap Haitien. They were defeated by 1,500 white militia and fled east but were returned by the Spaniards. Ogé and Chavannes were broken on a rack, and 22 others were hanged. After news of this reached France, in May 1791 the National Assembly decreed that people of color born to free parents could be elected to colonial assemblies. The colonial delegates stalked out, and in August colonists elected only whites to the colonial assembly at Léogane. Meanwhile French revolutionaries took control at Port-au-Prince.
In the summer of 1791 the slave Boukman held meetings at night, and some slaves burned houses. After Boukman prayed for vengeance, slaves began killing men, drinking rum, raping women, and burning estates. About 2,000 French and an estimated 10,000 slaves were killed in the fighting. In September the National Assembly revoked their May decree that had granted rights to the mulatres. In reaction mulatre troops attacked the Europeans at Port-au-Prince in November. In 1792 Spaniards on the frontier began promising fugitive slaves their freedom. Santo Domingo gained some territory, but they soon lost it to former slaves led by Toussaint of Bréda. Toussaint was born about 1743, the son of an educated slave, and he was legally freed in 1777.
In April 1792 Louis XVI approved the Jacobin decree that granted equal rights to all people of color and free Africans, and three commissioners were sent with 6,000 soldiers to enforce it. Commissioner Léger-Félicité Sonthonax was an abolitionist, and with gens de couleur as allies he and Etienne Polverel subdued resistance in the north and west. General Etienne-Maynard Laveaux asked for reinforcements, and the National Assembly sent Thomas-François Galbaud to govern; but Sonthonax and Polverel canceled his efforts on behalf of the colonists and arrested him. On a ship Galbaud joined with the navy and 800 loyalist deportees to attack the government house. The Jacobins promised Africans that those taking up arms for the republic would be freed. Thousands of Africans swarmed into the Cap Français in June 1793, and Galbaud had to flee with 10,000 émigrés. The newly freed slaves were organized into three battalions called Liberté, Egalité, and Convention Nationale. In August 1793 Sonthonax proclaimed the Declaration of the Rights of Man for the north, and the next month Polverel liberated the slaves in the south and west.
After plundering the Cap Français in July 1793 Macaya joined the Spaniards to fight for their King Fernando VII, France’s Louis XVII, and King Joaquim I of the Kongo. More than a thousand French deserted to the Spaniards also. In September a British force from Jamaica occupied Jérémie, and they moved from the south to the northwest. In the north Toussaint took the name L’Ouverture and announced that he was fighting for liberty and equality; but he also fought for Spain against the French until he learned that the French National Convention had freed all slaves. Then in May 1794 he raised the French flag and murdered the Spanish officers who opposed him. While he reconquered the central Artibonite, the English took Port-au-Prince in June. Sonthonax and Polverel were recalled and yielded to the mulatre general André Rigaud and the noir (black) Toussaint. Rigaud expelled the royalist French from Léogane in September. In 1795 Spain made a treaty with France and agreed to evacuate the island of Española within a year. This stimulated the British to send troops there, but Toussaint defeated them too. Some Spanish families emigrated to Cuba, but they did not like the land they were given. Many in the religious communities did not want to leave Española because of their financial holdings.
Rigaud supported the mulatre Villatte and Pierre Pinchinat, and they arrested Laveaux. Col. Pierre Michel sent Henri Christophe to release Laveaux. Toussaint marched into the Cap, and the grateful Laveaux appointed him lieutenant governor of St. Domingue. Toussaint used military discipline to make ex-slaves work; but they were legally free and equal and shared in the profits. He sought reconciliation and urged Africans to learn from European civilization.
Three more commissioners arrived in May 1796, and Philippe Roume was sent to govern Santo Domingo. The slaves in the Spanish colony of Española were to be freed, and 200 slaves of the Boca de Nigua ingenio burned the cane fields and the buildings and killed the livestock in October 1796. Laveaux and Sonthonax were elected delegates to Paris, but Sonthonax stayed and sent General Kerverseau to curb Rigaud, who was re-enslaving noirs in the south. However, the noirs supported Rigaud and put Kerverseau and his emissaries in jail.
Toussaint had 20,000 troops and Rigaud 12,000 to fight the English, who attacked and occupied some Spanish towns in March 1797; but the next month Toussaint defeated them. In August 1797 Toussaint marched on the Cap and deported Sonthonax to Paris. The Directory sent the Comte d’Hédouville as commissioner with only 200 men to establish republican laws, and he arrived in March 1798. General Thomas Maitland offered to evacuate the west, and Toussaint agreed to a truce. On August 31 Maitland got a secret promise from Toussaint that he would not invade Jamaica. By the time they withdrew from the island in October the British had lost about 25,000 men, mostly to yellow fever and malaria.
Hédouville sent some black regiments to work in the fields, and fear that he would restore slavery provoked a rebellion. He appealed to Toussaint, who marched toward the Cap killing whites. On October 22 Hédouville sailed for France with 1,800 refugees. Before he left, Hédouville promoted Rigaud to equal rank with Toussaint; but Roume realized that Toussaint was supported by 90% of the people. Rigaud quarreled with Toussaint, and Roume declared Rigaud a traitor in July 1799. Toussaint had 30,000 troops to Rigaud’s 2,500. Toussaint promised President John Adams of the United States that he would stop French privateering, and he received 2,680 muskets and ammunition.
The Directorate named Toussaint governor-general in 1799. By threatening to kill the Europeans, Toussaint persuaded French commissioner Roume to sign a decree for the occupation of Española in April 1800; but Governor Joaquin Garcia was being pressured to fight by the people in the interior towns, and Roume annulled his decree on June 26. In July 1800 Rigaud fled to Guadaloupe and France while 700 of his mulatre troops went to Cuba. Toussaint preached forgiveness in the cathedral and then had 300 prisoners and 50 of Rigaud’s officers executed. At St. Marc 600 rebels were slaughtered. Toussaint made Jean-Jacques Dessalines governor in the south, and he is said to have slaughtered thousands of people of color.
Toussaint triumphantly entered the Cap in November 1800 and arrested Roume. Toussaint marched into Santo Domingo with his troops in December 1800, terminating the Spanish colony of Española. In the next month 2,000 residents fled to Venezuela and neighboring islands. Toussaint proclaimed that slavery was abolished on January 3, 1801. He opened the ports to free trade and began rehabilitating highways and plantations.
In 1801 St. Domingue became a self-governing colony with a Central Assembly and Toussaint as governor. Slavery was abolished forever, and color discrimination was banned in the civil service. Toussaint convened the Central Assembly in March with seven whites and three men of color to write a constitution, which was completed in May and centralized authority. Rumors that Toussaint was going to restore slavery provoked another rebellion, but forces led by Henri Christophe crushed the insurgency. The Constitution of Haiti was promulgated at Santo Domingo in August 1801.
Napoleon Bonaparte was offended by the Constitution, restored the slave trade in 1802, and sent his brother-in-law Victor-Emmanuel Leclerc to end the slave rebellion. He landed with 11,900 troops, and Christophe’s army retreated to the mountains. In the east the Spaniards and creoles joined the French and expelled Toussaint’s troops. French generals occupied Santo Domingo in February 1802 and re-instituted slavery as Leclerc proclaimed Toussaint an outlaw. Christophe released 2,000 white hostages in April, and Leclerc confirmed his rank. Leclerc got the French general Brunet to invite Toussaint to a conference in June and arrested him. The French shipped him to France, where Toussaint was found dead in prison on 27 April 1803.
In June and July 1802 Leclerc was losing a hundred men a day to disease, and the Africans still had 140,000 muskets. Hearing that the French had killed 1,200 disarmed black soldiers, Christophe rebelled. Leclerc wrote to Napoleon that of the 28,000 troops sent to him, only 10,500 remained alive. As Christophe, Clervaux, and other generals besieged the Cap in October, Leclerc died of yellow fever. He was succeeded by the Comte de Rochambeau, who had 500 prisoners shot and buried in a pit they dug. Jean-Jacques Dessalines organized forces in the north and northwest while Alexandre Sabes Pétion commanded in the west. In May 1803 British cruisers blockaded Rochambeau off Cap Français. The French at St. Marc capitulated to the British navy in October and went to Santo Domingo. Rochambeau surrendered in November, and Dessalines had 800 of the sick and wounded drowned at sea. The French army lost 50,000 men to the war, mostly because of yellow fever and malaria; about 100,000 Africans also died. On the first day of 1804 the generals (23 mulatres and 11 noirs) met and proclaimed the independent republic of Haiti, the original name of the island that means “mountains” in Taino. They had accomplished the most successful slave revolt in history since Moses took the Hebrews out of Egypt.
Dessalines canceled all French titles to property issued during the recent occupation. At Jérémie in March 1804 Dessalines selected five doctors and a few merchants. Then 400 men of property were ransomed before being beheaded. All the rest of the 1,436 French were also killed, though a Polish legion was incorporated into the brigades. At Port-au-Prince 800 more were murdered. At the Cap nearly two thousand French were killed, but Christophe got the English, Americans, doctors, and priests spared. At Cayes the merchant Duncan MacIntosh from Baltimore managed to bribe officials and smuggle out families and was credited by French refugees with saving 2,400 people. Finally Dessalines offered safe conduct to the remaining French survivors, but those who came forward were killed. The army of 52,000 was put to work building fortifications. Dessalines divided Haiti into four districts commanded by the generals Christophe in the North, Gabart in the Artibonite, Pétion in the West, and Geffrard in the South. On October 8, 1804 Dessalines was crowned Emperor Jacques I.
When the French capitulated to the British naval commanders in November 1803, General Jean Louis Ferrand refused to surrender and gathered a force of 1,800 at Santo Domingo. In January 1804 he confiscated the property of Spaniards who had fled without passports. To encourage some to return he canceled all debts to the government. In May his troops captured Santiago, but the inhabitants feared retaliation by Dessalines and evacuated. In January 1805 Ferrand announced that armed incursions into Haiti would hunt African children and sell them as slaves. Christophe commanded 2,000 men who sacked Santiago and beheaded prisoners. Then his forces joined Dessalines’ army of 21,000 that besieged Ferrand’s 2,000 troops at Santo Domingo in March, but they did not have artillery. A French naval squadron under Admiral Comte de Missiessy appeared to be moving west, and the Haitians decided to return to defend their own country. On the way home they attacked and burned several towns; at Santiago they burned the cathedral and four churches while killing all the clergy. Ferrand tried to reconstruct the colony while prohibiting trade with Haiti.
In May 1805 Dessalines ratified Haiti’s constitution that barred whites from owning property and defined all Haitians as noirs. Dessalines retained dictatorial power and had mistresses of all colors. In October 1806 rebellion broke out in the South and spread to Port-au-Prince, where Pétion joined the revolt. Dessalines marched his army south. His advance guard changed sides, and Dessalines was trapped and killed on October 17. President Jefferson’s embargo by the United States 1807-09 hurt Haiti’s economy. Pétion proclaimed Christophe until a new constitution could be written; but his draft gave himself as leader of the Senate more power than the President Christophe. When Christophe marched on Port-au-Prince, the Senate outlawed him. Christophe had 10,000 troops to Pétion’s 3,000. Pétion escaped during the battle as a captain wearing his hat was killed. Christophe did not have artillery with him to besiege Port-au-Prince and returned to the Cap in the north. His advisors drew up a new constitution giving the President the most power. Pétion in the Senate got the 25 percent share of every crop repealed, but Etienne-Elie Gérin organized an opposition in the Senate. Finally in 1808 Pétion adjourned the Senate, and it stayed adjourned for three years. In 1809 he began distributing land in small holdings to his soldiers with large grants for officers.
Juan Sanchez Ramírez in Santo Domingo traded with Puerto Rico and gathered an army of 2,000 men. They annihilated most of Ferrand’s 600 troops at El Seibo in November 1808, and Ferrand committed suicide. Santo Domingo returned to the Spanish empire on December 13, and this began the Dominican War of Reconquest. The British Royal Navy helped them besiege the French at Santo Domingo. The blockade lasted until the end of the war when the French surrendered to the British commanders in July 1809. In twenty years the Spanish population of Santo Domingo had been reduced in half from 180,000 by a slave revolt, two Haitian invasions, emigration, British occupation, and the destruction of almost all the cattle and sugar mills. The university and most schools had been closed for several years, and of all the clergy only about a dozen priests remained.
Meanwhile a civil war broke out. In February 1807 Jean-Baptiste Perrier, known as “Goman,” rebelled against Pétion by declaring himself the avenger of Dessalines. In May as the former troops of François Capois in Port-de-Pais revolted and were led by the private Rebecca. She was captured and beheaded, but Pétion’s general Lamarre fought for two years in the northwest against Christophe who used large battalions to push Lamarre out of Port-de-Paix by October 1808. Lamarre was besieged in the Mole and finally was killed in a battle on July 16, 1810. The Mole fell on September 28, and the survivors died working in a corvée for Christophe at La Ferriere. The forces of Christophe from St. Marc fought those of Pétion who used British and American merchant ships and had armies in the northwest.
André Rigaud returned to Haiti on April 7, 1810, and Pétion sent him south with 5,000 soldiers to pacify the Grand-Anse. However, Rigaud gathered electors at Cayes and on November 3 proclaimed the State of the South. Pétion met with Rigaud’s mulatre brother on the bridge of Miragoane on December 2, and they remained allies against Christophe. Rigaud began moving east toward Port-au-Prince, but he died on his plantation on 18 September 1811.
On 26 March 1811 a Council of State proclaimed the North a kingdom and General Christophe as King Henri. On April 5 Henri created 4 princes, 8 dukes, 22 counts, 37 barons, and 14 knights. Goman was made Count of Jérémie, and Henri provided him with arms. The Capuchin Corneille Brelle was promoted to archbishop. Henri was crowned on June 2. He imported 4,000 young Africans from Dahomey and had them trained and deployed in companies of 70 men to 56 arrondissements under officers who acted as judges. Henri promoted industry, and his regime brought in an annual revenue of $3.5 million. While building palaces and monuments he developed education. Pétion was re-elected President in 1811 and regained the South on 7 March 1812. He and Henri struggled for power, and Pétion captured Port-au-Prince. Henri marched south and besieged Port-au-Prince. Pétion persuaded some of Henri’s officers to assassinate the King, but Henri learned of the plot and on June 2 had the conspirators shot. Pétion sent Bazelais into the Grande-Anse to suppress the insurrection led by Goman while distributing land to the peasants.
When King Louis XVIII sent commissioners to both in 1814, they united in solidarity against the French. Pétion’s land reform reduced the production of the export crops of sugar, coffee, indigo, and cotton as people planted truck gardens and subsistence crops with the result that the larger economy stagnated. In March 1815 Pétion was re-elected President by only five Senators; but they revised the Constitution and made him President for life within a year. In January 1816 Pétion welcomed Simon Bolívar and provided him with 4,000 muskets and 15,000 pounds of ammunition, asking him only to liberate slaves. That year the abolitionists Clarkson and Wilberforce sent English school-teachers to Henri’s kingdom, and by 1817 they had schools at Cap, Milot, Port-de-Paix, Gonaives, and St. Marc. Pétion also founded the Lycée of Port-au-Prince to educate the elite. Pétion’s health declined after he contracted malaria in 1807, and he finally died on 29 March 1818. Jean-Pierre Boyer was his secretary and commander of the Presidential Guard, and General Gédéon proclaimed him President for life which the Senate confirmed unanimously.
The Haitian revolution and what the Spanish Dominicans called the War of Reconquest had devastated Santa Domingo by 1809. Spain recognized Juan Sánchez Ramírez as governor, and he put many people on the government payroll before his death in February 1811. His successor, Licentiate José Núñez de Cáceres issued paper money in 1812 that devalued the currency 75%. Attempted revolts by French sergeants in 1811 and by blacks in August 1812 were crushed, and the leaders were executed. The military commander Carlos Urrutia arrived in May 1813 to govern and went back to copper coins. Sebastian Kindelan came from Cuba in 1818 and governed Santa Domingo until 1821.
Haiti’s first President Alexandre Pétion served for eleven years and died on 29 March 1818. He was succeeded in the South by another revolutionary leader, Jean-Pierre Boyer. He sent six regiments to put down the peasants’ 13-year revolt in Southern Grande’Anse led by Jean-Baptiste Perrier who was called “Goman” and was trapped on a cliff where he was shot or jumped to his death in May 1819.
Henri Christophe ruled in the North and had proclaimed himself Haiti’s King Henri in 1811. He ruled autocratically and became unpopular. Col. Paulin led a mutiny by the 8th Regiment at St. Marc that was suppressed. Queen Marie-Louise persuaded King Henri not to execute him, and he sent Paulin to the Laferrière dungeons. On 15 August 1820 Henri suffered a cerebral hemorrhage that paralyzed his right side. Facing a coup by the St. Marc conspiracy joined by General Richard Marmelade, Henri killed himself on October 8, and his son, Prince Jacques-Victor, was assassinated ten days later. Boyer arrived with 20,000 soldiers on October 26, took over the treasury of £11 million, and reunified the Republic of Haiti. He had a firing squad kill Marmelade in February 1821. In three years Boyer’s government at Port-au-Prince had spent the surplus left by King Henri.
On November 8 Haitians led by Major Andrés Amarantes proclaimed independence north of Santo Domingo and urged towns there to join the Republic of Haiti. On the 30th a junta led by José Núñez de Cáceres captured the Santo Domingo fortress and imprisoned Governor Pascual Real. They declared Santo Domingo independent of Spain with a constitution, and Spanish Haiti joined the Colombian federation. Guy-Joseph Bonnet advised President Boyer to mediate; but in early January 1822 the Senate of Haiti authorized troops to defend frontier towns and unify the island. On the 11th Boyer sent a long letter to Cáceres urging unity, and he mobilized the Haitian army and led them east. On the 22nd Cáceres wrote back accepting protection from Haiti. Boyer stopped his soldiers from looting Santiago by bringing cannons into the town square. They reached Ciudad Santo Domingo on February 9, and Cáceres gave Boyer the keys to the city, unifying the island of Haiti. Slavery was abolished again, and freed men were promised land. Boyer proclaimed that the Haiti Constitution of 1816 was the supreme law now in Santo Domingo. In June he appointed a commission to determine what land could be given to freed slaves, and in October they reported that these included Spanish land and much church-related property. Haiti’s Senate and Chamber of Deputies approved the report on November 7. Although Haitians grew vegetables, commercial agriculture suffered. Churches had few priests, and on 5 January 1823 Boyer suspended the salaries of the archbishop and other clergy in the cathedral chapter. After study by commissions the system of terrenos comuneros (communal land) was canceled in the east on 8 July 1824.
France’s King Louis XVIII sent Jacques Boyé to negotiate with Boyer in Haiti, and in July 1823 they agreed that Haiti would pay an indemnity of 100 million francs; but Louis insisted on controlling Haiti’s foreign relations. On 17 March 1825 France’s Charles X decreed the independence of Haiti and sent 14 warships. Finally Haiti was recognized as a nation, but Boyer had to borrow money at high interest to pay the first 30 million francs. Haitians were upset that their mulâtre (mulatto) President and mulâtre Senate had capitulated to the white French, but the 45,000 in the army relaxed. In Haiti the color line was drawn between the noirs (Africans) and the mulâtre.
On 1 May 1826 the Haiti Senate enacted the Code Real to improve agriculture that authorized inspectors and the army to supervise cultivation for all those attached to the land, but this code was not enforceable especially in the east. Haiti had exported 9,250 tons of raw sugar in 1801, but this fell to only 16 tons in 1826. Cotton dropped from 1,250 tons to 310. Simón Bolívar refused to recognize the independence of Haiti, and in 1826 he did not invite them to the Congress of American States meeting in Panama. France also would not recognize their former colony.
By 1830 Haiti could not pay its foreign debt. Spain’s Fernando VII sent a frigate to Santo Domingo, but his envoy Felipe Fernandez de Castro could get nothing. On 23 January 1838 a French delegation came to Port-au-Prince and negotiated a deal that reduced the debt to 60 million francs to be paid without interest over thirty years. Haiti’s Senate ratified the agreement on May 28, and soon Holland, Prussia, Sweden, Denmark, and Britain recognized Haiti. The United States still refused, and no Latin American country did so either until Brazil did in 1865.
Port-au-Prince suffered from fires in 1820, 1822, and 1832, by an arsenal explosion in 1827, and on 7 May 1842 an earthquake devastated Cap-Haïtien killing 5,000 people, followed by a tsunami that swept away about 250. The newspapers Le Manifeste and Le Patriote criticized the Boyer administration, but his friend Beaubrun Ardouin edited Le Temps in response. Boyer expelled his critic Hérard-Dumesle from the legislature in 1833 and again in 1838.
Prince Saunders was an African who was born and raised in New England by a white lawyer. He emigrated to Haiti and wrote the Haytian Papers which translated Haitian laws into English with a commentary, and the book was published in London. He became Haiti’s attorney general and wrote the criminal code before his death in 1839.
In 1842 Boyer used soldiers to keep 28 of the 72 deputies out of the Chamber. In August that year Charles Riviere-Hérard organized the Society of the Rights of Man and of Citizens, and they published their complaints in the Praslin Manifesto. Then his cousin Hérard-Dumesle led the executive committee. On 27 January 1843 they began a revolt that spread from Praslin. The government’s army faced them at Mapou Dampuce on February 11, but after some shooting the soldiers joined them to march on the capital. Two days later Boyer left Haiti and went to Paris. Charles Riviere-Hérard moved into the palace at Port-au-Prince, and he joined a junta. A constitutional convention met in September, and on December 30 they produced a constitution with new elective offices. Charles Riviere-Hérard was inaugurated as President of Haiti on 4 January 1844.
Juan Pablo Duarte had founded La Trinitaria society in 1838, and in July 1843 the Haiti government had learned of the Trinitarians’ plan to be separate. On 1 January 1844 a pro-French group proclaimed their desire to be independent of the Haiti Republic, and 15 days later the Trinitarians also urged separation from the Haitians. On February 27 the Trinitarians led by Duarte occupied the fortress in Santo Domingo and proclaimed independence, but two days later Commissioner Barrot persuaded Duarte to capitulate and depart. President Hérard led 30,000 troops that marched to Santo Domingo where he dissolved the assembly. Peasants fought the Haitian troops, and Riviere-Hérard encountered them at Azua on March 19 and had more than fifty men killed. Hérard sent an order to Jean-Louis Pierrot, but on April 25 he declared the North and the Artibonite a republic to be headed by his friend Guerrier. Louis Jean-Jacques Acaau led a revolt by piquets (soldiers), and on April 5 they fought a government force and entered Cayes. Haiti’s army led by generals Fabre Geffrard and Jean-Baptiste Riché at Aquin defeated spearmen on April 10. On May 5 a wealthy delegation made 86-year-old Philippe Guerrier the President of Haiti. The Trinitarians elected Francisco del Rosario Sánchez chief military commander who told General Pedro Santana that his Southern Army could enter Santo Domingo, and he did so with 2,000 troops on July 12. Santana agreed with the junta that on August 22 accused Duarte, Matías Ramón Mella, Sánchez, and five other Trinitarian leaders of treason and exiled them for life. The conservatives in power now included Tomás de Bobadilla who favored the Church and those who supported the French. Their constitution based on the United States Constitution was adopted on November 6. They elected Santana president, and he appointed a cabinet on the 13th. They discovered a conspiracy and executed the leaders on 27 February 1845.
The 86-year-old Philippe Guerrier governed by decree with a Council of State for the established mulâtres from May 1844 until he died on 15 April 1845. The Council of State replaced him with 84-year-old Jean-Louis Pierrot. He made Cap-Haïtien the capital, and in February 1846 he ordered his troops to march against the Dominicans. He alienated the Council and the army by promoting his followers and peasants to officers, and he was removed on the first of March. Eleven days later Acaau killed himself, and the illiterate 65-year-old black General Jean-Baptiste Riché became President. He died on 27 February 1847 from an overdose of cantharides believed to be an aphrodisiac.
Meanwhile the ruin of the Catholic Church led to Vodou (voodoo) becoming the folk religion of Haiti. On 1 March 1847 the Senate of Haiti elected the black 64-year-old General Faustin Soulouque president. He ordered General Similien to suppress the rebels, and Soulouque aroused the blacks and zinglin leaders to arrest opposing mulâtres. On April 9 he dismissed his mulâtre cabinet and proclaimed himself President for life. Many mulâtres and some blacks gathered at the palace and sent Céligny Ardouin to the President who had him arrested. Similien ordered the mulâtres to put down their guns and then had soldiers fire. Firing squads executed resisters. On April 23 the President Soulouque led an army that killed hundreds of mulâtres in disloyal towns. He returned to the capital on August 15 and prohibited anyone from leaving Haiti without his permission. Santana resigned on August 4, and War Minister Manuel Jimenes became President of the Dominican Republic on 8 September. On the 26th he decreed amnesty for the political exiles so that they could return. France made a provisional peace treaty with them and recognized the independence of the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican Congress nullified the decree of Jimenes discharging Santana whose forces then besieged Santo Domingo on May 17, and Jimenes left the country on the 29th. Santana called elections for July 5, and his favored candidate won but resigned. Congress then held elections on 5 August, and Santana’s recommended Congressman Buenaventura Báez was elected President. He was inaugurated on September 24 and quickly mobilized the army and navy for the war against Haiti. Negotiations with Britain, France, and the United States led to a friendship and trade treaty with Britain on 10 September 1850.
Haitians suspected that the French intended to occupy Samaná Bay. On 15 March 1849 President Soulouque led 15,000 troops east, and on April 30 they attacked the Dominicans and had several hundred killed. The Haitians retreated and looted and burned towns as they fled. Soulouque declared victory as he returned to the capital on May 6. On August 26 the Haitian Senate crowned Soulouque Emperor Faustin, and on September 20 a constitution recognized his monarchy. He gave 400 persons titles of nobility including 4 princes, 59 dukes, and 215 barons. Faustin studied voodoo and used it to assert power. Piquets used roadblocks in the South to rob people, and Soulouque’s zinglins did that in other places. The Emperor had so much money printed that the value of gourde notes fell to a quarter of their previous value.
In 1740 the Royal Commerce Company was formed in Cuba to control all imports and exports. In the next twenty years they imported about 5,000 slaves, mostly from Jamaica. A general post office was established in 1755. The garrison at Pensacola in Spanish Florida was increased to 180 men in 1757. In February 1761 Alibama Indians attacked the village of Punta Rasa on Garçon Point, killing a few soldiers and Indians who lived there. Cuba sent Captain Vizente Manuel de Zéspedes with two companies of mulatto soldiers to Pensacola in May; but Louisiana’s Governor Chevalier de Kerlerrec dispatched Baudin, who made peace and signed a treaty in Pensacola on September 14, exchanging prisoners. In 1762 Spain became an ally of France in its war against Britain, and France ceded Louisiana west of the Mississippi to Spain.
In March 1762 George Albemarle commanded 63 English ships that left Portsmouth with 4,000 troops. At Barbados they picked up a thousand gallons of rum, 900 casks of wine, and beef. After being joined by 700 Africans from Jamaica with nine of Rodney’s ships under Commodore Douglas, they landed troops fifteen miles east of Havana in June. The Spaniards had 3,000 soldiers but only 2,000 muskets for about 3,000 militia. Many of Albemarle’s men came down with malaria and dysentery, and they did not storm El Morro until the end of July. Soon after the English began using their batteries surrounding Havana on August 11, the captain-general surrendered Havana and western Cuba. Albemarle declared himself governor and captain-general. The English commanders and soldiers divided up about £440,000 plus about £310,000 in goods with Albemarle and Admiral George Pocock getting £122,697 each. Santiago’s Governor Lorenzo de Madariaga acted as captain-general and held out for Spain in the east, and on September 1 Albemarle announced that the British would not attack eastern Cuba. By October 8 the English had 746 men killed in battle but lost 6,000 to sickness. Albemarle had purchased 1,200 slaves for $60,000 on his way to Havana and sold them to Cubans. During their eleven months of occupation the British imported nearly 4,000 slaves. Albemarle announced in November that large contributions to the Governor would no longer win lawsuits. Albemarle departed with colonial troops on 1 January 1763 and left behind General William Keppel as military governor. To make peace in February the French persuaded Spain’s King Carlos III to give up Florida, and the English left Havana in July.
Cuba’s new governor, Conde de Ricla, imposed new taxes and tripled government revenue so that they could build new fortifications. The sugar industry increased dramatically. In 1762 they had only 10,000 acres in cane, but by 1792 they had more than 160,000. By 1768 Cuba had more Europeans than Africans, and 22,740 of the Africans were free. Cuba took a census in 1774 and 1775, finding 96,440 Europeans, 44,928 African and mulatto slaves, 19,027 free colored persons, and 11,588 free Africans. Less than 35% of the slaves were female. Between 1763 and 1789 about 65,000 slaves were sold in Cuba, and many of these were resold in Spanish America. El Teatro Principal began performing at Havana in 1776. That year the Spanish crown allowed American rebels to purchase supplies for cash, bills of exchange, or slaves. However, in 1784 Spain banned legal trade with other nations again. In 1789 the asiento (license) system of slave trading was abolished so that Spaniards and others could bring slaves to the West Indies. That year Spain developed a liberal Code Noir, but it was not promulgated in Cuba. Because of the revolution in St. Domingue the price of sugar doubled between 1788 and 1795.
The Creole planter Francisco de Arango wanted to make Cuba a sugar colony, and he persuaded Captain-general Luis de las Casas (1790-96) to support La Sociedad Economica de Amigos del Pais and an agricultural development board. The first newspaper Papel Periodico was a weekly in 1791 but became semi-weekly two years later. The Economical Society’s library was the first to be opened to the public. The Society began promoting education in 1794, and two free schools were founded. Arango bought the first steam-powered mill in London that was tried in 1797. Water mills were improved, and Arango began using lime. Near Havana 179 new mills were installed between 1792 and 1806. The average sugar mill in 1782 produced 55 tons a year, but by 1804 this had gone up to 130. Under Las Casas they built schools, roads, bridges, an aqueduct, hospitals, and asylums. Arango and his friends also imported more slaves, and by 1792 Africans and mulattoes outnumbered Europeans and natives. In 1795 Nicolas Morales, a free African, led a slave revolt that started in Bayamo, spread to eastern Cuba, and was joined by liberal Europeans. They demanded equality, abolition of taxes, and giving plantations to the slaves, but the Spanish army suppressed the revolt.
Many Cuban planters went into debt to buy slaves and plant their crops, and most mills stopped paying tithes to the Church. Increasing the slave trade made merchants rich. Between 1791 and 1805 Havana received 91,211 slaves. Cuba’s imports rose from 2,285,798 pesos in 1774 to 12,319,997 pesos in 1803, and their exports increased from 1,197,979 pesos in 1774 to 8,165,735 pesos in 1804. About 30% of the import trade and almost 20% of the export trade were in foreign ships. In 1799 Spain renewed the prohibition against foreign trade, but Cuba’s Captain-general Juan Bassecourt and the Intendant Pablo Jose Valiente disobeyed the ban. The Spanish as well as the French and British were giving up their mercantile monopolies.
The Peace of Amiens in 1802 facilitated the importation of nearly 14,000 slaves in one year, but war broke out again in 1803. The Embargo Act of the United States in 1807 caused Cuba’s trade with the US to be half, and two-thirds of their sugar harvest in 1808 went unsold, ruining fifty sugar mills. England’s abolition of the slave trade in 1807 made slaves much less available. Cubans learned the trade by hiring English crews, and by 1810 they had about thirty successful expeditions annually.
After the French removed King Fernando VII in 1808, creoles in Cuba rebelled. Joaquin Infante drafted Cuba’s first constitution that declared Cuba a sovereign state that maintained slavery, Catholic religion, and discrimination based on skin color. In February 1812 the free African Jose Antonio Aponte organized an abolitionist conspiracy, but he was executed on April 9. Other conspirators were also executed and had their heads displayed. Cuba elected delegates to the Cadiz Cortes from 1810 to 1814 when Fernando VII was restored and cancelled the Constitution. In 1817 Cuba imported a record 25,000 slaves and had about 125,000 slaves, but less than 25,000 were female. Alejandro Ramírez became Supervisor of Finances for Cuba in 1815, and he abolished the monopoly on tobacco and growing trees. Landowners were permitted to cut down trees and were not required to supply beef to a city.
José Cienfuegos governed Cuba for Spain as Captain-General 1816-19. He encouraged diverse agriculture and decreed the end of Spain’s tobacco monopoly in June 1817. In February 1818 he opened up trade to any country in America or Europe, and exports quadrupled in one year. In 1817 Cuba’s Intendent Alejandro Ramírez hired Ramón de la Sagra, the friend of Marx, Engels, and Proudhon, to teach natural history at the University of Havana. In 1828 Sagra opened the University’s print shop, and he published his Annals of Science, Agriculture, Commerce and Arts. He would start the first anarchist journal in 1845.
After the 1817 census showed that whites were only 45% of Cubans, Spaniards were offered 33 acres of land, two cows, a horse and a mule with no tax for 15 years to move to Cuba. The 339,959 Africans were 54% of the population, and 225,268 of them were slaves. After Spain sold Florida to the United States on 22 February 1818, more than 3,000 Cuban natives left Florida to return home. In 1819 communal lands were divided up or founded sugar mills. In 1817 the British persuaded Spain to end the slave trade in 1820. As prices were lower in Africa and higher in America, in the years 1817-20 Cuba imported about 77,000 African slaves. Cuba’s port of Matanzas increased its population from 17,000 in 1817 to 45,000 by 1827. In that period their export of sugar multiplied by five and of coffee by more than ten times. Mexico’s independence in February 1821 ended the gold shipments from there. From 1821 to 1865 Cuba imported 200,354 slaves.
Col. José Francisco Lemus had fought for independence in Colombia. After Spain’s Fernando VII was restored to power in April 1823, Lemus in July led a small uprising in Cuba; but he was captured with other officers on August 1. Francisco Dionisio Vives had become Captain-General of Cuba in May, and he kept order until 1832. In 1831 he had the first railway built in the Spanish empire. In May 1825 Vives was given unlimited power, and Cuba would be under martial law for the next five decades. In April 1826 he prohibited the importation of books that opposed the Catholic region or monarchy or which advocated rebellion. Conspiracies were crushed with leaders hanged by 1827, the year that Havana’s population reached 100,000. As 40,000 Spanish troops arrived, government spies and informers proliferated. Laws prohibited those born in Cuba from serving in the military or the civil service. Vives allowed the importation of more than 50,000 slaves.
Cuba produced the most sugar and was the wealthiest society in the Caribbean. By 1825 Cuba was collecting £2 million ($8 million) in taxes annually, and this would multiply two and a half times by the 1860s. In 1825 slaves revolted at Guamacaro. Steam power and the introduction of the vacuum boiler in 1830 greatly improved sugar production. In 1829 they invested $85 million in coffee and $84 million in sugar; but sugar yielded $8 million and coffee only $4.3 million. In 1817 Cuba had a population of 553,033 including 199,145 slaves.
Miguel Tacón y Rosique was Captain-General 1834-38. He promoted law enforcement, sanitation, firemen, and gas lighting in Havana. He banned weapons in Havana except for soldiers, and military courts he established were more efficient and less corrupt. He initiated the building of a large prison that separated black and white prisoners. Tacón allowed the illegal slave trade to continue, and he banished journalist José Antonio Saco who criticized his policies.
By the early 1840s Cuba was one of few remaining slave societies in the region and one of Spain’s last important colonies. In 1840 the abolitionist David Turnbull of Scotland became the British consul in Havana, and he worked to stop the illegal slave trade. In 1844 a Cuban court found him guilty in absentia as the “prime mover” of the 1844 revolt.
Cuba’s 1842 slave code limited the harvest workday to 16 hours, but plantation owners often enforced zafra workdays of 20 hours or more including night shifts. In the years 1842-44 about 200 sugar mills were built in the Matanzas region. Cuba had twenty slave rebellions between 1812 and 1844, and many Africans brought to Cuba in the early 1840s had military training and war experience.
Captain-General Jerónimo Valdés (1841-43) tried to discourage the slave trade and slave rebellions by increasing white immigration, but slave revolts broke out in 1843. On March 26, a Sunday, the Bemba rebellion erupted at the Trinidad sugar mill in the Macurigas district and on the Alcancía sugar plantation in Cimarrones. A cane trash bagaceras was set on fire alerting everyone around Alcancía. Slaves attacked abusive black overseers and the owner’s home at Trinidad. They also targeted slaveholding whites who had abused them in so many ways. The rebellions were estimated to be by almost 500 slaves. In the fighting 132 of these were killed, and others fled into the forests and hills. After three weeks 29 reported to be questioned; 3 were apprehended; 5 were wounded; and 123 were missing. Many slaves fled from the attacked estates. The poet Plácido (Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés) was arrested in the town of Trinidad in April, and he was imprisoned for six months. He claimed he was not involved in the revolt, and he informed on powerful white creoles. On Sunday November 5 another rebellion broke out in the region of Sabanilla at the Triumvirato sugar mill on the Acana estate led by Fermina Lucumí and other Lucumí Africans. They unshackled 17 slaves who had attempted to run away. In 1844 some 4,000 people were arrested in Matanzas including more than 2,000 free blacks, over 1,000 slaves, and about 70 whites.
In early March 1844 a revolt began at the Encanto estate. On June 2 Fermina Lucumí led another rebellion by over fifty slaves at Acano and Concepción, but she and 15 others were captured, beaten, and shackled. That month some 300 slaves rose up on the Flor de Cuba sugar estate, and mostly Lucumí rebelled in July at the Arratia sugar plantation. In the trials of the La Escalera conspiracy 78 people (including Plácido) were executed by firing squad in Havana on June 29; 328 were sent to prison for ten years, 652 for eight years, and 312 for six months; 435 were exiled from Cuba for life; 27 had to do public service, and 14 got even lighter sentences; and 82 were acquitted. Cuba’s 1846 census found that the number of slaves had been reduced to 109,376.
Joaquín de Agüero had freed his slaves in 1843 and left Cuba. He returned in 1849 and founded La Sociedad Libertadora de Puerto Príncipe.
Spain’s King Fernando VI (r. 1746-59) chartered the Royal Company of Barcelona in 1755 to regulate commerce in Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico, and Margarita. In 1765 the Aguirre & Aristegui Company was authorized to supply slaves for Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Margarita. In 1797 sixty British frigates with 7,000 men led by Ralph Abercromby and Henry Harvey besieged San Juan, but they withdrew after two weeks.
After Napoleon Bonaparte took over Spain in 1808, Puerto Rico’s Governor Toribio Montes threw the French envoys in the dungeons of El Morro; but those sent by the rebel Junta were sent back to Spain with promises that Puerto Rico would remain Spanish. The military presence in Puerto Rico deterred creoles from seeking independence, and they were more interested in developing their economy. In 1809 the Junta invited the colonies to send delegates to the Cortes in Seville. In May the five cabildos of San Juan, German, Aguada, Arecibo, and Coamo each selected one candidate, and the governor, the bishop, and the San Juan Cabildo chose three of them and determined the winner by lot. In July the governor announced that the wealthy and well educated Ramon Power y Giralt was the deputy for Puerto Rico at the Cortes. Before he left, the Regency took over Spain and annulled the Junta’s elections and called its own. Power was elected again and left for Cadiz in April 1810 with petitions from the cabildos. They objected to San Juan being the only port open and wanted to add five more. They wanted producers exempted from the alcabala sales tax, the rum tax, and tithing. On September 24 the Cortes began meeting at Cadiz, and the next day they elected Ramon Power as vice president. He worked with other deputies to revoke the Regency’s decree that gave colonial governors extraordinary powers, and they got the decree abolished in February 1811.
In January 1812 Power chose Alejandro Ramírez to be intendant to Puerto Rico, and that year Power persuaded the Cortes to approve most of the reforms cabildos requested. Spain’s new constitution made Puerto Rico a Spanish province. For the next two years people had the right to speak, write, and publish freely, and violations of their persons or property were punishable by law. Spain recognized as citizens only those born in Spain or with parents descended from Spaniards. Others were considered Spanish subjects. Voting in Puerto Rico was restricted to men older than 25. A fiscal crisis caused Governor Salvador Meléndez to issue paper money in August. Ramírez arrived in San Juan in February 1813 and found that inflation was rampant, and he authorized circulation of the macuqina, a silver coin from Venezuela. He also reformed taxes and abolished customs barriers and indirect taxes, relying instead on a tax on rental property and a lottery.
The Sociedad Economica Amigos del Pais was established in Puerto Rico in 1814. The island got its first printing press in 1806, and La Gaceta became the first newspaper. Ramírez founded the Diario Economico de Puerto Rico. After the restoration of Fernando VII on the throne in 1814 the elections were stopped, and the governor regained lost powers. In October the San Juan Cabildo petitioned for economic and social reforms, and in August 1815 the Cédula de Gracias was decreed. This increased immigration and provided free plots of land with tax exemptions. Puerto Rico was still not allowed to trade with other territories in the Caribbean except in case of an emergency. The Governor declared an emergency, and Intendant Ramírez adjusted tariffs to benefit Spanish merchants.
Spain governed Puerto Rico as a colony, and in 1815 the Cédula de Gracias encouraged Europeans to settle there by giving them six acres for each member of their family and three more acres for each slave they owned. In the next 19 years the population of Puerto Rico increased 38% to 138,000 people. In January 1820 some armed forces in Spain supported liberals who restored the 1812 Constitution that made loyal Puerto Rico a province. They elected the San Juan native Demetrio O’Daly, who was in the military in Spain, to represent them in the Cortes. He introduced a bill that passed separating the civil government from the military. In May 1822 the Spanish businessman González de Linares arrived in San Juan as Governor. In 1822 the Puerto Ricans elected the liberal José María Quiñones as their deputy, and he co-sponsored a bill for gradual self-rule.
However, in 1823 Spain’s Fernando VII was restored as the absolute ruler, and Governor Linares was rewarded for having loyally opposed the revolutionaries. He recruited Marshal Miguel de la Torre, who had been Captain General of Venezuela 1820-22, as the military governor of Puerto Rico, and he ruled with increasing military forces to maintain stability from January 1822 to 1837. Torre used the government newspaper La Gaceta to portray revolutionaries as rapists, terrorists, and anarchists. He implemented the Cédula de Gracias that promoted the importation of African slaves, and the number of slaves in Puerto Rico increased from 21,730 in 1820 to 41,818 in 1834. He imposed a strict slave code that punished any slave who defied the system. Slave conspiracies were discovered in Bayamón in 1821 and Naguabo in 1823, and the military court was given jurisdiction. While Latin Americans were struggling for independence prior to 1825, privateers used the Caja de Muertos Key off the southern coast of Puerto Rico and attacked other ports. In April 1825 Secretary of State Henry Clay said that the United States opposed the liberation of Cuba and Puerto Rico because neither was competent politically to rule themselves.
In 1826 when independent Latin American republics met in Panama, Governor Torre put 10,000 troops on alert. That year he decreed the Slave Regulation with some reforms such as limiting the slaves’ workday to 9 hours but to 13 hours during the sugar harvest rather than the usual 18 hours. Slaves were to have three meals a day, medical care when needed, and two changes of clothing each year. Slaves leaving the premises had to have written permission from the owner. Slave holidays and festivities were reduced to prevent conspiracies. Any slave who reported a conspiracy would be freed with 500 pesos. Yet only four of the fourteen conspiracies between 1826-48 were reported. Torre tried to keep Creoles and others happy by allowing dances, drinking, and gambling. He was accused of implementing liberal policies not authorized by the monarchy and was removed in September 1836. In 1837 Spain required Puerto Rico to pay a war tax of 500,000 pesos, and a revolt was planned for July; but an informer alerted Governor Francisco Moredo Prieto who had suspects arrested and tried by a military court. Five were executed, and others were imprisoned.
In 1834 the mercenary George D. Flinter had published his Account of the present State of the Island of Puerto Rico in Spanish and English arguing that the slaves were better off than free workers in Europe because many owned land and were encouraged to marry and raise families and because masters took care of all their needs. In 1841 the French abolitionist Victor Schoelcher visited Puerto Rico and criticized Flinter’s views noting that the slave codes were often violated. He observed that they worked from 3 in the morning to 8 at night and even had to work 4 hours on Sundays and holidays. Benjamin Nistal found that hundreds of slaves ran away despite the risks. Guillermo Baralt learned that some slaves stayed to organize revolts, kill masters and overseers, and burn the sugar fields even though captured leaders of revolts were killed.
The manufacture of sugar, rum, cigars, and other industries helped Puerto Rico increase its trade from 269,000 pesos in 1813 to 7.8 million in 1835. In the 1830s 75% of sugar exports went to the United States, and Puerto Rico imported manufactures and food. In 1830 sugar acreage was 11,103 cuerdas, and in 1862 it was over 55,000. During that period coffee went from 9,000 cuerdas to 34,000.
In 1838 Governor Miguel López de Baños imposed Worker Regulations that required any person 16 years or older without means of support to work for wages, and violators could be fined, imprisoned, or forced to work for half pay. Spain’s government abolished the Regulations in 1839. The British Aberdeen Act abolished the African slave trade in 1845. Captain General Juan Prim became Governor in May 1847 and learned of slave revolts on the Martinique and Saint Thomas islands. He decreed the harsh Black Code with the death penalty for any African slave who threatens with a gun (even if justified) a white person, and a free African was to have the right hand cut off. Article 1 put all blacks under military jurisdiction, and Article 5 permitted masters to kill slaves. In July slaves in Ponce planned to revolt. An informer was given freedom; three leaders were shot, and 13 were sentenced to ten years in prison.
Governor Juan de la Pezuela replaced Prim in December 1848 and was instructed to suspend the Black Code. He reduced the number of lashes punishing slaves from 100 to 25, and he allowed infant slaves who were baptized to be freed.
This chapter has been published in the book Latin America & Canada to 1850. For ordering information please click here.