British Coat of Arms

Anglo-Spanish Legislation, 1817-1840

Spanish Coat of Arms

Anglo-Spanish Treaty, 1817


At Madrid on 23 September 1817, Great Britain and Spain signed a bilateral treaty to abolish the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It consisted of four main sections:


  1. The principal agreement for bringing about the abolition of the trade (14 articles)
  2. Form of Passport for Spanish Vessels destined for the lawful Traffic in Slaves
  3. Instructions for the British and Spanish Ships of War employed to prevent the illicit Traffic in Slaves (7 articles)
  4. Regulations for the Mixed Commissions, which are to reside on the Coast of Africa, and in a Colonial Possession of His Catholic Majesty (13 articles)

In addition to this treaty, the British Colonial Office issued printed booklets of additional regulations, which were distributed to the numerous Courts of Mixed Commission around the world.


  1. Interrogatories for the Use of the British Commissioners, to be Administered to the Witnesses belonging to the Vessel Taken
  2. Regulations for the Guidance of the Commissions Appointed for Carrying into Effect the Treaties for the Abolition of the Slave Trade

Resources


Anglo-Spanish Treaty

Treaty Transcription

Procedures of Interrogation (NA, CO 313/1, n.p.)

Commission Regulations (NA, CO 313/5, n.p.)

Treatment of Liberated Africans


On 12 November 1819, the Havana Slave Trade Commission officially opened and one of the immediate concerns involved the conditions related to the well-being of people emancipated into a slave society. While there was precedents set in other courts of Mixed Commission, particularly in Sierra Leone, the British consuls at the Havana court drafted their own set of legislation in 1824. These regulations directly tied into the case of the Relâmpago or the court's first successful conviction. These conditions stipulated in 18 articles:


  1. Rules of apprenticeship
  2. Payment of initial care (food, shelter, blankets, etc...)
  3. Polices for the issuing of emancipation certificates
  4. Procedures for the production of registers of Liberated Africans

Resources


Formation of regulations

Printed conditions (Spanish and English)

Procedures of Interrogation (NA, CO 313/1, n.p.)

Commission Regulations (NA, CO 313/5, n.p.)

Amendments to the Anti-Slave Trade Treaty, 1835


In 1833, Great Britain passes the Abolition of Slavery Act, to take effect in August 1834, which emancipated all slaves in the British West Indies. By June 28 1835, the 1817 Anglo-Spanish Treaty is renewed and enforcement tightened in a series of amendments to the original treaty. The 1835 Ammendments were signed on June 28 1835 by Minsiter of the State, M. Martinez de la Rosa, and Foreign Secretary, Viscount Palmerston.


The first draft of the amended treaty consisted of 15 Articles. The major amendments proposed included punishment for the captains, masters and crew of condemned vessels, but this condition was widely disputed. In total, there were 15 new articles, whereby the British sought to punish the captains and crew of condemned vessels (which was widely disputed), as well as vessels carrying specified “articles of equipment,” such as extra mess gear, water barrels, lumber and foodstuffs, could be declared slavers.


Resources


British Draft of the 1835 Amendments

Spanish Counter Proposal

Report of Treaty Being Signed

Printed Treaty (1836)

Discontinuation of the Registers


The practice of making registers of Liberated Africans at the Havana Slave Trade Commission stopped in 1841. This was largely because the cost and the time it took make the registers was very demanding. In addition, the resettlement of people from Cuba to British Caribbean colonies made the registers somewhat useless as the Spanish documents remained in Havana as people moved around the Caribbean.


The initial argument began in 1837 with the case of the Antoñica, which never landed at Havana and the register was made at Nassau. In this case, the register traveled back and forth between Cuba and the Bahamas to ensure accuarcy and make corrections. This proved to be very costly. Likewise in 1839, the Caridad Cubana landed directly at Jamaica because the enslaved Africans were suffering from small pox. This register was made in Jamaica, which also proved costly and inconvenient.


By 1840, the Foreign Office agreed that during the case of the Sierra del Pilar they "are unecessary now when the negroes are to be sent to one of the British Colonies." In 1841, the Havana Slave Trade Commission made its final register for the Segunda Rosario, although the court continued to operate until the last slave ship from this era to reach Cuba arrived in 1867.


Resources


Letter Regarding the Discontinuation of Registers (1839)

Letter Regarding the Discontinuation of Registers (1840)