The decision to remove Liberated Africans from Cuba to British Caribbean Colonies began in 1828. It only started to happen in 1833 and in direct result of the cholera epidemic on the island. In 1835, Richard Robert Madden, the Superindent of Liberated Africans, wrote a 94 page report on the "Condition and Disposal of the Captured Africans at the Havana." In the preamble, he summarized the decision to resettle people elsewhere. The following is an excerpt of the preamble:
"In spite of the Treaty of 1817 which it was agreed that after the year 1820 the Slave Trade should cease throughout the Spanish Dominions, great numbers of Slaves continued to be imported from the Coast of Africa into Cuba. Many of the Vessels engaged in this illegal traffic were from time to time detained by the British Cruizers and brought before the mixed Commission at the Havana for adjudication. The Vessels being condemned, the Negroes on board declared free and delivered over to the Government at the Havana (which was bound by the Treaty to guarantee their liberty) to be provided with employment as servants or free laborers… …The inhabitants of Cuba looked with alarm at the rapid increase of this class of persons, and the Authorities disliked the charges & were willing to pay largely to get rid of it."
"Accordingly in June 1832 the Intendant General consulted Mr. Macleay, the British Commissary Judge, as to the practicability of re-exporting such Africans as should be emancipated by the Commission to some other place, as Sierra Leone for instance: the Spanish Government bearing the expense. This the then Colonial Secretary refused, but suggested in consequence of a representation from the Lieutenant Governor of Trinidad that they might be received in that Island. A proposal to this effect was made to the Intendant General: guarded with several restrictions & regulations respecting especially the state of health, the expense of removal, the proportion of sexes & the necessity that months notice should be given to the Lieutenant Governor of Trinidad. These restrictions the Intendant thought would cause the relief given by the measure to be very partial and uncertain & the expense & inconvenience very great. The proposal was therefore declined. This was on the 23rd January 1833."
"The arrival however, on the 10th of April while the Cholera was raging, of a captured slaver with 196 Negroes on board caused much alarm & perplexity which ended in an arrangement between the Spanish Authorities & the British Commissioners that the newly arrived Negroes, as soon as they had received certificates of emancipation, should be conveyed to Trinidad: the restrictions as to sexes and the months notice being waved in submission to the necessity of time."
"The experiment led to some further negotiations on the subject between Trinidad & Cuba & finally to an engagement on the part of Sir G. Hill to receive any number of Africans at any time, provided they were in good health & not above 30 years of age: that they had not been in Cuba for more than two years: that there were not fewer females than males: & that the vessels in which they were sent should be provisioned at the expense of the Spanish Government for 30 days after her arrival at Trinidad. At the same time several rules sent out by Government to be observed in the disposal of them in Trinidad with a view to secure their freedom and comfortable maintenance & be provided that none of the expense should fall on the Government at Home. This engagement remains still in force."
"On hearing of these arrangements, Col. Cockburn applied on behalf of the woodcutters of in Honduras (where labor is much wanted) for a portion of those emancipated Africans to be sent thither: which was acceded to: the same regulations & restriction which had been insisted upon in Trinidad. These it appear did not meet the views of the applicants and the application may be considered withdrawn. A third application received from British Guiana, Sir I. C. Smyth… [on] 6th August 1835 enclosed a copy of the Trinidad Ordinance relative the protection and management of indentured Africans, passed 19th March , with an intimation that a portion of the Africans in question might be advantageously disposed of in British Guiana. This application waits an answer."
"In the mean time however a fourth application of a somewhat different nature was received from another quarter. Col. Colebrooke having been detained at the Havana had an opportunity of witnessing the condition of the liberated Africans there & the general desired of all parties that means should be found of removing them all without restrictions as to age or sex to some other quarters. Upon considering the subject in various points of view, he made up his mind that a considerable number of them might be favorably (for themselves at least) be settled in the Bahamas: & he afterwards distinctly recommended that they should be sent, & announced his readiness to undertake the charge of them."
On 15 May 1828, the Captain General of Cuba, Dionisio Vives, wrote a letter to the members of the Mixed Commission citing a need to make modifications to Article VII of the 1817 Treaty. Vives proposed that Liberated Africans "shall be withdrawn from the Island of Cuba, and transported to some of the possessions or dominions of His Majesty in Europe even though it should be to Spain itself." And, the expenses should be paid for out of "the proceeds from the capture of slave vessels which may belong to the King our Lord, and if this shall not be found sufficient for the purpose that there be made, in order to realize a proper sum, a prudent repartition among all the Inhabitants of the Island." Read Letter
On 27 June 1828, addressed this proposition because according to Article VII, it was difficult "to deny the right of the Spanish Government to transport the emancipated slaves to Europe." However, the British Judge, William Mackleay, raised immediate concerns that "without a sufficient watch being kept on the persons employed to carry the measure into effect, a cargo of ignorant Negroes might be conveyed to Puerto Rico or even to other Ports of this Island, and there consigned to hopeless slavery." He concluded that "if due care were taken to prevent fraud in their removal to Europe the measure proposed cannot fail to be highly advantageous not merely to the peace of the Island but to the Negroes themselves who will no doubt in Europe experience better treatment." He also delayed any final decision stating that "the plan must necessarily be entirely prospective [and that] it will not affect the Negroes already emancipated who having by marriage, apprenticeship or other ties, [have] become connected with the Island." Read Letter
On 17 April 1829, the Foreign Office in London wrote to the Havana Slave Trade Commission regarding "the contemplation of the Spanish Authorities for removing from the Island of Cuba to Europe the Slaves emancipated under the Treaty of 1817." This office set forth the directives that:
On 31 December 1831, the Foreign Office wrote to the commissioners at Havana because "His Majesty's Government was anxious to learn the state and condition of the negroes, who have from time to time been liberated under sentences of the Mixed Commission established at Havana." Read Letter
On 29 March 1832, William Mackleay and Charles Mackenzie expressed "an increasing dislike on the part of local authorities to His Majesty's Commissioners." In general, the question of ascertaining the number of Liberated African "still alive," was in general "avoided by the vague answer that after so many years their numbers may be expected to have experience considerable diminuation." The British commissioners suggested that many could have died naturally due their health when "delivered over by the Mixed Commission to the Captain General." They also feared many were "stolen, and thus consigned to hopeless slavery." He also protested the "removal of the Negroes of the Midas from Cuba without the consent of his Government the only notice taken of his protest was a declaration that this removal was, from other causes, merely deferred until proper means for its execution should offer themselves." Read Letter
On 20 June 1832, William Mackleay wrote the Foreign Office explaining that the Intendant had invited him to his private home to discuss "the proposed removal of the Negroes of the Águila." The reason for renewing the discussion was because the number of Liberated Africans was "so great, that the local authorities will find it almost impossible to get a sufficient number of respectable responsible persons to take charge of them." Following the directives of the letter of 17 April 1829 and returning to the questions raised in the letter dated 27 June 1828, the Intendant's proposed solution involved sending the slaves to either Ceuta on the south side of the Strait of Gibraltar, or Sierra Leone. Read Letter
On 31 August 1832, Viscount Goderich of the Foreign Office replied that "the proposed removal of the emancipated blacks to the Sierra Leone in every respect - objectionable, but adds that he will consider how far it may be practicable to adopt any other mode of accomplishing the object of the Spanish Government." Read Letter
On 20 October 1832, following the objection to the proposal of sending Liberated Africans to Europe or Sierra Leone, the Foreign Office wrote the Havana Slave Trade Commission stating that there was "no objection... to the removal of such negroes... provided that certain restrictions and regulations are complied, and that the removal be effected at the expense of the Spanish Government." Read Letter
On 16 January 1833, the British commissioners at Havana wrote to the Cuban government that "the Island of Cuba may be relieved of a burden... prejudicial to its peace and welfare." Although Liberated Africans could not taken back across the Atlantic, the British Government proposed "to all who shall in future, or who who within the last two years have been emancipated by this Mixed Commission being received into the Island of Trinidad, under certain conditions and regulations." The reason for this decision was because "the voyage to Trinidad will be far more easy and less expensive."
The proposed conditions and regulations to the removal of Liberated Africans from Cuba are as follows:
On 23 January 1833, the Conde de Villanueva rejected these proposed conditions because of "the great expense which the Spanish Government would incur for an uncertain and partial removal of the Negroes which, according to his ideas, must be the unquestionable result of the Governor of Trinidad having the power to fix the number of Negroes to be sent, the time of their sailing, and the relative proportion which the number of females must hear to that of males." The British commissioners suspected that the "lately introduced system of employing these Negroes in public works... has been found so advantageous as considerably to diminish the anxiety of the local authorities for their removal." Read Letters
On 11 April, the Havana Slave Trade Commission was in the process of dealing with the case of the Negrita in the midst of the cholera epidemic. This ship was healthy and a special committee formed involving Captain General Ricafort, the Councilor of State, Conde de Villanueva, and Chief of the Station, Angel Laborde to discuss this case. Originally they wanted to have the case tried in Sierra Leone, but this idea proved to be too difficult. Following the spirit of the 1817 Treaty, this committee stipulated 5 conditions: 1) the case could be tried in Havana "without delay. 2) The ship had to either cruise the coast or moor on one of the keys to prevent cholera from spreading. 3) Once the court proceedings are done, the Liberated Africans will be transported to another vessel which will take them to Trinidad immediately. 4) The Captain General will inform the Governor of Trinidad about the "urgent actions of public interest." And, 5) the "expenses absolutely necessary for the freighting of the new vessel be defrayed." Read 2 Letters
On 14 April, Lieutenant Bolton commander of the HMS schooner Nimble wrote a letter complying with the orders of the Captain General of Cuba and began cruizing the coast of Cuba. Read Letter
On 16 April 1833, William MacLeay wrote to the Foreign Office describing how cholera appeared in the suburbs of Havana in late-February and how "nearly half the population of the city fled from the Havana," including the two Spanish Commissioners. Once the Negrita arrived to Havana on 10 April, the Captain General of Cuba appointed on 12 April an in terim judge and arbitrator. Read Letter
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