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Slave Emancipation In Cuba

Slave Emancipation In Cuba: The Transition to Free Labor, 1860–1899

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    Slave Emancipation In Cuba
    Book Description:

    Slave Emancipation in Cubais the classic study of the end of slavery in Cuba. Rebecca J. Scott explores the dynamics of Cuban emancipation, arguing that slavery was not simply abolished by the metropolitan power of Spain or abandoned because of economic contradictions. Rather, slave emancipation was a prolonged, gradual and conflictive process unfolding through a series of social, legal, and economic transformations.

    Scott demonstrates that slaves themselves helped to accelerate the elimination of slavery. Through flight, participation in nationalist insurgency, legal action, and self-purchase, slaves were able to force the issue, helping to dismantle slavery piece by piece. With emancipation, former slaves faced transformed, but still very limited, economic options. By the end of the nineteenth-century, some chose to join a new and ultimately successful rebellion against Spanish power.In a new afterword, prepared for this edition, the author reflects on the complexities of postemancipation society, and on recent developments in historical methodology that make it possible to address these questions in new ways.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7216-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Abbreviations Used in the Notes
    (pp. xvi-xvi)

    • I Sugar and Slavery
      (pp. 3-42)

      Chattel slavery, the holding of property in men and women, formed the basis of a sophisticated and productive sugar industry in Cuba well into the final third of the nineteenth century. In 1868 the island produced 720,250 metric tons of sugar, more than 40 percent of the cane sugar reaching the world market in that year. But just as Cuba reached this level of production, the abolition of slavery began. Slavery had been maintained in Cuba while it was being abolished elsewhere, and emancipation, when it came, required almost two decades to complete. Like Brazil, Cuba was a holdout, finally...

  3. PART ONE Conflict, Adaptation, and Challenge, 1868-1879

    • II Insurrection and Slavery
      (pp. 45-62)

      On October 10, 1868, on theingenioDemajagua in Manzanillo in eastern Cuba, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and a group of conspirators declared themselves in revolt against Spanish rule. Their rebellion drew upon accumulated grievances against the economic and political policies of the mother country, which were felt by different sectors in different ways. Creole planters in the eastern region, operating with limited capital resources, had been losing ground as the sugar industry grew in the western end of the island. The new taxes imposed by Spain in the 1860s, which may have been particularly offensive because they were direct...

    • III Spain Responds: The Moret Law
      (pp. 63-83)

      Despite the ambiguity of the initial insurgent commitment to emancipation, the reality of war had put Spain on the defensive with regard to slavery. As long as the rebellion represented abolition, however nominal and compromised, those slaves who could do so had reason to flee their masters to the insurrectionist lines, free blacks had reason to prefer the rebels to the Spaniards, and the United States government—if it should choose to invoke antislavery principles—had a rationale for recognizing or even aiding the rebels. The pressures on Madrid were contradictory. On the one hand, Spain needed to reduce the...

    • IV Adaptation, 1870-1877
      (pp. 84-110)

      The 1870s in Cuba were a period of political and social conflict. The civil war in the east drained Spanish resources and polarized Cuban politics. The struggle over the enforcement of the Moret Law—carried out almost unnoticed in small confrontations between slaves, masters, juntas, and government officials—helped to undermine the established social relations upon which slavery rested. In the economic realm, however, the decade appears at first to have been one of relative prosperity. The average annual output of sugar was up almost 25 percent from the previous ten years, despite a decline in production in the east.²...

    • V Challenge
      (pp. 111-124)

      Though Cuban planters hoped to avoid disruption through the gradual process of replacing slaves with free workers as the slave population declined, several converging and closely related pressures were building to force a more immediate resolution of the issue of slavery. One was the growth of antislavery sentiment in Spain and the prospect that the metropolitan government might take unilateral steps toward immediate abolition. Another was the Ten Years’ War and its indirect effects, including the destruction of plantations and the liberation of many slaves in the eastern end of the island. A third arose from the actions of slaves...

  4. PART TWO The Limits of Gradualism, 1880-1886

    • VI The Patronato
      (pp. 127-140)

      The concept of thepatronato, of an intermediate status between slave and free, bespoke a belief in gradual change. Fearful planters raised specters of Haiti, of Radical Reconstruction in the United States, and of barbarism in general to gain support for the idea that only a prolonged transition could avoid such evil consequences of abolition. Proponents of thepatronatoelevated gradualism to the status of a major virtue, the only way for slaves to become responsible free men and women and for society to withstand the shock of transformation.¹

      Underlying thepatronatowas a denial that interests were fundamentally in...

    • VII Patrocinados: Obstacles and Initiatives
      (pp. 141-171)

      In the daybooks of plantations, the eighth of May 1880, the date of the Reglamento putting into effect the law that abolished slavery and established thepatronato, passed without notice. The work force did not decline, labor did not stop, the rhythm of life appeared unaltered. Although stipends began to be paid, at first irregularly, they seem often to have been used as a special incentive rather than as wages, in much the same way that rewards or feasts had been used under slavery. Laborers still worked at 4:00 a.m. in the mill. There was still work on Sundays during...

    • VIII Masters: Strategies of Control
      (pp. 172-198)

      A gradual transition from slave to free labor was consistent, at least in theory, with what many planters in Cuba saw as the future of their economic activities and of Cuban society. But to say that planters supported some form of abolition is to say very little indeed. The key question was: What would replace slavery? The ways in which former slaveholders, nowpatronos, behaved during the period of transition reflect their conceptions of how society and labor should be ordered; also revealed are the means they were willing to use in an effort to ensure control over those aspects...

  5. PART THREE Postemancipation Responses, 1880-1899

    • IX Planters and the State
      (pp. 201-226)

      During the process of emancipation, Cuban planters had tried—often successfully—to use the power of the state to reinforce their authority over their workers. At the same time, legal provisions enacted by that state had been used bypatrocinadosto undermine masters’ authority. This dialectic did not end with final abolition. Planters, old and new, retained or obtained preponderant power within Cuban society and continued to seek and receive state aid in the task of reorganizing and disciplining labor. In their efforts to restructure labor and social relations, however, planters had to face divisions and competition among themselves, divisions...

    • X Former Slaves
      (pp. 227-254)

      Cuban plantation slaves achieved legal freedom through a variety of mechanisms including war, self-purchase, individual manumission, litigation, and government decree. Their responses to that freedom also varied widely, ranging from a decision to leave the plantation world entirely to a persistence in dependence on the old estates. Their different efforts to make something of their new freedom, however, did not simply fall along a continuum from passivity to activity, or from peacefulness to violence, or from plantation to peasantry. Rather they involved a mixture of such features, within the limitations imposed by the economic and political system, as well as...

    • XI Land and Society
      (pp. 255-278)

      The transition to free labor in Cuba meant a fundamental reorganization of labor, landholding, and social relations. Owners of slaves and ingenios became employers oncentralesandcolonias. Slaves became legally free workers, in sugar and elsewhere. The interaction of employers and laborers, and of available land and available capital, however, was by no means geographically uniform. The result was a regional diversity in patterns of land use and landholding at least as striking as that which had existed under slavery.

      At the same time, emancipation altered several aspects of the social and political environment of the island. Abolition transformed...

    • XII Conclusion and Epilogue
      (pp. 279-294)

      The gradual abolition of slavery in Cuba, involving an intermediate status and a prolonged transition to free labor, resulted from the special circumstances of Cuban slavery and its particular domestic and international context. The Cuban sugar economy needed new workers to compensate for the ending of the international slave trade, while at the same time planters wished to maintain control over their enslaved work force. Spain sought to safeguard the colonial tie and to resolve the volatile issue of slavery in a way that was minimally disruptive. Gradual abolition was designed to meet these needs. The Moret Law and the...

  6. Afterword to the New Paperback Edition
    (pp. 295-302)

    Marcelino Iznaga, who lives on the Pepito Tey sugar plantation, recalls that his uncle Rafael Iznaga often spoke of having served in the Cuban Liberation Army of 1895–1898, fighting for Cuba’s independence from Spain. Like his neighbor and rebel officer, Captain Claudio Sarría, Rafael Iznaga had been born into slavery on a plantation in the Cienfuegos district, on the southern coast of the island. But Marcelino Iznaga is quick to point out that by the time of final abolition in 1886 his uncle was no longer a slave: Rafael Iznaga’s father and mother had purchased their son’s freedom some...