American Minute with Bill Federer
FEB. 15 – Slavery History … and the Island of Cuba
Slavery in Cuba began earlier and lasted longer than anywhere else in the Americas.
Nearly all ancient cultures made captives of war serve as slaves, such as in Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, China, India, Africa, and Rome.
Julius Caesar conquered in Gaul and brought so many captured slavic peoples into to Rome that the term ‘slav’ took the connotation of permanent servant.
Over half of Rome’s population were slaves.
Another form of slavery was generational indebtedness, spread by Roman Emperor Diocletian.
The Roman economy was so bad that people unable to pay their mortgages abandoned their properties, renounced their Roman citizenship and went off to live with the barbarians.
When Muslims conquered areas of Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Greece and the Mediterranean, over a million Europeans were carried off into slavery.
Catholic religious orders began, such as the Trinitarins or ‘Mathurins,’ who collected donations to ransom slaves.
In Africa, an estimated 180 million Africans were forced into Muslim slavery.
In pre-Columbian America, the Inca Empire had a system of mandatory public service known as mita, similar to the Aztec’s tlacotin.
When Spain conquered the New World in the early 1500’s, conquistadors deposed Indian government leaders and ruled in their stead.
As Indian populations had been trained to obey government orders, they willingly obeyed their new leaders, even though it meant dying of forced labor in silver mines, such as Potosi.
Spaniards set up a system called encomienda or repartimiento, which was similar to feudal France’s Corvée “unfree labour.”
Priests like Bartolomé de las Casas, Franciscan Friars, and Papal Bulls ended the enslavement of Indians.
Those wanting slave labor replaced them with Africans purchased from Muslim slave markets.
A notorious trade triangle developed with Havana, Cuba, at its center: SLAVES from Africa to SUGAR from the Caribbean to RUM in England.
In North America, Christian missionaries and movements, especially Quakers, Moravians, and Methodists, were a voice of conscience against slavery.
Many poor Europeans sold themselves as ‘indentured servants’, a temporary slavery for seven years in exchange for transportation to America.
King James II, followed by Charles I and Oliver Cromwell, sold over 500,000 Irish Catholics into slavery throughout the 1600’s onto plantations in the West Indies Islands of Antigua, Montserrat, Jamaica, Barbados, as well as Virginia and New England.
Some North American Indians were sold into slavery in the West Indies.
The first African slaves were brought to North America on a Dutch ship to Virginia in 1619.
Importation of slaves to the United States ended in 1807, but in 1839, an international incident occurred.
A Portuguese ship from Sierra Leone sold 53 slaves to Spanish Planters on the Cuban ship Amistad.
On July 1, 1839, the Africans seized the ship and demanded to be sailed back to Africa.
Instead, the captain misdirected the ship to Long Island, NY, where the slaves were arrested.
The Amistad case went to the Supreme Court, with 74-year-old former President, John Quincy Adams, defending the Africans.
Adams stated, “By the blessing of God, I will argue the case before the Supreme Court,” and wrote in his journal, October 1840:
“I implore the mercy of God to control my temper, to enlighten my soul, and to give me utterance, that I may prove myself in every respect equal to the task.”
Francis Scott Key offered Adams legal advice.
Adams shook hands with Africans Cinque and Grabeau, saying: “God willing, we will make you free.”
Wining the case, John Quincy Adams, known as “Old Man Eloquent,” had argued:
“The moment you come to the Declaration of Independence, that every man has a right to life and liberty, an inalienable right, this case is decided. I ask nothing more in behalf of these unfortunate men than this Declaration.”
President James Buchanan wrote December 19, 1859:
“When a market for African slaves shall no longer be furnished in Cuba… Christianity and civilization may gradually penetrate the existing gloom.”
In 1868, a revolt began in Cuba by a Creole farmer crying out for racial equality, freedom of speech and freedom of association.
Spain killed thousands putting down the revolt in the Ten Years War.
A Spanish Royal decree finally ended slavery in Cuba in 1886.
In 1895, another rebellion began in Cuba and Spain sent 200,000 soldiers to put it down.
Tens of thousands were put into concentration camps where they suffered from starvation, disease and exposure.
Yellow Press journalism excited the American public, who demanded President William McKinley intervene.
The U.S.S. Maine was sent to Havana, and on FEBRUARY 15, 1898, it blew up in the harbor under suspicious conditions, beginning the Spanish-American War.
President McKinley approved the Resolution of Congress:
“Whereas the abhorrent conditions which have existed for more than three years in the island of Cuba, so near our own borders, have shocked the moral sense of the people of the United States, have been a disgrace to Christian civilization,
culminating, as they have, in the destruction of a United States battle ship, with 266 of its officers and crew, while on a friendly visit in the harbor of Havana, and cannot longer be endured…
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives…that the people of the island of Cuba are and of right ought to be free.”
Watch Faith in History
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