Slavery and Liberalismin 19th Century Latin America
Background to Slavery in Brazil• Pedro I comes to power in 1822.• While other countries are declared republics, Brazil became a monarchy, and remained a slave-owning country.• Pedro believed in “the Brazilian people”, which included all those born in Brazil, but this did not apply to slaves (Chasteen 102). Image source: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/448591/Pedro-I
Background to Slavery in Cuba• Cuba remains a Spanish colony.• Cuban sugar plantations imported a number of slaves when slavery was abolished in Jamaica, Barbados, and other sugar-growing islands (Chasteen 134).• Slave labor was necessary to the economy, and became a highly-capitalized industry. Image source: http://www.melﬁsher.org/exhibitions/lastslaveships/cuba.htm
The Liberal Agenda• Liberalism was “based on the belief that human progress is best achieved by unleashing the energies of the individual human being” (Wood and Chasteen 83).• Liberalism relied on the idea of capitalism and free enterprise. The idea of slavery would not ﬁt this ideal, but in practice, many liberals see the idea of free enterprise only applying to free white males, and not to slaves.
The Economics of Slavery• The idea of liberal individualism matched the idea of free enterprise.• Slaves were unpaid, free labor, and paying workers was a lot more expensive than having to pay workers, cutting into proﬁts of the landowners.• Legal equality was the basis of liberalism, but slaves were not considered equal, even in the eyes of liberals in Brazil and Cuba.
Why does Slavery remain in Brazil and Cuba?• Slavery remains in Brazil and Cuba because the liberal agenda is not strong in either country, and many were clinging to colonial ideals.• In Brazil, Pedro I was prince of Portugal, while Cuba remained a Spanish colony. The countries were tied to traditions, and would not allow for the liberal agenda to permeate the political agenda.• Brazil was considered too “backward” for liberalism (Chasteen 173).
Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda• Avellaneda’s 1841 novel Sab was the literary argument for the abolishment of slavery. Compared to the United States novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.• The novel was banned in Latin America, but was widely read anyway.• The novel was sentimental in the 1800s, telling the love story between a black man and a white
Pedro II and the Regent Years• Pedro II was appointed ruler in 1831, when he was 5 years old. Until 1840, Brazil was ruled by a regency council.• Pedro II was installed as emperor at the age of 14.• The regents had attempted liberal reforms, but when Pedro II came to power, liberal reforms were cancelled, and the imperial army was built back up. Image source: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/448600/Pedro-II
Pedro II’s Philosophical Rule• Pedro was a philosophical liberal, who traveled extensively to the United States and Europe.• Pedro had hoped that one day Brazil would not need a monarchy or slaves, as the Brazilian elites would embrace liberalism.• Pedro had freed his own slaves in 1840, but made little attempt for the complete abolishment of slavery in Brazil.
The End of Slavery in Cuba• Cuba was still a Spanish-held colony, and, along with Brazil, was one of the last slave-holding countries.• Spain abolished slavery in Cuba in 1886. Image source: http://www.melﬁsher.org/exhibitions/lastslaveships/cuba.htm
The “Free Birth” law-- the beginning of the end of slavery• Passed in 1871, the law stated that slaves would remain, but the children of slaves would be born free.• Slave law required that the “free” children must work until adulthood for their parents’ master.• Slave trade had ended around 1850, after the decree had been issued in 1831, and the new law hoped to end eventually end slavery.
The Abolishment of Slavery in Brazil• By 1886, after the end of slavery in Cuba, more pressure was put on Brazil.• Slaves were running away, and by 1887 a mere 7,488 slaves remained in Brazil, down from 100,000 in the late 1860s (Graham 108).• Slavery was ﬁnally abolished in 1888.
Why did the Liberal Agenda change Slavery?• Liberalism began as a notion of the free individual, but elites in Brazil and Cuba would consider the free individual as the free white man. Slaves would not be considered.• Conservative rule in Brazil, along with the colonial rule in Cuba, would use slave labor to grow the economy.• Brazilians were considered progressive, but when Cuba abolished slavery, Brazil faced the shame of the rest of other countries, and freed their slaves in 1888.
Conclusion• Brazil’s monarchy had a grip on the political agenda. While Pedro II was thought to be a liberal, his rule wasn’t strong enough to abolish slavery. Elites in Brazil embraced liberalism, but only as it applied to white males.• Cuba was still under Spanish rule, and only abolished slavery when Spain did so.• Economic factors were driving factors against slavery, with plantation owners seeing big proﬁts from slave labor.• Brazil’s “free trade” law would eventually lead to the end of slavery, but it would take 17 years.
Works Cited• Chasteen, John Charles, Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America (New York: WW Norton and Company, 2011).• Graham, Sandra Lauderdale, House and Street: The Domestic World of Servants and Masters in Nineteenth- Century Rio de Janeiro (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1988).• Wood, James A. and John Charles Chasteen, editors, Problems in Modern Latin American History: Sources and Interpretations (Lanham: Rowman and