University of Hawai'i Press
  • The British Empire and the Suppression of the Slave Trade to Brazil:A Global History Analysis*

This essay examines the connections between the British free trade experiment, the reorganizing of the British Empire and the ultimate suppression of the transatlantic slave trade to Brazil in its fully global operative context. While most analyses of the nineteenth-century transatlantic slave trade focus on bilateral diplomatic relations or national decision-making processes, this essay puts forth a broader analytical framework. It places the end of the transatlantic illegal slave trade to Brazil in 1850 within the dynamics of the world-economy. In a broader sense, this essay sheds new light on debates about capitalism and slavery as it reveals nineteenth-century capitalism not as a static background for historical analysis, but rather as a dialectical process moving through a sequence of disruptive commodity market integrations, each of which posed specific economic and political challenges for slaveholders and antislavery actors alike.

Introduction: State, Agency, and Capitalism

Melcher Todd was a West Indian planter who had just married when he produced 290 metric tons of brown sugar in 1847. To bring his sugar to market in Great Britain, Todd paid 145 pounds sterling (£) for colonial customs, £1,000 for insurance, £1,150 for freight, and £4,030 in metropolitan customs for a sum total of US$30,000, a fortune at the time. The new husband thought his produce would sell for prices high enough to pay off his expenses. But he was wrong. A year earlier, Great Britain had opened its sugar market for international competition, and the ensuing influx of foreign supplies knocked sugar prices down, leaving Todd with a loss of £720 (US$3,500). Todd lamented: "I have simply labored to pay customs' duties.""Not one farthing reverts to me or my family," and "I am now […] obliged to mortgage my property." [End Page 1] "With what force," he went on, "do the lines of the great Latin poet commencing 'Sic vos non vobis' apply here." The poet Todd had in mind was Virgil, to whom medieval tradition had attributed a poem on the expropriation of labor. "I wrote these lines," said the poem, "another takes the praise; so you, birds, make your nests, but you do not do this for yourselves; so do you, sheep, bear wool, but not for yourselves." In fact, the great Latin poet may have never crafted these lines, but accuracy in attribution didn't seem to bother the planter. Todd was used to taking the fruits of others' labor and, proud of his sugar mountain, he selectively forgot that his workers had made it all, but not for themselves.1

The phrase sic vos non vobis, which an idiomatic translation would render as "you do, but you do not benefit from it," may also encompass the idea of unequal distribution of wealth. Put this way, the phrase sheds light not only on Todd's ledger books; on a more general level, it also illuminates the great impact that the recasting of the British Empire from mercantilist protectionism to free trade had across different spaces of the world during the mid-nineteenth century. While promising gains for all, free trade was in fact a zero-sum game, with a clear line between those who would reap the rewards and the others who would bear the costs of its practices. In effect, the metaphor Todd used suggests even more than met the planter's eye: free trade not only affected the relations of government and citizens within the British Empire but also changed factor and sector returns in several continents, striking workers and capitalists in different countries across the globe.

The impact of the British tariff reforms was so spectacular that it displaced the social bases of national and imperial compacts within the British Empire and beyond, inducing planters and politicians to painstakingly rebuild local political consensuses to better protect their interests. The common thread of global free trade political economy around midcentury thus linked apparently unconnected events—from the geographical reconfiguration of world wheat markets to the U.S. Compromise of 1850 over slavery, from British high imperialism in the East to American annexationism in the Caribbean. In this essay, I argue that one of these remote systemic linkages can be established between the end of sugar protectionism in Great Britain and the suppression of the contraband slave trade to Brazil in 1850. At the time, Brazil's [End Page 2] infamous commerce was the world's most voluminous trafficking in enslaved human beings. It supported endogenous capital accumulation in imperial Brazil, connected Brazilian capitalists with global financial webs from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, and fed the reproduction of Brazilian slave society over time and space.2

Historians have attributed the suppression of the Brazilian slave trade to different causes. Early interpretations dwelt on international diplomatic relations. They suggest that decision-makers in Rio de Janeiro cracked down on the notorious commerce because the British state forced them to do so out of unproblematized pure altruism. More recent analyses focused less on interstate actions, instead turning their attention to subaltern agency. Some scholars argued that culturally shaped social practices of Bantu-speaking African slaves in the Paraíba Valley allowed for a slave conspiracy in 1848, pushing Brazilian slaveholders to discontinue the importation of enslaved Africans; or that the microbiological side effects of Afro-Brazilian commerce, mainly the yellow fever outbreak of 1850, drove public opinion against the contraband trade in slaves.3 Lately, other scholars have concluded that the Royal Navy's raids against Rio de Janeiro were ultimately the main factor in the final suppression of the Brazilian slave trade.4 This most recent historiographical shift has brought Britain back into the explanation, enabling new consideration of a classic global question largely ignored in the last decades by scholars engaged with the internal [End Page 3] dynamics of Brazilian history: what were, after all, the broader systemic conditions that placed Britain on a collision course with the largest transatlantic slave trade at the time?

British historians have already put forward interpretations of the motives guiding Britain in its quasi-war with Brazil. Leslie Bethell suggested that altruistic abolitionism was London's driving force in the campaign against the transatlantic slave trade. In his account, the need to protect Britain's West Indian sugar economy after slave emancipation or British pent-up frustration with the calculated pro-slave trade inaction of the Brazilian government was of secondary importance. David Eltis similarly defined abolitionism as a social movement devoted to a system of British liberal beliefs that held up uncoerced labor as the social engine best designed for human progress. He argued that this faith in freedom galvanized Britain against the slave trade, inducing it even to contradict its immediate material interests—which would have been fostered by investments in both the slave trade and slavery within and beyond the British imperial framework. Finally, Seymour Drescher proposed that abolitionism became a successful political force in Britain as a result of an Anglo-Saxon political culture based on responsive government, and that antislavery triumphed internationally because of the influential position Britain occupied within the world system.

These readings (focused respectively on abolitionism; contradictions between abolitionism and economic interests; and the political triumph of abolitionism) share a critical approach to Eric Williams's classic Capitalism and Slavery. According to a widespread reading of Williams' work, the Industrial Revolution turned both slavery and the slave trade into obsolete, contradictory, and unwelcome intrusions on a growing British Empire. Targeting William's focus on material causality, Bethell, Eltis, and Drescher propose that British economy and geopolitics—which they understand to have remained relatively unchanged throughout the first half of the nineteenth century—were compatible with black bondage, setting up an unfavorable scenario that abolitionism rose against. Not coincidentally, all three historians celebrate the abolition of the Brazilian slave trade as "the last important stand of humanitarian politics."5 [End Page 4]

In the following pages, I adopt the perspective of a changing world system to offer an alternative interpretation that moves beyond the dichotomous treatment of moral and economic factors.6 My argument is threefold. First, I suggest that the direct encounter of two opposing material forces—the British Industrial Revolution and the protectionist political economy of the post-Napoleonic world order—intensified social contradictions and class conflicts within Great Britain, leading Westminster to adopt a new imperial political economy between 1839 and 1846 ("Breaking Through the World Order: Imperialism and Free Trade" section). I then argue that, in the wake of these changes, both metropole and colonies entered into a process of profound imperial renegotiation that inextricably linked abolitionism, class conflict, lobbying, and imperial geopolitics—that is, structural constraints, pressure of social groups, and state action ("Free Trade and Negotiating Empire" section). Finally, I propose that the rewriting of the British imperial compact in the late 1840s transformed the traditional restrained British antislavery diplomacy into unprecedented military aggression against Brazil by 1850 ("Imperial Reorganizing: British Anti-Slave Trade Geopolitics Redefined" section). This analytical framework reveals morally-inflected British antislavery state actions emerging out of a plurality of social contradictions and material interests, the origins of which can be located in the emerging frictions between the industrializing British economy and an evolving world system.

Although the story I tell in the following pages approaches a particular event (the suppression of the slave trade to Brazil) in its relation to the largest political unit of nineteenth-century capitalism (the British Empire), the analysis may also help explain the mechanics of capitalism in the nineteenth century. As the nineteenth-century world economy promoted a gradual series of international market integrations, each of which unleashed new combinations of labor, land, and capital across distinct jurisdictions, some powerful tariff reforms such as the British unilateral adoption of free trade in 1846 may be seen not only as national or imperial phenomena, but rather as global events that affected national agreements, imperial administration, diplomacy, and warfare throughout the world. In this sense, the story that follows gestures toward the interface of forced labor in the Americas and imperialism in other continents, being also a prelude of how, on a wider scale, black bondage in the New World and labor management within [End Page 5] European empires elsewhere became inextricably interwoven in the second half of the nineteenth century.7

Breaking Through the World Order:Imperialism and Free Trade

The Industrial Revolution redefined the geographical horizon of the British economy between 1780 and 1860. As the mechanization of spinning and weaving took off in Britain, the West Indies, which had been the core of the imperial economy in the eighteenth century, failed to perform their role as reliable suppliers of raw materials and consumer markets for manufactures, inducing Britain to turn more and more to foreign jurisdictions to close its main industrial commodity chains. On one end Britain came to depend upon the United States for the provision of short-staple cotton and, on the other, it counted on the European continent, the United States, and Latin America as dynamic consumer markets for its textiles. Although the British domestic economy had never been self-sufficient, it reached an increasingly systemic level of dependence during the first half of the nineteenth century. In political terms, this industrial economic geography, creating a new relation between capital, labor, and markets across the world, exposed Britain to the influence of other countries' domestic economic policies that London fell well short of controlling. Among those policies was protectionism.8

In the post-Napoleonic world order, key Atlantic states implemented protectionist measures strategically selected for sectorial [End Page 6] protection of their national economies. Old colonial powers such as France and Spain, having lost colonies that had balanced their foreign trade, restricted imports for their own financial stability. Urban regions with capital and manufacturing traditions such as New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Mulhouse (French Alsace), Barcelona (Spain), Ghent (Belgium), Wiesenthal (Baden), and Chemnitz (Saxony), which had thrived during the system of reciprocal blockades (Continental Blockade, Orders in Council, U.S. embargos), asked for high taxes after 1815 to keep British textiles out. Lastly, virtually all countries suffered deep deficits incurred during the revolutionary conflicts and resorted to tariff increases to pay them off. Tariff changes generally affect prices, volume of trade, scale of production, distribution of gains from trade, marginal propensity to consume, consumption patterns, employment levels, fiscal revenues, and trade balance. Over time, this Atlantic protectionist political economy helped depress prices of British manufactures and shrank the industrialists' profit margin, which made working conditions in factories in the U.K. more precarious than they already were. The post-Napoleonic world order, managed by London, also shaped the power that managed it.9

Protectionism built up systemic pressures on Britain, increasing the domestic appeal of two policies that could potentially offset the industrial sector's combination of expanding output and diminishing returns. On the one hand, private investors and policy makers pushed for a more thorough colonization of India through international marketing of Indian crops to generate local income to import British goods. Throughout the first half of the century, opium occupied a prominent position in this colonial arrangement: traded in China for tea, the drug became so crucial that its value reached US$15 million in 1828 (for comparison, U.S. raw cotton exports totaled US$22 million in the same year). Indigo, sold in Britain, was the second most important Indian commodity until the 1830s. With the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies in that decade, investors redirected capital to the sugar and coffee trades in the East, allowing Indian sugar to eventually replace indigo as a major means of payment for metropolitan manufactures. Pulled by opium, indigo, and sugar, India rose briskly as a thriving consumer market. The seventh most important global buyer of British cotton goods in 1820, India surpassed the West Indies a few years later, caught up with the United States by [End Page 7] the mid-thirties and took first place at the turn of 1840s.10 The growth of the Indian consumer market as support for domestic British prosperity, and political tranquility, explains why Britain castigated China during the First Opium War (1839–1842), when Beijing suspended opium imports. As an English pamphlet stated, opium profits "have not only tended to turn the balance of trade between Great Britain and China in favour of the former." Together with sugar and indigo, opium enabled India "to increase ten-fold its consumption of British manufactures."11 In a protectionist world order, British capital in the Indo-Pacific had become too big to fail, as suggested in Figure 1.

The Indian safety valve, important as it was, did not prevent Atlantic protectionism from intensifying class conflicts in Britain. By inducing wage cuts, protectionism helped bring Chartism to life, a vertical social movement composed of workers and middle classes in favor of radically opening both the economy and state of Britain to broader participation and benefits. Whitehall faced the social crisis of the British industrial setbacks not only by favoring high imperialism in the East but also by unilaterally adopting free trade in the Atlantic.12

Richard Cobden, a Lancashire industrialist and head of the powerful Anti-Corn Law League, didactically summed up the free trade solutions for class conflicts in Great Britain. Slashing tariffs on imports such as meat, sugar, and wheat, he argued, would cheapen workers' basic diet items. (Statistics indicate that British workers, two and a half times more costly to their employers than their German counterparts, spent two-thirds of their income on daily food.) By balancing the workers' budget, free trade would satisfy poor classes and weaken the popular appeal of Chartism. In addition, Cobden suggested, free trade [End Page 8] would turn Britain into the most coveted food court of the world economy, and thus induce protectionist countries to relocate their scarce resources (labor, land, and capital) from industry to agriculture. This political economy would act as a powerful drill to pierce through the tariff walls that several states had put up against Britain. In terms of the interplay of domestic and global dynamics, free trade would realign class conflict in Britain by reorganizing the international division of labor in the world economy.13

Figure 1. Re-Orient: British exports of cotton goods, 1820–1839 (£). Sources: For the years 1820–1831, Tables of the Revenue, Population, Commerce of the United Kingdom and its Dependencies (London: Clowes, 1833), 65–70; for 1832–1834, Tables of the Revenue (London: Clowes, 1835), 194–197; for 1834, idem (published in 1835), 197; for 1835, idem (1836), 96–97; for 1836, idem (1838), 96–97; for 1837, idem (1839), 102–103; for 1838, idem (1840), 124–125; for 1839, idem (1841), 116–117.
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Figure 1.

Re-Orient: British exports of cotton goods, 1820–1839 (£). Sources: For the years 1820–1831, Tables of the Revenue, Population, Commerce of the United Kingdom and its Dependencies (London: Clowes, 1833), 65–70; for 1832–1834, Tables of the Revenue (London: Clowes, 1835), 194–197; for 1834, idem (published in 1835), 197; for 1835, idem (1836), 96–97; for 1836, idem (1838), 96–97; for 1837, idem (1839), 102–103; for 1838, idem (1840), 124–125; for 1839, idem (1841), 116–117.

[End Page 9]

Figure 2. Invasion of slave-made sugar, 1841–1849 (cwt). Sources: Tables of the Revenue, Population, Commerce etc. of the United Kingdom and its Dependencies (London: Clowes, 1843), 61; for 1842, idem (1844), 57; for 1843, idem (1845), 60; for 1844, idem (1846), 53; for 1845, idem (1847), 51; for 1846, idem (1848), 59; for 1847, idem (1849), 59; for 1848, idem (1850), 59; for 1849, idem (1851), 64.
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Figure 2.

Invasion of slave-made sugar, 1841–1849 (cwt). Sources: Tables of the Revenue, Population, Commerce etc. of the United Kingdom and its Dependencies (London: Clowes, 1843), 61; for 1842, idem (1844), 57; for 1843, idem (1845), 60; for 1844, idem (1846), 53; for 1845, idem (1847), 51; for 1846, idem (1848), 59; for 1847, idem (1849), 59; for 1848, idem (1850), 59; for 1849, idem (1851), 64.

From 1842 on, the British Parliament passed a series of acts for opening the metropolitan domestic market to global producers of food commodities. The Repeal of the Corn Laws and the Sugar Act, both of 1846 and the main landmarks of the tariff reforms, turned Britain into a zone of commodity market integration for food produced in core countries or areas under their direct control. By freeing up the world system's greatest marketplace for sugar and wheat, British tariff reforms changed factor returns (according to available capital, land, and labor) and sector returns (mining, food, clothing) across the Atlantic. Among the American countries most affected were the slaveholding regions. In regard to sugar specifically, slaveholders responded to the new commodity market integration in Britain, which allowed for increasing [End Page 10] sugar demand and consumption, with much greater elasticity than traditional British West Indian suppliers, as shown in Figure 2.

Although all the Atlantic's major sugar economies increased their sales in the British market after 1846, Brazil and Cuba broke into it more successfully as they offered slave-made products at prices lower than their rivals reliant on wage labor. This failure of Britain's colonies to respond lowered expectations on future returns on investments in food commodities among British subjects and, eventually, redefined the British imperial compact.

Free Trade and Negotiating Empire

Britain's 1846 bread and sugar policy struck hard against colonial exporters who had been enjoying a monopoly over the metropolitan market: merchants and wheat growers in Canada, potential farmers in Australia, and merchants and planters across sugar enclaves not only in the West Indies, but also in Mauritius (in the Indian Ocean), and India. To mollify them, decision makers in Whitehall instituted the principle of trade reciprocity between metropole and colonies with the Colonial Possessions Act (1846). This law dictated that if London had abolished the metropolitan tariff protection for colonial products (wheat and sugar), overseas possessions were allowed to abolish colonial tariff protections for metropolitan products (manufactures). The act encompassed all colonies except for India.14

Contrary to expectations, the Colonial Possessions Act did not dispel colonial anxieties. Canadians and Australians required additional concessions as broad as self-government, and Caribbean sugar planters drew up a long list of demands to the British Crown. Their claims varied in size and importance. Minor demands aimed at boosting the metropolitan market for sugar (as, for example, the request for admitting sugar and colonial rum into British distilleries and breweries on an equal footing with malt). Major demands touched the most sensitive nerves of the British Empire. One of them was ending the Navigation Acts, the set of laws, fiercely defended by British shipbuilding lobbyists that raised foreign freights in Britain's colonial trade. Another called for deregulating the recruitment of African and Asian indentured workers in order to increase labor supply and [End Page 11] correspondingly reduce production costs, a measure that abolitionists repudiated for prompting practices uncomfortably close to enslavement. All in all, the sugar lobby intended to distribute the costs of free competition among a range of social actors. Admitting sugarcane derivatives in breweries and distilleries would push up sugar prices for metropolitan consumers. Suppressing Navigation Acts would narrow profit margins of ship owners. Massive immigration schemes would shrink workers' wages in the colonies.15

Initially, the transatlantic slave trade operating in Brazil and Cuba was not a topic of concern for the producers of sugar in the colonies. However, a deep economic crisis in Britain after 1847 transformed the nature, strength, and scope of their lobbying. The economic crisis was born out of a series of reasons, from which speculation stood out. Businessmen imported huge quantities of low-tariff wheat and sugar in 1846 and 1847, hoping to catch the high monopoly prices still in effect before free trade would bring them down. Their scheme was thwarted in the second half of 1847 when cereal and sugar prices plummeted respectively 50 percent and 30 percent due to the oversupply they had created. Forty-three firms, many of which were involved with wheat and sugar trade, went bankrupt. The Royal Bank of Liverpool, the Liverpool Banking Company, the North and South Wales Banking Company, and the Union Bank of Newcastle fell into insolvency. Companies "connected with India, particularly those engaged in the export of British manufacturing," operated at a huge loss. And colonial planters were forced to mortgage "everything they had," when prices for their commodities dropped.16 [End Page 12]

With metropolitan and overseas economies both in distress, the British state started a process of imperial renegotiation. Besides granting Canadians responsible government (1849) and passing the Australian Government Colonies Act (1850), the British Parliament set up a series of Select Committees to put out the flames that free trade was fueling everywhere: the Select Committee on the British commercial crisis, the Select Committee on general public expenditures, the Select Committee on the Navigation Acts, the Select Committee on sugar and coffee planting in the British Empire, the Select Committee on the illegal transatlantic slave trade, and the Select Committee on Ceylon and British Guiana. These parliamentary investigations branched out of the same trunk: they examined the new positions Britain and its colonies occupied within an imperial economy dramatically refashioned by free trade. By doing so, they sought to define who would pay for losses inflicted by the new political economy. To understand the origins of the Royal Navy's violent actions against Rio de Janeiro to suppress the Brazilian slave trade by 1850 not only as the result of longstanding pervasive antislavery orientation in Britain, but also as a result of more urgent British concerns about imperial political stability, it is necessary to read the volumes of the Select Committee on Sugar and Coffee Planting.17

From February to April of 1848 the Select Committee gathered testimonies of 86 witnesses through 2,317 pages and 16,833 questions, totaling the most comprehensive documentary record of parliamentary investigations in that year. Witnesses comprised a full catalogue of the colonial bestiary: directors, president, and bureaucrats of the East India Company (EIC); the undersecretary of the Ministry of Colonies, the inspector general of customs in Britain, the colonial secretary of Ceylon; importers and brokers of sugars from India, the British Caribbean, Cuba, and Brazil; metropolitan distillers; coffee importers [End Page 13] connected to Brazil, Ceylon, and the Caribbean; Royal Navy officers experienced in fighting slave trading; shipmasters involved in transporting free Africans; and owners or administrators of sugar mills in Indochina, India (Madras and Calcutta), Mauritius, Jamaica, Barbados, Demerara, British Guiana, St. Kitts, Antigua, Grenada, Trinidad, and St. Lucia. This Select Committee was instrumental in generalizing West Indian demands for tariff protection for colonial sugar. According to George Bentinck, the committee chair, lower tariffs would sink the nearly shipwrecked Caribbean economy as much as emergent imperial sugar interests in the East. Slave-made sugar in Cuba and Brazil would outpace Indian sugar and thus impair India's capacity to import manufactures, affecting the very metropolitan interests free traders meant to safeguard. This outlook gave the Select Committee a significant external buttress. In July 1848, the British magazine The Economist reported that "130 major bankers, merchants and trading houses in the City" held a meeting chaired by Thomas Baring to express support for the conclusions of the Select Committee. In other words, the economic crisis of 1848 universalized West Indian claims, spreading a local calamity around the globe.18

In-bond prices in London for brown sugar coming from different parts of the world between 1840 and 1853 confirm the committee findings. In-bond prices leave off the value of import tariffs, but they take in the remaining costs of commodity trading (prices in colonial port, export taxes, freight, insurance, and commissions), thus describing the value of colonial goods when coming out of a vessel and before clearing customs as imports. The 1840–1853 in-bond sugar prices are as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3 presents clear-cut phases that mirror the process of international sugar market integration in Britain. After slavery's abolition in 1834–1838 cut back sugar production in the West Indies, the value of the Caribbean brown sugar hit its peak in the post-Napoleonic world order. Its high prices, coupled by a tariff reform suppressing differential duties on West and East Indian sugars, signaled hefty profits for entrepreneurs willing to invest in sugar production in the Indian Ocean. Indeed, India and Mauritius emerged as the two main sugar suppliers for Britain in the following five years, and their rise explains the market value decline of a hundredweight brown sugar to [End Page 14] £1.7 from £2.5 (1840–1843). Between abolition and the early 1840s, protectionism created a bubble in the British imperial economy, within which the interplay of metropolitan demand and colonial supply almost exclusively commanded sugar prices, as foreign slave-made sugar had to pay tariffs equivalent to 300 percent of its in-bond prices. In 1846, the Sugar Act pricked the bubble, slave-made sugar broke into the British market, and the gap between free and slave sugar prices nearly closed (1847–1853).19

Figure 3. Brown sugar prices in London, 1840–1853 (decimalized £). Sources: Return of the Quantities of Unrefined and Refined Sugar, of Molasses, and Rum, Imported and Cleared for Consumption, in each Year ending 5 July from 1842 to 1854 (London: House of Commons, 1854) (Parliamentary Papers, 1854, vol. LXV, doc. n. 429, 9); and West Indies. Correspondence on the Subject of West India (London: Foreign Office, 1854), 4. UNKA, CO 884/1.
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Figure 3.

Brown sugar prices in London, 1840–1853 (decimalized £). Sources: Return of the Quantities of Unrefined and Refined Sugar, of Molasses, and Rum, Imported and Cleared for Consumption, in each Year ending 5 July from 1842 to 1854 (London: House of Commons, 1854) (Parliamentary Papers, 1854, vol. LXV, doc. n. 429, 9); and West Indies. Correspondence on the Subject of West India (London: Foreign Office, 1854), 4. UNKA, CO 884/1.

[End Page 15]

In 1848, the British average colonial sugar price was as low as in 1831. In both years, a hundredweight of brown sugar was worth only £1.18. But prices have distinct social meanings across space and time. They can hide deep social differences behind their equivalent face value, and, indeed, the years 1831 and 1848 were worlds apart. In 1831, planters of the British Empire were concentrated in the Caribbean region and had slaves to whom they could transfer the pressure of competitive markets. By 1848, British sugar producers were spread out in the Caribbean, Mauritius, Madras, and Bengal, and they employed uncoerced labor. Colonial producers and metropolitan politicians still needed to assess whether they could socialize losses inflicted by free market practices among free local subordinate actors. Their ability to socialize losses varied according to how local economic conditions and larger economic processes interacted.

The export sugar economy built in Bengal Presidency, the main British supplier in India, was based upon what British governors knew as the zamindari system. In this system, native merchants advanced resources to peasants (ryots), who returned in exchange a half-processed, juicy sugar that was then resold to European-owned sugar mills in the hinterlands of Calcutta and other cities for refining. Technology was not a decisive limiting factor for Europeans, since sugar mill plants accommodated steam machines, vacuum boilers, and carbon filters, the cutting-edge technologies at the time, but labor was so, since it was performed by ryots, who were beyond the direct reach of European labor management. With no control over a crucial part of the production costs, their profitability varied according to the ability to dictate purchase prices of half-processed sugar. "It all depends upon the price at which they can buy the raw material from the natives," said a witness before the Select Committee on Sugar and Coffee. If Europeans bought it cheap, they had sufficient profit margins to face Cuban and Brazilian slaveholders in Britain. If not, they sustained losses. An efficient way to drive down prices in India was to become a heavy buyer in local marketplaces, but the British fell short of becoming one. When Europeans offered prices the natives deemed too low, the natives shifted their slushy sugar to Indian domestic markets or Eastern foreign outlets (Central Asia, Persia, Russia, and the Pakistani Punjab). "India has markets for sugar independently of England" and "below a certain price [End Page 16] she will not permit her sugar to leave India to come here [Britain]; unless we can get it a certain price, we cannot bring it." The British were halfway in the process of incorporating India into the Atlantic world economy. Despite the military apparatus of the EIC, control over labor and marketing practices in large swaths of India still remained with independent actors who could reallocate resources to more promising markets. When the British colonialists tried to socialize the costs of free trade with Indians, the colonized easily made their way out of the squeeze.20

The Indian sugar trade mattered for London, as it was driving the British imperial swing to the East. Not only did sugar compose a quarter (US$7.2 million) of total Indian annual exports to Britain in the 1840s, but its production in Mauritius created a dynamic intercolonial market for Indian rice worth US$1 million a year. This happened because the manpower recruited to the island's plantations came from India (the so-called "coolies") and followed a rice-based diet. Together, sugar and rice exports from India made up the bulk of cargo in vessels returning to Britain and provided means of payment for British manufactures. Outselling imperial Indian sugar with slave-grown produce hit at the core of this system. "If they will not take the produce of India in payment," an EIC chairman explained referring to British importers, "India cannot purchase their manufactures." Slaveholders could replace Indians as sugar suppliers, but they would do poorly as consumers of textiles. "And what are Cuba and Brazil as markets," he went on, "compared with the magnificent territory of British India, containing many millions of consumers, who will, I trust, in time become opulent consumers if their industry be fairly encouraged?" The illegal transatlantic slave trade, to this point mainly a subject of abolitionist philanthropy, now crossed into the domain of London imperial geopolitics.21

Other sugar colonies, where the plantation system prevailed, had their own challenges. In Mauritius and the Caribbean Islands the British exercised such control over land, capital, and debt that planters [End Page 17] confronted with money-losing prices had no alternative outlets and had to pass on part of the competitive burdens to fieldworkers. The cost of labor (without neglecting factors such as soil and climate) turned out to be crucial for their success in the new free trade era: "the whole question regarding the existence of Mauritius and all our sugar-producing colonies in the present state of affairs," said a witness before the Select Committee, "is that of labour." "Six-twelfths is; fully half goes in wages and provisions," another stated. Output data of twenty British sugar colonies show that Barbados had the most consistent expansion of production capacity after 1846. A key to its success appears in the comparative pay scale for fieldworkers in the late 1840s—an index that suggests only approximate costs of colonial labor, as it does not consider labor productivity.22

Barbados presented the wage floor in the post-emancipation West Indies due to its particular geo-historical conditions. Small in size for the number of its inhabitants, "with a population more dense than that of China," Barbados had ubiquitous and rich limestone soils, which induced planters to devote almost all its agrarian landscape to sugarcane. As a result, ex-slaves lacked plots for their produce and depended on international markets for food. Trapped in a monocultural land pattern that ruled out self-sufficiency, workers were forced to accept reduced wages. In the remaining sugar colonies, the scenario changed. Thanks to marginal, available, and still uncultivated lands, former slaves preferred subsistence to meagre wages, a peasant life to rural proletarization, pushing up wages. Sugar prices in colonial ports followed the level of their respective workers' resistance and the consequent cost of labor pointed out in Table 1: Barbados planters could offer the ton of brown sugar for £15.5 (US$74.4), Mauritius planters for £20 (US$96), and the Jamaicans for £22.75 (US$109.2).23

Before the 1847–1848 financial crisis and the virtual equalization of sugar prices in Britain (Figure 3), the West Indian lobby expected from Colonial Office actions to drown workers' resistance by raising the water level in the labor pool. Sugar businessmen wanted to open the [End Page 18] faucet on one hand ("immigration on a most extensive scale," "not fettered by any unnecessary restrictions") and close the outflow on the other ("laws to prevent vagrancy and informal possession of lands"). Eventually, the invisible hand of the market would weaken labor's resolve and knock wages down. The Standing Committee of West India Planters and Merchants filed a claim along these lines just before the 1847–1848 storm: "the West India colonies possess the necessary works and machineries and cleared lands and means of transport for a much larger production than they can at present accomplish. To render their cultivation again profitable, they only require enjoyment of freedom in procuring labour." Right after this optimistic note, however, the Caribbean lobby was taken aback by the brutal sugar price equalization. Teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, colonial planters, instead of waiting for the invisible hand to strike at workers, decided to slash wages with their own hands.24

Table 1. Fieldworkers' average wage in British sugar colonies, 1845–1847
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Table 1.

Fieldworkers' average wage in British sugar colonies, 1845–1847

British sugar producers delayed paying wages owed for months. They canceled the customary provision of free health assistance to workers. Worse, they made a 30 percent to 50 percent reduction in wages in Santa Lucia, Montserrat, Antigua, Saint Vincent, British Guiana, and Trinidad, apparently taking the Barbadian 6-pence wage bottom line as the new normal. Stung by such attacks, the emancipated [End Page 19] workers broke out in revolt and made their own People's Spring in 1848. Montserrat laborers prevented sugar from leaving plantations and rose up against taxes levied on their livestock and lands. In British Guiana (Berbice and Demerara) workers held strikes, uttered "threatening speeches" and burned dozens of cane fields. Trinidadian fieldworkers rushed into public buildings, beat police forces, swore death to the whites, torched cane fields, and surrounded the governor's carriage armed with machetes and hoes. In Jamaica, an island full of marginal lands allocated for subsistence, the sheer attempt to cut wages caused mass desertion into the hinterlands, and the colony went into a tailspin. "1,848 sugar plantations have been abandoned so far," reported the Spanish consul in Kingston. A British observer looked into its future: "as a sugar-growing country, she is never likely again to hold a very high rank." Free trade damaged an already debilitated Jamaica beyond repair, paving the way for the traumatic Morant Bay Rebellion (1865) and the subsequent suppression of the representative government in the colony.25

Pay cuts turned out to be a delicate, if not foolhardy, social operation, a mistake planters quickly recognized. Heretofore, the sugar lobby had sought to supply the British Antilles with free (indentured) Asian and African labor. Thenceforth, they strove to deprive their competitors in Cuba and Brazil of enslaved Africans. This externalization of costs and geopolitical inversion was an important move: for the first time, they placed ending others' illegal transatlantic slave trade high on their list of demands, hoping not so much to reduce their own production costs but instead to increase slaveholders' and, thus, relieve the social tensions in the West Indies. This change in the geopolitical views of the sugar lobby is apparent in a chronological breakdown of Caribbean petitions sent to Parliament for suppressing the slave trade: before 1846 no anti-slave trade petition had ever been delivered; between 1846 and 1850, twenty-four made their way to London. Out of [End Page 20] these, only one was from 1846. All others dated from the second half of 1847 onward, when the commodity market integration in Britain slashed sugar prices, forced down wages, and sent a wave of social unrest through the colonies. If plotted on a chart, the curve of anti-slave trade petitions would be inversely proportional to the curve of sugar prices on Figure 3. One fed the other.26

Both the collective efforts for drawing up anti-slave trade petitions and the wording of the petitions themselves confirm that social unrest pushed Caribbean elites for an explicit campaign against the slave trade. Only 38 percent of the petitions were signed within the dignified halls of colonial legislatures. The rest (62 percent) came up in feverish public meetings open to rich and poor, white and black, former masters and ex-slaves, workers and planters alike. Witnessed by dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of people, the ritual of writing open petitions restrengthened social ties and solidarity across class divisions among those dismayed by plummeting prices that Cuban and Brazilian slave drivers were bringing about in the metropolitan market. The content of the texts also suggests this. "We," the 1,658 signatories of [End Page 21] Barbados stated, "numbers of whom were once slaves, and besides are of African descent," meeting with those "who were themselves owners of slaves," "solicit your Majesty not to discontinue or relax, but graciously to double your Royal exertions for the suppression of this remorseless system of wholesale oppression and murder" (the slave trade), because "whatever claims to compete with your Majesty's free colonial subjects other nations may be considered to possess, such claims cannot be otherwise than forfeited by those who support their competition by wrong and robbery." Other subjects were just as explicit in their complaints. The Sugar Act, they said, "placed [Britain's] sugar-producing colonies in a disastrous competition with slave-labour countries." For this reason, the colonial order mirrored less the "comparative tranquility" of Britain than the "commotion and discord [that] have so generally prevailed in the other kingdoms of Europe" (the Peoples' Spring of 1848). They also argued that the slave trade menaced "British interests at stake in the East and West Indies." Jamaican politicians summed all up: "the permanent happiness of the rural population is inseparably interwoven with the prosperity of the agricultural interests."27

Initially making a non-specific condemnation of the slave trade, the colonists called for more aggressive measures as they were battered by falling prices, social turmoil, property damage, and strikes. In a public meeting in Trinidad in September 1847, they demanded the emancipation of all Africans smuggled into Cuba (since 1820) and Brazil (since 1831): "new and vigorous measures [should] be adopted for the detection and liberation of such slaves as have heretofore been feloniously introduced into foreign countries." In June 1848 they quoted Palmerston's testimony before the Select Committee on Sugar and Coffee Plantation and required the "speedy liberation of those unfortunate Africans now brought under your Majesty's special notice as being illegally and unjustifiably held in the most cruel slavery." Others followed the Trinidadians. In Jamaica, where abolitionist David Turnbull had been living since he was kicked out of Cuba for antislavery activities, colonists unearthed his project for liberating enslaved Africans illegally imported into Cuba: if Turnbull's proposal were "now urged on the Spanish and Brazilian Governments with [End Page 22] suitable energy, it would prove beneficial and effective in enabling the emancipated colonies of Great Britain to withstand and outlive the competition with the slave grown produce." The issue made its way into three more colonial petitions (Dominica, British Guiana, Jamaica again) and the agenda of a committee representing planters in the metropole. These colonial petitions filed past the Colonial Office, signaling that their true interlocutor was Lord Palmerston, then the head of British international relations.28

When free trade plunged the Empire into turmoil and spurred a series of investigative committees in Parliament, the government came under attack not only from overseas and the City but also from Richard Cobden's artillery. Lancashire free traders believed they could have both Indian and Brazilian markets. In their opinion, India had the capacity to buy British manufactures even without sugar; and London could extract a commercial treaty from Rio de Janeiro to open the Brazilian market for British textiles in exchange for relaxing its naval campaign to suppress the slave trade. They did not stop there. Like current neoliberals, they envisioned a state with low taxes and restricted spending; a state that would cut its budget after giving up tax revenues on wheat and sugar. To pursue this they manned in 1848 two apparently disconnected, but essentially united Select Committees: one on Miscellaneous Expenditure and another on the Slave Trade. While the former tracked budget overspending across the state, the latter focused on the specific outlay for the Royal Navy. The Navy had recently increased operations in the River Plate and off the African coast, accounting for 66 percent of the increase in public spending in the years 1845–1848 (when compared to 1841–1844). Free traders such as Richard Cobden and the editors of The Economist wanted a cheap Navy, which implied giving free rein to slave dealers. "The Brazilian or the Cuban planter is not singular in desiring that others should work for him," taught The Economist. "To prohibit the transport of Africans as laborers to the Brazils will only make what might be a decent, wellregulated emigration, a smuggling trade, pregnant with horrors." The ethics of the free traders were selective. They pointed out that the [End Page 23] struggle against the slave trade had cost the British state a cumulative value of £21 million (roughly $100 million) since 1815. But they neglected to mention that interest payments on the British national debt were draining at least £24 million each year between 1830 and 1848, almost half of the British annual income. Their priorities were crystal clear even if undeclared. Disabling the West Africa Squadron—and sacrificing thousands of African lives—would help the British state to generate primary surplus and guarantee bondholders' profits.29

Imperial Reorganizing: British Anti-Slave Trade Geopolitics Redefined

Cornered by both Lancashire free traders and the colonial sugar lobby in 1848, Westminster signaled it would foster a new imperial compact, a compromise that would protect interests common to the West Indies, the financial center of London, and the East Indies and that, although different from Lancashire's expectations, would nevertheless also protect industrialists' investments. Westminster would enact the compromise on two fronts. On the one hand, the government would postpone the complete tariff equalization on sugar, scheduled for 1851, by three years, a demand set forth by the Select Committee on Sugar and Coffee. On the other hand, it would address the high cost of free labor by forcing slaveholding competitors to give up the transatlantic slave trade. Testifying before the Select Committee on Sugar and Coffee, Palmerston indicated the British state's new geopolitical orientation. "I believe," he said, "that a comparatively small force around Cuba and on the coast of Brazil would be sufficient, and the Admiralty are taking measures to place cruisers on both those stations."30

Personally, Palmerston made no distinction between Brazil and Cuba, targeting both with the same energy. After reading four anti-slave trade petitions from Jamaica, one from Antigua, one from St. Lucia, and four from Trinidad (two of which requested a "quick release" [End Page 24] of the African enslaved by their opponents), he wrote to Prime Minister Lord John Russell: "I have received these from the Colonial Office." "What I would propose to you," he went on, "is as follows: […] we should instruct Dundonald [Navy Commander] to go to the Havana." Once there, Dundonald would announce Britain's desire to "demand the immediate and entire freedom of all the negroes now in Cuba who have been landed therein since the date mentioned in the law above mentioned [1820]." Dundonald would further promise that, if the slave trade was to continue, "a naval force [would] interrupt effectually the commercial intercourse of the ports of Cuba with other ports of the world." Struck by such a brazen proposal, Russell hemmed in his minister. "My Dear Palmerston: This is much too large a question to be decided without consulting the Cabinet." Russell knew the recent American annexation of Texas and California had transformed the geopolitical frame of the Atlantic; that a unilateral British blockade of Cuba would push the colony into the hands of the U.S.; and that such a change of sovereignty in Cuba would have deep implications for the European balance of power, affecting Britain's diplomatic position within Europe. Moreover, the Cuban slave trade had dramatically diminished after the Conspiracy of La Escalera (1844), falling to 8 percent of its size ten years earlier and representing only 3 percent of the numbers that Brazilian dealers were delivering since 1845 (8,000 vs. 272,000). "The export trade from Africa to America," Palmerston gave in, "is now almost exclusively confined […] to the supply of Brazil." Cuba had all its flanks protected. The Royal Navy therefore set its sights on South America.31

The Royal Navy first attacked Brazil in May 1848, when the man-of-war Grecian seized a slaver off Salvador (Bahia) and anchored in the city, refusing to hand its prize over to Brazilian naval authorities. "Such an event, Sir Minister," said a lawmaker of the Brazilian Parliament and owner of hundreds of slaves in a town close to Salvador (Cachoeira), "if reiterated, if repeated again in Bahia, may jeopardize both the domestic [End Page 25] peace of the province and our foreign relations." Seeing the British reorganizing their Empire, the Brazilian coast attacked by a British man-of-war, and Brazilian dealers isolated in the international geography of the slave trade, the Brazilian government made a realistic analysis of the new international settings and decided to move. In August 1848, Foreign Minister Bernardo de Souza Franco sought out James Hudson, the British diplomat in Rio, to preempt new attacks. "I hope that the measures we are considering," he said, "will show Lord Palmerston we mean it seriously and that he will no longer need cruisers." The measures Souza Franco mentioned were two bills the Imperial Executive had just come up with, one to promote migration from Europe and another ending the transatlantic slave trade. Whereas he spoke to Hudson in Rio, his diplomat in London spread the same news throughout Whitehall.32

The anti-slave trade project that the Brazilian Executive put forth was an old proposal the Senate had passed in 1837 and that had been waiting for a vote in the House of Representatives ever since. The bill was meant to suppress the slave trade, but its Article 13 was tricky: it repealed the important law of November 7, 1831, which had declared all Africans smuggled into the country after its passage (roughly 600,000 people by 1848) free and whose enforcement had been suspended through informal political compromises. The imperial Executive feared that further raids by the Royal Navy, coupled with the illegal status of hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans, threatened the security of the country—a specter the Bahian lawmaker had in mind when alluding to "both the domestic peace of the province and our foreign relations." To complicate matters, while the Grecian was attacking off Salvador, police authorities in the coffee-growing town of Vassouras in the Paraíba Valley River (Rio de Janeiro) uncovered plans for a slave rebellion. They found out that a secret society had plotted to poison masters and to subsequently crown an African king. In the government's view, the anti-slave trade bill, with its Article 13, would [End Page 26] legalize the slave status of all these rebellious people and prevent subsequent British raids on the Brazilian coast.33

When introducing the bill to the House of Representatives, the Brazilian Cabinet did not anticipate that several antislavery members—coming from the ranks of its own Liberal Party—would bar Article 13 for abolishing the right Africans illegally reduced to bondage since 1831 had to their freedom. The Executive tried to win them over by playing the slave revolt card. In a secret parliamentary session in September 1848, a Cabinet member read notes the British diplomat James Hudson had written against Article 13, suggesting that "the British Legation arrogated to itself the right of trusteeship over all Africans brought into Brazil since 1831." Hudson lamented this intentional misreading by the Cabinet, explaining to Palmerston that he had not meant to wield power over enslaved Africans when addressing the imperial government. It particularly annoyed him that Foreign Secretary Souza Franco, "though present in the Chamber, was at no pains to set the member right." It is easy to explain the benevolent lapse of Souza Franco. He and his colleagues tried to inject a healthy dose of terror in the lawmakers in order to have Article 13 passed. Despite this maneuver, the antislavery phalanx resisted the Executive and scrapped Article 13 at the end of the secret session.34

The rejection of Article 13 brought down the Liberal Cabinet. The new ministry, of the Conservative Party, showed no fear of a correlation between British raids and general subaltern actions like the slave revolt conspiracy in Vassouras, completely reversing the former Cabinet's agenda. Bernardo Pereira de Vasconcelos, the powerful proslavery mind of the Conservatives from the province of Minas Gerais who had famously argued that Africa civilized the Americas thanks to the transatlantic slave trade, took the floor in the Senate to say that the anti-slave trade bill "was birthed eleven years ago" and "should not enter into debate" again. His message turned into action. New foreign minister Viscount of Olinda, a sugar planter from the province of Pernambuco, buried both the slave trade and the European colonization bills. Meanwhile, the Cabinet's semiofficial mouthpiece newspaper (O Brasil) publicized the major pro-slave trade book published in Brazil (Inglaterra e Brasil, by J. M. Pereira da Silva, lawyer of slave traders in Rio de Janeiro) and stated that the government [End Page 27] should deal with "more serious issues." At the same time, the provincial legislature of Rio de Janeiro set up a Select Committee of its own to investigate the 1848 slave conspiracy; the Committee members denied that slave trading jeopardized public safety, concluding instead that public safety would be ensured by a new police system. Moreover, evidence suggests that pro-slave trade politicians underestimated the geopolitical implications of the British imperial reorganizing. In June, the Jornal do Commercio (Rio de Janeiro) happily reported that "discontent reigned in Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow because of the delay in making a treaty of trade with Brazil." In November, the newspaper also announced that the British Select Committee on the Slave Trade had decided to present a bill for "the suppression of the squadron that the British government employs off the African coast to restrain the slave trade. France entertains a similar opinion now." Later, the Viscount of Olinda confided to the Spanish diplomat in Rio de Janeiro that experiments with free labor in Brazil had been failing and only enslaved Africans met the demands of tropical agriculture. The true challenge for Rio de Janeiro was to have London "give up the commitment with which it pursued the trade in African slaves." Contrary to what some historians suggest, the 1848 slave conspiracy did not determine the suppression of the slave trade in 1850.35

Upon learning that pro-slave trade politicians had taken the upper hand in Brazil, Palmerston pushed harder in the South Atlantic. In April 1849, he ordered the Board of Trade to prepare the commercial balance between Brazil and Britain from 1840 to 1848 to show the industrial lobby that Brazilian imports of British manufactures remained stable since (and in spite of) the end of the Anglo-Brazilian commercial treaty in 1844. Until that moment, Palmerston had backed renewal of the treaty; now, he gave it up to assail Brazil freely. Palmerston designed an aggression scheme against Rio de Janeiro with the Admiralty. According to the new strategy, diplomat James Hudson [End Page 28] and Commodore Thomas Herbert, Navy Commander for South America, would employ their knowledge of local conditions to devise attacks against slavers in Brazil's territorial waters. In July, the Navy invaded the Bay of All Saints and seized two ships off Salvador. A pro-government and pro-slave trade newspaper cried out in Rio de Janeiro: "our ports are blockaded in a time of complete peace; ships that depart or enter are persecuted, seized under our batteries or on the beaches of our coast!"36

By late 1849 two correspondences encouraged Palmerston to go further. One of them came from Hudson in Rio. Brazilian antislavery deputies who had opposed Article 13 were outvoted when trying reelection for the Parliament and they had lost faith in a domestic solution for the slave trade. They then sought out Hudson to appeal for British military intervention against the Empire of Brazil. This desperate plea might be one of the few examples in which major national politicians have ever asked a foreign power to occupy their own country. Hudson dispatched the news to the Foreign Office:

the Brazilian Anti-Slave Trade Party are of opinion that if England would insist upon […] the suppression of slave trade and, in case of refusal on the part of the Brazilian Government, would support their demand by the strict blockade of Bahia and Rio Janeiro, that no Brazilian Government would run the risk of refusing their consent […], because obstinacy on their part would infallibly lead to the dismemberment of the Brazilian Empire. […] they recommended that England should hold some place or places on the Brazilian coast which should be retained by England until the Brazilian slave trade is effectually suppressed.37

The second correspondence that held sway over Palmerston was drafted 6,000 miles away from Rio de Janeiro. In Britain, Lord John Russell, who was growing concerned about the domestic backlash [End Page 29] against anti-slave trade policies, gave in to the idea that Britain's integration of the sugar international market was incompatible with the transatlantic slave trade and that the time had come for London to take a harder line. He listed as alternatives for action the three worst nightmares Brazilian and Cuban slaveholders could conjure up: "Iam inclined to propose: 1. That you should enter into communications with the government of Spain and Brazil founded on your former overtures of 1840," that is, Turnbull's project to emancipate illegal Africans; "2. That until the slave trade is really suppressed by these two powers, we should suspend the operation of the Sugar Act"; "3. The alternative is to blockade Brazil and Cuba—but this is an alternative so violent that, although I should be prepared to adopt it, I do not think the Cabinet or the House of Commons would do so." Hudson's dispatch and Russell's letter prescribed similar courses of action: Britain should either use military violence against the trade or force emancipation of the illegally enslaved. This time, however, it was Palmerston who tempered Russell. He would rather apply both measures against Brazil and neither against Cuba.38

In January 1850, Palmerston endorsed new raids on Brazilian territorial waters and, following the lines of colonial petitions, drafted a long dispatch to James Hudson in which, for the first time ever in Anglo-Brazilian relations, he demanded from Rio de Janeiro the emancipation of all Africans illegally enslaved in Brazil. At the time, they were probably 40 percent of the country's total slave population:

By the law of Nov. 1831 […] it was decreed that all slaves [… .] who should thenceforward enter the territory of Brazil coming from abroad were free. Eighteen years have elapsed since the date of that law […] H. M. Government would be glad to know what steps the Brazilian Government are prepared to take in order to restore this large number of much injured individuals to the full and complete enjoyment of their freedom, to which they have so long been entitled, and H. M. Government would propose as an arrangement well adapted to the attainment of this end the appointment of a mixed Brazilian and British Commission.

The dispatch was about to leave Downing Street when Russell and Palmerston switched roles again. "In considering your purposed draft," Russell said, "I think the latter part should be modified. I do not think [End Page 30] the Brazilian Government can be expected to agree bona fide to a proposal which would set free the greater part of their slaves and make a revolution." Russell struck out the entire passage on the illegal slaves, and the final version of the dispatch to Rio de Janeiro ignored the fate of 600,000 Africans.39

On the other side of the Atlantic, the Brazilian Cabinet started following a carrot-and-stick policy for slave traders. In his report to the Parliament in January of 1850 the Foreign Minister suggested that only after European colonization schemes took off "the slave trade would disappear on its own" (the carrot). At the same time, he promised a future law against the slave trade (the stick). The carrot-and-stick approach is understandable. The government was intent on preempting further blows by the Royal Navy on the Brazilian coast, which would indeed happen: on January 2, the man-of-war Cormorant seized the steamer Santa Cruz right in front of São Sebastião (São Paulo), landed its crew on the beach, and set fire to the vessel; on the 8th, the Rifleman took the Paquete de Santos and repeated the procedure (crew out, fire in); two days later the Cormorant seized another ship. Such warlike raids received unexpected support in Brazil. Anti-slavery Liberals rushed to Hudson's house (again) and pledged to fight the contraband trade to the end. Hudson bribed local newspapers, including the important Correio Mercantil, to cheer the Navy. The Philantropo, a newspaper managed by local antislavery voices and also run with pounds sterling from the Foreign Office, published explicitly what Palmerston had proposed and Russell had vetoed: "All Africans younger than 20 years old that live now in Brazil as slaves are free," said the newspaper repeating ideas it was circulating for a couple of months, "and as such they are entitled to demand from the imperial authorities their freedom and the enforcement of penalties that the law allows against their oppressors." Lastly, a yellow fever outbreak flowing from the slave trade struck Salvador and Rio de Janeiro, killing prominent people such as the proslavery Conservative Vasconcelos and the Emperor's son. However, the Cabinet resisted everyone and everything (Navy's raids, domestic press opposition, politicizing of the freedom of illegal Africans, and yellow fever). Its members withheld the 1837 anti-slave trade bill, as they expected diplomatic support from France or [End Page 31] the United States and hoped for a triumph of free traders in London.40

The British Select Committee on the slave trade was the Brazilian Cabinet's main hope, given that its chair, William Hutt, had proposed a motion to the House of Commons calling for suppression of the West Africa Squadron. The Brazilian representative in London understood the implications of Hutt's motion, reporting to Rio de Janeiro that "its extinction would nearly imply the virtual repeal of the Bill of Lord Aberdeen: it would perhaps induce the Parliament to formally repeal it." Indeed, Hutt's motion tormented Russell and Palmerston. The Prime Minister and his Foreign Secretary took pains to build enough support among lawmakers to table the motion. To do so, Russell turned the issue into a question of confidence in the Cabinet and summoned a meeting with Whig representatives a couple of hours before the vote took place. No one (even Russell and Palmerston) knew for sure what would come of Hutt's motion.41

The geopolitical conditions sustaining Brazil's pro-slave trade policy melted away in May 1850. The imperial diplomat in Washington sent home a graphic account of the clash between the South and the North over the admission of California into the Republic as a free state, suggesting that the issue had become the all-consuming focus of the White House. Moreover, Russell voted down Hutt's motion in the Commons, an outcome that the Brazilian diplomat in London sensed would make cessation of British raids against Brazil "highly improbable." Now, he went on, a coalition between Britain and France against the Brazilian slave trade loomed ahead. The news that the British Select Committee on the Slave Trade had been defeated led the semiofficial newspaper O Brasil to stop advertising Inglaterra e Brasil [End Page 32] (the pro-slave trade book by J. M. Pereira da Silva) and encouraged Palmerston to embrace an even harder line.42

Following the suggestion of Brazilian Liberals, Palmerston warned Rio de Janeiro that Britain considered occupying Brazilian territory if the contraband went on. At the same time, he allowed the Royal Navy to carry out new raids on Brazil. In June, the Navy invaded Macaé (Province of Rio de Janeiro) and seized the Polka, anchored in the harbor, under cross-fire. The Navy took away another ship from Cabo Frio (also in Rio de Janeiro) and arrested three more ships in Paranaguá (Province of Paraná) under fire from a local fortress. The latter was "one of the most serious events for relations between both countries," the imperial diplomat in London stated. Decades later, Brazil would enter the First World War because of a single ship attacked in Europe. It officially joined the Second World War in response to having five ships assailed on the high seas. By June 1850, Great Britain had seized or destroyed at least ten Brazilian vessels, all located on national territorial waters and some even anchored in the country's ports. The Brazilian government then declared war—against the slave trade.43

On July 11, the Cabinet took the advice of the State Council on the best course of action to deal with the outright British attacks on Brazil. The Foreign Minister defined Anglo-Brazilian relations as an undeclared state of war. The Royal Navy was "visiting, seizing and condemning our vessels, getting into our ports, burning our ships and destroying whatever resistance we can mount against it." One of the councillors agreed that the scenario was "more than enough for us to consider ourselves under the pressure of force and in this state of war." Against such a backdrop the government had limited options. It could: (a) resist militarily; (b) negotiate directly with Britain; (c) seek international mediation; (d) issue a official protest; or (e) find alternative means to end the drama. The councillors realistically ruled [End Page 33] out military retaliation and deemed a national protest insufficient to change the global order Britain was shaping against the slave trade in the South Atlantic. They then considered their further options (bilateral settlement, international mediation, and unilateral suppression of the slave trade), concluding that the latter action would make the first possible and the second superfluous. After this meeting, Justice Minister Eusébio de Queirós—a former police chief and politician who had conspicuously connived at the contraband slave trade—brought the State Council's report to the House of Representatives, where in a secret session he disclosed the substance of the future law designed against the slave trade. It is important to notice that the act, eventually passed in September of 1850, did not repeal the 1831 law. This omission suggests that the lawmakers did not fear the theoretical right of Africans to their freedom, a danger that a large proslavery political consensus could counter, but rather the combined threats of British raids and illegal slave property to the domestic social order. In keeping the 1831 law, the lawmakers assigned the massive illegal bondage of Africans to an informal compact. If they knew that no law would support the status of a large part of captives in Brazil, they also trusted the Brazilian state would be on the slaveholders' side.44

Final Remarks

Historians frequently establish a direct connection between the Aberdeen Act (1846), which subjected vessels sailing under Brazilian flag to British Admiralty Courts, and the violent patrolling of the Brazilian coast four years later, interpreting both as the direct outcome of British ideological commitment to abolitionism. Moral factors certainly played a role in the 1850 suppression of the infamous Brazilian trade. As a longstanding cause, it shepherded British decision-makers away from indifference to Africans. Abolitionist rational, however, failed to be a sufficient cause to make the British state follow a heterodoxal hard line against Rio de Janeiro by midcentury. As the preceding pages suggest, one way of overcoming the apparent antinomy of moral and economic factors so pervasively present in the historiography on the slave trade is to understand London's 1848–1850 attacks on Brazil within a broader analytical framework that takes into [End Page 34] account not only industrial Britain, but its whole Empire and the world economy it was part of. In this sense, abolitionism, free trade, imperial politics and state violence turn out to be inseparable factors in the reorganizing of the slave-trading South Atlantic.

Indeed, when the British state embraced free trade in 1846 to solve its domestic conflicts, it embarked upon a process of imperial reorganization that brought it back onto an interventionist track. After 1846, London intervened, providing planters across its colonies with loans at subsidized interest rates, changing the rules for admission of colonial sugar in metropolitan distilleries, devising schemes for massive recruitment of African and Indian colonial labor, and suppressing the Navigation Laws. The Royal Navy shelled African factories and slave-trading ports (Solyman River in Sierra Leone, Lagos, Mozambique) and militarily violated Brazilian sovereignty, not only destroying vessels in Brazilian ports, but also sailing up national rivers (as in the Guarapari River, Espírito Santo) and landing mariners on national territory (as on Tijucas Grandes River banks, Santa Catarina, and Moela Island, São Paulo). How can these coercive and interventionist repeated actions of free trade Britain be explained? As usually happens in historical capitalism, creating a market regulated by supply and demand required state violence to recast the institutional environment of exchange. In other words, free trade depended (and depends) on different types of institutionalized violence. In regard to sugar, this challenge materialized through the relations between social unrest in an industrial metropolitan economy, a changing British Empire, and the interstate system, which ultimately meant ramming head-on into the problem of black slavery.

When London integrated the international sugar market in Britain, slavery in Cuba and Brazil set the standard for the experiment with free labor at the periphery of the British Empire. Black bondage shaped the minimum wage of fieldworkers (Caribbean Islands), the organization of labor recruitment (Caribbean and Mauritius), and the commercialization of sugar and rice (Mauritius and India). Indeed, free trade, thought of as a means of averting class conflict in industrial Britain, worsened labor relations, intensified class conflict, and affected expected future returns on investments in the rest of the Empire. These multilinear, complex contradictions ultimately transformed self-contained British antislavery diplomacy in the Americas into unprecedented military aggression against the transatlantic slave trade of the economically competitive, but geopolitically unprotected and militarily vulnerable Empire of Brazil. [End Page 35]

But what, in the end, did Westminster achieve in 1850?A comparison helps illuminate what it wanted to achieve. Whereas a present-day central bank may raise interest rates to reduce aggregate demand and curb inflation, the Foreign Office attacked the slave trade by 1850 to reduce the supply of foreign sugar and increase sugar prices, thus protecting planters in the Atlantic, fostering intercolonial trade in the Indian Ocean and preserving the export capacity of India. That said, it was clear that the British state did not achieve this goal. Total control of slave-made sugar supply would have required the complete abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, an impossibility due to the unassailable relations between Cuba and the United States. What, then, did Britain achieve? By successfully checking the expansion of sugar output in Brazil, which could affect sugar prices to some extent, Westminster acquired moral capital to conduct on the imperial level its controversial midcentury experiment with free trade.

Britain's aggressive policy against Brazil also clarifies the centrality of tropical commodities for the British Empire at midcentury. Historically crucial for the West Indies, sugar had also become important in the imperial swing to the East, helping relieve the British industrial economy from social unrest aggravated by post-Napoleonic protectionism. From this standpoint, British interests in sugar and opium linked the full-fledged war with China in 1839–1842 and the quasi-war with Brazil in 1848–1850. Both cases suggest that free trade rules and state-led violence went hand in hand as industrial Britain, operating as it was within a broader system of pressures and constraints, moved from protectionism to free trade. The conjoined march of free trade and state violence continued beyond midcentury, developing into a durable historical pattern as international market integrations progressed throughout the world, simultaneously expanding the zones of freedom and zones of empire during the second half of the nineteenth-century. [End Page 36]

Tâmis Parron
Universidade Federal Fluminense


* I wrote this article during my fellowship at the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History, Harvard University, for the academic year 2016–2017, co-funded by FAPESP and The Volkswagen Foundation. My thanks to the faculty members, colleagues, and students who discussed an earlier version of this article at the intellectually stimulating Approaches to Global History: Seminar at Harvard University: Sven Beckert, Charles Maier, Walter Johnson, Sugata Bose, Jake Richards, Casey Primel, Shubhankita Ojha, Samantha Payne, Mareike-Christin Bues, Sara Lorenzini, Liliana Obregón, Aniket De, Jacob Anbinder, and Aden Knaap. I am also thankful to Alejandro de La Fuente for allowing me to present an earlier version of this text at a meeting organized by the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice (Brown University) and the Afro Latin America Research Institute (Harvard) in October 2016. Finally, my special thanks to Joseph Miller, Nick Draper, Keila Grinberg, José Juan Pérez Meléndez, and Fernanda Luciani for their insightful comments.

1. Melcher Todd, Castries, January 27, 1848, in Colonel Reid (Governor's Dispatches), St. Lucia, January 28, 1848. United Kingdom National Archives (UKNA), CO 253/91. Todd's marriage was announced in Colburn's United State Service and Naval and Military Journal (London: Colburn, part III), 638.

2. See, among others, R. A. Ferreira, Cross-Cultural Exchange in the Atlantic World: Angola and Brazil during the Era of the Slave Trade (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012); L. F. de Alencastro, O trato dos viventes: formação do Brasil no Atlântico Sul (São Paulo: Cia. das Letras, 2000); M. Florentino, Em costas negras: uma história do tráfico de escravos entre a África e o Rio de Janeiro (São Paulo: Cia. das Letras, 1997); and J. C. Miller, Way of Death: Merchant Capitalism and the Angolan Slave Trade, 1730–1830 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998).

3. See, respectively, L. Bethell, The Abolition of the Brazilian Slave Trade, 1807–1869 (Cambridge: CUP, 1970); R. Slenes, "A árvore de Nsanda Transplantada: cultos kongo de aflição e identidade escrava no sudeste brasileiro (século XIX)," in Trabalho livre, trabalho escravo: Brasil e Europa, séculos XVIII e XIX, ed. D. Libby and J. Furtado (São Paulo: Annablume, 2007), 273–314; S. Chalhoub, Cidade febril (São Paulo: Cia. das Letras, 2004); and D. T. Graden, "An Act 'Even of Public Security': Slave Resistance, Social Tensions, and the End of the International Slave Trade to Brazil, 1835–1856," Hispanic American Historical Review 76, no. 2 (1996): 249–282.

4. J. D. Needell, The Party of Order: The Conservatives, the State, and Slavery in the Brazilian Monarchy, 1831–1871 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006), 138–155; T. Parron, A política da escravidão no Império do Brasil (Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 2011), 230–266; and, recognizing the centrality of the British attacks while also adding the weight of subaltern actions into their explanation, D. Graden, Disease, Resistance, and Lies: The Demise of the Transatlantic Slave Trade to Brazil and Cuba (Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 2014); and B. G. Mamigonian, Africanos livres: a abolição do tráfico de escravos no Brasil (São Paulo: Cia. das Letras, 2017), 209–284.

5. Bethell, The Abolition, 296–327; D. Eltis, Economic Growth and the Ending of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 3–30, 102–123, 207–222; and S. Drescher, Abolition: A History of Slavery and Antislavery (Cambridge: CUP, 2009), 205–241, 267–293 ("the last important…" is on p. 288); and The Mighty Experiment: Free Labor versus Slavery in British Emancipation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 179–201; and E. Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994).

6. For a similar statement, see D. W. Tomich, "Civilizing America's Shore: British World-Economic Hegemony and the Abolition of the International Slave Trade (1814–1867)," in The Politics of the Second Slavery (Albany: SUNY Press, 2016), 1–25.

7. For a methodologically similar analysis, see Tâmis Parron, "World Prices and National Politics: The Shaping of Slave Systems in the Americas," Review (Fernand Braudel Center) 36, no. 2 (2013): 191–230, and "Oikoumenê de la Segunda Esclavitud: Crisis de la Nulificación e integración de mercados entre Estados Unidos, Cuba y Brasil," in Plantación, espacios agrarios y esclavitud en la Cuba colonial, ed. J. A. Piqueras (Castelló de la Plana: Jaume I/Havana: Casa de las Americas, 2017), 217–248. I believe—as Sebastian Conrad does in his What is Global History (Princeton: PUP, 2016)—that global historians could benefit more intensively from the methodological insights of those who turned the world-system perspective into a complex, dynamic, and historicized way to look at the combined, relational makings of global and local processes of capitalism, such as Philip McMichael, Dale Tomich, and Giovanni Arrighi.

8. R. Davis, The Industrial Revolution and British Overseas Trade (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press, 1979); "English Foreign Trade, 1660–1700," EHR 7, no. 2 (1954): 150–166; "English Foreign Trade, 1700–1774," EHR 15, no. 2 (1962): 285–303; and P. J. Cain and A. G. Hopkins, "The Political Economy of British Expansion Overseas, 1750–1914," EHR 33, no. 4 (1980): 463–490. See also R. C. Allen, The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective (Cambridge: CUP, 2009), 1–23.

9. S. Beckert, Empire of Cotton: A Global History (New York: Alfred Knopf, 2014), 136–174.

10. On metropolitan tensions and British imperialism, see J. Gallagher and R. Robinson, "The Imperialism of Free Trade," EHR 6, no. 1 (1953): 1–15; P. G. Cain and A. G. Hopkins, "Gentlemanly Capitalism and British Expansion Overseas I. The Old Colonial System, 1688–1850," EHR 39, no. 4 (1986): 501–525; "Gentlemanly Capitalism and British Expansion Overseas II: New Imperialism, 1850–1945," EHR 40, no. 1 (1987): 1–26; and British Imperialism, 1688–2000 (London: Routledge, 2002). Opium and cotton export data are, respectively, in Parliamentary Papers Relating to the Opium Trade (London: Harrison, 1840), 148; and Letter from the Secretary of the Treasury of the Commerce and Navigation of the United States for 1828 (Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1829), 122–123. For India's exports, see J. Eacott, Selling Empire: India in the Making of Britain and America, 1600–1830 (Williamsburg: Omohundro, 2016), 333–381.

11. S. Warren, The Opium Question (London: James Ridgway, 1840), 125; M. Greenberg, British Trade and the Opening of China, 1800–42 (Cambridge: CUP, 1969); and Ralph Davis, The Industrial Revolution.

12. P. Gurney, Wanting and Having: Popular Politics and Liberal Consumerism in England, 1830–70 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015); C. Schonhardt-Bailey, From the Corn Laws to Free Trade: Interests, Ideas, and Institutions in Historical Perspective (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006).

13. P. Pickering and A. Tyrell, The People's Bread: A History of the Anti-Corn Law League (London: Leicester University Press, 2000); A. Morrison, ed., Free Trade and its Reception 1815–1960. Freedom and Trade: vol. 1 (London: Routledge, 1998), 1–206; John Saville, The Consolidation of theCapitalist State, 1800–1850 (London: Pluto Press, 1994); R. F. Spall Jr., "Free Trade, Foreign Relations, and the Anti-Corn Law League," The International History Review 10, no. 3 (1988): 405–432; and N. McCord, The Anti-Corn Law League (London: George Allen, 1958).

14. Darwin, Unfinished Empire, 144–179; G. Stewart, The Origins of Canadian Politics: A Comparative Approach (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1986); E. Shann, An Economic History of Australia (Cambridge: CUP, 1930).

15. For rum, see Governor of Barbados to Colonial Office, September 14, 1846, UKNA, CO 28/165, fo. 14–16; resolutions of Trinidad, September 18, 1846, in the Governor's dispatch to Colonial Office, October 3, 1846, UNKA, CO 295/152, fo. 11–15; and report of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade. Whitehall, February 12, 1847, CO 28/167, fo. 251–252. On Navigation Acts, Sugar Duties, Confidential (London: Foreign Office, 1848), UKNA, CO 884/1, 3; a petition by the Assembly of Jamaica, April 1, 1847, attached to the governor's dispatch to Colonial Office, April 6, 1847, UKNA, CO 137/291, fo. 214–245; and a petition by the House of Assembly of the Island of Antigua, in the governor's dispatch to Colonial Office, December 26, 1847, UKNA, CO 7/87 (no folios). On immigration, see resolutions of Trinidad, 18 de set. de 1846; and memorial of the Government Council of Trinidad, April 2, 1849, in the governor's dispatch to Colonial Office, April 6, 1849, UKNA, CO 295/167, fo. 52–62. Such claims were summed up in the Report of the Acting Committee to the Standing Committee of West India Planters and Merchants (London: Maurice, 1847).

16. D. Morier Evans, The Commercial Crisis 1847–1848 (London: Letts, 1849); Ward-Perkins, "The Commercial Crisis of 1847," Oxford Economic Papers 2, no. 1 (1950): 75–94; and Report from the Select Committee of the House of the Lords appointed to enquire into the Causes of the Distress which has for sometime Prevailed among the Commercial Classes (London: Commons, 1848), vol. 1, v–vi.

17. Report from the Select Committee on Sugar and Coffee Planting, 8 vols. (London: House of Commons, 1848); Report from the Select Committee of the House of the Lords Appointed to Enquire into the Causes of the Distress which Has for Sometime Prevailed among the Commercial Classes, 2 vols. (London: House of Commons, 1848); Report from the Select Committee on Slave Trade, 4 vols. (London: House of Commons, 1848); Report from the Select Committee on Slave Trade, 2 vols. (London: House of Commons, 1849); and Report from the Select Committee of the House of Lords appointed to consider the best means which Great Britain can adopt for the Final Extinction of the African Slave Trade, 2 vols. (London: House of Commons, 1849–1850); First, Second, Third and Fourth Reports from the Select Committee on Navigation Laws (London: House of Commons, 1847); Report from the Select Committee of the House of Lords appointed to enquire into the Policy and Operation of the Navigation Laws and to Report Thereon to the House, 4 vols. (London: House of Commons: 1848); Report from the Select Committee on Ceylon and British Guiana, 3 vols. (London: House of Commons, 1849); and Report from the Select Committee on Ceylon, 3 vols. (London: House of Commons, 1850).

18. Report from the Select Committee on Sugar and Coffee Planting; for the City meeting, The Economist, June 3, 1848, 631. On City's financiers sometimes turning against free trade, M. Daunton, "Gentlemanly Capitalism and British Industry, 1820–1914," Past and Present 122 (1989): 119–158.

19. Eltis and Drescher suggest that abolitionism produced "a profound change in the distribution of sugar production toward the slave importing economies [Cuba and Brazil]." See Eltis, "The Slave Economies of the Caribbean: Structure, Performance, Evolution and Significance," in General History of the Caribbean, III The Slave Societies of the Caribbean, ed. F. Knight (London: UNESCO, 1997), 121; and Drescher, Mighty Experiment, 189–190, and Abolition, 287–288. Their analysis underplays the reorganization of sugar trade within the British Empire in the 1830s and 1840s. On the sugar economy in the Indian Ocean, Select Committee on Sugar and Coffee, vol. 1, 25–26, 31–32, 37, 89, 119–121, 132, 210, 292–293; idem, vol. 2, 42–43, 45; and U. Bosma, The Sugar Plantation in India and Indonesia: Industrial Production, 1770–2010 (Cambridge: CUP, 2013), 1–163. Prices of Cuban sugar rose before free trade because hurricanes devastated Cuban plantations in 1844 and 1846.

20. Select Committee on Sugar and Coffee, vol. 1, 20 ("It all depends"), 169–171 (alternative Eastern markets), 181 ("India has markets"). For similar challenges regarding sugar and cotton, see Bosma, The Sugar Plantation; Beckert, Empire of Cotton; and C. Florio, "From Poverty to Slavery: Abolitionists, Overseers, and the Global Struggle for Labor in India," Journal of American History 102 (2016): 1005–1024.

21. Select Committee on Sugar and Coffee, vol. 1, 82, 115 (value of sugar exports), 117, 172, 240, 282; vol. 2, 51, 69–70 (intercolonial rice trade); vol. 1, 121, 181 (sugar and rice as shiploads); and vol. 1, 206 ("And what are Cuba and Brazil"). The coffee economy in Ceylon was also linked to Indian rice exports (Select Committee on Sugar and Coffee, vol. 6, 58).

22. Select Committee on Sugar and Coffee, vol. 1, 220 ("The whole question"). See operating variables other than labor in D. Tomich, "Commodity Frontiers, Spatial Economy and Technological Innovation in the Caribbean Sugar Industry, 1783–1878," in The Caribbean and the Atlantic World Economy, ed. A. Leonard and D. Pretel (London: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2015), 184–216.

23. On Barbados, see State of the West Indies in 1855. S.l. [London]: s.d. [1856], 10–11, and State of the West Indies in 1862. S.l. [London]: s.d. [1862], UKNA, CO 884/1. Committee on Sugar and Coffee, vol. 8, xvi ("with a population") and xiii ("Free on Board" prices, which include local commissions and export tariffs, but not freight nor insurance).

24. Petition of Trinidad, September 18, 1846, in governor's dispatch, October 3, 1846, UKNA, CO 295/152, fo. 11–15; Report of the Acting Committee, 15 ("the West India colonies").

25. State of the West Indies in 1855. S.l. [London]: n.d. [1856], UKNA, CO 884/1, 10–11; governor's dispatch, Montserrat, May 23, 1848, UKNA, CO 7/91 (no folio); idem, Trinidad, April 6, 1849, UKNA, CO 295/167, fo. 52–57; idem, Barbados, October 26, 1848, UKNA, CO 260/69, fo. 39–47; idem, Trinidad, October 6, 1849, UKNA, CO 265/168, fo. 230–231; idem, British Guiana, December 31, 1847, January 18 and 31, August 31, September 16 and November 1, 1848, UKNA, CO, 112/29; Select Committee on Sugar and Coffee, vols. 5, 7 ("threatening speeches"); and Juan de Castillo to Captain General of Cuba, Kingston, August 14, 1848 (Castillo was referring to sugar mills closed since the 1830s), in Trabajadores negros libres, Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid, fo. 45–47. See also W. A. Green, British Slave Emancipation: The Sugar Colonies and the Great Experiment 1830–1865 (Oxford: OUP, 1976); and A. Adamson, Sugar Without Slaves: The Political Economy of British Guiana, 1838–1904 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972).

26. For this and the following paragraphs, see "Memorial on the Subject of the Foreign Slave Trade," Saint George, Jamaica, September 18, 1847, UKNA, CO 137/293, fo. 87–88; memorial of the Assembly of Jamaica, December 24, 1847,in Select Committee on Sugar and Coffee, vol. 3, 374–376; memorial of inhabitants of Portland, Jamaica, January 31, 1848,in Select Committee on Sugar and Coffee, vol. 7, 237–238; memorial of the Council of Jamaica, September 19, 1848, Journals of the Legislature Council, UKNA, CO 140/139; memorial of the Assembly of Jamaica, November 16, 1848,CO 137/301, fo. 58–72; memorial of inhabitants, Spanish Town, May 24, 1849, UKNA, CO 137/302, fo. 369–377; idem, Clarendon, June 16, 1849,CO 137/303, fo. 3–7; idem, Kingston, Jamaica, June 25, 1849,CO 137/303, fo. 20–24; memorial of settlers and labourers of St. David, Jamaica, July 13, 1849, UKNA, CO 137/303, fo. 75–82; memorial of Labourers of Trelawny, Jamaica, August 2, 1849, UKNA, CO 137/303, fo. 122–125; petition of the Council and Assembly of Barbados, November 7, 1848,CO 28/169, fo. 94–102; petition of inhabitants, Barbados, n.d., in the dispatch of February 20, 1849, UKNA, CO 28/170, fo. 121–133; memorandum, Trinidad, 6 de ago. de 1850, UKNA, 28/172, fo. 317–320; petition of Council and House of Assembly, Grenada, in the dispatch of March 27, 1849,CO 28/170, fo. 131; petition of the Board of Council and House of Assembly, Antigua, in the dispatch of December 26, 1847, UKNA, CO 7/87 (no folio); petition of inhabitant of Roseau, August 8, 1849, reproduced in Parliamentary Papers, 1850, LV (doc. n. 149), Slave Trade: Copies of All Memorials Transmitted to Her Majesty's Government from the West Indies, 8; petition of Trinidad, September 18, 1846, CO 295/152, fo. 11–15; petition of inhabitants, Trinidad, in the dispatch of September 18, 1847, UKNA, CO 295/157, fo. 356–365; petition of planters, Trinidad, January 17, 1848, UKNA, CO 295/160; petition of the inhabitants, Trinidad, June 5, 1848,in Slave Trade: Copies (1850), 9; petition of inhabitants, Saint Lucia, in the dispatch of April 19, 1848, UKNA, CO 253/92 (no folio); memorial of planters, British Guiana, November 29, 1848,CO 72/843; and Report of The Acting Committee to the Standing Committee of West India Planters and Merchants (London: Nichols, 1850), 15–16. Some Jamaican petitions were reproduced in The Jamaica Movement for Promoting the Enforcement of Slave-Trade Treaties (London: Charles Gilpin, 1850). Slave Trade: Copies includes fifteen petitions.

27. Barbados, UKNA, CO 28/170, fo. 121–133. References to the Sugar Act are in Slave Trade. Copies, 8; memorial of inhabitants, Jamaica, May 24, 1849,in The Jamaica Movement, 89–90; memorial, Jamaica, June 25, 1849, Memorial, Jamaica, July 13, 1849, both in UKNA, CO 137/303. See also petition of the Council and House of Assembly, Grenada, UKNA, CO 28/170 (references to Spring's People); and memorial of the Council of Jamaica, September 19, 1848 ("the permanent happiness").

28. Historians of the Caribbean (note 22) know the colonial popular revolts of 1848, but they do not relate them to the sugar lobbying against the transatlantic slave trade. Historians who study the slave trade (notes 3 and 4) know the Jamaican pressure to end the slave trade, but they do not relate it to the Caribbean popular revolts. For quotes, see petition, Trinidad, September 18, 1847 ("new and vigorous"); idem, Trinidad, June 5, 1848 ("speedy liberation"); "To the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty" Jamaica, November 16, 1848 ("now urged on""). See also British Guiana, December 19, 1848; memorial of labourers of Trelawny, Jamaica, August 2, 1849; and petition, Dominica, August 8, 1849.

29. Hansard Debates, House of Commons, March 20, 1848, 844–845, 996–997; and February 22, 1848, 1091 (£21 millions); and The Economist, July 15, 1848, 789. The Board of Trade of Manchester sent a petition to Parliament for the repeal of the Aberdeen Act, the 1845 British statute that subjected Brazilian vessels suspected of slave-trading to British courts (Hansard Debates, Commons, April 20, 1849, 533). For British yearly spending on interest rates, see Tables of the Revenue, Population and Commerce of the United Kingdom (London: 1834–1850, 24 vols.).

30. Select Committee on Sugar and Coffee, vols. 1, 5.

31. For contraband estimates, see North-American vessels and capital became engaged in the slave trade to Brazil more heavily in the 1840s, after the Palmerston Act (1839) and La Esclaera Conspiracy (1844), as one can see in L. Marques, The United States and the Transatlantic Slave Trade to the Americas, 1776–1867 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016). For why Britain singled out Brazil as target for naval actions, see R. Marquese, T. Parron and M. Berbel, Slavery and Politics: Brazil and Cuba, 1790–1850 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2016). Quotes taken from Palmerston to Russell, [London], November 14, 1848; Russell to Palmerston, [London], November 18, 1848. Hartley Library, Southampton (HLS), The Palmerston Papers, GV/RU/230; and Palmerston to the Admiralty, August 5, 1848, UKNA, FO 84/745, fo. 59–62 ("O comércio de exportação").

32. The Grecian operations resonated in both opposition and government newspapers (O Brasil, RJ, May 13, 1848, 2; O Correio Mercantil, RJ, May, 1848, 1), as well as in the Parliament (ACD, May 17, 1848, 93). The parliamentary speech ("Such an event"), by Manuel Vieira Tosta, Baron of Muritiba, is abridged in the ACD, but came out complete in Correio Mercantil, May 19, 1848, 2. See also Palmerston to Hudson, London, July 15, 1848; Palmerston to Lisboa, London, September 18, 1848, UKNA, FO 84/726, fo. 6–8 and 345–354; and Palmerston to the Admiralty, London, August 5, 1848, UKNA, FO 84/745, fo. 59–62. For Souza Franco's comments, see Hudson to Palmerston, Rio de Janeiro, August 5, FO 84/726, fo. 47–58. Although the Grecian attack on Brazil was not the first of the sort, London's unconditional endorsement of it was new.

33. See also B. G. Mamigonian, Africanos livres; T. Parron. A política da escravidão. On the planned slave rebellion, see Slenes, "A árvore de Nsanda Transplantada."

34. Hudson to Palmerston, Rio de Janeiro, October 15, 1848, UKNA, FO 84/726, fo. 220–231.

35. AS, September 27, 1848, 384 (Vasconcelos); dispatch of November 16, 1848 (on the 1837 bill being put aside), UKNA, FO 84/726, fo. 265–266; and Hudson to Palmerston, Rio de Janeiro, January 8, 1849 (on the emigration bill), UKNA, FO 84/726, fo. 36–37. O Brasil (RJ), March 14, 1848, 2 ("serious questions"). The advertising of the pro-slave trade book lasted all year long in 1849: January 4, 9, 19 and 30, February 5, April 19, May 23, June 8 and 11, July 6, 23, 28, 30 and 31, August 2, 3, 10, 11, 20, 27 and 31, September 3, 14 and 22, October 23 and 26, November 3, 6 and 17, December 1 and 6. Report of Comissão Especial da Assembleia Legislativa Provincial do Rio de Janeiro on the 1848 slave conspiracy, July 8, 1849, included in Hudson to Palmerston, Rio de Janeiro, February 20, 1850, UKNA, FO 84/802, fo. 325–340. Jornal do Commercio, June 19, 1849, 1 and November 10, 1849, 1; and José Delavat y Rincón to D. Fco. Martinez de Rosa (conversation with Olinda), Rio de Janeiro, May 22, 1850. AHM, H1413.

36. April 24, 1849, UKNA, FO 96/22/32, fo. 49 (Palmerston asking for trade data). For the scheme against Brazil, Lorde Eddisbury to Palmerston, 3 de abril de 1849, UKNA, FO 84/783, part I, fo. 6; and Palmerston to the Admiralty, April 23 and May 3, 1849. UKNA, FO 84/284, fo. 23–24 and 56–60. O Correio da Tarde (Rio de Janeiro), August 13, 1849, 2, signed by "Brasilicus" ("our ports are blocked"). Brazilian Government's complaints are in Hudson, September 3, 1849, UKNA, FO 84/766, fo. 36–39.

37. Hudson to Palmerston, Confidential, n. 38, Rio de Janeiro, November 13, 1849, UKNA, FO 84/766, fo. 174–193. Hudson did not name the representatives he met. They are, probably, the same who would later seek him promising to combat the slave trade when returning to power: Manuel Alves Branco, Bernardo de Souza Franco, Teófilo Ottoni, Cristiano Ottoni, Jose Antonio Martin, Ernesto Ferreira France, plus two unidentified: Barreto and Ramos. Hudson to Palmerston, May 12, 1850,FO 84/801, fo. 178–182.

38. Russell to Palmerston [London], November 24, 1849, HLS, The Palmerston Papers, GC/RU/306.

39. Palmerston to Hudson, December 26, 1849 UKNA, FO 84/766, fo. 18–19. For Palmerston's original draft and its revision by Russell, see Palmerston, January 31, 1850, HLS, The Palmerston Papers, GC/RU/317. Expurgated version of the note, as passed to the imperial government, is in Hudson to Palmerston, Rio de Janeiro, April 26, 1850, UKNA, FO 84/803, fo. 71–78.

40. Paulino Soares de Souza, Relatório da repartição dos negócios estrangeiros (Rio de Janeiro: Villeneuve, 1850), 14. For naval attacks, see Correspondence between the Brazilian Government and the British Legation at Rio de Janeiro. No local: no printer, 1850, 2–3, attached to Sérgio Teixeira de Macedo to Paulino José Soares de Souza, October 25, 1850, AHI, 233/3/3. For the Brazilian press, see Hudson to Palmerston, Rio de Janeiro, September 9, 1848, UKNA, FO 84/726,fo. 73–75; Palmerston to Hudson, London, October 29, 1849,FO 84/766,fo. 10–11; and Hudson to Palmerston, Rio de Janeiro, May 12, 1850,FO 84/801,fo. 178–182. O Philantropo, February 22, 1850, 1. On the yellow fever outbreak, see Chalhoub, Cidade febril, 68–78, and D. Graden, Disease, Resistance, and Lies, 120–149. On the domestic antislavery opposition, B. Mamigonian, Africanos livres, 230–268; and Kaori Kodama, "O fim do tráfico no periódico OPhilantropo (1849–1852)ea formação do povo: doenças, raça e escravidão," Revista Brasileira de História, São Paulo 28, no. 56 (2008): 407–430.

41. Joaquim do Amaral a Paulino José Soares de Souza, April 26, 1850, and March 30, 1850, AHI, 217/3/6.

42. Sérgio Teixeira de Macedo to Paulino Soares de Souza, Washington, February 23, 1850, AHI, 233/3/5 (political crisis in the United States); O Correio da Tarde (Rio de Janeiro), May 29, 1850, 1 (defeat of Hutt's motion); Joaquim Thomaz do Amaral to Paulino José Soares de Souza, March 30 and April 26, 1850, AHI, 217/3/6 ("highly improbable") UKNA, FO 84/801, fo. 234–235. Many protectionist MPs voted for Hutt's motion, apparently contradicting West Indian interests. In fact, they were mostly Tories trying to bring down Russell's Whig Cabinet. On this 1850 British parliamentary vote, see R. Huzzey, "The Politics of the Slave Trade Suppression," in The Suppression of the Atlantic Slave Trade: British Policies, Practices and Representations of Naval Coercion, ed. R. Burroughs and R. Huzzey (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015), 17–45.

43. Joaquim do Amaral to Paulino J. Soares de Souza, March 30 and April 26, 1850, UKNA, FO 84/801, fo. 234–235; Palmerston to Amaral, November 11 1850 (Polka affaire), UKNA, FO 84/801, fo. 234–235; and Amaral to Palmerston ("one of the most serious"), October 30, 1850, UKNA, FO 84/101, fo. 251–254.

44. J. H. Rodrigues, ed., Atas do Conselho de Estado, vol. III (Brasília: Senado Federal, 1978), 247–267.

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