Independence, Growth of the Independence Movement
Haitian Slave Revolt, independence movements, Spanish colonies, Spanish Empire, president James
By 1826 most Spanish colonies in Latin America had achieved independence from Spain. These independence movements were led by Creole elites seeking to gain control over their political and economic destinies. In Cuba, however, high-ranking Creoles had been frightened by the Haitian Slave Revolt and did not support a revolution against Spanish rule.
Throughout the 19th century, slavery was fundamental to sugar production in Cuba, where the largest amount of sugar in the world was grown and refined. At a time when national plantation economies were gradually emancipating slaves, Cuba was importing them from Africa and breeding them in Cuba. To preserve slavery, some Cubans advocated annexing Cuba to the United States, where the institution was still legal in the southern states. In 1848 at the request of annexationists and U.S. planters, U.S. president James K. Polk offered Spain $100 million for Cuba, an offer that Spain turned down. In 1854 the United States again proposed to buy Cuba, this time for $130 million, but this offer was also rejected. The annexationists made up a faction of the independence fighters by 1868.
Cuba’s ties with the United States had been growing throughout the 19th century. The United States provided a large market for Cuban sugar and supplied food, machinery, household goods, financing, and technology to the island. Cuba conducted far more trade with the United States than with Spain, which helped convince many Cubans that they had little need for Spanish colonial control.
However, not all members of Cuba’s elite classes supported annexation. A number of intellectuals objected to joining the United States because of the cultural and historical differences between Cubans and Americans. Some reformers, called autonomists, wanted Cuba to be able to control its internal affairs while remaining a part of the Spanish Empire. Others, the separationists, sought complete independence from Spain and the United States.
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