Ancient cultures, such as the Egyptians and Romans had state-imposed forced labor of peasants who were in debt to the government.
In pre-Columbian America, the Inca Empire had a system of mandatory public service known as mita, and the Aztec’s had tlacotin.
Spain conquered the New World in the early 1500’s and set up a system called encomienda or repartimiento, which was similar to feudal France’s Corvée “unfree labour.”
Slavery in Cuba began earlier and lasted longer than anywhere else in the Americas.
Priests like Bartolomé de las Casas, Franciscan Friars, Papal Bulls, and Christian missionaries, such as the Moravians, were a voice of conscience against slavery, but Colonial governments largely ignored them.
Importation of slaves to the United States ended in 1807, but in 1839, an international incident occurred.
A Portuguese ship from Sierra Leone sold 53 slaves to Spanish Planters on the Cuban ship Amistad.
On July 1, 1839, the Africans seized the ship and demanded to be sailed back to Africa.
Instead, the captain misdirected the ship to Long Island, NY, where the slaves were arrested.
The Amistad Case went to the Supreme Court, with 74-year-old former President, John Quincy Adams, defending the Africans.
“I implore the mercy of God to control my temper, to enlighten my soul, and to give me utterance, that I may prove myself in every respect equal to the task.”
Francis Scott Key offered Adams advice. Adams shook hands with Africans Cinque and Grabeau, saying: “God willing, we will make you free.”
Wining the case, JQA, known as “Old Man Eloquent,” had argued:
“The moment you come to the Declaration of Independence, that every man has a right to life and liberty, an inalienable right, this case is decided. I ask nothing more in behalf of these unfortunate men than this Declaration.”
In Cuba, a Creole farmer began a revolt in 1868 for racial equality, freedom of speech and freedom of association.
Spain killed thousands putting it down in the Ten Years War.
A Royal decree finally ended slavery in Cuba in 1886.
In 1895, another rebellion began and Spain sent 200,000 soldiers to Cuba.
Yellow Press journalism excited the American public, who demanded President William McKinley intervene.
President McKinley approved the Resolution of Congress:
“Whereas the abhorrent conditions which have existed for more than three years in the island of Cuba, so near our own borders, have shocked the moral sense of the people of the United States, have been a disgrace to Christian civilization,
culminating, as they have, in the destruction of a United States battle ship, with 266 of its officers and crew, while on a friendly visit in the harbor of Havana, and cannot longer be endured…
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives…that the people of the island of Cuba are and of right ought to be free.”
The Moral Liberal contributing editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.
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