Royal Navy Enforcement Actions in the Caribbean (1830s-80s)

Figure 1.--This engraving was captioned, "Slaves at Fort Augusta". We see a group of liberated Africans. Notice the amulets around their necks. I doubt id these came from Africa. The Royal Navy captured the slaver 'Zeldina' which was blown off course near the Cuban coast. The images are dated Kingston, Jamaica, May 11, 1857. An accompanying letter includes excerpts from Jamaican newspapers. The engravings shown here were made from photographs sent by the writer to the 'Illustrated London News'. They explain how in April 1857 a Royal Navy ship captured the 'Zelinda' and brought it into Port Royal. The slavers had boarded 500 Africans at Cabinda, Angola--a Portuguese colony. When the Royal Navy seized the vessel, 46 days later there were 370 survivors. One of the Kingston newspapers reported, "The poor captives were in a wretched condition--all of them naked; and the greater part seemed to have been half starved. They were packed closely together, and covered with dirt and vermin . . . . The slave-schooner had two decks and between them the captives were packed in such a manner that they had scarcely room to move. During each day of the voyage they sat in a painful posture, 18 inches only being allowed for each to turn in . . . in a deck room of 30 feet in length . . . [they were] brought up in platoons once every day to get a small portion of fresh air . . " Source: London Illustrated News' (June 20, 1857), vol. 30, p. 595-96.

Britain's decesion to emancipate the slaves in Jamaica and other colonies Emancipation eased the job of the Royal Navy in the Caribbean, but did not end it. The British abloished the slave trade three decaded earlier (1807), but this did not end slavers trying to land slaves illegally at British islands. And slavery was still legal on the Spanish islands (Puerto Rico and Cuba). There was a ready mnarket for slaves on Cuba. And from Cuba, it was a relatively short run to American ports. The foreign slave trade was illegal in the United states, but there was a ready market for slaves that could be sucessfully smuggled into the southern states. And because of the cotton economy, prices were very high because of the demand for slaves. Slavers intercepted by the Royal Navy in the Caribbean were brought into Caribbvea ports like Kingston. Here the freed slaves commonly became edentured workes. They were not reurned to Africa. The Ameriucan Civil War ended the snuggling of slaves to the United States, but slsacers still attempoted to reach Cuba until Spain abolished slavery in Cuba and Puerto Rico.


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Created: 9:43 PM 4/11/2010
Last updated: 9:18 PM 4/11/2010