In the wake of Napoleon’s 1808 invasion of Iberia, Spaniards fought for independence at home while struggling to hold the empire together. That complex and conflictive process led to the 1812 Cádiz Constitution, a document offering citizenship and electoral participations to Hispanic and indigenous peoples, while limiting the rights of men of African origins as slavery expanded in Cuba. That charter shaped political visions and debates in the Iberian world—Spain, Portugal, and their Americas—into the nineteenth century even as military men took the lead in founding and ruling national states. Ironically, a charter designed to hold an empire together in trying times proved most influential, shaping politics in nations that broke away.
Union, Capitalism, and Slavery in the “Rising Empire” of the United States
The first American nation rose after 1776, fighting to reject British rule and preserve slavery. For decades, it struggled with internal divisions while searching for a profitable economy—until British industry created a soaring demand for cotton that U.S. southern planters met by expanding plantations worked by enslaved laborers onto lands taken from native peoples and, in Texas, from Mexico. Amid wars after 1808, new industries rose in the Northeast, depending on southern cotton while competing with British industries. Meanwhile, farmers pushed across the Mississippi basin, raising staples to feed northeastern cities, southern plantations, and European peoples. New dynamism came with rising contradictions; expansions of slavery challenged republican ideals and disrupted sectional political balances. War with Mexico in the 1840s deepened conflicts, culminating in the devastating Civil War of the 1860s, which ended slavery and reunited a nation that became a continental empire within global capitalism.
From Slave Colony to Black Nation: Haiti’s Revolutionary Inversion
Saint Domingue was the most profitable plantation society in Americas in 1790, leading production of sugar and coffee with a population 90 percent enslaved. Amid the conflicts and ideals of the French revolution, slaves took arms to claim freedom, end French rule, all but end sugar production, and limit coffee cultivation, taking the land to sustain families while working to build the second American nation. This chapter details the conflicts that led to the hemisphere’s only black nation and explores the contradictions that followed as once-enslaved peoples worked to build families and household economies while leaders struggled to consolidate a regime without slavery and with limited exports in a world that saw Haiti and its example as pernicious. Family autonomies and liberating visions fueled political instabilities in the face of authoritarian attempts to set state powers—all on part of an island with limited resources.
Cuban Counterpoint: Colonialism and Continuity in the Atlantic World
Cuba continued within Spain’s empire while expanding sugar production and imports of enslaved Africans long into the nineteenth slavery. It has long been presumed that Cubans remained Spanish to gain protection for the slave trade and slavery. This chapter complicates that argument by exploring how rights and participations that came out of Cádiz liberalism offered free Cubans, planters and others, ways to participate in governance as sugar and slavery expanded along with trade ties to the United States. Cuba remained in Spain’s empire yet became a new country in many ways. Free Cubans negotiated rights and trades while expanding sugar and slavery to prosper in the new world of industrial capitalism through complex ties to Spain, Britain, and the United States.
Atlantic Transformations and Brazil’s Imperial Independence
Brazil became independent with less political and social conflict than most regions of the Americas. Beginning as a Portuguese colony, it remained tied to Britain through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It flourished after 1800 as sugar, coffee, and slavery expanded to fill markets abandoned by revolutionary Haitians. Focusing on coffee, Brazil ruled the rising market for stimulants in the industrializing world. The chapter details how Portugal tied Brazil to Britain in the early eighteenth century, as gold mined by slaves became a key export. It explores the persistence of those ties as gold waned, sugar revived, and Britain escorted the Portuguese monarchy to Rio in the face of Napoleon’s Iberian invasion. Brazil’s wealth funded Britain years of war. When the king returned to Lisbon, his son Dom Pedro in 1822 proclaimed a Brazilian monarchy tied to Britain and sustained by sugar, coffee, and slave imports that expanded until 1850 despite England’s loud opposition.