While there is no point in Cuba's history that may be said to mark a definite division between the Old Cuba and the New Cuba, the beginning of the 19th Century may be taken for that purpose. Cuba's development dragged for two hundred and fifty years. The population increased slowly and industry lagged. For this, Spain's colonial policy was responsible. But it was the policy of the time, carried out more or less effectively by all nations having colonies. England wrote it particularly into her Navigation Acts of 1651, 1660, and 1663, and supported it by later Acts. While not rigorously enforced, and frequently evaded by the American colonists, the system at last proved so offensive that the colonists revolted in 1775. Most of Spain's colonies in the Western Hemisphere, for the same reason, declared and maintained their independence in the first quarter of the 19th Century. At the bottom of Cuba's several little uprisings, and at the bottom of its final revolt in 1895, lay the same cause of offence. In those earlier years, it was held that colonies existed solely for the benefit of the mother-country. In 1497, almost at the very beginning of Spain's colonial enterprises in the New World, a royal decree was issued under which the exclusive privilege to carry on trade with the colonies was granted to the port of Seville. This monopoly was transferred to the port of Cadiz in 1717, but it continued, in somewhat modified form in later years, until Spain had no colonies left.

While Santiago was the capital of the island, from 1522 to 1552, trade between Spain and the island could be carried on only through that port. When Havana became the capital, in 1552, the exclusive privilege of trade was transferred to that city. With the exception of the years 1762 and 1763, when the British occupied Havana and declared it open to all trade, the commerce of the island could only be done through Havana with Seville, until 1717, and afterward with Cadiz. Baracoa, or Santiago, or Trinidad, or any other Cuban city, could not send goods to Santander, or Malaga, or Barcelona, or any other Spanish market, or receive goods directly from them. The law prohibited trade between Cuba and all other countries, and limited all trade between the island and the mother-country to the port of Havana, at one end, and to Seville or Cadiz, according to the time of the control of those ports, at the other end. Even intercolonial commerce was prohibited. At times, and for brief periods, the system was modified to the extent of special trade licences, and, occasionally, by international treaties. But the general system of trade restriction was maintained throughout all of Spain's colonial experience. Between 1778 and 1803, most of Cuba's ports were opened to trade with Spain. The European wars of the early years of the 19th Century led to modification of the trade laws, but in 1809 foreign commerce with Spanish American ports was again prohibited. A few years later, Spain had lost nearly all its American colonies. A new plan was adopted in 1818. Under that, Spain sought to hold the trade of Cuba and Porto Rico by tariffs so highly favorable to merchandise from the mother-country as to be effectively prohibitive with regard to many products from other countries. This, in general outline, is the cause of Cuba's slow progress until the 19th Century, and the explanation of its failure to make more rapid progress during that century.

Naturally, under such conditions, bribery of officials and smuggling became active and lucrative enterprises. It may be said, in strict confidence between writer and reader, that Americans were frequently the parties of the other part in these transactions. In search through a considerable number of American histories, I have been unable to find definite references to trade with Cuba, yet there seems to be abundant reason for belief that such trade was carried on. There are many references to trade with the West Indies as far back as 1640 and even a year or two earlier, but allusions to trade with Cuba do not appear, doubtless for the reason that it was contraband, a violation of both Spanish and British laws. There was evidently some relaxation toward the close of the 18th Century. There are no records of the commerce of the American colonies, and only fragmentary records between 1776 and 1789. The more elaborate records of 1789 and following years show shipments of fish, whale oil, spermaceti candles, lumber, staves and heading, and other articles to the "Spanish West Indies," in which group Cuba was presumably included. The records of the time are somewhat unreliable. It was a custom for the small vessels engaged in that trade to take out clearance papers for the West Indies. The cargo might be distributed in a number of ports, and the return cargo might be similarly collected. For the year 1795, the records of the United States show total imports from the Spanish West Indies as valued at $1,740,000, and exports to that area as valued at $1,390,000. In 1800, the imports were $10,588,000, and the exports $8,270,000. Just how much of this was trade with Cuba, does not appear. Because of the trade increase at that time, and because of other events that, soon afterward, brought Cuba into more prominent notice, this period has been chosen as the line of division between the Old and the New Cuba.

Compared with the wonderful fertility of Cuba, New England is a sterile area. Yet in 1790, a hundred and seventy years after its settlement, the latter had a population a little exceeding a million, while the former, in 1792, or two hundred and eighty years after its occupation, is officially credited with a population of 272,300. Of these, 153,559 were white and 118,741 were colored. Several forces came into operation at this time, and population increased rapidly, to 572,363 in 1817, and to 704,465 in 1827. In 1841, it was a little more than a million. But the increase in colored population, by the importation of African slaves, outstripped the increase by the whites. In 1841, the population was divided into 418,291 whites and 589,333 colored. The importation of slaves having declined, the year 1861 shows a white preponderance, since continued and substantially increased. Among the forces contributing to Cuba's rapid growth during this period were a somewhat greater freedom of trade; the revolution in the neighboring island of Haiti and Santo Domingo, that had its beginning in 1791 and culminated, some ten years later, in the rule of Toussaint L'Ouverture; and an increased demand for sugar. One result of the Haitian disorder was the arrival, in eastern Cuba, of a large number of exiles and emigrants who established extensive coffee plantations. During the first hundred and fifty years of Cuba's history, the principal industry of the island was cattle raising, aside from the domestic industry of food supply. The proprietors lived, usually, in the cities and maintained their vast estates in the neighborhood. To this, later on, were added the production of honey and wax and the cultivation of tobacco. With the period now under consideration, there came the expansion of the coffee and sugar industries. The older activities do not appear to have been appreciably lessened; the others were added on.

Europe and the Western Hemisphere were at that time in a state of general upheaval and rearrangement. Following the American Revolution, there came the French Revolution; the Napoleonic Wars; the war of 1812 between the United States and England; and the general revolt of the Spanish colonies. The world was learning new lessons, adopting new policies, in which the Spanish colonial system was a blunder the folly of which Spain did not even then fully realize. Yet from it all, by one means and another, Cuba benefited. Spain was fortunate in its selection of Governors-General sent out at this time. Luis de Las Casas, who arrived in 1790, is credited with much useful work. He improved roads and built bridges; established schools and the Casa de Beneficencia, still among the leading institutions in Havana; paved the streets of Havana; improved as far as he could the commercial conditions; and established the Sociedad Patriotica, sometimes called the Sociedad Economica, an organization that has since contributed immeasurably to Cuba's welfare and progress. He was followed by others whose rule was creditable. But the principal evils, restricted commerce and burdensome taxation, were not removed, although world conditions practically compelled some modification of the commercial regulations. In 1801 the ports of the island were thrown open to the trade of friendly and neutral nations. Eight years later, foreign commerce was again prohibited. In 1818, a new system was established, that of a tariff so highly favorable to merchandise from Spain that it was by no means unusual for goods to be shipped to that country, even from the United States, and from there reshipped to Cuba. Changes in the rates were made from time to time, but the system of heavy discrimination in favor of Spanish goods in Spanish ships continued until the equalization of conditions under the order of the Government of Intervention, in 1899.

In his book published in 1840, Mr. Turnbull states that "the mercantile interests of the island have been greatly promoted by the relaxation of those restrictive regulations which under the old peninsular system bound down all foreign commerce with the colonies of Spain, and laid it prostrate at the feet of the mother-country. It cannot be said that the sound principles of free trade, in any large or extended sense of the term, have been recognized or acted upon even at the single port of Havana. The discriminating duties imposed by the supreme government of Madrid on the natural productions, manufactures, and shipping of foreign countries, in contradistinction to those of Spain, are so stringent and so onerous as altogether to exclude the idea of anything approaching to commercial freedom. There is no longer, it is true, any absolute prohibition, but in many cases the distinguishing duties are so heavy as to defeat their own object, and, in place of promoting the interests of the mother-country, have had little other effect than the establishment of an extensive and ruinous contraband." Under such conditions as those existing in Cuba, from its beginning practically until the establishment of its political independence, industrial development and commercial expansion are more than difficult.

One of the natural results of such a system appeared in the activities of smugglers. The extent to which that industry was carried on cannot, of course, be even guessed. Some have estimated that the merchandise imported in violation of the laws equalled in value the merchandise entered at the custom houses. An official publication (American) states that "from smuggling on a large scale and privateering to buccaneering and piracy is not a long step, and under the name of privateers French, Dutch, English, and American smugglers and buccaneers swarmed the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico for more than two centuries, plundering Spanish flotas and attacking colonial settlements. Among the latter, Cuba was the chief sufferer." Had Cuba's coasts been made to order for the purpose, they could hardly have been better adapted to the uses of smugglers. Off shore, for more than half its coast line, both north and south, are small islands and keys with narrow and shallow passages between them, thus making an excellent dodging area for small boats if pursued by revenue vessels. Thoroughly familiar with these entrances and hiding places, smugglers could land their goods almost at will with little danger of detection or capture.

Another heavy handicap on the economic progress of the island appears in the system of taxation. Regarding this system, the Census of 1899 reports as follows:

"Apart from imports and exports, taxes were levied on real and personal property and on industries and commerce of all kinds. Every profession, art, or manual occupation contributed its quota, while, as far back as 1638, seal and stamp taxes were established on all judicial business and on all kinds of petitions and claims made to official corporations, and subsequently on all bills and accounts. These taxes were in the form of stamps on official paper and at the date of American occupation the paper cost from 35 cents to $3 a sheet. On deeds, wills, and other similar documents the paper cost from 35 cents to $37.50 per sheet, according to the value of the property concerned. Failure to use even the lowest-priced paper involved a fine of $50.

"There was also a municipal tax on the slaughter of cattle for the market. This privilege was sold by the municipal council to the highest bidder, with the result that taxes were assessed on all animals slaughtered, whether for the market or for private consumption, with a corresponding increase in the price of meat.

"Another tax established in 1528, called the derecho de averia, required the payment of 20 ducats ($16) by every person, bond or free, arriving in the island. In 1665 this tax was increased to $22, and continued in force to 1765, thus retarding immigration, and, to that extent, the increase of population, especially of the laboring class.

"An examination of these taxes will show their excessive, arbitrary, and unscientific character, and how they operated to discourage Cubans from owning property or engaging in many industrial pursuits tending to benefit them and to promote the material improvement of the island.

"Taxes on real estate were estimated by the tax inspector on the basis of its rental or productive capacity, and varied from 4 to 12 per cent. Similarly, a nominal municipal tax of 25 per cent was levied on the estimated profits of all industries and commerce, and on the income derived from all professions, manual occupations, or agencies, the collector receiving 6 per cent of all taxes assessed. Much unjust discrimination was made against Cubans in determining assessable values and in collecting the taxes, and it is said that bribery in some form was the only effective defense against the most flagrant impositions."

Some of the experiences of this period will be considered in special chapters on Cuba's alleged revolutions and on the relations of the United States to Cuba and its affairs. One point may be noted here. The wave of republicanism that swept over a considerable part of Europe and over the Western Hemisphere, from 1775 to 1825 had its direct influence in Spain, and an influence only less direct in Cuba. In 1812, Spain became a constitutional monarchy. It is true that the institution had only a brief life, but the sentiment that lay beneath it persisted and had been repeatedly a cause of disturbance on the Peninsula. Something of the same sentiment pervaded Cuba and excited ambitions, not for national independence, but for some participation in government. A royal decree, in 1810, gave Cuba representation in the Cortes, and two deputies from the island took part in framing the Constitution of 1812. This recognition of Cuba lasted for only two years, the Constitution being abrogated in 1814, but it was restored in 1820, only to cease again three years later. Representatives were again admitted to the Cortes in 1834, and again excluded in 1837. The effect of all this was, perhaps, psychological rather than practical, but it gave rise to a new mental attitude and to some change in conduct. The effect appears in the numerous recurrences of open protest and passive resistance in the place of the earlier submission. Writing in 1855, Mr. J.S. Thrasher stated that "the essential political elements of the island are antagonistic to those of the mother-country. While the Cortes and the crown have frequently declared that Cuba does not form an integral part of the Spanish monarchy, but must be governed by special laws not applicable to Spain, and persist in ruling her under the erroneous and unjust European colonial system, the growing wealth and increasing intelligence of the Cubans lead them to aspire to some share in the elimination of the political principles under which their own affairs shall be administered. A like antagonism exists in the economic relations of the two countries. While the people of Cuba are not averse to the raising of such revenue as may be required for the proper wants of the State, in the administration of which they may participate, they complain, with a feeling of national pride, that fiscal burdens of the most onerous kind are laid upon them for the expressed purpose of advancing interests which are in every sense opposed to their own. Thus, Spain imposes taxes to support a large army and navy, the principal object of which is to prevent any expression of the public will on the part of the people of Cuba. Another class of impositions have for their object the diversion of the trade of Cuba to channels which shall increase the profits of the agriculturists and mariners of Spain without regard to the interests of the people of the island."

Yet in spite of these severe restrictions and heavy burdens, Cuba shows a considerable progress during the first half of the century. It is far from easy to reach fair conclusions from contemporaneous writings. Naturally, Spanish officials and Spanish writers strove to make the best possible case for Spain, its policies and its conduct. The press of the island was either under official control or stood in fear of official reprisals. The Cuban side, naturally partisan, appears to have been presented chiefly by fugitive pamphlets, more or less surreptitiously printed and distributed, usually the product of political extremists. Among these was a man of marked ability and of rare skill in the use of language. He was Don Antonio Saco, known in Cuba as the "Immortal Saco." In a letter written to a friend, in 1846, he says, "The tyranny of our mother-country, today most acute, will have this result - that within a period of time not very remote the Cubans will be compelled to take up arms to banish her." That British observers and most American observers should take the side of the Cubans is altogether natural. Writing in 1854, Mr. M.M. Ballou, in his History of Cuba, says: "The Cubans owe all the blessings they enjoy to Providence alone (so to speak), while the evils which they suffer are directly referable to the oppression of the home government. Nothing short of a military despotism could maintain the connection of such an island with a mother-country more than three thousand miles distant; and accordingly we find the captain-general of Cuba invested with unlimited power. He is, in fact, a viceroy appointed by the crown of Spain, and accountable only to the reigning sovereign for his administration of the colony. His rule is absolute; he has the power of life and death and liberty in his hands. He can, by his arbitrary will, send into exile any person whatever, be his name or rank what it may, whose residence in the island he considers prejudicial to the royal interest, even if he has committed no overt act. He can suspend the operation of the laws and ordinances, if he sees fit to do so; can destroy or confiscate property; and, in short, the island may be said to be perpetually in a state of siege."

The student or the reader may take his choice. On one side are Spanish statements, official and semi-official, and on the other side, Cuban statements no less partisan. The facts appear to support the Cuban argument. In spite of the severe restrictions and the heavy burdens, Cuba shows a notable progress during the 19th Century. Governors came and went, some very good and others very bad. There were a hundred of them from 1512 to 1866, and thirty-six more from 1866 to 1899, the average term of service for the entire number being a little less than three years. On the whole, the most notable of the group of 19th Century incumbents was Don Miguel Tacon, who ruled from June 1, 1834, until April 16, 1838. His record would seem to place him quite decidedly in the "reactionary" class, but he was a man of action who left behind him monuments that remain to his credit even now. One historian, Mr. Kimball, who wrote in 1850, describes him as one in whom short-sightedness, narrow views, and jealous and weak mind, were joined to an uncommon stubbornness of character. Another, Mr. M.M. Ballou, says that "probably of all the governors-general that have filled the post in Cuba none is better known abroad, or has left more monuments to his enterprise, than Tacon. His reputation at Havana (this was written 1854) is of a somewhat doubtful character; for, though he followed out with energy various improvements, yet his modes of procedure were so violent that he was an object of terror to the people generally, rather than of gratitude. He vastly improved the appearance of the capital and its vicinity, built the new prison, rebuilt the governor's palace, constructed a military road to the neighboring forts, erected a spacious theatre and market house, arranged a new public walk, and opened a vast parade ground without the city walls, thus laying the foundation of the new city which has now sprung up in this formerly desolate suburb. He suppressed the gaming houses and rendered the streets, formerly infested with robbers, as secure as those of Boston or New York." Another writer, Mr. Samuel Hazard, in 1870, says: "Of all the governors who have been in command of the island Governor Tacon seems to have been the best, doing the most to improve the island, and particularly Havana; making laws, punishing offences, and establishing some degree of safety for its inhabitants. It is reported of him that he is said, like the great King Alfred, to have promised the Cubans that they should be able to leave their purses of money on the public highway without fear of having them stolen. At all events, his name is cherished by every Cuban for the good he has done, and paseos, theatres, and monuments bear his great name in Havana." The Tacon theatre is now the Nacional, and the Paseo Tacon is now Carlos III. The "new prison" is the Carcel, or jail, at the northern end of the Prado, near the fortress of La Punta. Don Miguel may have been disliked for his methods and his manners, but he certainly did much to make his rule memorable.

There is no reliable information that shows the progress of the island during the 19th Century. Even the census figures are questioned. A reported 432,000 total population in 1804 is evidently no more than an estimate, yet it is very likely not far from the actual. Concerning their distribution throughout the island, and the number engaged in different occupations, there are no records. There are no acceptable figures regarding the respective numbers of whites and blacks. Nor is there any record of the population in 1895, the year of the war for independence. From the definite tabulation, under American auspices, in 1899, showing 1,576,797, it has been estimated that the number in 1895, was a little less than 1,800,000, the difference being represented by the disasters of the war, by the result of reconcentration, and by departures during the disturbance. The general result seems to be that the population was practically quadrupled. A somewhat rough approximation would show the blacks as multiplied by three, to an 1899 total of 505,000, with the whites multiplied by four, to a total of 1,067,000. Nor are there figures of trade that afford any proper clue to the growth of industry and commerce. There are records of imports and exports from about 1850 onward, but before that time the matter of contraband trade introduces an element of uncertainty. An American official pamphlet on Cuban trade carries the statement, "the ascertainment of full and exact details of the commerce of Cuba prior to the close of Spanish dominion in the island is an impossibility. The Spanish authorities, as a rule, published no complete returns of Cuban trade, either foreign or domestic. Except with regard to Spain and the United States, most of the existing commercial statistics of Cuba, prior to 1899, are fragmentary and merely approximative. Spain and the United States have always kept a separate and distinct trade account with Cuba; but the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and other European countries excepting Spain, formerly merged their statistics of trade with Cuba in one general item embracing Cuba and Porto Rico, under the heading of "Spanish West Indies." Since 1899, however, all the Powers have kept separate accounts with Cuba, and the statistics of the Cuban Republic have been reasonably full and accurate."

Cuba's recorded imports in 1894 show a total value of $90,800,000, and exports show a value of $102,000,000. Writing about the year 1825, Humboldt says: "It is more than probable that the imports of the whole island, licit and contraband, estimated at the actual value of the goods and the slaves, amount, at the present time, to fifteen or sixteen millions of dollars, of which barely three or four millions are re-exported." The same authority gives the probable exports of that time as about $12,500,000. The trade at the beginning of the century must have been far below this. The official figures for 1851 show total imports amounting to $34,000,000, and exports to $33,000,000, but the accuracy of the figures is open to question. The more important fact is that of a very large gain in population and in production. The coffee industry, that assumed important proportions during a part of the first half of the century, gradually declined for the reason that sugar became a much more profitable crop. Now, Cuba imports most of its coffee from Porto Rico. Because of its convenience as a contraband article, there are no reliable figures of the tobacco output. Prior to 1817, the commodity was, for much of the time, a crown monopoly and, for the remainder of the time, a monopoly concession to private companies. In that year, cultivation and trade became free, subject to a tax on each planter of one-twentieth of his production.

As we shall see, in another chapter, Cuba at last wearied of Spanish exactions and revolted as did the United States, weary of British rule and British exactions and restrictions, more than a hundred years earlier.