This project argues that Cuba was central to U.S. political and economic aspirations in the first decades of the nineteenth century. By detailing the rise of an informal American empire in the Caribbean, funded by New England capital, linked to European commodities markets, and supported by the military and diplomatic apparatus of the federal government, I challenge the scholarly tendency to separate early republic diplomatic and economic history. Instead, I recover the intertwined networks of merchants, off-shore plantation owners, foreign attaches, and elected policymakers—often one and the same—committed to Cuba as indispensible to public good and private gain. Placing merchants’ ledgers alongside state papers and diplomatic missives, I trace a trade circuit that linked Boston, Havana and St. Petersburg, Russia at the height of the Napoleonic Wars. I identify a cadre of elites who would ultimately help formulate the Monroe Doctrine, a diplomatic initiative that must be rethought as less about abstract concepts of hemispheric self-determination and more as an explicit bid to protect American investments in Cuban slave plantations and the illegal slave trade that supported the continued production of sugar and coffee. There was nothing secondary about the role of Cuban slavery in the Atlantic economy, and U.S. investment in Cuba was essential to the rise of American capitalism and the creation of the financial institutions that funded the expansion of the North American cotton frontier. For nineteenth century U.S. scholars, my study alters the geography of U.S. slavery and recasts the politics of sectionalism that would lead to the Civil War in a coherent hemispheric narrative. 1825, which is typically taken as a starting point by scholars of American investment in Cuba, is thus recast not as a beginning, but as the culmination of the appropriation of elements of the U.S. state – including the diplomatic corps and the navy – to benefit the private trade of elite merchants. By the late 1820s, Americans’ many successes in Cuba had largely erased the halting, contingent reality that made the American state of Cuba possible.
Chambers, Stephen M.,
"The American State of Cuba: The Business of Cuba and U.S. Foreign Policy, 1797 - 1825"
History Theses and Dissertations.
Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.