This paper examines the struggles of Cuba’s enslaved population during the 1840s through the lens of British imperial ideology. Turnbull, like many other European anti-slavery luminaries and British officials, saw connections between slave rebellions and the nationalist uprisings that had torn much of the Caribbean apart since the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804. The British, however, saw these uprisings in Cuba – known as La Escalera – as an opportunity to increase the empire’s Caribbean influence beyond its own colonies. The British, as Turnbull learned, understood that Spanish rule proceeded similarly to British imperialism. The uprisings, therefore, represented a moment in which the British might be able to undermine Spain’s imperialism, deal a blow to Atlantic slavery, and thereby increase Britain’s rhetorical control of the ocean without colonizing Cuba. I argue, however, that despite the efforts of Turnbull and the British Empire, Cuba’s enslaved population not only rejected their enslavement, but also the constricting paradigms of freedom that British anti-slavery offered. La Escalera was, of course, ultimately unsuccessful, but sowed the seed for a racialized independence movement that ultimately rejected both Spanish imperialism and its British alternative.
 David Turnbull, Travels in the West: Cuba; with Notices of Puerto Rico, and the Slave Trade (London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1840), 48.
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