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A Guide to the José Antonio Saco Letters

Finding aid created by Katiana M. Bagué

University of Florida Smathers Libraries - Special and Area Studies Collections

April 2017

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Saco, José Antonio, 1797-1879
Title: José Antonio Saco Letters
Dates: 1837 December-1844 September
Abstract: Letters written by the Cuban intellectual José Antonio Saco documenting his abolitionist efforts during his residence in Europe.
Extent: .01 Linear feet. 1 Folder.
Identification: MSS 0388
Language(s): Spanish
Note: This guide is available in Spanish at

Biographical/Historical Note

José Antonio Saco, (1797-1879), was a significant Cuban intellectual figure. Well known for both his abolitionist and nationalist ideals, Saco criticized the Cuban slave trade through his essays and writings. His liberal principles clashed with the views and actions of the Spanish Crown. As a result, he was expelled from Cuba in 1834. The letters from this collection document his exile in Europe. There he continued to advocate his philosophies through his writings. These include Supresión del tráfico de esclavos en Cuba (1845) and Ideas sobre la incorporación de Cuba a los E. U. (1848). Both of these works were published during his residence in Paris.

Slavery was prominent in Cuba from the sixteenth century to its official abolishment in 1886. During the British occupation of the island in 1762, colonists expanded the practice of slavery as it provided a large labor force for the sugar plantations, the basis of the island's economy. Later on even amongst anti-slavery efforts, as seen with the 1792 slave revolt in Hispaniola and the 1807 ban on the Atlantic slave trade in the United States and Britain, Cuba still relied heavily on slavery. It wasn't until the end of the nineteenth century that the slave trade in Cuba ceased.

Scope and Content

This collection consists of four letters written by the Cuban abolitionist José Antonio Saco during his residence in Europe. All the letters are addressed to his friend José Luis Alfonso y García and provide an intimate and personal account of the writer's own life. The letters very much reflect his advocacy for emancipation in Cuba. The first letter, written from Spain, is dated a few years after his expulsion from Cuba. In it, Saco describes groups in Spain that support Cuban independence and asks his friend for help in obtaining a passport that could allow for easier travel throughout Europe. The second letter, written during his stay in Paris, is the longest of this collection and highlights his liberal ideas and his anti-slavery stance, for which he gained the title of "amigo de los negros." The third letter expresses his concerns for Cuba as slave revolts and uprisings unfold, but he still states that emancipation is necessary. The final letter explains his work on an anti-slavery tract that would be published in Paris the following year.


The letters are arranged in chronological order.

Access or Use Restrictions


The collection is open for research.

Administrative Information

Alternate Form of Finding Aid

This guide is available in Spanish at

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], José Antonio Saco Letters, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

Acquisition Information

The collection was purchased in 2016.

Contents List

A letter describing the various groups in Spain that support Cuban Independence. 1837 December
A letter reporting how the author has been recongnized as a revolutionary in France. 1842 May 30
A letter expressing the author's concerns for Cuba. 1844 June
A letter explaining the author's soon to be published anti-slavery tract. 1844 September

Selected Subjects and Access Terms

Antislavery movements
Saco, José Antonio, 1797-1879

For further information, please contact: Special Collections Access Services.

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