instigated by British abolitionists. It was said that a government in waiting had even been established, with agents spread throughout the island.71From the start Turnbull was considered to be profoundly implicated in these occurrences, and a sentence was passed against him en absentiaby the Military Commission, claiming that he was the ‘author and prime mover of the conspiracy’.72Although Turnbull strenuously denied not just any knowledge of the plot, but of having even the slightest contact with inhabitants of the island since his expulsion almost two years previously,73there is some evidence that hisactivities had gone beyond just representing the interests of British subjects. In March or April 1843, his replacement as Consul, Joseph Crawford, was called upon by Juan Rodríguez, a leading member of the committee of free blacks that had been established to coordinate the planned uprising. He told Crawford that they now required the arms and munitions that Turnbull had promised them the year before.74A few years later such active involvement in conspiracy was confirmed by evidence given by Francis Ross Cocking, who had served as Turnbull’s aide while the latter was in Cuba. Cocking gave a detailed account of how, partly at the behest of Turnbull, he had acted as something of an intermediary between the two racially divided committees that were organising the uprising; and had also travelled to Jamaica with the express purpose of building support there for the rebellion.75Turnbull himself boasted of his intimaterelationship with Cuban supporters of independence and abolition, claiming that ‘no other Englishman in the Island enjoys equal opportunities with myself of arriving at correct information, as to the wishes, intentions, and movements of 71Sentence (12a) pronounced by Military Commission, Matanzas (AHN, Estado, 8057/1, No.1).72ANC, CM, 51/1, pp.591-2.73Turnbull to Aberdeen, 21 Aug. 1844 (PRO, FO 84/516); and Turnbull to Earl of Elgin, 21 Aug. 1844 (PRO, CO 137/280).74Crawford to Aberdeen, 18 April 1843 (PRO, FO 72/634).75PRO, FO 72/709.23
the creole party.’76The case against him appeared to become all the more compelling with the discovery that one of Cuba’s leading opponents of the slave trade, and influential member of the growing Cuban nationalist movement, Domingo del Monte, had maintained an extensive correspondence with the NorthAmerican diplomat, Alexander Everett. In his letters, Del Monte denounced the existence of a conspiracy, and the prominent role played by Turnbull, and through him the British.77CatalystsNevertheless, it is unlikely that Turnbull was really guilty of being the chief instigator of the planned uprising. Although there is no doubt that he was in close contact with many of those allegedly involved, it is hard to sustain the suggestion that the conspiracy was the direct result of his efforts, at the behest of the British government and the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society.
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