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Sugar trade in Cuba, 1827.

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Confidential diplomatic letter, laying out the opportunities for a new Dutch-Cuban sugar trade company


Guillermo Lobé (1785-1883).

[Autograph letter signed].
Havana, June 18, 1827.

4to. 13, [3 blank] pp. Ink on laid paper, with a watercolour drawing on a larger 4to loose wove paper sheet dated 1827.

An important confidential manuscript letter by the Dutch-Spanish diplomat Guillermo Lobé lays out the commercial and geopolitical situation of Cuba in detail. Accompanying the letter is a drawing that possibly depicts a valley in Cuba, dated on the verso in ink as 1827.

In the densely written 12-page letter, Lobé writes to an anonymous 'old family friend' whom he met in Antwerp. Apparently, this friend was planning to establish a Dutch-Cuban sugar trade company or 'Société du Commerce' and asked Lobé to provide information about international trade in Cuba, particularly in Havana. Lobé praises the commercial opportunities of the island and predicts a great future for its economy. He stresses that every European nation will soon discover this potential and want to take advantage of it. Lobé also sketches the geopolitical situation of Cuba, noting that Spain's power has waned, and England and the United States have taken advantage, which poses a challenge for Europe. However, Lobé sees this crisis as an opportunity for those who dare to seize it.

He provides details about interest percentages and production figures in Cuba. According to Lobé, the regulated production export total amounted to 400,000 crates annually, with 300,000 from Havana alone. Twenty percent of this went to the Kingdom of the Netherlands (including Belgium at the time): 10,000 to Rotterdam, 20,000 to Amsterdam, and 50,000 to Antwerp.

Guillermo Lobé was deeply involved in European and American relations with Cuba. At the time of the present letter, he was the consul-general of the Netherlands to Cuba. He wrote two books on Cuba: 'Mémoire sur la culture du tabac dans l'île de Cuba' (1845) and 'Cuba et les grandes puissances occidentales de l'Europe' (1856). As evident from the second title, he communicated on a high level with people in Europe and the US about the opportunities for exploiting Cuban resources.

He was the son of Maurits Jacob Lobé, born in Amsterdam in 1754, who served as consul to the Netherlands in Cadiz since 1780. Maurits Jacob married Maria Manuela Ravina in Cadiz in 1789. Guillermo was their first child, fully named Guillermo (Willem) Maria de la Sanctissima Trinidad Antonio Joseph Fernando Felix Ramon Pascual Juan Nepomuceno Lobé, born in Cadiz on May 30, 1790. He became consul to the Netherlands in Cadiz and Seville in 1815, and in 1821, a diplomatic manual appeared from his hand: 'Guide aux droits civils et commerciaux des étrangers en Espagne.' In 1825, he became consul-general to the Netherlands in Havana, Cuba. So at the time of the present letter, he was just recently active on the island.

A key task for Lobé in Cuba was to support and grow trade with the Netherlands. The export of goods to the Netherlands in 1829 and 1830 totaled about a tenth of the total national production of Cuba, as stated by Guillermo Lobé himself:

'They bear in fruits of the country, an annual average value of 985,934 pesos, or about a tenth of the total. The main products are ironworks, nails, gin, cheeses, butter, thick fabrics of thread, and lace. The manufactures introduced from this source in 1829 amounted to the value of 163,824 pesos and the groceries to 87,438; in 1830, they were 132,650 and 68,034 respectively. […] The establishment, in Havana, of a General Consul and agent of the Dutch company, must henceforth strengthen and multiply the commercial relations between the two countries.' (De la Sagra).

Condition: one vertical fold, otherwise in excellent condition.


Ramón de la Sagra, Historia economico-politica y estadistica de la isla de Cuba. Habana, 1831, p. 208.

For Guillermo Lobé see: Repertorium der Nederlandse vertegenwoordigers, residerende in het buitenland, 1584-1810, p. 415.

For the Lobé family in Cuba see: Pablo Ortega del Cerro, Returning to Spain: Cuban elites’ strategies for social promotion via the Naval College, 1845-1865, Universidad de Murcia 2018, pp. 299-300.

Books by Lobé:

- Guide aux droits civils et commerciaux des étrangers en Espagne. Paris, 1821.

- Cuba et les grandes puissances occidentales de l'Europe [...] collection de brochures et de lettres adressées à Madrid. Paris, 1856.

- Mémoire sur la culture du tabac dans l'île de Cuba. Cayenne, 1845.

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