Such acquisitions would result in a slaveholding empire, centered on the Caribbean, and give the South hegemony in Congress
The Franklin Pierce administration, which took office in March 1853, had a strong pro-southern, pro-expansion mindset. At Pierce’s inauguration, he stated, “The policy of my Administration will not be controlled by any timid forebodings of evil from expansion.” While slavery was not the stated goal nor Cuba mentioned by name, he favored...
The Franklin Pierce administration, which took office in March 1853, had a strong pro-southern, pro-expansion mindset. At Pierce’s inauguration, he stated, “The policy of my Administration will not be controlled by any timid forebodings of evil from expansion.” While slavery was not the stated goal nor Cuba mentioned by name, he favored the annexation of Cuba as a slave state. Cuba’s annexation had long been a goal of U.S. slaveholding expansionists, as the establishment of Cuba as a slave state in the United States would, pro-slavery interests expected, provide a base and jumping off point for U.S. acquisitions of other territories in the Caribbean and Latin America where slavery would be legal. Their dream was for a new empire, modeled on Ancient Rome, with the Caribbean taking the part the Mediterranean had some 2,000 years ago. A bunch of new slave states would also allow the South to control Congress, so a lot was at stake.
Pierce showed this bias in his appointments. He named future Confederate president Jefferson Davis as Secretary of War, expansionists John Y. Mason of Virginia and Solon Borland of Arkansas as ministers, respectively, to France and Nicaragua, and Louisiana Senator Pierre Soule, an outspoken proponent of Cuban annexation, as ambassador to Spain to negotiate an acquisition of Cuba from that nation. Soule held this post until 1855.
In October 1854, Soule became co-author of the Ostend Manifesto, a document that described the rationale for the United States to purchase Cuba from Spain while implying that the U.S. should declare war if Spain refused. At the national level, American leaders had been satisfied to have the island remain in weak Spanish hands so long as it did not pass to a stronger power such as Britain or France. The Ostend Manifesto proposed a shift in foreign policy, justifying the use of force to seize Cuba in the name of national security. Northern leaders adamantly opposed an acquisition of Cuba.
Partly-printed document signed, as President, Washington, March 28, 1854, ordering the Secretary of State to affix the Seal of the United States to “a Full Power authorizing Mr. Soule to negotiate a treaty between the United States and Her Catholic Majesty…” Queen Isabella II of Spain was the Catholic Majesty referred to.
Soule failed to convince Spain to sell Cuba, and at a time when the U.S. was convulsed by the uproar over the Kansas-Nebraska Bill and repeal of the Missouri Compromise, war with Spain never caught the public’s interest.
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