« PreviousContinue »
throw of the constitutions of Spain, Portugal, and Naples; and it dealt a death-blow to the Holy Alliance, by disabusing its members of the strange fancy, with which they were prepossessed, that the differences between them and the British ministers (where they did differ) were merely feints on the part of the latter to avoid a conflict with public opinion."
The United States government did not relax its efforts in behalf of the South American states with the recognition of England, but continued to exert itself in order to secure the acknowledgment of their independence by the other powers of Europe, particularly Spain.39 Mr. Clay tried to get the other! members of the alliance, especially the emperor of Russia, to use their good offices with Spain for the purpose of inducing her to recognize her late colonies, but the emperor of Russia, the head of the alliance, continued to preach to Spain "not only no recognition of their independence, but active war for their subjugation." To the request of the United States he replied that, out of respect for "the indisputable titles of sovereignty," he could not. prejudge or anticipate the determination of the king of Spain. It was some ten years before Spain could be persuaded to renounce her ancient claims.
**"Political_Life of Canning," Vol. II, p. 1.
"Am. St. Papers, For. Rel., Vol. V, pp. 794-796, and Vol. VI, pp. 1006-1014. Am. St. Papers, For. Rel., Vol. V, p. 850 ff.
THE DIPLOMACY OF THE UNITED STATES IN REGARD TO CUBA
THE Cuban question had its origin in the series of events that have been narrated in the two preceding chapters the Napoleonic invasion of Spain and the resulting paralysis of Spanish power in America. The declaration of President Monroe, enforced by the wellknown attitude of England, dealt the death-blow to Spanish hopes of recovering the Southern continent. Hence the islands of Cuba and Porto Rico, which had remained loyal to the king, were clung to with all the greater tenacity as the sole remains of the imperial possessions over which the successors of Ferdinand and Isabella had ruled for three centuries. The "Everfaithful Island of Cuba" was rewarded for her loyalty by the concession of certain liberties of trade and invited to send representatives to the Spanish Cortes-a privilege which was subsequently withdrawn. Spain was now too weak to protect her two West Indian dependencies-the remains of her former glory, but her very weakness secured their possession to her. The naval and commercial importance of Cuba, "the pearl of the Antilles," made it a prize too valuable to be acquired by any one of the great maritime powers without exciting the jealousy and opposition of the others. Henceforth, to borrow the figure of a contemporary journalist, Cuba was to be the trans-Atlantic Turkey,
trembling to its fall, but sustained by the jealousies of those who were eager to share the spoils.
The strategic importance of Cuba, commanding to a large extent the commerce of the West Indies and of the Central American states, and, what was of vital interest to us, the traffic of the Mississippi valley, attracted at an early period the attention of American as well as of European statesmen. In a letter to President Madison in 1809, Jefferson, in speaking of Napoleon's policy in regard to the Spanish-American colonies, said:
That he would give up the Floridas to withhold intercourse with the residue of those colonies cannot be doubted. But that is no price: because they are ours in the first moment of the first war; and until a war they are of no particular necessity to us. But, although with difficulty, he will consent to our receiving Cuba into our Union, to prevent our aid to Mexico and the other provinces. That would be a price, and I would immediately erect a column on the southern-most limit of Cuba, and inscribe on it a ne plus ultra as to us in that direction.'
President Madison expressed his views on the Cuban question in a letter to William Pinkney, October 30, 1810:
The position of Cuba gives the United States so deep an interest in the destiny, even, of that island, that although they might be an inactive. they could not be a satisfied spectator at its falling under any European government. which might make a fulcrum of that position against the commerce and security of the United States.2
1 H. A. Washington, "Writings of Thomas Jefferson," Vol. V, p. 443. "Madison's Works," Vol. II. p. 488
This was the first statement in the evolution of a Cuban policy consistently adhered to by the United States until the successes of the Mexican war superinduced larger ideas of the mission and destiny of the Union.
As early as 1817 fears as to the fate of Cuba were raised in the minds of the American public by newspaper reports to the effect that England had proposed a relinquishment of her claim against Spain for the maintenance of the British army during the Peninsular campaign, amounting to £15,000,000, in return for the cession of the island. Reports of this nature were circulated for several months on both sides of the Atlantic, but the question did not assume any very great importance until 1819, when the treaty for the cession of the Floridas to the United States was being negotiated with Spain. It was then insisted by the British press that the acquisition of the Floridas would give the United States such a preponderating influence in West Indian affairs as to render necessary the occupation of Cuba by Great Britain as the natural and only off-set. The Florida treaty was ratified after some delay, which, however, does not appear to have been caused by the British government, as was supposed at the time. The British papers, nevertheless, continued to condemn in strong terms the treaty as well as the inaction of their government in not making it a pretext for the seizure of Cuba.
As the preparations of France for the invasion of Spain in 1823 progressed the fate of Cuba became a
Niles's "Register," under date November 8, 1817.
For a full discussion of the question see the pamphlet by J. Freeman Rattenbury, entitled, "The Cession of the Floridas to the United States of America and the Necessity of Acquiring the Island of Cuba by Great Britain.' London, 1819.
question of absorbing interest in America. There was little hope that the island would continue a dependency of Spain. It was rumored that Great Britain had engaged to supply the constitutional government of Spain with money in her struggle with France and would occupy Cuba as a pledge for its repayment. Both Spanish and French journals spoke of British occupation of Cuba as a matter no longer to be doubted, and the presence in the West Indies of a large British squadron, sent nominally for the purpose of suppressing piracy, seemed to lend color to the reports. The British press was clamoring for the acquisition of Cuba. The Packet declared: "The question then comes to this, shall England occupy Cuba, or by permitting its acquisition by the United States (which they have long desired) sacrifice her whole West India trade? There can be no hesitation as to the answer."
The British government, however, officially disclaimed all designs upon Cuba, but this disclaimer did not fully reassure the American government, and our representatives abroad were instructed to exercise a close scrutiny upon all negotiations between Spain and England. In the spring of 1823 Mr. Forsyth was succeeded by Mr. Nelson at the court of Madrid. In his instructions to the new minister, which went much beyond the usual length and were occupied almost exclusively with a discussion of the Cuban question, John Quincy Adams used the following remarkable words:
"In looking forward to the probable course of events for the short period of half a century, it seems scarcely possible to resist the conviction that the an
Niles's "Register," March and April, 1823.