Classic History Books


The Path of Empire. A Chronicle of the United States as a World Power
by Carl Russell Fish

always been an object of immediate concern to the United States. The statesmen of the Jeffersonian
period all looked to its eventually becoming part of American territory. Three quarters of a century

before, when the revolt of the Spanish colonies had halted on the shores of the mainland, leaving the rich

island of Cuba untouched, John Quincy Adams, on April 28, 1823, in a lengthy and long-considered

dispatch to Mr. Nelson, the American Minister to Spain, asserted that the United States could not consent

to the passing of Cuba from the flag of Spain to that of any other European power, that under existing

conditions Cuba was considered safer in the hands of Spain than in those of the revolutionaries, and that

the United States stood for the maintenance of the status quo, with the expectation that Cuba would

ultimately become American territory.

By the late forties and the fifties, however, the times had changed, and American policy had changed
with them. It was becoming more and more evident that, although no real revolution had as yet broken

out, the "Pearl of the Antilles" was bound to Spain by compulsion rather than by love. In the United

States there was a general feeling that the time had at last come to realize the vision of Jefferson and

Adams and to annex Cuba. But the complications of the slavery question prevented immediate

annexation. As a slave colony which might become a slave state, the South wanted Cuba, but the

majority in the North did not.

After the Civil War in the United States was over, revolution at length flared forth in 1868, from end to
end of the island. Sympathy with the Cubans was widespread in the United States. The hand of the

Government, however, was stayed by recent history. Americans felt keenly the right of governments to

exert their full strength to put down rebellion, for they themselves were prosecuting against Great Britain

a case based on what they contended was her too lax enforcement of her obligations to the American

Government and on the assistance which she had given to the South. The great issue determined the

lesser, and for ten years the United States watched the Cuban revolution without taking part in it, but not,

however, without protest and remonstrance. Claiming special rights as a close and necessarily interested

neighbor, the United States constantly made suggestions as to the manner of the contest and its

settlement. Some of these Spain grudgingly allowed, and it was in part by American insistence that

slavery was finally abolished in the island. Further internal reform, however, was not the wish and was

perhaps beyond the power of Spain. Although the revolution was seemingly brought to a close in 1878,

its embers continued to smolder for nearly a score of years until in 1895 they again burst into flame.

War in Cuba could not help affecting in a very intimate way the people of the United States. They bought
much the greater part of the chief Cuban crops, sugar and tobacco. American capital had been invested in

the island, particularly in plantations. For years Cubans of liberal tendencies had sent their sons to be

educated in the United States, very many of whom had been naturalized before returning home. Cuba

was but ninety miles from Florida, and much of our coastwise shipping passed in sight of the island. The

people of the United States were aroused to sympathy and to a desire to be of assistance when they saw

that the Cubans, so near geographically and so bound to them by many commercial ties, were engaged

against a foreign monarchy in a struggle for freedom and a republican form of government. Ethan Allen

headed a Cuban committee in New York and by his historic name associated the new revolution with the

memory of the American struggle for freedom. The Cuban flag was displayed in the United States,

Cuban bonds were sold, and volunteers and arms were sent to the aid of the insurgents.

Owing to the nature of the country and the character of the people, a Cuban revolution had its
peculiarities. The island is a very long and rugged mountain chain surrounded by fertile, cultivated

plains. The insurgents from their mountain refuges spied out the land, pounced upon unprotected spots,

 

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