The Empire and the People
excerpted from a
People's History of the United States
by Howard Zinn
Theodore Roosevelt wrote to a friend in the year 1897: "In
strict confidence . . . I should welcome almost any war, for I
think this country needs one."
The year of the massacre at Wounded Knee, 1890, it was officially
declared by the Bureau of the Census that the internal frontier
was closed. The profit system, with its natural tendency for expansion,
had already begun to look overseas. The severe depression that
began in 1893 strengthened an idea developing within the political
and financial elite of the country: that overseas markets for
American goods might relieve the problem of underconsumption at
home and prevent the economic crises that in the 1890s brought
And would not a foreign adventure deflect some of the rebellious
energy that went into strikes and protest movements toward an
external enemy? Would it not unite people with government, with
the armed forces, instead of against them? This was probably not
a conscious plan among most of the elite-but a natural development
from the twin drives of capitalism and nationalism.
Expansion overseas was not a new idea. Even before the war
against Mexico carried the United States to the Pacific, the Monroe
Doctrine looked southward into and beyond the Caribbean. Issued
in 1823 when the countries of Latin America were winning independence
from Spanish control, it made plain to European nations that the
United States considered Latin America its sphere of influence.
Not long after, some Americans began thinking into the Pacific:
of Hawaii, Japan, and the great markets of China.
There was more than thinking; the American armed forces had
made forays overseas. A State Department list, "Instances
of the Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad 1798-1945"
(presented by Secretary of State Dean Rusk to a Senate committee
in 1962 to cite precedents for the use of armed force against
Cuba), shows 103 interventions in the affairs of other countries
between 1798 and 1895. A sampling from the list, with the exact
description given by the State Department:
1852-53 -- Argentina. Marines were landed and maintained in
Buenos Aires to protect American interests during a revolution.
1853 -- Nicaragua-to protect American lives and interests
during political disturbances.
1853-54 -- Japan-The "Opening of Japan" and the Perry
Expedition. [The State Department does not give more details,
but this involved the use of warships to force Japan to open its
ports to the United States.]
1853-54 -- Ryukyu and Bonin Islands-Commodore Perry on three
visits before going to Japan and while waiting for a reply from
Japan made a naval demonstration, landing marines twice, and secured
a coaling concession from the ruler of Naha on Okinawa. He also
demonstrated in the Bonin Islands. All to secure facilities for
1854 -- Nicaragua-San Juan del Norte [Greytown was destroyed
to avenge an insult to the American Minister to Nicaragua.]
1855 -- Uruguay-U.S. and European naval forces landed to protect
American interests during an attempted revolution in Montevideo.
1859 -- China-For the protection of American interests in
1860 -- Angola, Portuguese West Africa-To protect American
lives and property at Kissembo when the natives became troublesome.
1893 -- Hawaii-Ostensibly to protect American lives and property;
actually to promote a provisional government under Sanford B.
Dole. This action was disavowed by the United States.
1894 -- Nicaragua-To protect American interests at Bluefields
following a revolution.
Thus, by the 1890s, there had been much experience in overseas
probes and interventions. The ideology of expansion was widespread
in the upper circles of military men, politicians, businessmen
-- and even among some of the leaders of farmers' movements who
thought foreign markets would help them.
Captain A. T. Mahan of the U.S. navy, a popular propagandist
for expansion, greatly influenced Theodore Roosevelt and other
American leaders. The countries with the biggest navies would
inherit the earth, he said. "Americans must now begin to
look outward." Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts
wrote in a magazine article:
In the interests of our commerce . . . we should build the
Nicaragua canal, and for the protection of that canal and for
the sake of our commercial supremacy in the Pacific we should
control the Hawaiian islands and maintain our influence in Samoa....
and when the Nicaraguan canal is built, the island of Cuba ...
will become a necessity.... The great nations are rapidly absorbing
for their future expansion and their present defense all the waste
places of the earth. It is a movement which makes for civilization
and the advancement of the race. As one of the great nations of
the world the United States must not fall out of the line of march.
A Washington Post editorial on the eve of the Spanish-American
"A new consciousness seems to have come upon us-the consciousness
of strength-and with it a new appetite, the yearning to show our
strength.... Ambition, interest, land hunger, pride, the mere
joy of fighting, whatever it may be, we are animated by a new
sensation. We are face to face with a strange destiny. The taste
of Empire is in the mouth of the people even as the taste of blood
in the jungle...."
Was that taste in the mouth of the people through some instinctive
lust for aggression or some urgent self-interest? Or was it a
taste (if indeed it existed) created, encouraged, advertised,
and exaggerated by the millionaire press, the military, the government,
the eager-to-please scholars of the time? Political scientist
John Burgess of Columbia University said the Teutonic and Anglo-Saxon
races were "particularly endowed with the capacity for establishing
national states . . . they are entrusted . . . with the mission
of conducting the political civilization of the modern world."
Several years before his election to the presidency, William McKinley
said: "We want a foreign market for our surplus products."
Senator Albert Beveridge of Indiana in early 1897 declared: "American
factories are making more than the American people can use; American
soil is producing more than they can consume. Fate has written
our policy for us; the trade of the world must and shall be ours."
The Department of State explained in 1898:
It seems to be conceded that every year we shall be confronted
with an increasing surplus of manufactured goods for sale in foreign
markets if American operatives and artisans are to be kept employed
the year around. The enlargement of foreign consumption of the
products of our mills and workshops has, therefore, become a serious
problem of statesmanship as well as of commerce.
These expansionist military men and politicians were in touch
with one another. One of Theodore Roosevelt's biographers tells
us: "By 1890, Lodge, Roosevelt, and Mahan had begun exchanging
views," and that they tried to get Mahan off sea duty "so
that he could continue full-time his propaganda for expansion."
Roosevelt once sent Henry Cabot Lodge a copy of a poem by Rudyard
Kipling, saying it was "poor poetry, but good sense from
the expansionist standpoint."
When the United States did not annex Hawaii in 1893 after
some Americans (the combined missionary and pineapple interests
of the Dole family) set up their own government, Roosevelt called
this hesitancy "a crime against white civilization."
And he told the Naval War College: "All the great masterful
races have been fighting races.... No triumph of peace is quite
so great as the supreme triumph of war." '
Roosevelt was contemptuous of races and nations he considered
inferior. When a mob in New Orleans Iynched a number of Italian
immigrants, Roosevelt thought the United States should offer the
Italian government some remuneration, but privately he wrote his
sister that he thought the Iynching was "rather a good thing"
and told her he had said as much at a dinner with "various
dago diplomats . . . all wrought up by the Iynching."
William James, the philosopher, who became one of the leading
anti-imperialists of his time, wrote about Roosevelt that he "gushes
over war as the ideal condition of human society, for the manly
strenuousness which it involves, and treats peace as a condition
of blubberlike and swollen ignobility, fit only for huckstering
weaklings, dwelling in gray twilight and heedless of the higher
While it was true that in 1898, 90 percent of American products
were sold at home, the 10 percent sold abroad amounted to a billion
dollars. Walter Lafeber writes (The New Empire): "By 1893,
American trade exceeded that of every country in the world except
England. Farm products, of course, especially in the key tobacco,
cotton, and wheat areas, had long depended heavily on international
markets for their prosperity." And in the twenty years up
to 1895, new investments by American capitalists overseas reached
a billion dollars. In 1885, the steel industry's publication Age
of Steel wrote that the internal markets were insufficient and
the overproduction of industrial products "should be relieved
and prevented in the future by increased foreign trade."
Oil became a big export in the 1880s and 1890s: by 1891, the
Rockefeller family's Standard Oil Company accounted for 90 percent
of American exports of kerosene and controlled 70 percent of the
world market. Oil was now second to cotton as the leading product
Businessmen had been interested, from the start of the Cuban
revolt against Spain, in the effect on commercial possibilities
there. There already was a substantial economic interest in the
island, which President Grover Cleveland summarized in 1896:
It is reasonably estimated that at least from $30,000,000
to $50,000,000 of American capital are invested in the plantations
and in railroad, mining, and other business enterprises on the
island. The volume of trade between the United States and Cuba,
which in 1889 amounted to about $64,000,000, rose in 1893 to about
Popular support of the Cuban revolution was based on the thought
that they, like the Americans of 1776, were fighting a war for
their own liberation. The United States government, however, the
conservative product of another revolutionary war, had power and
profit in mind as it observed the events in Cuba. Neither Cleveland,
President during the first years of the Cuban revolt, nor McKinley,
who followed, recognized the insurgents officially as belligerents;
such legal recognition would have enabled the United States to
give aid to the rebels without sending an army. But there may
have been fear that the rebels would win on their own and keep
the United States out.
There seems also to have been another kind of fear. The Cleveland
administration said a Cuban victory might lead to "the establishment
of a white and a black republic," since Cuba had a mixture
of the two races. And the black republic might be dominant. This
idea was expressed in 1896 in an article in The Saturday Review
by a young and eloquent imperialist, whose mother was American
and whose father was English-Winston Churchill. He wrote that
while Spanish rule was bad and the rebels had the support of the
people, it would be better for Spain to keep control:
"A grave danger represents itself. Two-fifths of the
insurgents in the field are negroes. These men . . would, in the
event of success, demand a predominant share in the government
of the country . . . the result being, after years of fighting,
another black republic."
The reference to "another" black republic meant
Haiti, whose revolution against France in 1803 had led to the
first nation run by blacks in the New World. The Spanish minister
to the United States wrote to the U.S. Secretary of State:
"In this revolution, the negro element has the most important
part. Not only the principal leaders are colored men, but at least
eight-tenths of their supporters.... and the result of the war,
if the Island can be declared independent, will be a secession
of the black element and a black Republic."
As Philip Foner says in his two-volume study The Spanish-Cuban
American War, "The McKinley Administration had plans for
dealing with the Cuban situation, but these did not include independence
for the island." He points to the administration's instructions
to its minister to Spain, Stewart Woodford, asking him to try
to settle the war because it "injuriously affects the normal
function of business, and tends to delay the condition of prosperity,"
but not mentioning freedom and justice for the Cubans. Foner explains
the rush of the McKinley administration into war (its ultimatum
gave Spain little time to negotiate) by the fact that "if
the United States waited too long, the Cuban revolutionary forces
would emerge victorious, replacing the collapsing Spanish regime."
In February 1898, the U.S. battleship Maine, in Havana harbor
as a symbol of American interest in the Cuban events, was destroyed
by-a mysterious explosion and sank, with the loss of 268 men.
There was no evidence ever produced on the cause of the explosion,
but excitement grew swiftly in the United States, and McKinley
began to move in the direction of war. Walter Lafeber says:
"The President did not want war; he had been sincere
and tireless in his efforts to maintain the peace. By mid-March,
however, he was beginning to discover that, although he did not
want war, he did want what only a war could provide; the disappearance
of the terrible uncertainty in American political and economic
life, and a solid basis from which to resume the building of the
new American commercial empire."
At a certain point in that spring, both McKinley and the business
community began to see that their object, to get Spain out of
Cuba could not be accomplished without war, and that their accompanying
object, the securing of American military and economic influence
in Cuba, could not be left to the Cuban rebels, but could be ensured
only by U.S. intervention. The New York Commercial Advertiser,
at first against war, by March 10 asked intervention in Cuba for
"humanity and love of freedom, and above all, the desire
that the commerce and industry of every part of the world shall
have full freedom of development in the whole world's interest."
Before this, Congress had passed the Teller Amendment, pledging
the United States not to annex Cuba. It was initiated and supported
by those people who were interested in Cuban independence and
opposed to American imperialism, and also by business people who
saw the "open door" as sufficient and military intervention
unnecessary. But by the spring of 1898, the business community
had developed a hunger for action. The Journal of Commerce said:
"The Teller amendment . . . must be interpreted in a sense
somewhat different from that which its author intended it to bear."
There were special interests who would benefit directly from
war. In Pittsburgh, center of the iron industry, the Chamber of
Commerce advocated force, and the Chattanooga Tradesman said that
the possibility of war "has decidedly stimulated the iron
trade." It also noted that "actual war would very decidedly
enlarge the business of transportation." In Washington, it
was reported that a "belligerent spirit" had infected
the Navy Department, encouraged "by the contractors for projectiles,
ordnance, ammunition and other supplies, who have thronged the
department since the destruction of the Maine."
Russell Sage, the banker, said that if war came, "There is
no question as to where the rich men stand." A survey of
businessmen said that John Jacob Astor, William Rockefeller, and
Thomas Fortune Ryan were "feeling militant." And J.
P. Morgan believed further talk with Spain would accomplish nothing.
On March 21, 1898, Henry Cabot Lodge wrote McKinley a long
letter, saying he had talked with "bankers, brokers, businessmen,
editors, clergymen and others" in Boston, Lynn, and Nahant,
and "everybody," including "the most conservative
classes," wanted the Cuban question "solved." Lodge
reported: "They said for business one shock and then an end
was better than a succession of spasms such as we must have if
this war in Cuba went on." On March 25, a telegram arrived
at the White House from an adviser to McKinley, saying: "Big
corporations here now believe we will have war. Believe all would
welcome it as relief to suspense."
Two days after getting this telegram, McKinley presented an
ultimatum to Spain, demanding an armistice. He said nothing about
independence for Cuba. A spokesman for the Cuban rebels, part
of a group of Cubans in New York, interpreted this to mean the
U.S. simply wanted to replace Spain. He responded:
"In the face of the present proposal of intervention
without previous recognition of independence, it is necessary
for us to go a step farther and say that we must and will regard
such intervention as nothing less than a declaration of war by
the United States against the Cuban revolutionists...."
Indeed, when McKinley asked Congress for war on April 11,
he did not recognize the rebels as belligerents or ask for Cuban
independence. Nine days later, Congress, by joint resolution,
gave McKinley the power to intervene. When American forces moved
into Cuba, the rebels welcomed them, hoping the Teller Amendment
would guarantee Cuban independence.
Many histories of the Spanish-American war have said that
"public opinion" in the United States led McKinley to
declare war on Spain and send forces to Cuba. True, certain influential
newspapers had been pushing hard, even hysterically. And many
Americans, seeing the aim of intervention as Cuban independence-and
with the Teller Amendment as guarantee of this intention-supported
the idea. But would McKinley have gone to war because of the press
and some portion of the public (we had no public opinion surveys
at that time) without the urging of the business community? Several
years after the Cuban war, the chief of the Bureau of Foreign
Commerce of the Department of Commerce wrote about that period:
"Underlying the popular sentiment, which might have evaporated
in time, which forced the United States to take up arms against
Spanish rule in Cuba, were our economic relations with the West
Indies and the South American republics.... The Spanish-American
War was but an incident of a general movement of expansion which
had its roots in the changed environment of an industrial capacity
far beyond our domestic powers of consumption. It was seen to
be necessary for us not only to find foreign purchasers for our
goods, but to provide the means of making access to foreign markets
easy, economical and safe. "
American labor unions had sympathy for the Cuban rebels as
soon as the insurrection against Spain began in 1895. But they
opposed American expansionism. Both the Knights of Labor and the
American Federation of Labor spoke against the idea of annexing
Hawaii, which McKinley proposed in 1897. Despite the feeling for
the Cuban rebels, a resolution calling for U.S. intervention was
defeated at the 1897 convention of the AFL. Samuel Gompers of
the AFL wrote to a friend: "The sympathy of our movement
with Cuba is genuine, earnest, and sincere, but this does not
for a moment imply that we are committed to certain adventurers
who are apparently suffering from Hysteria...."
When the explosion of the Maine in February led to excited
calls for war in the press, the monthly journal of the International
Association of Machinists agreed it was a terrible disaster, but
it noted that the deaths of workers in industrial accidents drew
no such national clamor. It pointed to the Lattimer Massacre of
September 10, 1897, during a coal strike in Pennsylvania. Miners
marching on a highway to the Lattimer mine-Austrians, Hungarians,
Italians, Germans-who had originally been imported as strikebreakers
but then organized themselves, refused to disperse, whereupon
the sheriff and his deputies opened fire, killing nineteen of
them, most shot in the back, with no outcry in the press. The
labor journal said that the
"... carnival of carnage that takes place every day,
month and year in the realm of industry, the thousands of useful
lives that are annually sacrificed to the Moloch of greed, the
blood tribute paid by labor to capitalism, brings forth no shout
for vengeance and reparation.... Death comes in thousands of instances
in mill and mine, claims his victims, and no popular uproar is
The official organ of the Connecticut AFL, The Craftsman,
also warned about the hysteria worked up by the sinking of the
"A gigantic . . . and cunningly-devised scheme is being
worked ostensibly to place the United States in the front rank
as a naval and military power. The real reason is that the capitalists
will have the whole thing and, when any workingmen dare to ask
for the living wage . . . they will be shot down like dogs in
Some unions, like the United Mine Workers, called for U.S.
intervention after the sinking of the Maine. But most were against
war. The treasurer of the American Longshoremen's Union, Bolton
Hall, wrote "A Peace Appeal to Labor," which was widely
"If there is a war, you will furnish the corpses and
the taxes, and others will get the glory. Speculators will make
money out of it-that is, out of you. Men will get high prices
for inferior supplies, leaky boats, for shoddy clothes and pasteboard
shoes, and you will have to pay the bill, and the only satisfaction
you will get is the privilege of hating your Spanish fellow-workmen,
who are really your brothers and who have had as little to do
with the wrongs of Cuba as you have."
Socialists opposed the war. One exception was the Jewish Daily
Forward. The People, newspaper of the Socialist Labor party, called
the issue of Cuban freedom "a pretext" and said the
government wanted war to "distract the attention of the workers
from their real interests." The Appeal to Reason, another
Socialist newspaper, said the movement for war was "a favorite
method of rulers for keeping the people from redressing domestic
wrongs." In the San Francisco Voice of Labor a Socialist
wrote: "It is a terrible thing to think that the poor workers
of this country should be sent to kill and wound the poor workers
of Spain merely because a few leaders may incite them to do so."
But after war was declared, Foner says, "the majority
of the trade unions succumbed to the war fever." Samuel Gompers
called the war "glorious and righteous" and claimed
that 250,000 trade unionists had volunteered for military service.
The United Mine Workers pointed to higher coal prices as a result
of the war and said: "The coal and iron trades have not been
so healthy for some years past as at present." The war brought
more employment and higher wages, but also higher prices. Foner
says: "Not only was there a startling increase in the cost
of living, but, in the absence of an income tax, the poor found
themselves paying almost entirely for the staggering costs of
the war through increased levies on sugar, molasses, tobacco,
and other taxes.
... " Gompers, publicly for the war, privately pointed
out that the war had led to a 20 percent reduction of the purchasing
power of workers' wages. On May Day, 1898, the Socialist Labor
party organized an antiwar parade in New York City, but the authorities
would not allow it to take place, while a May Day parade called
by the Jewish Daily Forward, urging Jewish workers to support
the war, was permitted. The Chicago Labor World said: "This
has been a poor man's war-paid for by the poor man. The rich have
profited by it, as they always do...."
The Western Labor Union was founded at Salt Lake City on May
10, 1898, because the AFL had not organized unskilled workers.
It wanted to bring together all workers "irrespective of
occupation, nationality, creed or color" and "sound
the death knell of every corporation and trust that has robbed
the American laborer of the fruits of his toil...." The union's
publication, noting the annexation of Hawaii during the war, said
this proved that "the war which started as one of relief
for the starving Cubans has suddenly changed to one of con quest."
The prediction made by longshoreman Bolton Hall, of wartime
corruption and profiteering, turned out to be remarkably accurate.
Richard Morris's Encyclopedia of American History gives startling
"Of the more than 274,000 officers and men who served
in the army during the Spanish-American War and the period of
demobilization, 5,462 died in the various theaters of operation
and in camps in the U.S. Only 379 of the deaths were battle casualties,
the remainder being attributed to disease and other causes."
The same figures are given by Walter Millis in his book The
Martial Spirit. In the Encyclopedia they are given tersely, and
without mention of the "embalmed beef" (an army general's
term) sold to the army by the meatpackers-meat preserved with
boric acid, nitrate of potash, and artificial coloring matter.
In May of 1898, Armour and Company, the big meatpacking company
of Chicago, sold the army 500,000 pounds of beef which had been
sent to Liverpool a year earlier and had been returned. Two months
later, an army inspector tested the Armour meat, which had been
stamped and approved by an inspector of the Bureau of Animal Indus
try, and found 751 cases containing rotten meat. In the first
sixty cases he opened, he found fourteen tins already burst, "the
effervescent putrid contents of which were distributed all over
the cases." (The description comes from the Report of the
Commission to Investigate the Conduct of the War Department in
the War with Spain, made to the Senate in 1900.) Thousands of
soldiers got food poisoning. There are no figures on how many
of the five thousand noncombat deaths were caused by that.
The Spanish forces were defeated in three months, in what
John Hay, the American Secretary of State, later called a "splendid
little war." The American military pretended that the Cuban
rebel army did not exist. When the Spanish surrendered, no Cuban
was allowed to confer on the surrender, or to sign it. General
William Shafter said no armed rebels could enter the capital city
of Santiago, and told the Cuban rebel leader, General Calixto
Garcia, that not Cubans, but the old Spanish civil authorities,
would remain in charge of the municipal offices in Santiago.
American historians have generally ignored the role of the
Cuban rebels in the war; Philip Foner, in his history, was the
first to print Garcia's letter of protest to General Shafter:
"I have not been honored with a single word from yourself
informing me about the negotiations for peace or the terms of
the capitulation by the Spaniards. . . . when the question arises
of appointing authorities in Santiago de Cuba . . . I cannot see
but with the deepest regret that such authorities are not elected
by the Cuban people, but are the same ones selected by the Queen
A rumor too absurd to be believed, General, describes the
reason of your measures and of the orders forbidding my army to
enter Santiago for fear of massacres and revenge against the Spaniards.
Allow me, sir, to protest against even the shadow of such an idea.
We are not savages ignoring the rules of civilized warfare. We
are a poor, ragged army, as ragged and poor as was the army of
your forefathers in their noble war for independence...."
Along with the American army in Cuba came American capital.
"Even before the Spanish flag was down in Cuba, U.S.
business interests set out to make their influence felt. Merchants,
real estate agents, stock speculators, reckless adventurers, and
promoters of all kinds of get-rich schemes flocked to Cuba by
the thousands. Seven syndicates battled each other for control
of the franchises for the Havana Street Railway, which were finally
won by Percival Farquhar, representing the Wall Street interests
of New York. Thus, simultaneously with the military occupation
began . . . commercial occupation."
The Lumbermen's Review, spokesman for the lumber industry,
said in the midst of the war: "The moment Spain drops the
reigns of government in Cuba . . . the moment will arrive for
American lumber interests to move into the island for the products
of Cuban forests. Cuba still possesses 10,000,000 acres of virgin
forest abounding in valuable timber . . . nearly every foot of
which would be saleable in the United States and bring high prices."
Americans began taking over railroad, mine, and sugar properties
when the war ended. In a few years, $30 million of American capital
was invested. United Fruit moved into the Cuban sugar industry.
It bought 1,900,000 acres of land for about twenty cents an acre.
The American Tobacco Company arrived. By the end of the occupation,
in 1901, Foner estimates that at least 80 percent of the export
of Cuba's minerals were in American hands, mostly Bethlehem Steel.
During the military occupation a series of strikes took place.
In September 1899, a gathering of thousands of workers in Havana
launched a general strike for the eight-hour day, saying, ".
. . we have determined to promote the struggle between the worker
and the capitalist. For the workers of Cuba will no longer tolerate
remaining in total subjection." The American General William
Ludlow ordered the mayor of Havana to arrest eleven strike leaders,
and U.S. troops occupied railroad stations and docks. Police moved
through the city breaking up meetings. But the economic activity
of the city had come to a halt. Tobacco workers struck. Printers
struck. Bakers went on strike. Hundreds of strikers were arrested,
and some of the imprisoned leaders were intimidated into calling
for an end to the strike.
The United States did not annex Cuba. But a Cuban Constitutional
Convention was told that the United States army would not leave
Cuba until the Platt Amendment, passed by Congress in February
1901, was incorporated into the new Cuban Constitution. This Amendment
gave the United States "the right to intervene for the preservation
of Cuban independence, the maintenance of a government adequate
for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty...."
It also provided for the United States to get coaling or naval
stations at certain specified points.
The Teller Amendment and the talk of Cuban freedom before
and during the war had led many Americans-and Cubans-to expect
genuine independence. The Platt Amendment was now seen, not only
by the radical and labor press, but by newspapers and groups all
over the United States, as a betrayal. A mass meeting of the American
Anti-Imperialist League at Faneuil Hall in Boston denounced it,
ex-governor George Boutwell saying: "In disregard of our
pledge of freedom and sovereignty to Cuba we are imposing on that
island conditions of colonial vassalage."
In Havana, a torchlight procession of fifteen thousand Cubans
marched on the Constitutional Convention, urging them to reject
the Amendment. But General Leonard Wood, head of the occupation
forces, assured McKinley: "The people of Cuba lend themselves
readily to all sorts of demonstrations and parades, and little
significance should be attached to them."
A committee was delegated by the Constitutional Convention
to reply to the United States' insistence that the Platt Amendment
be included in the Constitution. The committee report, Penencia
a la Convencion, was written by a black delegate from Santiago.
"For the United States to reserve to itself the power
to determine when this independence was threatened, and when,
therefore, it should intervene to preserve it, is equivalent to
handing over the keys to our house so that they can enter it at
any time, whenever the desire seizes them, day or night, whether
with good or evil design."
"The only Cuban governments that would live would be
those which count on the support and benevolence of the United
States, and the clearest result of this situation would be that
we would only have feeble and miserable governments . . . condemned
to live more attentive to obtaining the blessings of the United
States than to serving and defending the interests of Cuba...."
The report termed the request for coaling or naval stations
"a mutilation of the fatherland." It concluded:
"A people occupied militarily is being told that before
consulting their own government, before being free in their own
territory, they should grant the military occupants who came as
friends and allies, rights and powers which would annul the sovereignty
of these very people. That is the situation created for us by
the method which the United States has just adopted. It could
not be more obnoxious and inadmissible."
With this report, the Convention overwhelmingly rejected the
Within the next three months, however, the pressure from the
United States, the military occupation, the refusal to allow the
Cubans to set up their own government until they acquiesced, had
its effect; the Convention, after several refusals, adopted the
Platt Amendment. General Leonard Wood wrote in 1901 to Theodore
Roosevelt: "There is, of course, little or no independence
left Cuba under the Platt Amendment."
Cuba was thus brought into the American sphere ...
History of the United States