VIII. THE UNITED STATES AND CUBA
IN his message to Congress, on December 5, 1898, President McKinley declared that "the new Cuba yet to arise from the ashes of the past must needs be bound to us by ties of singular intimacy and strength if its enduring welfare is to be assured."
Probably to many of the people of the United States, the story of our relations with Cuba had its beginning with the Spanish-American war. That is quite like a notion that the history of an apple begins with its separation from the tree on which it grew. The general history of the island is reviewed in other chapters in this volume. The story of our active relations with Cuba and its affairs runs back for more than a hundred years, at least to the days of President Thomas Jefferson who, in 1808, wrote thus to Albert Gallatin: "I shall sincerely lament Cuba's falling into any other hands but those of its present owners." Several other references to the island appear at about that time. Two great movements were then going on. Europe was in the throes of the Napoleonic disturbance, and for more than twenty-five years both France and England schemed, sometimes openly and sometimes secretly, for the possession of Cuba. The other movement was the revolution in Spain's colonies in the Western Hemisphere, a movement that cost Spain all of its possessions in that area, with the exception of Cuba and Porto Rico. The influence of the revolutionary activities naturally extended to Cuba, but it was not until after 1820 that matters became dangerously critical. From that time until the present, the question of Cuba's political fate, and the question of our relations with the island, form an interesting and highly important chapter in the history of the United States as well as in the history of Cuba.
In his book on the war with Spain, Henry Cabot Lodge makes a statement that may seem curious to some and amazing to others. It is, however, the opinion of a competent and thoroughly trained student of history. He writes thus:
"The expulsion of Spain from the Antilles is merely the last and final step of the inexorable movement in which the United States has been engaged for nearly a century. By influence and by example, or more directly, by arms and by the pressure of ever-advancing settlements, the United States drove Spain from all her continental possessions in the Western Hemisphere, until nothing was left to the successors of Charles and Philip but Cuba and Porto Rico. How did it happen that this great movement stopped when it came to the ocean's edge? The movement against Spain was at once national and organic, while the pause on the sea-coast was artificial and in contravention of the laws of political evolution in the Americas. The conditions in Cuba and Porto Rico did not differ from those which had gone down in ruin wherever the flag of Spain waved on the mainland. The Cubans desired freedom, and Bolivar would fain have gone to their aid. Mexico and Colombia, in 1825, planned to invade the island, and at that time invasion was sure to be successful. What power stayed the oncoming tide which had swept over a continent? Not Cuban loyalty, for the expression 'Faithful Cuba' was a lie from the beginning. The power which prevented the liberation of Cuba was the United States, and more than seventy years later this republic has had to fight a war because at the appointed time she set herself against her own teachings, and brought to a halt the movement she had herself started to free the New World from the oppression of the Old. The United States held back Mexico and Colombia and Bolivar, used her influence at home and abroad to that end, and, in the opinion of contemporary mankind, succeeded, according to her desires, in keeping Cuba under the dominion of Spain."
For a number of years, Cuba's destiny was a subject of the gravest concern in Washington. Four solutions presented themselves; first, the acquisition of Cuba by the United States; second, its retention by Spain; third, its transfer to some power other than Spain; fourth, its political independence. That the issue was decided by the United States is shown by all the history of the time. While other factors had their influence in the determination, it is entirely clear that the issue turned on the question of slavery. In his book on Cuba and International Relations, Mr. Callahan summarizes his review of the official proceedings by saying that "the South did not want to see Cuba independent without slavery, while the North did not want to annex it with slavery." In his work on the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Mr. Henry Wilson declares that "thus clearly and unequivocally did this Republic step forth the champion of slavery, and boldly insist that these islands should remain under the hateful despotism of Spain, rather than gain their independence by means that should inure to the detriment of its cherished system. Indeed, it (the United States) would fight to fasten more securely the double bondage on Cuba and the slave."