August 23, 2005

Why Can’t We Be Friends? Part 2: The Havana Club

“The movement in Cuba for annexation to the United States began as early as 1810,” writes historian Philip Foner in, “A History of Cuba and its Relations with the United States, Volume II, 1845-1895.”

A few wealthy Cuban slave-owners were “swayed by their personal experience of life in the United States, where they were infected by the ‘go-ahead spirit’ and ‘get-rich doctrines’ of American merchants and politicians.” United in their fear that slavery would end in Cuba, they formed the Havana Club, whose goal was annexation to the U.S. The Havana Club included many American land and slave owners; all expecting great commercial and industrial advantages once Cuba became a U.S. state.

The idea of joining the Union, however, failed to capture any kind of popular support and died in Cuba, but not before it spread among Southern U.S. slave owners and expansionists. Their main goal was to preserve slavery in the U.S. through the incorporation of Cuba into the Union.

After signing the Treaty of Gadalupe that ended the war with Mexico in 1848, the U.S. acquired about 918,000 square miles of territory, just before the California gold rush. This acquisition, combined with the convenient moral absolution of Manifest Destiny, only increased the appetite for Cuba in the slave-owner-dominated and land-hungry Polk administration.

The Southern U.S. states also feared that an independent Cuba would abolish slavery. On the other hand, as Foner points out, “adding one or two slave states to the Union would strengthen the political power of the South in the government.”

Once again, Cuba became the card that a new empire wanted to play; Free, Cuba was a threat to the slave owning south. Absorbed, it could become an important ally.



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