relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.
So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith.
Here let us stop.”
President Jefferson, in his Inaugural Address in 1801, warned the country against “entangling alliances.”
This expression, now become proverbial, was unquestionably used by Mr. Jefferson in reference to the alliance with France of 1778--an alliance, at the time, of incalculable benefit to the United States; but which, in less than twenty years, came near involving us in the wars of the French Revolution, and laid the foundation of heavy claims upon Congress, not extinguished to the present day. It is a significant coincidence, that the particular provision of the alliance which occasioned these evils was that under which France called upon us to aid her in defending her West Indian possessions against England.
Nothing less than the unbounded influence of Washington rescued the Union from the perils of that crisis, and preserved our neutrality.
But the President has a graver objection to entering into the proposed convention.
He has no wish to disguise the feeling that the compact, although equal in its terms, would be very unequal in substance.
France and England, by entering into it, would disable themselves from obtaining possession of an island remote from their seats of government, belonging to another European power, whose natural right to possess it must always be as good as their own — a distant island in another hemisphere, and one which, by no ordinary or peaceful course of things, could ever belong to either of them. * * * The United States, on the other hand, would, by the proposed convention, disable themselves from making an acquisition which might take place without any disturbance of existing foreign relations, and in the natural order of things.
The island of Cuba lies at our doors.
It commands the approach to the Gulf of Mexico, which washes the shores of five of our States.
It bars the entrance of that great river which drains half the North American continent, and with its tributaries forms the largest system of internal water communication in the world.
It keeps watch at the doorway of our intercourse with California by the Isthmus route.
If an island like Cuba, belonging to the Spanish crown, guarded the entrance of the Thames and the Seine, and the United States should propose a convention like this to France and England, those powers would assuredly feel that the disability assumed by ourselves was far less serious than that which we asked them to assume.
, having thus, in effect, apprised the civilized world that the acquisition of Cuba is
essential to our independence, and that we shall proceed in our own time to appropriate it, turns to give our slaveholders a meaning hint that they must not be too eager in the pursuit, or they will overreach themselves.
The opinions of American statesmen, at different times, and under varying circumstances, have differed as to the desirableness of the acquisition of Cuba by the United States.
Territorially and commercially, it would, in our hands, be an extremely valuable possession.
Under certain contingencies, it might be almost essential to our safety.
Still, for domestic reasons, on which, in a communication of this kind, it might not be proper to dwell, the President thinks that the incorporation of the island into the Union at the present time, although effected with the consent of Spain, would be a hazardous measure; and he would consider its acquisition by force, except in a just war with Spain (should an event so greatly to be deprecated take place), as a disgrace to the civilization of the age.
In another place, he gives them another intimation of the solicitude with which our Government watches and wards against any subversion of Slavery in Cuba
Even now, the President cannot doubt that both France and England would prefer any change in the condition of Cuba to that which is most to be apprehended, viz.: an internal convulsion which should renew the horrors and the fate of San Domingo
, it seems, is not merely a slaveholding, but a slave-trading dependency, which affords still another reason why Spain
should lose and we gain it. Says Mr. Everett
I will intimate a final objection to the proposed convention.
M. de Turgot and Lord Malmesbury put forward, as the reason for entering into such a compact, “the attacks which have lately been made on the island of Cuba by lawless bands of adventurers from the United States, with the avowed design of taking possession of that ”