Amending the Platt Amendment

CUBA has long occupied a place of peculiar, if unrecognized, importance in our foreign relations. Probably the affairs of no other country have so continuously concerned our Department of State. In the first phase of this relationship, when Cuba was a Spanish colony, the island played an influential part in the promulgation of the Monroe Doctrine, in the development of our foreign trade, and in our territorial expansion, which was affected both by slavery and by the theory of "manifest destiny."

The second phase began with the sinking of the Maine and concerned a people suddenly made free, after four centuries of subjection to the "twin evil spirits of autocracy and exploitation." Our statesmen of the Spanish-American War period, fearful of the political inexperience of a country only 100 miles from our shores, and looking forward to a time when our capital would become actively engaged in Cuba, conceived a political relationship unique between two sovereign states. This found form in an amendment to an army appropriation bill, introduced in Congress by Senator Platt.

The Platt Amendment was based upon a letter from Secretary of War Root to General Wood, dated February 9, 1901, which gave a masterly presentation of the McKinley Administration's thesis regarding the proper relationship between the United States and Cuba. In defending the Amendment, Senator Platt prophesied: "I believe it will settle what may be called the Cuban question satisfactorily to the people of Cuba and satisfactorily to our own people." Its most important provisions imposed an obligation on Cuba in regard to her finances and recognized the right of the United States to intervene in Cuba under certain conditions. But the Amendment was greeted with bitter opposition by the Cuban Constitutional Assembly, particularly with respect to Article III, which states:

That the Government of Cuba consents that the United States may exercise 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, and for discharging the obligations with respect to Cuba imposed by the Treaty of Paris on the United States, now to be assumed and undertaken by the Government of Cuba.

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