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Ostend Manifesto

Southern slave owners had a special interest in Spanish-held Cuba. Slavery existed on the island, but a recent rebellion in Haiti spurred some Spanish officials to consider emancipation. The Southerners did not want freed slaves so close to their shores and others thought Manifest Destiny should be extended to Cuba. In 1854 three American diplomats, Pierre Soulé (minister to Spain), James Buchanan (minister to Britain), and John Y. Mason (minister to France) met in Ostend, Belgium. Acting under instructions from Secretary of State William Marcy, the three were to investigate the possibility of acquiring Cuba from Spain. They went further. Representing the views of many Southern Democrats, the diplomats issued a warning to Spain that it must sell Cuba to the United States or risk having it taken by force. The price of $120 million was proposed. In justifying the price, the authors wrote:

Cuba, in its palmiest days, never yielded her exchequer after deducting the expenses of its government a clear annual income of more than a million and a half of dollars. These expenses have increased to such a degree as to leave a deficit chargeable on the treasury of Spain to the amount of six hundred thousand dollars. In a pecuniary point of view, therefore, the island is an incumbrance, instead of a source of profit, to the mother country. Under no probable circumstances can Cuba ever yield to Spain one per cent on the large amount which the United States are willing to pay for its acquisition.
This statement had not been authorized by the Franklin Pierce administration and was immediately repudiated. Reaction, both at home and abroad, was extremely negative. Marcy later repudiated the report and Soulé resigned. Buchanan, on the other hand, reaped later political benefits in the form of Southern support for his presidential candidacy in 1856. Whether is was the complication of slavery, language, or some other factor, it was clear that the powerful idea of Manifest Destiny was primarily directed west rather than south.