The Ostend Manifesto was a document written in 1854 that described the rationale for the United States to purchase Cuba from Spain while implying that the U.S. should declare war if Spain refused. Cuba's annexation had long been a goal of U.S. expansionists, particularly as the U.S. set its sights southward following the admission of California to the Union. However, diplomatically, the country had been content to see the island remain in Spanish hands so long as it did not pass to a stronger power such as Britain or France. A product of the debates over slavery in the United States, Manifest Destiny, and the Monroe Doctrine, the Ostend Manifesto proposed a shift in foreign policy, justifying the use of force to seize Cuba in the name of national security.
During the administration of U.S. President Franklin Pierce, Southern expansionists called for Cuba's acquisition as a slave state, but the galvanizing effect of the Kansas–Nebraska Act left the administration unsure of how to proceed. At the suggestion of Secretary of State William L. Marcy, Minister to Spain Pierre Soulé met with Minister to Great Britain James Buchanan and Minister to France John Y. Mason at Ostend, Belgium to discuss the matter. The resulting dispatch, drafted at Aix-la-Chapelle and sent in October 1854, outlined the reasons a U.S. purchase of Cuba would be beneficial to all parties involved and declared that the U.S. would be "justified in wresting" the island from Spanish hands if Spain refused to sell. To Marcy's chagrin, the flamboyant Soulé had made no secret of the meetings, causing unwanted publicity in both Europe and the U.S. In the increasingly volatile political climate of 1854, the administration feared the political repercussions of making the dispatch's contents known, but pressure from journalists and politicians alike continued to mount.
Four months after its drafting, the dispatch was published in full at the behest of the House of Representatives. Dubbed the "Ostend Manifesto", it was immediately denounced in both the Northern states and Europe. It became a rallying cry for Northerners in the events that would later be termed Bleeding Kansas, and the political fallout was a significant setback for the Pierce Administration, effectively ending any possibility of Cuba's annexation until after the American Civil War. While the Ostend Manifesto was never acted upon, American interest in the region would next surface in the 1870s, ultimately leading to Cuba's independence.
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... decried what Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune labeled "The Manifesto of the Brigands" as unconstitutional ... Pierce had been highly sympathetic to the Southern cause, and the Ostend Manifesto contributed to the splintering of the Democratic Party ... The backlash from the Ostend Manifesto also caused Pierce to abandon further expansionist plans, and has been described as part of a series of "gratuitous ...