Teller Amendment: Limiting American Goals in Cuba

Teller Amendment: Limiting American Goals in Cuba

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In order to reassure anti-imperialist elements on the eve of declaring war on Spain, Congress adopted a measure pledging that the United States had no designs on remaining in Cuba following conclusion of the conflict.Senator Henry M. Teller of Colorado drafted an amendment to the resolution of war, which stated that the United States "hereby disclaims any disposition of intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control over said island except for pacification thereof, and asserts its determination, when that is accomplished, to leave the government and control of the island to its people.”The United States did not, as pledged, annex Cuba. Occupation continued until 1902 when the Platt Amendment was inserted into the Cuban constitution in return for the withdrawal of American forces.In 1903, the U.S. American rights were reconfirmed in a formal treaty in 1934, an agreement that cannot be rescinded without mutual consent.

Historical Background

Prior to the Spanish-American War, Spain had control over Cuba and was profiting greatly from its natural resources. There are two major theories as to why the U.S. entered war: promoting democracy abroad and gaining control of the island’s resources.

First, the War of 1898 was popular with Americans because the government promoted it as a liberation war. Cubans and the well-known liberation force Cuba Libre began revolting against Spanish rule much earlier, in the 1880s. Additionally, the U.S. was already involved in conflicts with Spain throughout the Pacific in the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico, citing the European nation as an imperialist and undemocratic power. Therefore, some historians and politicians theorize that the war intended to promote democracy and extend the reach of the Free World, and the subsequent Platt Amendment was intended to provide a pathway to Cuban sovereignty.

However, keeping Cuba in the U.S. sphere of influence had great economic and political benefits. In the 1980s, the U.S. was suffering one of the greatest economic depressions in its history. The island had tons of cheap tropical agricultural products that Europeans and Americans were willing to pay high prices for. Further, Cuba is only 100 miles from the southernmost tip of Florida, so keeping a friendly regime protected the nation’s national security. Using this perspective, other historians believe that the war, and by extension the Platt Amendment, was always about increasing American influence, not Cuban liberation.

At the end of the war, Cuba wanted independence and self-government, whereas the United States wanted Cuba to be a protectorate, a region with a mix of local autonomy and foreign oversight. The initial compromise came in the form of the Teller Amendment. This stated that no country can permanently hold Cuba and a free and independent government will take over. This amendment was not popular in the U.S. because it seemingly barred the nation’s annexation of the island. Though President William McKinley signed the amendment, the administration still sought annexation. The Platt Amendment, signed in February 1901, followed the Teller Amendment to give the United States more oversight of Cuba.

Teller and Platt Amendments

In April 1898 Senator Henry M. Teller (Colorado) proposed an amendment to the U.S. declaration of war against Spain which proclaimed that the United States would not establish permanent control over Cuba. It stated that the United States "hereby disclaims any disposition of intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control over said island except for pacification thereof, and asserts its determination, when that is accomplished, to leave the government and control of the island to its people." The Senate passed the amendment on April 19. True to the letter of the Teller Amendment, after Spanish troops left the island in 1898, the United States occupied Cuba until 1902.

The Teller Amendment was succeeded by the Platt Amendment introduced by Senator Orville Platt (R-Connecticut) in February 1901. It allowed the United States "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. " The Platt Amendment was finally abrogated on May 29, 1934.

Understanding the Teller Amendment

The Teller Amendment was created by a man named Henry Teller. The Amendment was one of several regarding the United States’ control and jurisdiction over Cuba after the Spanish-American war.

Often, this particular Amendment can be found referenced with or in conjunction with the Platt Amendments. These Amendments detailed the exact power that the United States has regarding Cuba.

The Teller Amendment came about as a joint resolution to one of President McKinley’s war messages. It was a response to what President McKinley had to say about the status of Cuba and the United States.

The Teller Amendment states that the United States can only get involved with Cuba in regards to smoothing over conflict and helping them with stability. Once their duty of preservation is over, the United States must relinquish control and allow Cuba to be governed by its people.

The reason that this particular Amendment was created was to ensure that issues between Spain and the United States could be alleviated. There were high tensions regarding the acquisition of Cuba by Spain and the United States’ control over it. The Teller Amendment simply ensured that the United States could not permanently acquire Cuba.

The Amendment was passed through the Senate and the House of Representatives in April of 1898. Both Houses responded with an affirmation by the majority. After that, it was sent off to Spain for consideration. The war did not come to an end until that December when the Treaty of Paris was signed.

7 US Involvement In The Soviet War In Afghanistan

&ldquoYou are creating a Frankenstein.&rdquo That was the message Pakistan&rsquos then&ndashPrime Minister Benazir Bhutto gave to President George H.W. Bush to warn him that the US was creating a dangerous monster by funding, arming, and training Islamic rebels known as the Mujahideen in their fight against Soviet rule in Afghanistan.

She was right. Over the course of a decade, from 1979 to 1989, the CIA secretly backed the Mujahideen in what was called Operation Cyclone. Much of the money was sent covertly through Pakistan&rsquos Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) which, after receiving it, distributed it to certain rebel groups&mdashsome of which were Arab zealots who harbored intense anti-American sentiments.

The US favored these Islamic militants who had traveled to Afghanistan from Egypt, Pakistan, Syria, and elsewhere, as opposed to the Afghan natives, because they were, by the CIA&rsquos account, the only group that was trusted to remain purely anti-communist and unfettered from the factionalism that prevailed in the country. By some accounts, one of the CIA&rsquos partners in its fight against the Soviets was Osama bin Laden who had joined the rebel cause from Saudi Arabia.

Critics of Operation Cyclone argue that it was these efforts to eradicate communism in Afghanistan that laid the foundation for what the country would become by the 1990s: a place riddled with terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban. &ldquo[The US] saw the chance to score a victory, in this case by bleeding the Soviet Union in Afghanistan,&rdquo writes journalist Stephen Kinzer in his 2006 book Overthrow. &ldquoEager for that victory, they never weighed the potential long-term consequences of their action.&rdquo

But to this day, US officials deny the link between America&rsquos involvement in the Soviet War in Afghanistan and the upsurge of Islamic extremism and terrorism. In 1998, Senator Orrin Hatch, a member of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee who was involved in the decisions that led to aiding the rebels in Afghanistan, said that even in hindsight those decisions were &ldquoworth it&rdquo in the interest of America&rsquos Cold War efforts. But when it&rsquos another country accused of adding fuel to terrorists&rsquo fire, the US will hear no excuses. After bin Laden was killed in 2011, for example, attacks were immediately launched toward Pakistan for hosting (even if unknowingly) the most hated man on Earth.

Establishment of Diplomatic Relations and the American Legation in Cuba, 1902 .

Diplomatic relations and the U.S. Legation in Havana were established on May 27, 1902, when U.S. Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary Herbert Goldsmith Squiers presented his credentials to the Government of the Republic of Cuba.

Elevation of U.S. Legation to Embassy Status, 1923 .

Following an act of Congress, the U.S. Legation in Havana, Cuba, was raised to Embassy status on February 10, 1923, when General Enoch H. Crowder was appointed Ambassador.

Diplomatic Relations Severed, 1961 .

The United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba on January 3, 1961, citing unwarranted action by the Government of Cuba that placed crippling limitations on the ability of the United States Mission to carry on its normal diplomatic and consular functions.

Establishment of U.S. Interests Section in Havana, 1977 .

A U.S. Interests Section was established in Havana under the protection of the Swiss Government on September 1, 1977.

Resumption of Diplomatic Relations and Reestablishment of the American Embassy in Cuba, 2015 .

The United States and Cuba resumed diplomatic relations on July 20, 2015, when both countries elevated their respective Interests Sections to Embassy status. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to the date for these actions in an exchange of letters dated June 30, 2015.


As the war closed, Spanish and American diplomats made arrangements for a peace conference in Paris. They met in October 1898, with the Spanish government committed to regaining control of the Philippines, which they felt were unjustly taken in a war that was solely about Cuban independence. While the Teller Amendment ensured freedom for Cuba, President McKinley was reluctant to relinquish the strategically useful prize of the Philippines. He certainly did not want to give the islands back to Spain, nor did he want another European power to step in to seize them. Neither the Spanish nor the Americans considered giving the islands their independence, since, with the pervasive racism and cultural stereotyping of the day, they believed the Filipino people were not capable of governing themselves. William Howard Taft, the first American governor-general to oversee the administration of the new U.S. possession, accurately captured American sentiments with his frequent reference to Filipinos as “our little brown brothers.”

As the peace negotiations unfolded, Spain agreed to recognize Cuba’s independence, as well as recognize American control of Puerto Rico and Guam. McKinley insisted that the United States maintain control over the Philippines as an annexation, in return for a $20 million payment to Spain. Although Spain was reluctant, they were in no position militarily to deny the American demand. The two sides finalized the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898. With it came the international recognition that there was a new American empire that included the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam. The American press quickly glorified the nation’s new reach, as expressed in the cartoon below, depicting the glory of the American eagle reaching from the Philippines to the Caribbean.

This cartoon from the Philadelphia Press, showed the reach of the new American empire, from Puerto Rico to the Philippines.

Domestically, the country was neither unified in their support of the treaty nor in the idea of the United States building an empire at all. Many prominent Americans, including Jane Addams, former President Grover Cleveland, Andrew Carnegie, Mark Twain, and Samuel Gompers, felt strongly that the country should not be pursuing an empire, and, in 1898, they formed the Anti-Imperialist League to oppose this expansionism. The reasons for their opposition were varied: Some felt that empire building went against the principles of democracy and freedom upon which the country was founded, some worried about competition from foreign workers, and some held the xenophobic viewpoint that the assimilation of other races would hurt the country. Regardless of their reasons, the group, taken together, presented a formidable challenge. As foreign treaties require a two-thirds majority in the U.S. Senate to pass, the Anti-Imperialist League’s pressure led them to a clear split, with the possibility of defeat of the treaty seeming imminent. Less than a week before the scheduled vote, however, news of a Filipino uprising against American forces reached the United States. Undecided senators were convinced of the need to maintain an American presence in the region and preempt the intervention of another European power, and the Senate formally ratified the treaty on February 6, 1899.

The newly formed American empire was not immediately secure, as Filipino rebels, led by Emilio Aguinaldo, fought back against American forces stationed there. The Filipinos’ war for independence lasted three years, with over four thousand American and twenty thousand Filipino combatant deaths the civilian death toll is estimated as high as 250,000. Finally, in 1901, President McKinley appointed William Howard Taft as the civil governor of the Philippines in an effort to disengage the American military from direct confrontations with the Filipino people. Under Taft’s leadership, Americans built a new transportation infrastructure, hospitals, and schools, hoping to win over the local population. The rebels quickly lost influence, and Aguinaldo was captured by American forces and forced to swear allegiance to the United States. The Taft Commission, as it became known, continued to introduce reforms to modernize and improve daily life for the country despite pockets of resistance that continued to fight through the spring of 1902. Much of the commission’s rule centered on legislative reforms to local government structure and national agencies, with the commission offering appointments to resistance leaders in exchange for their support. The Philippines continued under American rule until they became self-governing in 1946.

Philippine president Emilio Aguinaldo was captured after three years of fighting with U.S. troops. He is seen here boarding the USS Vicksburg after taking an oath of loyalty to the United States in 1901.

After the conclusion of the Spanish-American War and the successful passage of the peace treaty with Spain, the United States continued to acquire other territories. Seeking an expanded international presence, as well as control of maritime routes and naval stations, the United States grew to include Hawaii, which was granted territorial status in 1900, and Alaska, which, although purchased from Russia decades earlier, only became a recognized territory in 1912. In both cases, their status as territories granted U.S. citizenship to their residents. The Foraker Act of 1900 established Puerto Rico as an American territory with its own civil government. It was not until 1917 that Puerto Ricans were granted American citizenship. Guam and Samoa, which had been taken as part of the war, remained under the control of the U.S. Navy. Cuba, which after the war was technically a free country, adopted a constitution based on the U.S. Constitution. While the Teller Amendment had prohibited the United States from annexing the country, a subsequent amendment, the Platt Amendment, secured the right of the United States to interfere in Cuban affairs if threats to a stable government emerged. The Platt Amendment also guaranteed the United States its own naval and coaling station on the island’s southern Guantanamo Bay and prohibited Cuba from making treaties with other countries that might eventually threaten their independence. While Cuba remained an independent nation on paper, in all practicality the United States governed Cuba’s foreign policy and economic agreements.

A 'more perfect' union - Alt America with heavier imperialist tendencies

None of Polk's crazy goals? Making the Yucatan part of the USA and taking Mexico down to Tampico?

Didn’t Polk also want more territory north of Washington state? I believe he coined the phrase 54 40 or fight

all land claims based on real life occupied territory (excluding mexico and honshu for alt history reasons, and Vietnam cuz we lost that one boys).

Why would they want Yucatan? No oil there

Ooh you should also have the US maintain American occupied Germany and make it a European vassal state to outlying territory! It would be neat to see how it turns out

At least Sicily. They petitioned the State Department to become a territory.

Welcome to the united states of world.

oh damn! I forgot to include US occupied Germany/Italy!!

Frankly, it's kind of amazing we didn't claim Japan as an American territory after WW2.

alt history where after spanish-american war US just decided to keep Cuba, this mentality continued on first half of 20th century with a tighter hold on Honduras (not giving it independence in 1933 due to raised tensions in Europe), a U.S. lead Coupe that caused S.Panama (Panama City and S.coast of new panama canal) to become incorporated while N.Panama retained independence backed by Central American nations/Mexico. Additionally occupied S.Japan, Guam, and Philippines were kept incorporated after 2nd world war. 'liberated' S.Korea in 1956 was retained by US as forces built up against N.Korean border. In 2002 after the Death of Saddam Hussain, US occupation of Iraq shifted to US claim on the territory. Other national armys were driven and Iraq was incorporated.

4 'regions' of the United States of America are:

United states of America (USA): the 50 states of original USA

2) Pacific American States (PAS): Kyushu, Korea, Philippines, Guam, Marshall Islands, and American Samoa are the Pacific American States

3) Caribbean American States (CAS) : Honduras, Cuba, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and S.Panama constitute the Caribbean American States

4) Iraqi American States (IAS): Iraq is divided into 4 administrative states

alt history where after spanish-american war US just decided to keep Cuba

So, this just requires the defeat of the Teller Amendment, which prevented the United States from annexing Cuba at the start of the war. American foreign policy long had a plan for Cuban annexation, but I believe it fell out of favor after the Civil War because the biggest drivers of it were slave states that needed land to the south to expand slavery into (also, those times William Walker conquered Nicaragua and got executed).

Your Caribbean empire is too small. Besides Honduras Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic were all occupied by the United States during the timeframe you’ve given, and all had a history of being included in schemes for annexation into the U.S. Walker’s plan for Nicaragua was annexation, and Nicaragua was also to be the site of the canal before Panama. The D.R. had actually attempted to be annexed to the U.S., but it was killed in committee by Sen. Sumner, who feared that the U.S. would use that annexation to then annex Haiti.

Also, it’s likely with a fiercer emphasis on annexation in TTL (given that Iraq is annexed), the U.S. would’ve also annexed something between 1956 and 2002 Grenada seems like the obvious conflict where the United States could seize more land.

I also think you need some sort justification for the partition of the U.S. into four regions (and what that really would accomplish). Cuban annexation would’ve almost assuredly involved admission as a regular state. And if you have a Pacific American States, it makes no sense to put Hawaii and Alaska in with the mainland U.S. states instead of the Pacific ones, considering they were admitted well after the Point of Departure.

The other aspect I think you need to address is why the rest of the world would stay the same? Given that the United States seems to be comfortable with annexing Korea in 1956 and Iraq in 2002, what is the world order like ? Why was Iran not partitioned during WW2? Why did the Allies not annex Germany after WW1 or WW2? National sovereignty seems to count for little with the dominant world power, and it seems odd that it has remained respected for others.


2 David Roediger, Seizing Freedom: Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All (New York: Verso, 2014): 129 David W. Blight, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018): 196. Standard biographies of these two women include Lois W. Banner, Elizabeth Cady Stanton: A Radical for Women’s Rights (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1980) and Margaret Hope Bacon, Valiant Friend: The Life of Lucretia Mott (New York: Walker Publishing, 1980).

3 “The Declaration of Sentiments,” Seneca Falls Convention, 1848. For more on the convention at Seneca Falls, its participants, and the larger movement it spawned, see Ellen DuBois, Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women’s Movement in the U.S., 1848–1869 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1978).

4 Laura E. Free, Suffrage Reconstructed: Gender, Race, and Voting Rights in the Civil War Era (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015): 43 History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 1 (1848–1861), ed. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage (New York: Fowler and Wells, 1881): 70–73, For an overview of the period from the Civil War through 1920, see Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experience, 2nd ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1994): especially 326–363.

5 Sylvia D. Hoffert, When Hens Crow: The Women’s Rights Movement in Antebellum America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995): 75–90 Free, Suffrage Reconstructed: 43.

6 On the origins and passage of the Reconstruction Amendments in general, see David E. Kyvig, Explicit and Authentic Acts: Amending the U.S. Constitution, 1776–1995 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1996), and Richard Bernstein with Jerome Agel, Amending America: If We Love the Constitution So Much, Why Do We Keep Trying to Change It? (New York: Times Books, 1993).

7 Free, Suffrage Reconstructed: 105.

8 Free, Suffrage Reconstructed: 115 Blight, Frederick Douglass: 488.

9 Roediger, Seizing Freedom: 153, 156.

10 See, for example, DuBois, Feminism and Suffrage: 21–52 Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experience, 5th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011): 327.

11 For more on Lucy Stone, see Andrea Moore Kerr, Lucy Stone: Speaking Out for Equality (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992).

12 Woloch, Women and the American Experience: 329–336.

13 Woloch, Women and the American Experience: 334–335 Roediger, Seizing Freedom: 334–335.

14 Mary Church Terrell, The Progress of the Colored Women (Washington, DC: Smith Brothers, Printers, 1898),

15 See, for instance, Beverly Beeton, Women Vote in the West: The Woman Suffrage Movement 1869–1896 (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1986) David E. Kyvig, Explicit and Authentic Acts: 227 and the Women of the West Museum, “‘This shall be the land for women’: The Struggle for Western Women’s Suffrage, 1860–1920,” /index.html.

16 For more on Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party, see Inez Haynes Gillmore, Up Hill with Banners Flying (Penobscott, ME: Traversity Press, 1964).

17 For a biography of Catt, see Robert Booth Fowler, Carrie Catt: Feminist Politician (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1986) Kyvig, Explicit and Authentic Acts: 233.

The Teller Amendment

The following resolutions were passed without opposition by both houses of Congress on April 20 1898. The fourth is the one referred to as The Teller Amendment, and is named after its author, Henry M. Teller, Senator of Colorado.

Whereas the abhorrent conditions which have existed for more than three years in the Island of Cuba, so near our own borders, have shocked the moral sense of the people of the United States, have been a disgrace to Christian civilization, culminating, as they have, in the destruction of a United States battle ship, with two hundred and sixty-six of its officers and crew, while on a friendly visit in the harbor of Havana, and can not longer be endured, as has been set forth by the President of the United States in his message to Congress of April eleventh, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, upon which the action of Congress was invited: Therefore,

Resolved, First. That the people of the Island of Cuba are, of right ought to be, free and independent.

Second. That it is the duty of the United States to demand, and the Government of the United States does hereby demand, that the Government of Spain at once relinquish its authority and government in the Island of Cuba and withdraw its land and naval forces from Cuba and Cuban waters.

Third. That the President of the United States be, and he hereby is, directed and empowered to use the entire land and naval forces of the United States, and to call into the actual service of the United States the militia of the several States, to such extent as may be necessary to carry these resolutions into effect.

Fourth. That the United States hereby disclaims any disposition or intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control over said Island except for the pacification thereof, and asserts its determination, when that is accomplished, to leave the government and control of the Island to its people.

Watch the video: Πολεμικά αεροσκάφη ΗΠΑ κυκλωσαν τη Κούβα..#usa#cuba#russia# (May 2022).