|King Carlos III of Spain|
Hardly had the United States been firmly established than did potential war with Spain become a talked about possibility. The first major Spanish-American crisis came in 1785, sparked by a dispute over where the exact border was between the U.S. state of Georgia and the Spanish colony of La Florida. The Yazoo Strip was the disputed ground and the Spanish worked to incite the native American Indians of the region to attack the United States. The Spanish also later banned all American trade with the Spanish West Indies and then cut off all commerce to the western territories by closing the mouth of the Mississippi River to American business. This tended to hurt people on both sides of the border and finally the Spanish government sent over an agent named Don Diego de Gardoqui to negotiate a settlement. He offered to allow U.S. trade with the West Indies in exchange for which the U.S. would not make use of the Mississippi River for 25 years. Obviously, this would be very good for the seafaring merchants of New England but ruinous for those on what was then the western frontier of America.
The U.S. Secretary of Foreign Affairs, John Jay, was heavily influenced by the eastern merchants and agreed to the Spanish offer. However, it had to be ratified by the Congress (this was the Confederation period) to be a legally valid treaty and the proposal received only 7 of the 9 votes required to pass. Jay was castigated by westerners and the move was so unpopular that Kentucky’s provincial Governor James Wilkinson began conspiring with the Spanish to take Kentucky out of the realm of the United States so they could come to their own agreement. This potential revolt in Kentucky was stopped only when Spanish authorities agreed to reopen the Mississippi to American shipping, though with a hefty duty imposed on them.
The next potential conflict with Spain came in 1819 over American claims that bandits, escaped slaves and renegade Indians were attacking U.S. territory from Spanish Florida. General Andrew Jackson was sent in on a punitive expedition against the largely Seminole Indians in Florida, seizing several outposts and infuriating the Spanish. However, this was so soon after the Peninsular War, in addition to ongoing colonial troubles of their own in Mexico and elsewhere, that the Spanish government could do little to respond. America’s top diplomat, John Quincy Adams told the Spanish that they would be held responsible for the failure to keep order in their own province or Spain could simply shed itself of the problem by turning Florida over to the United States. The Spanish decided this would be the more cost-effective solution after the U.S. agreed to pay $5 million toward the claims of U.S. citizens against the Kingdom of Spain. The Spanish also agreed to relinquish their claim to the Oregon territory and the United States agreed to stop making trouble for Spain in Texas where American land pirates had been teaming up with Mexican revolutionaries to try to break the province away from the Spanish Crown. This agreement was the Adams-Onís Treaty.
|King Fernando VII|
This caused some alarm in both Washington and London. In 1823 it seemed that, once again, war with Spain and (another) war with France was on the horizon. George Channing, the British Foreign Secretary, called for a show of Anglo solidarity in response and suggested a joint British-American warning for France to mind its own business. John Quincy Adams, America’s top diplomat, sympathized but did not want to be seen as playing second fiddle to the British. Instead, the U.S. adopted the Monroe Doctrine, drawn up by a collaboration of Adams, Jefferson and Madison, which declared the Americas “off limits” to any further European colonial meddling or else there would be trouble with the United States. The British Empire, whose American colonies were secure, backed the Monroe Doctrine and any chance of France aiding Spain in restoring the Spanish empire in Latin America instantly vanished. At the time, the United States could do little to actually enforce the Monroe Doctrine but Britain, with the powerful Royal Navy, certainly could and so with British support the Monroe Doctrine was unassailable.
|Queen Isabella II|
Unlike the previous fiascos, this time there were Americans who had been killed but not in battle and Americans being held prisoner. What had started as a private enterprise to spark a rebellion in Cuba, soon turned into an international incident that threatened to escalate to full blown war. Violent anti-Spanish riots broke out in New Orleans (a popular organizing and embarking point for such adventures) where the office of a Spanish newspaper was destroyed and the Spanish consulate was ransacked. Across the country in numerous American cities, mass meetings were held denouncing the Spanish and demanding action from the U.S. government. The Spanish government, understandably frustrated with the continued attacks on Cuba, seriously considered declaring war on the United States. Such a disaster was averted only thanks to the quick diplomatic efforts of President Millard Fillmore’s administration. Secretary of State Daniel Webster offered Her Catholic Majesty his deepest regrets on behalf of the United States for the incident and agreed to pay Spain $25,000 for the property destroyed in New Orleans. The Spanish, in return, released the American prisoners. Once again, war had been averted.
Soule, a French exile who became a naturalized U.S. citizen, zealously set to work to do as he was told. In fact, he was altogether more zealous than diplomatic. Pierce had wanted a formal protest for the sake of public pride, an indemnity and then to forget the whole matter. However, Soule delivered a note that delivered the basic message but had the tone of an ultimatum, with a demand for payment of $300,000 with the Spanish government given forty-eight hours to reply. Such a note could have easily led to war. Fortunately, Secretary of State William Marcy was able to intervene and moderate the American demands so that the incident could be handled in a more diplomatic way. Yet, this was not the end of it as the incident highlighted the danger that Cuba posed to Spanish-American relations. Soule, therefore, met in Ostend, Belgium with the American minister to Britain, James Buchanan, and the American minister to France, James Y. Mason to discuss this situation. The three came to an agreement and issued the Ostend Manifesto which called for the United States to offer to buy Cuba from Spain for $120,000,000. If Spain refused the offer, the U.S. would consider itself justified in invading the island and taking it by force.
|William L. Marcy|
So it was that peace prevailed between Spain and America, however, it was mostly due to the Monroe Doctrine and the most serious European involvement in the Americas came when the United States was engulfed in its own Civil War and thus unable to do much about anything else. Spanish forces participated in the intervention, along with the French and British against the Juarez government, resulting in an extended French conflict on the side of Mexican conservatives against Juarez and the crowning of the Archduke Maximilian of Austria as Emperor of Mexico in 1864. The United States protested but could do little about it so long as the Confederacy remained alive. In 1861 the failing Dominican Republic came under new management and actually requested re-admission into the remnant of the Spanish empire, a request which Queen Isabella II graciously granted. However, that reunion lasted only until the final defeat of the Confederates in 1865 and the month following the surrender of General Robert E. Lee, the Queen of Spain annulled the annexation, being in no position to risk a confrontation with the United States.
|The Battle of San Juan Hill|
|General Joaquin Vara del Rey|