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Ostend Manifesto

Franklin Pierce

Ostend Manifesto: Franklin Pierce was the 14th American President who served in office from March 4, 1853 to March 4, 1857. One of the important events during his presidency was the Ostend Manifesto.

Definition of Manifesto
Definition of Manifesto: A manifesto is a public declaration of intentions, opinions and motives drawn up by a political party or government.

Definition of the Ostend Manifesto
Definition: The Ostend Manifesto was a document drawn up in October 1854, at Ostend, Belgium, by proslavery American ministers James Buchanan, John Mason and Pierre Soulé.

The Ostend Manifesto planned for the annexation of Cuba from Spain but the "Gunboat Diplomacy" of Pierre Soulé against Spain led to great controversy between the northern and southern states.

Background History of the Ostend Manifesto for kids: Franklin Pierce and Expansionism
The Ostend Manifesto was a result of the expansionist policy that was strongly favored by President Pierce and the belief in the
Manifest Destiny of the United States. The president was a pro-south Democrat, who believed that additional new territories could be added to expand the lands in the southern slave states. The south believed that their agrarian society that relied on agriculture for it's main source of support and sustenance, and made viable by the use of slave labor, was secure despite the growing protests against slavery in the north. (Refer to the Abolitionist Movement and the Compromise of 1850).

Background History of the Ostend Manifesto: Latin American Territories
The prime targets for expansionism in the south were the Latin American territories. The Mexico and ends up with a third of Mexico's territory. The
Texas Annexation and the Mexican-American War had ended in 1848 with a third of Mexico's territory via the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in which Mexico was forced to sell Alta California and New Mexico to the United States. William Walker was making plans to takeover Nicaragua. Another target was to obtain Cuba from Spain.

Ostend Manifesto: Cuba
The acquisition of island of Spanish owned Cuba, only 90 miles off the shore from Florida, had long been a goal of expansionists in the United States. The southerners saw the acquisition of Cuba as a chance to extend slavery in the south if Cuba became an American possession.

Ostend Manifesto for kids: The Black Warrior Affair
The Black Warrior incident inflamed diplomatic relationships between the United States and Spain. The Black Warrior was an American merchant steamer that operated from New York City and  often stopped at Havana, Cuba. On February 28 1854, the Black Warrior merchant ship was boarded and seized by Spanish authorities at Havana who arrested the crew and imposed a $6,000 fine on the grounds that the ship had violated customs regulations. The Black Warrior increased tensions between the United States and Spain. Spain responded quickly by releasing the crew and the cargo. But the incident caused outrage in Congress and President Pierce was put under considerable pressure to apply retribution for the incident.

Ostend Manifesto for kids: Secret Document
The Ostend Manifesto was a secret document was drawn up by U.S. diplomats in October 1854 planning the annexation of Cuba from Spain.

Ostend Manifesto for kids: The Diplomats
The Ostend Manifesto was drawn up, under the orders of President Pierce, by James Buchanan, American minister to Great Britain, John  Mason, the minister to France and Pierre Soulé, the minister to Spain. The Secretary of State, William L. Marcy instructed Pierre Soulé to try to buy Cuba from Spain for $120 million. The representatives, all proslavery diplomats met in Ostend in Belgium, Europe and drafted the secret document.

Ostend Manifesto: Pierre Soulé
The Ostend Manifesto made the case for the annexation of Cuba. However Pierre Soule used "Gunboat Diplomacy" and made aggressive  threats to Spain that if they refused to sell Cuba for $120 million, then the United States would take it by force. The
diplomats were not authorized to make the threat and antagonized relations between America and Spain. The threats resulted in immediate rejection in England, France, and Spain.

Ostend Manifesto Controversy
William Marcy, the United States Secretary of State, was forced to unconditionally repudiate (disclaim) the Ostend Manifesto. News of the secret Ostend Manifesto leaked out and sparked a great controversy in the northern states. The Abolitionists and the Northern politicians expressed furious outrage, it was clear, given the precedent of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, that if Cuba was taken by the United States it would become a slave territory. The Ostend Manifesto diplomats were well-known advocates of slavery and the antislavery groups denounced the Ostend Manifesto as an attempt to extend slavery whereas the proslavery Southerners naturally advocated the Ostend manifesto.

Significance of the Ostend Manifesto
The significance of the Ostend Manifesto was that:

  • The presidency of Franklin Pierce was ruined following the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the issue of the Ostend Manifesto leading to his defeat in the next election

  • The Ostend Manifesto made the North more suspicious of the South's desire to expand slavery, pushing the North and South further apart and was another milestone along the road to the American Civil war (1861-1865)

US American History
1850-1865: Secession Era

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