Early nineteenth century US expansionists welcomed the prospect that Cuba would one day be absorbed into the Union. In 1809, outgoing president Thomas Jefferson described Cuba to his successor James Madison as the limit of his ambitions to the South for the ‘empire for liberty’ he hoped to create.1 While annexation by the United States had strategic and commercial advantages, Cuba would represent a threat if annexed by a rival. In Spanish control, however, it did not. Thus, in 1823, Jefferson advised President James Monroe that what Washington should oppose with regard to Spanish New World territories was ‘the forcible interposition of any other power . . . and most especially, their transfer to any power by conquest, cession, or acquisition in any other way’.2 In the same year, Monroe’s Secretary of State John Quincy Adams privately expressed fears over a possible transfer, writing that ‘Cuba, almost in sight of our shores, from a multitude of considerations has become an object of transcendent importance to the political and commercial interests of our Union’. In the next half century, ‘it is scarcely possible to resist the conviction that the annexation of Cuba . . . will be indispensable to the continuance of the Union itself’. There were

laws of political as well as physical gravitation; and if an apple severed by the tempest from its native tree cannot choose but fall to the ground, Cuba, forcibly disjoined from its own unnatural connection with Spain, and incapable of self-support, can gravitate only towards the North American Union, which by the same law cannot cast her off from its bosom.