|Date(s):||August 3, 1854|
|Tag(s):||Manifest Destiny, Politics, Slavery|
|Course:||“Civil War and Reconstruction,” Juniata College|
During the years leading up to the Civil War, the North and South both used the annexation of territories as a strategic device to gain political power. In 1854, with both sides looking to add land, one journalist predicted that the Russian territories in North America, the Sandwich Islands (Hawaiian Islands), and Cuba would all be U.S. territory within one year. The anonymous author of the article in the Daily Morning Post also hinted that the territories would all then become states. He reasoned that the Whig Party would respond to the purchase of Cuba by the Democrats by purchasing Russian territories and the Sandwich Islands. Sympathizing with the North, the Pittsburgh-based author wrote "if Cuba comes in as a slave state, the Sandwich Islands and Russian America will enter as free state and over-balance it." Although cast into the context of free soil and slave state balance, the annexation of these territories was not only about that battle. The author also recognized the importance of commerce and Manifest Destiny in the annexation, realizing that the Sandwich Islands could serve as a perfect halfway point for ships travelling from the West Coast to China, Japan, and the Indies. He added that "adventurous Yankees" could control the natives and turn the islands into a thriving community.
The South had its eye on the annexation of Cuba as early as 1848, when President James Polk unsuccessfully offered Spain $100 million for the island. If Spain had accepted this deal, historian James McPherson believes it was still unlikely to happen because the North's Whig Party had control of the House and would not have appropriated the funds. Knowing it would come in as a slave state, the Whigs would have opposed this move. In 1854, the Democratic Party again tried to purchase Cuba in a proposal known as the Ostend Manifesto. The journalist referred to this proposal in the article when he said "events now occurring in Spain give promise of such a result (acquisition of Spain)." This proposal turned out to be unsuccessful because, according to historian High Thomas, anti-slavery newspapers condemned the proposals once it became public knowledge.
Today, it seems that the journalist may have been wishfully thinking when he predicted the country would be able to purchase the Russian territory and the Sandwich Islands. He thought Russia would be eager to sell the land instead of having it taken by Great Britain, because that were combating one another in the Crimean War at the time. His prediction did come to fruition five years after he penned the article when Russia offered the land to the United States. He was only wrong about the time table. There is also little evidence that reveals the U.S. made an effort to acquire the Sandwich Islands in the 1850s.
Despite the inaccuracy of the writers' time table, his predictions demonstrate the desire for more land beyond the continent. By 1854, the North and South both had plans to gain territory for political power and commerce.