The Ostend Manifesto

The Ostend Manifesto was a secret document written by U.S. diplomats planning the annexation of Cuba from Spain. America had been eying Cuba for many administrations; some believed that it was only right that America should own the land, seeing as it was only ninety miles off the shore from Florida. The diplomats threatened Spain that if they refused to sell Cuba for $120 million, then the U.S. would take it by force.

October 18, 1854.

The Ostend Manifesto was written by U.S. diplomats Pierre Soulé, James Mason, and James Buchanon in Ostend, Belgium. Pierre Soulé was the mastermind behind the manifesto.
Pierre Soulé
Pierre Soulé
James Mason
James Mason
James Buchanon
James Buchanon

The manifesto was written in Ostend, Belgium, but the land that was wished to be acquired was Cuba from Spain.

Located ninety miles off the coast of Florida, Spain’s Cuba was of special importance to Southern Democrat economical and political interests because its acquisition would greatly strengthen their current slave-based economy. The South could extend their slavery to new lands. Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams expressed great interest in Cuba. Adams at one point during his time as Secretary of State noted that it had "become an object of transcendent importance to the commercial and political interests of our Union". Its entry into the Union was one of several scenarios during this period by which the balance of power between the North and the South could be shifted in one direction or the other. This is why three U.S. diplomats were sent to Ostend, Belgium, to devise a plan to obtain Cuba. They were either to buy it from Spain or take it using brute force.

Northern Perspective:
The Ostend Manifesto caused outrage among Northerners. They saw the aggressively worded document and felt it was just another Southern attempt to extend slavery. Because the Northerners were recently stirred up with the Fugitive Slave Law, they deemed the manifesto unconstitutional. It was only an attempt for the South to further spread slavery and the North would not allow it.

Southern Perspective: The South would have been overjoyed if Cuba had become another slave state. It would have given them a more fair representation in congress and further spread their slave philosophy. Soulé was an advocate for Southern rights and had them in mind when he was trying to acquire Cuba. President Pierce was slammed by the North after the manifesto was leaked to the public, he was seen as a Southern Democrat trying to spread the cancer that was slavery.

Rating: We would give the Ostend Manifesto a 3 out of 5. If this document had never been written, the Civil War probably still would have occurred. However, this document proved the South's need for the expantion of slavery and the North just could not let this happen. The Ostend Manifesto further strained relations between the North and the South and brought the nation one step closer to the Civil War.

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Works Cited
  • Nussbaum, Gregory. "Ostend Manifesto." 2008. <>
  • Opatrný, Josef. “Ostend Manifesto: The United States and Mexico at War.” Macmillan Reference USA, 1998.
  • Webster, Sidney. “Mr. Marcy, the Cuban Question and the Ostend Manifesto.” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 8(1) (Mar. 1893) pp. 1–32.