The Platt Amendment: Definition & Summary

The Platt Amendment: Definition & Summary
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  • 0:00 Overview of the Platt…
  • 0:43 The Spanish-American War
  • 2:38 Consequences of the…
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jason McCollom
In this lesson, you'll examine the Spanish-American War and the Platt Amendment of 1901, which made Cuba a protectorate of the United States. You'll also learn about the historical consequences of the amendment and its impact on U.S. - Cuban relations.

Overview of the Platt Amendment

In December 2014, President Obama announced his decision to resume diplomatic relations with Cuba, restoring a relationship that came to an end after the Cuban Revolution of the 1950s. The historical roots of the Cuban Revolution can be found in the Platt Amendment of 1901, which essentially gave the United States permission to intervene in Cuban affairs. The Platt Amendment was followed by the Cuban-American Treaty, which allowed the U.S. to lease land in Guantanamo Bay for a naval station. After the Cuban Revolution, when Fidel Castro took control of Cuba and signed a trade agreement with the Soviet Union, the U.S. severed its diplomatic ties with the first Communist government in our hemisphere.

The Spanish-American War

The Spanish-American War of 1898 signaled the beginning of the United States' involvement in Cuban affairs. After our own western frontier officially closed in 1893, government officials, religious leaders, and businessmen looked favorably upon U.S. expansion beyond its continental borders. Business leaders sought external markets in which to sell mass-produced industrial goods. Religious voices in America called for the civilizing and Christianizing of 'lesser' peoples abroad.

Government leaders and many ordinary Americans believed that the U.S. had a global mission to spread its way of life and uplift those outside its borders. The Washington Post declared, 'The taste of empire is in the mouth of the people,' and Americans were eager to see 'the Republic renascent, taking her place with the armed nations.'

A war with Spain provided the opportunity for the American government to put these beliefs into practice. By the 1890s, the Spanish colony of Cuba revolted against colonial rule. In addition to the reasons listed above, many Americans felt that Cubans should not be under the control of the Spanish any longer. When a U.S. warship accidentally exploded in a Cuban harbor, Americans blamed Spain and Congress declared war.

The U.S. easily defeated the ill-equipped Spanish forces in just 114 days and took control of former Spanish colonies in the Caribbean, including Cuba. Though the Teller Amendment of 1898 proclaimed that the U.S. would not seek to annex and control Cuba after the war, government and military leaders doubted Cubans could manage their own affairs in 'America's backyard.' General William Shafter, for instance, proclaimed Cubans are 'no more fit for self-government than gun-powder is for hell.' Cuba declared its independence on January 1, 1899, but U.S. soldiers remained in the country for the next two years.

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