1898: Teller Amendment – U.S. Justification to Enter Cuba's War of Independence From Spain

The Teller Amendment, proposed by Senator Henry M. Teller of Colorado, is an amendment to the United States declaration of war against Spain that claims the conditions in Cuba are a “disgrace to Christian civilization” and can no longer be endured by the United States.

In his amendment, Senator Teller calls for the freedom and independence of the Cuban people and says that it is the duty of the United States to demand independence on behalf of Cuba from Spain. The amendment allows the United States the right to use military or naval force to help Cuba gain its independence but clearly states that the United States, once independence had been gained, would not attempt to “exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control” over the island of Cuba and would “leave the government and control of the Island to its people.”

Passed by both the House and the Senate on April 19, 1898 and signed by President McKinley on April 20, the Teller Amendment immediately takes effect and the United States issues a warning to Spain.

The Spanish-American War lasts through August of 1898 and formally ends with the Treaty of Paris, an agreement in which the United States purchases a number of islands, including Cuba, from Spain.

Cuba has gained its freedom! However, U.S. military occupation of Cuba continues to persist.

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