Resolutions from Louisiana

John Slidell

John Slidell (D-LA)

Original Stealing Cuba: parts 123456

Senator John Slidell, the Louisiana Democrat, stood up in the Senate on May 1, 1854, and proposed giving Franklin Pierce the power to suspend the Neutrality Acts. That would, naturally, remove the final legal encumbrance to John A. Quitman’s filibustering expedition. He could go steal Cuba right then and there, free and clear of any concern about a second trial for breaking those laws. Slidell’s resolution came on the tail end of the Black Warrior affair, but to Slidell a single ship taken and then returned counted at most as a symptom of the larger problem. Slidell rose to oppose the Marqués de la Pezuela’s Africanization program on Cuba.

As a successful politician from the Lower South’s filibustering hotbed, Slidell had to look favorable on filibusters anyway and might have proposed suspending the Neutrality Acts regardless, but in this case he also acted under what he understood as instructions from his state. He just didn’t quite have them yet. Slidell had news that the Louisiana legislature had unanimously approved joint resolutions on Cuba back on March 16, but he did not then have a reliable copy of them.

I have since been in the daily expectation of receiving official notice of them; but from neglect to forward a copy, or from some irregularity of the mail, they have not yet reached the delegation in an authentic form. I have a copy which I believe to be correct, but do not feel at liberty to present it formally, as I am advised that it would not be in conformity with the usage of the Senate to do so.

Marqués de la Pezuela, Captain-General of Cuba

Marqués de la Pezuela, Captain-General of Cuba

A copy did come and the Congressional Globe (33rd Congress, page 1021) includes this remarkable document in full. Slidell, as a man elected by the Louisiana legislature and responsible to it, had every reason to take the resolutions as orders:

Be it resolved, That we view with alarm the recent and avowed change that has taken place in the policy of the Spanish Government in Cuba, the manifest tendency and result of which must be the abolition of slavery and the destruction of the white race in that country.

Resolved, That we believe such an event will have a most pernicious effect upon the same institution and interests in these States; that it will destroy the social and political existence of that island; that it will materially affect the natural law of American progress by precluding forever the admission of Cuba into this Union; that it will create in our immediate vicinity, and almost within sight of our own shores, a government administered by an inferior and barbarous African race, under the immediate influence of European interests and ideas, and adverse to the pure American influence which should predominate on this continent and its adjacent islands; that it will menace the security of the outlets of all our southern and southwestern rivers and harbors of the Gulf of Mexico, of the American Mediterranean, of the new great highways of commerce through those seas and across the Isthmus of America; and that it will materially endanger the intercourse between our Atlantic and Pacific States.

Resolved, That we approve of the sentiments expressed in the inaugural message of General Pierce, relative to the extension of our limits and the prevention of the establishment of prejudicial influences around our southern border, and of those laid down by his Excellency Governor Hébert in his late annual message.

Resolved, That we deem the time has arrived when the American people and the Federal Government should take a great and active interest in the proceedings of Spain and other European Powers in Cuba, in order to prevent the establishment of measures and institutions prejudicial to our own safety and welfare.

The resolutions speak for themselves.

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