The Teller Amendment

The Teller Amendment was a Congressional response to the protests of American anti-imperialists, who believed that America should not become involved in the sort of international land grabs that the European powers had been been practicing for centuries. In that age of neo-imperialism around the turn of the century, America was torn between the goals of meeting economic competition head on, and maintaining America's traditional principles established in the Declaration and the Constitution—the right of all peoples to determine their own political fate. While the Teller amendment promised that the United States would not annex Cuba, it did not prevent us from meddling in the internal affairs of Cuba after the war was over. Nor did it prevent the United States from taking over Puerto Rico and the Philippine Islands, even though they were “paid for” with cash. In annexing the Philippines, the argument was put forth that if the United States did not assume control of the Islands, some other power it would step into the breach. Whether the Philippines, who were finally granted independence in 1946 (the process having been delayed by World War II), would have been better off under their own leadership, the domination of another foreign power, or the United States, continues to be debated.

See also the Platform of the Anti-Imperialist League.

Joint resolution for the recognition of the independence of the people of Cuba, demanding that the Government of Spain relinquish its authority and government in the Island of Cuba, and to withdraw its land and naval forces from Cuba and Cuban waters, and directing the President of the United States to use the land and naval forces of the United States to carry these resolutions into effect.

Whereas the abhorrent conditions which have existed for more than three years in the Island of Cuba, so near our own borders, have shocked the moral sense of the people of the United States, have been a disgrace to Christian civilization, culminating, as they have, in the destruction of a United States battle ship, with two hundred and sixty-six of its officers and crew, while on a friendly visit in the harbor of Havana, and can not longer be endured, as has been set forth by the President of the United States in his message to Congress of April eleventh, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, upon which the action of Congress was invited: Therefore,

Resolved, First. That the people of the Island of Cuba are, of right ought to be, free and independent.

Second. That it is the duty of the United States to demand, and the Government of the United States does hereby demand, that the Government of Spain at once relinquish its authority and government in the Island of Cuba and withdraw its land and naval forces from Cuba and Cuban waters.

Third. That the President of the United States be, and he hereby is, directed and empowered to use the entire land and naval forces of the United States, and to call into the actual service of the United States the militia of the several States, to such extent as may be necessary to carry these resolutions into effect.

Fourth. That the United States hereby disclaims any disposition or intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control over said Island except for the pacification thereof, and asserts its determination, when that is accomplished, to leave the government and control of the Island to its people.