About this Site:

This site is part of the Henry Nash Smith Project developed by the American Studies Program at the University of Virginia. It was inspired by chapter XIII of Henry Nash Smith's Virgin Land.

The "South by Southwest"-Site intends to provide insights into the Southern expansionist idea of a Carribean slave empire. In 1854 American diplomats composed the Ostend Manifesto, which expressed the wish of the United States to purchase Cuba from Spain, threatening to take the island by force if the offer was not accepted.

The Ostend Manifesto reflects the aspirations of the Southern States at that time to acquire political influence in the Caribbean area.

On this site you can view the actual text of the Ostend-Manifesto, as well as furthermore learn about the circumstances of the document, view contemporary maps of the region, and read quotes by American diplomats who were involved in the process.


Introduction to Chapter XIII of Virgin Land:

In Chapter XIII ("The South and the Myth of the Garden") of Virgin Land Henry Nash Smith describes the development of relations between the South and the West of the United States. The South had been a starting point for various ventures to explore and settle the West, and the western waters were seen as a geopolitical reality linking the West to New Orleans.
However, steam transportation through the Great Lakes and the east-west trunk line railways tied the West more firmly to New York rather than to the Gulf of Mexico.

Smith explains that this was a conflict over not merely commercial opportunities, but also the development of social models and ideologies. In particular, the role of slavery in the states during the time of expansion up to the annexation of Texas, and its implications in regard to relations between the South and the North and West respectivly.

When the alliance between South and West eroded, the South felt forced to look for other regions of expansion in order to maintain growth and to enhance political influence. The Caribbean area and its adjacent countries on the South American continent seemed to be the suitable ground for this venture.

At the end of the chapter, Smith mentions the idea of a Carribean slave empire, expressed in the Ostend Manifesto, as the only example of a Southern expansionist dream. In this document, Southern diplomats threatened forcible conquest of Cuba if Spain would refuse to sell the island to the United States.


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This site was established by Kendra Hamilton, and is maintained by Stefan Pollklas.
Last modified: Dec. 19, 1997