On December 5, 1899, President William McKinley vowed that the United States would forge a special relationship with the island of Cuba, still recovering from its devastating war for independence from Spain. “The new Cuba yet to arise from the ashes of the past must needs be bound to us by ties of singular intimacy,” he said in a brief passage of his annual address to Congress. “Whether these ties shall be organic or conventional, the destinies of Cuba are in some rightful form and manner irrevocably linked to our own, but how and how far is for the future to determine in the ripeness of events.”1

The “form and manner” of U.S.-Cuban relations would be codified in two measures: the Platt Amendment of 1901 (later embodied in a permanent treaty between the two nations) and, after McKinley’s assassination, the Reciprocity Treaty...

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