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Senator Orville H. Platt of Connecticut, photograph by George Prince, ca. 1902

Senator Orville H. Platt of Connecticut was a powerful advocate for U.S. expansionism during his career in Congress from 1879 to 1905. He helped win congressional approval to annex Hawaii and occupy the Philippines. The rider he attached to a 1901 Army appropriation bill, known as the Platt Amendment, defined U.S.-Cuban relations for more than 30 years.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

I firmly believe that when any territory outside the present limits of the United States becomes necessary for our defense or essential for our commercial development, we ought to lose no time in acquiring it if it can be done without injustice to other nations and other people.

Senator Orville Platt of Connecticut, Speech to the U.S. Senate, January 24, 1894

Senator Orville H. Platt of Connecticut, photograph by George Prince, ca. 1902

Cuba and the Platt Amendment

Congress declared war against Spain in 1898 to support Cuba’s independence, vowing to respect Cuban sovereignty. After the war, however, the United States maintained military control of Cuba. Secretary of War Elihu Root set conditions for ending the occupation, and Senator Orville Platt of Connecticut introduced them in Congress as a legislative amendment. Among other stipulations, the Platt Amendment permitted U.S. intervention in Cuban affairs. Under pressure from the United States, Cuba incorporated the Platt Amendment into its new constitution until the terms were repealed in 1934.