Sir, is there to be no limit to our benevolence for these People? There is a point, beyond which, even parental bounty and natural affection cease to impose an obligation. That point has been attained with the States of Spanish America.1
Of course there was sympathy for the Spanish American rebels in the United States. How could it have been otherwise? The rebels were fighting Spain, long an object of hatred and contempt. This alone justified goodwill, as did the hope for increased trade and the prospect of a significant loss of European influence in the hemisphere.2 But how deep did this sympathy run?
In the Congressional debates of the period there was much more enthusiasm for the cause of the Greeks than that of the Spanish Americans.3 Similarly, the press referred frequently to private collections of funds (‘liberal donations’) for the Greek fighters – not for the Spanish Americans. This is not surprising. The US public could feel a bond with the Greeks – ‘it will become even quite fashionable to assist the descendants of those who were the bulwark of light and knowledge in old times, in rescuing themselves from the dominion of a barbarian race'.4 Unlike the Greeks, however, the Spanish Americans were of dubious whiteness. Unlike the Greeks, they hailed not from a race of giants, but – when they were white – from degraded Spanish stock.5 Some US citizens felt for them the kinship of a common struggle against European colonial rule; others agreed with John Quincy Adams: ‘So far as they were contending for independence, I wished well to their cause; but I had seen and yet see no prospect that they would establish free or liberal institutions of government.