Subject Citizens and the Tragedy of Loyalty
Th ree years aft er winning in de pen dence from Spanish rule, Cubans gathered
in Havana in 1901 for the island’s fi rst Constitutional Convention. Th e U.S.
occupation government had sanctioned restricted elections for convention
delegates one year earlier, and military authorities now anxiously monitored
the proceedings.1 As debates revolved around universal male suff rage, Wil-
liam George Emmanuel— the Antiguan activist who had led the Unión Afri-
cana in Havana during the 1890s— wrote a fl urry of letters to President William
McKinley and other U.S. offi cials that spring. He protested the possible en-
franchisement of Cubans of color on the grounds that “the African natives,
against their will, [ were] being forced into Cuban Nationality” and that they
received more rights during slavery, as subjects of the Spanish crown, than
they were likely to receive in an in de pen dent Cuba.2 Emmanuel was less con-
cerned with the damaging eff ects of universal male citizenship rights on
Cuban politics than on Cuban men of color themselves. To the north, ongoing
African American disfranchisement loomed as a chilling example of what
postwar national reconciliation could eff ect.3 In the end, Emmanuel’s pleas
went unanswered, and the Cuban Constitutional Convention extended vot-
ing rights, with a few restrictions, to all Cuban men. With the inauguration
of the Cuban Republic the following year, a system of representative govern-
ment conferred rights of citizenship without making race a criterion, some-
thing that the architects of Spanish rule had inched toward in the fi nal
de cades of colonial rule but had never allowed to fl ourish.
On the fi rst day of 1899, U.S. soldiers stood watch as Adolfo Jiménez Cas-
tellanos, Spain’s last captain general, was escorted from his palace to the Bay
of Havana, where he set sail to complete repatriation eff orts on the island and
then to return to Spain (see fi gure C.1). As General John Ruller Brooke as-
sumed control of the island, it was clear that Cubans would not enjoy the
unencumbered sovereignty they had earned in the course of a grueling war.
So why would Emmanuel, a steadfast advocate for Cubans of color, try to
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