Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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FILIBUSTERS (INU. S. HISTORY), a name borrowed from the West Indian freebooters of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the "buccaneers," or "filibusters." In its modern sense it was applied to associations originating in the United States for the ostensible purpose of freeing Cuba and other West Indian or Central American districts from European control or from military dictatorship, but with the ultimate object of annexing them to the United States. Such unauthorized private interventions in the affairs of a foreign state have been common in the history of other nations, and have frequently been followed by the public force of the state, when the private intervention had truly represented public sentiment: instances may be found in abundance in the dealings of Great Britain with Spain, the South American republics, Greece, and Italy, of France with the revolted British colonies in North America, and of Russia with Turkey. The peculiar stigma upon the American filibustering expeditions was, that they were undertaken not for the public welfare, or from generous motives, but for the extension of the area of slavery.


—The acquisition of Texas (see ANNEXATIONS, III.) was really a great and most successful filibustering expedition. Its success stimulated similar efforts in other directions. In December, 1850, Lopez, a Cuban, with a number of associates, including Gov. Quitman, of Mississippi, was arrested for a violation of the neutrality law of 1818; but nothing could be proved against them, and they were released. Early in August, 1851, with 500 men, Lopez sailed from New Orleans and landed in Cuba; but the Spanish authorities routed his forces, executed the leaders Aug. 16, and imprisoned the rest. It was evident that Spain was too strongly entrenched in Cuba to be disturbed by private effort, and subsequent movements in its direction were mainly confined to governmental action. (SeeOSTEND MANIFESTO.) Nevertheless private preparations did not wholly cease, though they never again came strongly to the surface; but President Pierce probably ended them by his proclamation of May 31, 1854, warning all good citizens against taking any part in them.


—Mexico and Cuba being too strong, and other West Indian islands of too small value to make filibustering profitable, there remained only the states of Central America. May 4, 1835, Gen. William Walker (the "gray-eyed man of destiny"), with a Californian company, sailed on a filibustering expedition to Central America. In the latter part of August he effected a landing at San Juan del Sur. on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua. He defeated the government troops captured Granada, the capital, in October, and tried by court martial and condemned to death his principal opponents. He was elected president, but withdrew in favor of Rivas, a native Nicaraguan: and the new government was recognized by the American minister. It proceeded to re-establish slavery and invite immigration from the southern states, but Walker quarreled with his native associates, the other Central American states combined against him, and in April, 1857, he surrendered to an American naval officer, and was conveyed to the United States. He immediately organized another expedition at New Orleans, landed at Punta Arenas, Nov. 25, and was seized and brought to New York by Com. Paulding, of the United States navy. He was released and fitted out a new expedition from New Orleans, Oct. 7, 1858, but was stopped by the federal authorities. Again released, he organized his fourth and last expedition and lauded at Truxillo, in Honduras, June 27, 1860. The president of Honduras, with an overwhelming force, routed and captured him, Sept. 3, tried him by court martial and shot him. His death, and still more the civil war in the United States which began soon afterward, ended filibustering.


—See 5 Stryker's American Register. 179; 14 Whig Review, 353; 2 Wilson's Rise and Fall of the Slave Power. 608; 1 Greeley's American Conflict, 270, 276; 3 Spencer's United States. 516; President's Message, Jan. 7, 1858; Atlantic Monthly, 1859-60 (Art. "With Walker in Nicaragua")


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