The Spanish-American War

Analyze the causes of U.S participation in the intervention of Cuba in 1898

Jack Tomlinson


IB History of the Americas HL

The U.S intervention in Cuba during its revolts against Spain was one of the United States’ earlier interventions. At the time of the war with Spain the United States was only a few decades old. Around that period the U.S interventions were increasing in number as the U.S had intervened with the Philippines, Cuba and several others. “This was a curious conflict. Although it added materially to the colonial possessions of the United States, the war of 1898 was not originally a territory-grabbing venture. Although it yielded results which pleased businessmen, it was not at first desired by business leaders. And though victory over Spain would help William McKinley win re-election, the President long delayed asking Congress for a declaration of hostilities. (Bethell, 435)” The United States’ decision to intervene in the Cuban Revolts with Spain (thus leading to war with Spain in 1898) was due to several reasons such as the U.S citizens support for Cuban independence and the arguments made by U.S President McKinley to Congress.

One of the major causes as to why U.S decided to go to war with Spain was the U.S publics’ jingoism. “After five centuries of Spanish rule the residents of the ever faithful isle were clamoring for independence. It took Spain a full decade to put down one revolt (the Ten Years’ War of 1868-78) (Curti, 322). Due to the eagerness of the Cubans to seek independence the American public would come to sympathize with their cause. “With few exceptions, citizens of the United States sympathized with the rebels. Spain was a traditional enemy and was to many Americans the symbol of monarchy and absolutism. Being weak, the Cuban insurrectionists won sympathy as underdogs (Curti, 322). Hence Americans felt sympathetic for the Cubans due to their insistency on acquiring independence, as shown by the Ten Years War, and due to the American view on Spain as a dictator over the Cubans. Additionally, “the Cubans were fighting for goals which most Americans approved: independence, republicanism, liberty, and self-government (Curti, 322)”. Other factors made special groups of Americans enthusiastic about Cuba’s fight for freedom. “American religious leaders felt that missionary activities could be expanded if Cuba broke away from Spain. Businessmen guessed that Cuba libre would be a better customer than a Cuba controlled from Europe. The cause attracted humanitarians impressed by propaganda which the Cubans circulated in the United States. Some politicians saw political opportunity in the question; and a number of expansionists felt that the intervention in Cuba would make the United States expansion-conscious” (Curti, 322). These groups of people were all brought together by sensational journalists who increased circulations by backing the popular Cuban cause. “William Randolph Hurst of the New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World were two of many leaders in this field. Mixing appeals for liberty with stories about Spanish atrocities, these newspapermen turned American sympathy for Cuba into a crusade to save the Cubans. By 1897 aroused citizens were contributing money, volunteering for service in the Cuban forces, and petitioning Congress and the President to take action against Spain” (Curtis, 323)

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Another one of the major causes that led the U.S government to issue a declaration of war against Spain was President McKinley’s speech with Congress. “McKinley was at heart a cautious and peaceful man. As a religious man and humanitarian, the President was impressed by the anti-Spanish views of religious leaders. As a professional politician, he was aware that the people wanted war. This was notably the case after the DeLome letter and the destruction of the Maine. The letter was a foolish private communication from the Spanish minister in Washington, denouncing McKinley” (Curtis, 333) When published, it increased anti-Spanish ...

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