What were the causes of the
Spanish American War ?
Picture of Spanish colonial cruelty in Cuba from The War in Cuba
by Gonzalo deQuesada in 1896, such books aroused American
opinion against Spain .
There were many factors which brought about the Spanish American War. The relations between Spain and the United States had been much disturbed by the state of affairs in Cuba, Since the 1870s Cubans fighting for Cuban independence and Spanish forces and by 1898 the country was desolate, by some estimates 400 to 500,000 people had died as a result of the fighting . The Cubans had fought three wars for Independence: the Ten Years' War ( 1868-1878 ) , the Little War
( 1879-1880 ) and the War of '95, which led to the Spanish American War .
Fighting in the Ten Years War
( Guerra de los Diez Años Spanish )
From 1895 to 1898, Cuban insurgents fought to free their homeland from Spanish rule.
Though often overshadowed by the "Splendid Little War" of the Americans in 1898,
according to John Tone, the longer Spanish-Cuban conflict was in fact more
remarkable, foreshadowing the wars of decolonization in the twentieth century.
Práxedes Mateo Sagasta
( 1825 - 1903 )
The assassination of Prime Minister Antonio Cánovas
del Castillo by Italian anarchist Michele Angiolillo on
August 8, 1897 . Castillo's repressive policies earned
him many enemies .
In February 1895 reports of uprisings in Cuba were reported in America . Spain responded by sending 8,000 soldiers to restore order. Spain was reported to be stirred by ' war fever' and the liberal Spanish government of Prime Minister Práxedes Mateo Sagasta ( 1825 - 1903 ) was replaced due to its inability to stop the rebellion. The 'war hawk' premier , Antonio Cánovas del Castillo ( 1828 - 1897 ) took power and sent Spain's most famous general to deal with the rebellion, Martinez Campos ( 1831 - 1900 ) .
Liberate Cuba from Spain
There were filibuster (from the Spanish filibustero meaning freebooter, the freewheeling actions of the filibusters led to the name being applied figuratively to the political act of filibustering in the U.S. Senate . Attempts by adventurers to land on Cuba, hoping to spark a revolution and take over the country . There were plans to add Cuba to America going back to the days of Thomas Jefferson . One of the first was by a former Spanish general, Narcisco Lopez (1797–1851), led expeditions into Cuba from New Orleans prior to the American Civil War .
Narcisco Lopez with his flag
López realized the advantages for the South of a free Cuba. He and other Southerners hoped that Cuba would become a strong partner in the slavery and perhaps, like Texas, join the Union as a slave state. He moved his headquarters to New Orleans and tried to gain popular support by recruiting the influential men of the South to lead his expedition. He solicited the military help of Senator Jefferson Davis . Davis turned him down, but he recommended Major Robert E. Lee. Lee thought seriously about López's offer, but eventually also decided not to become involved.
Cuban flag designed by Lopez
Lopez enlisted about six-hundred filibusters in his expedition, and successfully reached Cuba in May 1850. His troops arrived in and took the town of Cárdenas, carrying a flag that López had designed and which would become the flag of modern Cuba. Nevertheless, the local support that he had hoped for failed to materialize when the fighting started. Much of the local population joined the Spanish against López, and he hastily retreated to Key West, where he disbanded the expedition within minutes of landing in order to avoid prosecution under the U.S. Neutrality Law of 1818.
In August 1851, López once again departed for Cuba with several hundred men. When he arrived, he took one half of his expedition to march inland, while the other half, commanded by Colonel William Crittenden, remained on the northern coast to protect supplies. As in his first attempt, the local support that López had counted upon did not answer his appeals. Outnumbered and surrounded by Spanish forces, López and many men were captured. Crittenden's forces shared the same fate. The Spanish executed most of the prisoners, sending others to work in mining labor camps. Those executed included many Americans, Colonel Crittenden, and Lopez himself.
The execution of López and his soldiers caused outrage in both the northern and southern United States. Many who did not support the expedition found the Spanish treatment of military prisoners brutal. The strongest reaction occurred in New Orleans, where a mob attacked the Spanish consulate.
The Virginius chased by the Tornado
In 1873, American indignation was briefly aroused again by the capture of former Civil War era blockade runner side-wheel steamer, the Virginius . The Virginius was hired by Cuban insurrectionists to land men and munitions in Cuba to attack Spain. The Virginius was captured off Morant Bay, Jamaica, by the Spanish vessel Tornado, and was taken to Santiago de Cuba. There, after a summary court-martial, 53 of the crew and passengers, including Fry and some Americans and Englishmen, were executed as pirates.
Execution of the Virginius crew
While most Americans were inclined to remain observers in the Cuban struggle despite sympathy for Cuba, the provocative headline ' Our Flag Fired Upon' in newspapers on March 13, 1895 drew Americans ire . According to the story, the captain of the American steamer Allianca reported his ship had been fired upon and chased by a Spanish gunboat .In reality, the gunboat had fired blanks to signal the ship to stop for a search, but the damage had been done .
cartoon after the Allianca affair
The insurgents success in the beginning of the Ten Year's War, through using such tactics as the such as the 'machete charge ' and hit-and-run tactics led the Spanish to send General Valeriano Weyler .
Valeriano Weyler Nicolau, marqués de Tenerife (17 September 1838 - 20 October 1930) His family was originally Prussian, and served in the Spanish army for several generations. He entered at sixteen the military college of infantry at Toledo. From 1868 to 1872, he also fought brilliantly against the Cuban rebels, and commanded a corps of volunteers specially raised for him in Havana. He distinguished himself in the expedition to Santo Domingo in many fights, and especially in a daring reconnaissance with 1500 men he killed 120 in the heart of the enemy's lines, for which he got the cross with laurels of San Fernando. In 1888, he was sent out as captain-general to the Philippines, where he dealt very sternly with the native rebels of the Carolines, of Mindanao and other provinces. He won La Cruz Grande de Maria Cristina ("Grand Cross of Maria Cristina") for his command of troops in the Philippines in 1895, displaying a cold and brutal facet which would surface prominently in Cuba, where he invented 'concentration camps ( Creciente de Valmaseda) to isolate the rebels from the source of their support and gained the nickname "The Butcher"
General Valeriano Weyler
concentration camp victims in Cuba
After Marshal Campos had failed to pacify the Cuban rebellion, the Conservative government of Antonio Cánovas del Castillo sent out Gen. Weyler to Cuba again . He was made a governor of Cuba with full powers to suppress the insurgency (rebellion was widespread in Cuba) and restore the island to political order and its sugar production to greater profitability. Their opponents practiced hit-and-run tactics and lived off the land, blending in with the non-combatant population. He came to the same conclusions as his predecessors as well--that to win Cuba back for Spain, he would have to separate the rebels from the civilians by putting the latter in safe havens, protected by loyal Spanish troops. By the end of 1897, General Weyler had relocated more than 300,000 into such "reconcentration camps," believed by many to be the origin of the name for such tactics used by the British in the Second Boer War and thus evolved into a designation to describe such methods used by twentieth century regimes as Hitler and Stalin. Although he was successful moving vast numbers of people, he failed to provide for them adequately. Consequently, these became areas of hunger and disease, where many hundreds of thousands died.
In the propaganda war waged in the United States, Cuban emigres made much of Weyler's inhumanity to their countrymen and won the sympathy of broad groups of the U.S. population to their cause. Weyler's strategy also backfired militarily due to the rebellion in the Philippines that required the redeployment by 1897 of some troops already in Cuba. When Prime Minister Antonio Cánovas del Castillo was assassinated in August, Weyler lost his principal supporter in Spain. He resigned his post in late 1897 and returned to Europe. He was replaced in Cuba by the more conciliatory Ramón Blanco y Erenas.
Many Cubans came to the United states as exiles after the Ten Year's War .In the propaganda war waged in the United States, Cuban emigrés made much of Weyler's inhumanity to their countrymen and won the sympathy of broad groups of the U.S. population to their cause. The rebels suffered a series of setbacks and agreed to the Pact of Zanjón with Spain on February 10, 1878 which promised reforms .
The troubles in Cuba through the often sensationalist newspapers exclaiming ' blood on our doorsteps' captured the American imagination, American newspapers had been agitating for intervention with sensational stories of Spanish atrocities against the native Cuban population .
On 24 February 1895, the insurrection began again when several important Cuban independence fighters landed near Baracoa, starting the second major War of Cuban Independence,
Riots in Havana by rowdy pro-Spanish "Voluntarios" moved the United States to send in the warship USS Maine to indicate high national interest opinion was outraged at news of Spanish atrocities and President William McKinley demanded reforms or independence. The US Consul-General, nephew of Robert E. Lee and former Civil War Confederate general Fitzhugh Lee, cabled Washington with fears for the lives of Americans living in Havana. When the US battleship Maine blew up on 15 February 1898, tensions escalated, and the U.S. would no longer accept Spanish promises of eventual reform.
Search of female Cuban exiles on the American steamer Olivette
for letters to rebels in America . In reality the woman were not stripped
naked and searched by men, but were searched by another women .
Pulitzer in the World was one of the first to publishing sensational stories on the Cuban Revolution . War fever was whipped up in America with the sensationalism of the jingo press, called ' Yellow Journalism' after the color of the ink used in the popular ' The Yellow Kid' cartoon of the time . "The Yellow Kid' was drawn by Richard Outcault, were it first appeared in Pulitzer's World, but switched to the Journal when Hearst offered him more money . Then Pulitzer hired another cartoonist to draw his own " Yellow Kid' cartoon, and the papers became known as ' Yellow Kid papers .'
Big newspapers of the time, such as New York Morning Journal owned by William Randolph Hearst , the New York World by Pulitzer, the Sun ( New York ) and the Herald ( New York ) became known for sensationalist writing and for its agitation in favor of war with Spain. These New York newspapers, appealing to the public in support of the Cuban Revolution often exaggerated incidents and their style was imitated by newspapers throughout the country .
A cartoon of Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New
York World and William Randolph Hearst, publisher of the New
York Morning Journal over their bitter circulation battle .
William Randolph Hearst took credit for the Spanish American war as the New York Journal's war (basis for the movie Citizen Kane ). When the famous western painter Frederic Remington, working for the Journal in Cuba, asked for permission to return, Hearst replied with his famous saying, "Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war."
Many people accused Pulitzer and Hearst of conjuring the Spanish-American War in order to increase newspaper sales . Was the Spanish American war a 'newspaper war ' ? Many have claimed that the president and business did not desire war, but the public, aroused by the ' yellow journalism' of the press demanded it . Hearst certainly believed it, even putting the headline ' How do you like the Journals war?' on the front page of Journal when war was declared .The question as to whether newspapers actually brought on the war is a complex one and maybe too simplistic . It was certainly one of the factors, along with manifest destiny after the conquest of the west, belief in democracy,interest in overseas possessions such as the other major powers had at the time,etc. However , many newspaper editorials of the time did not stress the sensational stories but basic factors.
The Hearst newspapers started a massive press campaign was launched by Hearst on behalf of a young woman, known in the United States for Evangelina Cisneros, who was held in a prison in Cuba for revolutionary activities on the Isle of Pines. She was to be imprisoned on the African coast for 20 years . Later she managed to escape with the help of Hearst journalist Karl Decker,to the United States, where she was in rallies and meet McKinley . She married one of the men who helped her escape, Cuban dentist Carlos Carbonelle .
On December 11, 1897 the battleship Maine, commanded by captain Charles Sigsbee was ordered to Key West in case of anti-American demonstrations in Cuba . On January 13, there were newspaper reports (largely false ) of rioting against Americans in Cuba .The riots were mainly by Spanish soldiers angry over reports of some newspapers in Cuba critical of Gen.Weyler and the army . No Americans were in danger .On Jan 13, the Maine was ordered to Cuba, possible due to a wrongly interpreted code an order by the Secretary of the Navy for a friendly visit to improve relations between Spain and America .
The mystery of the sinking of the USS Maine
story of the Maine explosion in the Journal
On Jan 15 at 9:40 pm, , the Maine exploded, killing 260 of the crew. Later investigations revealed that more than five tons of powder charges for the vessel's six and ten-inch guns had ignited, destroying the forward third of the ship. Most of the Maine’s crew were sleeping or resting in the enlisted quarters in the forward part of the ship when the explosion occurred . Why those magazines had exploded, could not determine conclusively, and doubt remains as to the to this day.
video of 1898 Wreck of the Battleship Maine by the Thomas Edison Company Thomas Edison Company
Sailors from the Spanish cruiser Alfonso XII rescued sailors . Captain Sigsbee was not on the Maine during the explosion and made no comment as to the cause of the explosion at the time. President McKinley summoned his cabinet to decide on policy and decided until the board of inquiry determined the cause , the official theory would be that the explosion was an accident . however, the Journal nor the World were willing to wait and implied Spain was to blame in some sinister way
Board of Inquiry
On March 28,1898 the US Naval Court of Inquiry in declared that a naval mine caused the explosion. Soon a rallying cry could be heard everywhere America: "Remember the Maine! To hell with Spain !"
funeral procession of the
USS Maine victims 1898
In the 1976 book, How the Battleship Maine Was Destroyed, proposed that an internal coal bunker explosion caused the explosion. In 1999, National Geographic Magazine came full circle and determined a mine destroyed the Maine. No evidence has ever been found in Spanish records of a plot to destroy the Maine which seems unlikely as the new Spanish government was trying to keep the peace with America, short of granting Cuba independence .
The decisive event leading to war was the speech of Republican Senator Redfield Proctor ( 1831 - 1908 ) delivered on March 17, 1898, which thoroughly and calmly analyzed the situation and concluded war was the only answer. The business and religious communities, which had opposed war, switched sides, leaving President William McKinley and Thomas Brackett Reed almost alone in their opposition to the war. Senator Redfield Proctor, of Vermont visited Cuba after the destruction of the Maine and gave a disturbing account of conditions in Cuba as a result of the Spanish attempts to isolate the Cuban rebels:
" Outside Havana all is changed. It is not peace, nor is it war. It is desolation and distress, misery and starvation. Every town and village is surrounded by a trocha (trench), a sort of rifle-pit, but constructed on a plan new to me, the dirt being thrown upon the inside and a barb wire fence on the outer side of the trench. These trochas have at every corner and at frequent intervals along the sides what are there called forts, but which are really small block-houses, many of them more like a large sentry- box, loop-holed for musketry, and with a guard of from two to ten soldiers in each.
The purpose of these trochas is to keep the reconcentrados in as well as to keep the insurgents out. From all the surrounding country the people have been driven into these fortified towns, and held there to subsist as they can. They are virtually prison-yards and not unlike one in general appearance, except the walls are not so high and strong, but they suffice, where every point is in range of a soldier's rifle, to keep in the poor reconcentrado women and children. Every rail road station is within one of these trochas and has an armed guard.
With this exception there is no human life or habitation between these fortified towns and villages, and throughout the whole of the four western provinces, except to a very limited extent among
Every man, woman, and child, and every domestic animal, wherever their columns have reached, is under guard and within their so-called fortifications. To describe one place is to describe all. To repeat, it is neither peace nor war. It is concentration and desolation."
These dreadful conditions were brought about by the famous and
"I order and command first, all the inhabitants of the country or outside of the line of fortification of the towns, shall, within the period of eight days, concentrate themselves in the town so occupied by the troops. Any individual who, after the expiration of this period, is found in the uninhabited parts will be considered a rebel, and tried as such."
According to Proctor, this was nothing less than an artfully planned scheme to exterminate by starvation and disease the native population.
Under the order of his Government, General Fitzhugh Lee, Consul-
The preceding administration of Grover Cleveland had been opposed to war. the president elect, republican William McKinley was also opposed to war .Why was President McKinley reluctant to go to war with Spain ? There were a few reasons for this. First, as a Union officer during the Civil war he had seen death first hand. Second, America was revving from an economic depression and it was thought the war would be a drag on the economy. Third, America did not know what the European reaction would be to such a war, and if it would bring in other European powers The European press was hostile to America during the war .
cartoon of McKinley trying to keep
a lid on war pressure
Despite the sinking of the Maine, , it was Spain's failure to grant autonomy to Cuba that was the major force leading to the war . On March 18, 1898 McKinley sent three messages to the American ambassador in Madrid that unless Spain would give full née to Cuba, he would resort to turning the question over to the war favoring Congress .
On April 11, 1898 McKinley sent a message to Congress and congress passed a resolution recognizing the independence of Cuba and on April 25 passed a war resolution. On April 22 the navy had sailed to set up a blockade of ports in Cuba .
On April 23 McKinley called for 125,000 and there was a great rush to volunteer
The war party in Congress was in all overwhelming majority, and to this majority the message of the President proved a disappointment. The efforts of Mr. McKinley at delay had been received with undisguised impatience, and, joined to his pacific intentions, which were well known, had created a question in the public mind whether in case the decision should be left with him, he could be relied on to carry out the now set purpose of the people to allow no further equivocation, but to proceed at once by force of arms to compel Spain to withdraw from Cuba.
Without debate the message was The very next day, the 13th of April, Congress began to act. Each of the two committees, to which the President's message had been referred made its returns, each consisting of two reports, one of the majority and the other of the minority. Objections from a senator carried the two reports of the Senate Committee over for a day ; but in the House immediate consideration was had. The minority report, offered by the Democrats and recognizing the insurrectionary Cuban government, was voted down, 147 to 190.
Then the House by a vote of 322 to 19 adopted the resolutions reported by the majority of its Committee on Foreign Affairs, denouncing Spain's methods in Cuba as inhuman and uncivilized, holding Spain responsible for the destruction of the Maine, and directing the President " to intervene at once " for the restoration of order in Cuba, and for the establishment of " a stable and independent government" in the island, for which intervention " he is empowered to use the land and naval forces of the United States." In the Senate, where objection delayed immediate consideration, a majority of the Committee on Foreign Relations re ported resolutions declaring that the people of Cuba are and of right ought to be free and independent, denouncing Spanish misrule in the island as "cruel, barbarous, and inhuman," demanding that Spain at once withdraw her forces from the island and empowering and directing the President to intervene with the army and navy of the United States to drive Spain from Cuba.
The minority of the Senate Committee, consisting of the Democratic members and Senator Foraker, brought in resolutions definitely recognizing the independence of the insurgent Cuban government. On the 16th, after a debate of three days, the Senate adopted resolutions similar to those adopted by the House, but embracing a recognition of the insurgent government. Thus matters rested over Sunday the 17th, when, after many and prolonged consultations beginning the morning of the 18th and extending far into the night of the 19th, the Conference Committee agreed upon a final report. This declared that the people of Cuba "are, and of right ought to be, free and independent," demanded that Spain at once withdraw from Cuba, directed the President of the United States to use the army and navy if necessary to enforce this demand, and pledged the United States to leave the people of Cuba free, after the expulsion of Spain, to establish their own form of government. Concessions were made by both House and Senate to this agreement, though as the resolutions were at last adopted they proved to be those reported to the Senate by the majority of its Foreign Relations Committee, with the addition of the amendment pledging liberty to Cuba to establish its own government.
he conference reported was promptly adopted by the Senate by a vote of 42 to 35. The House, however, did not get through its roll call for more than an hour later, finally adopting the report by a vote of 310 to 6. Thus was the Congress a unit; and behind it an overwhelming majority of the people referred to the appropriate committees; but, when Congress adjourned that afternoon, no doubt was anywhere entertained that a state of war already existing a formal declaration of war was but the matter of a few days or hours.
The Joint Resolution
The Joint Resolution, as it was finally adopted by the two Houses
Resolved, By the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States
1. That the people of the island of Cuba are, and of a right ought to be free
2. That it is the duty of the United States to demand, and the Government of
3. That the President of the United States be, and he hereby is, directed and
4. That the United States hereby disclaims any disposition or intention to
The discretion asked by the President was withheld partly because,
Spain, however, did not wait to be officially advised. Senor Barnabe, who had succeeded Signor De Lome as Spanish minister at Washington, demanded and received his pass ports at once, taking the train that same evening and, without event of any kind, going through to Toronto, Canada.
The instructions from the State Department, sent in cipher, did not reach Minister Woodford at Madrid in time to be translated and delivered to the Spanish premier, Senor Sagasta, that same Wednesday evening, and
Minister Woodford, although furnished an escort to the Spanish frontier, was not so fortunate in the circumstances of his departure from Madrid as Signor Barnabe had been in his departure from Washington. There was much excitement among the populace, who assembled in noisy crowds about the railway stations, and at Valladolid a mob collected, demanding the surrender of a member of the Minister's official staff and otherwise menacing General Woodford and his party. Without serious accident, however, the frontier was reached, and on Friday evening the Americans arrived in Paris. Thus, although there had been no formal
assassination of premier Canovas
On August 8, 1897 premier Canovas was assassinated by an Italian anarchist assassin, Michele Angiolillo and Sagasta was returned to power . Sagasta declared the warlike policy of Canovas to be a failure and was open to a new policy . A measure of autonomy would be offered to Cuba, with Spanish control of the military, foreign relations and courts .General Weylar would be recalled and Ramon Blanco y erenas would replace him. Americans newspapers were distrustful of the offer of autonomy and demanded independence .
Anti-American demonstration in Madrid in 1896
Spain, in 1898 was a constitutional monarchy. There was a parliament, the Cortes and a prime minister .The 12 year old king, Alfonso XIII was the regent of his strong-willed mother, Maria Cristina . Despite the facade parlinentary rule. Spain was basically run like a huge feudal estate, and it was on the verge of bankruptcy . Peasants worked on great estates of absentee aristocrats.
The young king Alfonso XIII of Spain and
his regent mother Maria Cristina
In the 1890's, when it became obvious that America , Japan and Germany had designs on Spanish colonies, Spanish the well developed Spanish sense of honor and fear of a revolt at home meant that he Spanish were compelled to fight. Many Spaniards knew the coming fight was hopeless, but determined to fight heroically . common Spaniards were growing resentful of upstart American actions, and there were anti-American demonstrations in Spain . The response of the ruling classes was, if possible, still more animated. It was vehement and defiant. Spain regarded Cuba, which had been a part of the Spanish empire for 400 years as an integral part of Spain. The Cortes had been assembled in extraordinary session. Even whilst the Congress at Washington was framing the ultimatum to Spain, a scene, both impressive and pathetic, was passing at Madrid. The Queen-Regent
When Queen Christina and the little King Alfonso appeared, the enthusiasm knew no bounds; though there must have been many among that brilliant throng, who, seeing this stately and noble lady, and reflecting upon the true
The Queen-Regent read her speech from the throne, the boy King standing on her right, Senor Sagasta on her left. Spain considered Cuba not as a colony, but as a district of Spain . She described the menaces and insults of America as intolerable provocations which would compel her Government to sever
" supreme decision of parliament" would sanction the unalterable resolution of her Government to defend the rights of Spain. She appealed to the Spanish people to maintain the integrity both of the dynasty and the nation. "I have summoned the Cortes," she said, "to defend our rights, whatever sacrifice they may entail. Thus identifying myself with the nation, I not only fulfill the oath I swore in accepting the regency, but I follow the dictates of a mother's heart, trusting to the
On the 24th Spain declared war against the United States .
Her brave words found their answer in all hearts, and were echoed
It was not until the 25th of April that Congress passed a bill formally declaring war to exist, and dating this from the preceding 21st of April, though the President had already called out 125,000
What was the foreign reaction to the American decision to go to war with Spain ? The great powers sympathized with Spain, but did not intend on provoking the United States .
The newspapers of Germany of every shape of opinion condemned the United states, out of 52 papers in Paris, only 3 were favorable to the U.S, and even in England, where the official attitude was one of almost sentimental friendliness many papers were teeming with insults. The Pope, trying to help Catholic Spain, did try to mediate, but nothing came of this .