In the mid 1890s, there were serious social, economic, and political problems on the neighboring island of Cuba1. Cuban rebels were attempting to free Cuba from Spanish2 control, which dated back to the late 1400s. As Cuba lies only ninety miles from the tip of Florida, the United States has always taken a strong interest in the events happening there. At that time, many Americans sympathized with the efforts of the Cubans. Also, many had invested heavily in the Cuban sugar industry.
In 1896, the Spanish government attempted to put an end to the rebel cause. General Valeriano Weyler3 was sent to crrush the rebllion. Weyler destroyed sugar plantations and built prison camps for Cubans in rebel-held areas/ News of mistreatment of the Cubans came to America. Stories were told of 100,000 captured Cubans starving to death in the Spanish camps. The atrocities were given muchh coverage in the American press, and in some cases... reports were exaggerated grossly!
Although many Americans were prepared to support the Cubans in their move for independance, President William McKinley4 took a cautious stance. He had hoped the situation would be resolved in the near future, but a series of events made a simple answer impossible. One highly publicized event wwas theh publishing of a letter that was intercepted en route to a post office in Havana, Cuba5.
Written by a Spanish diplomat stationed in Washington, the letter insulted McKinley and referred to him as a weakling and a crowd pleaser. The derogatory tone of the letter angered many Americans.
More serious in nature, a second event involved the Deaths of American Salors. On the night of February 15, 1898, an explosion ripped through the hull of the USS Maine. The ship had been sent to protect Americans on the island. No one was ever to know for sure what caused the explosion. The tragedy stirred American hearts, and all blamed the Spaniards. Public pressure forced McKinley to take action.
One April 11, the President went before Congress to request a declaration of war against Spain. Two weeks later, on April 25, the US declared war against the old colonial power. With the rallying cry, Remember the Maine, many Americans eagerly joined the fight.
What were the reasons for the Spanish American War?
- Protection of American bussuiness interests (sugar) in Cuba
- American support of Cuban rebels to gain independence from Spain
- Rising tensions as a result of sinking the USS Maine in Havana Harbor
- Yellow Journalism - Exaggerated news reports of events
What were the results of the Spanish American War?
- Cuba gained independence from Spain
- The US gained possession of Guam, Phillippines, and Puerto Rico.
- The US emerged as a world power