Chapter 20 The Spanish-American War

Made by: Joshua Cameron Martinez


American Newspapers React Most Americans learned about the events in Cuba through newspapers and magazines. At that time, these were the only forms of mass media—methods of communicating to a mass audience.

Newspapers were very popular in the late 1800s. With the yellow journalism of the time, however, many papers were not as careful in their reporting as they are today. To sell newspapers, publishers like Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst sensationalized the news. Both the New York World and the New York Journal saw reporting on the Cuban rebellion as a good way to gain new readers. Reporters and artists were encouraged to stretch the truth about the bravery of Cuban rebels and the horrors of Spanish rule, especially "Butcher" Weyler's brutality. Many readers were shocked by these reports. Some demanded that the United States help Cuba win independence. In this way, yellow journalism helped stir public support for U.S. intervention to aid the rebels.

The United States Responds

In March, the navy issued its report on the sinking of the Maine.Though the evidence was sketchy, navy investigators concluded that the explosion was caused by an underwater mine. Their report did not suggest who was responsible. In 1976, navy researchers who studied the incident again concluded that heat from a fire in a coal bin exploded a nearby supply of ammunition.

To me the strongest appeal is not the barbarity practiced by Weyler nor the loss of the Maine. . . but the spectacle of a million and a half of people, the entire native population of Cuba, struggling for freedom and deliverance from the worst misgovernment of which I ever had knowledge.

—Redfield Proctor, speech before the Senate, March 17, 1898

Fighting Begins in the Philippines

Even though the war was sparked by problems in Cuba, the first battle took place much farther away, in the Philippines. A large group of islands southeast of China, the Philippines were Spain's largest remaining colony. As in Cuba, a revolt against Spain had been brewing. Emilio Aguinaldo, a young Filipino, led this resistance. When the Spanish-American War began, he was living in exile in Hong Kong.

At least two months before war was declared, the United States began preparing for battle in the Philippines.

The Treaty of Paris

The war ended on August 12, 1898, with the signing of a peace protocol, a first draft of a treaty to be submitted for ratification. In October, Spanish and American officials met in Paris to finalize the terms.

On December 10, the United States and Spain signed the Treaty of Paris. Spain agreed to three main points. First, it granted independence to Cuba. Second, it ceded Puerto Rico and the Pacific island of Guam to the United States. And third, it ceded the Philippines to the United States in exchange for a payment of $20 million. Under the treaty, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines became American possessions. The United States was now a colonial empire

The Senate Debate over the Treaty

For the treaty to take effect, the Senate would have to ratify it by a two-thirds vote. This vote prompted a fierce debate over imperialism. While some Americans supported creating an American empire, others were strongly opposed. The debate over the treaty raged not only in the Senate but also across the entire country.

Leading opponents were the members of the Anti-Imperialist League, an organization formed during the war to oppose the establishment of U.S. colonies. Its membership was diverse, ranging from union leader Samuel Gompers to millionaire industrialist Andrew Carnegie. Social worker Jane Addams joined, as did author Mark Twain. Although the motives and political views of league members varied widely, they all believed that imperialism violated the country's founding principles of freedom and democracy. As the league's platform stated, "We hold that the policy known as imperialism is hostile to liberty . . . We insist that the subjugation of any people is 'criminal aggression' and open disloyalty to the distinctive principles of our Government."