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Spanish-American War (1898)



  • John O'Sullivan coined the term Manifest Destiny in 1845

  • Expansion of the U.S.

  • Louisiana Purchase (1803)

  • Texas (1845)

  • Oregon (1846)

  • Mexican-American War (1846-48)

  • California, Utah Territory, New Mexico Territory

  • Alaska (1867)

  • William H. Seward, Sec. of State under Lincoln and Johnson

  • Signed a treaty with Russia to buy Alaska for $7 million (2 cents/acre)

  • Purchase ridiculed in the press as "Seward's folly" and "Seward's icebox"

  • In 1898, gold was discovered causing rapid influx of people.


  • 1889 the last region in frontier, Oklahoma, was sold to speculators and farmers

  • Was Indian territory

  • Boomers (eager American farmers) gathered at edge of OK waiting to claim land

  • 1890 Census

  • Announced that all land within the U.S. was claimed

  • There was no longer a frontier.

  • Frederick Jackson Turner

  • Said expansion was the most important factor in America's history

  • "the existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advancement of American settlement westward, explain American development"

  • Believed Americas frontier past reflected the country's distinctive history and identity

  • Self-reliance

  • Individualism.

  • Could Americans keep their identity now that frontier was closed? Is it the end of growth?


  • Second Industrial Revolution

  • American production grew rapidly

  • But not every American had enough money to buy products

  • America needed to find new markets overseas


  • Naval historian

  • Wrote "The Influence of Sea Power Upon History" (1890)

  • Argued that the reason Britain was a great power (militarily, economically, politically)

  • Was because they had control of the seas

  • While naval power of European rivals was in decline.

  • Mahan believed the only way U.S. could become a power in its own right

  • Was to have overseas markets and access to foreign trade

  • A strong navy

  • And fueling stations along the way (that is, colonies)

  • U.S. government began investing in building and upgrading ships.


  • Theory by Herbert Spencer

  • That some people are more biologically evolved than others.

  • Used as justification for imperialism, racism, political conservatism


  • Americans believed that the U.S. had a superior political and economic system

  • And needed to spread it.


  • Americans were against "imperialism"

  • Because of memory of British colonization.

  • "Expansion" was a softer word.



  • U.S. missionaries had been going to Hawaii since 1820s

  • American sugar producers more active in Hawaii since 1870s

  • Grew sugar and sold it to the U.S.

  • Hawaii became completely dependent on trade with American markets

  • Sugar sales plummeted when U.S. passed McKinley Tariff

  • McKinley Tariff 1890

  • Introduced by William McKinley when he was still a senator

  • Under President Benjamin Harrison (grandson of William Henry Harrison)

  • Was the highest protective tariff in American history

  • Average rate of 48%

  • Only way for Hawaiian growers to sell to Americans

  • Was to become part of the U.S.

  • So planters didn't have to pay the tax.

  • Hawaiian monarchs didn't want to join with the U.S.

  • King Kalakaua

  • And in 1891, his sister/successor, Queen Liliuokalani

  • Coup 1893

  • To remove reluctant monarchs

  • Group of Americans and Europeans deposed the Queen to protect profit

  • Queen Liliuokalani was overthrown and a provisional government was set up.

  • Composed of American and European businessmen

  • Who proclaimed Hawaii a protectorate of the U.S.

  • President Grover Cleveland

  • Sent scouts to Hawaii to investigate

  • Concluded the overthrow of Liliuokalani was illegal

  • Cleveland proposed putting Liliuokalani back on throne as long as everyone involved was given amnesty.

  • Republic of Hawaii 1894

  • Monarchy was abolished, the "Republic" of Hawaii was proclaimed.

  • Sanford Dole was made president

  • Sanford Dole was the cousin of James Dole who later founded the Hawaiian Pineapple Company in Oahu, which became Dole Food Company




  • The Spanish had lost most of their colonies.

  • After rise of Napoleon, Latin American countries revolted

  • Jose de San Martin (Argentina, Chile, Peru)

  • Simon Bolivar (Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru)

  • Mexico became independent 1821

  • By 1898, Spain only had.

  • Philippines

  • Cuba

  • Guam

  • Puerto Rico

  • And a small part of Africa

  • Americans interested in Cuba

  • Ostend Manifesto 1854

  • Suggested that Americans should seize Cuba if Spain refuses to sell it.


  • Resistance to Spanish

  • Jose Marti began fight for indepenence in 1895

  • Cried for "Cuba libre!" ("Free Cuba")

  • Spanish repressed rebels

  • Sp. Gov.-Gen. Valeriano Weyler put 1/2 million Cubans into "reconcentration" camps

  • More than 200,000 died of starvation

  • The brutality was graphically portrayed in American newspapers.




  • Competition for readers between

  • Joseph Pulitzer (New York World)

  • William Randolph Hearst (New York Journal and SF Examiner)

  • Newspapers greatly exaggerated atrocities by Spanish against Cuban civilians.

  • Known as Yellow Journalism

  • After comic strip character, "The Yellow Kid," (1895-1898) in both papers.

  • One of the first Sunday comic strips that was purely entertainment (not political)


  • Letter from Spanish Ambassador to the U.S.

  • Enrique Dupuy de Lôme

  • To the Foreign Minister of Spain

  • Don Jose Canelejas

  • About Spanish involvement in Cuba and U.S. President McKinley

  • Called McKinley "weak" and "a bidder for the admiration of the crowd" as well as a "would-be politician who tries to leave a door open behind himself while keeping on good terms with the jingoes of his party" (see text here)

  • Cuban rebels leaked the letter to Hearst

  • Who published it in Journal

  • Americans were outraged by the insults about their president.

U.S.S. MAINE (Feb. 15, 1898)

  • U.S. had sent a warship to Cuba to protect American interests

  • The warship exploded in the Havana harbor

  • Killing 267 servicemen

  • Later discovered that it was a boiler-room accident

  • But Americans assumed Spain was responsible.

  • Especially because of Yellow Journalism

  • Millions of people pressured Congress and McKinley to go to war.




  • In reaction to hawkish atmosphere growing after sinking of USS Maine.

  • McKinley asked Congress:

  • "...to authorize and empower the President to take measures to secure a full and final termination of hostilities between the government of Spain and the people of Cuba... and to use the military and naval forces of the U.S. as may be necessary for these purposes."

  • Congress responded with the Teller Amendment.

TELLER AMENDMENT (April 20, 1898)

  • Enacted by Congress after McKinley's War Message

  • Document said:

  • The people of Cuba ought to be free and independent

  • It is the duty of the U.S. to demand that Spain relinquish its authority over the island.

  • The President is empowered to use land and naval forces to ensure that Spain leaves.

  • And that the U.S. will leave the government and control of Cuba to its people

  • See the text here.


  • U.S. Army invaded Cuba, April 1898

  • With 60,000 regular troops

  • And 200,000 volunteers (including Rough Riders-see below)

  • Problems with the regular army

  • Graft-ridden supply system

  • Not enough tropical clothes (some fought in winter woolens)

  • Rations were rotten.

  • Outdated weapons


  • Most famous group of volunteers

  • Consisted of:

  • Ex-convicts, cowboys, polo players, Native Americans

  • As well as upper-class, adventurous men and college students

  • Commanded by Theodore Roosevelt

  • Who resigned as McKinley's Asst. Sec. of Navy to join the troops

  • Roosevelt (unlike McKinley) was eager to join the "splendid little war"

  • Rough Riders led the charge to take San Juan Hill in Cuba

  • Easy victory over Spain


  • John Dewey commanded U.S. fleet sent to Philippines

  • While Dewey was fighting Spanish at sea

  • Emilio Aguinaldo was leading a Filipino revolt on land


  • Treaty of Paris, 1898

  • U.S. defeated Spanish

  • Spanish gave Cuba independence

  • U.S. acquired Guam, Puerto Rico, Philippines from Spain




Americans divided on status of Philippines

  • For colonization

  • Strategic

  • If US doesn't colonize Philippines, another country will take it.

  • Political

  • US will be able to implement American-style government in the Philippines

  • Motivated by belief that Filipinos not capable of governing themselves.

  • Economic

  • Philippines needed as a naval and commercial base in Asia (see Alfred T. Mahan above)

  • Ideological

  • White Man's Burden

  • ​Rudyard Kipling, see below

  • William McKinley, who won reelection on an expansionist platform,

  • Called the residents of the newly acquired territories "rescued people."

  • Theodore Roosevelt praised

  • “the expansion of the peoples of white, or European, blood” into the lands of “mere savages."

  • Against colonization

  • Economic

  • Too expensive to maintain a colony

  • Trade benefits not as high as cost to maintain the colony

  • Profits would only benefit the army contractors and hurt the rest of the population

  • There is no need conquer a nation in order to trade with them

  • Ideological

  • Americans are not colonists (like Britain)

  • Acquisition violated Dec. of Independence

  • Filipinos wouldn't have right to "life, liberty, pursuit of happiness"

  • And wouldn't enjoy full democracy

  • Filipinos, like Cubans (Teller Amendment), should be left to govern themselves

  • Strategic

  • Would entangle US in Asian conflicts

  • Labor

  • Gompers and other laborers feared that Filipinos would compete for jobs in U.S.

  • Racism: American racists didn't want to mingle with dark foreigners

  • See William Jennings Bryan speech against imperialism


  • After Spanish were defeated, Filipinos led an insurrection against American colonists

  • Guerrilla war led by Emilio Aguinaldo

  • Casualties

  • 20,000 Filipino troops killed

  • More than 200,000 civilians died of combat, hunger, disease.

  • 1,500 Americans killed in action, 3,000 died of disease.


  • Poem by Rudyard Kipling

  • About the Philippine-American War

  • Published in New York Sun, Feb. 1899

  • Promoted belief that the technologically advanced Western world

  • Had an obligation to "civilize" the less-developed world



  • Congress annexed Hawaii

  • On pretext that navy needed a refueling station in the Pacific

  • Between San Francisco and Asia

  • Pearl Harbor Naval Station was built in Hawaii in 1899



  • US had claimed it wouldn't annex Cuba after Spain left (Teller Amendment)

  • But U.S. troops remained in Cuba for a few more years

  • Platt Amendment 1901 (see document)

  • U.S. troops would not leave unless Cuba agreed to seven conditions.

  • All the conditions were written into Cuba's new consitution

  • Cuba shall not enter into a treaty with any foreign power if the treaty impairs Cuba's independence.

  • Cuba shall not contract a public debt

  • U.S. may intervene to preserve Cuban independence and to make sure the government protects life, property and individual liberty

  • All Acts of the US in Cuba during its military occupancy are ratified and valid.

  • Cuba will enact plans for sanitation of the cities in Cuba to prevent epidemics and infectious diseases

  • In order to protect the people

  • And protect commerce of Cuba and the southern parts of the U.S.

  • The status of the Isle of Pine (Cuba's 2nd largest island) will be determined in the future.

  • To enable the US to maintain Cuban independence, protect its people and defend the island, Cuba will sell or lease to the US lands necessary for coaling or naval stations.

  • Basis for U.S. ownership of Guantanamo Bay -- still a contentious issue.

  • Cuba was a U.S. protectorate

  • Platt Amendment was repealed in 1934 under Franklin D. Roosevelt

  • Part of FDR's Good Neighbor Policy

  • But Guantanamo Bay still operates as a U.S. naval station

  • And a detention center (nicknamed, Gitmo)

  • Gitmo controversy: U.S. till interrogates dangerous prisoners using torture (waterboarding) and keeps the 779 prisoners locked up without a trial.



  • With acquisition of the Philippines and Guam, Americans more interested in Asia

  • Spheres of Influence

  • After Opium Wars, foreign nations had carved out "spheres of influence" in China

  • Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Japan

  • Each dominated their own ports and kept out others

  • First Open Door Notes (see document)

  • John Hay, McKinley's secretary of State

  • Didn't want U.S. to be left out

  • Sent a diplomatic note to the foreign powers

  • Asking them to grant equal trading privileges in China

  • The foreign powers were not that interested

  • Boxer Rebellion (1900)

  • A secret society of Chinese Nationalists called the Society of Harmonious Fists (Boxers)

  • Believed they were immune to foreign bullets

  • Attacked Foreign embassies and Chinese Christians

  • Empress Dowager Cixi (who dominated China's government) didn't stop them.

  • Leaving all the foreign powers --- and the U.S --- to fight the Boxers.

  • When they were defeated, China had to pay a huge indemnity

  • And U.S. was taken more seriously

  • Open Door Notes revisited

  • Hay wrote a second note to the imperialistic powers saying US was committed to:

  • Preserving China's integrity

  • (that is, making sure China wasn't carved up into colonies like Africa)

  • Securing "equal and impartial trade with all parts of the Chinese empire.



  • Question; Did the Constitution apply to all territories that fall under U.S. control?

  • Anti-Imperialist said yes.

  • Imperialists said no.

  • Resolved in series of Supreme Court cases (1901-1903) called insular (island) cases.

  • Court ruled that constitutional rights were not automatically extended to territorial possessions

  • The power to decide whether or not to grant such rights was up to the Congress

#SpanishAmericanWar #USSMaine #YellowJournalism #Liliuokalani #DeLomeLetter #Cubalibre

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