Reasoning for war
Until the 1890s, ambivalence about overseas possessions had restrained America's drive to expand overseas. Suddenly, near the turn of the 20th century, inhibitions collapsed and American power thrust its way to the far reaches of the Pacific. The occasion for that explosion of imperialism lay neither in the Pacific nor in the quest for bases and trade, but to the south in Cuba. The chief motive was a sense of outrage at another country's imperialism.
It revived only briefly during a 10-year Cuban insurrection from 1868 to 1878. After the insurrection was brought under control in 1878 by the Spanish, American investments in Cuba, mainly in sugar and mining, rose to about $50 million. The United States in fact traded more with Cuba than Spain did.
On February 24, 1895, insurrection broke out again. Simmering discontent with Spanish rule had been aggravated by the Wilson-Gorman Tariff of 1894, which took sugar off the free list in the midst of a depression already damaging to the market for Cuban sugar. Public feeling in the U.S. lay with the rebels, and many Americans extended help to the Cuban revolutionary party that organized the revolt from its headquarters in New York.
The insurrectionists' strategy was to wage guerrilla warfare and to damage the island's economic life, which in turn would provoke the concern of American investors. The strategy employed hit-and-run attacks on trains, railways, and plantations. Ordinary Americans were more than ready to look upon the insurrection in the light of their own War of Independence.