Quiz 2 Research Paper
13 March 2014
If I had been a member of the 1898-1899 US Congress I would have supported both our war with Spain and our annexation of its territories.
The Spanish-American War served to end Spain’s colonial power in the western hemisphere. In the time leading up to the war there was three years of turmoil in Cuba, where Cuban revolutionaries were locked in battle with the Spanish in an attempt to gain independence from their mother country (history.state.gov 1). For most of the Cuban revolution the US, particularly due to president McKinley’s distaste for war, had opted to steer clear of involving itself in the conflict (Sparknotes  1). However, with the growing tide of public outcry and the explosion of the USS Maine president McKinley finally buckled and sent his approval for a declaration of war with Spain, which was passed on April 11, 1898 (Sparknotes  1). Had I been a senator in 1898 I would have supported the declaration of war for multiple reasons, including the ones above. I would have also supported our annexation of Puerto Rico, Guam, Cuba and the Philippines In this essay I will explain why. At 9:40 PM on February 15, 1898 the battleship USS Maine was abruptly demolished in an explosion at Havana harbor, killing 260 officers and crewmembers. Although the exact cause of the blast was never actually determined, and recent evidence suggests that there may not have been an attack on the ship at all, at the time the prevailing theory was that the Spanish had placed a mine in the harbor in an attack on the US (Cavendish 1). This idea was perpetuated by the “yellow press”, a sensationalistic style of journalism led by the papers of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. These news outlets pumped out headlines like “USS MAINE BLOWN UP: MANY YOUNG SAILORS DROWN DUE TO SPANISH TREACHERY” (Glazier 1). This further excited an already blood thirsty public, whom had already been fed headlines decrying the atrocities committed by the Spanish against the population of Cuba (which I will talk about next). Had I been a senator at the time, being thoroughly by all of the sources at my disposal that the Spanish were attacking us I would have fully backed the war on that alone. However there is more.
In addition to the sinking of the USS Maine, I would have also backed the war on humanitarian grounds. While both the Cubans and the Spanish were guilty of committing unspeakable atrocities during the revolution much of the “yellow press’” coverage had focused on the depraved acts the Spanish had been committing during the Revolution. For example, many papers in the US had reported on the widespread suffering caused when the Spanish had instituted a policy of gathering Cuban civilians and moving them into concentration camps (Foner 705). These camps had deplorable living conditions: Poor sanitation and a lack of food and medicine (NEH 3). Several statesmen including Theodore Roosevelt felt that it was the duty of the US to get involved rather than standby and watch as the Cuban population was decimated (NEH 3). Which is a position that I agree with.
The final reason I would have supported this at the time is that we had important economic and strategic interests in Cuba and in its surrounding sister territories (such as Puerto Rico) (Sparknotes  2). Not only were these territories extremely close to the United States’ boarders but they were (and still are) home to important naval bases. Additionally American businesses had strong financial ties to Puerto Rico, Guam and Cuba, owning: mines; railroads and sugar, coffee and banana plantations in those territories which were under direct threat due to the war (Shmoop 1).
My support for our annexation of the former Spanish territories deals with the fact that these were great strategic military locations that allowed us to build naval power and expand our boarders. I also find my self in support of...
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