On April 19th, 1898, The United States impulsively waged a war with imperialist Spain that would forever change our country for better and for worse. There are many different factors that led to the war, but in my opinion, one key cause is of much greater importance than the others. As a result of the war, American became known as an imperialistic nation and a world power. How could such a “little” war have such a large impact on American society at the turn of the 20th century?
The first reason for the Spanish American War was public opinion. In 1895, American citizens took notice of a Cuban revolt against their corrupt Spanish oppressor. The Cuban insurgents reasoned that if they did enough damage , the US might move in and help the Cubans win their independence. Not only did Americans sympathize with the Cubans upon seeing tragic reports in the newspaper, but they also empathized in that the US once fought for their own independence from Britain. If France didn’t intervene, the Americans probably would not have won their freedom. As if this did not rally enough hate for the Spanish among the American Public, fuel was added to the flame by the Spanish General (“Butcher”) Weyler. He attempted to crush the rebellion by herding Cubans into barbed-wire concentration camps. In turn, the American public was outraged.
The public was further angered by something called “yellow journalism”. Yellow journalism refers to writers such as Joseph Pullitzer and William Hearst trying to outdo each other with screeching headlines and hair raising “scoops”. Where there were no headlines, the yellow press would exaggerate and fabricate stories to get readers interested in their newspaper. For example, Hearst once wrote about Spanish Customs Officials disrobing and searching an American woman. However, Hearst left out the fact that such tasks were performed by female officials. From 1895 to 1898, the yellow press exploited high public tensions for headlines regularly. In fact, Hearst is reported to have told one of his photographers: “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”
While public tensions before August 1898 were surely high, nothing turned the public against Spain like the tragic blowing up of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor. The lives of 260 American officers and men were lost. The yellow press and American investigators quickly blamed spanish officials in Cuba for the mysterious wreck. Although it is extremely unlikely that the spanish had anything to do with the Maine’s sinking, the War-Mad American public accepted this conclusion out of rage, overwhelmingly persuading President Mckinley to begin the war. McKinley personally did not want to fight a war against Spain, for he had seen enough bloodshed as a General in the Civil War. But the public, encouraged by the Cuban patriotic cause, yellow journalism, and the sinking of the Maine, clamored for a war. Finally, President McKinley yielded and gave the people what they wanted. He believed...