In the years following the Civil War, the United States turned to rebuilding and isolation. However, as the century approached its close there was a turn towards expansion and imperialism. The politics of the Gilded Age, tainted with corruption and weak leadership, led to Americans to attempt to show their strength. The first imperialistic opportunity was presented to President Grover Cleveland. With a small scale revolution of white planters in Hawaii led to a call for the US annexation, however this was spurned by the president.
Because there was no real way to expand the “empire” without violating the Monroe Doctrine, it became apparent that the only way the United States would be able to expand was by war. The two other powers with some stake in the Western Hemisphere were Britain and Spain. The United States previously tangled with Britain over border dispute in Venezuela, but this was resolved through negotiation. The Spanish, on the other hand, were slowly losing their already thin grasp on Latin America, seemed like a fair fight.
The first step towards a confrontation came from the Spanish Ambassador to America, Dupuy de Lome. In a letter written about the President McKinley’s involvement in Cuban independence, de Lome blatantly insults the president. This letter slipped into the wrong hands, and was eventually published by the media.
The media which this played heavily into was called yellow journalism. This type of journalism takes facts and stretches them or even makes up stories. The two most prolific yellow journalists were Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. These two men competed for readers so a simmering conflict with Spain could be pushed to a full boil with a little bit exaggeration.
The most important event that was (possibly) misconstrued by the media was the explosion of the USS Maine. Docked in Havana Harbot, the Maine was a United States warship that mysteriously exploded. Not knowing whether it was an accident or a naval mine, Hearst was quoted as saying, “You furnish the pictures, and I’ll furnish the war.” There was a possibility the Spanish did blow up the Maine, but the evidence was inconclusive.
The outrage stemming from the De Lome Letter and the Maine Explosion led to a call by the United States people for war with Spain. However, before war was the Teller Ammendment. This basically asserted that the United States could and would involve themselves in the fight for Cuban independence. Soon thereafter came the declaration of war by McKinley. The declaration of war was the next step towards an empire. Although the war was to be centered in the Caribbean, around Cuba and Puerto Rico, the Spanish territory in the Pacific including Guam and, most importantly, The Philippines was also to be under US invasion. The Philippines, if secured would be...