April 15, 1898, was a pivotal movement in American history. The United States declared war upon Spain, and forever changed the lives of people in both countries. The war between the United States and Spain was preceded by three years of fighting by Cuban revolutionaries attempting to gain independence from Spanish colonial rule. Throughout these three years, many causes for a declaration of war were created adding fuel to a growing fire of outrage throughout the nation.
Among these causes was the public’s general opinion. Many Americans were war-mad and felt sorry for Cuban people because even after the difficult Ten Years War of 1868-1878, they still had not gained their independence. Their sympathy towards Cubans was extended even further when the Spanish military commander Valeriano Weyler instituted the reconcentrado, or concentration camp system affecting over 300,000 Cubans. Americans were outraged at the thought of thousands of Cubans dying from inhumane reasons such as disease and starvation. The United States public also held empathy towards them as well, because not too long ago they had fought for their own independence as a country.
The public opinion was based heavily upon what they read in newspapers. Known as “yellow journalism”, various publishers such as Hearst and Pulitzer made Cuban news distorted and blew it out of proportion. The Spanish-American war is known as the first “media war” or press-driven war in which this tactic was used to increase the sales of newspapers. These two publishers often filled their pages with stories that touched American citizens’ hearts, horror stories about the situations various Cubans were facing. Sensational headlines caused the public to become even more involved in these international affairs.
America was also concerned about business interests in Cuba. There was over $50 million invested there in sugar, tobacco, mining and other public utilities. Their main reason to maintain strong political ties with Cuba was so that this invested money would be protected. Over $100 million of trade stake was also affected, with shipping routes being blocked around Cuba. Following the second war for independence of 1895, Jose Marti launched a revolution. He began destroying some of this property, including American-owned sugar mills and plantations. Americans knew that something had to be done to stop these revolutions against Spain from taking a toll on them.
Cuba is located in a prime location, making it convenient to have as an international ally for the future. It is located approximately 100 miles away from the mainland United States making it easily accessible. The United States had no intention of taking Cuba’s independence, via the Teller Amendment. At the most, the United States would use Cuba as a military aid that could come in handy later on.
Arguably the key cause of the war was the explosion of the USS Maine. The Maine was sent to the harbor of Havana to protect...