Throughout the course of history, nations have invested time and manpower into the colonizing and modernizing of more rural governments. Imperialism has spread across the globe, from the British East India Company to France’s occupation of Northern Africa. After their founding in 1776, the United States of America largely stayed out of this trend until The Spanish-American War of 1898. Following the war, the annexation and colonization of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines ultimately set a precedent for a foreign policy of U.S. imperialism.
In the latter half of the nineteenth century, tensions in Cuba were rapidly rising. The Cuban Ten Year’s War from 1868 to 1878 had sparked a fire for independence from Spain with the natives. In 1892, José Julián Martí y Pérez formed El Partido Revolucionario Cubano, or the Cuban Revolutionary party. The Cuban independence movement known as Ejército Libertador de Cuba began in February of 1895 with the motto, “Independencio o Muerte” (Independence or Death). Multiple minor battles between Cuba and Spain took place that year. (Library of Congress)
In June of 1895, President Grover Cleveland took a stance of neutrality toward the Cuban conflict, though many American citizens grew concerned that the fight was too close to home. (Spanish-American) By December of the next year, Cleveland declared that the U.S. might be forced to take action if Spain was unable to solve the Cuban crisis alone. (Library of Congress) Spain granted Cuba limited autonomy in January of 1897, but the natives were not satisfied. As the Spanish resorted to ruthless tactics to keep the Cubans in line, their brutality created much sympathy in the United States. Tensions rose between America and Spain. The other shoe dropped when a U.S. battleship was sunk in Havana Harbor; Spanish involvement was suspected. (Spanish-American)
On April 11, 1898, President McKinley proposed an employment of a “stable government” that would “maintain order” and secure the “peace and stability” of Cuban and U.S. citizens. Nine days later, Congress demanded Spain give up control of Cuba while assuring the Spanish government that the United States would not colonize the island after their leave. Spain rejected the ultimatum and immediately set up a naval blockade around Cuba. On April 22, Spain declared war on the United States of America. (Spanish-American)
Within days, the Spanish had brought over more than 125,000 troops. Months later, the United States had isolated and defeated Spanish army garrisons in Cuba. The final nail in Spain’s coffin was the annihilating of the Spanish Caribbean squadron as they attempted to escape the U.S. naval blockade of Santiago. Secretary of State, John Hay, had described it as a “splendid little war.” (Spanish-American)
A cease-fire was finally called on August 12, 1898. The war had lasted just four months, but had resulted in more than 250,000 casualties. The Treaty of Paris was signed on December 10, granting independence...