Introduction into the History of the Spanish American War

Welcome to the Spanish American War Impact website, here we will be analyzing one of the shortest wars of the late 19th century and uncover the monumental impacts that came out of the conflict. Here is a brief introduction of the war and its meaning to outside nations not directly involved. On April 1898, the United States declared war against Spain, what would come later would be a war that would change the global identities of both the United States and Spain. Although the war was short, its impacts on the Atlantic world would empower a victorious U.S. nation and reveal a clear defeat for the once mighty Spanish empire. It was a strange war, having its beginnings with the public discovery of the de Lome Letter and more famously, the sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine. It was believed that on February 1898, Spanish saboteurs at a port in Havana blew up the battleship’s engine killing 250 enlisted men.  This tragedy and the ongoing Cuban revolt against the Spanish gave the U.S. a viable excuse for involvement. For the Spanish Empire, the Cuban Revolution was seen as an internal colonial affair. Outrage over U.S. accusations of Cuban abuses at the hands of Spanish rule and U.S. intervention into Spanish affairs would lead Maria Christina of Austria, acting as regent for her son Alfonso XIII, to declare war against America. The war would last a mere seven months, American casualties would amount to around 3,000. Spain’s casualty amount is debated though it is estimated that around 50,000 Spanish soldiers died, mostly of diseases such as malaria. The wars’ outcome would solidify U.S. dominance in the western hemisphere and express the end of Spanish colonial rule in Latin America. The war would also erupt out of the Cuban Revolution of 1895 and America’s Manifest Destiny desires to expand its territories. Heightened U.S. interest in acquiring Cuba made it necessary to lend aid to Cuban rebels revolting against Spanish rule.

Future 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, and his Rough Riders would symbolize American character against Spanish colonial power. Ironically, after the war the U.S. embarked on its own expansionist ventures in the Pacific and the Atlantic due in part to the acquisition of Spanish territories. Spain would renounce all claim to Cuba, cede Guam and Puerto Ric to the U.S., and transfer sovereignty over the Philippines to the U.S. for 20 million dollars. However, the U.S. would fight another more brutal war to gain true sovereignty in Philippines, this conflict was known as the Philippine Insurrection. The Spanish-American War ultimately showcased an important turning point in European colonial affairs in Latin America. Spain’s defeat turned the Latin nation’s attention away from overseas colonial ventures to instead focus on domestic issues. The United States would emerge a world power with oversea possessions and a new stake in international politics.

To help further understand what the war meant to American policymakers and what they wanted the American public to believe, we can examine Louis Dalrymple’s, “The Duty of the Hour” political cartoon. Utilizing his cartoon, Dalrymple tried to gain support for US involvement in Cuba. The name of the picture is “The Duty of the Hour” (1890) and it paints Spain as the antagonist harming Cuba, represented by the woman held over the fire of anarchy.  The caption reads “The duty of the hour, to save her not only from Spain, but from a worse fate,” suggesting that if Americans did not act then Cuba would face devastating fate at the hands of the Spanish. The main argument of the cartoon is that the US should get involved as it is its “duty” to help those who are in desperate need.

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