"...Treaty of Peace between the United States and Spain, concluded at Paris...".
In the 1890’s, Cubans began to agitate for their freedom from Spain. On January 5, 1892, the moral leader of this struggle, José Martí, established the Cuban Revolutionary Party. At that time he was residing in exile in the United States and enjoying the sympathy of his host nation and its people....
In the 1890’s, Cubans began to agitate for their freedom from Spain. On January 5, 1892, the moral leader of this struggle, José Martí, established the Cuban Revolutionary Party. At that time he was residing in exile in the United States and enjoying the sympathy of his host nation and its people. Following his call to arms on February 24, 1895, Martí returned to Cuba and participated in the first weeks of armed struggle before being killed on May 19. A fervor for war with Spain began to grow in the United States, and to deflect it, President Grover Cleveland proclamed American neutrality on June 12, 1895. Soon, however, the Spanish began implementing draconian measures to fight the Cuban guerillas, including “reconcentration,” a program that moved the population into central locations guarded by Spanish troops.
Then the entire country was placed under martial law in February 1896. By December 7, President Cleveland reversed himself, declaring that the U.S. might intervene should Spain fail to end the crisis in Cuba. If Cleveland was hesitant to intervene, his successor, President William McKinley (inaugurated on March 4, 1897), was not. The press continued to publicize Spain’s brutal actions as a colonial power in Cuba, while traditional hostility towards European colonial powers still ran deep among American voters, both factors creating strong pressure for U.S. intervention. To make matters worse, on February 9, 1898, the New York Journal published a copy of a letter from Spanish Foreign Minister Enrique Dupuy de Lôme criticizing McKinley.
On the evening of February 15, 1898, a terrible explosion on board the U.S.S. Maine shook Havana Harbor. A naval mine, it was believed, caused the tragedy in which 266 American sailors lost their lives. This was the precipitating cause of the Spanish-American War, for which by now the people clamored, urging McKinley to “Remember the Maine!” In early March, Congress passed a law allocating $50 million to build up military strength. On April 20, McKinley signed the Joint Congressional Resolution for war and forwarded it to Spain. A few days later he called for 125,000 volunteers. On April 25, 1898, the United States officially declared war on Spain.
The war went well from the start. Opening the battle with the famous quote, “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley,” on May 1, U.S. Commodore George Dewey defeated the Spanish squadron in Manila Bay, thus taking the Philippine Islands. Guam soon followed. Closer to home, U.S. and Cuban troops took El Viso Fort and the town of El Caney. San Juan Hill was taken with the help of the Rough Riders under Teddy Roosevelt and Santiago de Cuba fell as well. By mid-July, Spanish control of Cuba was at an end.
On July 18, the Spanish government, through the French Ambassador to the U.S., Jules Cambon, initiated a message to President McKinley to suspend the hostilities and to start the negotiations to end the war. Spain accepted the U.S. proposals for peace, with certain reservations regarding the Philippine Islands. McKinley called for a preliminary protocol from Spain before suspension of hostilities. On August 12, the peace protocol that ended all hostilities between Spain and the United States on the war fronts of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines was signed in Washington. That document would soon be used as the basis for discussion between Spain and the U.S. when negotiating the actual peace treaty in Paris. After a negotiation process that dragged on for well over two months, on December 10, 1898, representatives of Spain and the United States signed the Treaty of Peace in Paris. In that document, Spain renounced all rights to Cuba and allowed an independent Cuba, ceded Puerto Rico and the island of Guam to the Americans, gave up its possessions in the West Indies, and sold the Philippine Islands to the victor for $20 million. The U.S. was now a world power, complete with colonies.
Under the United States Constitution, no treaty entered into is effective until it has been ratifed by the U.S. Senate. And ratification was not a foregone conclusion in this case, as there was significant opposition to the U.S. becoming a colonial and imperialist power. On February 6, 1899 the Senate accepted the treaty by a vote of 57 to 27, only two more than the necessary two-thirds majority. McKinley, wasting no time, immediately ordered that the Great Seal of the United States be affixed to the treaty and that it be sent on to Spain, thus making the treaty official and ending the Spanish-American War.
Partly printed Document Signed as President on Executive Mansion stationery, Washington, February 6, 1899. “I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of State to cause the Seal of the United States to be affixed to the exchange copy of the Treaty of Peace between the United States and Spain, concluded at Paris, December 10, 1898, dated this day, and signed by me, and for so doing this shall be his warrant.” There have been only five declared wars in American history, and this document constitutes the official end of one of them.
The new territory it acquired by this treaty, and its appearance as a major force on the world stage, was a turning point for the United States with economic, political, military and diplomatic consequences. It also marked the American entrance into Asia, an event that would have such great consequence later, and saw the catapulting to prominence of Theodore Roosevelt, who was set squarely on the road to the White House.
A document of extraordinary importance in American history.
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