The debate over America’s global role intensified when Cubans began to fight for their independence from Spain in 1895. Americans were sympathetic to Cuba’s struggle for independence, but were divided about how to help. President William McKinley was deeply ambivalent about war against Spain. Ultimately, however, the pressure of public opinion forced McKinley into the war that made the United States an international power. Newspaper publishers like William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer worked up war fever among the public with reports...
In Havana Harbor, the USS Maine exploded, killing more than 260 Americans. Spain was accused of the sabotage but upon no evidence. The explosion spurred the Spanish-American War and inspired the motto “Remember the Maine!”
Debates in the United States Senate concerning the ratification of the 1898 Treaty of Paris focused on imperialism in early 1899. Though some worried that the treaty would make the US a “vulgar, commonplace empire, controlling subject races and vassal states, in which one class must forever rule and other classes must forever obey,” Congress eventually did ratify it on February 6, 1899. The treaty ended the Spanish-American War and provided for Spanish cession of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam to the United States.
A letter from the Spanish ambassador to the United States, Enrique Dupuy de Lôme, was published in the New York Journal. In the letter, de Lôme called President McKinley a “weak . . . bidder for the admiration of the crowd.”