Dubbed the “Splendid Little War” because of its brevity and excellent results for American interests, the Spanish-American War is often viewed as one of the key events in the American rise to international power. American participation in the war resulted, in large measure, from the activities and pressure brought to bear by business magnates and government officials who favored vast development of the U.S. military as a precursor to expanding American economic markets and political interests abroad, especially in Asia.
In the decades before the Spanish-American War, the U.S. economy was plagued by the national debt, resulting in large measure from the U.S. Civil War, a downturn in agricultural prices, high unemployment due to the failure of many railroads, the demise of those investors and banks that had paid for the railroads, the declining value of stocks, and little growth in domestic markets. Business leaders, government officials, and academics teamed together to find viable markets abroad. The ideas of one thinker in particular, Frederick Jackson
Soon, new views of
Ongoing Cuban rebellions such as the Ten Years’ War and the uprising of 1895 caught the attention of American businessmen and government officials. American investments on the island had reached approximately $50 million, and import-export trade with
The explosion of the U.S. battleship Maine on February 15, 1898, was the determining factor in pushing the nation into war. The final report of the investigatory commission of the Judge Advocate of the Navy found that the explosion had been caused by a mine. The commission found insufficient evidence to fix responsibility for the explosion on any person or entity, but U.S. public opinion had been whipped into a frenzy, as yellow journalists blamed the Spanish.
The United States declared war on Spain on April 25, 1898. Congress immediately appropriated $50 million to be used at the president’s discretion and authorized the use of tariffs and a national inheritance tax to fund the war effort. A maximum rate of 15 percent was applied to estates valued over $1 million that were left to distant relatives, nonrelatives, or other entities. Military defeat of the Spaniards was quick. Spain and the United States signed a peace protocol ending the conflict on August 12, 1898.
Economic and political benefits of the war were abundant for the United States. In July, McKinley had authorized the annexation of
Cosmas, Graham A. An Army for Empire: The United States Army in the Spanish-American War. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1971. Detailed and carefully documented history and analysis of the role of the Army in every aspect of the war; an indispensable source. McCartney, Paul T. Power and Progress: American National Identity, the War of 1898, and the Rise of American Imperialism. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2007. This excellent work situates the war in its cultural context and considers the important role played by the search for American national identity. Musicant, Ivan. Empire by Default: The Spanish-American War and the Dawn of the American Century. New York: Henry Holt, 1998. Perhaps the finest analysis to date of the causes of the war, its conduct, and its end results. Offner, John L. An Unwanted War: The Diplomacy of the United States and Spain over Cuba, 1895-1898. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992. Interesting comparison of the events leading up to this “unwanted” war, from both the American and the Spanish perspectives. O’Toole, G. J. A. The Spanish War: An American Epic, 1898. New York: W. W. Norton, 1984. This study not only offers a clear chronology of the events leading up to and during the war but also provides significant insights into the period that are abundantly documented through personal correspondence.
Asian trade with the United States
European trade with the United States
Latin American trade with the United States