Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 27 >> 36 Finances 1861 1919 to 57 Navy Of The >> 39 the War with_P1

39 the War with Spain

spanish, american, government, insurgents, island, finding, brought, board and cuba

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

39. THE WAR WITH SPAIN. The Spanish-American War of 1898 was the out come of conditions set up in Cuba by the political discontent in the island during nearly the whole of the 19th century, varied in the latter half by long-continued revolts. The United States government, controlled as it was in the earlier half of the century by the slave interest of the South, had desired and made overtures at intervals to annex the island. But this wish disappeared with the changed condi tions brought by the Civil War. There was no longer a reason through desire to extend slave territory, and the annexation of a large alien population, much of which was colored, was repellant. •The Ten Years' War in Cuba, which began in 1868 through the refusal of Spain to accede to plainly necessary reforms, had been ended by promises him Spain which were not kept. Revolt thenceforward was pas sive rather than active, but sure in time to break into activity, which it did in 1895. The com mercial and social conditions begotten by chronic strife through so many years wrought not only upon the sympathies of the United States, but generated ill feeling which must always come when trade interests are deeply injured. Large property interests in the island itself were held by Americans, many of whom suffered most severely. By the end of 1897 the island had been brought to the verge of ruin. The insurgents, always strong in the east, had raided the west, burning canefields and destroying plantation buildings in the attempt to create a desolation which would make Cuba valueless to Spain. The Peninsular Government with more than 200,000 men in the island was making no head way against the insurgents. It had become clear, as Consul-General Lee reported to his govern ment, that Spain was powerless to suppress the revolt, and the insurgents squally powerless against the Spanish occupation. A large propor tion of the rural population had been brought within the Spanish lines by a decree of Gov ernor-General Weyler, issued early in 1897. But the Spanish authorities could feed neither them nor their own troops. Destitution, starvation and death to an appalling degree was the re sult; cultivation outside the Spanish lines practically ceased; the commonest necessaries of life had to be imported. Spain looked upon the situation as due largely to American sympathies and aid. No doubt the dogged persistence of the insurgents was due in a considerable degree to hopes of American intervention, but the fact is that the American government loyally did its duty in suppressing unlawful attempts to send aid from its ter ritory. It could not suppress the general sentiment of the country for a much-suffering population. The American government thus felt called upon to insist upon reforms which would restore something like the normal conditions of human society, and this pressure, united with the action of the Spanish liberals, caused to be enacted the law signed by the queen regent, November 1897, establishing a system of Cuban autonomy. General Blanco was sent in the be

ginning of 1898 as governor-general with the avowed object of pacification upon such lines. But the Spaniards and their friends in Cuba were opposed to the scheme as granting too much; the insurgents, as granting too little. Nor were the latter willing to continue the dom inancy of Spain at any price. Nothing short of independence would be listened to. The attempt was thus doomed to failure. January 1898 was marked by serious military riots in Havana due to the opposition of the Spanish party to Blanco. In consequence of the supposed danger from these disturbances to American citizens, the Maine, which had been for some time at Key West and vicinity, engaged in looking after fili bustering attempts, was sent to Havana. Her arrival caused offense. She dominated the city from her anchorage, and her coming was thus looked upon as a threat. Her destruction, 15 February, naturally laid by the American public at the door of the Spaniards, brought a state of excitement which, combined with the previous feeling, made war dangerously near. The Court of Inquiry of which Admiral (then Captain) Sampson was president, after sitting more than a month, rendered a finding that her destruc tion was due to an exterior mine. This finding was chiefly based upon the extraordinary man ner in which the keel was forced tip at the centre of the explosive effort, 34 feet above its normal position. As the ship settled but from four to six feet before touching bottom, it would seem impossible that any launching for ward of the after body could have produced such an effect. Two other considerations add weight to the board's finding; the first, that the only ship of the American navy ever so destroyed had to wait to arrive in an unfriendly port before the catastrophe should be accom plished; the second, the wholly different effects of the explosion of the forward magazine of the Oquendo after the Santiago action. The finding of the board in no way implicated the Spanish government, and the writer, as a mem ber of the board, can state explicitly that no member of the board held such a view. It should be added that the very cursory and un trustworthy examination by the Spanish divers is shown by their report that the keel appeared to be intact. The examination made in 1911 by the army and navy board, after the un covering of the wreck, substantiated the finding of the Court of Inquiry.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9