Spain loses war and colonies

The actual hostilities proved swift and decisive, lasting four months in all. Not a single American reverse of any importance occurred. A week after the declaration of war, Commodore George Dewey, then at Hong Kong, proceeded with his squadron of six vessels to the Philippines. His orders were to prevent the Spanish fleet based there from operating in American waters. Before dawn, he ran the batteries of Manila Bay and, by high noon, he had destoyed the entire Spanish fleet without losing an American life. Meanwhile in Cuba, troops equivalent to a single army corps were landed near Santiago; they won a rapid series of engagements and fired on the port. Four armored Spanish cruisers plunged out of Santiago Bay and a few hours later were reduced to smashed hulks.

From Boston to San Francisco, whistles blew and flags waved on the hot July day when word came that Santiago had fallen. Newspapers rushed their correspondents to Cuba and the Philippines, and these writers trumpeted the renown of the nation's new heroes. Chief among them were George Dewey of Manila fame and Theodore Roosevelt, leader of the "Rough Riders," a volunteer cavalry iegiment he had recruited for service in Cuba. Before long Spain sued for peace, and a treaty was signed on December 10, 1898. By its terms, Spain transferred Cuba to the United States for temporary occupation preliminary to insular independence. It ceded Puerto Rico and Guam in lieu of war indemnity, and the Philippines on payment of $20,000,000.

Newly established in the Philippines, the United States now had high hopes of a vigorous trade with Clina. Since China's defeat by Japan in 1894-95, however, various European nations had acquired naval bases, leased territories, and established spheres of influence there. They had secured not only monopolistic trade rights, but usually also exclusive concessions for the investment of capital in railvay construction and mining development in adjoining regions. In its own earlier diplomatic relations with the Orient the American government had always insisted upon equalily of commercial privileges for all nations. If this principle were now to be preserved, a bold course was necessary. In September 1899, Secretary of State John Hay addressed a circular note to the powers concerned. They agreed to the doctrine of the "open door" for all nations in China-that is, equality of trading opportunities (including equal tariffs, harbor duties, and railway rates) in the areas they controlled.

In 1900, however, the Chinese struck out against the foreigners. In June, insurgents seized Peiping and besieged the foreign legations there. Hay promptly announced to the powers that the United States would oppose any disturbance of Chinese territorial or administrative rights or of the "open door." Once the rebellion was quelled, however, it required all of his skill to carry through the American program and to protect China from crushing indemnities. In October, however, Great Britain and Germany once more signified their adherence to the open-door policy and the preservation of Chinese independence, and the other nations presently followed.

Meanwhile, the presidential election of 1900 gave the American people a chance to pass judgment on the McKinley administration, especially its foreign policy. Meeting at Philadelphia, the Republicans expressed jubilation over the successful outcome of the war with Spain, the restoration of prosperity, and the effort to obtain new markets through the "policy of the open door." McKinley's election, with Theodore Roosevelt as his running mate, was a foregone conclusion. The President, however, did not live long enough to enjoy his victory. In September 1901, while attending an exposition in Buffalo, New York, he was shot down by an assassin. McKinley's death brought Theodore Roosevelt to the presidential chair.