Spain Loses War And Colonies

National unity was even more clearly visible during the war with Spain in 1898. Spain had continued to rule the island of Cuba - lying to the south of the Florida peninsula - where trade with the United States was actively flourishing. In 1895, Cuba's growing wrath against the tyranny of the mother country burst into a war of independence.

The United States watched the course of the uprising with mounting concern. Most Americans were sympathetic with the Cubans, but President Cleveland was determined to preserve neutrality. Three years later, however, during the McKinley Administration, when the U.S. warship Maine was destroyed while lying at anchor in Havana harbor and 260 men were killed, an outburst of indignation arose. Although for a time McKinley tried to preserve the peace, within a few months, believing delay futile, he recommended armed intervention.

The war with Spain was swift and decisive. During the four months it lasted, 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. He proceeded to destroy the entire Spanish fleet without losing an American life. Meanwhile, in Cuba, troops were landed near Santiago, where, after winning a rapid series of engagements, they fired on the port. Four armored Spanish cruisers steamed out of Santiago Bay and a few hours later were reduced to ruined hulks.

This expansion in the Philippines met with a lot of resistence at home. Mark Twains thoughts on the Philippines operation

From Boston to San Francisco, whistles blew and flags waved when word came that Santiago had fallen. Newspapers dispatched correspondents to Cuba and the Philippines, who 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 regiment he had recruited for service in Cuba. Spain soon sued for peace, and in the treaty signed on December 10, 1898, transferred Cuba to the United States for temporary occupation preliminary to the island's independence. In addition, Spain ceded Puerto Rico and Guam in lieu of war indemnity, and the Philippines on payment of $20 million.

Newly established in the Philippines, the United States now had high hopes of a vigorous trade with China. 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 also exclusive concessions for investing capital in railway construction and mining development in adjoining regions.

In its own earlier diplomatic relations with the Orient, the American government had always insisted upon equality of commercial privileges for all nations, and now, if this principle were to be preserved, a bold course was necessary. In September 1899 Secretary of State John Hay addressed a circular note to the powers concerned, who thereupon 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 it required all his skill to carry out 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 soon 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. But the President 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.