"Remember the Maine!"
When some Americans wanted to revive the old Monroe Doctrine and become a world force, they discovered one way to acquire more land—the United States could seize lands held by others. Americans were feeling proud of their growing industrial and military strength. Spain was weak and Americans knew it.
Involvement in Cuba
Since 1895, Cubans had been in open revolt against Spanish colonial rule. In 1896, Spain sent troops to Cuba to control the rebels. Cuban rebels were sent to concentration camps, where over 200,000 inmates died of disease and malnutrition. In the United States, yellow journalists, like William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, wrote sensational headlines to sell papers. The American public read about the events in Cuba and began to demand support for the Cubans.
The Maine Sinks
On the evening of February 15, 1898, an explosion tore a hole in the hull of the American battleship USS Maine, which had been on patrol in Havana Harbor. Although there was no proof, Americans believed that Spain was responsible for the explosion. The general American population began demanding an immediate declaration of war.
President McKinley proceeded with caution. When the Spanish government agreed to a truce in Cuba and an end to concentration camps, it seemed as though compromise was possible. But by April 11, 1898, McKinley asked Congress for permission to use force in Cuba. He wanted to help establish Cuban independence. Congress passed an amendment, which promised that America would not annex Cuba. Then they declared open warfare on Spain.
Source: "Remember the Maine!"
Copyright ©2008-2017 ushistory.org, owned by the Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia, founded 1942.