The Spanish-American War

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The Spanish-American War

During the last years of the nineteenth century, the United States would find itself involved in what John Jay, the American secretary of state, later referred to as a "splendid little war; begun with highest motives, carried on with magnificent intelligence and spirit, favored by that fortune which loves the brave." From an American standpoint, because there were few negative results, and so many significantly positive consequences, John Jay was correct in calling the Spanish-American War a "splendid little war." The defeat of the Spanish forces marked the end of their rule in the Americas and also marked the rise of the United States as a global military power. The Spanish-American War affected the United States in a number of other ways. It helped speed the construction of the Panama Canal and also resulted in the U.S.'s acquisition of foreign territories. There were also many other minor positive outcomes to the war as opposed to the few negative consequences that resulted.

The Spanish-American War was the brief conflict that the United States waged against Spain in 1898. The war had grown out of the Cuban struggle for independence, and whose other causes included American imperialism and the sinking of the U.S warship Maine. The actual hostilities in the war lasted four months, from April 25 to August 12, 1898. Most of the fighting occurred in or near the Spanish colonial possessions of Cuba and the Philippines, nearly halfway around the world form each other. In both battlegrounds, the decisive military event was the complete destruction of a Spanish naval squadron by a vastly superior U.S. fleet. These victories, after brief resistance, brought about the surrender of the Spanish to U.S. military forces as indicated by a peace treaty signed between the two countries on December 10, 1898, in Paris, France. In the end, the Americans had minimal casualties, while the Spanish suffered immense fatalities and damage to their naval resources (Encyclopedia Britannica).

The Spanish-American War marked the end of Spain's colonial empire and the end of its rule in the Americas. Since the early 19th century, Americans had watched the series of revolutions that ended Spanish authority throughout South America, Central America, and Mexico. Many people in the United States, however, were irritated by the fact that the Spanish flag continued to fly in Cuba and Puerto Rico. Spain's brutal ways of putting down Cuban demands for some form of personal liberty aroused feelings of sympathy and anger among Americans (Chidsey).

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"The Spanish-American War." 22 May 2018
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Support for the cause of Cuban independence had deep historical roots in the United States, and this cause became the stated objective of the war ( When the U.S. navy destroyed the escaping Spanish ships, the war was unofficially over. The Spanish later surrendered after negotiations indicating the end of the hostilities in the Caribbean. The Treaty of Paris, which officially signaled the end of the war, among other things provided for Spain's withdrawal from Cuba. The Spanish-American War, an important turning point in the history of the United States, was also extremely significant to the Spanish. Spain's defeat decisively turned the nation's attention away from its overseas colonial adventures, and inward upon its domestic needs. This was a process that led to both a cultural and literary renaissance as well as two decades of much-needed economic development in Spain. The war, ultimately, marked the end of the Spanish Empire in the Americas.

Perhaps the greatest outcome of the war was that it marked the rise of the United States as a global military power. The war gave the United States a chance to show and prove its naval powers. Consequently, it did by defeating the Spanish fleet in the Philippines as well as the fleet stationed in Cuba, which they also effectively blockaded. Despite poor planning, the strategic and decisive victory over the Spanish gave the Americans an international recognition as a great power. The significant American ground victories at Las Gu´simas and San Juan Hill showed that the U.S. also had a strong and effective army. With these consistent land and 'at-sea' victories, it did not take long for the American forces to force the Spanish to surrender, and also establish themselves as a strong military power. "The United States was finally emerging as a world power in the late 1890's, and was becoming aware of its potential strength, but was unsure of how to use it effectively." In the end, the Americans came out from the war as a world power with a new stake in international politics that would lead to play a determining role in the affairs of Europe, as the world would soon see in World War I (Encyclopedia Britannica).

The American victory in the Spanish-American War helped speed up the construction of the Panama Canal. The United States had been desperately trying to connect both oceans in an effort to make transoceanic travel and military mobility quicker. The war illustrated, to U.S. military planners, the importance of a two-ocean navy; and furthermore influenced their desire to finish the Panama Canal. Now that the Americans had 'secured' the Caribbean, builders were now able to construct the much desired and anticipated Canal. It was seen as vital to linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans for U.S. commerce and military activities, and was later completed in 1914

( The eagerness of Americans to build the Panama Canal was due in great part to the victory in the Spanish-American War.
The last major positive outcome for the United States that came from the Spanish American War was that it resulted in the U.S. acquisition of territories in the western Pacific and Latin America. These acquisitions add to the fact that the United States was becoming an influential and feared nation, if not one already. The end of the war marked the dawn of the United States being a world power that would seek to expand and protect its interests in Asia. Shortly before the treaty negotiations, indicating the official end to the war, the annexation of Hawaii, which had been on hold for months, was quietly accomplished. The United States emerged from the war, not only as a military and world power, but also with widespread overseas possessions (Cosmas).

In the end, U.S. goals were overwhelmingly achieved. They succeeded in securing Cuban independence, removing Spanish forces from the Americas, establishing themselves as a world and military power, and also accomplished much more, with minimal losses. Other positive outcomes from the war include a positive change in the army, a surge in the economy, and as well as a strong international political influence. Senator Thurston of Nebraska said before the war: "War with Spain would increase the business and earnings of every American railroad, it would increase the output of every American factory, it would stimulate every branch of industry and domestic commerce." All of these predictions, indeed, turned out to be results of the Spanish-American War. The United States, both as a nation and as a people, prospered tremendously from this war.


"Spanish-American War." Encyclopedia Britannica: Volume 18, pp. 375-379. New York, New York: 1975.
Internet. Yahoo. Accessed: Tuesday, February 15, 2000.
Cosmas, Graham A. An Army for Empire: The United States Army in the Spanish-American War: the View from Wisconsin. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1971.
Internet. Lycos. Accessed: February 18, 2000.
Chidsey, Donald Barr. The Spanish-American War: A Behind the Scenes Account of the War in Cuba. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1971.

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