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THE LIFE OF
SIDE from the natural sympathy for the pa
triotic aims of the Cubans and compassion for their sufferings, there were numerous other considerations which caused the people of the United States to demand a speedy end to the war. The sanitary conditions in Cuba, and particularly in the harbor of Havana, none too good in time of peace, had become so bad because of the war as to threaten the health of the Southern States, where an epidemic of yellow fever was greatly feared. The commercial interests were suffering heavily because of the war. The people of the United States were unable to obtain their supplies of sugar and tobacco, of which enormous quantities are imported from Cuba, and were no longer able to send wheat, corn, meat, and various manufactured articles in exchange. The investments of Americans in Cuba were rendered unproductive by the war and were in great danger
of total loss. The wholesale destruction of mills and plantations by both Spaniards and Cubans was making these properties valueless as securities for the large loans by American capitalists. President Cleveland, in his annual message of 1896, estimated the amount of American capital invested in Cuba at $30,000,000 to $50,000,000 and the volume of trade between Cuba and the United States in 1894, which was the year before the insurrection began, at $96,000,000. Besides the pecuniary risk and loss, there was the constant menace to the lives of Americans resident in Cuba, Spain being unable or unwilling to give the protection to which they were entitled by treaty.
Moreover, the maintenance of neutrality necessitated the expenditure of millions of dollars by the United States Government in policing a coast-line of three thousand miles, with the constant danger that at any moment some act of violence might create a new cause for friction, as in the case of the Virginius.
In addition to all this, there was the probability that Spain would be unable to end the war. She had refused the good offices of the United States when
So efficiently was this done that not a single military expedition or armed vessel was permitted to leave the shores of the United States in violation of the law. (See President's Message of December, 1897.)
proffered by President Cleveland, avowing that no pacification could be effectual that did not begin with the complete submission of the insurgents. The Cubans continually asserted that nothing short of independence would be satisfactory to them. Spain had spent a vast sum, estimated at $300,000,000, in prosecuting the war, and had sent to the island armies outnumbering the entire body of male adults capable of taking arms for the insurgents, yet had made no progress. It was therefore reasonable to ask whether the time had not arrived for Spain, of her own volition, to "put a stop to this destructive war and make proposals of settlement honorable to herself and just to her Cuban colony and to mankind” – a question which was asked of the Spanish Government at the earliest possible opportunity. This
On the other hand, there were two strong reasons why President McKinley refused to be hurried into a declaration that would mean war. The first was that the country was ill-prepared for the emergency. The coasts were undefended. There was a shortage of men, ammunition, and supplies in both army and navy. When war became probable the most hurried preparation had to be made. Even against so weak a power as Spain, the navy was inadequate, and
1 Note of the United States to Spain, September 23, 1897. For eign Relations of the United States (1898), p. 571.
the Secretary was obliged to supplement his fleets by such hurried purchases as he could make of merchant ships to be transformed into auxiliary cruisers, gunboats, and colliers. It was vastly to the credit of the Administration that when hostilities actually began, the nation was reasonably well prepared for the struggle, as the successful outcome proved.
The second reason for making haste slowly was a change of administration in Spain that gave birth to a new hope of final adjustment without war. On the 8th of August, 1897, Señor Canovas del Castillo, the strong-armed autocrat of Spain, was assassinated by an anarchist. It was his blind obstinacy, assisted by the fierce vindictiveness of his emissary, Weyler, that had brought the Cuban situation to a crisis from which recovery was impossible. Canovas was succeeded as Prime Minister, though not until October 4, by Praxédes Mateo Sagasta, one of the leaders in the revolution of 1868 and a man of far more liberal spirit. The order for the recall of Weyler followed five days later. A programme of reforms was adopted and a new scheme of autonomy for Cuba devised. Of this welcome change, Mr. McKinley said in his message of December 6, 1897:
“That the Government of Sagasta has entered upon a course from which recession with honor is