Classic History Books

The Path of Empire. A Chronicle of the United States as a World Power
by Carl Russell Fish

burned crops and sugar mills, and were off before troops could arrive. The portion of the population in
revolt at any particular time was rarely large. Many were insurgents one week and peaceful citizens the

next. The fact that the majority of the population sympathized with the insurgents enabled the latter to

melt into the landscape without leaving a sign. A provisional government hurried on mule-back from

place to place. The Spanish Government, contrary to custom, acted at this time with some energy: it put

two hundred thousand soldiers into the island; it raised large levies of loyal Cubans; it was almost always

victorious; yet the revolution would not down. Martinez Campos, the "Pacificator" of the first revolution,

was this time unable to protect the plains. In 1896 he was replaced by General Weyler, who undertook a

new system. He started to corral the insurgents by a chain of blockhouses and barbed wire fences from

ocean to sea - the first completely guarded cross-country line since the frontier walls of the Roman

Empire in Europe and the Great Wall of China in Asia. He then proceeded to starve out the insurgents by

destroying all the food in the areas to which they were confined. As the revolutionists lived largely on the

pillage of plantations in their neighborhood, this policy involved the destruction of the crops of the loyal

as well as of the disloyal, of Americans as well as of Cubans. The population of the devastated

plantations was gathered into reconcentrado camps where, penned promiscuously into small reservations,

they were entirely dependent upon a Government which was poor in supplies and as careless of

sanitation as it was of humanity. The camps became pest-holes, spreading contagion to all regions having

intercourse with Cuba, and in vain the interned victims were crying aloud for succor.

This new policy of disregard for property and life deeply involved American interests and sensibilities.
The State Department maintained that Spain was responsible for the destruction of American property by

insurgents. This Spain denied, for, while she never officially recognized the insurgents as belligerents,

the insurrection had passed beyond her control. This was, indeed, the position which the Spanish Treaty

Claims Commission subsequently took in ruling that to establish a claim it would be necessary to show

that the destruction of property was the consequence of negligence upon the part of Spanish authorities or

of military orders. Of other serious grievances there was no doubt. American citizens were imprisoned,

interned in reconcentrado camps, and otherwise maltreated. The nationality of American sufferers was in

some cases disputed, and the necessity of dealing with each of these doubtful cases by the slow and

roundabout method of complaint to Madrid, which referred matters back to Havana, which reported to

Madrid, served but to add irritation to delay. American resentment, too, was fired by the sufferings of the

Cubans themselves as much as by the losses and difficulties of American citizens.

One change of extreme importance had taken place since the Cuban revolt of 1868-78. This was the
development of the modern American newspaper. It was no longer possible for the people at large to

remain ignorant of what was taking place at their very doors. Correspondents braved the yellow fever

and imprisonment in order to furnish the last details of each new horror. Foremost in this work were

William Randolph Hearst, who made new records of sensationalism in his papers, particularly in the

New York Journal, and Joseph Pulitzer, proprietor of the New York World. Hearst is reported to have

said that it cost him three millions to bring on the Spanish American War. The net result of all this

newspaper activity was that it became impossible for the American people to remain in happy ignorance

of what was going on in the world. Their reaction to the facts was their own.

President Cleveland modeled his policy upon that of Grant and Grant's Secretary, Hamilton Fish. He did
not recognize the independence of the Cuban republic, for that would have meant immediate war with

Spain; nor did he recognize even its belligerency. Public men in the United States were still convinced

that Great Britain had erred in recognizing the belligerency of the Southern Confederacy, and

consistency of foreign policy demanded that the Government should not accord recognition to a


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