Classic History Books


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

The hasty, though perhaps natural, conclusion to which American public sentiment at once leaped,
however, was that the disaster was the work of Spain, without making any discrimination between the

Government itself and the disaffected factions. A general sorrow and anger throughout the United States

reinforced the popular anxiety for national interests and the humane regard for the Cubans. Press and

public oratory demanded official action. "Remember the Maine!" was an admonition which everywhere

met the eye and ear. The venerable and trusted Senator Proctor, who visited Cuba, came back with the

report that conditions on the island were intolerable. On the 9th of March, "Uncle Joe" Cannon, the

watchdog of the Treasury, introduced a bill appropriating fifty million dollars to be used for national

defense at the discretion of the President. No doubt remained in the public mind that war would result

unless the withdrawal of Spanish authority from Cuba could be arranged peaceably and immediately.

Even in this final stage of the negotiations it is sufficiently obvious that the United States Government
was particularly desirous of preserving peace. There is also little doubt that the Spanish Government in

good faith had the same desire. The intelligent classes in Spain realized that the days of Spanish rule in

Cuba were practically over. The Liberals believed that, under the circumstances, war with the United

States would be a misfortune. Many of the Conservatives, however, believed that a war, even if

unsuccessful, was the only way of saving the dynasty, and that the dynasty was worth saving. Public

opinion in Spain was therefore no less inflamed than in America, but it was less well-informed. Cartoons

represented the American hog, which would readily fall before the Spanish rapier accustomed to its

nobler adversary the bull. Spanish pride, impervious to facts and statistics, would brook no supine

submission on the part of its people to foreign demands. It was a question how far the Spanish

Government could bring itself to yield points in season which it fully realized must be yielded in the end.

The negotiation waxed too hot for the aged John Sherman, and was conducted by the Assistant Secretary,
William Rufus Day, a close friend of the President, but a man comparatively unknown to the public.

When Day officially succeeded Sherman (April 26, 1898) he had to face as fierce a light of publicity as

ever beat upon a public man in the United States. Successively in charge of the Cuban negotiations,

Secretary of State from April to September, 1898, President of the Paris Peace Commission in October,

in December, after a career of prime national importance for nine months in which he had demonstrated

his high competence, Day retired to the relative obscurity of the United States circuit bench. Although

later raised to the Supreme Court, he has never since been a national figure. As an example of a meteoric

career of a man of solid rather than meteoric qualities, his case is unparalleled in American history.

The acting Secretary of State telegraphed the ultimatum of the Government on March 27, 1898, to
General Stewart L. Woodford, then Minister to Spain. By the terms of this document, in the first place

there was to be an immediate amnesty which would last until the 1st of October and during which Spain

would communicate with the insurgents through the President of the United States; in the second place,

the reconcentrado policy was to cease immediately, and relief for the suffering Cubans was to be

admitted from the United States. Then, if satisfactory terms were not reached by the 1st of October, the

President was to be recognized as arbiter between the Spaniards and the insurgents.

On the 30th of March, Spain abrogated the reconcentrado policy in the "western provinces of Cuba," and
on the following day offered to arbitrate the questions arising out of the sinking of the Maine. On

Sunday, the 3d of April, a cablegram from General Woodford was received by the State Department

indicating that Spain was seeking a formula for an armistice that should not too obviously appear to be

submission and suggesting that the President ask the Pope to intervene and that the United States abstain

from all show of force. "If you can still give me time and reasonable liberty of action," ran Woodford's

 

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