Classic History Books


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

Manila. This protocol provided for the meeting of peace commissioners at Paris not later than the 1st of
October. Spain agreed immediately to evacuate and relinquish all claim to Cuba; to cede to the United

States ultimately all other islands in the West Indies, and one in the Ladrones; and to permit the United

States to "occupy and hold the city, bay, and harbor of Manila pending the conclusion of a treaty of peace

which shall determine the control, disposition, and government of the Philippines."

President McKinley appointed the Secretary of State, William R. Day, as president of the peace
commission, and summoned John Hay home from England to take his place. The other commissioners

were Senators Cushman K. Davis and William P. Frye, Republicans, Senator George Gray, Democrat,

and Whitelaw Reid, the editor of the New York "Tribune". The secretary of the commission was the

distinguished student of international law, John Bassett Moore. On most points there was general

agreement as to what they were to do. Cuba, of course, must be free. It was, moreover, too obvious to

need much argument that Spanish rule on the American continent must come altogether to an end. As

there was no organized local movement in Porto Rico to take over the government, its cession to the

United States was universally recognized as inevitable. Nevertheless when the two commissions met in

Paris, there proved to be two exciting subjects of controversy, and at moments it seemed possible that the

attempt to arrange a peace would prove unsuccessful. However reassured the people were by the

successful termination of the war, for those in authority the period of anxiety had not yet entirely passed.

The first of these points was raised by the Spanish commissioners. They maintained that the separation of
Cuba from Spain involved the rending of the Empire, and that Cuba should therefore take responsibilities

as well as freedom. The specific question was that of debts contracted by Spain, for the security of which

Cuban revenues had been pledged. There was a manifest lack of equity in this claim, for Cuba had not

been party to the contracting of the obligations, and the money had been spent in stifling her own desire

to be free rather than on the development of her resources. Nevertheless the Spanish commissioners

could feel the support of a sustaining public opinion about them, for the bulk of these obligations were

held in France and investors were doubtful of the ability of Spain, if bereft of her colonies, to carry her

enormous financial burdens. The point, then, was stoutly urged, but the American commissioners as

stoutly defended the interests of their clients, the Cubans, and held their ground. Thanks to their efforts,

the Cuban republic was born free of debt.

The other point was raised by the American commissioners, and was both more important and more
complicated, for when the negotiation began the United States had not fully decided what it wanted. It

was necessary first to decide and then to obtain the consent of Spain with regard to the great unsettled

question of the disposition of the Philippines. Dewey's victory came as an overwhelming surprise to the

great majority of Americans snugly encased, as they supposed themselves to be, in a separate

hemisphere. Nearly all looked upon it as a military operation only, not likely to lead to later

complications. Many discerning individuals, however, both in this country and abroad, at once saw or

feared that occupation would lead to annexation. Carl Schurz, as early as the 9th of May, wrote

McKinley expressing the hope that "we remain true to our promise that this is a war of deliverance and

not one of greedy ambition, conquest, self-aggrandizement." In August, Andrew Carnegie wrote in "The

North American Review" an article on "Distant Possessions - The Parting of the Ways."

Sentiment in favor of retaining the islands, however, grew rapidly in volume and in strength. John Hay
wrote to Andrew Carnegie on the 22d of August: "I am not allowed to say in my present fix (ministerial

responsibility) how much I agree with you. The only question in my mind is how far it is now

POSSIBLE for us to withdraw from the Philippines. I am rather thankful it is not given to me to solve

 

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