War with Spain - Charles Morris




From War to Peace

The war of 1898 was in some respects a singular one. It was fought entirely outside the two countries concerned, that is, if we consider the colonies of Spain as no part of the country itself. It was fought almost entirely by the navy, there being but one battle on land in which large armies took part; yet throughout the war less than a score of men lost their lives on the ships of the United States, and not a ship was seriously injured, while the navy of Spain was practically annihilated. It was a war in which all the successes were on one side, all the failures on the other, and in which the entire loss of life in battle on the part of the United States was but a few hundred men. That of Spain it is impossible to estimate.

But while the war did not touch the mainland of the two countries concerned, its effects made themselves strongly felt there. To the United States it seemed to bring prosperity and glory. Industry advanced, commerce increased, values grew, and money and food became superabundant; while the eyes of Europe for the first time became fully opened to the greatness of the republic of the West, and came to look upon it as a new-world power, to be taken seriously into account in all future rearrangements of the status of the nations. Four months of war had surprisingly changed the relations of the United States with the great powers abroad.

To Spain, on the other hand, it brought loss and degradation. That country came out of it shorn of her most valuable colonies, overloaded with debt, virtually bankrupt, and greatly lowered in rank among the nations. While the United States obtained all the money needed in the war from her own people at a low rate of interest, and took a large part of it directly from her treasury, Spain sought in vain to borrow from the capitalists of the world, who refused to trust their money in such doubtful hands. Yet, if she could have borrowed millions, they would have been of little use to her; for, beyond sending one fleet across the ocean to be annihilated, she was obliged to let the war be fought by the forces in her colonies, the soldiers sent over in previous years to subdue the insurrections. These once conquered, Spain's power of defence in her colonies was at an end, for she was utterly unable to come to their aid.

Such were the respective conditions of the two countries. Some relation of the events that took place in each during the war comes here in place, as leading to the terms upon which peace was granted. In Spain a persistent system of falsification prevailed. The newspapers were not permitted to tell the truth, and it was only through indirect channels that a knowledge of the true state of affairs made its way among the people. The country was so deeply permeated with the elements of revolution, so many diverse factions-Carlists, republicans, anarchists-stood ready to rise against the government, that the rulers dared not admit the losses of their arms, lest they should be driven in disgrace from the land.

And yet the revolution that impended was not a result of Spain's misfortunes in war, but of her misgovernment and oppression in peace. The majority of the people were said to be absolutely without interest in the war, being so affected by the misery that prevailed at home as to take no concern in the affairs of the colonies. Hunger and destitution were the controlling forces: the bread question was far more prominent than the war question, and the outbreaks that took place and the troubles that threatened were instigated by starvation rather than war. Spain was in a state of ferment which threatened every social and political institution of the land, and the government was in no condition to prosecute a war abroad while at home she seemed trembling on the verge of a volcano. Her wisest statesmen felt that the contest was hopeless, but feared the effect of a confession of defeat. And the fatal Spanish spirit of procrastination was by no means absent, uselessly protracting the struggle when every day added to the difficulties of the situation and the chances of a sterner penalty being imposed in the end.

A few words will suffice to indicate the financial ability of the United States to prosecute the war. As a preliminary to the contest, $50,000,000 were taken in one sum from the treasury to aid in the work of preparation. At the end of the contest the treasury held more than $200,000,000 in gold. The total direct cost of the war was about $130,000,000, to provide the funds for which without disturbing the ordinary financial operations of the government a war-loan of $200,000,000 at three percent interest was offered to the people, care being taken that small subscriptions should be given the preference and that it should be in every respect a popular loan. The loan was taken with the greatest avidity, the offers made amounting to the vast sum of $1,325,000,000, or nearly seven times the amount of the issue. Nearly three hundred thousand subscriptions were received, the books closing on July 14, and the loan was distributed to the small bidders, the upper limit of allotments being $4500, while nearly half the total amount went to subscribers for $500 and under.

To provide funds for the repayment of this loan and the meeting of the war expenses a new internal tax law was passed by Congress, embracing stamp taxes on a great variety of legal and business documents, license taxes on places of amusement, bankers, and brokers, and taxes on legacies, fermented liquors, tobacco, tea, and mixed flour. The law went into effect, except in the case of the last-mentioned items, on July 1, 1898. It promised to yield in no great time sufficient funds to pay all the expenses of the war.

The ability of the United States to meet all demands likely to be made upon its resources, in war or peace, was shown in a statement issued in July from the Government Bureau of Foreign Commerce, whose statistics indicated an extraordinary development of American commerce during the fiscal year ending July 1, 1898. This statement showed that the exports of the United States during that year had enormously exceeded the imports, and that these exports consisted of articles of manufacture to a degree greatly exceeding those of any preceding year.

Mr. Frederick Emory, who prepared the report, referred to this trade development as "an American invasion of the markets of the world. "In his view the United States was no longer merely the "granary of the world," since, while its export of agricultural products was extraordinarily great, its sales abroad of manufactured goods had greatly extended, in spite of obstructions and discriminations in foreign countries. "Notwithstanding." he said, "that organized effort to reach foreign markets for our manufactures is as yet in its infancy, the ability of the United States to compete successfully with the most advanced industrial nations in any part of the world, as well as with those nations in their home markets, can no longer be seriously questioned." We are being converted, he said, "slowly but surely from a people absorbed with the internal development of a virgin continent into one of the great commercial powers of the world, with the international interests and responsibilities which such a position naturally implies."

The war with Spain promised to add greatly in its results to our position and interests as a world power by giving us valuable colonial possessions in near and distant seas. One of these new possessions, the Hawaiian archipelago, while not directly, was indirectly a result of the war. This important group of Pacific islands had for several years been waiting to be accepted or rejected by the United States. A request from Hawaii for annexation several years before had been declined by President Cleveland. The subject of annexation was brought up again in 1898, passed the House in the form of a resolution, and was passed by the Senate with a two-thirds vote on July 6. President McKinley immediately signed the resolution, and the long contest over Hawaii was at an end.

On the 7th Secretary Long gave orders for the departure of the cruiser Philadelphia from Mare Island for Hawaii with the important news. The Philadelphia  had taken no part in the war, being under repair since its beginning. She was now given the distinguished honor of carrying the flag of the United States to those islands, and by this act including them within the American Union. The duty of hoisting the flag was assigned to Admiral Miller, then in command of the Pacific Station, the President appointing a commission to frame laws suitable for the new acquisition of the United States. The Philadelphia  sailed on the 27th, and the ceremony of final annexation took place on August 12, by an interesting coincidence on the very day on which the protocol of peace with Spain was signed. The ceremony of raising the flag and formally proclaiming the Hawaiian Islands part of the United States was a simple one, Admiral Miller wisely not making it an occasion of ostentation, in view of the fact that the loss of their independence was bitterly opposed by the natives of the islands. Few of them witnessed the ceremony of flag-raising, and the small number who appeared turned their eyes, filled with tears, away from their flag as it came slowly down, to be replaced by the standard of the United States.

The ceremony took place at noon, in the presence of the authorities and all the people of Honolulu except the natives. As the Hawaiian standard fluttered downward to the earth, Admiral Miller gave a signal, the sound of a bugle was heard, and from the ground rose a magnificent American flag, hailed with cheers as it unfurled and floated out on the air, and the inspiring notes of the "Star-Spangled Banner" rang out from the band of the Philadelphia. The President's proclamation was then read, the oath of allegiance to the United States was administered to President Dole and his Cabinet, who for the time being continued in power, the Hawaiian National Guard took the oath at their barracks, and the ceremonies ended. The republic of Hawaii had become part of the United States of America.

Returning to affairs more immediately connected with the war, some reference to the attitude of the powers of Europe seems here demanded. Though these powers, in common with the other civilized nations of the earth, had declared neutrality between the warring nations, some degree of hostility to one or the other parties concerned seemed to underlie their sense of international obligations. The attitude of Germany appeared to indicate that a desire to share in the partition of the Philippine Islands was strongly entertained in that country, and many of the newspapers of Germany and France were strongly pro-Spanish in their comments on the war.

Rumors of a purpose of intervention on the part of the European powers were from time to time set afloat, and the statement was made that several of these powers had it in view to try and make a European question of the hostile relations between Spain and the United States, dealing with these powers as they had dealt with Crete and Greece. If such a design was seriously entertained, dread of how the United States might receive a movement of this character stood seriously in the way of an attempt to put it into effect. And the attitude of Great Britain was an equally serious obstacle to any such project. That country not only was not to be drawn into any scheme of interference, but could not even be trusted to remain neutral. There was the strongest reason to believe that it would aid the United States in resistance to Continental coercion, and the powers of Europe did not dare to array against them, in a transatlantic matter, the British fleet. However all this be, and whether or not such a project was entertained as has

been asserted, no open indication of any such purpose was made, and the war remained strictly confined to the two powers concerned. In truth, the real sentiments entertained by Germany and France towards the United States remained undivulged, the views afloat being mainly based on newspaper utterances, not on official acts.

This being the case, and Spain being forced to depend on her own weak self, only one course stood between her and ruin, a request for peace. Such a request the United States had obviously no thought of making, and the continued series of reverses to the arms of Spain made it evident that the longer the war was permitted to continue the greater would be her final loss. It is the custom in modem wars for the conquering nation to make its defeated enemy pay the cost, and the "bill of expenses" was running up at a rapid rate. Spain's only hope lay in an immediate peace, yet she seemed to be the last of the nations to perceive this, and permitted the war to drift on long after wisdom dictated a yielding of her pride and a request for the most favorable terms she could obtain.

The first move of Spain in this direction was made on July 26, three months after the outbreak of the war, through the intermedium of M. Jules Cambon, the French ambassador to the United States. This gentleman called on President McKinley at three o'clock in the afternoon of that day, with the statement that he had been instructed by the Foreign Office at Paris to make a tender of peace to the United States on the part of the Spanish ministry. M. Cambon had been simply authorized to open peace negotiations, but his powers were soon extended to enable him to act as the representative of Spain in obtaining conditions from the United States.

After full consideration in cabinet meetings and in conferences with M. Cambon, a synopsis of the conditions upon which the United States would consent to an armistice, pending the conclusion of a treaty of peace, was formulated and transmitted to Spain. It was in effect as follows:

The President waived for the time being the question of demanding a pecuniary indemnity from Spain, but required the relinquishment of all claim of sovereignty over or title to the island of Cuba, and the immediate evacuation of that island; the evacuation and cession to the United States of Porto Rico and other islands held by Spain in the West Indies; and the cession of an island in the Ladrone group. The city, bay, and harbor of Manila were to be held by the United States until a commission, to be appointed by the two countries concerned, had decided on what should be done with the Philippines, and had concluded a final treaty of peace on the basis above indicated.

Spain dealt with these terms with considerable deliberation. On August 1 the Cabinet at Madrid held a long session, ending in a despatch to Washington for "further explanation of some difficult points." There was the best of reasons, however, for believing that the Spanish government had no intention of continuing the war, since that must result in the loss of all the Philippines, and possibly a demand for a large money indemnity, while if the terms were quickly accepted the United States would perhaps limit its demand to a coaling and naval station in the Philippines.

Later instructions to M. Cambon were to the effect that Spain was anxious to retain possession of Luzon, the principal Philippine island, to have her troops depart from Cuba and Porto Rico with all the honors of war, and to have the right to remove all war material from those islands. She also asked to be relieved from paying the debt incurred on account of Cuba and Porto Rico. This last proposition, which would have saddled Cuba with a debt of $550,000,000, incurred in the effort to subdue its inhabitants, the United States was very little likely to accept, and the French ambassador was given to understand that this country would neither modify its propositions nor consent to enter upon peace negotiations until Spain had fully accepted the conditions proposed.

Finding that no better terms were to be had, the Spanish Cabinet, at a meeting held August 7, accepted those offered. Though this information was at once made public in the United States, the answer itself was two days in reaching Washington, it coming via Paris, and requiring to be twice translated, put into cipher, and again deciphered. As the paper was a long one, entering into considerable detail, all this took time, and it was not presented to the President by M. Cambon until 5:30 P.M. of August 9. As the answer proved to be a practical acceptance of the American terms, the President directed a protocol, or preliminary basis of a treaty of peace, embodying the propositions made, to be drawn up and submitted to M. Cambon as the representative of Spain. This decision was communicated by M. Cambon to the government at Madrid, from which came an immediate reply authorizing the French ambassador to sign the protocol on behalf of Spain.

It was expected that the protocol would be signed and the war end on the10th, but the French ambassador preferred first to transmit its full text to Madrid, that there might be left no room for misunderstanding, his request gaining force from the fact that a few verbal changes had been made in the text, Secretary Day assented to this request, and the protocol was converted into cipher and cabled to Madrid. Authority to sign came back by cable, and the final ceremony of signing took place about 4 P.M. on August 12, at which day and hour the war with Spain came to an end,—for no doubt was felt that the armistice would end in formal peace, Spain being helpless to resist any demands that the United States was likely to make.

The text of the protocol, the signing of which was immediately followed by a proclamation from President McKinley suspending hostilities, was as follows:

"His Excellency M. Cambon, Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the French republic at Washington, and Mr. William B. Day, Secretary of State of the United States, having received respectively to that effect plenary powers from the Spanish government and the government of the United States, have established and signed the following articles, which define the terms on which the two governments have agreed with regard to the questions enumerated below, and of which the object is the establishment of peace between the two countries, namely:

"ARTICLE 1. Spain will renounce all claim to all sovereignty over and all her rights over the island of Cuba.

"ARTICLE 2. Spain will cede to the United States the island of Porto Rico and the other islands which are at present under the sovereignty of Spain in the Antilles, as well as an island in the Ladrone Archipelago, to be chosen by the United States.

"ARTICLE 3. The United States will occupy and retain the city and bay of Manila and the port of Manila pending the conclusion of a treaty of peace, which shall determine the control and form of government of the Philippines.

"ARTICLE 4. Spain will immediately evacuate Cuba, Porto Rico, and the other islands now under Spanish sovereignty in the Antilles. To this effect each of the two governments will appoint Commissioners within ten days after the signing of this protocol, and these Commissioners shall meet at Havana within thirty days after the signing of this protocol with the object of coming to an agreement regarding the carrying out of the details of the aforesaid evacuation of Cuba and other adjacent Spanish islands, and each of the two governments shall likewise appoint, within ten days after the signature of this protocol, other Commissioners, who shall meet at San Juan de Porto Rico within thirty days after the signature of this protocol, to agree upon the details of the evacuation of Porto Rico and other islands now under Spanish sovereignty in the Antilles.

"ARTICLE 5. Spain and the United States shall appoint to treat for peace five Commissioners at the most for either country. The Commissioners shall meet in Paris on October 1 at the latest, to proceed to negotiations and to the conclusion of a treaty of peace. This treaty shall be ratified in conformity with the constitutiona1laws of each of the two countries.

"ARTICLE 6. Once this protocol is concluded and signed, hostilities shall be suspended, and to that effect in the two countries orders shall be given by either government to the commanders of its land and sea forces as speedily as possible.

"Done in duplicate at Washington; read in French and in English by the undersigned, who affix at the foot of the document their signatures and seals. August 12, 1898."

The ceremony of signing was one of some interest, and its chief incidents may be given in a few words. The President, whose deep interest in everything relating to the war made him desirous of seeing its concluding event, had expressed a wish to be present at the signing, and was informed by Secretary Day that he had arranged with M. Cambon for the performance of this ceremony at four o'clock. In consequence it took place at the White House, instead of at the State Department, as had been previously arranged.

At five minutes to four o'clock the Secretary of State made his appearance, coming through a heavy downpour of rain. He was accompanied by the three Assistant Secretaries, Mr. Cridler bringing the two copies of the protocol which had been prepared. Ten minutes later M. Cambon and his secretary, M. Thiebaut, appeared at the north entrance, and were ushered into the Cabinetroom, where Secretary Day formally presented them to President McKinley and the others present.

There was no delay in the work to be done. The document, as stated, had been prepared in duplicate, the text being given in parallel columns, one English, the other French; one having the first column in English, the other in French. The latter was first signed, "M. Jules Cambon" on the upper line, "William R. Day" on the lower. In the other copy the signatures were reversed. The latter copy was to go into the archives of the State Department, the former to be transmitted to Madrid. When it came to attaching the seals, it was found that though wax had been provided, no meaDs of heating it were on hand, and this was finally done by the aid of a candle found in a common candlestick in the President's bedroom.

President McKinley strongly expressed his satisfaction at the conclusion of the ceremony, and earnestly thanked the two French gentlemen for their useful services in bringing about the result Congratulations were exchanged among all present, followed by the President affixing his signature to the proclamation announcing the armistice, and the passing around of a box of the White House cigars. As a souvenir of the event, Assistant Secretary Moore secured the pen with which the signing had been done. Within a brief period telegrams were being sent to Cuba, Porto Rico, and Hong Kong ordering the cessation of hostilities, and before the day ended the news of peace had spread around the earth. From Hong-Kong a swift British steamer sped away at full speed to carry the welcome news to Manila, before which far-off city, a few hours afterwards, the final battle of the war was fought. The Hispano-American war ended with the falling of that city of the Eastern seas into American hands.