The most important considerations in the U.S. government’s decision to go to war with Spain in 1898

The tariff imposed by the American government, commonly referred to as the Wilson-Gorman Tariff of 1894 was an important contributing factor to the Spanish-American war of 1898.  The conditions imposed by this tariff acutely damaged the economy of Cuba, which was then a Spanish colony.  As the political and economic condition of Cuba was deteriorating, Spain deputed General “Butcher’ Weyler to Cuba, so that some semblance of normalcy could be achieved.  This increased the concerns of American businessmen.  But such concerns apart, the then President Grover Cleveland did not press forward with a war.

Meanwhile, public opinion in the United States had turned unfavorable toward Spain.  And by the time President McKinley took charge in 1897, the situation had further deteriorated.  But despite conditions being ripe to declare war on Spain, the decision was not an easy one for President McKinley.  Firstly he had to make sure that the actions of the United States are not based on imperialist ambitions, and toward this end the US passed the Teller Amendment.  Secondly, there was the historical understanding with Spain that Cuba will be left to maintain its sovereignty – something that was respected by the Monroe Doctrine of 1823.  Thirdly, there are entrenched US interests in Cuba, which could be affected if a full-fledged war was declared.  And finally the safety of US citizens living in Cuba was also considered.  So these were the several important considerations in the US government’s decision to go to war with Spain in 1898.  But when on 15th February, 1898, the ship USS Maine was mysteriously blown up, President McKinley had little option to press forward with war.