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This Day In History: The U.S. Declared War On Spain

April 25, 2017

This day in history, April 25, 1898, the U.S. Congress declared war on Spain. The war originated in the Cuban struggle for independence from Spain, which began in February 1895. Spain’s brutally repressive measures to halt the rebellion were graphically portrayed for the U.S. public by several sensational newspapers, and American sympathy for the rebels rose.

After the USS Maine was destroyed on February 15, newspaper publishers Hearst and Pulitzer decided that the Spanish were to blame. They publicized this theory as fact in their New York City papers using sensationalistic and astonishing accounts of “atrocities” committed by the Spanish in Cuba by using headlines in their newspapers, such as “Spanish Murderers” and “Remember The Maine.” The USS Maine was sent to protect U.S. citizens and property after anti-Spanish rioting in Havana.

A speech delivered by Republican Senator Redfield Proctor of Vermont on March 17, 1898 thoroughly analyzed the situation, concluding that war was the only answer. The speech helped provide one final push for the United States to declare war. Many in the business and religious communities, which had until then opposed war, switched sides which left President McKinley and Speaker Thomas Brackett Reed almost alone in their resistance to a war.

Spain announced an armistice on April 9 and sped up its new program to grant Cuba limited powers of self-government, but the U.S. Congress issued resolutions that declared Cuba’s right to independence, demanded the withdrawal of Spain’s armed forces from Cuba, and authorized the President’s use of force to secure Spain’s withdrawal, while renouncing any U.S. plans for annexing Cuba.

Spain severed diplomatic relations with the United States on April 21. On the same day, the U.S. Navy began a blockade of Cuba.

A few days later, Spain declared war on the United States. On April 25, Congress declared that a state of war between the U.S. and Spain had existed since April 21.