May 11, 1898 — December 10, 1898

The debate over America’s global role intensified when Cubans began to fight for their independence from Spain in 1895. Americans were sympathetic to Cuba’s struggle for independence, but were divided about how to help. President William McKinley was deeply ambivalent about war against Spain. Ultimately, however, the pressure of public opinion forced McKinley into the war that made the United States an international power. Newspaper publishers like William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer worked up war fever among the public with reports of Spanish atrocities against Cuban rebels. Then, Hearst’s New York Journal published a leaked letter in which the chief Spanish diplomat in Washington described President McKinley as “weak” and a “petty politician.” Hearst publicized the letter under the screaming headline “WORST INSULT TO THE UNITED STATES IN ITS HISTORY.” Days later an explosion sank the USS Maine in Havana harbor. A naval court of inquiry blamed the explosion on a mine, further inflaming public sentiment against Spain. After ten days of debate, Congress declared war, but only after adopting the Teller Amendment, in which the United States made it clear that it did not harbor imperialist ambitions. The amendment announced that the United States would not acquire Cuba. But after the United States defeated Spain, it set up a military government on Cuba and made the soldiers’ withdrawal contingent on the Cubans accepting the Platt Amendment, which gave the United States the right to intervene in Cuba to protect “life, property, and individual liberties.” The 144-day war also resulted in the United States taking control of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Already have an account?

Please click here to login and access this page.

How to subscribe

Click here to get a free subscription if you are a K-12 educator or student, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program, which provides even more benefits.

Otherwise, click here for information on a paid subscription for those who are not K-12 educators or students.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Become an Affiliate School to have free access to the Gilder Lehrman site and all its features.

Click here to start your Affiliate School application today! You will have free access while your application is being processed.

Individual K-12 educators and students can also get a free subscription to the site by making a site account with a school-affiliated email address. Click here to do so now!

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Why Gilder Lehrman?

Your subscription grants you access to archives of rare historical documents, lectures by top historians, and a wealth of original historical material, while also helping to support history education in schools nationwide. Click here to see the kinds of historical resources to which you'll have access and here to read more about the Institute's educational programs.

Individual subscription: $25

Click here to sign up for an individual subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Upgrade your Account

We're sorry, but it looks as though you do not have access to the full Gilder Lehrman site.

All K-12 educators receive free subscriptions to the Gilder Lehrman site, and our Affiliate School members gain even more benefits!

How to Subscribe

K-12 educator or student? Click here to edit your profile and indicate this, giving you free access, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program.

Not a educator or student? Click here for more information on purchasing a subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Related Site Content