Essay on History: Navy Theodore Roosevelt

Submitted By jasonswerd
Words: 781
Pages: 4

The events that led to the declaration of war against Spain in 1898 provide a revealing view of the forces shaping foreign policy as the nation entered the twentieth century. America's long tradition of isolationism gave way to a seemingly irresistible imperialist impulse. In 1895, nationalist rebels in Cuba tried to put an end to Spain's colonial control, and by 1897 the cry of "Cuba Libre" attracted a powerful following in the United States. Insurgents controlled over half of the island, mostly inland, while the Spanish held the coastline and cities. The rebellion had taken an ugly turn when the Spanish commander, General Valeriano Weyler sought to weaken the guerilla forces by dividing Cuba into districts and forcing inhabitants into "reconcentration centers." The realities were bad enough, but U.S. "yellow journalism" picked up the cause in a competition for readers. Rival newspapers started to fight over who would publish what. Under intense pressure from Cuban rebels and the American government, Spain pledged to end their repression and move toward greater Cuban autonomy. But a diplomatic "bomb" exploded when a letter from the Spanish minister, Enrique Dupuy de Lome, was leaked to the press. Published in the New York Herald on February 90, 1898, the de Lome letter insulted President McKinley and intimated that the Spanish were not negotiating in good faith. Minister called McKinley a vast amount of insults such as a low life politician and other nasty things. This was followed by a real bad and deadly explosion. Rioting by Cuban rebels in Havana had prompted the American consul there to request the presence of an American warship, and the battleship Maine steamed into Havana harbor. A week later, on February 15, 1898 a 3:32 pm, the Maine exploded and sunk, killing over 260 crew members. Convinced that the Maine was sunk "by an act of dirty treachery on the part of the Spaniards," Assistant Secretary of Navy Theodore Roosevelt flew into action. Wanting to strike "a paralyzing blow at the outset of the war," Roosevelt got a hold of Commodore George Dewey, commander of the American Asiatic squadron based in Japan, ordering him to move the fleet into position: "In the event of declaration of war see that the Spanish squadron does not leave the Asiatic coast then begin making offensive operations in Philippine Islands." Bowing to intense public pressure, McKinley sent the Spanish a blunt ultimatum: Cuban independence or war. The Spanish government refused to back down, and McKinley asked Congress for a declaration of war on April 11. Congress hastily put together a declaration of war for President McKinley. Waning to engage the enemy in battle, Roosevelt promptly resigned his desk job and starting an organization known to many as he rough riders. Having accepted on Roosevelt’s orders, Roosevelt’s first man Dewy was in the perfect position to smash through the Spanish squadron. By the end of it 5,000 Americans had died, but on the bright side less then 400 were battle casualties.