The Treaty of Peace between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Spain, also known as the Treaty of Paris of 1898, put an end to the Spanish-American War.
Background: The Spanish-American War
The Spanish-American War started in the 1880s when Cuban rebels, led by José Martí, tried to win independence from Spain following the example of other Latin American countries. At the same time, the Philippines also began to fight the Spanish colonial rule. As the revolution in Cuba was happening very close to the coast of Florida, rebels quickly received overwhelming support from the Americans. This support was also explained by the fact that the U.S. had economic interests overseas and was seeking to develop the sugar industry in Cuba. Consequently, the tension between Spain and the U.S. grew considerably.
The outbreak of the war was the explosion of the American battleship Maine in Havana harbour on February 15, 1898. On April 20, the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution in which it acknowledged Cuban independence and demanded Spain’s withdrawal from the island. It also authorized the American President, William McKinley, to use military force to aid Cuba. However, Spain ignored the resolution and the U.S. implemented a naval blockade of Cuba. As a result, Spain declared war on the United States on April 24, and the U.S. Congress voted in favour of going to war against Spain the following day. In order to justify its participation in the war, the U.S. proclaimed that it was its fate and duty to take charge of these overseas nations.
The first battle of the war was fought in Manila Bay on May 1, 1898, and led to the defeat of the Spanish army while trying to defend the Philippines. During the following weeks, the American troops invaded Cuba and destroyed the Spanish Caribbean armada. On July 26, the Spanish government was forced to discuss terms of peace with the U.S. Soon afterwards, a cease-fire was declared with the aim of negotiating a treaty.
The Treaty of Paris
The negotiations for peace began on October 1, 1898, in Paris. The American representatives demanded that Spain acknowledged Cuba’s independence and granted the U.S. possession of the Philippines. Moreover, it also requested Spain to pay Cuba’s national debt, which ascended to $400 million. Spain agreed to grant Cuba independence and sold the Philippines to the U.S. for $20 million. In order to pay Cuba’s debt, it also transferred possession of Puerto Rico and the island of Guam to the U.S. Still, the Spanish representatives demanded that Spain be allowed to keep control of the capital of the Philippines, Manila, but the U.S. refused. Finally, both Spanish and American representatives signed the treaty on December 10, 1898. However, the document had to be ratified by the two nation’s governments.
Even though the treaty was signed by Spain soon afterwards, ratification became the object of heated debate in the U.S. Senate, since some senators considered the annexation of the Philippines as unconstitutional and a perpetuation of American imperialism. Still, after weeks of debate, the treaty was ratified on February 6, 1899.
Consequences of the Treaty
Even though the Spanish-American War did not last long, the Treaty of Paris did have a big impact on both Spain and the United States. In this sense, it marked the end of the Spanish Empire and forced it to abandon its imperialistic aspirations. However, it also caused the Spanish government to focus on internal needs. As a result, the country saw rapid advances in agriculture, industry and transportation throughout the following decades. Moreover, the political and social crisis caused by Spain’s defeat led to intellectuals seeking cultural and aesthetic renewal. This movement, known as the Generation of 98, is known for its heavy criticism of the Spanish literary and educational establishments and its dislike for the Restoration Movement that was taking place in the Spanish government. With regard to the United States, its victory in the Spanish-American War turned it into a world power, since the attainment of Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines expanded its economic power from the Caribbean to the Pacific.
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