Ohio History Journal

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President McKinley's Final Attempt to

Avoid War With Spain


By April 1, 1898, war between the United States and Spain seemed

certain. Rebellious Republican congressmen had forced President

William McKinley's diplomatic pace by threatening to join Democrats

in declaring war, and were kept in line only by promises that the pres-

ident would shortly turn over the Cuban issue to Congress. McKinley

had informed the Spanish government of his terms for a settlement,

and Madrid's March 31 response was unsatisfactory. Although dip-

lomatic relations were not yet ruptured, negotiations on both sides

were suspended, as McKinley prepared to ask Congress to authorize

military intervention. During the first ten days of April, however,

there was a final attempt to maintain peace. By April 5 McKinley was

working with the Vatican, the Spanish Queen Regent, Great Britain,

and the Cuban Junta to find a means to calm the American public

and stave off congressional action. An examination of McKinley's last

effort to keep the peace sheds light on his Spanish diplomacy, his re-

lations with the Cuban Junta, and the role of Congress in the crisis.1





John Offner is Professor of History at Shippensburg University.


1. Because the McKinley administration decided on April 1 to intervene militarily

in Cuba, historians have provided a variety of explanations for the diplomatic events

which occurred during the following ten-day period. Authors have usually explained

the initiatives of the Vatican, the appeals of the European powers, and the last-minute

Spanish proclamation of a suspension of hostilities as only tangentially associated with

McKinley's diplomacy. Philip Foner also included the Cubans, but he did not see

them as playing a meaningful part. For contemporary interpretations of this period, see:

Margaret Leech, In the Days of McKinley (New York, 1959), 178-87; Ernest R. May, Im-

perial Democracy; The Emergence of America as a Great Power (New York, 1961),

151-58; H. Wayne Morgan, America's Road to Empire: The War with Spain and Over-

seas Expansion (New York, 1965), 54-60; Julius W. Pratt, "The Coming War with

Spain," in Paola E. Coletta, ed., Threshold to American Internationalism: Essays on the

Foreign Policies of William McKinley (New York, 1970), 56-62; Philip S. Foner, The

Spanish-Cuban-American War and the Birth of American Imperialism, 1895-1902, 2

vols. (New York, 1972), 1:254-61; Charles S. Campbell, The Transformation of Ameri-

can Foreign Relations, 1865-1900 (New York, 1976), 262-74; Lewis L. Gould, The Presi-

dency of William McKinley (Lawrence, Kansas, 1980), 81-86; and David F. Trask, The

War with Spain in 1898 (New York, 1981), 40-52.