In Watching the PBS Documentary video Crucible of Empire
In Watching the PBS Documentary video Crucible of Empire: The Spanish American War narrated by Edward James Olmos and provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities wasn’t just created for history lovers. The film was created to have a better understanding about the Spanish-American War. The film Crucible of Empire offers a timeline of events not only leading up to the war but after the war as well.
In the 1890s America headed into a new industrial age. Millions of Americans celebrated the new inventions that increased American productivity such as new efficient farming methods, modern railways and even faster printing presses. The idea of great things to come was endless. Many things such as cracker Jacks, diet soda, and the hamburger made their debut. Americans felt they stood on the threshold of a great awakening. That is until the stock market crashed. While stocks plummeted business went bankrupt and millions of Americans were out of work. Historian Frederick Jackson Turner suggested that the United States could look past its boarders and aim for new opportunities, new avenues of growth, and invest in new field of opportunities such as markets for goods and new lands for natural resources. During this time it was questioned “Shall the American people continue their march toward the commercial supremacy of the world? Shall we occupy new markets for what our farmers raise, our factories make, our merchants sell-aye and have new markets for what our ships carry?” (Albert Beveridge: “The March of the Flag, 1898”). With any cases of imperialism having new land will broaden economic opportunities. As thee United States was taking off with their ideas of imperialism so was Great Britain, France, Russia, Germany and Japan.
Spain included once ruled global empire that included the majority most of Central and South America not to mention a large part of North America. Many of the colonies broke free when the Spanish authority was crippled after the war in 1890. The only colonies remaining in Spain’s possession was Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam. By this time the Americans had a very low opinion of Spain. During most of the nineteenth century Spain’s decreasing income came from revenue generated from Cuba’s sugar and slave trade. The United States President, John Quincy Adams wanted to take Cuba from Spain. This did not sit well with the Spaniards. Cuba wanted independence from Spain so they by force separated from Spain. In the end Cuba moved towards the North American Union.
In 1868 Cuban sugar planters were subjected to authoritarian treatment by Spanish taxes increasing so they revolted to win their independence. Cuba seized the majority of their eastern territory while freeing the slaves and ruining the sugar mills that given profit to Spain. The commander of the rebel army was General Maximo Gómez. General Maximo came to Cuba as a Spanish soldier and as soon as he arrived in Cuba he rebelled by organizing the Cubans. General Maximo trained the people on tactics that would be useful in a revolt. The Ten Years War did not give the Cubans their independence however the struggle to free Cuba continued especially since the promises the Spanish made were never satisfied. General Maximo left and went back to the Dominican Republic and left the Spanish with a damaged sugar industry. Spain could not afford to give any money to the Cuban planters so they turned to the United States.
A new Revolution began in 1895 with the help of Jose Marti who was a Cuban Journalist. Marti visited Cuban communities in the United States to raise funds for Cuban independence. He came to the conclusion that Cuba was not united but that it was divided by class and race. Marti decided to join General Maximo Gómez in the Dominican Republic to further his cause. Marti was killed however he influenced the Cubans to reclaim eastern provinces that they had during the Ten Years’ War. In the end plantations were destroyed and buildings were burned to the ground. General Gomez stated that any laborers aiding in the sugar factories will be considered traitors and killed. General Gomez wanted Havana and the New Spanish Governor wanted to stop him at all costs. This created uproar with the United States businessmen because they saw war as a threat to what they had invested in. President McKinley aimed for stronger tariffs in 1897 but that in the end failed. Alfred Mahan the president of Naval War wanted a stronger Navy so that the Unite States could keep a secured position in the foreign land. Manhan wanted to protect the ports with the Navy. Congress granted the funding to update our Navy so that we could possibly become the largest navy in the world so that we can continue to defend our economic interests around the world. While the situation was in Cuba the war was going to be against Spain because the Spanish fleet was in the Philippines. Spain had rules the Philippines since the 1500s. Spain’s source of income from the Philippines was from the capital of Manila which was known for textiles such as sugar, hemp and tobacco. The Spanish Missionaries collected taxes on their lands as well and any Filipinos who tried to change that was jailed or killed. Eventually in 1896 the Filipinos revolted because they were tired. They were tired of Spain’s control and tired of living as second class citizens. At this point the United States appealed to the Spanish Government to have peace restored in Cuba but General Calixto continued the fight. The United States ordered the battleship Maine to go to Havana to protect U.S. interests but that proved to be fatal. On February 15, 1898 battleship Maine was attacked by an explosion which caused 266 U.S. sailors to perish and left many others wounded. This was the final straw the United States has now become involved and not only declared war but severed ties with Spain. This is the start of the Spanish American War. The War lasted three years and within those three years many “brave men who were willing to sacrifice their lives for the freedom of Cuba, dying in battle from disease, in a war waged for the purpose of conquering people who are fighting as the Cubans fought against Spanish tyranny and misrule.”(Excerpts from letters from the African American Soldiers fighting in the Philippines). With so much loss and defeat the Spanish finally surrendered on “August 12th. the United States and Spain signed and armistice ending the war and agreeing on peace terms for independence for Cuba and the cession of the Philippines.”(Norton, Kamensky, Sheriff, Blight, Chudacoff, Logevall, Bailey, Michaels. 560). Spain accepted the offer give and handed over the Philippines and Cuba along with Guam not to mention Puerto Rico to the United States. The United States paid Spain $20 Million dollars in return. “The United States does not use a dishonest medium of exchange; it is ours to set the world example of right and honor. We cannot fly from our world duties; it is ours to execute the purpose of a fate that has driven us to be greater than our small intentions. We cannot retreat from any soil where providence has unfurled our banner; it is ours to save that soil for liberty and civilization.”(Albert Beveridge: “The March of the Flag, 1898”). This is the start of how the United States earned the trust of not just the Cubans but of the Filipinos as well. The United States Government is true to its pledge and to the “Equality of the citizen,” one ma’s privilege every man’s right”- “that all men are created equal.” (Andrew Carnegie, “Americanism Versus Imperialism, 1899”). The United States held its stance that the Cubans become independent and with that also introduced them to technology such as electricity, repaired railroads, drained swamps, paved roads and this made a significant difference for the population of Cuba. Cubans accepted sovereignty of the United States.
As you can see America’s involvement in Cuba and the Philippines have similarities and differences as well. America’s involvement in Cuba and the Philippines were similar in the fact that the United States had the best interest of the people involved as to give them independence away from Spain. The one difference that stands out to me is the reason why we got involved in the Philippines War. While it is obvious that the United States was for Independence it also looks as if there were ulterior motives such as wanting to expand to benefit us by controlling the ports in the Philippines. What I have learned about this is that while the United States does put on a front we are here for the people and we strive for not just independence for us but for others as well that we are not much different than other countries in the idea of wanting to expand and grow. The way the United States has gone about that has a substantially different approach then how Spain has handled how they want to expand. Had the Unites States not gotten involved in the war there is no telling what Spain would have done or how Cuba or even the Philippines would have turned out. The United States would have been impacted by this as we would not have the ports needed to really solidify that we have the largest Navy in the world. Had the United States not gotten involved would Spain have kept going on their quest for domination and with that domination would Spain eventually come after the United States? What do you think based upon the information given? Do you think it was worth the United States getting involved in this war?