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Daniel Patterson HIST 113- Cardwell September 24, 2012

Critical Analysis Paper # 1: The Spanish-American-Cuban-Filipino War Walter LaFeber writes an article entitled Preserving the American System in which he details the factors leading up to Americas decision to enter into the Spanish -American-CubanFilipino War. He establishes four causes that could have been key contributing factors leading to Americas entry into the conflict. He argues that it is somewhat a combination of all of these factors coming together at the same time almost like the perfect storm that led the U.S. into war when they most certainly would have liked to avoid it, or so it was claimed. However, as the title of the article suggests, LaFeber proposes that the larger reason the US entered into this conflict was to preserve the American system. Basically, LaFeber argues that despite the fact that America got involved with this conflict away from their own territory the reasoning behind their involvement was to solve domestic issues. They saw involvement in the Spanish-American-Cuban-Filipino War as an effective means of suppressing many issues that were brewing at home which, if not dealt with, could eventually lead to larger social and economic problems and possibly even revolution. One of the biggest problems was economic depression that occurred after rapid industrialization in the mid-19th century left the country with vast amounts of overproduction in the late 19th century. LaFeber suggests that business and political leaders accepted the solution which was traditional, least threatening to their own power, and (apparently) required the least risk: new markets (LaFeber, 345). Cuba offered a prime opportunity for new markets and the Philippines were a crucial location to control if the US wanted to have any control of the Chinese markets. Other reasons that LaFeber points out that historians have noted for American entry into the war include a general impulse for war on the part of American public opinion (342). Also, he points out that humanitarian reasons were often stated as causes for entering into war in order to give the Cubans democratic institutions (343), or even looking to the Caribbean and Western Pacific as territories to conquer a vast colonial empire. LaFeber seems to suggest that it is difficult to know the true motives behind entrance into the war, but that all of these reasons together seem to relate in that they could help cure economic and social issues at home. So ultimately, LaFeber suggests that these foreign ventures and conflicts that the U.S. got involved in were to solve domestic issues at home, primarily the looming

economic depression which could be helped by entering into new markets to solve the problem of overproduction plaguing the American economy. In her article Manhood, Chivalry, and McKinleys Reluctanct Decision for War, Kristin Hoganson makes the argument that the U.S. was enticed to enter into Cuba to save them from Spanish brutalities and that Americans often viewed Cuba metaphorically, as a maiden longing to be rescued by a gallant knight (Hoganson, 350). Hoganson proposes that the picture that was often painted of Cuba as a helpless woman needing a valiant man to come and save her offered the opportunity for American men to reassert their manliness when chivalry was falling by the wayside in American society. Furthermore, it was easy for Americans to side with the Cubans due to their chivalric attributes. Many Americans had become frustrated by the standardized routines of an ever more industrialized society, [and] Cuban men represented adventure and male display (352). Hoganson goes on to argue that McKin ley himself was very influenced by ideas of manhood in that he feared being viewed as less of a man for not be willing to enter into war when public opinion strongly favored such action. Public opinion was very in favor of entering Cuba to save them from the Spanish who were often portrayed as the sexual predator assaulting the pure woman that was the island of Cuba. Hoganson argues that this notion played heavily into public sentiment, and consequentially, McKinley was influenced to enter into Cuba as he did not want to lose credibility as a leader who was not able to fulfill his manly duties and do what needed to be done. After reading both of these essays relating to the causes leading the US to enter into the Spanish-American-Cuban-Filipino War, I feel that Walter LaFeber made a stronger case towards his argument than did Kristin Hoganson in her essay. It seems to me that the portrayal of Cuba as a helpless woman that the US needed to save from the Spanish brutes is a valid point. However, it is something that is much easier to point out after the occurrence of the war and probably not something that would lead a country into a war just for that reason alone. LaFeber does a much better job of taking a holistic approach in examining US reasons for entering into war. He is able to distinguish multiple circumstances, events, and sentiments of the time period that, all combined together, led the US to war. Hogansons idea of the metaphor of Cuba as a maiden longing to be rescued by a gallant knight (350) is certainly a credible point and something that factored into US entry into Cuba. Yet Hoganson focuses

solely on this aspect of cause for US involvement and fails to encompass many of the other wide ranging causes that LaFeber notes. LaFeber does a good job to point out separate issues that combined to lead the US to war. Furthermore, he is able to relate all of the casues to explain how they all came together and war seemed to be the solution to one overwhelming problem that encompassed the rest of the issues at hand. The larger problem at hand in the United States during the period of the Spanish-American-Cuban-Filipino War was an economic depression at home. LaFeber notes that the economic depression of the 1890s influenced a strong sentiment for war and made Americans act a bit irrationally as they hoped to cure their frustrations through overseas adventures (343). He also lists the goal of bringing democratic institutions to Cuba as a factor but is keen to point out the coincidence that within ten months of Americas protectorate over Cuba and Puerto Rico and annexation of the Philippines the US was involved in quarrels on Asias mainland. This suggests that even the proposed humanitarian efforts of the US to bring democratic institutions to places like Cuba were actually just fronts for underlying economic motives that the US hoped to embark upon. To further this thought, another cause that LaFeber calls attention to was the fact that various Washington officials pressured McKinley, and ultimately the nation, to embark upon imperialist ventures with the idea of conquering a vast colonial empire in the Caribbean and Western Pacific (343). This would obviously include economic benefits for the US. Overall, then, these separate issues all had roots in looking for a resolution to domestic issues, and primarily the effects being felt from the economic depression as a result of overproduction in wake of rapid industrialization. Thus, LaFeber suggests that they (government and business leaders) finally accepted war as a means of opening overseas markets in order to alleviate domestic distress caused by the overproduction (343). In this way LaFeber does a good job of performing a thorough analysis of causes leading to the US going to war while also distinguishing one overwhelming factor. Hoganson, on the other hand, makes a valid argument, but it is also one that is fairly narrow in scope and does not account for many other influences leading to US involvement in the Spanish-American-Cuban-Filipino War. Thus, LaFebers argument is much more convincing. Document One, in which Cuban Nationalist Jos Mart Cautions Against Annexation to the United States, 1895 demonstrates a major idea that LaFeber expresses in his essay. The

idea is that the underlying motives of the US for entering into Cuba would not be for the ultimate good of the Cuban people but rather for their own self-interest. As LaFeber noted, the US stated that the creation of democratic institutions in Cuba was a specified cause that the US gave for entering into Cuba. However, as Marts letter serves to demonstrate, it is clear that there was more to it than that. The US had economic interests that they were pursuing and hoped to annex Cuba for the good of their own country. Mart was an influential leader for the independence movement in Cuba and recognized that both the US and Spain sought their own interests in Cuba, and the nation ultimately needed to achieve their own independence free of any outside rule. Yet the way that the US often portrayed their entry into Cuba made it difficult for many Cubans to oppose such assistance as Americans offered aid in opposing the brutal Spanish rule that was inflicted upon the people as well as the promise of democratic institutions. LaFeber points out that these are reasons that the US may have wanted to enter Cuba, but that there was also much more to it than that. Mart was an individual who was able to recognize these ulterior motives that the US most likely had and thus, warned against annexation of Cuba to the United States and worked tirelessly for the independence of Cuba. In his letter Mart writes, They (Cubans in favor of annexation) are satisfied merely that there be a master Yankee or Spanish to support them or reward their services as go-betweens with positions of power enabling them to scorn the hardworking masses (Document 1, 334). There were Cubans who favored American intervention and assistance and those, like Mart, that saw the necessity for Cuba to gain independence on their own part as annexation to the US would only be transferring the rule by Spanish over to the Americans. McKinley questioned whether or not he wanted to get involved in Cuba and create entanglements but was ultimately pushed to do so as problems at home became overwhelming and Cuba and other foreign ventures offered resolution to the problems. These things become very complex as stated reasons for entering into war can be far from the truth or far away from the actual primary reason. The US decision to enter into Cuba as well as Marts opposition to American actions demonstrate that each nation was simply looking to the good of their own country and what would benefit them most, as is natural. Thus, Mart was led to view US intervention quite skeptically and even write that he considered it his duty to prevent the United States from spreading through the Antilles as Cuba gains its independence (333). Marts letter serves to support LaFebers argument that US entry into Cuba was not necessarily for humanitarian

causes as was often stated, but rather as a means to solve economic and social issues brewing at home. In Document 5, a cartoon depicts an old woman attempting to sweep back the giant waves of the sea which are labeled as congress and the people. This cartoon does a lot to portray general sentiment at the time when McKinley was very indecisive on the issue of whether or not to go to war. As LaFeber explains in his essay, a lot of pressure formed around McKinley to take the nation into war for a culmination of reasons. Just like these giant waves coming upon the old woman, it was almost like the perfect storm. LaFeber notes the fact that the depression of the 1890s made Americans react somewhat irrationallyIn other words, the giddy minds of the 1890s could be quieted by foreign quarrels (343). This idea that LaFeber suggests is represented in the cartoon by the giant wave that is labeled as the people. The general sentiment in favor of war and foreign adventures was a lot of pressure being put upon McKinley. This cartoon also validates some of the claims in Hogansons article about McKinley being viewed as unmanly for not wanting to enter into war initially. The old woman is a portrayal of McKinley and the title of Document 5 itself expresses that Critics Lampoon McKinley as Indecisive and Unmanly (338). Although the cartoon supports Hogansons argument in this manner it still does a lot to support LaFebers as well. Again, the various sentiments and circumstances present in the US during the 1890s together combined to be a huge force coming at a President who really didnt want to go to war, but ultimately found it inevitable. The other large wave is labeled as congress and this relates well to the poi nt that LaFeber makes in noting that various Washington officials also played an influential role in advocating for a Large Policy of conquering a vast colonial empire in the Caribbean and Western Pacific (343). These officials and imperialists had economic interests in mind. It seemed to be too much pressure that finally crashed down on McKinley and led him to enter the Spanish-American-Cuban-Filipino War. As the cartoon suggests, it was multiple factors combined together to create a larger storm that he could not beat back. In his essay LaFeber describes the phenomena as follows: Three of these chains can be identified: the economic crisis of the 1890s; the opportunities which suddenly opened in Asia after 1895 and in the Caribbean and the Pacific in

1898; and a growing partnership between business and governmentIn April 1898, these chains had a valuable collision and war resulted (344). LaFeber does a good job here to describe what the cartoon depicts. Many factors at home influenced the people and congress to put a lot of pressure upon McKinley to bring the nation to war which he finally could not hold back and war resulted. In Document 6 McKinley asks congress to authorize war on Spain. He clearly states various reasons for these intentions in line with the causes that LaFeber points out in his essay. For example, McKinley writes that the capital invested by our citizens in Cuba has been largely lost, and the temper and forbearance of our people have been so sorely tried as to beget a perilous unrest among our own citizens (339). McKinley states reasons for intervention outside of economic and purely domestic interests, but he is also quite clear that there are various business related reasons for entering Cuba. He writes that The right to intervene may be justified by the very serious injury to the commerce, trade, and business of our people (340). McKinleys request for authorization for war against Spain encompasses various reasons. Similarly, LaFeber notes various reasons in his essay that the US enters into war against Spain and specifically points out the economic interests the US has there as well as the social unrest pressuring the President to take action. This document written by the President himself during the time period does a great job to demonstrate these very things that LaFeber suggests in his essay. McKinley mentions the unrest among US citizens, notes the duty of the US to intervene in the cause of humanityfor it is right at our door (339). And of course he also mentions the economic interests that the US has in intervening in the situation. LaFeber actually seems to lay out reasons that the US had to enter war in a similar way that McKinley does in his request to congress to authorize war on Spain. In the end, of course, it is difficult to know for certain the true reasons that led to US intervention, but all historians can do is take these documents and speculate. LaFebers argument is quite convincing in suggesting that many reasons are given for intervening, similar to the ones McKinley gives in Document 6, but when it comes down to it, it seems that most of the factors can be encompassed by the fact that an economic drive carried the nation into war (343).