Spanish-American War of 1898 and the Emergence of American Empire Explained

The Spanish-American War lasted less than five months and signaled the end of the Spanish Empire  — Spain lost its last two colonies, Cuba and the Philippines — and the rise of the American Empire.

President William McKinley expressed idealistic goals that countries must be freed from the oppression of colonization. “Cuba ought to be free and independent, and the government should be turned over to the Cuban people,” he said. Yet his attitudes were paternalistic. A devout evangelical Protestant (Methodist), he was unaware that the Philippines was the only predominantly Catholic country in Asia, and declared that the U.S. mission must be to “educate and uplift and Christianize” the Filipinos.

The US gained great influence in both Cuba and the Philippines, and, one could argue, turned them not into American colonies but into U.S. satellites dependent on American largesse.  The US initially promised to support the Filipino Independence Movement from Spain, but did not grant full independence to the Philippines from the US until almost a half-century later, in 1946.

McKinley was a strong proponent of “manifest destiny”: the belief that the US had a God-given responsibility to civilize large portions of the world. “We need Hawaii just as much and a good deal more than we did California. It is Manifest Destiny,” he said. “The mission of the United States is ‘benevolent assimilation.’ ”



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