State of the Union Address Part I (1898)

No study questions

No related resources

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

Notwithstanding the added burdens rendered necessary by the war, our people rejoice in a very satisfactory and steadily increasing degree of prosperity, evidenced by the largest volume of business ever recorded. Manufacture has been productive, agricultural pursuits have yielded abundant returns, labor in all fields of industry is better rewarded, revenue legislation passed by the present Congress has increased the Treasury’s receipts to the amount estimated by its authors, the finances of the Government have been successfully administered and its credit advanced to the first rank, while its currency has been maintained at the world’s highest standard. Military service under a common flag and for a righteous cause has strengthened the national spirit and served to cement more closely than ever the fraternal bonds between every section of the country.

A review of the relation of the United States to other powers, always appropriate, is this year of primary importance in view of the momentous issues which have arisen, demanding in one instance the ultimate determination by arms and involving far-reaching consequences which will require the earnest attention of the Congress.

In my last annual message very full consideration was given to the question of the duty of the Government of the United States toward Spain and the Cuban insurrection as being by far the most important problem with which we were then called upon to deal. The considerations then advanced and the exposition of the views therein expressed disclosed my sense of the extreme gravity of the situation. Setting aside as logically unfounded or practically inadmissible the recognition of the Cuban insurgents as belligerents, the recognition of the independence of Cuba, neutral intervention to end the war by imposing a rational compromise between the contestants, intervention in favor of one or the other party, and forcible annexation of the island, I concluded it was honestly due to our friendly relations with Spain that she should be given a reasonable chance to realize her expectations of reform to which she had become irrevocably committed. Within a few weeks previously she had announced comprehensive plans which it was confidently asserted would be efficacious to remedy the evils so deeply affecting our own country, so injurious to the true interests of the mother country as well as to those of Cuba, and so repugnant to the universal sentiment of humanity.

The ensuing month brought little sign of real progress toward the pacification of Cuba. The autonomous administrations set up in the capital and some of the principal cities appeared not to gain the favor of the inhabitants nor to be able to extend their influence to the large extent of territory held by the insurgents, while the military arm, obviously unable to cope with the still active rebellion, continued many of the most objectionable and offensive policies of the government that had preceded it. No tangible relief was afforded the vast numbers of unhappy reconcentrados, despite the reiterated professions made in that regard and the amount appropriated by Spain to that end. The proffered expedient of zones of cultivation proved illusory. Indeed no less practical nor more delusive promises of succor could well have been tendered to the exhausted and destitute people, stripped of all that made life and home dear and herded in a strange region among unsympathetic strangers hardly less necessitous than themselves.

By the end of December the mortality among them had frightfully increased. Conservative estimates from Spanish sources placed the deaths among these distressed people at over 40 per cent from the time General Weyler’s decree of reconcentration was enforced. With the acquiescence of the Spanish authorities, a scheme was adopted for relief by charitable contributions raised in this country and distributed, under the direction of the consul-general and the several consuls, by noble and earnest individual effort through the organized agencies of the American Red Cross. Thousands of lives were thus saved, but many thousands more were inaccessible to such forms of aid.

The war continued on the old footing, without comprehensive plan, developing only the same spasmodic encounters, barren of strategic result, that had marked the course of the earlier ten years’ rebellion as well as the present insurrection from its start. No alternative save physical exhaustion of either combatant, and therewithal the practical ruin of the island, lay in sight, but how far distant no one could venture to conjecture.

At this juncture, on the 15th of February last, occurred the destruction of the battle ship Maine while rightfully lying in the harbor of Havana on a mission of international courtesy and good will–a catastrophe the suspicious nature and horror of which stirred the nation’s heart profoundly. It is a striking evidence of the poise and sturdy good sense distinguishing our national character that this shocking blow, falling upon a generous people already deeply touched by preceding events in Cuba, did not move them to an instant desperate resolve to tolerate no longer the existence of a condition of danger and disorder at our doors that made possible such a deed, by whomsoever wrought. Yet the instinct of justice prevailed, and the nation anxiously awaited the result of the searching investigation at once set on foot. The finding of the naval board of inquiry established that the origin of the explosion was external, by a submarine mine, and only halted through lack of positive testimony to fix the responsibility of its authorship.

All these things carried conviction to the most thoughtful, even before the finding of the naval court, that a crisis in our relations with Spain and toward Cuba was at hand. So strong was this belief that it needed but a brief Executive suggestion to the Congress to receive immediate answer to the duty of making instant provision for the possible and perhaps speedily probable emergency of war, and the remarkable, almost unique, spectacle was presented of a unanimous vote of both Houses, on the 9th of March, appropriating $50,000,000 “for the national defense and for each and every purpose connected therewith, to be expended at the discretion of the President.” That this act of prevision came none too soon was disclosed when the application of the fund was undertaken. Our coasts were practically undefended. Our Navy needed large provision for increased ammunition and supplies, and even numbers to cope with any sudden attack from the navy of Spain, which comprised modern vessels of the highest type of continental perfection. Our Army also required enlargement of men and munitions. The details of the hurried preparation for the dreaded contingency are told in the reports of the Secretaries of War and of the Navy, and need not be repeated here. It is sufficient to say that the outbreak of war when it did come found our nation not unprepared to meet the conflict.

Nor was the apprehension of coming strife confined to our own country. It was felt by the continental powers, which on April 6, through their ambassadors and envoys, addressed to the Executive an expression of hope that humanity and moderation might mark the course of this Government and people, and that further negotiations would lead to an agreement which, while securing the maintenance of peace, would afford all necessary guaranties for the reestablishment of order in Cuba. In responding to that representation I said I shared the hope the envoys had expressed that peace might be preserved in a manner to terminate the chronic condition of disturbance in Cuba, so injurious and menacing to our interests and tranquillity, as well as shocking to our sentiments of humanity; and while appreciating the humanitarian and disinterested character of the communication they had made on behalf of the powers, I stated the confidence of this Government, for its part, that equal appreciation would be shown for its own earnest and unselfish endeavors to fulfill a duty to humanity by ending a situation the indefinite prolongation of which had become insufferable.

Still animated by the hope of a peaceful solution and obeying the dictates of duty, no effort was relaxed to bring about a speedy ending of the Cuban struggle. Negotiations to this object continued actively with the Government of Spain, looking to the immediate conclusion of a six months’ armistice in Cuba, with a view to effect the recognition of her people’s right to independence. Besides this, the instant revocation of the order of reconcentration was asked, so that the sufferers, returning to their homes and aided by united American and Spanish effort, might be put in a way to support themselves and, by orderly resumption of the well-nigh destroyed productive energies of the island, contribute to the restoration of its tranquillity and well-being. Negotiations continued for some little time at Madrid, resulting in offers by the Spanish Government which could not but be regarded as inadequate. It was proposed to confide the preparation of peace to the insular parliament, yet to be convened under the autonomous decrees of November, 1897, but without impairment in any wise of the constitutional powers of the Madrid Government, which to that end would grant an armistice, if solicited by the insurgents, for such time as the general in chief might see fit to fix. How and with what scope of discretionary powers the insular parliament was expected to set about the “preparation” of peace did not appear. If it were to be by negotiation with the insurgents, the issue seemed to rest on the one side with a body chosen by a fraction of the electors in the districts under Spanish control, and on the other with the insurgent population holding the interior country, unrepresented in the so-called parliament and defiant at the suggestion of suing for peace.

Grieved and disappointed at this barren outcome of my sincere endeavors to reach a practicable solution, I felt it my duty to remit the whole question to the Congress. In the message of April 11, 1898, I announced that with this last overture in the direction of immediate peace in Cuba and its disappointing reception by Spain the effort of the Executive was brought to an end. I again reviewed the alternative courses of action which had been proposed, concluding that the only one consonant with international policy and compatible with our firm-set historical traditions was intervention as a neutral to stop the war and check the hopeless sacrifice of life, even though that resort involved “hostile constraint upon both the parties to the contest, as well to enforce a truce as to guide the eventual settlement.” The grounds justifying that step were the interests of humanity, the duty to protect the life and property of our citizens in Cuba, the right to check injury to our commerce and people through the devastation of the island, and, most important, the need of removing at once and forever the constant menace and the burdens entailed upon our Government by the uncertainties and perils of the situation caused by the unendurable disturbance in Cuba. I said: The long trial has proved that the object for which Spain has waged the war can not be attained. The fire of insurrection may flame or may smolder with varying seasons, but it has not been and it is plain that it can not be extinguished by present methods. The only hope of relief and repose from a condition which can no longer be endured is the enforced pacification of Cuba. In the name of humanity, in the name of civilization, in behalf of endangered American interests which give us the right and the duty to speak and to act, the war in Cuba must stop. In view of all this the Congress was asked to authorize and empower the President to take measures to secure a full and final termination of hostilities between Spain and the people of Cuba and to secure in the island the establishment of a stable government, capable of maintaining order and observing its international obligations, insuring peace and tranquillity and the security of its citizens as well as our own, and for the accomplishment of those ends to use the military and naval forces of the United States as might be necessary, with added authority to continue generous relief to the starving people of Cuba.

The response of the Congress, after nine days of earnest deliberation, during which the almost unanimous sentiment of your body was developed on every point save as to the expediency of coupling the proposed action with a formal recognition of the Republic of Cuba as the true and lawful government of that island–a proposition which failed of adoption–the Congress, after conference, on the 19th of April, by a vote of 42 to 35 in the Senate and 311 to 6 in the House of Representatives, passed the memorable joint resolution declaring–

First. That the people of the island of Cuba are, and of right ought to be, free and independent.

Second. That it is the duty of the United States to demand, and the Government of the United States does hereby demand, that the Government of Spain at once relinquish its authority and government in the island of Cuba and withdraw its land and naval forces from Cuba and Cuban waters.

Third. That the President of the United States be, and he hereby is, directed and empowered to use the entire land and naval forces of the United States and to call into the actual service of the United States the militia of the several States to such extent as may be necessary to carry these resolutions into effect.

Fourth. That the United States hereby disclaims any disposition or intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control over said island except for the pacification thereof, and asserts its determination when that is accomplished to leave the government and control of the island to its people. This resolution was approved by the Executive on the next day, April 20. A copy was at once communicated to the Spanish minister at this capital, who forthwith announced that his continuance in Washington had thereby become impossible, and asked for his passports, which were given him. He thereupon withdrew from Washington, leaving the protection of Spanish interests in the United States to the French ambassador and the Austro-Hungarian minister. Simultaneously with its communication to the Spanish minister here, General Woodford, the American minister at Madrid, was telegraphed confirmation of the text of the joint resolution and directed to communicate it to the Government of Spain with the formal demand that it at once relinquish its authority and government in the island of Cuba and withdraw its forces therefrom, coupling this demand with announcement of the intentions of this Government as to the future of the island, in conformity with the fourth clause of the resolution, and giving Spain until noon of April 23 to reply.

That demand, although, as above shown, officially made known to the Spanish envoy here, was not delivered at Madrid. After the instruction reached General Woodford on the morning of April 21, but before he could present it, the Spanish minister of state notified him that upon the President’s approval of the joint resolution the Madrid Government, regarding the act as “equivalent to an evident declaration of war,” had ordered its minister in Washington to withdraw, thereby breaking off diplomatic relations between the two countries and ceasing all official communication between their respective representatives. General Woodford thereupon demanded his passports and quitted Madrid the same day.

Spain having thus denied the demand of the United States and initiated that complete form of rupture of relations which attends a state of war, the executive powers authorized by the resolution were at once used by me to meet the enlarged contingency of actual war between sovereign states. On April 22 I proclaimed a blockade of the north coast of Cuba, including ports on said coast between Cardenas and Bahia Honda, and the port of Cienfuegos, on the south coast of Cuba, and on the 23d I called for volunteers to execute the purpose of the resolution. By my message of April 25 the Congress was informed of the situation, and I recommended formal declaration of the existence of a state of war between the United States and Spain. The Congress accordingly voted on the same day the act approved April 25, 1898, declaring the existence of such war from and including the 21st day of April, and reenacted the provision of the resolution of April 20 directing the President to use all the armed forces of the nation to carry that act into effect. Due notification of the existence of war as aforesaid was given April 25 by telegraph to all the governments with which the United States maintain relations, in order that their neutrality might be assured during the war. The various governments responded with proclamations of neutrality, each after its own methods. It is not among the least gratifying incidents of the struggle that the obligations of neutrality were impartially discharged by all, often under delicate and difficult circumstances.

In further fulfillment of international duty I issued, April 26, 1893, a proclamation announcing the treatment proposed to be accorded to vessels and their cargoes as to blockade, contraband, the exercise of the right of search, and the immunity of neutral flags and neutral goods under enemy’s flag. A similar proclamation was made by the Spanish Government. In the conduct of hostilities the rules of the Declaration of Paris, including abstention from resort to privateering, have accordingly been observed by both belligerents, although neither was a party to that declaration.

Our country thus, after an interval of half a century of peace with all nations, found itself engaged in deadly conflict with a foreign enemy. Every nerve was strained to meet the emergency. The response to the initial call for 125,000 volunteers was instant and complete, as was also the result of the second call, of May 25, for 75,000 additional volunteers. The ranks of the Regular Army were increased to the limits provided by the act of April 26, 1898.

The enlisted force of the Navy on the 15th day of August, when it reached its maximum, numbered 24,123 men and apprentices. One hundred and three vessels were added to the Navy by purchase, 1 was presented to the Government, 1 leased, and the 4 vessels of the International Navigation Company–the St. Paul, St. Louis, New York, and Paris–were chartered. In addition to these the revenue cutters and lighthouse tenders were turned over to the Navy Department and became temporarily a part of the auxiliary Navy.

The maximum effective fighting force of the Navy during the war, separated into classes, was as follows:

Four battle ships of the first class, 1 battle ship of the second class, 2 armored cruisers, 6 coast-defense monitors, 1 armored ram, 12 protected cruisers, 3 unprotected cruisers, 18 gunboats, 1 dynamite cruiser, 11 torpedo boats; vessels of the old Navy, including monitors, 14. Auxiliary Navy: 11 auxiliary cruisers, 28 converted yachts, 27 converted tugs, 19converted colliers, 15 revenue cutters, 4 light-house tenders, and 19 miscellaneous vessels.

Much alarm was felt along our entire Atlantic seaboard lest some attack might be made by the enemy. Every precaution was taken to prevent possible injury to our great cities lying along the coast. Temporary garrisons were provided, drawn from the State militia; infantry and light batteries were drawn from the volunteer force. About 12,000 troops were thus employed. The coast signal service was established for observing the approach of an enemy’s ships to the coast of the United States, and the Life-Saving and Light-House services cooperated, which enabled the Navy Department to have all portions of the Atlantic coast, from Maine to Texas, under observation.

The auxiliary Navy was created under the authority of Congress and was officered and manned by the Naval Militia of the several States. This organization patrolled the coast and performed the duty of a second line of defense. Under the direction of the Chief of Engineers submarine mines were placed at the most exposed points. Before the outbreak of the war permanent mining casemates and cable galleries had been constructed at nearly all important harbors. Most of the torpedo material was not to be found in the market, and had to be specially manufactured. Under date of April 19 district officers were directed to take all preliminary measures short of the actual attaching of the loaded mines to the cables, and on April 22 telegraphic orders were issued to place the loaded mines in position.

The aggregate number of mines placed was 1,535, at the principal harbors from Maine to California. Preparations were also made for the planting of mines at certain other harbors, but owing to the early destruction of the Spanish fleet these mines were not placed.

The Signal Corps was promptly organized, and performed service of the most difficult and important character. Its operations during the war covered the electrical connection of all coast fortifications, the establishment of telephonic and telegraphic facilities for the camps at Manila, Santiago, and in Puerto Rico. There were constructed 300 miles of line at ten great camps, thus facilitating military movements from those points in a manner heretofore unknown in military administration. Field telegraph lines were established and maintained under the enemy’s fire at Manila, and later the Manila-Hongkong cable was reopened.

In Puerto Rico cable communications were opened over a discontinued route, and on land the headquarters of the commanding officer was kept in telegraphic or telephonic communication with the division commanders on four different lines of operations.

There was placed in Cuban waters a completely outfitted cable ship, with war cables and cable gear, suitable both for the destruction of communications belonging to the enemy and the establishment of our own. Two ocean cables were destroyed under the enemy’s batteries at Santiago. The day previous to the landing of General Shafter’s corps, at Caimanera, within 20 miles of the landing place, cable communications were established and a cable station opened giving direct communication with the Government at Washington. This service was invaluable to the Executive in directing the operations of the Army and Navy. With a total force of over 1,300, the loss was by disease in camp and field, officers and men included, only 5.

The national-defense fund of $50,000,000 was expended in large part by the Army and Navy, and the objects for which it was used are fully shown in the reports of the several Secretaries. It was a most timely appropriation, enabling the Government to strengthen its defenses and make preparations greatly needed in case of war.

This fund being inadequate to the requirements of equipment and for the conduct of the war, the patriotism of the Congress provided the means in the war-revenue act of June 13 by authorizing a 3 per cent popular loan not to exceed $400,000,000 and by levying additional imposts and taxes. Of the authorized loan $200,000,000 were offered and promptly taken the subscriptions so far exceeding the call as to cover it many times over, while, preference being given to the smaller bids, no single allotment exceeded $5,000. This was a most encouraging and significant result, showing the vast resources of the nation and the determination of the people to uphold their country’s honor.

It is not within the province of this message to narrate the history of the extraordinary war that followed the Spanish declaration of April 21, but a brief recital of its more salient features is appropriate.

The first encounter of the war in point of date took place April 27, when a detachment of the blockading squadron made a reconnoissance in force at Matanzas, shelled the harbor forts, and demolished several new works in construction.

The next engagement was destined to mark a memorable epoch in maritime warfare. The Pacific fleet, under Commodore George Dewey, had lain for some weeks at Hongkong. Upon the colonial proclamation of neutrality being issued and the customary twenty-four hours’ notice being given, it repaired to Mirs Bay, near Hongkong, whence it proceeded to the Philippine Islands under telegraphed orders to capture or destroy the formidable Spanish fleet then assembled at Manila. At daybreak on the 1st of May the American force entered Manila Bay, and after a few hours’ engagement effected the total destruction of the Spanish fleet, consisting of ten war ships and a transport, besides capturing the naval station and forts at Cavite, thus annihilating the Spanish naval power in the Pacific Ocean and completely controlling the bay of Manila, with the ability to take the city at will. Not a life was lost on our ships, the wounded only numbering seven, while not a vessel was materially injured. For this gallant achievement the Congress, upon my recommendation, fitly bestowed upon the actors preferment and substantial reward.

The effect of this remarkable victory upon the spirit of our people and upon the fortunes of the war was instant. A prestige of invincibility thereby attached to our arms which continued throughout the struggle. Reenforcements were hurried to Manila under the command of Major-General Merritt and firmly established within sight of the capital, which lay helpless before our guns.

On the 7th day of May the Government was advised officially of the victory at Manila, and at once inquired of the commander of our fleet what troops would be required. The information was received on the 15th day of May, and the first army expedition sailed May 25 and arrived off Manila June 30. Other expeditions soon followed, the total force consisting of 641 officers and 15,058 enlisted men.

Only reluctance to cause needless loss of life and property prevented the early storming and capture of the city, and therewith the absolute military occupancy of the whole group. The insurgents meanwhile had resumed the active hostilities suspended by the uncompleted truce of December, 1897. Their forces invested Manila from the northern and eastern sides, but were constrained by Admiral Dewey and General Merrill from attempting an assault. It was fitting that whatever was to be done in the way of decisive operations in that quarter should be accomplished by the strong arm of the United States alone. Obeying the stern precept of war which enjoins the overcoming of the adversary and the extinction of his power wherever assailable as the speedy and sure means to win a peace, divided victory was not permissible, for no partition of the rights and responsibilities attending the enforcement of a just and advantageous peace could be thought of.

Following the comprehensive scheme of general attack, powerful forces were assembled at various points on our coast to invade Cuba and Puerto Rico. Meanwhile naval demonstrations were made at several exposed points. On May 11 the cruiser Wilmington and torpedo boat Winslow were unsuccessful in an attempt to silence the batteries at Cardenas, a gallant ensign, Worth Bagley, and four seamen falling. These grievous fatalities were, strangely enough, among the very few which occurred during our naval operations in this extraordinary conflict.

Meanwhile the Spanish naval preparations had been pushed with great vigor. A powerful squadron under Admiral Cervera, which had assembled at the Cape Verde Islands before the outbreak of hostilities, had crossed the ocean, and by its erratic movements in the Caribbean Sea delayed our military plans while baffling the pursuit of our fleets. For a time fears were felt lest the Oregon and Marietta, then nearing home after their long voyage from San Francisco of over 15,000 miles, might be surprised by Admiral Cervera’s fleet, but their fortunate arrival dispelled these apprehensions and lent much-needed reenforcement. Not until Admiral Cervera took refuge in the harbor of Santiago de Cuba, about May 19, was it practicable to plan a systematic naval and military attack upon the Antillean possessions of Spain.

Several demonstrations occurred on the coasts of Cuba and Puerto Rico in preparation for the larger event. On May 13 the North Atlantic Squadron shelled San Juan de Puerto Rico. On May 30 Commodore Schley’s squadron bombarded the forts guarding the mouth of Santiago Harbor. Neither attack had any material result. It was evident that well-ordered land operations were indispensable to achieve a decisive advantage.

The next act in the war thrilled not alone the hearts of our countrymen but the world by its exceptional heroism. On the night of June 3 Lieutenant Hobson, aided by seven devoted volunteers, blocked the narrow outlet from Santiago Harbor by sinking the collier Merrimac in the channel, under a fierce fire from the shore batteries, escaping with their lives as by a miracle, but falling into the hands of the Spaniards. It is a most gratifying incident of the war that the bravery of this little band of heroes was cordially appreciated by the Spanish admiral, who sent a flag of truce to notify Admiral Sampson of their safety and to compliment them on their daring act. They were subsequently exchanged July 7.

By June 7 the cutting of the last Cuban cable isolated the island. Thereafter the invasion was vigorously prosecuted. On June 10, under a heavy protecting fire, a landing of 600 marines from the Oregon, Marblehead, and Yankee was effected in Guantanamo Bay, where it had been determined to establish a naval station.

This important and essential port was taken from the enemy, after severe fighting, by the marines, who were the first organized force of the United States to land in Cuba.

The position so won was held despite desperate attempts to dislodge our forces. By June 16 additional forces were landed and strongly in-trenched. On June 22 the advance of the invading army under Major-General Shafter landed at Daiquiri, about 15 miles east of Santiago. This was accomplished under great difficulties, but with marvelous dispatch. On June 23 the movement against Santiago was begun. On the 24th the first serious engagement took place, in which the First and Tenth Cavalry and the First United States Volunteer Cavalry, General Young’s brigade of General Wheeler’s division, participated, losing heavily. By nightfall, however, ground within 5 miles of Santiago was won. The advantage was steadily increased. On July 1 a severe battle took place, our forces gaining the outworks of Santiago; on the 2d El Caney and San Juan were taken after a desperate charge, and the investment of the city was completed. The Navy cooperated by shelling the town and the coast forts.

On the day following this brilliant achievement of our land forces, the 3d of July, occurred the decisive naval combat of the war. The Spanish fleet, attempting to leave the harbor, was met by the American squadron under command of Commodore Sampson. In less than three hours all the Spanish ships were destroyed, the two torpedo boats being sunk and the Maria Teresa, Almirante Oquendo, Vizcaya, and Cristobal Colon driven ashore. The Spanish admiral and over 1,300 men were taken prisoners. While the enemy’s loss of life was deplorably large, some 600 perishing, on our side but one man was killed, on the Brooklyn, and one man seriously wounded. Although our ships were repeatedly struck, not one was seriously injured. Where all so conspicuously distinguished themselves, from the commanders to the gunners and the unnamed heroes in the boiler rooms, each and all contributing toward the achievement of this astounding victory, for which neither ancient nor modern history affords a parallel in the completeness of the event and the marvelous disproportion of casualties, it would be invidious to single out any for especial honor. Deserved promotion has rewarded the more conspicuous actors. The nation’s profoundest gratitude is due to all of these brave men who by their skill and devotion in a few short hours crushed the sea power of Spain and wrought a triumph whose decisiveness and far-reaching consequences can scarcely be measured. Nor can we be unmindful of the achievements of our builders, mechanics, and artisans for their skill in the construction of our war ships.

With the catastrophe of Santiago Spain’s effort upon the ocean virtually ceased. A spasmodic effort toward the end of June to send her Mediterranean fleet, under Admiral Camara, to relieve Manila was abandoned, the expedition being recalled after it had passed through the Suez Canal.

The capitulation of Santiago followed. The city was closely besieged by land, while the entrance of our ships into the harbor cut off all relief on that side. After a truce to allow of the removal of noncombatants protracted negotiations continued from July 3 until July 15, when, under menace of immediate assault, the preliminaries of surrender were agreed upon. On the 17th General Shafter occupied the city. The capitulation embraced the entire eastern end of Cuba. The number of Spanish soldiers surrendering was 22,000, all of whom were subsequently conveyed to Spain at the charge of the United States. The story of this successful campaign is told in the report of the Secretary of War, which will be laid before you. The individual valor of officers and soldiers was never more strikingly shown than in the several engagements leading to the surrender of Santiago, while the prompt movements and successive victories won instant and universal applause. To those who gained this complete triumph, which established the ascendency of the United States upon land as the fight off Santiago had fixed our supremacy on the seas, the earnest and lasting gratitude of the nation is unsparingly due. Nor should we alone remember the gallantry of the living; the dead claim our tears, and our losses by battle and disease must cloud any exultation at the result and teach us to weigh the awful cost of war, however rightful the cause or signal the victory.

With the fall of Santiago the occupation of Puerto Rico became the next strategic necessity. General Miles had previously been assigned to organize an expedition for that purpose. Fortunately he was already at Santiago, where he had arrived on the 11th of July with reenforcements for General Shafter’s army.

With these troops, consisting of 3,415 infantry and artillery, two companies of engineers, and one company of the Signal Corps, General Miles left Guantanamo on July 21, having nine transports convoyed by the fleet under Captain Higginson with the Massachusetts (flagship), Dixie, Gloucester, Columbia, and Yale, the two latter carrying troops. The expedition landed at Guanica July 25, which port was entered with little opposition. Here the fleet was joined by the Annapolis and the Wasp, while the Puritan and Amphitrite went to San Juan and joined the New Orleans, which was engaged in blockading that port. The Major-General Commanding was subsequently reenforced by General Schwan’s brigade of the Third Army Corps, by General Wilson with a part of his division, and also by General Brooke with a part of his corps, numbering in all 16,973 officers and men.

On July 27 he entered Ponce, one of the most important ports in the island, from which he thereafter directed operations for the capture of the island.

With the exception of encounters with the enemy at Guayama, Hormigueros, Coamo, and Yauco and an attack on a force landed at Cape San Juan, there was no serious resistance. The campaign was prosecuted with great vigor, and by the 12th of August much of the island was in our possession and the acquisition of the remainder was only a matter of a short time. At most of the points in the island our troops were enthusiastically welcomed. Protestations of loyalty to the flag and gratitude for delivery from Spanish rule met our commanders at every stage. As a potent influence toward peace the outcome of the Puerto Rican expedition was of great consequence, and generous commendation is due to those who participated in it.

The last scene of the war was enacted at Manila, its starting place. On August 15, after a brief assault upon the works by the land forces, in which the squadron assisted, the capital surrendered unconditionally. The casualties were comparatively few. By this the conquest of the Philippine Islands, virtually accomplished when the Spanish capacity for resistance was destroyed by Admiral Dewey’s victory of the 1st of May, was formally sealed. To General Merrill, his officers and men, for their uncomplaining and devoted service and for their gallantry in action, the nation is sincerely grateful. Their long voyage was made with singular success, and the soldierly conduct of the men, most of whom were without previous experience in the military service, deserves unmeasured praise.

The total casualties in killed and wounded in the Army during the war with Spain were: Officers killed, 23; enlisted men killed, 257; total, 280; officers wounded, 113; enlisted men wounded, 1,464; total, 1,577. Of the Navy: Killed, 17; wounded, 67; died as result of wounds, 1; invalided from service, 6; total, 91.

It will be observed that while our Navy was engaged in two great battles and in numerous perilous undertakings in blockade and bombardment, and more than 50,000 of our troops were transported to distant lands and were engaged in assault and siege and battle and many skirmishes in unfamiliar territory, we lost in both arms of the service a total of 1,668 killed and wounded; and in the entire campaign by land and sea we did not lose a gun or a flag or a transport or a ship, and, with the exception of the crew of the Merrimac, not a soldier or sailor was taken prisoner.

On August 7, forty-six days from the date of the landing of General Shafter’s army in Cuba and twenty-one days from the surrender of Santiago, the United States troops commenced embarkation for home, and our entire force was returned to the United States as early as August 24. They were absent from the United States only two months.

It is fitting that I should bear testimony to the patriotism and devotion of that large portion of our Army which, although eager to be ordered to the post of greatest exposure, fortunately was not required outside of the United States. They did their whole duty, and, like their comrades at the front, have earned the gratitude of the nation. In like manner, the officers and men of the Army and of the Navy who remained in their departments and stations faithfully performing most important duties connected with the war, and whose requests for assignment in the field and at sea I was compelled to refuse because their services were indispensable here, are entitled to the highest commendation. It is my regret that there seems to be no provision for their suitable recognition.

In this connection it is a pleasure for me to mention in terms of cordial appreciation the timely and useful work of the American National Red Cross, both in relief measures preparatory to the campaigns, in sanitary assistance at several of the camps of assemblage, and later, under the able and experienced leadership of the president of the society, Miss Clara Barton, on the fields of battle and in the hospitals at the front in Cuba. Working in conjunction with the governmental authorities and under their sanction and approval, and with the enthusiastic cooperation of many patriotic women and societies in the various States, the Red Cross has fully maintained its already high reputation for intense earnestness and ability to exercise the noble purposes of its international organization, thus justifying the confidence and support which it has received at the hands of the American people. To the members and officers of this society and all who aided them in their philanthropic work the sincere and lasting gratitude of the soldiers and the public is due and is freely accorded.

In tracing these events we are constantly reminded of our obligations to the Divine Master for His watchful care over us and His safe guidance, for which the nation makes reverent acknowledgment and offers humble prayer for the continuance of His favor.

The annihilation of Admiral Cervera’s fleet, followed by the capitulation of Santiago, having brought to the Spanish Government a realizing sense of the hopelessness of continuing a struggle now become wholly unequal, it made overtures of peace through the French ambassador, who, with the assent of his Government, had acted as the friendly representative of Spanish interests during the war. On the 26th of July M. Cambon presented a communication signed by the Duke of Almodovar, the Spanish minister of state, inviting the United States to state the terms upon which it would be willing to make peace. On the 30th of July, by a communication addressed to the Duke of Almodovar and handed to M. Cambon, the terms of this Government were announced substantially as in the protocol afterwards signed. On the 10th of August the Spanish reply, dated August 7, was handed by M. Cambon to the Secretary of State. It accepted unconditionally the terms imposed as to Cuba, Puerto Rico, and an island of the Ladrones group, but appeared to seek to introduce inadmissible reservations in regard to our demand as to the Philippine Islands. Conceiving that discussion on this point could neither be practical nor profitable, I directed that in order to avoid misunderstanding the matter should be forthwith closed by proposing the embodiment in a formal protocol of the terms upon which the negotiations for peace were to be undertaken. The vague and inexplicit suggestions of the Spanish note could not be accepted, the only reply being to present as a virtual ultimatum a draft of protocol embodying the precise terms tendered to Spain in our note of July 30, with added stipulations of detail as to the appointment of commissioners to arrange for the evacuation of the Spanish Antilles. On August 12 M. Cambon announced his receipt of full powers to sign the protocol so submitted. Accordingly, on the afternoon of August 12, M. Cambon, as the plenipotentiary of Spain, and the Secretary of State, as the plenipotentiary of the United States, signed a protocol providing–

ARTICLE I. Spain will relinquish all claim of sovereignty over and title to Cuba.

ART. II. Spain will cede to the United States the island of Puerto Rico and other islands now under Spanish sovereignty in the West Indies, and also an island in the Ladrones to be selected by the United States.

ART. III. The United States will occupy and hold the city, bay, and harbor of Manila pending the conclusion of a treaty of peace which shall determine he control, disposition, and government of the Philippines. The fourth article provided for the appointment of joint commissions on the part of the United States and Spain, to meet in Havana and San Juan, respectively, for the purpose of arranging and carrying out the details of the stipulated evacuation of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and other Spanish islands in the West Indies.

The fifth article provided for the appointment of not more than five commissioners on each side, to meet at Paris not later than October 1 and to proceed to the negotiation and conclusion of a treaty of peace, subject to ratification according to the respective constitutional forms of the two countries.

The sixth and last article provided that upon the signature of the protocol hostilities between the two countries should be suspended and that notice to that effect should be given as soon as possible by each Government to the commanders of its military and naval forces.

Immediately upon the conclusion of the protocol I issued a proclamation, of August 12, suspending hostilities on the part of the United States. The necessary orders to that end were at once given by telegraph. The blockade of the ports of Cuba and San Juan de Puerto Rico was in like manner raised. On the 18th of August the muster out of 100,000 volunteers, or as near that number as was found to be practicable, was ordered.

On the 1st of December 101,165 officers and men had been mustered out and discharged from the service, and 9,002 more will be mustered out by the 10th of this month; also a corresponding number of general and general staff officers have been honorably discharged the service.

The military commissions to superintend the evacuation of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the adjacent islands were forthwith appointed–for Cuba, Major-General James F. Wade, Rear-Admiral William T. Sampson, Major-General Matthew C. Butler; for Puerto Rico, Major–General John R. Brooke, Rear-Admiral Winfield S. Schley, Brigadier-General William W. Gordon–who soon afterwards met the Spanish commissioners at Havana and San Juan, respectively. The Puerto Rican Joint Commission speedily accomplished its task, and by the 18th of October the evacuation of the island was completed. The United States flag was raised over the island at noon on that day. The administration of its affairs has been provisionally intrusted to a military governor until the Congress shall otherwise provide. The Cuban Joint Commission has not yet terminated its labors. Owing to the difficulties in the way of removing the large numbers of Spanish troops still in Cuba, the evacuation can not be completed before the 1st of January next.

Pursuant to the fifth article of the protocol, I appointed William R. Day, lately Secretary of State; Cushman K. Davis, William P. Frye, and George Gray, Senators of the United States, and Whitelaw Reid to be the peace commissioners on the part of the United States. Proceeding in due season to Paris, they there met on the 1st of October five commissioners similarly appointed on the part of Spain. Their negotiations have made hopeful progress, so that I trust soon to be able to lay a definitive treaty of peace before the Senate, with a review of the steps leading to its signature.

I do not discuss at this time the government or the future of the new possessions which will come to us as the result of the war with Spain. Such discussion will be appropriate after the treaty of peace shall be ratified. In the meantime and until the Congress has legislated otherwise it will be my duty to continue the military governments which have existed since our occupation and give to the people security in life and property and encouragement under a just and beneficent rule.

As soon as we are in possession of Cuba and have pacified the island it will be necessary to give aid and direction to its people to form a government for themselves. This should be undertaken at the earliest moment consistent with safety and assured success. It is important that our relations with this people shall be of the most friendly character and our commercial relations close and reciprocal. It should be our duty to assist in every proper way to build up the waste places of the island, encourage the industry of the people, and assist them to form a government which shall be free and independent, thus realizing the best aspirations of the Cuban people.

Spanish rule must be replaced by a just, benevolent, and humane government, created by the people of Cuba, capable of performing all international obligations, and which shall encourage thrift, industry, and prosperity and promote peace and good will among all of the inhabitants, whatever may have been their relations in the past. Neither revenge nor passion should have a place in the new government. Until there is complete tranquillity in the island and a stable government inaugurated military occupation will be continued.

With the one exception of the rupture with Spain, the intercourse of the United States with the great family of nations has been marked with cordiality, and the close of the eventful year finds most of the issues that necessarily arise in the complex relations of sovereign states adjusted or presenting no serious obstacle to a just and honorable solution by amicable agreement.

A long unsettled dispute as to the extended boundary between the Argentine Republic and Chile, stretching along the Andean crests from the southern border of the Atacama Desert to Magellan Straits, nearly a third of the length of the South American continent, assumed an acute stage in the early part of the year, and afforded to this Government occasion to express the hope that the resort to arbitration, already contemplated by existing conventions between the parties, might prevail despite the grave difficulties arising in its application. I am happy to say that arrangements to this end have been perfected, the questions of fact upon which the respective commissioners were unable to agree being in course of reference to Her Britannic Majesty for determination. A residual difference touching the northern boundary line across the Atacama Desert, for which existing treaties provided no adequate adjustment, bids fair to be settled in like manner by a joint commission, upon which the United States minister at Buenos Ayres has been invited to serve as umpire in the last resort.

I have found occasion to approach the Argentine Government with a view to removing differences of rate charges imposed upon the cables of an American corporation in the transmission between Buenos Ayres and the cities of Uruguay and Brazil of through messages passing from and to the United States. Although the matter is complicated by exclusive concessions by Uruguay and Brazil to foreign companies, there is strong hope that a good understanding will be reached and that the important channels of commercial communication between the United States and the Atlantic cities of South America may be freed from an almost prohibitory discrimination.

In this relation I may be permitted to express my sense of the fitness of an international agreement whereby the interchange of messages over connecting cables may be regulated on a fair basis of uniformity. The world has seen the postal system developed from a congeries of independent and exclusive services into a well-ordered union, of which all countries enjoy the manifold benefits. It would be strange were the nations not in time brought to realize that modern civilization, which owes so much of its progress to the annihilation of space by the electric force, demands that this all-important means of communication be a heritage of all peoples, to be administered and regulated in their common behoof. A step in this direction was taken when the international convention of 1884 for the protection of submarine cables was signed, and the day is, I trust, not far distant when this medium for the transmission of thought from land to land may be brought within the domain of international concert as completely as is the material carriage of commerce and correspondence upon the face of the waters that divide them.

The claim of Thomas Jefferson Page against Argentina, which has been pending many years, has been adjusted. The sum awarded by the Congress of Argentina was $4,242.35.

The sympathy of the American people has justly been offered to the ruler and the people of Austria-Hungary by reason of the affliction that has lately befallen them in the assassination of the Empress-Queen of that historic realm.

On the 10th of September, 1897, a conflict took place at Lattimer, Pa., between a body of striking miners and the sheriff of Luzerne County and his deputies, in which 22 miners were killed and 44 wounded, of whom 10 of the killed and 12 of the wounded were Austrian and Hungarian subjects. This deplorable event naturally aroused the solicitude of the Austro-Hungarian Government, which, on the assumption that the killing and wounding involved the unjustifiable misuse of authority, claimed reparation for the sufferers. Apart from the searching investigation and peremptory action of the authorities of Pennsylvania, the Federal Executive took appropriate steps to learn the merits of the case, in order to be in a position to meet the urgent complaint of a friendly power. The sheriff and his deputies, having been indicted for murder, were tried, and acquitted, after protracted proceedings and the hearing of hundreds of witnesses, on the ground that the killing was in the line of their official duty to uphold law and preserve public order in the State. A representative of the Department of Justice attended the trial and reported its course fully. With all the facts in its possession, this Government expects to reach a harmonious understanding on the subject with that of Austria-Hungary, notwithstanding the renewed claim of the latter, after learning the result of the trial, for indemnity for its injured subjects.

Despite the brief time allotted for preparation, the exhibits of this country at the Universal Exposition at Brussels in 1897 enjoyed the singular distinction of a larger proportion of awards, having regard to the number and classes of articles entered than those of other countries. The worth of such a result in making known our national capacity to supply the world’s markets is obvious.

Exhibitions of this international character are becoming more frequent as the exchanges of commercial countries grow more intimate and varied. Hardly a year passes that this Government is not invited to national participation at some important foreign center, but often on too short notice to permit of recourse to Congress for the power and means to do so. My predecessors have suggested the advisability of providing by a general enactment and a standing appropriation for accepting such invitations and for representation of this country by a commission. This plan has my cordial approval.

I trust that the Belgian restrictions on the importation of cattle from the United States, originally adopted as a sanitary precaution, will at an early day be relaxed as to their present features of hardship and discrimination, so as to admit live cattle under due regulation of their slaughter after landing. I am hopeful, too, of favorable change in the Belgian treatment of our preserved and salted meats. The growth of direct trade between the two countries, not alone for Belgian consumption and Belgian products, but by way of transit from and to other continental states, has been both encouraging and beneficial. No effort will be spared to enlarge its advantages by seeking the removal of needless impediments and by arrangements for increased commercial exchanges.

The year’s events in Central America deserve more than passing mention.

A menacing rupture between Costa Rica and Nicaragua was happily composed by the signature of a convention between the parties, with the concurrence of the Guatemalan representative as a mediator, the act being negotiated and signed on board the United States steamer Alert, then lying in Central American waters. It is believed that the good offices of our envoy and of the commander of that vessel contributed toward this gratifying outcome.

In my last annual message the situation was presented with respect to the diplomatic representation of this Government in Central America created by the association of Nicaragua, Honduras, and Salvador under the title of the Greater Republic of Central America, and the delegation of their international functions to the Diet thereof. While the representative character of the Diet was recognized by my predecessor and has been confirmed during my Administration by receiving its accredited envoy and granting exequaturs to consuls commissioned under its authority, that recognition was qualified by the distinct understanding that the responsibility of each of the component sovereign Republics toward the United States remained wholly unaffected.

This proviso was needful inasmuch as the compact of the three Republics was at the outset an association whereby certain representative functions were delegated to a tripartite commission rather than a federation possessing centralized powers of government and administration. In this view of their relation and of the relation of the United States to the several Republics, a change in the representation of this country in Central America was neither recommended by the Executive nor initiated by Congress, thus leaving one of our envoys accredited, as heretofore, separately to two States of the Greater Republic, Nicaragua and Salvador, and to a third State, Costa Rica, which was not a party to the compact, while our other envoy was similarly accredited to a union State, Honduras, and a nonunion State, Guatemala. The result has been that the one has presented credentials only to the President of Costa Rica, the other having been received only by the Government of Guatemala.

Subsequently the three associated Republics entered into negotiations for taking the steps forecast in the original compact. A convention of their delegates framed for them a federal constitution under the name of the United States of Central America, and provided for a central federal government and legislature. Upon ratification by the constituent States, the 1st of November last was fixed for the new system to go into operation. Within a few weeks thereafter the plan was severely tested by revolutionary movements arising, with a consequent demand for unity of action on the part of the military power of the federal States to suppress them. Under this strain the new union seems to have been weakened through the withdrawal of its more important members. This Government was not officially advised of the installation of the federation and has maintained an attitude of friendly expectancy, while in no wise relinquishing the position held from the outset that the responsibilities of the several States toward us remained unaltered by their tentative relations among themselves.

The Nicaragua Canal Commission, under the chairmanship of Rear-Admiral John G. Walker, appointed July 24, 1897, under the authority of a provision in the sundry civil act of June 4 of that year, has nearly completed its labors, and the results of its exhaustive inquiry into the proper route, the feasibility, and the cost of construction of an interoceanic canal by a Nicaraguan route will be laid before you. In the performance of its task the commission received all possible courtesy and assistance from the Governments of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, which thus testified their appreciation of the importance of giving a speedy and practical outcome to the great project that has for so many years engrossed the attention of the respective countries.

As the scope of the recent inquiry embraced the whole subject, with the aim of making plans and surveys for a canal by the most convenient route, it necessarily included a review of the results of previous surveys and plans, and in particular those adopted by the Maritime Canal Company under its existing concessions from Nicaragua and Costa Rica, so that to this extent those grants necessarily hold as essential a part in the deliberations and conclusions of the Canal Commission as they have held and must needs hold in the discussion of the matter by the Congress. Under these circumstances and in view of overtures made to the Governments of Nicaragua and Costa Rica by other parties for a new canal concession predicated on the assumed approaching lapse of the contracts of the Maritime Canal Company with those States, I have not hesitated to express my conviction that considerations of expediency and international policy as between the several governments interested in the construction and control of an interoceanic canal by this route require the maintenance of the status quo until the Canal Commission shall have reported and the United States Congress shall have had the opportunity to pass finally upon the whole matter during the present session, without prejudice by reason of any change in the existing conditions.

Nevertheless, it appears that the Government of Nicaragua, as one of its last sovereign acts before merging its powers in those of the newly formed United States of Central America, has granted an optional concession to another association, to become effective on the expiration of the present grant. It does not appear what surveys have been made or what route is proposed under this contingent grant, so that an examination of the feasibility of its plans is necessarily not embraced in the report of the Canal Commission. All these circumstances suggest the urgency of some definite action by the Congress at this session if the labors of the past are to be utilized and the linking of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by a practical waterway is to be realized. That the construction of such a maritime highway is now more than ever indispensable to that intimate and ready intercommunication between our eastern and western seaboards demanded by the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands and the prospective expansion of our influence and commerce in the Pacific, and that our national policy now more imperatively than ever calls for its control by this Government, are propositions which I doubt not the Congress will duly appreciate and wisely act upon.

Continue to Part II

Teacher Programs

Conversation-based seminars for collegial PD, one-day and multi-day seminars, graduate credit seminars (MA degree), online and in-person.

Our Core Document Collection allows students to read history in the words of those who made it. Available in hard copy and for download.