The United States, which as a young country was especially suceptible to peer pressure, followed along and snapped up some colonies of its own.
The US saw that Spain’s hold on its empire was weak, and like some kind of expansionist predator, it jumped into the Cuban War for Independence and turned it into the Spanish-Cuban-Phillipino-American War, which usually just gets called the Spanish-American War. John will tell you how America turned this war into colonial possessions like Puerto Rico, The Philippines, and almost even got to keep Cuba.
The US was busy in the Pacific as well, wresting control of Hawaii from the Hawaiians.
All this and more in a globe-trotting, oppressing episode of Crash Course US History.
The Spanish–American War (Spanish: Guerra hispano-estadounidense or Guerra hispano-americana; Filipino: Digmaang Espanyol-Amerikano) was an armed conflict between Spain and the United States in 1898. Hostilities began in the aftermath of the internal explosion of USS Maine in Havana Harbor in Cuba, leading to U.S. intervention in the Cuban War of Independence. The war led to the U.S. emerging predominant in the Caribbean region, and resulted in U.S. acquisition of Spain’s Pacific possessions. That led to U.S. involvement in the Philippine Revolution and later to the Philippine Insurrection.
The main issue was Cuban independence. Revolts had been occurring for some years in Cuba against Spanish colonial rule. The U.S. backed these revolts upon entering the Spanish–American War. There had been war scares before, as in the Virginius Affair in 1873. But in the late 1890s, American public opinion swayed in support of the rebellion due to reports of concentration camps (death estimates range from 150,000 to 400,000 people) set up to control the populace. Yellow journalism exaggerated the atrocities to further increase public fervor, and to sell more papers.
The business community had just recovered from a deep depression and feared that a war would reverse the gains. Accordingly, most business interests lobbied vigorously against going to war. President William McKinley ignored the exaggerated news reporting and sought a peaceful settlement. However, after the United States Navy armored cruiser Maine mysteriously exploded and sank in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898, political pressures from the Democratic Party pushed McKinley into a war that he had wished to avoid.
On April 20, 1898, McKinley signed a joint Congressional resolution demanding Spanish withdrawal and authorizing the President to use military force to help Cuba gain independence. In response, Spain severed diplomatic relations with the United States on April 21. On the same day, the U.S. Navy began a blockade of Cuba. Both sides declared war; neither had allies.
The 10-week war was fought in both the Caribbean and the Pacific. As U.S. agitators for war well knew, U.S. naval power would prove decisive, allowing expeditionary forces to disembark in Cuba against a Spanish garrison already facing nationwide Cuban insurgent attacks and further wasted by yellow fever. The invaders obtained the surrender of Santiago de Cuba and Manila despite the good performance of some Spanish infantry units, and fierce fighting for positions such as San Juan Hill. Madrid sued for peace after two Spanish squadrons were sunk in the battles of Santiago de Cuba and Manila Bay, and a third, more modern fleet was recalled home to protect the Spanish coasts.
The result was the 1898 Treaty of Paris, negotiated on terms favorable to the U.S. which allowed it temporary control of Cuba and ceded ownership of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippine islands. The cession of the Philippines involved payment of $20 million ($610 million today) to Spain by the U.S. to cover infrastructure owned by Spain.
The defeat and loss of the Spanish Empire’s last remnants was a profound shock to Spain’s national psyche and provoked a thorough philosophical and artistic reevaluation of Spanish society known as the Generation of ’98. The United States gained several island possessions spanning the globe, which provoked rancorous debate over the wisdom of expansionism.
The Philippine–American War, also referred to as the Filipino–American War, the Philippine War, the Philippine Insurrection or the Tagalog Insurgency (Filipino: Digmaang Pilipino–Amerikano; Spanish: Guerra filipino–estadounidense), was an armed conflict between the First Philippine Republic and the United States that lasted from February 4, 1899 to July 2, 1902. While Filipino nationalists viewed the conflict as a continuation of the struggle for independence that began in 1896 with the Philippine Revolution, the U.S. government regarded it as an insurrection. The conflict arose when the First Philippine Republic objected to the terms of the Treaty of Paris under which the United States took possession of the Philippines from Spain, ending the Spanish–American War.
Fighting erupted between forces of the United States and those of the Philippine Republic on February 4, 1899, in what became known as the 1899 Battle of Manila. On June 2, 1899, the First Philippine Republic officially declared war against the United States. The war officially ended on July 2, 1902, with a victory for the United States. However, some Philippine groups—led by veterans of the Katipunan, a Philippine revolutionary society—continued to battle the American forces for several more years. Among those leaders was General Macario Sakay, a veteran Katipunan member who assumed the presidency of the proclaimed Tagalog Republic, formed in 1902 after the capture of President Emilio Aguinaldo. Other groups, including the Moro, Bicol and Pulahan peoples, continued hostilities in remote areas and islands, until their final defeat at the Battle of Bud Bagsak on June 15, 1913.
The war resulted in at least 200,000 Filipino civilian deaths, mostly due to famine and disease. Some estimates for total civilian dead reach up to a million. The war and especially the following occupation by the U.S., changed the culture of the islands, leading to the rise of Protestantism and disestablishment of the Catholic Church and the introduction of English to the islands as the primary language of government, education, business, industry and, in future decades, among upper-class families and educated individuals.
In 1902, the United States Congress passed the Philippine Organic Act, which provided for the creation of the Philippine Assembly, with members to be elected by Filipino males (women did not have the right to vote until after the 1937 suffrage plebiscite). This act was superseded by the 1916 Jones Act (Philippine Autonomy Act), which contained the first formal and official declaration of the United States government’s commitment to eventually grant independence to the Philippines. The 1934 Tydings–McDuffie Act (Philippine Independence Act) created the Commonwealth of the Philippines the following year, increasing self-governance in advance of independence, and established a process towards full Philippine independence (originally scheduled for 1944, but interrupted and delayed by World War II). The United States granted independence in 1946, following World War II and the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, through the Treaty of Manila.