Executive Mansion, April 11, 1898.
To the Congress of the United States:
Obedient to that precept of the Constitution which commands the President to give from time to
time to the Congress information of the state of the Union and to recommend to their
consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient, it becomes my duty to
now address your body with regard to the grave crisis that has arisen in the relations of the United
States to Spain by reason of the warfare that for more than three years has raged in the
neighboring island of Cuba...
The present revolution is but the successor of other similar insurrections which have occurred in
Cuba against the dominion of Spain, extending over a period of nearly half a century, each of
which during its progress has subjected the United States to great effort and expense in enforcing
its neutrality laws, caused enormous losses to American trade and commerce, caused irritation,
annoyance, and disturbance among our citizens, and, by the exercise of cruel, barbarous, and
uncivilized practices of warfare, shocked the sensibilities and offended the human sympathies of
The war in Cuba is of such a nature that, short of subjugation or extermination, a final military
victory for either side seems impracticable. The alternative lies in the physical exhaustion of the
one or the other party, or perhaps of both -- a condition which in effect ended the ten years' war
by the truce of Zanjon. The prospect of such a protraction and conclusion of the present strife is a
contingency hardly to be contemplated with equanimity by the civilized world, and least of all by
the United States, affected and injured as we are, deeply and intimately, by its very existence.
Realizing this, it appeared to be my duty, in a spirit of true friendliness, no less to Spain than to
the Cubans, who have so much to lose by the prolongation of the struggle, to seek to bring about
an immediate termination of the war. To this end I submitted on the 27th ultimo, as a result of
much representation and correspondence, through the United States minister at Madrid,
propositions to the Spanish Government looking to an armistice until October 1 for the
negotiation of peace with the good offices of the President.
In my annual message of December last I said.
Of the untried measures there remain only: recognition of the insurgents as belligerents;
recognition of the independence of Cuba; neutral intervention to end the war by imposing a
rational compromise between the contestants, and intervention in favor of one or the other party.
I speak not of forcible annexation, for that cannot be thought of. That, by our code of morality,
would be criminal aggression.
Thereupon I reviewed these alternatives in the light of President Grant's measured words, uttered
in 1875, when, after seven years of sanguinary, destructive, and cruel hostilities in Cuba, he
reached the conclusion that the recognition of the independence of Cuba was impracticable and
indefensible and that the recognition of belligerence was not warranted by the facts according to
the tests of public law. I commented especially upon the latter aspect of the question, pointing out
the inconveniences and positive dangers of a recognition of belligerence, which, while adding to
the already onerous burdens of neutrality within our own jurisdiction, could not in any way extend
our influence or effective offices in the territory of hostilities.
Nothing has since occurred to change my view in this regard, and I recognize as fully now as then
that the issuance of a proclamation of neutrality, by which process the so-called recognition of
belligerents is published, could of itself and unattended by other action accomplish nothing toward
the one end for which we labor--the instant pacification of Cuba and the cessation of the misery
that afflicts the island...
There remain the alternative forms of intervention to end the war, either as an impartial neutral, by
imposing a rational compromise between the contestants, or as the active ally of the one party or
As to the first, it is not to be forgotten that during the last few months the relation of the United
States has virtually been one of friendly intervention in many ways, each not of itself conclusive,
but all tending to the exertion of a potential influence toward an ultimate pacific result, just and
honorable to all interests concerned. The spirit of all our acts hitherto has been an earnest,
unselfish desire for peace and prosperity in Cuba, untarnished by differences between us and Spain
and unstained by the blood of American citizens.
The forcible intervention of the United States as a neutral to stop the war, according to the large
dictates of humanity and following many historical precedents where neighboring states have
interfered to check the hopeless sacrifices of life by internecine conflicts beyond their borders, is
justifiable on rational grounds. It involves, however, hostile constraint upon both the parties to the
contest, as well to enforce a truce as to guide the eventual settlement.
The grounds for such intervention may be briefly summarized as follows:
First. In the cause of humanity and to put an end to the barbarities, bloodshed, starvation, and
horrible miseries now existing there, and which the parties to the conflict are either unable or
unwilling to stop or mitigate. It is no answer to say this is all in another country, belonging to
another nation, and is therefore none of our business. It is specially our duty, for it is right at our
Second. We owe it to our citizens in Cuba to afford them that protection and indemnity for life
and property which no government there can or will afford, and to that end to terminate the
conditions that deprive them of legal protection.
Third. The right to intervene may be justified by the very serious injury to the commerce, trade,
and business of our people and by the wanton destruction of property and devastation of the
Fourth, and which is of the utmost importance. The present condition of affairs in Cuba is a
constant menace to our peace and entails upon this Government an enormous expense. With such
a conflict waged for years in an island so near us and with which our people have such trade and
business relations; when the lives and liberty of our citizens are in constant danger and their
property destroyed and themselves ruined; where our trading vessels are liable to seizure and are
seized at our very door by war ships of a foreign nation; the expeditions of filibustering that we
are powerless to prevent altogether, and the irritating questions and entanglements thus
arising--all these and others that I need not mention, with the resulting strained relations, are a
constant menace to our peace and compel us to keep on a semi-war footing with a nation with
which we are at peace.
These elements of danger and disorder already pointed out have been strikingly illustrated by a
tragic event which has deeply and justly moved the American people. I have already transmitted
to Congress the report of the naval court of inquiry on the destruction of the battle ship Maine in
the harbor of Havana during the night of the 15th of February. The destruction of that noble
vessel has filled the national heart with inexpressible horror. Two hundred and fifty-eight brave
sailors and marines and two officers of our Navy, reposing in the fancied security of a friendly
harbor, have been hurled to death, grief and want brought to their homes and sorrow to the
The naval court of inquiry, which, it is needless to say, commands the unqualified confidence of
the Government, was unanimous in its conclusion that the destruction of the Maine was caused by
an exterior explosion -- that of a submarine mine. It did not assume to place the responsibility.
That remains to be fixed.
In any event, the destruction of the Maine, by whatever exterior cause, is a patent and impressive
proof of a state of things in Cuba that is intolerable...
The long trial has proved that the object for which Spain has waged the war cannot 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 cannot 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 these facts and of these considerations I ask the Congress to authorize and empower
the President to take measures to secure a full and final termination of hostilities between the
Government of 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 to use the
military and naval forces of the United States as may be necessary for these purposes.
And in the interest of humanity and to aid in preserving the lives of the starving people of the
island I recommend that the distribution of food and supplies be continued and that an
appropriation be made out of the public Treasury to supplement the charity of our citizens.
The issue is now with the Congress. It is a solemn responsibility. I have exhausted every effort to
relieve the intolerable condition of affairs which is at our doors. Prepared to execute every
obligation imposed upon me by the Constitution and the law, I await your action.
Yesterday, and since the preparation of the foregoing message, official information was received
by me that the latest decree of the Queen Regent of Spain directs General Blanco, in order to
prepare and facilitate peace, to proclaim a suspension of hostilities, the duration and details of
which have not yet been communicated to me.
This fact, with every other pertinent consideration, will, I am sure, have your just and careful
attention in the solemn deliberations upon which you are about to enter. If this measure attains a
successful result, then our aspirations as a Christian, peace-loving people will be realized. If it
fails, it will be only another justification for our contemplated action.
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