Spanish war talks rekindled patriotism

Editor’s note: This is part of a weekly series marking the 120th anniversary of Niles native William McKinley’s U.S. presidency.

From the New York Times in May 1898

“During the American Civil War the combatants, North and South, were actuated by a well-defined idea. On the one side of the line they were fighting for independence — separation. On the other side they were fighting for the unity of the country — for the maintenance of the Federal Union. Obviously the issue involved in the present struggle is far less clearly outlined in the popular mind. The average citizen, to employ a familiar phrase, would probably make reply that we are fighting to avenge the Maine, and that cause of war is most conspicuous in the mental vision of many of the fighters, whether they are on the decks of the warships or making their way to the desolated fields of Cuba.

“Others and more reflective citizens of the Republic are ready to swear that it is high time that the power of their mighty, chivalrous, and puissant country should arouse to free a neighboring people from the most cruel oppression that has been permitted to exist in this hemisphere. But, after all, without admitting motives of revenge or reasoning out the logic of the present situation, it is evident that the great popular heart is stirred by one motive — love of country. It is a grand, patriotic impulse that unites the whole people in this crisis; for the dominant thought is that this is our country’s war, ‘our country — right or wrong.’ It is this impulse, which does not stay to chop logic or to argue backward for the establishment of the righteousness of our cause, that moves the vast majority of Americans to uphold the action of the National Government.”

The New York Times and other newspapers in their May 1898 journalistic statements about the War with Spain were strongly supportive of President William McKinley and the actions of the government.

“The present generation has never witnessed such an outpouring of the sentiment of patriotism as the war with Spain has evoked. Never before have the National colors been so profusely, so universally displayed in city, town and village. Never before has the younger generation of men been so profoundly stirred by allusions to the country’s cause. Never before in their briefer experience have gatherings of men and women, convoked for other purposes, been so quickly responsive to any chance expression of the thought that lies uppermost in the minds of all — our country’s cause. Whatever may have been thought of the wisdom or the unwisdom of the successive steps that have brought us where we are, whatever may be the outcome of the contest into which we have flung ourselves, this is the battle of our beloved country, and millions of patriotic hearts beat more tumultuously when that chord is struck. It is the innate love of country that sleeps in every honest breast which now leaps up with shouts and cheers at the sight of the flag, at the sound of the anthem of the free. The men who wear the warlike uniform of the Nation’s defenders on land or on sea are welcomed and bidden godspeed on their way. The National colors fly from the church spires of every denomination of American Christians, decorate the homes, factories, and industrial establishments of the land, and from one end of the Union to the other there is a universal eruption of the National emblem. At last the voice of faction is hushed. The people are united in the support of the cause of our common country.”

“It is needless to expatiate on the value of this unexpected manifestation of a nation’s spirit. More true of Americans than of any other people it may be said that ‘they love their land because it is their own, and scorn to give aught other reason why.’ And, although war is always to be deplored and to be avoided as long as avoidance is consistent with honor, not the least among the tremendous consequences possible to the war upon which we have entered will be that new kindling of the fires of patriotism which now light up all the land. It is nearly forty years since our people have heard a call to arms. During that period many events of importance have occurred to us, and it is well for us, well for the generations that shall come after us, that the present awakening finds us a united and concordant Nation. One of the results that will undoubtedly issue from this war must be an increased respect for American prowess and American power among all nations. But better than this will be the unifying of our people and the uplifting of our own ideals of patriotism. For many years to come the bright emblem of our National Union will be more than ever regarded with affectionate pride throughout the length and breadth of our beloved land.”

Wendell Lauth of Bristol is a Trumbull County historian.