1898 Treaty of Paris is signed

From Niles to the White House

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

The Spanish American War officially ended when the Treaty of Paris was signed 120 years ago today, Dec. 10, 1898.

The treaty agreement involved Spain relinquishing Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States of America. This treaty officially marked the end of century’s long existence of the Spanish Empire of conquered territories.

This agreement included a one-time payment of $20 million by the United States for the cession of the Philippines. The Treaty of Paris went into effect on April 11, 1899, when the documents of ratification were exchanged to both nations.

The Spanish American War occurred after years of opposition to Spanish colonial rule starting in 1868 in Cuba and the 1890s in the Philippines. Many of the revolution leaders were either killed or exiled from the island nations during this period of revolt. The war had overwhelming support by the American public because of reporters’ columns of the treatment of the Cubans and Filipinos by Spanish rulers.

The United States and Spain appointed five commissioners each for the treaty of peace talks and began to meet on Oct. 1, 1898, in Paris, France. The American commissioners were William Day, as chairman, who had stepped down as Secretary of State to lead the United States Peace Commission; Sen. William Frye of Maine, Sen. Cushman Kellogg Davis of Minnesota, Sen. George Gray from Delaware, and Whitelaw Reed, a former diplomat and vice presidential nominee.

Meetings were held at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the Spanish representatives earnestly pushed for Manila to be returned to Spanish rule, which was refused by the Americans. For the first month, talks were about Cuba, which could not be annexed to the U.S. because of the language of the War Declaration as approved by the U.S. Congress. The Americans could annex the other islands and cede both Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States and provide freedom to the Cubans. Spain also was responsible for the Cuban national debt of $400 million, so the U.S. would not have to take on that monetary responsibility.

Negotiations then dealt with the Philippines, where Spain pushed for Spanish control of the islands that the Americans did not occupy during the war. On Nov. 25, the American Commission cabled President McKinley for instructions.

The next morning, the president’s answer was the following: “To accept merely Luzon, leaving the rest of the island subject to Spanish rule, or to be subject of future contention, cannot be justified on political, commercial, or humanitarian grounds. The cessation must be the whole archipelago or none. The latter is wholly inadmissible, and the former must therefore be required.”

Once the new leader of the free world put his claim to the entire Philippine islands then the Spanish formally accepted the offer of money and the Spanish Queen-Regent Maria Christina cabled her acceptance, “The Government of Her Majesty, moved by lofty reasons of patriotism and humanity, will not assume the responsibility of again bringing upon Spain all the horrors of war. It resigns itself to the painful task of submitting to the law of the victor, however harsh it may be, and Spain lacks the material means to defend the rights she believes hers, having recorded them, she accepts the only terms the United States offers her for the concluding of the treaty of peace.”

Mike Wilson is the director of SCOPE Senior Services of Trumbull County and has traveled around the nation performing as William McKinley for the past 25 years.