The World of 1898: The Spanish-American War (Hispanic Division, Library of Congress)
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Grover Cleveland


President Cleveland faced a growing problem with Cuba in his second term, 1892-1896. As word of the horrors of General Weyler's Reconcentration policy reached the United States, many fairs and rallies were held to protest the brutality of Spanish troops and to express pro-Cuban sentiments. Nevertheless, on June 12, 1895, President Cleveland signed a proclamation of neutrality and refused to show any preference to the insurgents.

His view was not for want of Congressional attempts to change his mind. Congress from 1895 onwards passed pro-Cuban and anti-Spanish resolutions in both houses. On April 7, 1896, Secretary of State Richard Olney spoke out and offered to present itself as a possible mediator in the conflict. After discussions with the Spanish ambassador Enrique Dupuy de Lome, the mediation plan included continued Spanish rule over Cuba, with some self-government for the island. The Spanish government, however, had to contend with anti-American demonstrations in reaction to the hostile resolutions emanating from the U.S. Congress. Consequently, it was in no rush to accept any offers of mediation coming from Washington. Finally, after two months of silence, the Spanish rejected the proposed reforms.

Toward the end of his presidency, Cleveland relented a bit on his neutral stance, perhaps because his successor William McKinley would have to manage whatever ensued. On December 1896, Cleveland commented that the United States might have to respond if Spain was unable to settle the Cuba issue. Hannis Taylor, U.S. envoy to Madrid, actually proposed that Spain grant Cuba autonomy to President Cánovas, but received no response. Ironically, less than a year later Cánovas was dead and by the following year Spain granted a limited autonomy to Cuba.

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