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Treaty of Paris (1898)

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Spain United States

Paris, France

11 April 1899

10 December 1898

Start date
December 10, 1898

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30 Stat. 1754; TS 343; 11 Bevans 615

The Treaty of Paris of 1898 was an agreement made in 1898 that involved Spain relinquishing nearly all of the remaining Spanish Empire, especially Cuba, and ceding Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States. The cession of the Philippines involved a payment of $20 million from the United States to Spain. The treaty was signed on December 10, 1898, and ended the Spanish–American War. The Treaty of Paris came into effect on April 11, 1899, when the documents of ratification were exchanged.


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The Treaty of Paris marked the end of the Spanish Empire (apart from some small holdings in North Africa). It marked the beginning of the age of the United States as a world power. Many supporters of the war opposed the treaty, and it became one of the major issues in the election of 1900 when it was opposed by Democrat William Jennings Bryan because he opposed imperialism. Republican President William McKinley upheld the treaty and was easily reelected.

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The Spanish–American War began on April 25, 1898 due to a series of escalating disputes between the two nations, and ended on December 10, 1898 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. It resulted in Spain's loss of its control over the remains of its overseas empire. After much of mainland Latin America had achieved independence, Cuba tried its hand at revolution in 1868–1878, and again in the 1890s, led by José Martí, or "El Apóstol." Martí returned to Cuba and participated at first in the struggles against the Spanish government, but was killed on May 19, 1895. The Philippines at this time also became resistant to Spanish colonial rule. August 26, 1896 presented the first call to revolt, led by Andrés Bonifacio, succeeded by Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy, who had his predecessor arrested. Bonifacio was executed on May 10, 1897. Aguinaldo then negotiated the Pact of Biak-na-Bato with the Spaniards and was exiled to Hong Kong along with the other revolutionary leaders.

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The Spanish–American War that followed had overwhelming U.S. public support due to the popular fervor towards supporting Cuban freedom as well as furthering U.S. economic interests overseas. The U.S. was particularly attracted to the developing sugar industry in Cuba. The U.S. military even resorted to falsifying reports in the Philippines in order to maintain public support for U.S. involvement abroad. The U.S. appealed to the principles of Manifest Destiny and expansionism to justify its participation in the war, proclaiming that it was America's fate and its duty to take charge in these overseas nations.

On September 16, U.S. President William McKinley issued secret written instructions to his emissaries as the Spanish–American War drew to a close:

It is my earnest wish that the United States in making peace should follow the same high rule of conduct which guided it in facing war. In addition, the victor should be magnanimous in her treatment of the fallen foe; and her morality should not under any illusion of the hour be dimmed by ulterior designs which might tempt us into excessive demands or into an adventurous departure on untried paths.... The Philippines stand upon a different basis... without any original thought of complete or even partial acquisition, the presence and success of our arms at Manila imposes upon us obligations which we cannot disregard. The march of events rules and overrules human action. Avowing unreservedly the purpose which has animated all our effort, and still solicitous to adhere to it, we cannot be unmindful that, without any desire or design on our part, the war has brought us new duties and responsibilities which we must meet and discharge as becomes a great nation.... Incidental to our tenure in the Philippines is the commercial opportunity to which American statesmanship cannot be indifferent. It is just to use every legitimate means for the enlargement of American trade; ... In view of what has been stated, the United States cannot accept less than the cession in full right and sovereignty of the island of Luzon....


Article V of a peace protocol entered into between United States and Spain on August 12, 1898, read as follows:

The United States and Spain will each appoint not more than five commissioners to treat of peace, and the commissioners so appointed shall meet at Paris not later than Oct. 1, 1898, and proceed to the negotiation and conclusion of a treaty of peace, which treaty shall be subject to ratification according to the respective constitutional forms of the two countries.

The composition of the American commission was somewhat unusual in that three of its members were Senators (meaning, as many newspapers pointed out, that at a later date they would vote on the ratification of their own negotiations). The American delegation members were:

  • William R. Day, chairman, a former U.S. Secretary of State who had resigned from his cabinet position to lead the United States Peace Commission
  • William P. Frye, a Senator from Maine
  • Cushman Kellogg Davis, a Senator from Minnesota
  • George Gray, a Senator from Delaware
  • Whitelaw Reid, a former diplomat and a former Vice Presidential nominee
  • The Spanish commission included the Spanish diplomats Eugenio Montero Ríos, Buenaventura de Abarzuza, José de Garnica, Wenceslao Ramírez de Villa-Urrutia, Rafael Cerero, as well as the French diplomat Jules Cambon.

    The American delegation, headed by former Secretary of State William R. Day—who had vacated his position as U.S. Secretary of State in order to head the commission—arrived in Paris on September 26, 1898. The negotiations were conducted in a suite of rooms at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At the first session on October 1, the Spanish demanded that before the talks get underway the city of Manila, which had been captured by the Americans a few hours after the signing of the peace protocol in Washington, should be returned to Spanish authority. The Americans refused to consider this and for the moment it was pursued no further.

    Felipe Agoncillo, a Filipino lawyer representing the First Philippine Republic, was denied participation in the negotiation.

    For almost a month, negotiations revolved around Cuba. The Teller Amendment to the U.S. Declaration of War with Spain made it impractical for the U.S. to annex the island as it did with Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. On first instance, Spain refused to accept the Cuban national debt of four hundred million dollars, but ultimately it had no choice. Eventually, it was agreed that Cuba was to be granted to the Cubans and the four hundred million dollar liability returned to Spain. It was also agreed that Spain would cede Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States.

    The negotiators then turned to the question of the Philippines. Spanish negotiators were determined to hang onto all they could, hoping to cede only Mindanao and perhaps the Sulu Islands. On the American side, Chairman Day had once recommended the acquisition of only the naval base in Manila, as a "hitching post". Others had recommended retaining just the island of Luzon. In discussions with its advisers, though, the commission concluded that Spain, if it retained part of the Philippines, would be likely to sell that part to another European power and that this would likely be troublesome for America. On November 25, the American Commission cabled President McKinley for explicit instructions. Their cable crossed one from McKinley saying that duty left him no choice but to demand the entire archipelago, the following morning, another cable from McKinley arrived, saying

    ... to accept merely Luzon, leaving the rest of the islands subject to Spanish rule, or to be the 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.

    On November 4, the Spanish delegation formally accepted the American demand, and Spain's Prime Minister, Práxedes Mateo Sagasta, backed up the commission. As the specter of collapse of the negotiations grew, there were mutters about resumption of the war. U.S. election results on November 8, however, cut McKinley's Republican majority in Congress less than had been anticipated. The American delegation took heart from this, and Frye unveiled a plan of offering Spain ten or twenty million dollars for the islands.

    After some discussion the American delegation offered twenty million dollars on November 21, one tenth of a valuation which had been estimated in internal discussions in October, requesting an answer within two days. Montero Ríos said angrily that he could reply at once, but the American delegation had already departed from the conference table. When the two sides met again, Queen-Regent Maria Christina had cabled her acceptance. Montero Ríos recited the formal reply:

    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. In order to avoid them, it resigns itself to the painful task of submitting to the law of the victor, however harsh it may be, and as 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.

    Work on the final draft of the treaty began on November 30. It was signed on December 10, 1898. The next step was legislative ratification. In Madrid, the Cortes rejected it, but the Queen Regent signed it, empowered to do so by a clause in the Spanish constitution.

    U.S. ratification of the treaty in the Senate

    In the U.S. Senate, there were four main schools of thought in regard to U.S. imperialism that influenced debate on ratification of the Treaty. Republicans generally supported the treaty, while those opposed either aimed to defeat the treaty or exclude the provision stipulating the acquisition of the Philippines. Democrats in general favored expansion as well, particularly Southern Democrats. A minority of Democrats also favored the treaty on the basis of ending the war and granting independence to Cuba and the Philippines. During the Senate debate to ratify the treaty, Senators George Frisbie Hoar and George Graham Vest were outspoken opponents of the treaty.

    This Treaty will make us a vulgar, commonplace empire, controlling subject races and vassal states, in which one class must forever rule and other classes must forever obey.

    Some anti-expansionists stated that the treaty committed the United States to a course of empire and violated the most basic tenets of the United States Constitution. They argued that neither the Congress nor the President had the right to pass laws governing colonial peoples who were not represented by lawmakers.

    Certain Senate Expansionists who supported the treaty reinforced such views by arguing:

    If the U.S. were to reject the treaty, Suppose we reject the Treaty. We continue the state of war. We repudiate the President. We are branded as a people incapable of taking rank as one of the greatest of world powers!

    Providence has given the United States the duty of extending Christian civilization. We come as ministering angels, not despots.

    Expansionists said that the Constitution applied only to the citizens of the United States. This idea was later supported by the Supreme Court in the Insular Cases.

    As the Senate debate continued, Andrew Carnegie and former President Grover Cleveland petitioned the Senate to reject the treaty. These two men adamantly opposed such imperialist policies, and participated in the American Anti-Imperialist League along with other such prominent members as Mark Twain and Samuel Gompers.

    The controversial treaty was eventually approved on February 6, 1899, by a vote 57 to 27, only one vote more than the two-thirds majority required. Only two Republicans voted against ratification, George Frisbie Hoar of Massachusetts and Eugene Pryor Hale of Maine. Senator Nelson W. Aldrich had opposed entry into the Spanish–American War, but supported McKinley when it began. He played a central role in winning two-thirds Senate approval of the Treaty of Paris.

    Treaty provisions

    The Treaty of Paris provided that Cuba would become independent from Spain but the U.S. Congress made sure it would be under U.S. control through the Platt Amendment. Specifically, Spain relinquished all claim of sovereignty over and title to Cuba. Upon Spain's departure from Cuba, it was to be occupied by the United States, and the United States would assume and discharge any obligations that under international law could result from the fact of its occupation.

    The Treaty also assured that Spain would cede to the United States the island of Puerto Rico and other islands then under Spanish sovereignty in the West Indies, as well as the island of Guam in the Marianas Islands.

    The Treaty specified that Spain would cede to the United States the archipelago of the Philippine Islands, and comprehending the islands lying within a specified line.

    In accordance with the treaty, Spain:

  • Gave up all rights to Cuba (see Teller Amendment and Platt Amendment).
  • Surrendered Puerto Rico and gave up its possessions in the West Indies.
  • Surrendered the island of Guam to the United States.
  • Surrendered the Philippines to the United States for a payment of twenty million dollars.
  • Specifics of the cession of the Philippines were later clarified by the 1900 Treaty of Washington. The boundary line between the Philippines and North Borneo was further clarified by the Convention Between the United States and Great Britain (1930).

    Consequences of the treaty

    Victory in the Spanish–American War turned the U.S. into a world power, as the attainment of the territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines expanded U.S. economic dominance in the Pacific. This growth continued to have effects on U.S. foreign and economic policy well into the next century. Furthermore, President McKinley’s significant role in advancing the ratification of the treaty transformed the presidential office, from a weaker position to a prototype of the stronger presidency seen more in the present day.

    U.S. military occupation also continued to have further impacts abroad. In the Philippines, revolts against U.S. involvement initiated on February 4, 1899, quickly surpassing the fighting that had just occurred against the Spanish. As one Filipino writer noted in 1899:

    "Now here is a unique spectacle – the Filipinos fighting for liberty, the American people fighting to give them liberty."

    The U.S. National Park Service says, "The Spanish-American War and its aftermath delayed Philippine independence until after World War II, but established a relationship that fostered a substantial Filipino population within U.S. borders."

    Furthermore, the Platt Amendment allowed the U.S. to continue its occupation of Cuba without annexing, despite promises made during the war and negotiations over Cuban freedom. In order to maintain control in Cuba, the U.S. government espoused the idea that the Cuban people were unprepared for self-governance. As Senator Stephen Elkins noted:

    "When Cuba shall become a part of the American Union and the isthmian canal shall be completed, which is now assured, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Hawaii and the Philippines will be outposts of the great Republic, standing guard over American interests in the track of the world’s commerce in its triumphant march around the globe. Our people will soon see and feel that these island possessions belonging to the United States are natural and logical, and in the great part we are to play in the affairs of the world we would not only give them up but wonder how the working of our natural destiny we could get on without them. The splendid chain of island possessions, reaching half-way around the world, would not be complete without Cuba, the gem of the Antilles."

    Overall, these occupations greatly contributed to the growing economic role gained by the U.S. during this era.


    Treaty of Paris (1898) Wikipedia