McKinley inherited the Cuban independence issue (Cuba Libre) from his predecessor, Grover Cleveland, and like Lincoln, did not wish for the war to take place. He attempted to preserve friendly relations with Spain as long as possible, asking Spain to “revoke the reconcentration order and maintain the people until they can support themselves and offer to the Cubans full self-government, with reasonable indemnity.” (Calone) In spite of all these efforts, war was declared on April 25, 1898 due to Spain’s refusal to grant Cuba its independence and also due to the sinking of the American battleship USS Maine in the port of Havana, which was considered an open act of war. Only recently was it discovered that it was not the Spanish sinking the ship, but a faulty boiler on the ship which blew up. It should also be noted that the newspaper media played an important role in the declaration of the war and the entire war coverage. The sensational newspaper Heart and Pulitzer aroused the American public with scandalous illustrations and texts, resulting in widespread public demand for war. The Congress was no less fervent about responding with force. McKinley hesitated until the last moment, and actually received a positive message from the Spanish queen regent, but it was too late. Still discontented over the outcome of the situation, McKinley wrote a formal letter to Congress, requesting a declaration of war, which was approved unanimously a day later. The war was brief, ending in August 1898 and with American victory, resulting in the occupation of Cuba until 1902, when it gained its independence. Many historians claim that this was the first American step towards imperialism and becoming a world power. (Miller)
Linguistically, the speech is interesting as it has a format of a letter, without any sound bites or short sentences. To the contrary, it contains a longest sentence of 130 words. It contains also very few audience involvement strategies and it also shows McKinley’s open submission to the Congress and its vote. That said, it is written in an eloquent and thorough style.