The De Lome letter

THE administration of the United States resolved to maintain friendly relations with Spain, despite what was going on in Cuba. As an earnest symbol of its good intentions, the battle-ship Maine (Captain Charles D. Sigsbee) was sent in January, 1898, to the harbor of Havana, on a friendly visit; and the Spanish cruiser Vizcaya was ordered to New York. Neither ship was received with enthusiasm, and the relations were formal and strained. On February 8 a sensation was created by the publication of a letter purporting to have been written by the Spanish Minister at Washington, Dupuy de Lome, to Senor Canalejas, a Spanish official at Havana. In this letter McKinley was called "a low politician," "weak and catering to the rabble," "who desires to leave a door open to me and to stand well with jingoes of his party." Canalejas was urged to agitate commercial relations even if "only for effect," and to send a man to Washington" to make a propaganda among the Senators." When de Lome saw the letter was published, he immediately cabled his resignation to Madrid, and, when questioned by the State Department, blandly acknowledged it and left the country.

This caused a storm of excitement. Just how the Cuban Junta secured the letter is not known, but it proved a powerful weapon. The excitement had not cooled down on the morning of February 16, 1898, when the country was driven wild with excitement on learning that, at 9:40 o'clock the evening previous, the battle-ship Maine had been blown up in Havana harbor, killing or mortally wounding two officers and 264 men. Captain Sigsbee, who was on board, was saved, and immediately wired the Secretary of the Navy, asking suspension of judgment pending an investigation. Despite his manly appeal for judicial patience the dominant impression was that treachery had been at work and there was no particular hesitancy in expressing that opinion.

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