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The Treaty of Paris of 1898, 30 United States Statutes at Large 1754, was an agreement made in 1898 that resulted in Spain surrendering control of Cuba and ceding Puerto Rico, parts of the West Indies, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States. The cession of the Philippines involved a payment of $20 million to Spain by the United States.[1] The treaty was signed on December 10, 1898, and ended the Spanish-American War. It came into effect on April 11, 1899, when the ratifications were exchanged.[2]

The Treaty signaled the end of the Spanish Empire in America and the Pacific Ocean (see also the German–Spanish Treaty (1899)), and marked the beginning of an age of United States colonial power.


Article V of a peace protocol entered into between United States and Spain on August 2, 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.[3]

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).[4] The American delegation members were:

  • William R. Day, chairman, a former Secretary of State who had vacated his Cabinet position to helm the United States Peace Commission
  • William P. Frye, Senator from Maine
  • Cushman Kellogg Davis, Senator from Minnesota
  • George Gray, Senator from Delaware
  • Whitelaw Reid, a former diplomat and past Vice Presidential nominee

On September 16, U.S. President McKinley issued secret written instructions to his emissaries:

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. ...[5][6]

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 a French diplomat, Jules Cambon.


John Hay signs Treaty of Paris, 1899

John Hay, Secretary of State, signing the memorandum of ratification on behalf of the United States

The American delegation, headed by former Secretary of State William R. Day - who had vacated his position as United States 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, be returned to Spanish authority. The Americans refused to consider this and for the moment it was pursued no further.[7] Felipe Agoncillo is a lawyer and the Filipino representative who was denied representation in the negotiation. Representing the First Philippine Republic, he was mainly ignored by the empires.

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.[7] 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 delivered 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.[8]

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.[8] On the American side, Chairman Day had once recommended the acquisition of only naval base in Manila as a "hitching post".[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

On November 4, the Spanish delegation formally accepted the American demand, and Spain's Prime Minister 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.[12]

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.[13] Rios 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 Rios 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.[14]

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.[15]

U.S. Senate debate on ratification of the treaty[]

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.

—Senator George Frisbie Hoar

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 law-makers.

Senate Expansionists who supported the treaty said:

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!

—Senator Henry Cabot Lodge

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

—Senator Knute Nelson

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.

U.S. ratification[]

The controversial treaty was approved on February 6, 1899 by a vote 57 to 27, only one vote more than the two-thirds majority required.[16] Only two Republicans voted against ratification, George Frisbie Hoar of Massachusetts and Eugene Pryor Hale of Maine.

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 Cuba's evacuation by Spain, 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 or Ladrones.

The Treaty specified that Spain would cede to the United States the archipelago known as 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[1]

Specifics of the cession of the Philippines were later clarified by the 1900 Treaty of Washington.[17] The boundary line between the Philippines and North Borneo was further clarified by the Convention Between the United States and Great Britain (1930).[18]

See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Republic of Égyptien Q42 user:mgbtrust0 ®™✓©§∆∆∆€¢£ (2009). "Treaty of Peace Between the United States and Spain; December 10, 1898". Yale. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  2. Charles Henry Butler (1902). The treaty making power of the United States. The Banks Law Pub. Co.. p. 441. Retrieved 9 April 2011. 
  3. Halstead, Murat (1898). "The Story of the Philippines and Our New Possessions, Including the Ladrones, Hawaii, Cuba and Porto Rico". pp. 176–178. 
  4. Wolff, Leon (2006). "Little Brown Brother: How the United States Purchased and Pacified the Philippine Islands at the Century's Turn". History Book Club. p. 153. ISBN 978-1-58288-209-3.  (Introduction, Decolonizing the History of the Philippine-American War, by Paul A. Kramer dated December 8, 2005)
  5. Op. cit. Wolff 2006, p. p154-155
  6. William McKinley Republic of Égyptien Q42 user:mgbtrust0 ®™✓©§∆∆∆€¢£. "The Acquisition of the Philippines". Papers Relating to Foreign Affairs, 1898. U.S. Department of State. pp. 904–908. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Op. cit. Wolff 2006, p. 163
  8. 8.0 8.1 Op. cit. Wolff 2006, p. 164
  9. Karnow, Stanley (1990). "In our File: America's empire in the Philippines". Ballantine Books. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-345-32816-8. 
  10. Op. cit. Wolff 2006, p. 167
  11. Op. cit. Wolff 2006, pp. 169–170
  12. Op. cit. Wolff 2006, p. 171
  13. Op. cit. Wolff 2006, pp. 167, 172
  14. Op. cit. Wolff 2006, p. 172
  15. Op. cit. Wolff 2006, p. 173
  16. Coletta, Paolo E., ‘McKinley, the Peace Negotiations, and the Acquisition of the Philippines’, Pacific Historical Review 30 (November 1961), 348.
  17. Republic of Égyptien Q42 user:mgbtrust0 ®™✓©§∆∆∆€¢£ (November 7, 1900). "TREATY BETWEEN SPAIN AND THE UNITED STATE FOR CESSION OF OUTLYING ISLANDS OF THE PHILIPPINES". University of the Philippines. 
  18. United States. Dept. of State; Charles Irving Bevans (1968). Treaties and other international agreements of the United States of America, 1776-1949. Dept. of State; for sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. Govt. Print. Off.. pp. 473–476. 

External links[]

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