William Randolph Hearst: The Early Years, 1863-1910

By Ben Procter | Go to book overview
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7 The Journal's War

Enrique Dupuy de Lome, the Spanish minister in Washington, had a difficult task representing his country, especially with the Journal and the World infecting the American public daily with an anti-Spanish virus. An experienced and dedicated diplomat, a proud, "chilling person," to some a "vision of [past] empire and faded glories," he did not understand, and "had grown to hate" William McKinley--and therein lay his downfall. The president, in presenting his annual State of the Union message to Congress early in December, 1897, had devoted considerable space to U.S.-Spanish relations regarding Cuba. Although detailing the history of the 1895 rebellion, its horrors and affronts to the civilized world, he advised caution and patience while being purposely vague in the administration's recommendations. But de Lome, reacting badly to the message, wrote an indiscreet private letter to a friend. Within the next month Cuban spies in Havana intercepted his note and, realizing the explosive nature of the contents, sent it to the Cuban Junta in New York City, who exultantly offered a translated version to the press.

But only Hearst was willing to accept this volatile information without verification. Tbus on February 9 the Journal exploded this bombshell, "the sensational [scoop] of the year," printing a facsimile of the letter (with translation) in emblazoned headlines: "THE WORST INSULT TO THE UNITED STATES IN ITS HISTORY." And why? At one part in the letter, de Lome commented on the McKinley message as follows:

I consider it bad. . . . Besides the natural and inevitable coarseness (groseria) with which he repeats all that the press and public opinion of Spain have said of Weyler, it shows once more what McKinley is: weak and catering to the rabble (dibil y populachero) and, besides, a low politician (politicastro) who desires to leave a door open to himself and to stand well with the jingos of his party. 1

-115-

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