The Spanish-American War was inevitable. Cuban nationalism and Spanish colonialism were irreconcilable forces allowing for no compromise. The United States and Spain tried to find a peaceful resolution to the stalemated Cuban-Spanish war, but Cuban nationalists were unyielding, and powerful domestic forces propelled Washington and Madrid into a conflict.
McKinley dominated American foreign affairs. His objectives were to free Cuba and to prevent a war with Spain. His minister to Spain erred in believing that, under pressure, the Spanish government would evacuate Cuba; as a result, the White House held unfounded hopes for peace. During the intense diplomatic negotiations preceding the war, McKinley, believing that Spain was about to withdraw from Cuba, worked hard for more time to prevent war. Congressional Republicans rejected his pleas, however, and the United States entered the Cuban-Spanish war.
Legislators willingly entered a war with Spain primarily because of national politics. The Republican Party feared an election defeat in 1898. Facing the start of a critical election campaign, Republicans wanted to get out in front of the Cuban issue rather than provide an opening for Bryanites and Populists. The American people took a deep interest in the Cuban revolution. They sympathized with Cuban independence, favored the underdog, looked with horror on the numerous deaths in Cuban reconcentration camps, wanted to avenge the Maine, and by March 1898 were willing to use military force to remove Spain from Cuba. Both Republican and Democratic politicians maneuvered to enlist these sentiments in the approaching election. In the final analysis, Republicans made war on Spain in order to keep control of Washington. Expansionism, markets and investments, the sensational press, and national security interests were much less important in carrying the United States into the war.