Shortly after the Cuban war for independence began, Congress and the Cleveland administration clashed over it. Differing in their responsibilities and perspectives, these branches of government wrangled over foreign policy and competed for leadership of domestic political forces. Their division shaped America's response to the Cuban war. At the heart of the Cuban issue was partisan politics and the approaching election. The American people wanted to see the Cuban revolution succeed, and most politicians were eager to take a stand favoring it; there was no better pulpit than the floor of Congress. Only a small congressional minority attempted to restrain the majority. Within this political context, President Grover Cleveland and Secretary of State Richard Olney conducted their diplomacy with Spain.
From the outset, congressional interest was partisan. A Democratic and unpopular administration held the White House; Cleveland was concluding his second term in office, and crucial national elections were imminent. It was tempting for the Republican-controlled Congress to raise the popular Cuban issue to show that the Cleveland administration was failing to represent the true feelings of the American people. And many Democrats willingly joined the critics rather than defend the president.