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The Treaty of Paris (signed in December 1898, ratified by the U.S. Senate in February 1899) formally settled the various territorial issues that arose from American military successes in the Spanish-American War. The armistice agreement of August 12, 1898 wasn’t your everyday ceasefire—in it, Spain agreed to cede Puerto Rico and Guam to the United States and grant independence to Cuba. (In the Teller Amendment to its declaration of war against Spain, Congress had disclaimed any national intention to exercise long-term “sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control” over Cuba. The United States would “leave the government and control of the Island to its people.”) So the only major territorial question left to be negotiated was how much of the Philippines Spain would cede to the United States. President McKinley eventually demanded the entire archipelago, and his peace commissioners obtained those terms.

Secretary of State John Hay sends the Treaty to President McKinley, along with various accompanying documents:

McKinley indeed deemed it proper to transmit the Treaty to the Senate for its ratification:

The actual ratification resolution:

The various failed amendments of George Vest (D-MO), who believed the United States could only acquire territory for eventual admission into the Union:

William Day, chairman of the American delegation, gives the Senate some documents it wants:

A summary of the Senate’s actions:

As you can see, the ‘ayes’ had it, 57 votes to 27. But the vote was incredibly close—two more ‘nays’ would have amounted to Senatorial rejection. I think McKinley behaved very shrewdly throughout the negotiation/ratification process and helped himself in a number of ways.

First of all, though most of his inner circle wanted the peace conference to be held in Washington, McKinley didn’t make this demand. He allayed the Spanish diplomats’ wounded pride somewhat by allowing the negotiations to occur closer to their homeland. McKinley also appointed just the right peace commissioners. Chairman William Day was a long-time personal friend and political adviser who resigned his position as Secretary of State to lead the American delegation. His loyalty and competence were unquestionable. Cushman Davis, William Frye, and George Gray were all members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Davis was the Chairman. Gray was a Democrat, the first of the Senate’s Democrats to “defect” and support the Treaty. Whitelaw Reid, the last member of the peace commission, had been the Republican vice-presidential candidate in 1892. He now edited the New York Tribune and reached millions of Americans with his nationally syndicated pro-ratification appeals.

McKinley also took to the hustings throughout the ideologically favorable Midwest to campaign for Republicans in the mid-term elections of 1898. He helped elect Senate candidates likely to support his peace plans (e.g., Albert Beveridge) in case the ratification vote were to fail the first time around or could be delayed until after March 4. McKinley’s speeches helped generate popular support for the upcoming program of expansion; he could plausibly claim to be marching in lockstep with the wishes of the American people. McKinley and his cohorts didn’t vilify the most prominent spokesmen of a growing chorus of anti-imperialism, focusing instead on getting two-thirds of the Senate to go along with the administration. To that end, they enlisted the powerful Massachusetts power broker Henry Cabot Lodge and held out the prospect of post-facto patronage (George Gray became a federal judge the next month, for example). Even fear appeals were used: all Senators voting on February 6 knew that Filipino rebels had initiated an assault on the American-held city of Manila just two days before, killing 44 American soldiers. McKinley rightly mused that “[t]his means the ratification of the treaty.”

My own William Frye and Whitelaw Reid autographs:

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