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March 17, 1898: Senator Proctor Exposes Spain's Brutality in Cuba

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Senator Redfield ProctorOn March 17, 1898, Vermont Senator Redfield Proctor (1831-1908) delivered one of the most significant speeches of the Spanish-American War era. After an observation visit to Cuba, Senator Proctor returned to the United States and told Congress about Cuba's bleak situation:

"I went to Cuba with a strong conviction that the picture had been overdrawn. I could not believe that out of a population of one million six hundred thousand, two hundred thousand had died within these Spanish forts...My inquiries were entirely outside of sensational sources...What I saw I cannot tell so that others can see it. It must be seen with one's own eyes to be realized...To me the strongest appeal is not the barbarity practiced by Weyler, nor the loss of the Maine...but the spectacle of a million and a half people, the entire native population of Cuba, struggling for freedom and deliverance from the worst misgovernment of which I ever had knowledge..."

Senator Proctor's words, unlike those of the sensationalist press, were taken seriously by Congressional Republicans and the U.S. business community. Proctor, a former Civil War colonel, Vermont governor, and businessman, was highly respected and trusted by U.S. conservatives. When Senator Proctor spoke, the pro-war feeling among the U.S. business community grew and the United States moved even closer to war.


Dyal, Donald H.. Historical Dictionary of the Spanish American War. Greenwood Press: Westport, CT, 1996.

O'Toole, G.J.A., The Spanish War: An American Epic-1898. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 1984.

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