The sinking of the USS Maine sparked a new public interest in war with Spain, a stance that President William McKinley initially rejected. He communicated with the diplomat to Spain, Stewart Woodford, and asked Spain for three concessions to peace:
- A truce between countries in Cuba while negotiations proceeded
- Revocation of the "reconcentrado policy," a Holocaust-like policy that forced Cubans to live in camps under Spanish rule
- Agreement to American arbitration on Cuba if peace was not reached by October 1
Spain was agreeable to the first two, but refused to allow the U.S. to arbitrate, since that would tacitly amount to allowing U.S. control over Cuba. President McKinley tried in vain to foster peace, but by the time Spain agreed to the last demand, public support for the war -- and the Cuban Rebellion's refusal to submit to arbitration -- forced him into a corner. When the Naval investigation showed that the USS Maine had been subject to an "external explosion" that ignited her powder stores (Wikipedia), President McKinley reluctantly sent a letter to Congress declaring a state of war.