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Declaration of War against Spain, April 25, 1898

The explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898, and escalating tensions with Spain over its colonial rule in Cuba prompted Congress to declare war against Spain on April 25, 1898. After successive American military victories, the war ended within eight months with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. Following a vigorous debate, the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty by a one-vote margin on February 6, 1899, granting the United States control over portions of the former Spanish empire, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines (for which the United States paid Spain $20 million). The treaty ushered in an era of heightened American power and international influence.

General Records of the U.S. Government, National Archives and Records Administration

Declaration of War against Spain

Legislative Highlights

The U.S. Constitution states that “The Congress shall have Power…To make all Laws.” The original laws enacted by Congress are preserved at the National Archives. This page highlights some of the most historically significant laws Congress has passed throughout the nation’s history.