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The De Lome Letter: Definition & Summary

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  • 0:03 Enrique Dupuy de Lome
  • 0:55 The Presidents and de Lome
  • 3:03 Outcomes of the de Lome Letter
  • 3:39 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

Have you ever accidentally sent a message that caused drama with friends? The de Lome Letter is an example of that kind of mistake, but instead of drama it led to war! In this lesson, you will learn about the letter's contents and its consequences.

Enrique Dupuy de Lome

Have you ever sent a text message or an email to someone by accident? Maybe the contents of your message were for someone else's eyes, or even worse, the message was actually about that person! If you've ever been in this situation, you know how awful it can be, especially if what you had to say was unkind. A similar situation in 1898 ended in more than just hurt feelings - it brought the United States close to war with Spain.

Enrique Dupuy de Lome was a Spanish diplomat. He was born in Valencia, Spain, but his family was actually from France (the name 'Dupuy' is very French). de Lome studied law at the University of Madrid and began working for the Spanish government in 1872. For about 10 years, he traveled the world and served as a diplomat to various countries before securing a position as the Spanish Minister to the United States.

The Presidents and de Lome

When de Lome first arrived in the U.S., Grover Cleveland was president. In 1895, Cuban rebels were fighting Spain for their independence. The United States and Spain had a friendly relationship at the time, but President Cleveland was very reluctant to get involved in the Cuban conflict. He opted to stay neutral and did a good job of keeping the United States' nose out of Cuba and Spain's business.

When Cleveland left office, however, President William McKinley decided to take a different path. The United States was still technically neutral, but McKinley thought it would be a good idea to sail some of the country's warships through the Caribbean to show support for Spain. McKinley sent one of the country's new ships, the Maine, to Cuba where she docked in Havana's harbor. Spanish Minister de Lome agreed with McKinley's decision to his face, but de Lome had very different feelings he shared behind closed doors.

In private, de Lome was not a fan of McKinley, and he expressed these views in a letter to his good friend and the Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Canelejas. Unfortunately for de Lome, Cuban rebels got their hands on the letter, and the contents were passed from the small island country to Cubans living in the United States. From there, the letter eventually made its way to the desk of Secretary of State William Day. Of course Secretary Day showed the letter to President McKinley. According to de Lome, McKinley was not only a weak leader, but most of his actions were only meant to increase his popularity, not to actually make the country better:

'(McKinley's message) once more shows what McKinley is, weak and a bidder for the admiration of the crowd besides being a would-be politician who tries to leave a door open behind himself while keeping on good terms with the jingoes of his party.'

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