|ONLINE VERSION||JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2002|
|Sinking of the Maine — February 15, 1898|
|USS Maine, a second-class battleship
built between 1888 and 1895, was sent to Havana in January 1898 to
protect American interests during the long-standing revolt of the
Cubans against the Spanish government. In the evening of February 15,
1898, Maine sank when her forward gunpowder magazines exploded. Nearly
three-quarters of the battleship’s crew died as a result of the
While the cause of this great tragedy is still unsettled, contemporary American popular opinion blamed Spain, and war followed within a few months. Maine’s wreck was raised in 1912 to clear the harbor and to facilitate an investigation into the cause of her sinking. Her remains were subsequently scuttled in deep waters north of Havana.
The following article was published in the April 1898 issue of the Monthly Journal of the International Association of Machinists and is printed here as provided by Huck/Konopacki Cartoons.
Death cast the shadow of his dark wings over the harbor Havana; the "Maine" sank; the nation wept; and the Journal mourns for the many poor fellows who perished with the ill-fated ship. Death in this form had not presented itself to the people in many years, so that when the evil tidings of the catastrophe came it cast a calamitous gloom over the land.
Men raved and women wept. Muttered curses "not loud but deep" were heard on every side. Spanish treachery, vengeance, retribution, were the subjects most in favor with the excited populace. Men thought awry. The great newspapers shrieked for war for red, bloody war! The pulpit even advocated the unleashing of the war dogs. All this because there had been a great and useless sacrifice of human life.
If it could have been proven in the first moments of the excitement that it was an accident, tears and sorrow would have been manifest just the same; but the great horror that came with the thought that it was no accident and ought not to have taken place, would have been absent.
The public was horrified because it was unused to this particular form of horror. There are other forms that are just as horrible; where a hundred lives are sacrificed for every ten that went out of existence with the "Maine," but the horror has ceased to horrify, the public has grown used to the gruesome details and looks upon them with indifference and complacency.
The carnival of carnage that takes place every day, month and year in the realm of industry; the thousands of useful lives that are annually sacrificed to the Moloch of greed; the blood tribute paid by labor to capitalism, brings forth no shout for vengeance and reparation; no tear, except from the family and friends of the victims.
Trainmen and switchmen are murdered every day because of the non-equipment of the cars with a device that will reduce danger to life and limb to a minimum, and capitalism has been granted another two years to carry on the massacre. Machinists and engineers, firemen and conductors, and all other branches of the railroad service sacrifice their percentage of life and limb to the same insatiable Gorgon. Limbless children come in troops every year from factory and mine because the machinery has no protective hand rail or boxing to keep the victims from danger. Tribute is levied on old age and infancy by the corporate greed that refuses to equip street cars with a fender attachment. Death comes in thousands of instances to mill and mine, claims his victims and no popular uproar is heard, although it has been proven a thousand times that the sacrifice could have been avoided if proper and known precautions had been used.
The Journal joins in the popular sorrow for the loss of the "Maine," and regrets that so many lives, which under natural conditions would be profitably employed, have been lost with the ship. And while expressing sorrow it also expresses the hope that the day will not be far distant when it will be popularly considered that to lose life by accident in productive and distributive industry is just as noble and heroic as to lose it by accident on board a man of war. That to lose life by being drowned like a rat in a mine is just as worthy as being drowned like a rat in the hold of an ironclad. That to lose a limb by an exploding shell is no more worthy of national consideration than to lose one in a rolling mill. That to be blown up by a torpedo creates no more sorrow in the unfortunate’s family than to be blown up by a boiler. That one should not be the hero of an apotheosis while the other goes to Eternity unhonored and unsung.