Two-thirds of the island's population was illiterate. This was important to Americans. Most agreed with Thomas Jefferson who preached that only an educated people could support and maintain a free, democratic nation.
Cuba was deeply in debt. Spain accounted that Cuba owed them for its fight against the revolution. The bills had been charged to the Cuban colonial treasury. Furthermore, Cuba had accrued the costs of Spain's Mexican expedition of 1898, the Santo Domingo experiment of 1861-1865, the Peruvian War of 1866, and the Carlist wars in Spain, as well as the financial burden of its consular and diplomatic corps for the entire hemisphere, pensions paid to Columbus's heirs and, finally, the administration of the island. The total cost of these debts far exceeded the total value of all real estate on the island.
Spain approached Washington with the bill following the Spanish-American War. A delegation from Cuba followed close on their heels requesting a loan to pay the insurrectionists who had participated in the revolution.
Spain agreed in The Treaty of Paris ending the Spanish-American War, that it would evacuate Cuba and the United States would exercise authority in their place. Little was said about an independent Cuba. Also, the treaty stipulated that Spain would relinquish title to the island. During the treaty negotiations, the Spanish tried to attach the Cuban debt to the United States, but the American Secretary of State argued that the debt resulted from their misrule. America, he announced, had ended the mounting cost to property and life by ending their mismanagement.
Even the most steadfast foes of imperialism had to concede that there must be some form of transitional involvement by the United States to maintain order in Cuba and insure its success.