Washington was inundated with letters. The House of Representatives, generally the first governmental body to feel the weight of public opinion, began clamoring for the President to “do something.” Unfortunately, Grant, then President, was struggling with all matters of foreign diplomacy. His cabinet reeled in anticipation whenever the old general put his mind to foreign policy. Governing, Grant was learning, bore little relation to leading an Army. His hesitation to make a decision only encouraged people with competing agendas to begin maneuvering for advantage behind the scenes.
Few wanted the United States to intervene directly and end up in a war with Spain. The wounds of the American Civil War were far from healed. Most were happy to encourage the President to grant belligerent status to the insurrectionists and employ diplomacy to mediate the conflict. However, Gideon Welles, a member of Grant's Cabinet, expressed the misgivings of his peers, noting in his diary that any attempt by the President to engage with Spain diplomatically would likely end up in war.
Grant's Secretary of War, John Rawlins, was more optimistic. He had served with the general during the Civil War and trusted him implicitly and pressed for involvement in Cuban affairs. It is likely that his attitude was helped by the fact that the New York branch of the revolutionary Cuban junta had alleviated his financial problems with $28,000 in Cuban bonds which wouldn't have any value, indeed might increase in value, if the United States intervened and helped them defeat Spain. Unfortunately for Rawlins, his financial dealings with the Cubans became publicly known and he died soon afterward, a broken and bitter man. Although the Americans soon forgot him, the Cubans proclaimed John Rawlins to be the greatest friend they ever had.
America's minister to Madrid, Daniel Sickles, was a Democrat who remained loyal to the Union during the war and was appointed as military governor to the Carolinas when it ended. Like all other Democrats, he favored annexation and began agitating for the Spanish to sell Cuba to the United States as soon as he arrived.
Both Rawlins and Sickles were thwarted by Grant's Secretary of State, Hamilton Fish. He persuaded the President to remain uninvolved in Cuba's problems and not grant them belligerent status. Fish had no great love for either Spain or slavery. He simply didn't trust the Cubans. Fish was firmly in the camp of those who had no respect for the Negroes and half-castes to govern themselves, a nation, or a state.
Unfortunately for Fish, the President was not inclined to do nothing. So Fish had to come up with an alternate plan, one that would keep the President from dabbling in diplomacy and quiet the public outcry to end the bloodbath. Ultimately, he crafted one and implemented it without first obtaining his boss's approval.