The Pearl of the Antilles:
A View of the Past and a Glance at the Future
By Frederic M. Noa
This electronic edition published in 2016
This work is in the public domain. No rights are reserved.
First published immediately after the 1898 U.S. declaration of War against Spain, this very readable monograph describes the Cubans’ repeated noble but failed attempts to persuade Spain to give them more autonomy, and the atrocities Spain has inflicted on Cuba in reply. It reaches the conclusion that, at this late date, the only solution is for a free Cuba, and that the United States had no choice—morally for the Cubans, and in self-interest for the Americans—but to intervene.
Original 1898 edition was published as a small hardback book of approx. 4¼ x 7 inches with 94 printed pages with wide margins. Approx 11,000 words.
THE PEARL OF THE ANTILLES
A VIEW OF THE PAST AND A GLANCE AT THE FUTURE
FREDERIC M. NOA
The Knickerbocker Press, New York
DEDICATED TO THE HEROES AND HEROINES
“In the name of humanity, in the name of civilization, in behalf of endangered American interests, which give us the right and the duty to speak and act, the war in Cuba must stop.”
—(President McKinley's Special Message to Congress, April 11, 1898.)
OF AMERICAN AND CUBAN LIBERTY
ON DEPARTING FROM CUBA
Rendered from the Spanish sonnet of Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, Cuba’s greatest poetess and dramatist.
Pearl of the Ocean! Brightest star of all!
Enchanting Cuba! Stealthily, in gloom,
Night shrouds thy peerless blue with darkest pall,
As grief, e’en, doth my pensive soul entomb.
About to start! The busy crew, aloft,
To tear me from mine own, my native land,
Now hoist the sails, and soon the zephyr soft,
Wafting them on, blows from thy tropic strand.
Farewell, my country bright! Thou Eden dear,
Where’er I’m wrecked by tempest wild or gale,
Thy gentle name shall soothe my straining ear.
Alas! alas! How fills the swelling sail!
The anchor’s heaved! The rocking ship aside
Doth cleave the waves, and on in silence glide.
“Jamais colonie n’ a eté aussi impitoyablement exploitée par une mère patrie cupide et imprévoyante.”
“No colony has ever been as pitilessly exploited by a greedy and improvident mother
—(From La Colonisation chez les peuples modernes. Paris: Guillaumin et Compagnie. 1891 Pages 266-268.)
It is the purpose
and endeavor of the writer to present concisely the leading events of Cuban history, and to analyze the causes which have driven the United States into war with Spain. Although an Englishman by birth, he is, by adoption and in spirit, an American citizen. In the course of his career as an educator, he has come in daily contact with representatives of the Spanish-speaking races, and thus gained an insight into their characteristics. He was for some years intimately acquainted with Senor José Congosto, the present Secretary of Cuba, when the latter was Spanish consul in Philadelphia. He knew also, as an intimate friend, the late Mrs. Horace Mann, widow of the Massachusetts statesman. Sixty or seventy years ago, this lady lived on a Cuban plantation and witnessed the baneful effects of slavery under the rule of Spain.
During the stirring events of the last few months, thoughtful persons have asked themselves questions such as the following:
First, what are the causes which, for the last thirty years, have kept Cuba, more or less, in a turmoil of revolt and anarchy?
Secondly, what are the grievances of the Cubans?
Thirdly, what is the truth about the wrongs and outrages they have been forced to bear?
Lastly, are the United States justified in resorting to war to remedy these abuses?
The author, having spent years in a close study of the history of Latin America, and having had access to sources of information not generally known, believes that he can satisfactorily answer the questions that are agitating the public mind. He has drawn not alone from Spanish and Cuban, but also from American, British, and French authorities and records.
The subject of America's relations with Spain, past and present, is so extensive that, in this little book, much must be left unsaid. The splendid naval victory of Dewey at Manila opens a wide field of speculation as to the future status of the United States, and what part they are to take in the settlement of the complicated problems of the Old World. The author aims merely at supplying a need required by the people, and leaves to larger works the discussion of the future international rights and obligations of the United States.
—F. M. Noa., UNION SPRINGS, N. Y., July 4, 1898.
THE PEARL OF THE ANTILLES.
The distinctive characteristic
of Spanish colonization is, that wherever it has been planted, the curse and blight of tyranny, superstition, and cruelty have been felt. Twenty-five years had not passed after Columbus discovered Cuba before the harmless Indians of the Island, unable to endure the exacting labor of the mines, languished under their taskmasters, and became virtually extinct. Their protector, the benevolent and philanthropic priest, Las Casas, whom his contemporaries vilified most shamefully, suggested that the remnant might be saved by importing a few negroes from Africa. His advice was followed, and, in 1524, the first cargo was landed in Cuba, and condemned to hopeless bondage. Thus began the iniquitous traffic in African slaves, on which corrupt officials fattened, and the horrors of which filled Las Casas with such self-reproach that he died broken-hearted.
As though symbolic of her future destiny, Cuba, described by Columbus as “the fairest land eye has ever seen,” was born in the throes of tumult and convulsion. For two centuries and a half her coast cities were sacked or burned by English, French, and Dutch pirates, while some of her early governors proved, according to the Spanish-American Encyclopedia
(published in Barcelona, Spain), “veritable bandits.” In 1762, a British fleet captured Havana. During the eleven months of English occupation, the port was thrown open to the commerce of the world. The eyes of the Cubans were opened, and they could never rest content under the old regime. By a fortunate accident, Spain herself came to be governed, in the latter half of the eighteenth century, by an enlightened line of French sovereigns, who did much to promote the welfare and industries of their transatlantic colony. For seventy years, a splendid ship and navy yard had existed in Havana, but in 1796, the monopolists of Barcelona, Cadiz, and other Spanish ports succeeded in having it closed, and one of the seeds of hatred between the Spaniards and the native-born Cubans was sown.
Nevertheless, so strong was the bond between Cuba and the mother-country, that she remained loyal to her during the fifteen years of insurrection (1810-1825) which cost Spain the loss of her vast Mexican, Central and South American possessions, and resulted in their independence. As a reward for her fidelity, Ferdinand VII gave Cuba the title of “The Ever-Faithful Isle.” She now enjoyed two brief periods of constitutional government (1812-1814 and 1818-1823). During the latter, one of her most eminent sons, Francisco de Arango, secured several beneficial commercial reforms. Had the Spanish sovereigns continued to pursue a wise and enlightened policy, the Cuban cataclysms of the last seventy-five years might have been averted. Unfortunately, the incompetent and worthless Ferdinand VII., unmindful of his promises, issued a decree, dated March 28, 1825, that henceforth the Island should be ruled as though it were in a perpetual state of siege, and that the Governor-General should wield the despotic and irresponsible power of a Russian czar. From that moment began the blackest night of Cuba’s tyranny,—a night soon to be dispelled by the glorious dawn of constitutional liberty.
In 1835, the energetic and iron Tacón became Captain-General. He erected many public buildings, but, under what has been aptly termed his “brick-and-mortar civilization,” every liberal movement was sternly repressed. He enriched himself enormously through the slave traffic, yet his reactionary sway was not, like that of Weyler, an unmitigated curse to the people he ruled. Arriving in a time of chronic anarchy and political assassination, he summarily suppressed crime, showed favor to neither rich nor poor, and transported, exiled, or executed one thousand persons of all ranks. Although he countenanced corruption, the American, British, and other foreign consuls of that period unanimously testify to the general good public order he maintained.
Up to this time, the four hundred thousand free whites of Cuba, who had been remitting to Spain an annual tribute of three million dollars, had enjoyed the right of sending two deputies to the Spanish Cortes at Madrid. Suddenly, on the l0th of February, 1837, this body decreed that the colony should be deprived of representation, and that, instead, special laws for its benefit were to be passed. Forty years elapsed before the mother-country, taught by the frightful experience of a sanguinary tell years’ revolt, began to fulfil these promises.
Meantime, the ever-deepening gloom of black slavery overshadowed the Island. To prevent its perpetuation, Great Britain induced Spain to sign, in 1817, a treaty, by the terms of which the importation of slaves was prohibited, severe penalties against violators enacted, and a mixed international tribunal established at Havana. These provisions availed nothing; they were either secretly evaded or openly defied. Governor-Generals and all other executive officials connived at the iniquitous business, and reaped from it unheard-of profits. Competent and impartial observers declare the condition of the slaves in Cuba as indescribably frightful. Mrs. Horace Mann, widow of the Massachusetts statesman, made, sixty or seventy years ago, a protracted stay on a Cuban plantation, and was so horrified by what she saw that she wrote a novel, Juanita,
as thrilling as Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Still more convincing, because of its official nature, is the testimony of Mr. R. R. Madden, British Judge of the Mixed Tribunal at Havana, who published, in 1853, an instructive little book on The Island of Cuba.
He tells how slavers infested the ports of Cuba, and, if perchance the cargoes should be confiscated, means would be found secretly to convey the”Bozals,”as the newly imported slaves were called, into the interior, where they would fetch twelve hundred dollars a head. On the plantations, Mr. Madden witnessed slaves literally scourged to death, and children torn from their mothers. It was customary, during the sugar and tobacco crop season, which lasted about six months, for slaves to be worked every day twenty hours at a stretch, the common impression being that “four hours’ sleep was sufficient for a slave.” No wonder that, under such a system, not a female nor an aged negro could be found on many a plantation.
In spite of such excesses and crimes against humanity, Cuba bore an outward appearance of remarkable prosperity, but, writing in 1869, Larousse, author of the great French Encyclopedic Dictionary,
likened her material progress to that obtained in ancient Egypt by forced labor; and continued: “The riches of Cuba offend humanity. Far from glorifying the industry of men, the degrading spectacle it presents is an insult to the progress of the century!”
He expressed the fear that, when the Cuban negroes should rise in arms, they would spare neither the whites who were oppressors, nor the whites who were oppressed. The detractors of the negro race might do well to remember that they have shown a generous forgiveness, and have cheerfully fought, side by side with their white brothers, in the sacred cause of Cuban liberty.
In addition to the incubus of negro slavery, the restrictive policy of the Spanish government hastened the revolution which must inevitably have occurred. Representation, and liberty of speech, conscience, and the press were denied, while illiberal laws retarded commerce and immigration, as no white immigrants were allowed to enter Cuba who were not either Catholics or prepared to become such, although Chinese coolies, virtually slaves, were freely imported under contract.
Utterly unconscious of the volcano beneath her feet, Spain knew nothing of the fearful corruption, robbery, and peculation of the Captain-General, Lerisundi, and his satellites, who sought to impose fresh burdens upon a colony drained and exhausted by overtaxation. “Such blindness and ignorance on the part of the home government,” says the Spanish-American Encyclopedia,
“could not be greater; such a mass of blunders gave great strength to the separatists, and the approaching revolution in Spain made things ripe for revolt in Cuba.”
And now, in 1868, the gathering storm, intensified by three centuries and a half of black slavery, burst forth, with incredible fury, in an island equal in area to Pennsylvania. Under the consummate leadership of Máximo Gomez, the insurrection raged, with varying success, for ten weary years. The one Spanish general, Dulce, who was inclined to conduct the war according to civilized methods, was unceremoniously deposed by the powerful Volunteer troops of Havana, who were composed of Spanish and Cuban loyalists, and was ignominiously sent back to Spain. After his departure, the warfare degenerated into indiscriminate butchery and extermination. Far and wide, plantations were set on fire, and the wretched inhabitants reduced to the most dreadful misery. Two tragedies especially shocked the whole civilized world; the first of them being when, in November, 1871, eight medical students of the University of Havana, who had been previously acquitted of the charge of
having desecrated the grave of a Volunteer, were re-arrested, tried by a court packed by the Volunteers, and having been condemned, were shot, in the presence of fifteen thousand troops, by a detail under Capt. Weyler. The second tragedy, which almost produced war between Spain and the United States, and for which the former paid the latter a very large indemnity, was the well-known capture of the American vessel, the Virginius,
as she was hovering, in November, 1873, near Santiago de Cuba. The local governor of that place began, without the formality of a trial, to execute her crew, composed of American citizens and British subjects, and had already shot fifty-three of his victims when the timely arrival of a British warship stopped the slaughter.
With infinite patience, tact, and forbearance, President Grant and his advisers repeatedly offered the friendly mediation of the United States and exhausted every diplomatic effort to bring peace to the desolated Island of Cuba. At length a brighter day dawned when, in 1877, the illustrious Marshal Martínez de Campos, who had successfully brought the civil war of Spain to a close, was sent over with large reinforcements, and received full powers to negotiate with the Cuban insurgents.
“Convinced that the struggle would never be terminated by extermination, but rather by a spirit of conciliation and freedom, he was,” writes the Spanish-American Encyclopedia,
“the most tolerant and humane of the operating generals in the bloody Ten Years’ War. “His broad, noble mind perceived at once where the difficulty lay, and, on the 19th of May, 1878, he wrote to Cánovas del Castillo, then, as he was until his recent assassination, Prime Minister of Spain:
“Promises which have never been fulfilled, abuses of every kind, failure to devote anything to the Department of the Interior, the exclusion of the natives from every branch of the government, and another series of errors, gave rise to the insurrection. The belief of the ruling powers that here there was no other method to adopt than that of terror, and that it was a question of honor not to grant reforms until not a shot should be heard, have continued it: persisting in such a course, we should never end the war, although the Island should swarm with soldiers: if we do not wish to ruin Spain, it is necessary for us frankly to bestow liberty. I believe that, if Cuba is little fitted for independence, she deserves to be something more than a mere Spanish province, and that the horde of bad officials, all from the Peninsula, ought not to come over; finally, in order to bring about normal conditions, participation in the government should be given to the natives of the country.”
Immediately after his arrival, Martínez de Campos began active operations, at the same time adopting “mild measures in spite of the desire of certain elements unmindful of the duties which civilization and humanity impose upon a regular government. Thus passions were becoming soothed, and minds prepared for peace.” 
On the 10th of February, 1878, General Campos met, at El Zanjón, near Havana, some of the insurgent leaders, and, after a brief conference, accepted articles of capitulation which were duly ratified by both sides, and which provided, among other things, that a general amnesty and pardon should be granted to all insurgents, as well as to deserters from the Spanish army, who should lay down their arms; that persons under trial and political prisoners, both within and outside the Island, should be set free; that slaves and Asiatic colonists then in the insurrectionary ranks should be granted freedom; and that Cuba was to enjoy “the same political privileges, organic and administrative, possessed by the (neighboring) island of Puerto Rico”—the most important of these being the right of representation in the Spanish Cortes, of which right, for forty years,
Cuba had been unjustly deprived.
The Island now became rapidly pacified, in spite of a few lingering insurrectionary movements, and during the succeeding sixteen years appeared to enjoy comparative quiet and prosperity. Sixty-four representatives from Cuba sat in the Cortes at Madrid, and, thanks to the united efforts of disinterested Cubans and Spaniards, laws were passed which gradually abolished slavery (total abolition was only accomplished by 1886), insured a greater freedom of the press, established the right of petition, and guarded more carefully the liberty of the individual.
The leading events of the present Cuban insurrection, which began three years and a half ago, being sufficiently fresh in the public mind, need not be mentioned in detail. What has astonished the civilized world is, that Spain, having, through the wise policy of Campos, secured an honorable peace, should not have learned how to deal justly by her colonists, nor to bind them in ever increasing bonds of love and affection, but, on the contrary, discarding the golden opportunity of sixteen years’ peace, should find herself confronted by an insurrection marked with such barbarity and so many tragedies as to engage her at last in a life-and-death struggle with the United States.
During the breathing space following the peace of Zanjón, the Cuban element took an active part in the government. The autonomist or constitutional party, being in the majority, secured considerable amelioration in the condition of Cuba. The spirit of the age compelled reforms: negro slavery and its abominations gradually disappeared; and nominally greater individual freedom prevailed. But the incurable defects always inseparable from the rule of Spain quickly re-asserted themselves and almost nullified the reforms obtained at so great a sacrifice. Corruption, extortion, and abuses of every sort flourished as of old. To realize how fearful these have been, one needs to examine carefully the debates of the Spanish Parliament; to listen to the addresses delivered in the Ateneo, the most learned society of Madrid; and to hear the admissions and scathing denunciations of the Queen Regent; of prime ministers and members of the Cortes belonging to all parties; and of generals and distinguished civil officers who have spent many years in Cuba.
The entire civil service of the island has always been, with only a few honorable exceptions, rotten to the core. In an eloquent discourse, delivered, on the 19th of January, 1895, before the Ateneo, the brilliant Spanish writer, Eduardo Dolz, explains the utter insecurity of the tenure of officials, who, knowing that they are liable to be recalled at any moment, engage in corrupt practices, misappropriate public funds, and seek to accumulate a fortune within the briefest time possible. No responsibility is exacted of these public servants, and far from being punished for their misdeeds, they are frequently promoted to higher and more lucrative positions. He draws a dark picture of the hydra-headed ramifications of official corruption, which in the matter of customs alone has defrauded the state of $200,000,000 within the space of twenty-four years,—a sum very nearly sufficient to have paid off the Cuban debt, to have met current expenses, and to have promoted the general welfare and prosperity of the country.
General Pando, who has seen years of hard service in Cuba, spoke, on the 22d of March, 1890, in the Spanish House of Deputies, and bitterly inveighed against the political turpitude of Cuban administration. He told of General Salamanca, who, having long advocated, before the Senate at Madrid, the cause of the colony, was sent over to act as Governor-General. By tremendous exertions, and incurring the deadly enmity of powerful cliques, the latter brought a notorious forger and embezzler, Oteiza, to justice and had him condemned to eighteen years’ imprisonment in chains. The effort cost Salamanca his life. Unable to cure the leprosy of political corruption, he died broken-hearted, after a brief illness. His successors could not, or would not, continue his good work. Instances might be cited of powerful criminals on whom sentence has been suspended for a dozen years.
Another terrible evil of the Cuban people, is the staggering load of taxation and debt they have been compelled to bear. If it be urged that they are justly made to bear these burdens because of insurrection, how is it that the northern provinces of Spain, so frequently rebelling against the authority of Madrid, are dealt with far more leniently? How is it that, during sixteen years of uninterrupted peace (1878-1895), the expenditures of Cuban administration were $210,000,000 heavier than in the period of the exhausting Ten Years’ War; and the taxes were greater by $150,000,000? Examining further the report, published April 8, 1892, by M. C. Villa-Amil, Superintendent of the Treasury of Cuba, and supplemented by later data from the royal Gazette of Madrid, how does it happen that, in a country the size of Pennsylvania, and having a population of less than two millions, a sum ($1,400,000,000) should have been obtained by taxation between 1850 and 1895, which is equal to the entire public debt of the United States?
The galling nature of Cuban taxation can best be grasped by examining the Madrid Gazeta,
the official organ and journal of the Spanish government. Thus, taking the issue of April 8, 1892, we find excessive crown dues, taxes on mines, urban and rural real estate, and tribute on commerce, arts, and professions. In addition, there are import and export duties, imposts on transportation of merchandise, stamp taxes of every conceivable sort, lotteries, monopolies, charges on property for rent or sale, and other exactions too numerous to mention. The grand total thus raised by taxation reached $21,500,000, of which, in round numbers, little more than $450,000 was spent on education and internal improvements (exactly what General Campos complained of in 1878—see his letter to Cánovas, already cited), the rest being devoted to expenditures to meet the Cuban debt and for the home government of Spain (which together consumed over $10,000,000); war and navy departments, $6,400,000; civil administration and police, $3,200,000; cost of justice, $715,000; and the encouragement of agriculture, $568,000. Such the record in a year of uninterrupted peace.
This glaring misappropriation of the taxes wrung out of the Cuban people has been aggravated by unjust commercial discrimination. Thus, the duties on imports have been so arranged that many articles of textile manufacture are taxed twenty times higher when imported from foreign countries than when brought from Spain.
The public debt of the Island had grown, by the beginning of 1895, before the outbreak of the present insurrection, to the fabulous sum of $170,000,000. It originated in 1864 through a simple issue of $3,000,000, and kept on increasing at an alarming rate, although, from 1878 to June 30, 1891, $115,336,304 were paid in interest and redemption.
The debt was incurred very largely on account of the foolish and extravagant wars which Spain chose to wage against her former dependencies of Mexico, Santo Domingo, Peru, and Chili. The late Prime Minister, Cánovas del Castillo, endeavored to justify placing these burdens upon Cuba by referring to the terrible losses the mother-country had suffered owing to many disastrous wars, adding that portions of the debt dated as far back as the time of Charles V. and Philip II., and that the Cubans ought to bear their share of the national obligations.
The contentions of Cánovas, even if granted as correct, might have been accepted, had the Cubans not been compelled to pay more than their just proportion. But, in 1891, the total national debt of Spain and her dependencies is stated as $1,211,453,696. On this, the interest and sinking fund were thus apportioned between Spain and Cuba:
To Spain, $56,752,355; To Cuba, $10,435,183; Total $67,187,538.
At the same time, the population of Spain was 17,545,160, and of Cuba, 1,631,687. In other words, the mother-country paid only $3.23 per capita, while the colony gave $6.39, or about double.
The apologists of Spain have said much about the admirable self-government of Cuba, which they maintain is superior to the home rule enjoyed by Canada. The subject deserves investigation. Immediately after the close of the Ten Years’ War the Cuban element controlled the elections, and obtained, as has already been shown, several important reforms. But before long matters were so manipulated that a majority of the delegates sent to represent Cuba in the Parliament at Madrid were peninsular Spaniards, or, if Cubans, adherents of the dominant party of Spain.
The peculiar workings of the laws relating to suffrage have been exhaustively exposed by the gifted Cuban writer, Enrique José Varona.
In order to reduce the number of voters and increase the preponderance of the peninsular Spaniards, who constitute only nine per cent of the population, a very high property qualification was exacted which disqualified the Cuban planters, already impoverished by the exhausting Ten Years’ War. Thus, it happened that 53,000 out of 1,600,000 inhabitants enjoyed the right of voting. Every advantage has been accorded to wealthy capitalists, merchants, planters, and commercial houses, while landholders of limited means have been required to pay $25 for the poor privilege of voting. The simple affirmation of business firms has been sufficient to include all their employees as partners, with the right to vote subject to their masters’ dictation. Worse yet, a commission appointed by the Governor-General revised the lists of electors. An appeal to the higher court (the Audiencia
) of a district would avail little. One thousand duly qualified liberal electors of the Province of Santa Clara found, in 1892, their claims rejected “for the simple omission to state their names at the end of the document presented by the elector who headed the claim.
“It will be easily understood now why on some occasions the Cuban representation in the Spanish Parliament has been made up of only three deputies, and in the most favorable epochs the number of Cuban representatives has not exceeded six. Three deputies in a body of four hundred and thirty members! The genuine representation of Cuba has not reached sometimes 0.96 per cent of the total number of members of the Spanish Congress. The great majority of the Cuban deputation has always consisted of Spanish Peninsulars. In this manner, the ministers of ‘Ultramar’ (ministers of the Colonies), whenever they have thought necessary to give an honest or decent appearance to their legislative acts by an alleged majority of Cuban votes, could always command the latter, that is, the Peninsulars.
“As regards the representation in the Senate, the operation has been more simple still. The qualifications required to be a Senator have proved to be an almost absolute prohibition to the Cubans. In fact, to take a seat in the higher house, it is necessary to have been president of that body or of Congress, or a minister of the crown, or a bishop, or a grandee of Spain, a lieutenant-general, a vice-admiral, ambassador, minister plenipotentiary, counsellor of state, judge or attorney-general of the Supreme Court, of the Court of Accounts, etc. No Cuban has ever filled any of the above positions, and scarcely two or three are grandees. The only natives of Cuba who can be senators are those who have been deputies in three different Congresses, or who are professors and have held for four years a university chair, provided that they have an income of $1500; or those who have a title of nobility, or have been deputies, or mayors in towns of over 20,000 inhabitants, if they have in addition an income of $4000 or pay a direct contribution of $800 to the Treasury. This will increase in one or two dozen the number of Cubans qualified to be senators.
“In this manner has legislative work, as far as Cuba is concerned, turned out to be a farce. The various governments have legislated for the island as they pleased. The representatives of the peninsular provinces did not even take the trouble of attending the sessions of the Cortes when Cuban affairs were to be dealt with; and there was an instance when the estimates (budget) for the Great Antille were discussed in the presence of less than thirty deputies, and a single one of the ministers, the minister of ‘Ultramar’ (the Colonies) (session of April 3, 1880).
"As may be seen, the crafty policy of Spain has closed every avenue through which redress might be obtained. All the powers are centered in the government at Madrid and its delegates in the Colony; and, in order to give her despotism a slight varnish of a representative regime, she has contrived with her laws to secure complaisant majorities in the pseudo-elective bodies.
“To accomplish this purpose she has relied upon the European immigrants, who have always supported the government of the Metropolis in exchange for lasting privileges.
“How far the resident Spaniards monopolize the electoral franchise is shown by the single fact that, although in every 100 of the population there are only 10 Spaniards as against 90 Cubans, for every representative elected by the Cubans the Spaniards elect at least 7 and sometimes 10. In other words, the 1,450,000 Cubans are represented, when most successful, by 7 deputies, and sometimes by only 3, while the 160,000 Spaniards residing in the island have been represented by 23 deputies and sometimes by as many as 27, the total number being 40. Such facts need no commentary.” 
This terrible indictment is confirmed by El País
of Havana, the official organ of the autonomist party, often persecuted by the Spanish authorities, yet always loyal to the sovereign of Spain. In its issue of February 4, 1891, El Pais,
speaking of the electoral and representative system, says:
“So much is certain: the representative system is here (in Cuba) a wretched farce, a centre of infection, an opportunity to use the system shamelessly and without fear of punishment as a stepping-stone for the satisfaction of vulgar ambition. Wherefore speak of the will of the electoral body, a body that is prostituted and a will that is abject? Parties which do not care to display, by their actions, genuine respect for the natural exigencies and the proper conditions of the representative system, do not deserve to live. With insults to public law and conscience such as have occurred in the district of Punta y Colon, every honest breast will feel invincible repugnance to electoral gatherings converted into depositaries of filth, and into dens of felons; and thus the representation of the country will fall into impure hands, and serve merely to advance promiscuous and rapacious adventurers.”
Less than a month after the gifted young Cuban poet, José Marti, had raised the standard of revolt, the Spanish Cortes passed a law which, in a measure, reformed the methods of representation and voting, but did not strike at the root of the abuses just enumerated. Self-government, as the term is understood in Canada and Australia, has never existed in Cuba, nor can it flourish there so long as the island is ruled by a nation like Spain, which is wedded to medieval habits of thought and administration. The so-called plans of autonomy, including the decree of Sagasta, which is by far the most liberal, strike only at the surface of the cancer which is eating away the vitality of Cuba. The insular chambers at Havana are a parliament only in name. They possess no real legislative power. There are no independent and free courts of justice. The authority of the Captain-General remains paramount. He and his irresponsible civil and military satellites may still suspend every constitutional guarantee. (See Appendix for a summary of Sagasta’s decree of autonomy.)
Irresponsible, despotic rule, staggering debt and taxation, unblushing corruption of every kind, these are startling and terrible evils, but they fail to reveal the darkest portion of the picture. That which casts such a deep gloom of tragedy over wretched Cuba, is the utter miscarriage of justice, and the failure to protect life and punish criminals. On this subject, Señor Varona says, in his celebrated work, Cuba Against Spain:
“Personal security is a myth among us. Outlaws, as well as men of law, have disposed at will of the property, the peace, and the life of the inhabitants of Cuba. The civil guard (armed police), far from being the guardians, have been the terror of the Cuban peasants. Wherever they pass they cause an alarm by the brutal ill-treatment to which they subject the inhabitants, who, in many cases, fly from their homes at their approach. Under the most trifling pretext they beat unmercifully the defenseless countrymen, and very frequently they have killed those they were conveying under arrest. These outrages became so notorious, that the commander-in-chief of the civil guard, Brigadier-General Denis, had to issue a circular, in which he declared that his subordinates “under pretext of obtaining confidential information, resorted to violent measures,” and that “the cases are very frequent in which individuals arrested by forces of the corps attempt to escape, and keepers find themselves in the necessity of making use of their weapons.” What the above declarations signify is evident, notwithstanding the euphemisms of the official language. The object of this circular was to put a stop to these excesses; it bears the date of 1883. But the state of things continued the same. In 1886 the watering place of Madruga, one of the most frequented summer resorts in the island, witnessed the outrageous attacks of Lieutenant Sainz. In 1887 occurred the stirring trial of the “componte,” occasioned by the application of torture to the brothers Aruca, and within a few days in the neighborhood of Havana were recorded the cases of Señor Riveron, who was stabbed in Govea by individuals of the public force; of Don Manuel Martíinez Moran and Don Francisco Gelanena, who were beaten, the former in Calabazar, and the latter in Yaguajay; of Don José Felipe Canosa, who narrowly escaped being murdered in San Nicholas, and of a resident of Ceiba Mocha, whom the civil guards drove from his home.
“This was far from the worst. In the very centre of Havana, in the Camp de Marte, a prisoner was killed by his guards, and the shooting at Amarillas and murders at Puentes Grandes and Alquizar are deeds of woeful fame in the country. The administration of General Prendergast has left a sorrowful recollection for the frequency with which prisoners who attempted to escape were shot down.
“The deportations for political offences have not been discontinued in Cuba, and although it is stated that no executions for political offences have taken place since 1878, it is because the government has resorted to the more simple expedient of assassination. General Polavieja has declared with the utmost coolness that in December, 1880, he had 265 persons seized in Cuba, Palma, San Luis, Songo, Guantanamo, and Sagua de Tanamo, and transported the same day and the same hour to the African island of Fernando Poo.
At the close of the insurrection of 1879 —1880, it was a frequent occurrence for the government to send to the penal colonies of Africa the Cubans who had capitulated. The treachery of which General José Maceo was a victim carries us to the darkest times of the war of Flanders and the conquest of America.
“Cuba recalls with horror the dreadful assassination of Brigadier-General Arcadio Leyte Vidal, perpetrated in the bay of Nipe in September of 1879. War had just broken out anew in the Eastern Department. Brigadier-General Leyte Vidal resided in Mayarí, assured by the solemn promise of the Spanish commander-in-chief of that zone that he would not be molested. One month had elapsed since the uprising, however, when having gone to Nipe, he was invited by the commander of the gunboat Alarma
to take dinner on board. Leyte Vidal went on board the gunboat, but never returned. He was strangled in a boat by three sailors, and his corpse cast into the sea. This villainous deed was committed in compliance with an order from the Spanish General Polavieja. Francisco Leyte Vidal, a cousin to Arcadio, miraculously escaped the same tragic fate.
“The mysterious death of Cubans who had capitulated long before have been frequent in Cuba. To one of these deaths was due the uprising of Tunas de Bayamo in 1879.”
How much, during sixteen years of peace, personal security has been a myth among the Cubans is illustrated by one of the most atrocious political assassinations which has ever disgraced the regime of Spain. The crime occurred twenty-one miles south of Havana, on the night of the 6th of August, 1888. The newspaper, El Pais,
edited and controlled by the autonomists who are now prominent members of Blanco’s cabinet, published very full details of this criminal conspiracy.
Santiago de las Vegas and Bejucal are two towns of considerable size, situated some six to ten miles apart. In the former, the Cuban population predominates. A number of the highest society of this place had been invited to attend a ball in Bejucal. Mysterious rumors and threats against the lives of several distinguished persons were circulated some days before. On the evening of the ball, the carriage containing the ladies invited had gone half the journey, when they were suddenly confronted, at a spot admirably adapted for an ambuscade, by ninety armed ruffians, conveniently arranged in groups of ten or fifteen. The lucky accident that a lady of the party was a friend of one of the conspirators deterred them from attacking the defenceless women, who were allowed to go on, though grossly insulted and termed prostitutes.
Following the ladies, came a carriage having twenty-four occupants, most of them youths of seventeen to twenty years. The prey so impatiently waited for was entrapped. The assassins hidden in the brush fired a number of rapid volleys at the carriage, which fortunately had iron sides, otherwise the slaughter would have been awful. As it was, one young Cuban was killed and two wounded, one of them mortally. Satisfied with their work, the assaillants went off exultant. Although the authorities of Santiago de las Vegas had been fully cognizant of what was going to happen, not the slightest precautions were adopted, the police were absent, the military commander could not be found, the mayor and municipal judge had disappeared, and troops were not to be seen.
After the crime had been committed, all this lack of vigilance was changed, because the authorities were apprehensive that the enraged citizens would rise in revolt. Santiago de las Vegas resembled a besieged city. Large bodies of soldiers and police patrolled the streets. Every step was taken to forestall an insurrection, but the perpetrators of a crime which, in the burning language of the autonomist organ, El Pais,
“makes one’s blood boil,” were never brought to justice. As this journal truly wrote, addressing the Governor of Havana: “May the Civil Governor hearken to our supplication; we do not to-day request either autonomy, or liberty, or self-government, or houses of congress; but simply individual security, the protection of our lives and property. This is the least that could be petitioned of the commander of an invading army in a conquered country.”
Enough has been said to illustrate the grinding tyranny that has converted Cuba’s beautiful land into a desolate wilderness. “But after all,” certain journals object, “to get rid of Spanish domination will only result in substituting the arbitrary sway of some native dictator for the despotism of the Queen Regent.”
On what is this assumption based? Can it be fortified by reference to the worst misruled republics of South America, such as Venezuela? In all the years the writer has spent as a close student of South American history, he has failed to find a condition of affairs as intolerable as that of Cuba. The two most monstrous native tyrants of Latin America were Lopez, of Paraguay, and Rosas, of Argentina. To them cold-blooded slaughter was as child’s play. They hounded down their political opponents and inaugurated, during twenty-five years, a reign of terror. Yet even they were humane compared to Weyler, whose “brutal and stupid policy” the better class of Spaniards themselves denounce. They did not gather the rural non-combatants, tender children, helpless women,feeble old men into crowded, unwholesome quarters in towns, there slowly to die of disease and starvation.
That, since their independence, Mexico, Central and South America have been convulsed with revolution and anarchy, cannot be denied; nevertheless, the trend of their destiny and aspirations has ever been upward. In enlightenment and progress, Mexico has advanced by leaps and bounds. In Chili and Columbia, orderly self-government is becoming firmly rooted. In the Argentine Republic millions of dollars have been spent on immigration and education, and, for thirty years, the public school and kindergarten systems of the United States have been extensively introduced, even to the most remote districts.
There is no reason why, under the guidance of America, the Cubans, once given a fair chance, should not establish a decent and stable government. The negroes, a possible source of danger, are decreasing year by year, and now constitute not more than one fourth of the population. One of the most difficult obstacles to progress in South America, namely, millions of wild Indians, does not exist in Cuba. Under extreme provocation, the Cubans have proved their law-abiding spirit, and in the sixteen years following the peace of El Zanjón, exhausted every constitutional expedient to correct abuses. As regards intelligence and virtues, it is the opinion of the Spanish Deputy, Castañeda, that the lowest peasants of Cuba are as fully capable of using their political rights properly as are their Spanish brethren.
It seems to be forgotten that the afflictions of Cuba have compelled her most illustrious children to wander, during seventy-five years, over the civilized world, where, in the lands of their adoption, they have rendered important political services, and adorned literature, history, economics, sociology, music, art, and science. The most enlightened Spaniards freely concede the genius and endowment of the Cuban people. In Madrid and the principal cities of Spain, the dramas of a woman, Cuba’s greatest poetess, Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, have been repeatedly performed before crowded and enthusiastic houses.
In Spanish Rule in Cuba
(authorized translation), and New Constitutional Laws for the Island of Cuba,
1897, both documents being published by authority of the Spanish government, tribute is paid to the great and brilliant array of Cubans who have distinguished themselves in every branch of art, literature, music, history, science, and medicine. The truth concerning the remarkable development of this people, under the most adverse circumstances, remains yet to be revealed.
Thus disciplined, thus instructed by adversity and exile, while the Cubans may, through inexperience, at first make mistakes, they will not prove themselves unworthy of their dearly bought liberty.
No careful observer of the events of the last thirty years can have failed to see, without increasing misgivings, into what dangers and complications the Cuban problem must lead the United States. The fires lighted by two formidable and interminable insurrections in Cuba have endangered American lives, liberty, and property (amounting to millions of dollars).
Worse than the extensive loss to commerce has been the fact, as pointed out by President McKinley in his special message, dated April 1, 1898, that “the temper and forbearance of our people have been so severely tried as to beget a perilous unrest among our own citizens,” thus causing them to pay attention to the affairs of a foreign nation to the detriment of their own. Our government might expend millions to enforce neutrality, place our navy on a semi-war footing, and vigilantly cause our coast lines, thousands of miles in extent, to be patrolled; yet, the spirit of seventy million freemen could not be suppressed: they would have been false to their own traditions if they had not shown sympathy and given moral support to a brave, patriotic, and heroic people who were defending life, liberty, and honor against overwhelming odds. Hence the success of the many filibustering expeditions which, in defiance of international law, have furnished the Cuban insurgents with the means of continuing their struggle.
The wonder is, not that war should exist between the United States and Spain, but that the inevitable conflict should have been delayed so long. Twenty-five years ago, the
tragedy of the Virginius
almost precipitated an armed clash. More recently, the brutal murder of Dr. Ricardo Ruiz, an American citizen, who, towards the close of February, 1897, was arrested on a false charge, and, at the end of three hundred and fifteen hours of solitary confinement in a Cuban jail, was found dead and frightfully mangled, would assuredly have led to hostilities, had not Mr. Cleveland’s firmness, and his desire not to embarrass Mr. McKinley, about to become President, restrained the just indignation of the American people. The case of Dr. Ruiz was peculiarly atrocious, as the arbitrary military officials who caused his arrest and death violated not only the treaty obligations of Spain, but even the following guarantees of her municipal law:
“Under the constitution no inhabitant of Cuba may be arrested except in the cases and in the manner prescribed by law. Within 24 hours of the arrest the prisoner must be discharged or surrendered to the judicial authorities; thereupon a judge having jurisdiction must, within 72 hours, either order the discharge of the prisoner or order his commitment to jail. Within the same limit of time the prisoner must be informed of the decision in his case. (Art. IV. of the Constitution.)
“No Spaniard, and consequently no Cuban, may be committed except upon the warrant of a judge having jurisdiction. Within 72 hours of the commitment the prisoner must be granted a hearing, and the warrant of commitment either sustained or squashed.”(Art. V.)—Spanish Rule in Cuba:
“Laws Governing the Island.” Authorized translation, p. 18.
The carnival of blood inaugurated by Weyler, and sanctioned by his superior, the late Cánovas, was so awful and unparalleled, the slow starving of hundreds of thousands of wretched reconcentrados so appalling, the massacre of wounded Cubans in hospitals so incredible, that the American nation refused to believe the reports, which they regarded as the gross exaggerations of rabid and sensational newspapers. The country was deeply stirred when President McKinley requested Congress to appropriate $50,000 in order to rescue several thousand inoffensive Americans who were starving in Cuba. Nevertheless, so great was our forbearance, that, the reactionary Cánovas having been killed by an anarchist, and the Liberal party having gained the ascendency, we desired Spain to have ample opportunity to prove the efficacy of recalling Weyler, adopting a policy of conciliation, and offering Cuba more extensive reforms. Although Blanco proved to be a far better ruler than
Weyler, the insurrection continued with all its desolation. At Christmas, President McKinley, having won the co-operation of Sagasta and the Spanish Cabinet, issued an appeal to the American people, calling upon them to contribute money, food, clothing, and medicine for the relief of the perishing non-combatants of the island. How nobly America responded need not be told. The splendid efforts of Clara Barton, the Red Cross Society, and Consul-General Lee produced some amelioration, but so wide-spread was the destitution, that what they accomplished was like using a bucket of water for extinguishing a large conflagration.
In the midst of this work of peaceful philanthropy came, on the night of February 15th, the terrific explosion of the United States battleship Maine,
in the harbor of Havana, whither, by invitation of the Madrid government, she had repaired on a friendly visit. Two hundred and fifty-eight men and two officers were killed, and many other marines wounded. The Americans displayed, in their hour of mourning, calmness, dignity, and self-restraint. They firmly refused to pass judgment, but patiently waited until a board of naval experts, after a painstaking examination which extended over a month, rendered the verdict that the vessel had been blown up by external agency, though who were the perpetrators could not be discovered. Regarding this catastrophe, President McKinley says:
“In any event the destruction of the Maine,
by whatever exterior cause, is a patent and impressive proof of a state of things in Cuba that is intolerable. That condition is thus shown to be such that the Spanish government cannot assure safety and security to a vessel of the American navy in the harbor of Havana on a mission of peace and rightfully there.”—Special Message, April 1, 1898.
The appalling explosion of the Maine
naturally aroused a feeling of deep resentment; nevertheless, there was a strong undercurrent in favor of submitting the question of responsibility and indemnity to an international tribunal of arbitration. But what about the revolting stories of Cuban outrages? Were they true, or had the press indulged in wild exaggeration for the sake of moneymaking sensationalism? No sophistry that it did not concern the United States whether such outrages had been committed, would satisfy the American people. Senator Proctor, of Vermont, who had been a member of Ex-President Harrison's Cabinet, and is a trusted friend of President McKinley, felt that the people were right, and determined to go to Cuba and investigate for himself.
The result of careful inquiries and personal observation proved to him that the indescribably frightful state of affairs could not be exaggerated. After he had returned to Washington he delivered, on the 17th of March, in the Senate, a speech on Cuba which attracted the attention of the entire country. A man of ripe judgment, and devoid of the fervid eloquence of his colleague, Senator Thurston, of Nebraska, who spoke, a week later, on the same subject, his calm, dispassionate address carried conviction. Among other things he said:
“Of the hospitals I need not speak. Others have described their condition far better than I can. It is not within the narrow limits of my vocabulary to portray it. I went to Cuba with a strong conviction that the picture had been overdrawn; that a few cases of starvation and suffering had inspired and stimulated the press correspondents, and they had given free play to a strong, natural, and highly cultivated imagination.
“Before starting I received through the mail a leaflet published by the Christian Herald,
with cuts of some of the sick and starving reconcentrados, and took it with me, thinking these rare specimens, got up to make the worst possible showing. I saw plenty as bad, and worse; many that should not be photographed and shown. I could not believe that, out of a population of 1,600,000, 200,000 had died within the Spanish forts—practically prison walls—within a few months past, from actual starvation and diseases caused by insufficient and improper food.
“My inquiries were entirely outside of sensation sources. They were made of our medical officers, of our consuls, of city alcaldes
(mayors), of relief committees, of leading merchants and bankers, physicians and lawyers. Several of my informants were Spanish born, but every time the answer was that the case had not been overstated. What I saw I cannot tell so others can see it. It must be seen with one’s own eyes to be realized. The Los Pasos Hospital, in Havana, I saw, when four hundred women and children were lying on the stone floors in an indescribable state of emaciation and disease, many with the scantiest covering of rags—and such rags! Sick children, naked as they came into the world. And the conditions in the other cities are even worse.”
Speaking of the relief extended through Miss Clara Barton and American consular officers, Senator Proctor adds:
“When will the need for this help end? Not until peace comes and the reconcentrados can go back to their land, rebuild their homes, reclaim their tillage plots, which quickly run up to brush in that wonderful soil and clime, and until they can be free from danger of molestation in so doing. Until then, the American people must, in the main, care for them. It is true that the alcaldes,
other local authorities and relief committees are now trying to do something, and desire, I believe, to do the best they can, but the problem is beyond their means and capacity and the work is one to which they are not accustomed.
“Gen. Blanco’s order of Nov. 13th last somewhat modifies the Weyler order, but is of little or no practical benefit. Its execution is completely in the discretion of the local military authorities, and though the order was issued four months ago, I saw no beneficent results from it worth mentioning. I do not impugn Gen. Blanco’s motives, and believe him to be an amiable gentleman, and that he would be glad to relieve the situation of the reconcentrados if he could do so without loss of any military advantage, but he knows that all Cubans are insurgents at heart, and none now under military control will be allowed to go from under it.”
Summing up, the Senator concludes as follows:
“The dividing lines between parties are the most straight and clear-cut that have ever come to my knowledge. It is Cuban against Spaniard. It is practically the entire Cuban population on one side and the Spanish army and Spanish citizens on the other. I do not count the autonomists in this division, as they are so far too inconsiderable in numbers to be worth counting. Gen. Blanco filled the civil offices with men who had been autonomists and were still classed as such. But the march of events had satisfied most of them that the chance for autonomy came too late. It falls as talk of compromise would have fallen in the last year or two of our war. If it stands, it can only be by armed force; but triumph of the Spanish army and the success of the Spanish arms would be easier by Weyler’s policy and method, for in that the Spanish army and people believe. The army and the Spanish citizens do not want genuine autonomy, for that means government by the Cuban people. And it is not strange that the Cubans say it comes too late. I inquired in regard to autonomy, of men of wealth and men as prominent in business as any in the cities of Havana, Matanzas, and Sagua, bankers, merchants, lawyers, and autonomist officials, some of them Spanish born but Cuban bred, one prominent Englishman, several of them known as autonomists, and several of them telling me they were still believers in autonomy if practicable, but, without exception, they all replied that it was ‘too late’ for that.
“Some favored a United States protectorate, some annexation, some free Cuba. Not one has been counted favoring the insurrection at first. They were business men, and wanted peace, but said it was too late for peace under Spanish sovereignty. They characterized Weyler’s order in far stronger terms than I can. I could not but conclude that you do not have to scratch an autonomist very deep to find a Spaniard.
“I have endeavored to state in no intemperate mood what I saw and heard, and to make no argument thereon, but leave every one to draw his own conclusions. To me the strongest appeal is not the barbarity practised by Weyler, nor the loss of the Maine,
if our worst fears should prove true, terrible as are both of these incidents, but the spectacle of a million and a half of people, the entire native population of Cuba, struggling for freedom and deliverance from the worst misgovernment of which I ever had knowledge.
“But whether our action ought to be influenced by any one or all these things, and if so, how far, is another question. I am not in favor of annexation, not because I would apprehend any particular trouble from it, but because it is not wise policy to take in any entire people of foreign tongue and training and without any strong guiding American element.
“The fear that, if free, the people of Cuba would be revolutionary is not so well founded as has been supposed, and the conditions for good self-government are far more favorable. The large number of educated and patriotic men, the great sacrifices they have endured, the peaceable temperament of the people, whites and blacks, the wonderful prosperity that would surely come with peace and good home rule, the large influx of Americans and English, immigration and money, would all be strong factors for stable institutions.
“But it is not my purpose at this time, nor do I consider it my province, to suggest any plan. I merely speak of the symptoms as I saw them, but do not undertake to prescribe. Such remedial steps as may be required may safely be left to an American President and the American people.”
What Senator Proctor stated in regard to the failure of autonomy had long become the conviction of those who had most closely studied the Cuban problem. The welfare of Spain, as well as of Cuba, demanded that the island should be free and independent. It thus became the duty of the President of the United States to bend all diplomatic efforts to this end, and remove the great source of the chronic insurrections whose disastrous effects endangered the peace and security of our country. But those who were most intimate with the intricacies of Spanish politics knew that Spain would never surrender her control over Cuba except through force of arms. If Cuba were ever to be contented, happy, and free, it must be through the armed intervention of some foreign power, and that power could be none other than the United States, who, by forbidding European interference in the Western Hemisphere, had pledged herself to vindicate there the rights of humanity. The time had come which President Grant foresaw in 1875, and of which Mr. Cleveland, in his masterly annual message to Congress (December, 1896), declared:
“When the inability of Spain to deal successfully with the insurrection has become manifest and it is demonstrated that her sovereignty is extinct in Cuba for all purposes of its rightful existence, and when a hopeless struggle for its re-establishment has degenerated into a strife which means nothing more than the useless sacrifice of human life and the utter destruction of that very subject matter of the conflict, a situation will be presented in which our obligations to the sovereignty of Spain will be superseded by higher obligations which we can hardly hesitate to recognize and discharge.”
On the 11th of April, President McKinley sent to Congress a special message, in which he carefully reviewed the Cuban situation, reported the failure of negotiations to produce an adjustment honorable to Cuba and conducive to the best interests of the United States, and recommended that he be empowered to employ, if necessary, the military and naval forces to establish a proper and stable government in Cuba. The reasons for intervention are thus cogently stated:
“First, in the cause of humanity and to put an end to the barbarities, bloodshed, starvation and horrible miseries now existing there, and which the parties to the conflict are either unable or unwilling to stop or mitigate. It is no answer to say this is all in another country belonging to another nation, and is therefore none of our business. It is specially our duty, for it is right at our door.
“Second, we owe it to our citizens in Cuba to afford them that protection and indemnity for life and property which no government there can, or will, afford, and to that end to terminate the conditions that deprive them of legal protection.
“Third, the right to intervene may be justified by the very serious injury to the commerce, trade, and business of our people, and by the wanton destruction of property and devastation of the island.
“Fourth, and which is of the utmost importance. The present condition of affairs of Cuba is a constant menace to our peace, and entails upon this government an enormous expense. With such a conflict waged for years in an island so near us and with which our people have such trade and business relations; where the lives and liberty of our citizens are in constant danger and their property destroyed and themselves ruined; where our trading vessels are liable to seizure and are seized at our very door, by warships of the foreign nation, the expeditions of filibustering that we are powerless altogether to prevent, and the irritating questions and entanglements thus arising; all these and others that I need not mention, with the resulting strained relations, are a constant menace to our peace and compel us to keep on a semi-war footing with a war nation with which we are at peace.”
Together with his message, Mr. McKinley submitted the reports of General Lee and other United States consuls stationed in various parts of Cuba. Their exact and carefully prepared statements removed the last lingering doubts as to the reality of the suffering, wretchedness, and torture endured by the reconcentrados, of whom fully 200,000 had perished. That the American nation could no longer tolerate such barbarities was a foregone conclusion. To be sure, Captain-General Blanco had just revoked completely Weyler’s reconcentration decree, and had even promised to assist the feeble survivors to return to their farms, but, with guerrillas liable to attack them at any moment, of what avail was this concession? The Spanish government empowered General Blanco to suspend hostilities, enter into an armistice with the insurgents, and offer still broader terms of autonomy or home rule. The insurrectionists rejected the proposals, for the good reason that they dared not trust a nation like Spain, which had so often failed to keep its promises. They were no more to be blamed for their decision than were the American colonists, when, in 1778, they rejected the proposals of Lord North, who, in the name of George III., offered them everything except independence.
That war between Spain and the United States was inevitable grew daily more evident, in spite of the friendly offers of the European Powers and of the Pope to mediate.
On the 19th of April, the anniversary of Concord and Lexington, where, one hundred and twenty-three years ago, the first battle for American independence had been fought,
Congress passed its celebrated Cuban resolutions, which were duly signed by the President. They read as follows:
“RESOLVED, By the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled—
—That the people of the Island of Cuba are, and of right ought to be, free and independent.
—That it is the duty of the United States to demand, and the Government of the United States does hereby demand, that the Government of Spain at once relinquish its authority and government in the Island of Cuba and withdraw its land and naval forces from Cuba and Cuban waters.
—That the President of the United States be, and he hereby is, directed and empowered to use the entire land and naval forces of the United States, and to call into
the actual service of the United States the militia of the several States to such extent as may be necessary to carry these resolutions into effect.
—That the United States hereby disclaims any disposition or intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction or control over said island, except for the pacification there-of, and asserts its determination, when that is accomplished, to leave the government and control of the island to its people.”
Immediately after the resolutions became a law, the President sent them to Madrid, with an ultimatum that, if, by noon, April 23d, a satisfactory reply were not received from the Spanish government, he would proceed to carry them into effect. Prime Minister Sagasta, knowing already their nature, did not allow our Ambassador, Mr. Woodford, an opportunity to present them, but delivered to him his passports. Diplomatic relations were thus completely broken off, and war was declared (April 21). The United States prepared to fulfil its mission for the liberation of Cuba.
The consequences of the war will indeed be far-reaching. The United States have already abundantly proved their military and naval prowess, but the crucial test will be, what use they will make of their victories. If they are misled, and join the Powers of Europe in the lust of territorial, colonial, and commercial extension, their decadence will surely set in. If, however, they remain true to the traditions of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, they will loosen the fetters of millions of the oppressed in the Old and New Worlds, and carry to the darkest corners the torch of order, liberty, enlightenment, and prosperity.
Animated by such a spirit, their moral influence will be felt in establishing an international court, before which all nations shall arbitrate their disputes, and the horrors and tragedy of war shall become an impossibility. Teaching a strict adherence to the instincts of justice, righteousness, and mercy, they will so broaden the scope of international law and obligations, that barbarities such as have stained and blackened the closing years of the nineteenth century will never again be permitted to occur.
Sagasta’s decree of autonomy
was published in the official Gazete
of Madrid, November 25, 1897. An English translation is given in the supplement of No. 3, of Cuba,
a newspaper published in the interests of the Cuban autonomists and the Spanish government, the office of publication being, before the declaration of war, in New York City. The decree has its meritorious points, but, by Article 15 of Title V., the Governor-General shall, in the King’s name, convene, suspend, and adjourn the sessions of either or both houses of the Cuban parliament, though he must call them together again, or renew them, within three months. By article 27 of the same title, a member of the parliament is subject to arrest and punishment if he admits that “he is the author of any article, book, pamphlet or printed matter wherein military sedition is incited or invoked, or the Governor-General is insulted and maligned, or national sovereignty is assailed.” If there were such a constitutional restriction upon freedom of speech in our country, Senator Wellington, of Maryland, who recently severely arraigned the United States government for forcing war upon Spain, would be very hardly dealt with.
Article 30 gives to the Captain-General authority to refer to the home government of Spain any bill or measure “whenever said bill may affect national interests.” If such bill originate in the insular parliament,” the Government of the island shall ask for a postponement of
the debate until the home government shall have given its opinion.” By article 35, the Cuban congress must vote that part of the budget necessary “to defray the expenses of sovereignty,” and no local appropriations can be considered before the part for the maintenance of Spanish sovereignty has been voted. In this matter of her quota of the national expenses, Cuba has no voice, for, by article 36, “the Cortes of the Kingdom shall determine what expenditures are to be considered by reason of their nature as obligatory expenses inherent to sovereignty, and shall fix the amount every three years and the revenue needed to defray the same, the Cortes reserving the right to alter this rule.”
Considering how illiberal Spanish legislation relating to commerce has often been, Sagasta gives the Cuban government and parliament much latitude to enact commercial laws
and secure favorable commercial treaties.
Unfortunately, these and all the other good provisions of the decree are nullified by still investing the supreme authority in the Governor-General, and providing that “all other authorities in the island shall be subordinate to his, and he shall be responsible for the preservation of order and the safety of the colony” (Article 41).
Paragraph 4 of article 42 enables him to suspend several provisions of the constitution, and empowers him “to enforce legislation in regard to public order and to take all measures which he may deem necessary to preserve the peace within and the safety without for the territory entrusted to him, after hearing the counsel of his Cabinet.”
In regard to the debt weighing so heavily upon her, Cuba has no power to make an equitable readjustment, nor to change the method of payment of interest or principal: all such matters depending upon the decision of the Spanish Cortes (Article 2 of the Transitory Provisions).
- Spanish-American Encyclopedia, article on Martínez de Campos.
- Speech of Señor Perez Castañeda, in Spanish Senate, June 24, 1891. See also El Globo, of Madrid, October 27, 1891.
- Reply of Señor D. Antonio Cánovas del Castillo to Señor Jorrin, Spanish Senate, January 22, 1880.
- The Island of Cuba, by A. S. Rowan and M. M. Ramsey, p. 143; and Cuba, Justificación de su Guerra de Independencia, by R. M. Merchan.
- See his treatise, Cuba contra España ( “Cuba against Spain”).
- The above extracts from Varona’s work can be found in Cuba, by Fidel G. Pierra, ex-Secretary of the Pan-American Congress, pp. 23-25
- The translations of these extracts from Varona’s Cuba contra España, are taken from Fidel G. Pierra’s Cuba.
- Diccionario-Encyclopedí, Hispano-Americano. Barcelona, 1892.
- A. LAROUSSE: Dictionnaire encyclopédie. Paris, 1869.
- R. R. MADDEN: The Island of Cuba. London, 1853.
- R. M. MERCHAN: Cuba Justificación de su Guerra de Independencia. Bogotá (Colombia), 1896.
- Messages of Presidents Grant, Cleveland, and McKinley.
- New Constitution for the Islands of Cuba and Porto Rico. Sagasta’s decree, published in official Gazete, Madrid, November 25, 1897. English translation in the supplement to Cuba, No. 3, New York.
- New Constitutional Laws for the Island of Cuba. New York, 1897.
- Parliamentary Papers, 1861. Report of Mr. Joseph Crawford, British Consul at Havana, on the Cuba Slave Traffic. London, 1861.
- FIDEL G. PIERRA: Cuba: Physical Features of Cuba; Her Past, Present, and Possible Future. New York, 1896.
- A. S. ROWAN and M. M. RAMSAY: The Island of Cuba. Henry Hoyt and Co., New York, 1897.
- Spanish Rule in Cuba. Authorized translation. New York, 1896.
- Speech of Senator Proctor, of Vermont, delivered in U. S. Senate, March 17, 1898.
- U. S. Consular Reports on Cuba, 1898.