Reply of the Duke of Tetuan to Mr. Woodford's Note of September 23, 1897

[Translation] 

MINISTRY OF STATE,
Palace, October 23, 1897


EXCELLENCY: My worthy predecessor, the Duke of Tetuan, had the honor to receive, in regular course, the courteous and studied note which your excellency was pleased to address to him on the 23d of September last; bit the Government, which has but now obtained the confidence of the Crown, being obliged to devote its initial labors to measures of internal concern which are demanded by every political change, took a genuine and thoughtful interest in having its first acts and its conduct clearly demonstrate that it was adopting with sincerity a new course, and a minute study of the matters in order to acquire an exact knowledge of them all being necessary, has perhaps delayed more than it would have wished the reply to the aforesaid note. Our desire to proceed with loyalty and frankness in our relations with the Government which your excellency so worthily represents at this court, and the obligation to respond to the sentiments which your excellency is pleased to express, require that this preliminary explanation be made, to the end of removing any imputation of doubts and vacillations en the part of one who, by reason of having attained to power with a defined programme, considers his honor engaged to its immediate realization without casuistic distinctions or unnecessary delays.

Gratifying and pleasing have been at all times for the Government of His Majesty the expressions of good feeling put forth by that of the United States, and the assurances that it proposes to maintain with that of Spain the peace and friendship which have traditionally united the two nations; but still greater satisfaction is caused to the mind of this Government by the marked insistence wherewith your excellency declares in your aforesaid note of the 23d of September that it is the most earnest desire of the President of the United States that this friendship be conserved and increased upon foundations of concord and reciprocal confidence.

So positive and so reiterated an asseveration not only would extenuate in the present case a warmth of style which fortunately does not exist in the note to which I am replying, but would serve to explain whatever omissions or confusion of ideas might arise from the elevated aim of speedily attaining ends which arc deemed to be humanitarian, or from the natural and ardent defense of obligations and interests which are regarded as sacred.

These circumstances enable us to discern in the note of the 23d of September an earnest desire for the termination of the Cuban insurrection, and they remove from the words in which this laudable wish is expressed whatever minatory character might be attached to them upon the first impression by anyone who did not dwell upon and attach due weight to those words in view of the cordial and eloquent declarations with which the note begins and ends. These declarations, moreover, allow the Spanish Government, persuaded of the good faith and importance thereof, to respond with the same frankness to all the statements of the note without its declarations being restricted by the consciousness and conviction of rights which no one disputes, or by the apprehension lest historical and established facts, or fundamental principles which have always been maintained, and which are likewise still undisputed, might be thereby obscured

Starting from these acceptable premises the present Government of His Majesty sees no obstacle to examining the measures most conducive to bringing about the termination of a struggle which, while it is more painful and costly to Spain than to any other state also concerns and in indirect ways injures the American nation, both by reason of having so close at hand the calamities inseparable from every civil war and because of the losses necessarily caused to its commerce, to its industries, and to the property of its citizens, by a contest of this character, if it should be maintained for an indefinite time and with its past characteristics; for, in view of the manifold associations and various ties of modern peoples, it is hardly possible to conceive that lasting disturbance can exist in one of them without affecting the neighboring nations and justifying all of these in cherishing the desire for peace and proffering friendly councils, but never interference or intrusion

The present Government of His Majesty is now most advantageously situated for investigating the points referred to and for securing the pacification of Cuba on the proper basis, since its own character, the antecedents of those who compose it and the public and solemn promises which in the past and of its own sole initiative it has made to the representatives of the country involve, in the colonial policy of Spain and in the manner of conducting the war, a total change of immense scope, which must exercise considerable influence upon the moral and material situation of the Greater Antilla

The Government of His Majesty, by reason of its firmly rooted convictions, in order to subserve the peninsular interests equally with those of the Antillas, and holding the resolute purpose to draw closer with ties of true affection the indissoluble bonds which unite the other country with its cherished provinces beyond the seas, is determined to put into immediate practice the political system which the present president of the council of ministers announced to the nation in his manifesto of the 24th of June of this year The acts accomplished by the present Government, notwithstanding the short time which has elapsed since its elevation to power, are a secure guaranty that not for anyone nor for anything will it halt in the path which it has traced, and which, in its best judgment, is that which will bring us to the longed-for peace.

To military operations, uninterrupted for a single day and as energetic and active as circumstances demand, but ever humanitarian and careful to respect all private rights as far as may be possible, must be joined political action honestly leading to the autonomy of the colony in such a manner that upon the full guaranty of the immutable Spanish sovereignty shall arise the new personality which is to govern itself in all affairs peculiar to itself by means of an executive organization and the insular council or chamber. This programme, which constitutes true self-government, will give to the Cubans their own local government, whereby they shall be at one and the same time the initiators and regulators of their own life, but always forming part of the integral nationality of Spain. In this way the island of Cuba will form a personality with its own peculiar functions and powers (atribuciones) and the mother country, moving in the sphere of action which is exclusively its own, will take charge of those matters--such as foreign relations, the army, the navy, and the administration of justice--which involve national requirements or needs.

In order to realize this plan, which it advocates as a solemn political engagement voluntarily assumed while its members were in opposition, the Government of His Majesty proposes to modify existing legislation so far as necessary, doing so in the form of decrees to admit of its more speedy application, and leaving for the Cortes of the Kingdom, with the cooperation of the senators and deputies of the Antillas, the solution of the economical problem and a patriotic and fair apportionment of the payment of the debt.

Thus broadly outlined, your Excellency, these are the measures, honorable to the Peninsula and just to Cuba, which the Government of Spain of its own volition and actuated only by patriotic aims and elevated humanitarian feelings proposes to make use of henceforth in order to put an end to the Cuban insurrection, assembling beneath the Spanish standard all the prominent men of the country, without distinction of origin or conduct, in order to oppose them to those professional agitators by nature and habit, who subsist only by strife and have no other object than rapine. destruction, and disorder. Military severity toward these destructive men will within a brief time prove the more advantageous and effective, since in the task to be performed by it will cooperate, of their own impulse, all those islanders who henceforth, feeling that they are the masters of their destinies, will find it to their own interest and advantage to put an end to ruinous and already unendurable excesses.

The formula for so auspicious a change will lie henceforth peace, with liberty and local self-government, while the mother country will not fail to lend at the proper time the moral and material means in aid of the Antillean provinces, but will cooperate, on the contrary, toward the reestablishment of property, developing the inexhaustible sources of wealth in the island, and devoting itself especially to the promotion of public works and material interests, which, when peace shall have been assured, will rapidly increase, as was the case after the last war.

Having thus set forth the conciliatory, humane, and liberal purposes of the Government of His Majesty, in deference to the legitimate and justifiable interest which the Cuban insurrection awakens on the part of the people and Government of the United States, I have now to consider certain of the statements contained in your note of the 23d September last.

Your Excellency is pleased to state therein that the President of the United States feels it his duty to make the strongest possible effort to contribute effectively toward peace, while giving friendly assurance that there is nothing further from his mind than the occasion or intention of wounding the just susceptibilities of Spain, but your excellency does not set forth the means of which the President might avail himself to attain those ends, neither do you recall the fact that on various occasions the Government of His Majesty has made special mention of several highly important means. It would be desirable to make clear a point of such elementary importance, and to state exactly, first of all, the nature of the proffered aid and the field wherein it would act, and then to decide as to its greater or less efficacy, since only by a previous and perfect knowledge thereof is it possible for both parties to reach a complete agreement.

The Spanish and American Governments agreeing in the same desire to secure immediate peace in Cuba, and both being interested therein, although in different degrees, the Government of His Majesty being interested as a sovereign and the United States in the character of a friend and neighbor, there will doubtless be found suitable bases for a friendly understanding, whereby Spain shall continue to put forth armed efforts, at the same time decreeing the political concessions which she may deem prudent and adequate, while the United States exert within their borders the energy and vigilance necessary to absolutely prevent the procurement of the resources of which from the beginning the Cuban insurrection has availed itself as from an inexhaustible arsenal.

On various occasions the Governments of His Majesty have found themselves obliged to call the attention of the Government of the United States to the manner in which the so-called laws of neutrality are fulfilled in the territory of the Union. Despite the express provisions of those laws and the doctrines maintained by the American Government in the famous Alabama arbitration with regard to the diligence which should be used to avoid whatsoever aggressive act against a friendly nation, it is certain that filibustering expeditions have set forth and unfortunately continue to set forth from the United States, and that, in the sight of all men, there is operating in New York an insurrectionary junta which publicly boasts of organizing and maintaining armed hostility and constant provocation against the Spanish nation.

To effect the disappearance of such a state of things, as is demanded by general international friendship, would be, in the belief of the Government of His Majesty, the most effectual aid in the attainment of peace that the President of the United States could render. It would be sufficient to make such aid effectual, that he adopt the procedure followed in similar cases by such of his illustrious predecessors as Van Buren, Tyler, Taylor, Fillmore, and Pierce in the years 1838, 1841, 1849, 1851, and 1855, and that while condemning, by means of an energetic proclamation, those violating the Federal laws and aiding the insurrection in Cuba he notify all American citizens doing so that they can not henceforth count upon the diplomatic protection of the Government of Washington, in however grave a situation their wrongful conduct may place them. By thus abandoning to their fate those who infringe the fundamental statutes of the Union and openly conduct illegal filibustering expeditions, and by energetically and constantly restraining those who convert the Federal territory into a field of action for reprehensible filibustering schemes, by exacting, lastly, of all superior and subordinate officials the strictest fulfillment of their duties in all that relates to the laws of neutrality, the President would do more toward peace than is possible by any other means or procedure whatever.

If, however, it be alleged that the powers of the Executive are limited on this point, we must recall the doctrine advanced by the United States before the arbitral tribunal of Geneva, according to which "no nation may, under pretext of inadequate laws, fail in the fulfillment of its duties of sovereignty toward another sovereign nation." The United States, moreover, possess in their own history the eloquent example they gave to the New World when they deemed it necessary to provide themselves with more energetic laws whereby to furnish new means of preventing the excesses of filibusterism, and in a very short time they brought about the passage by the Congress of such measures as were deemed necessary to that end, as was the case with the act of March 10, 1838, which remained in force for two years.

It follows, then, from what has been stated that in order to prove by acts the warm desire for peace and friendship l)y which the friendly Government of the United States is actuated it is very important that it should take all necessary measures, with determination and persistency proportionate to the vast means at its disposal, to prevent the territory of the Union from constituting the center in which the plots for the support of the Cuban insurrection are contrived. He who is not disposed to grant the means does not earnestly desire the end in view, and in this case the end, to wit, peace, will be attained by the United States exerting itself energetically to enforce with friendly zeal the letter and spirit of its neutrality laws.

According to your Excellency's note, the President of the United States wishes His Majesty's Government either to formulate some proposition that will enable him to render his friendly offers effectual or to give assurance that pacification will speedily be secured by the efforts of Spain.

Your Excellency will find in this note a full reply to both alternatives.

His Majesty's Government, with all respect and with the traditional and sincere friendship which it has professed for the gigantic country of North America ever since the beginnings of its independence, suggests to it that either by the publication of a proclamation more energetic than those of Mr. Cleveland, and by which all persons violating the domestic and international laws prohibiting the encouragement of rebellions in friendly countries shall be declared outlaws, or by the severe application of the regulations at present in force, or, lastly, by adding to them if they are not adequate, it shall completely cut off the support which the Cuban insurrection is receiving from the United States, and by showing itself the firm and sincere friend of Spain shall annihilate the vain hopes of those who are trusting to possible conflicts between two nations which, from their history and mutual advantage, ought to live and wish to live in close and warm friendship.

Spain has always had the desire and the capacity to maintain friendly relations with the United States, even in those times of such critical importance to the Union when the United States was compelled to appeal to arms to preserve the Federal bond. It was only after the Northern States had declared the blockade of the coasts of the South, and when England, France, and Holland, preeminently maritime and colonial nations, had decided to recognize the belligerency of the Confederates, that Spain determined to declare a neutrality which was sincerely friendly to the United States at the same time that she refused to have any intercourse with the rebels, and rejected the proposals which they made her repeatedly and finally at Cadiz required the surrender of 42 prisoners whom the privateer Sumter had on board and whom she placed at the disposal of the American consul There is no wonder that, in view of such conduct Mr Perry, the United States representative at Madrid expressed to the then ministers of state, Senores Calderon Collantes and the Marquis de Miraflores, on various occasions, with delicate persistency, as well as in official conferences and communications the gratitude of his Government and the satisfaction which it felt at the noble conduct of Spain.

His Majesty's Government cherishing the same feelings at present takes pleasure in notifying the United States Government that the pacification of the western provinces of the island has greatly progressed through the valiant efforts of the Spanish arms, and that it is confident of completing it in a short time thanks to the energetic and unceasing efforts of its troops and the beneficial effect of the new and ample reforms, which are based upon principles of love, of forgiveness of the past, and of pardon to all who seek the protection of the historical banner of their country and upon the assurance that the island shall henceforth govern itself and that mutual affection shall draw closer the national tie which unites it to its former discoverer

The problem being solved on these bases and in this manner, His Majesty's Government has no doubt of its ability to maintain a friendly understanding with the United States Government, and it does not hesitate to assert that when the internal system of the island of Cuba has been reorganized upon new principles the insurrectionary germs which have hitherto, unhappily, undermined it will disappear forever, thereby giving such security offered to domestic and foreign capital seeking advantageous investments in the island as will cause an abundant revival of the former wonderful prosperity to which the comparable fertility of its soil entitles it.

It is not necessary to refer to the supposition of a continued prolongation of the struggle, nor to that of a change in the attitude of the United States toward the combatants The first supposition is refuted by the overwhelming eloquence of facts known to everybody, as even the greatest pessimists must admit that the situation at present is very different from what it was when the hosts of Macco and Maximo Gomez were overrunning the provinces of Havana and Pinar del Rio The sugar plantations are preparing to plant cane and to grind that which has been saved from the flames There is likewise every indication of a magnificent tobacco crop and as soon as the arrival of the illustrious General Blanco shall have restored tranquility to the public mind all men will be convinced that the work which that leader is about to perform is for good men a work of peace liberty, autonomy, and clemency and this conviction will tend to the restoration of peace, the path of which will be smoothed by reason and right.

As to the second supposition. to wit, that of imagining a change of attitude toward the combatants, it would be so ungrounded, so unjust, so unjustifiable, so contrary to the correct procedure of the Washington Cabinet under circumstances when discrimination was much more difficult, that it must be rejected as utterly improbable. Whatever passions may, at a given moment, blind the judgment of a deliberative chamber in countries like the United States where right and justice always triumph, the executive power will act as a secure safeguard of whose fitness and energy any doubt would be offensive. At a time when the insurgents are losing their principal chiefs without replacing them by others of standing, when discouragement pervades their ranks, and when they are without any imitation of a constituted government "capable of performing the corresponding international duties," a characteristic and exact criterion, according to the illustrious General Grant and his successors, to justify the recognition of belligerency, no one should consent to the neglect of voluntary engagements or to the destruction of the uniform legal doctrine followed in such notable cases as those of the Congressionalists of Chile and the Sudists of Brazil.

In this connection it is timely to remember that the American Government had to admit, in its note of April 4, 1896, that it was impossible to recognize the belligerency of the rebels at that time, although the insurrection was in a much more flourishing condition, and that, if Spain were withdrawn from the island of Cuba the sole bond of union between the many heterogeneous elements in the island would disappear, which proves the necessity of her presence and the absurdity of the idea that there can be any other organization in the island possessing the attributes of lawful international personality. The insurgents, as has already been said on another occasion by His Majesty's Government, have always been and still are without any real civil government, fixed territory, courts of their own, a regular army, coasts, ports, navy, everything that the principal American writers on international law and statesmen require as preliminary to the discussion of a recognition of belligerency. The rebel bands never fight for honor and victory, nor do they even defend themselves; they hide behind the dense thickets of the tropical soil, and sally with impunity when the situation is temporarily in their favor. Under these circumstances it is impossible to admit that there can be a change in the attitude of the United States toward the combatants in Cuba.

As His Majesty's Government has decided, freely and deliberately, to establish autonomy in Cuba, there arises by the force of circumstances the case foreseen by the eminent Mr. Cleveland in his message of December 7, 1896; and, admitting the continuing international accountability (solidarity) of the governments which succeed each other in a country, it can not be doubted that the present most worthy President will agree with his predecessor that no just reason exists for conjecturing that the pacification of the island of Cuba will fail to be effected upon this basis. The Government of His Majesty the King of Spain expects with confidence from the rectitude, love of peace, and friendship of the President of the United States that he will aid it in this noble and humane undertaking, and that he will exert himself energetically to prevent the insurrection from receiving from the United States the moral and material aid which gives it its only strength and without which it would have already been subdued or would certainly be subdued very speedily.

It is, therefore, above all indispensably necessary that the President should decide upon his course toward Spain so far as regards the Cuban problem, and that he should state clearly whether he is ready to put a stop absolutely and forever to those filibustering expeditions which, by violating with the greatest freedom the laws of friendship, injure and degrade the respect which the American Government owes to itself in the discharge of its international engagements. There must be no repetition of such lamentable acts as the last expedition of the schooner Silver Heels, which left New York in spite of the previous notification of His Majesty's legation at Washington and before the eyes of the Federal authorities, because it is only thus that the peaceful intentions of the United States Government will be proved and that the friendly understanding to which I have referred will be possible.

With the new policy already inaugurated by His Majesty's Government every pretext for those popular expressions of sympathy with the insurrection which have been mentioned as a powerful argument in various Presidential messages disappears, as the Cubans will find in autonomy the very solution recommended as the most expedient even by the executive authorities of the United States Government. By this policy those advances and improvements in the situation of the Great Antilla which the Washington Cabinet itself, not many months ago. in an official note, declared would be '' most potential " for the termination of hostilities, and for bringing about a change in the tendencies and feelings, not of the North American Government, but of the very people of the United States on this subject, are also realized by the voluntary initiative of the mother country. This change of feeling may and ought to appear in more and more friendly acts and conduct which, without any doubt, will be received with deep gratitude by the Spanish people and Government. This, in the opinion of the undersigned, is the most adequate way of avoiding the dangers to which your Excellency alludes in your note as the result of a possible arousing of mutual passions, and this is likewise the best means of attaining that happy harmony which will certainly enable the Spanish Government to restore perfect peace within a short period to the beautiful island of Cuba, for the good of Spain, the United States, and humanity iii general.

Her Majesty's Government, now, and always faithful to the ties of affection which unite it with the United States, and cherishing, moreover, the firm intention of drawing them closer, in reply to the courteous wishes expressed by your Excellency, will be most happy to have your Excellency state whatever you may think proper, with entire liberty, and in the form which you may deem most fitting with regard to the alternatives mentioned, or upon any other points, with the assurance that your Excellency 's views, opinions, or assertions will always be heard with friendly interest, and will be respected so far as may be permitted to a Government by primary and permanent duties, the neglect of which the Madrid cabinet can not imagine that so respectworthy and so friendly a nation as the United States will advise.

I avail myself, etc.

PIO GULLON.


Source:  U.S. Department of State, Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1898 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1901), pp. 582-589.


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