« PreviousContinue »
OUR CUBAN RELATIONS.
FIRST POINT OF VIEW. Every effort of Cuba to liberate herself from the gal. ling yoke of Spain has met with large sympathy in the United States. The more modern the efforts, the larger the sympathy. The revolution in the island, on in its fury in 1896, so impressed our people that the Congress felt warranted by resolution in expressing its horror of Spain's conduct toward this, its richest colony, and, by implication, the hope of that colony's success in its effort for independence. The passage of the resolution through both houses brought forth in each a depth of sentiment which did not hesitate to hold Spain up to the civilized world as a rapacious and tyrannical monster, unworthy of respect as mistress of a fruitful island, and a veritable stumbling-block in the march of a people inspired withi free notions. Doubtless, much of the boldness and bitterness of speech was intended as a prick for a seemingly slothful and indifferent President, and it was only the intent to give the Executive a little time to study the direction of the wind of popular sentiment that prevented the Congress from making its resolution a joint one, and to include a grant of full belligerent rights to the struggling Cubans. This question of our encouragement in the shape of an
offer of belligerent rights opened up the whole subject of Spanish and Cuban relations, and imposed on our government a task as delicate as it was exacting. Historically considered, the task was an old one, and had been variously viewed and weighed. We find that with wrestling with it, such a grave statesman as John Quincy Adams had thrown himself open to the charge of jingoism by the announcement that, | “These islands [Cuba and Porto Rico] from their local position are natural appendages to the North American continent, and one of them, Cuba, almost in sight of our shores, bas, from a multitude of considerations, become an object of transcendent importance to the commercial and political interest of our Union. . . . Such, indeed, are the relations between that island and this country, the geographical, commercial, moral, and political relations formed by nature, gathering in the process of time, and even now verging to maturity, that in looking forward to the probable course of events for the short period of half a century, it is scarcely possible to resist the conviction that the annexation of Cuba to our Federal republic will be indispensable to the continuance and integrity of the Union itself. . . . Cuba, forcibly disjoined from its own unnatural connection with Spain, and incapable of selfsupport, can gravitate only toward the North American Union, which by the same law of nature cannot cast her off from its bosom.”
Nor was Clay less pronounced in his opinion of a situation hardly differing from that of 1896, when he said,
“If the war should continue between Spain and the new republics, and those islands [Cuba and Porto Rico] should become the object and theatre of it, their fortunes have such a connection with the prosperity of the United States that they could not be indifferent spectators, and the pos. sible contingencies of such a protracted war might bring upon the government of the United States duties and obligations, the performance of which, however painful it should be, they might not be at liberty to decline.”
These expressions of public opinion, uttered by the wisest statesmen of their day, show that the Cuban question is by no means a new one, but that it dates back in | all its solemn depth and multiform ramifications to quite an early period in our history. Late attempts at its solution are not novel. The boldness and violence of speech in the 54th Congress respecting it have been heard before, the patriotic outbursts have been witnessed, the threats of war encountered.
But these facts intensify, rather than chill, interest in the question, for it is conceded that almost enough of years have elapsed to bring about a consummation such as every Cuban patriot has devoutly wished and strenuously striven for. Therefore, in making up the history of the Cuban problem it will appear strange that administrations prior to that of Mr. Cleveland, have uniformly declared to Spain and the world that the condition of Cuba was a matter in which the United States had a vital interest and which could never be disregarded. To put it in the bold language of Edward Everett, “the Cuban question is purely an American one." 1 Especially is this true of that phase of the question which contemplated the transfer of the island to some more powerful and, perhaps, congenial European power than Spain, even if the object in view were the payment of debts which Spain could not otherwise hope to liquidate. It has been repeated by our Secretaries of State, and by Senators and members of Congress that the United
States could never suffer Cuba to pass into the hands of another European power. It has been often announced by our representatives abroad that any attempt on the part of Spain to transfer Cuba to another European power would be regarded by the United States as an act of war. And this could hardly be otherwise, for the situation of the island is such as to make its possession by other than Spain a double menace to our commerce and to our coasts. Such has been the interest of the United States in the island that during the war of 1868, an offer "of a large sum of money, or a guarantee of the Cuban debt, was made if Spain would declare the independence of the island. Later on, and during the same uprising, a threat of intervention was made by the United States.
Thus our policy as to Cuba and our foreign relations have taken shape. Whether they shall be modified, or what further shape they shall take, depends on a full understanding of the history of Cuba and of the attitude of the United States toward her, not in the line of selfishness, but in the interest of humanity and civilization.
Cuba remained faithful to Spain amid all those revolu. tions which swept away her South American possessions and made them Republics. True there were juntas there which had aided the Republics, and, as a compensation, Bolivar offered to pay off the debt by helping the island to obtain independence of Spain. He was persuaded to desist by this country for certain diplomatic reasons. Spain suspected the whole island of insincerity in her allegiance, and in 1825 transferred to the captain-general all the authority of the local governors. This was as
with the event began the history of Cuba's resistance to the sweeping and needless tyranny of Spain. Since then,
each revolutionary outbreak has become more desperate and formidable than the preceding one.
The march of these revolutions have been, in brief, the insurrection of 1826, resulting in the execution of the two leaders; the “ Conspiracy of the bald Eagles," quickly repressed, and the leaders, imprisoned, banished or executed; the exclusion of the Cuban and Porto-Ricom representatives from the Cortes in 1837, on the ground that i special laws were applicable to the islands; the expedi. tions under Quitman and others in 1855, where many leaders were executed and others banished.
Now many years elapsed during which the Cubans endeavored by peaceful means to secure from Spain relief from their oppression and wrongs. Every change that Spain could be induced to make was made for the worse. With the decadence of Spanish power the island became a more imposing part of empire. With the increase of Spanish debt, the island became a more necessary source of revenue. The tyranny that was at first natural on the part of Spain, became imperative as a means of squeezing every available dollar from patient and opulent subjects.
The revolution of 1868, under Cespedes, was inevitable. Years of oppression had pointed to it. Though it was limited to the eastern portion of the island, it lasted for ten years and was only brought to an end by a treaty in which Spain promised to the revolutionists the reforms for which they had taken up arms. Thus the revolutionists gained a moral victory, and one which crippled the already broken power of Spain. They laid down their arms, and kept their compact. But not so with Spain. The treaty with her was a mere pretext. She disregarded her pledges of amnesty in great part, and imprisoned or executed many who had been engaged in