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the insurgent cause. Her promised reforms were either withheld, or proposed and carried out in a spirit of mockery. They were of no value to the island in either political or commercial sense. If any result followed, it was to aggravate a strained situation by supplementing tyranny with treachery and bloodshed. In the Spanish attitude were all the seeds of further revolt, and the period from 1878 to 1895 was one of civic protest and warlike preparation.
The flames of revolution broke out anew in 1895, and under auspices far different from those of former outbursts. The feeling back of it was one of intense ani. mosity toward Spain on account of her broken pledges, manifest double dealing and bloody cruelty. It was a wider-spread and more unanimous feeling than ever before.
The quiet warlike preparations had brought to the front men of executive force and considerable military experi. ence. There was abroad a local spirit of amor patriæ, and a supreme confidence inspired by leadership and organization. There was little money, few arms and supplies, but it was felt these would come after a few successes along lines of matured military plan, and especially through the agency of that sympathy which was sure to be evoked in the bosoms of Cuban residents in the United States, and perhaps among all lovers of liberty and independence.
The first sound of arms was in 1895 when General Gomez landed 500 men on the extreme end of Cuba, near Santiago de Cuba. Around this nucleus gathered other forces under the lead of such men as Maceo. By rapid accretions the number swelled to 30,000, all fairly armed. The number could have readily been made 60,000 had arms been obtainable. The leaders wished to avoid the troubles and excesses incident to an untrained, unarmed rabble, hence they wisely organized and mobilized only those they could arm and render effective in the field.
The ten year rebellion of 1868-78 had been confined to the eastern part of the island. This localization, desirable in every sense on the part of Spain, was a serious drawback to the insurgents. It dwarfed operations and senti. ment respecting them. It prevented the spread of enthusiasm, and interfered with those coöperative uprisings the earlier insurgents had a right to expect. This upris. ing would avoid many of the errors of former ones. In a single year the Cuban army was marched from the east to the west of the island, through fruitful provinces, sources of the great wealth which Spain extracted from the island, and past the lines of Spanish soldiers thrown across the island to break the force of insurrection. Havana was encircled and repeatedly threatened. Her inland communications were often cut, and the sugar and tobacco plantations largely devastated. Spain augmented her armies in Cuba till a force of over 100,000 men was on the scene, yet the operations of the insurgents received no serious check. They passed and repassed the celebrated trocha, or armed trench across the island, with ease and without loss, always, of course, avoiding decisive battles for want of heavy artillery. In strategy they were more than a match for the Spaniards, and in their tactical delays, forays and surprises they proved more formidable than if they had sought successes through direct blows. They saw their foes harried and weakened at every point, exhausted by exertion here, mutinous for lack of food there, decimated by disease everywhere. Spain's best military talent was disconcerted, and could neither prepare nor deliver an ef. fective blow. Time, which was everything to Spain in her impoverished condition, was in complete control of the in
surgents, who lengthened it to suit themselves, and spread it out so as to mature their own plans, or till they witnessed the dissipation of offensive projects on the part of their foes. Spain held nothing securely by means of her armies, except her armed camps near seaports, and these latter were held by means of warships. In any liberal military sense the insurgents were possessors of the island, and could not be ousted. They had enjoyed a military success far beyond their most sanguine expectations.
Meanwhile, they had held two elections of national import to them, had set up a provisional government at a stated capital, and had drafted and adopted a constitution. Civic officers had been inaugurated and civic officers duly installed. Generals and minor army officers held their commissions by virture of regular constituted civic authority. Official life represented the two races on the island, white and black, the burden of civic affairs falling to the whites, the blacks being represented in the field by the two able Maceos and others. The seat of goverument was not stable. It could not be by virtue of circumstances, for it had to keep pace with the swift moving camps. Yet it was none the less a seat of government, always a desirable object of attack by the Spaniards, yet never captured.
What the insurgents lacked most, at the end of a year's fighting, was a seaport. This fact was urged against them by Spain and her friends in America in the arguments against a state of actual war on the island and the propriety of granting belligerent rights to the strug gling patriots. But they more than once proved their ability to capture seaports, as at Batabano. There was hardly a time when they were not confident of being able to capture any of the Spanish seaports. Their inability to hold them, however, through lack of heavy guns and
battle ships, made their possession undesirable. In reality there was no need for them. The minor ports were open, and but little difficulty was experienced in obtaining food and munitions of war from friends in other countries.
It is, of course, difficult to verify absolutely all the foregoing history. But it is such as is furnished to the world by the best authorities at command, to wit, disinterested travelers and correspondents, American consuls, and others. Spanish officials, by means of an imperious censorship, and even by resort to imprisonment of news gatherers, permitted no report to go out from the island except those colored to suit their interests. Yet it was submitted by the friends of Cuba in America that enough was surely known to make out a case on which the United States could securely stand, should it choose to grant belligerent rights to the Cubans.
As put by one publicist of note, the case historically resolved itself into this:
“ The island of Cuba, which lies but a short distance from our coast, is now again, after recurring revolutions and disorders extending over seventy years, the scene of a revolution more formidable and successful than any which has preceded it. American property in the island is being destroyed, and our commerce with Cuba is being ruined. The ablest and most humane general in Spain, who brought the previous insurrection to a close by judicious concessions, has been recalled, which is in itself a confession of failure,—and has been replaced by a man notorious for his ferocity and brutality. This new general, Weyler, has reverted to the methods of warfare employed by the Duke of Alva in the Netherlands three hundred years' ago, when the ruin of the Spanish Empire began ; which is very characteristic, for the Spaniards, although they learn nothing, have, unlike the Bourbons, forgotten many things. For many years it has been clear that Spain could not hold the island. If this war fails, it will be followed by another a few years hence. But it seems tolerably clear that Spain is unable to suppress this insurrection. She may complete the ruin of Cuba, but she cannot conquer the Cubans. The present war there. fore is as useless as it is bloody and savage."
It is reasonably clear, therefore, that our relationship of indifference toward the struggling Cubans, or which is the same thing, of favoritism toward Spain, must sooner or later give way to something more pronounced. Should that something be recognition of belligerent rights? It might well be such, argue those who are satisfied with the facts heretofore stated. Cuban belligerency was withheld during the ten years' struggle from 1868 to 1878. In this respect the United States did not copy Spain's haste to recognize the belligerency of the rebellious States of the Union, at a time within sixty days of the firing on Fort Sumter, and before word of any other combat of arms had reached her. The Cuban insurrection of 1895 went on a year, with the establishment of a government, with battles fought and victories won, with the island conquered except as to its port towns. Here then was a condition far more fully justifying a recognition of belligerency by the United States, than what Spain found in this country when she recognized the war status of the South in 1861.
Belligerency is at most a question of fact. It is not, and has never been, regarded by nations as an occasion for war. As a fact it is one wholly within the breasts of the nations asking and granting it. If the fact is clearly established, the granting nation may proclaim its determination, without right of question by any third nation.