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Mr. Webster to Mr. Irving.



Washington, March 14, 1843.

A reply to the confidential letter from this department, of 11th January, to the consul at Havana, a copy of which was sent to you in my despatch No. 11, has been received. From the reply, it would seem that as far as the consul knew or could obtain intelligence upon the subject from the authorities of the island and from other sources, the information which has been received here is, as was supposed, greatly exaggerated. Enough, however, of danger and alarm still exists in that quarter to render caution and vigilance, on the part of this government, indispensably necessary.

Mr. Upshur to Mr. Irving.



Washington, January 9, 1844.

The delicate nature of our relations with Spain in regard to the island of Cuba, taken in connexion with the supposed designs of another power upon that territory, renders it necessary that this government should exercise a sleepless vigilance in watching over the rights of Spain in that quarter, in a matter that so nearly concerns her own interests and security. You will, therefore, lose no time in endeavoring to ascertain the present views and feelings of the Spanish government upon this important point, and communicate to your own all the information you can obtain in regard to it. It is necessary that Spain should be duly impressed with the importance of such a crisis as late events have led this government to apprehend as altogether probable and near at hand, and it is still more necessary that this government should be prepared to act with a perfect understanding of the whole subject with reference to its own safety and interests. In the event that Spain shall so far yield to the pressure upon her as to concede to Great Britcontrol over Cuba, the fact will necessarily have an important influence over the policy of this government. It is difficult to give you any positive instructions upon this subject, and you are therefore left to your own discretion as to what you shall say, and to whom. It may be advisable to confer confidentially with some of the friends of the Chevalier D'Argaiz, who are represented to have influence, and to whom, therefore, it may be politic to impart the feelings and wishes of this government on the occasion. My only object is to obtain full and accurate information in regard to every movement which England may make with reference to Cuba, whether designed to obtain a transfer of that island to herself, or to obtain a control over the policy of Spain in regard to it, or to affect the institution of African slavery now existing

ain any

there. The modes in which you may acquire this information are submitted to your discretion.

I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,


Mr. Buchanan to Mr. Saunders.



Washington, February 4, 1847.

The enclosed paper, marked "extract," is a copy of one received from Mr. Yulee, Senator from Florida, who states certain particulars in regard to the writer of the letter from which the "extract" is made, showing that he has enjoyed very peculiar opportunities for becoming well informed upon the subject. Mr. Yulee says, in conclusion, that he is "of opinion that the information he gives is deserving the attention of this government." It would seem scarcely within the bounds of possibility, that any consideration which could possibly be offered by Spain could operate as an effectual inducement with Great Britain to relinquish Gibraltar. A knowledge of the views of Mr. Yulee's correspondent, even although they should be erroneous in this particular, may, however, prove useful to you.

I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,


Mr. Buchanan to Mr. Saunders.


[No. 21.]


Washington, June 17, 1848.

SIR By direction of the President, I now call your attention to the present condition and future prospects of Cuba. The fate of this island must ever be deeply interesting to the people of the United States. We are content that it shall continue to be a colony of Spain. Whilst in her possession we have nothing to apprehend. Besides, we are bound to her by the ties of ancient friendship, and we sincerely desire to render these perpetual.


But we can never consent that this island shall become a colony of any other European power. In the possession of Great Britain, or any strong naval power, it might prove ruinous both to our domestic and foreign commerce, and even endanger the union of the States. highest and first duty of every independent nation is to provide for its own safety; and, acting upon this principle, we should be compelled to resist the acquisition of Cuba by any powerful maritime State, with all the means which Providence has placed at our command.

Cuba is almost within sight of the coast of Florida, situated between that State and the peninsula of Yucatan, and possessing the deep, capacious and impregnably fortified harbor of the Havana. If this island were under the dominion of Great Britain, she could command both the inlets to the Gulf of Mexico. She would thus be enabled, in time of war, effectively to blockade the mouth of the Mississippi, and to deprive all the western States of this Union, as well as those within the gulf, teeming as they are with an industrious and enterprising population, of a foreign market for their immense productions. But this is not the worst: she could also destroy the commerce by sea between our ports on the gulf and our Atlantic ports, a commerce of nearly as great a value as the whole of our foreign trade. Is there any reason to believe that Great Britain desires to acquire the island of Cuba? We know that it has been her uniform policy, throughout her past history, to seize upon every valuable commercial point throughout the world, whenever circumstances have placed this in her power. And what point so valuable as the island of Cuba?

The United States are the chief commercial rival of Great Britain; our tonnage at the present moment is nearly equal to hers, and it will be greater, within a brief period, if nothing should occur to arrest our progress. Of what vast importance would it, then, be to her to obtain the possession of an island from which she could at any time destroy a very large portion both of our foreign and coasting trade? Besides, she well knows that if Cuba were in our possession, her West India islands would be rendered comparatively valueless. From the extent and fertility of this island, and from the energy and industry of our people, we should soon be able to supply the markets of the world with tropical productions, at a cheaper rate than these could be raised in any of her possessions.

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If Cuba were an

But let me present another view of the subject. nexed to the United States, we should not only be relieved from the apprehensions which we can never cease to feel for our own safety and the security of our commerce, whilst it shall remain in its present condition, but human foresight cannot anticipate the beneficial consequences which would result to every portion of our Union.

This can never become a local question. With suitable fortifications at the Tortugas, and in possession of the strongly fortified harbor of Havana as a naval station on the opposite coast of Cuba, we could command the outlet of the Gulf of Mexico, between the peninsula of Florida and that island. This would afford ample security both to the foreign and coasting trade of the western and southern States, which seek a market for their surplus productions through the ports on the gulf.

2. Under the government of the United States, Cuba would become the richest and most fertile island, of the same extent, throughout the world. According to McGregor's Commercial Regulations and his Commercial Statistics, "in 1830, of the 468,523 caballerias of thirtytwo English acres of land, which compose the whole territory, 38,276 were under sugar, coffee, tobacco, garden and fruit cultivation, and 9,734 in grazing grounds and in unfelled woods, belonging to sugar

and coffee estates." It thus appears that in 1830 less than one-twelfth of the whole island was under cultivation. The same author says: "We have no accounts of the present extent of cultivation in Cuba; but by comparing the value of exportable produce of 1830 with that of 1842, and by various estimates, we consider it probable that the lands under sugar, coffee, tobacco and gardens, may fairly be estimated at 54,000 caballeras, or 1,728,000 acres." According to this estimate, between one-eighth and one-ninth, only, of the whole island, was under cultivation in 1842. The author proceeds: "If we compare this extent with the remaining vast area of the fertile soils of Cuba which are still uncultivated, and the produce which the whole island at present yields, it can scarcely be an exaggeration to say that Europe might draw as much coffee and sugar from Cuba alone as the quantity already consumed." Mr. McGregor states the aggregate population of Cuba in the year 1841 to have been only 1,007,624; but from the data which have just been presented, it may fairly be inferred that the island is capable of sustaining in comfort a population of ten millions of inhabitants. Were Cuba a portion of the United States, it would be difficult to estimate the amount of breadstuffs, rice, cotton, and other agricultural as well as manufacturing and mechanical productions; of lumber, of the produce of our fisheries, and of other articles which would find a market in that island, in exchange for their coffee, sugar, tobacco, and other productions. This would go on increasing with the increase of its population and the development of its resources, and all portions of the Union would be benefited by the trade.

Desirable, however, as the possession of this island may be to the United States, we would not acquire it except by the free will of Spain. Any acquisition not sanctioned by justice and honor, would be too dearly purchased. While such is the determination of the President, it is supposed that the present relations between Cuba and Spain might incline the Spanish government to cede the island to the United States, upon the payment of a fair and full consideration. We have received information from various sources, both official and unofficial, that among the creoles of Cuba there has long existed a deep-rooted hostility to Spanish dominion. The revolutions which are rapidly succeeding each other throughout the world, have inspired the Cubans with an ardent and irrepressible desire to achieve their independence. Indeed, we are informed by the consul of the United States at the Havana, that "there appears every probability that the island will soon be in a state of civil war.' He also states that "efforts are now being made to raise money for that purpose in the United States, and there will be attempts to induce a few of the volunteer regiments now in Mexico to obtain their discharge and join in the revolution."

I need scarcely inform you that the government of the United States has had no agency whatever in exciting the spirit of disaffection among the Cubans. Very far from it. A short time after we received this information from our consul, I addressed a despatch to him, of which I transmit you a copy, dated on the 9th instant, from which you will perceive that I have warned him to keep a watchful guard both upon his words and actions, so as to avoid even the least suspicion that he had

encouraged the Cubans to rise in insurrection against the Spanish government. I stated also that the relations between Spain and the United States had long been of the most friendly character, and both honor and duty required that we should take no part in the struggle which he seemed to think was impending. I informed him that it would certainly become the duty of this government to use all proper means to prevent any of our volunteer regiments now in Mexico from violating the neutrality of the country by joining in the proposed civil war of the Cubans against Spain. Since the date of my despatch to him, this duty has been performed. The Secretary of War, by command of the President, on the day following, (June 10,) addressed an order to our commanding general in Mexico, and also to the officer having charge of the embarcation of our troops at Vera Cruz, (of which I transmit you a copy,) directing each of them to use all proper measures to counteract any such plan if one should be on foot, and instructing them "to give orders that the transports on which the troops may embark proceed directly to the United States, and in no event to touch at any place in Cuba." The consul, in his despatch to me, also stated that, if the revolution is attempted and succeeds, immediate application would be made to the United States for annexation; but he did not seem to think that it would be successful, and probably would not be undertaken without the aid of American troops. To this portion of the despatch I replied-knowing the ardent desire of the Cubans to be annexed to our Union-that I thought it would not be "difficult to predict that an unsuccessful rising would delay, if it should not defeat, the annexation of the island to the United States," and I assured him that the aid of our volunteer troops could not be obtained.

Thus you will perceive with what scrupulous fidelity we have performed the duties of neutrality and friendship towards Spain. It is our anxious hope that a rising may not be attempted in Cuba; but if this should unfortunately occur, the government of the United States will have performed their whole duty towards a friendly power.

Should the government of Spain feel disposed to part with the island of Cuba, the question, what should we offer for it? would then arise. In deciding this question, it will be important to ascertain, 1st. What net revenue it yields at the present moment to the royal treasury, after deducting all the expenditure incurred on its account; and, 2d. What net revenue would it yield to the government of the United States in its present condition?

The first inquiry I have no means of answering with accuracy. McCulloch, in his Gazetteer, states "that the whole revenues of the island, at an average of the five years ending with 1837, amounted to $8,945,581 per year ;" and it is stated in Hunt's Merchants' Magazine for October, 1845, that the revenue for the year 1844 amounted to $10,490,252 872. Since 1844 we have no information on the subject in the department, upon which reliance can be placed. Mr. Calderon informs me that the Spanish treasury at Madrid have never received from Cuba in any one year a sum exceeding $2,000,000. In answer to an inquiry, how the remainder of the revenue was expended, he stated that it was appropriated to defray the expense of its colonial government, and to pay and

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