« PreviousContinue »
two years the struggle has been universal --Cuban versus Spaniard— and even those colonials whom business interests have kept outwardly loyal to Spain are secretly favouring the revolution, and subscribing money to the cause. In the districts of Free Cuba every “ citizen' works for the general good, and a system that would obviously fail under ordinary conditions is a great success when prompted by the effusive patriotism existing among the Cubans. All live without rent or direct taxation, but all below the age of forty must work for the Republic, some as soldiers, but the majority on their farms to raise food for the army and for general consumption, or in the Government factories which turn out arms, passable ammunition, boots, saddles, household utensils, and necessary articles of farniture.
Each province has a civil governor, who appoints prefects to each district, and generally attends to the wants of the civil population. The prefects act as postmasters, and also collect the necessary supplies from the farmers, distributing necessary commodities in return. In Puerto Principe vast herds of cattle roam at large through the savannahs, and here the prefect attends also to the slaughter of cattle and distribution of meat in his district. Five newspapers are printed, and, indeed, the only want is clothes, which are very scarce, being imported in small quantities by the tiny blockade runner wbich has passed out weekly with the mail to Nassau and back for three years without capture. All disputes are settled by the civil governor, but the contestants can then appeal to the judge, and finally to the Government. Criminal cases, of which there are now few, are punished by sentence to various periods of labour in the salt mines of Cambote. Marriages were once solemnised by a priest who is attached to the Government. As the Pope refused to recognise them, they are now performed by the civil governor, the banns having to be posted in the prefecture for three weeks previously. Free postal service is also carried on by postillions, who ride each day from one prefecture to another, from whence the letters are distributed. Bellamy, indeed, might find a realisation of some at least of his ideals among these patriots, who anselfishly work, using as their motto “Todo por Cuba” (All for Cuba).
The Cuban army in the east—and it is the only insurgent force deserving that name—is commanded by General Calixto Garcia. He has 10,000 well-armed men, including all branches of the service. He has seventeen guns in his artillery-two dynamite cannon, the others Hotchkiss and old-fashioned nine-pounders. With these he has captured the strongly fortified cities of Guimaro, Baire, Victoria de las Tunas and Gaisa, and is practically master of the interior. Last January General Pando had mobilised 35,000 men to commence operations against Garcia, who hitherto had always had to force a fight. I was astonished to find the insurgent leader at such a time encamped
with only an escort of 200 men close to the enemy's lines, while the Caban forces remained in their various districts. He was waiting for the Imperial troops to finish their store of provisions, and he had neither men por ammunition to waste in fighting a pitched battle. At San Francisco he faced Generals Luque and Val de Ray and their united columns, 13,000 men in all. Even knowing Cuban tactics as I do, I admit I was alarmed for the result of such a combat. Behind a trinchera, or breastwork, half the tiny force was placed, with woods in rear to retreat to. The Imperial force kept up a continuous fire on this position, the bullets having no effect, while in the course of three-quarters of an hour's bombardment by a mule battery not once did the Spanish gunners bit their mark. The generals apparently feared a trap, for they made no attempt to rush the position, the officers preferring to stand in rear rather than to lead their m The Cuban flag waved defiantly, but even the cavalry did not charge, but rode round, hoping to make a surprise rash from behind while infantry were formed to attack both flapks. The operation was 60 slowly carried out that the remainder of the Cabans countermarched, and blazed away into the rear of the infantry, while the others relinquished their position and dashed to the woods with a derisive cry of Viva Cuba libre. They then poured out a hidden fire from various points in the wood into the reforming ranks of the baffled and enraged soldiery. The Cuban loss was one man, while the Spanish lost heavily, heliographing to Gibara for litters for the wounded, among whom was General Luque's son, fatally shot in the side. For several days the Spaniards marched slowly across open country toward Holguin ; and Garcia, having called up two regimente of negro infantry, harassed them night and day until they reached their destination. Such dodging tactics are questionable perhaps, but they are the only ones that succeed against so superior a force. In the six weeks of operations that followed, General Pando accomplished nothing with all his mobilisation of forces, and judging from the fact that Garcia neither called up his artillery, nor moved from the flat country surrounding Holguin and Jiguani, it is easy to see the impossibility of Spain pacifying Cuta by force. Away in the hilly districts of Santiago, where there are impregnable positions and large stores of vegetables, lay the bulk of the Cuban army, and the divisions south of the river Canto were not even requisitioned. I failed to perceive during the whole of these operations—the last Spain will probably carry out against the Cubans—that they were pressed in any degree or could not have quietly moved round the soldiers for months lodger in the same
Their loss was thirty-nine killed throughout the daily fights, and had they been forced back they had the hills to retreat to, from whence Spain could never expel them with her methode, if she requisitioned every man she had for the purpose. The military operations under General Blanco were no more effective than those of Weyler.
The explosion of the Maine in Havana caused intense excitement in the United States, and aroused the profoundest feelings of indignation against Spain in many quarters. In the absence of sufficient proof of official complicity, however, it could hardly be looked upon as a casus belli. The very fact that the Spanish cruiser Alphonso XIII. was anchored in the vicinity is strongly in favour of Spain. Those, however, who have seen the wreck cannot fail to be convinced that a great exterior force alone rent the battleship in such fashion. The most feasible theory is that the vessel was placed over a mine, to be used in case of necessity, and that either accident or the design of some fanatical Spanish officer set it off. But the present attitude of the United States is neither actuated by the loss of the Maine nor by sympathy with the revolutionists. Their intervention is a response to the despairing cry of the perishing innocents, the call for vengeance for the women and children who were done to death in thousands within seventy-two miles of the American shore. The war has been called a war of the newspapers, and truly so. There was in Washington & strong opposition to immediato intervention in Cuba; but by the marvellous enterprise of the proprietor of the New York Journal, who chartered & steam yacht and induced a commission formed from the opposition ranks of both Houses to make a tour of the island at his expense and see the actual state of affairs, the procrastinators were converted in a body. Though some still wished to avert war at almost any price, the cry of all parties and factions were unanimous—"This bloody work must cease!” The visiting commission were sickened and horrified at the sights they saw; hitherto they had believed the stories exaggerated, and trusted that there would be an improvement under the new régime, but even by a superficial inspection of the large cities the lurid trath was laid bare. The death from shock of the wife of Senator Thurston, who was stricken down apon viewing the reconcentrados at Sagua, and her dying message to American mothers concerning the horrors that had been too much for her naturally weak heart, stirred Americans as they were never stirred before. From every city, from every State
State arose “ Intervention immediately and at all costs." The outcome is already known.
In January last a resolution was passed by the insurgent government stating that, to save further loss of life, Spanish and Cuban, they were willing to pay to Spain an indemnity for immediate and absolute independence. Autonomy they rejected absolutely, and they were prepared to fight to the death should Spain reject their offer. Though the amount was not stated officially, the Cubans would have paid Spain from $150,000,000 to $200,000,000, according to the
terms arranged. Upou a copy of this last appeal being handed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Madrid, he threw it aside contemptuously, stating that “Spain's birthright was not to be sold for a mess of pottage." By the unmistakable attitude evinced then we obtain a glimpse of Spain's policy of heroics, which the unhappy country can neither justify nor sustain. It is now apparent that she must soon evacuate Cuba, and the question arises as to the future of the blood-sodden island. Annexation would hardly be consistent with the protestations of humanity only with which America answers those critics who charge her with land-grabbing, or with her disinterested attitude in the past, when she nobly tried to feed the reconcentrados without coming between Spain and the insurgents, and found it impossible to assist a tithe of the needy while the struggle continued. The Cubans in arms are also opposed to annexation, and, indeed, woald bitterly fight against it. Independence under the immediate protection of the United States will assuredly be the wisest policy, while the influx of British and American capital, the opening up of rich interior districts and the removal of certain proscriptive tariffs, which the Cubans will insist upon, will speedily assure a return of prosperity to the Pearl of the Antilles when secure government is established.
That the Cubans will form an ideal government I do not say ; but that the island will be better governed than other Spanish-American Republics is a foregone conclusion. The negro problem is not a difficult one.
The proportion of the coloured element is much less than in the Southern States, and the Caban negroes for the most part are an ignorant, indolent, happy-go-lucky race, not eleven years freed from slavery, and still greatly influenced by their former owners. The white Cuban of the small farming class is entirely uneducated, bat hospitable, honest, and frugal. In the scattered districts of the interior education has been beyond his reach. But it is in the planter class, the once wealthy sugar and tobacco growers, that the hope of Cuba lies. Lacking educational facilities in the island for many years past, all who could afford it sent their children to the United States schools and colleges. Here they have drunk in Anglo-Saxon ideals, and though bred at home in luxury and indolence, the war has taught them lessons that will be invaluable in the future. The Cuban is no longer a Spaniard. Reared under entirely different conditions, and its blood recruited by refugees from the French Revolution, by Americans, and by sons of Jamaican planters, chiefly of Scotch descent, who have settled and intermarried with the colonials, a new race has arisen, more refined and cultured, and perhaps more effeminate, than the swarthy bull-fighting sons of Spain, who swarm to Cuba for & season and retire to the Peninsula after a few years
toil. These Cubans have directed this struggle either actively or by secret help from the outside. Those in the cities formed the autonomy government under General Blanco, not because it was the realisation of their ideals, but to secure the gain of half-measures in case of failure to accomplish more, and were it politic to do so I could give abundant proof of aid furnished to the revolution by prominent autonomists both before and since the decrees were instituted. I have mixed freely with the peaceful Cubans of all classes, and though many deplore the revolution and its effects, they are unanimously in favour of freedom from Spain's brutal yoke in any shape or form. Under the direction of the United States it will not be the insurgents who will govern the island, but representatives elected by the voice of the Cuban people, and there are men of intelligence in plenty to fill the posts.
And, in closing, I would advise certain British detractors of the United States to study the question closely, and then ask who deserves our sympathy_Spain, the mediæval Power, who has ever floated civilisation, and whose name in history is a byword for brutality and treachery ; or the Americans, who are related to us by ties of blood and language. “ Lack of patience !” urge some.
“ Want of diplomacy !” cry others; but when we consider that for upwards of three years the war has been raging, while America's vital interests have suffered, and humanity has been daily outraged without official protest of the United States Government, the question arises whether too much patience has not been exercised. When hundreds are perishing with each week's delay, it is not the time to parley with questions of diplomacy, that were so unsuccessfully tried before the actual crisis.
G. C. MUSGRAVE,