General Sickles to Mr. Fish.
Madrid , November 24, 1872. (Received December 11.)
Sir: Among the acts recently passed by the Spanish Congress is one for calling into military service by conscription forty thousand men. Although the army and navy of this country have been heretofore filled up in the same way, the measure this year provoked unusual opposition in the Cortes, and much difficulty is apprehended in its execution. The republican deputies, after a prolonged contest over the bill in its progress through both houses, all voted against it, and now it is said that notwithstanding the prudent counsels of the leaders of that party, armed resistance to its enforcement will be offered in several provinces by an irreconcilable element of the republican rank and file. Lieutenant-General Contreras, of the Spanish army, has left his seat in the senate, it is reported, to put himself at the head of the malcontents in Andalusia, and already a respectable force has joined his standard, who have interrupted the railroad communication with Seville by destroying the important bridge at Vilches.
A general convention of delegates appointed by the town organizations of the republicans throughout Spain is now sitting in Madrid, for the purpose, among other things, of expressing the views of the party upon the action of the executive committee, or “directory,” as it is called, in advising their partisans against any armed demonstration at this time against either the established authorities or the particular act in question. The impatience, if not the dissent, of the masses is shown by the failure of many localities to appoint delegates to this convention, and also by the hostile attitude shown on the part of some of the delegates present; and several of the republican journals go so far as to advise their readers to seize the occasion presented by the execution of the conscription act for a serious attempt to overturn the monarchy. It cannot, however, be apprehended that public order will be seriously shaken in view of the firm attitude of Castelar, Figueras, Pi y Margall, and Orense, the recognized chiefs of the Spanish republicans, sustained as they are by a majority of the convention and several able newspapers representing their opinions.
The moment, however, is by no means without importance, when considered in conjunction with the persevering stand made by the Carlists in Catalonia, one of the richest and most populous principalities in Spain, and where the forces of the pretender have for several months kept the field against all the troops it has been possible for the government [Page 829] to spare for operations in that quarter. With a stubborn insurrection on its hands in Spain, demanding the utmost exertions of the army, and another in Cuba for which large re-enforcements are needed, anything like a formidable republican rising might seriously cripple the means at the disposal of the government to deal with either. In any event it must be late in the winter before any considerable re-enforcements can be available for operations in Cuba.
You will be gratified to learn that in the regulations issued for recruiting the army of Cuba the secretary of war has prohibited the enlistment of criminals for that service. This tardy concession to our remonstrances is perhaps to be regarded as a fresh proof of the desire of the present cabinet to avoid any misunderstanding with the United States.
I have reason to believe that the appointment of Lieuteuant-General Cordova, now secretary of war, to be captain-general of Cuba, is again under consideration.
I am, &c.,