No. 365.
General Sickles to Mr. Fish.

No. 509.]

Sir: I have the honor to forward herewith a translation of a report of a meeting of the leading personages belonging to the several reactionary parties and groups opposing the present cabinet, held for the purpose of organizing a league to defeat the measures of colonial reform announced by His Majesty’s government.

Carlists, Alfonsinos, conservative constitutionalists, moderadors, colonial clubs, and a person calling himself a republican, a Mr. Eugenio Garcia Ruiz, made up this remarkable assemblage. You will be surprised, perhaps, to notice among the prominent actors on the occasion the Duke de la Torre, Admiral Topeté, Mr. Sagasta, Romero Robledo, Mr. Ayala, Mr. Balaguer, and others, who, as members of previous cabinets, have heretofore declared themselves in favor of the action now taken by Mr. Zorilla’s administration respecting colonial reform. In Appendix C you will find a leading article from El Impartial, containing abundant proof of this inconsistency. Marshal Serrano was at the head of the cabinet in May, 1871. The policy of his administration in relation to colonial reform, as indicated in the speech from the throne, and in the address of the chamber of deputies, is not distinguishable from that now being carried out by Mr. Zorrilla. Eighty-six conservative deputies, whose names are italicized in Appendix D, then voted for the address, which contained a distinct pledge to concede political rights to Porto Rico, and acknowledged that the war in Cuba was the result of past colonial misrule.

And apart from the statements made to me by Marshal Serrano on his [Page 836] again taking office last June, I am informed by Mr. Layard that the duke then assured him that it was the purpose of the government to proceed at once with administrative and political reforms in Porto Rico, including the abolition of slavery-and in reply to the inquiry of the British minister, whether he might communicate the conversation to his government, the president of the council of ministers distinctly authorized him to do so. Although the brief episode of office of that cabinet (June, 1872) rendered action on any question impossible, these repeated affirmations increase the astonishment with which one must regard the present attitude of Marshal Serrano and his supporters. It may well be anticipated that a “league,” comprising many influential members, and controlling numerous effective agencies, will seriously embarrass the government in the execution of its plans. The league has already secured the support of two-thirds of the newspapers of the capital, and a large proportion of the provincial journals. By means of co-operative societies in the principal manufacturing and agricultural provinces, the pro-slavery league will appear to the classes who enjoy a monopoly of the colonial trade nor is it easy to estimate the effect of an exhaustive effort to arouse Spanish national pride by the assertion so persistently made that the concession of self-government to the colonies invoke the loss of the last of their American possessions, and the irretrievable depreciation of Spanish power.

The Spanish element in both islands is relatively small. Local governments, depending on popular suffrage, would be in the hands of the Creoles. The old system of arbitrary rule, confining the administration to the hands of employés sent from the peninsula, and diverting the resources of the island wholly toward Spanish channels, once replaced by a more just and conciliatory policy, might be fatal to vast interests that have grown into being with the generations that have profited by despotism and servitude in Cuba and Porto Rico.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure B.—Translation.—From El Debate, December 14, 1872.]

Organization of a league of defenders of the national integrity.—Reported proceedings of the Spanish and Colonial Club on the afternoon of December 14, 1872.

We have just witnessed the most imposing spectacle ever seen, in Spain. In view of the terrible dangers that threaten the national integrity in the colonies, through the reckless projects of reform which the government has already begun to execute, all parties and all Spaniards have rallied, as in 1803, at the country’s cry, to form a strong and powerful league, whereby to check the power of fillibusterism and save the integrity of the nation.

The most important public men in Spain assembled to-day at half past two o’clock in the rooms of the Spanish Colonial Club of Madrid. The meeting was opened by the Marquis of Manzanedo, the president of the club. He made a statement of all that had been done up to that moment to prevent the government from following out the baneful path it has undertaken, and concluded by saying that all had unfortunately been in vain, and that the government was obdurate in its resolve to ruin the country.

Mr. Duran y Cuervo said that reforms would in fact effectively terminate the Cuban insurrection, as Mr. Zorrilla had remarked to the press delegation, but that they would do so by destroying our power in America, since these reforms are even more than autonomy, and naturally, if they are given to the insurgents in arms to-morrow, and the island with them, the rebel hosts would to-day lay down their arms. He proposed that a league of all parties should be formed, a formidable coalition, naming an executive committee, in which all should be represented, so as to work in unison in defense of the national flag.

Mr. Romero Robledo stated that the hour for action had come. Something must [Page 837] be done to confront the government with a powerful resistance, in order to avoid the loss of the Antilles. The crisis is terrible; never has the country been in greater danger; it is absolutely necessary to sacrifice life and treasure, as the Spaniards beyond the seas are doing; to dare all, or to turn aside and weep like women over the shame of Spain.

But when he beheld all parties united there, he realized that all Spaniards were resolved to sell dearly the honor and dignity of the nation, since it was not an electoral coalition that was proposed, but the salvation of the holy cause of their country.

He proposed that a unanimous protest should be signed by all who were there pre sent, and, seconding what Mr. Duran had said, he added: “Shall we permit it to be said to the insurgents, ground your arms to-day, for in two months’ time independence will be given to you with reforms? Shall we consent to the cowardly and miserable surrender of the island of Cuba to our enemies? Are not our volunteers and our soldiers dying there? What do we fear? Do we perchance dread the calumnies of the government, or that it may exile us or take away our lives? What are these compared with the defense of our country, with the interests of all our towns, now spectators of their own ruin, and with the dishonor which awaits us?”

Mr. Vildósola rose to say that those who to-day demand the dismemberment of the territory scarcely numbered a dozen men; that they were not even the whole government; that they only formed half the government, and “shall we submit to the rule,” he added. “Shall we allow all Spain to be shamed by four or five adventurers?* The representatives of all Spain are here; let us decide on a course that will save her!”

General Caballero de Rodas then spoke, and said a member of a cabinet, of which Mr. Zorrilla formed part, had proposed the sale of Cuba, which now was about to be covertly given away; and that then, as always, he was ready to raise against it, having recourse even to rebellion in order to prevent it.

The Duque de la Torre (General Serrano) stated that he was of Mr. Duran’s opinion, that a junta should be formed of all parties, for the purpose of saving the national integrity.

Mr. Carramolina said that the banner of his party had for its fundamental motto the same as that of all truly Spanish parties, the motto of the integrity of the nation.

Admiral Topeté stated that he had formed part of the government to which General Caballero de Rodas had alluded; but Mr. Caballero did not allow him to conclude his remarks, observing that Mr. Topeté was a good Spaniard, and incapable of ever imagining such a treason; that he alluded to somebody else.

Mr. Moyano said that a union of all parties ought to be able to save the country now menaced with death, and, like the Duke de la Torre, he was of the opinion that a league of all parties should be formed for that purpose.

Mr. Estéban Collantes stated that the Palencia committee was composed of a republican, a radical, an Alfonsist, a constitutionalist, and a Carlist, all united to save the national integrity.

(Mr. Sagasta and Mr. Ayala here entered the saloon.)

General Sanz said that he agreed with the Duke de la Torre, that a league of all parties should be formed to save the flag of Spain in the colonies.

Mr. Reinoso, a representative of the industry, the commerce, and the agriculture of the province of Valladolid, added that he was of the opinion that, putting all politica differences aside, all parties should unite to save the honor and the integrity of the nation.

The Marquis of Manzanedo summed up the debate, stating that as all present were agreed upon one course, the occasion had arrived for designating the persons who were to form the national league for the defense of the integrity of Spain in the colonies, and that the individuals of each party present should retire and deliberate separately in order to name its representatives.

This was then done, and in a short time the committee was organized in the following form:

Mr. Canovas’s society.—Messrs. Caballeros de Rodas, Salaverria y Canovas del Castillo.

The Moderado Club.—The Count de Toreno, General San Roman, and Mr. Trupita.

The junta of the old Conservative Club.—Mr. Moyano, Don Fernando Alvarez, and Don Domingo Moreno.

The Constitutional Club.—Messrs. Topete, Ayala, Segasta, and Belaguer.

The Carlist Club.—The Count de Cauga, Arguelles, and Messrs. Vildósola and Echevarria.

Republicans.Don Eugenio Garcia Riez, and two other gentlemen whose names we do not recall.

The Spanish and Colonial Club of Madrid.—For the club and representatives of the industry, agriculture, and commerce of Seville, Don Domingo Dominquez. For the ditto, ditto, ditto, of Santander, Don Manuel Corral. For the ditto of Bilbao, Mr. Hurtado. For the ditto of Valencia, Mr. Santos. For the ditto of Palencia, Mr. Estéban [Page 838] Collantes. For the ditto of Valladolid, Mr. Reinoso. For the ditto of Cadiz, Don Vicente Cagigas. For the ditto of Saragossa, Don Justo Zaragoza. For the ditto of Porto Rico, Don Francisco Amell. For the ditto of Cuba, Don Juan Alés.

It was agreed to invite all the remaining societies in Spain who have not yet been able to send representatives to Madrid, as was the Spanish and Colonial Club, and the representatives of the agriculture, industry, and commerce of Barcelona, who will arrive to-morrow, to name a representative in this league.

Mr. Romero Robledo was also named a member by acclamation.

The Marquis of Manzanedo asked for a vote of absolute confidence and unconditional approbation for all that maybe done by the committee just named, for the purpose of defending in every field and by every means the integrity of the country; and this was carried by acclamation.

In this manner the patriotic reunion was brought to a close, all parties being united in one single band, imposed by love of country to form.

la siga defensors de la integridad nacional.

[Inclosure D.—Translation.]

then and now.

In the session of the chamber of deputies, of May 24, 1871, the report of the committee on the reply to the speech from the throne was read; and in it occur the following words with reference to colonial reforms:

“The civil war that to-day rages in Cuba is a fatal legacy of the old régime under which rancorous passions fermented and prepared the way for an outburst; but the congress of deputies shares with Your Majesty the hope that it may be speedily terminated. The firmness of the government, the patriotism, valor, and endurance of the navy, the army, and the volunteers, the skill of their chiefs, and the continued earnestness of the whole nation, will all contribute to this end, when joined to the conviction that must at last reach the minds of the rebels that by their submission they will attain liberties they seek in vain to win by force. The resort to this only hinders the fulfillment of the promises of the revolution, the complete realization of which will doubtless not be much longer deferred, as Congress, in the other great Spanish Antilla, where peace has not been disturbed, and where the full enjoyment of political rights and the abolition of slavery cannot exert a disturbing influence.”

This report was signed by Messrs. Nicolas Maria Rivero, chairman; Francisco Romero Robledo, Gabriel Rodrigues Tomas Maria Mosquera, José Abascal, and Juan Valera, secretary.

It was fully discussed, and during the course of the debate, which terminated on the 23d of June without any modification of the report, it occurred to none of those who to-day maintain with such ardor the necessity of employing all means, and even force, to prevent the fulfillment of those promises in the provinces where the government acting with the utmost prudence, believed that they could be realized to make the slightest objection, on the ground of the fears that now assail them.

An amendment, of Messrs. Cánovas del Castillo, Ardanas, Alvarez, Bugallal, Elduayen, Fabié, Estrada, and Don Francisco Silvela, contained among other proposals the following:

“The Cortes, while awaiting that happy event, (the submission of the rebels,) will give mature consideration to such measures as may be presented to them for bettering the political administrative and economical situation of our provinces beyond the seas.”

This amendment which did not even express the sacredness of the system of statu quo, now defended, was withdrawn by Mr. Fabié, who before doing so asked several explanations of the government, to which Mr. Ayala, the colonial minister, replied that the paragraph of the address referring to the affairs of his department afforded no motive for alarm of any kind, and was accepted by all.

As far as the reported address is concerned, it should be remembered that during the whole course of the debate thereon, the proposition of the committee with respect to colonial reforms was in no manner whatever impugned by the conservatives.

The Carlists and Moderados alone denied that the Cuban war was “a fatal legacy of the old régime,” and, as we have said, after long and patriotic speeches the address was put to the vote, and approved in the exact form proposed by the committee. The following gentlemen voted in its favor:

Ferratges, Rios y Portilla, Don Praxedes Sagasta, Don Cristino Martos, Dou Agusto Ulloa, Lopez Ayala, Beranger, Moret, Alvareda, Galvez Canero, Belanguer, Topete, Pastor y Landero, Rozas, Sastre y Gonzales, Mansi, Don Joaquin Garrido, Vidal y Lopez, Peris y Valero, [Page 839] Navarro y Rodrigo, Prieto, Palan, Miranda, Don Vicente Rodriguez, Soriano Plasent, Crespo, Serrano Bedoya, Fernandez de la Hoz, Ruiz Gomez, Rivera, Candan, Soto, Merelo, Palacios, Montero de Espinosa, Rivero, Nunez de Valaseo, Sainz de Rozas, Sequera, Dan Pedro Sagasta, Gamazo, Muniz, Ramos Calderon, Mozeno Benitez, Camacho, Escoriaza, Muños, Vargas, Romero Giron, Don Gabriel Rodriguez, Villavicencio, Val-buena, Gasset y Artime, Gallego Diaz, Higuera, Andrés Moreno, Ruiz Huidobro, Gomez Arostegui, Muños Herrera, Don Luis Angulo, Don Joaquin Banon, Rojo Arias, Abellan, Carraseo, Anglada, Don Francisco Banon, Navarro y Ochoteeo, Sinnés, Orozeo, Zurita, Bobillo, Miguel y Debesa, Bermudez, Don Cayo Lopez, Nuet, Fabra, Fernandez de las Cuevas, Don Gaspar Rodriguez, Don Juan Valera, Don José Maria Valera, Romero Robledo, Mosquera, Moya, Acuña, Peñuelas, Conde de Agramonte, Perez Zamora, Martinez Perez, Patxot, Cruzada Villaamil, Don Vanancio Gonzales, Reig, Ruiz Capdepon, De Blas, Lafitte, Merelles, Fernandez Muños, Barrenechea, Alonso, Herrero, Tijada, Don Enrique Martos, Zabalza, Morales Diaz, Marcias Acosta, Muños de Sepulveda, Montesino, Don Eugenio Montero Rios, Don José Maria Chacon, Gomis, Nunez de Arce, Alcaraz, Montero y Guijarro, Fandos, Don Castor Garcia, Brú, Lopez Guljarro, Don Candido Martinez, Leon y Castillo, Martinez Bárcia, Marques de Sardoal, Duque de Veragua, Hernandez Lopez, Arias y Giner, Lasala, Don Ricardo Chacon, Becerra, Mata, Don Santiago Angulo, Pellon y Rodriguez, La Ordan, Gonzales Zorrilla, Sans y Gorrea, Cardenal, Burell, Damato, Vicens Pinol, Alcalá Zamora, Lafuente, Robledo Cheea, Roger, Pasaron y Lastra, Don Patricio Pereda, Alonso Colmenares, Gullon, Labra, Loring, Sanlate, Diegues Amoeiro, Abascal, Don Juan de la Cruz Martinez, Garcia Gomez, Henao y Muños, Alareon Lujan, Terrero, Moreno Nieto, Shelly, Conde de Villaneva, de Per ales, Avila, Ruano, Saavedra, Marquéz de Camarena, Ibarrola, Serrano Dominquez, the vice-president, Herrera.

Total 164, of which 85 were conservatives, as has since appeared, and to-day defend the opposite of what they voted for, and 79 radicals, who are now simply fulfilling what they then offered to do.

It is therefore demonstrated, and demonstrated to conviction, by a simple reading of the foregoing extracts, that the conservatives of to-day do not follow the same conduct or defend the same principles touching the concrete question of the colonies, as they followed and defended in the months of May and June, 1871.

The conservatives therefore combat the radical policy on this point, not from love of integrity and nationality, which all of us have defended while following our own course as radicals, but purely and simply for the convenience of their system of opposition à l’outrance.

It is indispensable to clear up this matter thoroughly, so that there shall not exist the least doubt about it, in order that all the world may know and comprehend how much truth is at the bottom of this attitude which seeks to stir up feeling against the present ministry.

Either one of two things. Either the conservatives draughted, voted, and sustained; the paragraph from the address which we have quoted because they thought it laid down the most patriotic course in the colonies, or they prepared it, voted for it and defended it believing the contrary, and secretly resolving not to put it in practice.

If they were inspired by the latter idea, it is not for us but for them to say so, for in spite of all that they have done and said, we do not believe them capable of so dishonorable a proceeding, which, to quote their own language, would be an allowable falsehood, (mentira licita,) and then to justify a profitable fraud (supercheria provechosa) to-day.

  1. Desgraciados.