Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 1, 1873
General Sickles to Mr. Fish.
Madrid , January 19, 1873. (Received February 12.)
Sir: The cabinet crisis foreshadowed in my Ho. 490 happened sooner than was anticipated. Mr. Bugallal, a conservative deputy, alarmed by the current rumors respecting colonial reforms, took occasion, in the sitting of the 18th ultimo, to demand an explanation of the views of ministers. The reply of the president of the council was unexpectedly frank and positive in its announcement of a new colonial policy. Mr. Becerra, colonial minister in 1869, and one of the advanced radicals in the chamber, immediately offered a resolution indorsing the programme of the government. After an animated and interesting debate, the motion was “taken into consideration” by the decisive vote of 182 ayes and 7 noes. Appendix A furnishes a translation of the salient points in the speeches of Mr. Bngallal, the president of the council, and Mr. Becerra. Appendix B contains the report of the proceedings, as published in the official gazette.
The announcement of a new colonial policy to be initiated in Porto Rico, embracing the immediate abolition of slavery, municipal liberty, and qualified provincial autonomy, quickly followed by an emphatic indorsement of the programme in the popular branches of Congress, presented the contingency for which I had been prepared by the intimations of the minister of state. Mr. Gasset y Artime, minister of ultramar, and Mr. Ruiz Gomez, secretary of the treasury, at once resigned. General Cordova retains the portfolio of the war department temporarily, in view of the Carlist insurrection and the pending bill for the re-organization of the army, it being understood that he dissents from certain features of the new colonial programme, and may retire at a later day. Mr. Echegaray is transferred from public works to the treasury; Mr. Mosquera, one of the vice-presidents of the chamber, goes into the colonial office; and Mr. Becerra replaces Mr. Echegaray.
Congress having, in compliance with custom, suspended business pending the re-organization of the cabinet, the tribunes were crowded on the re-assembling of the chambers on the evening of the 20th, when it was expected that Mr. Zorilla would make the usual official statement. It happened, however, that when the new cabinet made its appearance, as a matter of form, in the senate before repairing to the lower house, Mr. Cervera, a republican senator, cleverly seized the occasion to obtain an expression from his colleagues with reference to the new colonial policy. The president of the council had no sooner taken his seat on the “blue bench,” occupied by ministers, than he was drawn into a discussion involving an exposition of the plans of the cabinet, as now organized. Mr. Suarez Inclán, a pronounced and somewhat impetuous partisan of the old régime, vehemently assailed the new departure in colonial affairs. His effort to inflame the Spanish heart by suggestions of foreign influence brought out the minister of state, whose speech you will find worth perusal. The debate was continued by the Marquis of Barzanallana and Mr. Mosquera, the colonial minister. Hereupon Mr. Cervera, in behalf of his republican associates, offered a resolution approving the declarations of the government, significantly adding, “we scarcely venture to applaud them, for we are not content with so little and seek to go much further.” Mr. Calderon Collantes, a distinguished figure in the anti-dynastic opposition, endeavored to prevent a vote as inopportune, after “so [Page 846] stormy and indecorous a session.” He said, “all parties felt that the future of the country and the honor of the nation were involved.” The senate was, however, in no mood for delay, and after brief addresses from Mr. Rojo Arias and Mr. Cervera the resolution was adopted, 51 to 5. A translation of this debate will be found in Appendix C, and the original text, clipped from the official gazette, is contained in Appendix D.
In the chamber of deputies, the president of the council of ministers having explained the causes of this crisis, and the nature of the questions out of which it arose, the debate was continued on Mr. Becerra’s vote of confidence proposed on the 17th (Appendix E.) Mr. Estéban Collantes, brother of the senator, and General Gaudara, formerly captain-general of San Domingo, opposed the proposition in speeches of considerable power. If you do not find much that is new in their arguments, it may be useful to peruse the most that two able men could oppose to the enlightened and judicious policy of reform. These conservative leaders were effectively answered by Mr. Ramos Calderon and the minister of public works, Mr. Becerra, the mover of the proposition under consideration, and who had been called into the cabinet after the preliminary vote of the 17th.
You will observe that Mr. Estéban Collantes, in the chamber of deputies, ingeniously quoted some of the remarks of Mr. Martos, as reported in my No. 34, to show that colonial reforms are dangerous and impracticable in Cuba; he denounced the municipal law, because in permitting foreigners to vote it might happen that the Antilles would be lost through universal suffrage; it besides permitted the local authorities to impose duties on articles of consumption, and this would ruin the commerce of Castile and Catalonia; and he maintained that loyal Spaniards in Cuba did not Want reforms; only traitors demanded them, to whom no concessions should be made.
Mr. Becerra’s reply was cogent, but I regretted to hear the new minister affirm, as his personal opinion, that “a dictatorship would be the best means of ending the war speedily.”
Mr. Calderon put the argument on commanding ground. He said no advantage could justify prolonging the servitude of those whose freedom had been proclaimed that night by the president of the council. Every man on Spanish soil was entitled to the liberty guaranteed by the Spanish constitution. Now, even the loyal white men of Porto Rico were free everywhere except at home in their own native island. The radical party was bound to see that all Spaniards, white and black, colonial and peninsular, stood free and equal before the law.
The debate was adjourned at half past two in the morning. This day’s proceedings will be found in English in Appendix E. The Spanish text is in Appendix F.
Resumed at the same hour on the afternoon of the 21st, the discussion continued until after midnight, culminating in a magnificent speech from Castelar, the great republican orator. The minister of state, in deference to the usual form of proceeding, was the last to speak; but he could only say, “The debate is closed. Mr. Castelar has spoken the last word—the slaves in Porto Rico are already free. The bill the government will bring in can only give legal sanction and form to the inspired utterance of the world’s greatest orator.”
The vote was then taken, and Mr. Becerra’s proposition was adopted, 214 voting in the affirmative and 12 in the negative. Among the notable names recorded in favor of colonial emancipation is that of Don Cristobal Colon de la Cerda, Duke of Verazua, Marquis of Jamaica, [Page 847] “Admiral, &c., of the Indies,” a lineal descendant of the discoverer of America.
A résume of the last day’s debate is given in English in Appendix G. Mr. Castelar’s speech in full, translated from a Spanish report, revised by himself, will be found in Appendix H. The original Spanish text of this day’s proceedings, as reported in the official gazette, is in Appendix I.
You will observe that Mr. Bugallal put great stress upon a coincidence he pointed out between the views expressed in the president’s message and the policy now announced by the Spanish cabinet. Mr. Martos answered that the resolution of “his colleagues was taken in November and communicated to Europe and America; whereas the message of President Grant was read to Congress on the first Monday of December. It would therefore be more reasonable to assume that the friendly tone of the American Executive, so unusual in speaking of Spain and Spanish affairs, was due to the sympathies inspired by a knowledge of the action then contemplated by the cabinet of Madrid, and to-day fulfilled.”
You cannot fail, I think, to be favorably impressed by the effective speech of the Marquis of Sardoal. A very young man, and only lately chosen to Parliament, he has at once taken high rank as a debater. A son of the Duke of Abrantes and a grandee of Spain, he is one of the most advanced of the liberal party in this country. The marquis commands the national guard of Madrid. I would especially commend to your notice the telling passages he cites from the record of the Duke de la Torre (Marshal Serrano) and Mr. Ayala, the author of the manifesto of the “league.”
Mr. Padial called attention to the transport of slaves from Porto Rico to Cuba, for sale, which he denounced as a violation of law, and asked that orders might be given to prevent the traffic.
Mr. Labra, a deputy from Porto Rico, bore a distinguished part in the debate. The brief sketch of his remarks found in the synopsis translated, may induce you to order the whole of his strong speech put into English for publication.
I need not invite attention to the oration of Castelar. His just fame as an orator will stimulate curiosity to read what he said upon a theme that has made dull men eloquent. Representing the republican party, his novel attitude as an ally of the government gave fresh interest to the occasion. The definite purpose he had in view was to unite the majority of the chamber in support of the cabinet. Much hesitation had been exhibited by not a few of the ministerial adherents. Indeed it was the boast of the “whipper-in” of the slavery party that as many as ninety ministerialists would either dodge the vote or side with the opposition. It was therefore necessary that Castelar, while satisfying the exigencies of the republican leadership, should take ground on which he could rally all the liberals of the chamber—monarchists and republicans. In this sense I cannot too highly praise this great parliamentary triumph. The orator carried the whole house with him. If here and there a few yet lingered in doubt, the enthusiasm of the tribunes and the applause of the chamber swept them along with the torrent of feeling set in motion by this incomparable speaker.
Of course, it is quite impossible, without prejudice to the other duties of the minister and secretary of legation, that justice can be done to these debates in the hurried translations we are constrained to forward. If they serve to convey some impression of the character and tone of the proceedings, the purpose in view in their preparation is answered.
The suddenness with which these questions were precipitated, and the [Page 848] absorbing interest of the tournament in Congress, found the government, at the moment of its victory, without a draft of an emancipation-bill. If a bill could have been presented on the spot, at the moment when the final vote was announced on Mr. Becerra’s proposition, I am confident it would have passed by acclamation. As it was, it seemed as if nothing could be done until after the Christmas recess, it being understood the chamber of deputies would adjourn that night for the holidays. So strong, however, was the desire of a few earnest reformers to lose no time, that the government intimated, unofficially, its disposition to present the bill in the senate on the 23d. You will see by the report of the proceedings (Appendix K) that Mr. Martos, while giving some interesting explanations of the colonial policy of the government with respect to Cuba and Porto Rico, stated that the bill would not be brought in that day. The house having adjourned subject to the call of the president, and the senate having resolved to separate for the holidays, the friends of emancipation would have been disappointed in their hope of prompt action if Mr. Rivero, the president of the chamber, had not called a special session of that body on the 24th in order to receive the bill. It was accordingly read for the first time by the new minister of the colonies, Mr. Mosquera. The preamble and bill will be found translated in Appendix N. The Spanish original is in Appendix O. The benches and tribunes of the chamber were crowded on this eventful day. The reading was greeted on all sides by frequent and hearty signs of applause. As soon as the bill was presented, the allied opposition, represented in the “league,” set to work with all the machinery under their control to foment hostile agitation all over Spain. Nor were their operations confined to the Peninsula. Truly or falsely, it was represented that both Cuba and Porto Rico were profoundly and dangerously moved by the action of the home government. All sorts of statements found currency in the newspaper-organs of the “league.” It was affirmed that the “slaves, impatient of any delay, were about to initiate a servile insurrection and a “war of races; that the merchants, despairing of any returns from the present sugar and tobacco crops, had stopped all transactions; that the premium on gold and the rates of exchange had risen ruinously; that the planters, so long as the steady supporters of the home government, no matter by whom administered, had resolved to make one last appeal through the “Casino” of Havana for delay, and failing in this supreme effort of loyalty, their next step should not cause surprise, whatever form it might unhappily take. Appeals were not wanting from the Spanish towns most actively engaged in the colonial trade. The wheat-growers of Castile, the olive and wine producers of Andalusia, the manufacturers of Catalonia, the shippers of Santander, Valencia, and Cadiz, were loud in their forebodings of impending disaster to Spanish agriculture and commerce.
Meanwhile the friends of reform were not idle. The constituencies of the senators and deputies who had supported the government sent by telegraph and post innumerable felicitations to their representatives. If, on the one hand, societies and guilds interested in colonial monopolies sent protests, on the other, municipal bodies, provincial assemblies, and public meetings of citizens in the same localities gave abundant evidence of the popular favor extended to the policy of emancipation. These manifestations still continue; scarcely a day passes without a series of these announcements appearing in the official gazette. During the present week great meetings have been held in Burgos and Lerida.
Last Sunday a numerous procession, embracing the members of the abolition society, “The Tertulia,” a political club embracing the chief [Page 849] supporters of the party in power and the “Republican Junta,” all of their organizations resembling our union leagues, marched through the principal streets of the capital to the official residence of the prime minister and offered him their congratulations. The leading opposition journal, La Epoca, estimates the number of gentlemen in the procession at above three thousand. When one considers the respectability and political prominence of most of the personages taking part in the demonstration, it may well be regarded as a most significant event, that in the capital of Spain so large a number of influential people have found occasion for public rejoicing in the abandonment of the traditional colonial system of the ancient empire, a system which had survived the fall of dynasties and constitutions, which revolutions had left unshaken, and which had defied even the better counsels taught in the loss of vast dominions through a blind obedience to old forms of colonial government. To these imposing proofs of public sentiment must be added those which have emanated from the republican organizations throughout Spain, and which have generally taken the form of addresses to Señor Castelar applauding his action in supporting the reform measures announced by the governor. The republican journals continue to publish, daily, communications of this tenor from various towns.
During the past few weeks the Spanish press of all shades of opinion has had scarcely any other theme for discussion beside the one absorbing topic of the new colonial policy. In Madrid the opposition control the greater number of newspapers. It would not be difficult to explain this circumstance if it had much importance, and to show that not a few of them are rather the advocates of special interests and privileges than the exponents of an impartial public opinion. I had begun to collate extracts from the more prominent papers, intending to forward them for your information, but the result of two days’ clippings, confined to a fraction only of the Madrid papers, as shown in Appendix P, was so formidable that I desisted from encumbering the archives of the Department by the formal transmission of data in which the bulk so much exceeds the value. You will appreciate this forbearance by a glance at the package marked “unofficial,” accompanying this dispatch, and which contains 400 articles, appearing between the 14th and 25th of December. A persistent effort is made by the opposition journals to represent the remarks of the President relating to Spanish affairs in his annual message as “dictatorial,” “arrogant,” and “intrusive.” The European press, with remarkable uniformity, has taken quite a different view of the subject, generally commending what they characterize as the unexpected moderation of the document. The ministerial and republican organs in this country fail to discover in the language of the President any ground of complaint; and you will be gratified to see that Mr. Martos, speaking in the name of His Majesty’s government, evinces a just appreciation of the impartial attitude and the discriminating views indicated by the executive.
I cannot, perhaps, more appropriately conclude this résumé of the incidents of the past month touching the development of the colonial policy of Mr. Zorrilla’s cabinet than by a reference to the remarkable addresses presented to the King on the 1st of January, 1873, by the president of the senate, Mr. Figuerola, and the presiding officer of the chamber of deputies, Mr. Rivero. You will find them translated in Appendix Q, together with the replies of His Majesty, understood to have been written by Mr. Martos. Up to the moment of the publication of these proceedings at the palace the “league” had cherished hopes that the King would refuse to identify himself with the policy of his ministers. [Page 850] Last June, when His Majesty refused to sanction the proclamation of martial law in Spain, and summarily dismissed Marshal Serrano’s cabinet which had proposed the measure, that short and sharp phrase in which the royal decision was announced is often quoted in court circles; and the opposition had confidently insisted that when the moment for action came Don Amadeo would repeat the famous “yo contrario,” under which a conservative cabinet had fallen, and the destinies of Spain had been confided to the most advanced party of the revolution of 1868.
Although summoned to the palace with my colleagues on New Year’s day, I had not the pleasure to hear these speeches, the diplomatic body having been received by His. Majesty at a later hour. I commend to your notice the leading article, headed “La Crisis,” taken from El Impartial, of which Mr. Gasset y Artime, the retiring minister of ultramar, is director, (Appendix T.) It may be regarded as an amplification of Mr. Zorilla’s statement in the senate and chamber, (Appendices C and E,) or, in other words, an authoritative explanation of the attitude of a minority of the cabinet—two of whom resigned, and the third, General Cordova, holding over conditionally.
Congress re-assembled on-the 15th instant. The emancipation act was at once referred to a special committee chosen by the several sections in which the chamber of deputies is subdivided for certain legislative purposes. It is understood that the committee, which includes two deputies from Porto Rico, will report favorably on the measure without delay, and I am assured that the president of the chamber, in the exercise of his authority, will give the bill priority among the orders of the day.
I am, &c.
Extracts from the reply of the president of the chamber of ministers to Mr. Alvarez Bugallal, chamber of deputies, December 17, 1872.
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Mr. Alvarez Bugallal . As the government must know of the state of alarm that notoriously exists in Barcelona, Cadiz, Santander, Bilboa, and other mercantile cities of the Peninsula, growing out of the rumors lately circulated concerning the intention of the government respecting political and administrative reforms in the colonies, is it prepared to give an explanation of the extent of those measures and reforms at the present moment, since this alarm springs from the profound surprise which has taken possession of the public on seeing the contradictory character of these rumors, some of which are already realized by the repeated promises and statements of the government through its worthy president? Is the government determined, in clear and direct violation, as I think, of the prescriptions of the constitution, and in usurpation of the unquestionable prerogatives of the legislative power, to put into effect immediately, and without the previous approbation of the Cortes, the decree establishing municipal government in Porto Rico, first made public in the Gaceta de Madrid of the 14th of this month? Does the government contemplate following up this action by two other measures of equal gravity—one relative to the separation of military and civil power, and the other to the immediate abolition of slavery, which, according to the rumors of the past few days, it is proposed to carry into effect?
These are the three questions I have to address to the government of His Majesty, in order that, in view of their gravity, which I believe it will at once admit, it will be pleased to answer them as soon as possible.
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The Vice-President, (Mr. Mosquera.) The president of the council of ministers has the floor.
The President of the Council of Ministers, (Mr. Ruiz Zorrilla.) I have asked the floor, Messieurs Deputies, in order to answer a question my friend Mr. Bugallal saw fit to make at the beginning of the session.
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What has the government done? Published by decree the law of ayuntamientos, believing that it had the right to do so; believing—and herein is Mr. Bugallal’s first mistake—that it usurped the powers of no one, and much less of this Parliament, and how could it have thought of usurping the attributes of the Spanish Parliament, when it so highly cherishes the acts and attributes of that body?
This is an abstract point, and Mr. Bugallal may make an interpellation and present a proposition thereon and say whatever he sees fit as to whether or no the government had the right to establish by decree the law of ayuntamientos in Porto Rico, and the minister of ultramar will answer him.
The government is considering the separation of civil and military authority, (separaceon de mandos;) and if it agrees upon it, being an administrative matter, it will do it by decree, without asserting anybody’s attributes; and Mr. Alvarez Bugallal may make an interpellation about it, if he sees proper, and it will be the second.
The government is considering the question of slavery, and will lay the law before you as soon as possible, for it wishes to fight under this flag and for this cause. It believes that abolition will be the greatest of benefits to the Antilles, and believes there is a way and a means to put a speedy end to the insurrection in Cuba, a measure adapted to the totality of those on these benches, curbing the exigencies of some and tempting the impatience of others—that is, supposing that they have not betrayed their principles, and do not demand an impossible administration for the Antilles. It believes that it has fulfilled its promises in the pacific island; that it has been treated as it ought to be treated, and that, as far as the other is concerned, it will do the same after the restoration of the material quiet and moral tranquillity which is indispensable to enable the reforms to effect their natural results.
Has there been a single Spaniard of any party whatever who has said here, is there any one who ventures to say to-day, in the nineteenth century and in the year 1872, that the Antilles must forever remain under the very same system of laws that governs them to-day? Is there one?
Those who are now and always have been the most inimical to reforms come before us and say, “We are advocates of reforms. We wish and ask for-reforms. We wish the colonies to have the same legislation and enjoy the same benefits as may be given to the Peninsula. But this cannot be done now. It is completely impossible to-day. We can do absolutely nothing, because civil war rages in Cuba, and what is done in Porto Rico may make it more difficult to extinguish!”
Ah, what an example! What an immoral example for the provinces which obey and respect Spain! What an unworthy example given by parties who have any self esteem, by men who see nothing left but to sacrifice all, to poison all with political venom! How baleful an example for the rest of the Peninsula if opinions be to-morrow divided and some rebel while others remain tranquil! If there were a rising tomorrow in Andalusia, and if it were possible for it to show the same or similar characters as that which exists in one of the Antilles, would we have to say to the rest of Spain that because there was an insurrection in a part of the Peninsula individual rights must be suspended throughout all Spain? Do you not comprehend that the pacific provinces could justly say that on the whole they would be no worse off if they, too, had revolted? For if the revolt be not dependent on the will of the pacific provinces, and if they find no advantage in their fidelity, but are treated like the others in spite of it, might we not fear that they would do as the others had done?
As firmly as I proclaim it untrue that we have thought of carrying out any reforms in Cuba, so firmly do I assure the Cortes, * * and my words are trustworthy, for after all the government might easily have postponed its answer, in view of the gravity of the matter, that the government does not and will not go further than it should in the Porto Rican question, and that all that has been said to the contrary and concerning other reforms is the pure invention of some and the foolish credulity of others, unworthy means used by many to attack this government which have overcome great crises and hopes to overcome this, believing that the right is on its side.
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What motives are there for the continuance of this alarm if, from the point of view of public order, the situation has been bettered? What reasons are there for thinking that a cataclysm may come at any moment? I will tell Mr. Bugallal why. I will specify no party and no man, because it does not suit my purpose, and in the post I occupy I should not do so except as the last resort. I say to Mr. Bugallal that this alarm is spread because the Porto Rican question is on the tapis; not because the reforms are of greater or less scope; not because they may produce these or those results; not because they are more or less justified or more or less legal; but because it is a question that may serve to rally the enemies of the government and draw waverers to the opposition. It is a question which may lend hope to the feeble and strength to the despairing, and they say among themselves, “Come, let us get up an agitation, and let us see if by that means we can win men over to our side and put an end to this government.” Before, it was the conscription; afterward, the loan; now, the Porto [Page 852] Rican question. If this disappears another will come, and then another, and then another.
One thing is certain; that this agitation will be no more than an agitation; that this agitation would have much less importance if it attained expression in some insignificant overt act than the two revolts we have dominated under more trying circumstances, and there would be, moreover, this fact in favor of the government, that the reform treated of being subject to the deliberations of the chambers, which would give time for opinions to be formed, and for the deputies to vote as their conscience dictates. If this agitation were made manifest in acts of violence it could not claim the disculpation which other agitations have had wherein ideas have contended and not interests; wherein ignorant masses have risen and not men of enlightenment where in, instead of making use of what they are worth and what they are to increase the prosperity of Spain and give tranquillity to the Antilles, their endowments and themselves are used for the political ends and to promote discontent at home and perhaps cause great injuries to the colonies; and as such agitation would have no importance we would dominate it as we have dominated the others.
Then, (and why should it be concealed from Mr. Bugallal—why should he not be told the truth?) then, perhaps I might come before Congress and say what I have not said now because I did not wish to add fuel to the blaze, what I did not say when the federal and Carlist insurrections arose, for then evil-minded Spaniards, renegades, and disloyal to their country, would be the ones to arouse a revolt here, and prepare, or attempt, a revolt in the Antilles, in order to deprive the government of the strength it needs to enable it to say to Cuba, “Be not alarmed,” to send out thither the twelve thousand soldiers demanded by the captain-general, and as many more as may be wanted. Those evil and disloyal Spaniards would be the ones to say to the Antilles that we had a filibuster government at home; that the government here was composed of wicked Spaniards, of ministers who took money and whose wives accepted gifts from the chief of the rebels. The coward who says this is known as one who is incapable of defending anything unless paid with gold. [Great applause.]
Ah, Messieurs Deputies! when I read this and added it to the countless slanders I have read of myself for some time past I was indignant, but upon reflection I said, “Why should they not do so if their nature is unchanged? Did they not say when Mendizabel attempted to reform the church and sought means to end the civil war, that he took so much for every pair of shoes he bought in England to keep the army from going barefoot? Did they not say of the same Mendizabel that he robbed a virgin’s shrine of its jewels to give them to a woman? and, to take an analogous case, did they not say of General Espartero, in 1843, that he had sold Cuba, not to the United States—that was not thought of then—but for British gold?”
And I said, “If, in speaking of a man of the political stature of Mendizabal—almost the only great progressive statesman this country has had—if, in speaking of a man of the virtues, the services, and the merit of the illustrious pacificator of Spain, they said these things, wherein is it strange that, when my limited merits have raised me to the post I occupy, there should be inflamed against me, not merely envy, which I have no reason to fear, but the passions of those of far more merit than I, who, nevertheless, have not accomplished as much as I.”
I must say to the chamber and to the nation from this post that we, in studying the Porto Rican question, and in according reforms to Porto Rico, have obeyed the sentiment, the idea, and aspiration of preserving the colonies united to the mother country.
I must tell my political friends from the provinces, who have come hither as commissioners to the government to protest against the reform, that many of them have not been told what the reforms were, while to others they have been exaggerated; I must explain to them that the political aspect of the question lies exactly where they have been told that there was no political question; that the real political issue is that we believe the way to assure peace to the Antilles and preserve them to Spain is to give them reforms, and the reason that those who are themselves politicians tell them that there are no politics in this question, is because they think the statu quo should be maintained in the Antilles; that those who knowingly or unwittingly, according to the spirit that guides or the inspiration that feeds them, are content to be made use of by their political friends, may do as they please; each one is master of his own will and conscience; but they contribute to political interests contrary to the radical party and to this cabinet, and we have the right to believe, unless there be some who think and dare to say to our faces that we are not good Spaniards, and then they will have the right to say so, and if they do not we have the right to deem that, as all alike desire the preservation of the Antilles, it is they who are mistaken; that they reason upon the only facts they possess, while we, in studying and deciding this question, have not only the data they have given us, but also those which every government possesses, and which are not accessible to private citizens. They cannot escape from this dilemma; if all of us are true Spaniards—if all of us desire the preservation of the Antilles to the mother country—we are of necessity in the right, [Page 853] since we possess more data and more antecedents and are able to solve this question more understandingly.
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Lastly, Messieurs Deputies, we are acting conscientiously in this question, seeking to give, as I have already repeatedly said, a great good to our country, a great benefit to liberal Spain and to our Antilles; and, as we all hold this conviction, being men of ideas and of convictions, we counsel some of you to examine and see why and how these protests are made, and we counsel others to no longer permit themselves to make a political question of one which should be purely Spanish; that if any issue requires calmness in discussion it is this one, now and always; and lastly, before taking my seat, that, come what may and whatever protests may be made, this government will not desist from carrying out its purpose to realize these reforms except in the face of two obstacles which those whose duty is as ours are bound to respect, the will of the Crown or the vote of the Cortes.
The following proposition offered by Mr. Becerra was then read:
“The undersigned deputies ask Congress to be pleased to declare that it has heard with profound pleasure the words of salvation and of reform from Porto Rico just uttered by the president of the council of ministers.
“Palace of the Congress, December 17, 1872.
“Manuel Becerra, M. Mathet, Luis de Molini, the Marquis de la Florida, the Marquis de Sardoval, Rodolfo Pelayo, Antonio Ramos Calderon.”
Mr. Becerra . Gentlemen, these are solemn moments wherein the soul feels what the tongue cannot express. Permit me to begin by congratulating my friend, the pesident of the council of ministers, on his defense of a great cause. I wish that the Spaniards beyond the seas could hear us, and they would see that the Spaniards who carried civilization thither beneath the cross of Christ are now ready to give them democracy also.
The present act, gentlemen, is an act of great political importance, because, in the first place, it is an act of justice; of justice, gentlemen, which is the highest of all aims, and woe to the nations that forget it! And, in the second place, because it is a timely act, that demonstrates the intimate union of Spain and America, and shows the world that, if a great people has had the courage to emancipate four millions of slaves, the land of the Cid will not go backward in its defense of the liberty, the honor, and the integrity of the nation. [Applause.]
We are calumniated for this; but what of that? To calumny we will oppose tranquillity of conscience, and to intrigues the firm union of our party; for the principles, gentlemen, among their many excellencies, have power to rally their disciples around them at moments like the present, and if any think we are divided, they will now see us united in defense of our principles. And if, by chance of misfortune, we are threatened by complications in this question, we who have ever striven for liberty will continue to strive for it; and if fortune be adverse to us, let us act so that our sons may say of us, “They fought like good, men and true to win liberty, and they died like men in its defense.” And, above all, let it be known that by this act we test the strength of our right; and if there be cowards who doubt it, we will make them comprehend that we have also the right of strength on our side.
I well know that there are adventurers who have raised their standard against the integrity of our territory; but we will answer them by sending out not merely 12,000 men, but as many as may be needed, and all the treasure that may be required; for a true nation would rather perish from the earth than suffer a blot on its good fame.
There are also those who question our patriotism, but their doubts will be dispelled when they see that, given these reforms, we are ready to make every sacrifice to preserve the integrity of the territory.
The Vice-President. Excuse me, Mr. Deputy; I am about to ask the chamber if the sitting shall be prolonged.
The question being put was decided in the affirmative.
Mr. Becerra . We are discussing reforms for Porto Rico, for that province beyond the seas, which Spain recognizes as a province from to-day henceforth, now that she is ready to give the island her rights as a province, while at the same time prepared to punish rigorously whosoever may seek to assail the integrity, the independence, or the honor of the country. Cuba will have these same rights later, since the first duty is to conquer; because Spain can never yield with honor to menaces, and no man of courage will ever concede that which is demanded with a strong hand.
How much might be said upon this point! How much occurs to me in the way of arguments, showing the justice, opportuneness, the necessity and utility of reforms! But I shall only put this question to the radicals and the conservatives who joined in’ the revolution: Can we do otherwise than to fulfill a solemn and sacred promise? If it was intended to fulfill that promise, why oppose it now? And if it was not intended that it should be fulfilled, why was it spontaneously made?
I hope that the chamber will take into consideration the proposition we have had the honor to present. In this manner the Spanish nation will prove to the whole [Page 854] world that she is prepared to defend her independence, to uphold her integrity, to maintain her honor, and at the same time do justice to each and all of her sons; and she will do so in such fashion that the Spaniards who live beyond the seas, like those who dwell in the Peninsula, may say with pride, “I am a Spaniard; I am of that nation that conquered her independence by humbling the great captain of the age, and now is able to teach all Europe the true practice of democracy.”
The proposition being put, the vote was taken into consideration, by 182 votes against 7.
Summary of the proceedings in the senate, December 20, 1872.
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Mr. Cervera . An important political event has just taken place, and as it is the custom of parliamentary governments in such cases to give the chambers full explanations of the causes of the crisis, I simply ask the government to do so now, and to state what are its purposes respecting the political future of Spain.
The President of the Council of Ministers. The government, Messieurs Senators, has intended to explain the ministerial crisis; it is, nevertheless, grateful for the request just made. The causes of the crisis are known to all; so I have little to say on that point.
The government, thinking the proper time had arrived, took up the question of reforms to be extended to Porto Rico. All the members of the ministry were unanimous as to the necessity of promulgating by decree the law of ayuntamientos, which has been published in the Gaceta. We agreed to discuss and adopt a plan of action concerning two other questions, the separation of civil and military authority and the abolition of slavery. In view of the gravity of this last question, the government took it up. All the ministers agreed that slavery should be abolished. The dissidence arose as to the manner of doing so, for three thought it should be gradual, and five, among them he who has the honor to address you, advocated immediate abolition. The discussion on this point took place toward the end of November, but it was agreed that while the conscription and the loan were pending the question should be deferred as long as possible.
Sufficient time has now elapsed to overcome both these difficult questions, and the question of public order has been also successfully treated since the federal rising has been put down in all quarters, and we shelter the hope that the Carlist insurrection will terminate in a short time. Such being the situation, the government deemed that the time had come to take up anew the question of Porto Rican reforms. The issue which had divided the government was brought up, and a crisis precipitated in consequence of some inquiries made by a most worthy deputy not belonging to the majority. The president of the council of ministers answered in the name of the government, and making known its situation, but without his language being explicit enough, gave rise to a crisis on the issue concerning which the cabinet held different opinions; nevertheless, those members of the ministry who differed from the majority of their colleagues thought that, in view of the explanations of the government and the vote of the chamber, upon a motion made by one of the majority, that it was their duty not to prolong for an instant their stay in the cabinet, and at the close of the sitting the colonial secretary, and subsequently the secretaries of the treasury and of War, conferred with the president of the council, the two first saying that they could no longer form a part of the cabinet, and the latter saying what he will soon have the honor to say to the senate also.
The question was simple. We were agreed as to the necessity of considering Porto Rican reforms, as to the necessity of publishing the law of ayuntamientos, which we believed we were authorized to do; and as to the abolition of slavery, but we differed, as I have already said, about the manner of doing so.
It is not incumbent upon me to defend, in this place, my own opinions and those of my colleagues who agree with me, nor have I the right to assail those who think differently. When the discussion arises on this point, we hope to convince the Cortes and the country that in treating this reform as we have done, besides obeying liberal and civilized principles, we have conformed also to what was most in harmony with ‘the dignity of the nation, with the situation of the government, with the promises of the radical party, and with the necessity that we should stand before the world as a nation endowed with self-respect, which studies its own issues and realizes its own situation, and whose government will do its duty whatever may be the responsibility.
The question being thus happily defined, it was easy for me to decide in which of the two ways the crisis should be settled. A few moments after the chamber adjourned, [Page 855] the colonial minister tendered me his resignation, and, early in the morning of the following day, the finance minister tendered me his. I could do nothing else than to go to His Majesty the King and explain the situation of the cabinet to him, and it was equally my duty, although His Majesty was cognizant of the question from the first, to set before him the full gravity of the issue and the responsibility that would rest on any government that might decide it.
I went to confer with His Majesty at noon yesterday, and told him that a cabinet council was convened for 9 o’clock that night, and that if, at that hour, I had no commands from him in a contrary sense to that in which I thought the crisis should be settled, I would, on the following day, lay before him the resignations of those ministers who were not in accord with the majority of the cabinet, replacing them with proper substitutes. I had the honor and the satisfaction to hear from His Majesty’s lips how great was his regret that a new crisis had arisen; but, at the same time, I had the pleasure to hear that, in the divergence of views common to all parties, while esteeming all opinions as sincere, he chose the most liberal and the most humane; and His Majesty charged me that whatever reforms should be attempted should be the work of the Parliament; that the glory of the reforms should belong to Parliament, while the government should bear whatever responsibility might result.
I need not say that my two colleagues who have abandoned this bench were entirely in agreement with the present cabinet in everything referring to the principles and conduct of the radical party and to the necessity of extending reforms to Porto Rico. In these questions the government has to present the proper bills, leaving the co-legislative bodies to deliberate and decide on them; and so it is sufficient for the government to say now that it proposes the immediate abolition of slavery in Porto Rico. A few days ago I had the honor to say in the lower chamber that we had nothing to discuss, since all the ministers were agreed that no political or social reform should be extended to Cuba until it was not merely physically but morally pacified, for without this reforms would have no good result.
You already know, Messieurs Senators, that those who have quitted us, much to my regret—for I realize the great services they have rendered—have done so on this issue of form; nevertheless, the minister of war remains, without, however, indicating thereby that his views have changed, for they are the same as before. Narrow-minded men may judge his action as they think fit: I have only to say that the country is not yet completely pacified; that the recent conscripts are not yet enrolled in the ranks, and that the bill for re-organizing the army and abolishing conscription is still pending. In this situation, the minister of war believes it his duty to continue in the cabinet, although in so doing he makes a great sacrifice, for which I cannot be sufficiently grateful.
The successors of those who have left the ministry are known to all of you; both have been before now colonial ministers, and have been long known in political life. I need not therefore say what their opinions are. Having thus explained the crisis, I must inform the senate that a suitable bill for the abolition of slavery will be presented before the holiday recess.
I do not expose a new programme to the senate. We are of the most liberal party possible in a monarchy. We believe that order and liberty may co-exist in harmony, and that the best way to destroy liberty and order is by the pressure of absolute governments or the vacillation of doctrinary parties. We believe that the doctrines we have proclaimed will lead us to a time when liberty shall be a reality and order be firmly established. But if we are mistaken on this point we are not men to base policy on caprice or egotism. We realize the difficulties that environ us, the spirit of the various parties, and we know who are the enemies that assail us. When it is no longer possible to overcome these difficulties by the course we propose to follow we shall frankly say so; meanwhile we shall keep up the contest and endeavor to win the victory. We recall that before the year 1868 we proclaimed the necessity of the disappearance of the existing order of things and the substitution of a newer and a different state, and we wished the new régime to be a reality in law and in fact. Shall we win the victory? It would, indeed, be a grand glory to have confounded those who deny that order can exist in union with the fullest liberties. What if we fail? We shall have fallen with our flag, but none shall say that we have not wrought our principles into laws, or that we have not endeavored to practice them, or that we shall not always hold that our unsuccess is not the fault of our principles but of ourselves, who have not had sufficient means to realize them, or of the Spanish nation, which was not yet ready to comprehend them.
In either case, we must not hesitate or fall short of what we have proclaimed, but keep on in its defense until we succeed in our wish that liberty shall be broad enough for all parties to support within its fold such solutions as may seem best to them, and that the good order so long needed by the Spanish social fabric shall be restored to it.
Mr. Snare Inclán rose, filled with deep emotion at Mr. Zorilla’s words. He was of those who believed that the reforms thus precipitately given to Porto Rico would also be given to Cuba, and that the autonomy to which those islands aspired meant [Page 856] the loss of Spain’s richest jewels. The insurgents were about to attain their ends pacifically and legally with the aid of the Spanish government itself. Mr. Zorilla had promised before the Christmas holidays to lay his reform project before them. Then they would maintain, hand to hand, the integrity of the nation.
The President suggested that Mr. Inclán was making a speech; not putting a question.
Mr. Suarez Inclán said he would now put his question. Mr. Zorrilla said that reforms were approved in certain high quarters, and this” afflicted his (Mr. Incián’s) soul, and induced him to believe the current rumors that the Spanish government had been urged by foreign powers to follow this baleful path. “Was it true that foreign governments exercised pressure or influence on the indomitable Spanish nation? Was it true that the cabinets of Florence, Rome, Berlin, or England used their influence against the legitimate interests of Spain?” [Mr. Zorilla: “No; for we are not moderados.” Applause and protests.] “Be calm, Mr. President of the council. My opinions are well known. The conservatives of all grades are here to protest in the name of the dignity and decorum of the Spanish nation.
Mr. Zorrilla . And I also, who represent it.
The President. Has Mr. Suarez Inclán finished?
Mr. Suarez Inclán . I have finished for the present.
The president of the council of ministers protested against Mr. Incián’s words, which were an echo of outside calumnies against the government. In what act did he find signs of other pressure than love of country and of the Antilles? He thought differently from those who first maintained the statu quo, afterward countenanced reforms, and to-day, being no longer in the government, opposed the reforms that were intended to prevent the civilized world from confounding Spain with Turkey and Morocco. [Good! good!] They had something more to do now than to patch up royal marriages or study Spanish interests from a dynastic point of view. Foreign powers could no longer say to our embassadors that they merely represented the Queen’s personal wishes. It was enough for the government to know that its Porto Rican policy accorded with Spain’s love for her colonies and with a liberal and civilized spirit.
It seemed that Mr. Suarez Inclán was charged with expressing in the senate the manifesto of the so-called “national league.” He had spoken of Cuba, but with what right? Were any reforms proposed for Cuba? Certainly not. “I have said in the house what the conservatives dare not say; I have said what we propose to do in Porto Rico, and that the best way to study calmly what we have to do in Cuba when the war is over is to do what we are doing in Porto Rico; and when reforms are to be proposed for Cuba there must exist not only material but moral tranquillity, without which reforms are fruitless. You have no right, therefore, to prate here of the autonomy of the colonies, or of reforms which do not exist in Cuba.”
He protested against Mr. Suarez Incián’s so-called inquiries, which were simply a second edition of the proclamation of the self-styled “national league,” which he called the reactionary league. He protested against the charge that they were about to give autonomy to the colonies. The government wished them to remain a part of Spanish territory. As for the second part of Mr. Incián’s speech, he protested that they had not been influenced by foreign pressure of any kind.
Mr. Suarez Inclán said that the senate well knew that he could speak courteously and with circumspection; if he now had lost his natural sweetness and suavity of temper it was because he saw the sentiments and interests of the country assailed and the interests of his province, the Asturias, which were linked with those of Cuba and Porto Rico, now menaced. Through him that principality protested energetically against reforms.
The president said the Asturias was not a federal canton.
Mr. Suarez Inclán said he defended the sentiments of the nation.
A senator. Are not the rest of us defending them, too? [Interruptions on all sides.]
Mr. Suarez Inclán said that the interruptions could not disturb him. Mr. Zorrilla had asked what proofs he had of the interference of foreign governments in Spanish affairs. If it were possible to lay before them the documents in Spanish and foreign archives showing the suggestions, the conferences, and the plots, which did not see the light till after the damage was done, Mr. Zorilla would not use such an argument. He could not adduce material proofs, but he could show some that were sufficiently eloquent; but the truth of his assertions was based on public opinion, which followed the history of these sad reforms step by step and stage by stage. [Fresh interruptions. The president objected to Mr. Incián’s continuing his remarks. Mr. Zorrilla preferred that he should go on. Many senators demanded that he should be allowed to speak. Order was at length restored and Mr. Inclán resumed his remarks.]
Mr. Suarez Inclán said he could not produce all these material proofs, but he spoke of some. Was the government innocent enough to turn them over to the public? No. But if the proofs of what opinion and the press said and the political world guessed at, the question would be soon settled. Public opinion had divined what lay at the bottom of the matter, and time would show that it was right in its surmise [Page 857] The immediate abolition of slavery, the municipal law promulgated in violation of the constitution, and the announced separation of military and civil powers were nothing but autonomy with them disappeared the authority of the supreme Spanish government, which for him signified the immediate and final separation of the islands. A day would come when he could demonstrate the truth of his affirmations. He was the echo of no particular group but of all circles in Madrid, from absolutists to unitary republicans. This was a truly Spanish question, which wounded the most delicate fibers of the national conscience.
The minister of state said that by repeating these rumors and insinuating what could not be proved, Mr. Inclán made a most grave charge. When Mr. Inclán saw fit to speak openly, the government would see fit to answer him. He could speak whenever he liked, but the government was in no hurry to hear him or afraid to meet him or anybody else. Mr. Inclán had complained of not being allowed to speak, but when he spoke it became apparent that he had nothing to say.
“The honorable gentleman hints that there may be documents and conversations showing the reclamations and influence of friendly governments to induce Spain to proceed in some determinate sense in matters which belong exclusively to the Spanish nation; but this cannot be asserted unless based on rational data, and under the obligation to produce them at once; for if not, he who does so fails in his duty as a Spaniard, and forgets that he has to deal with the government of Spain, the guardian of Spanish moral interests and Spanish dignity. [Good! good!]
“I have only to say, in reply to the honorable gentleman’s words asserting that there have been such conversations and documents, that there has been no such thing, and that nothing of what he has said is true. He who says this represents at this moment the interests and the truth of the Spanish nation. And if this be not enough for the honorable gentleman, I challenge him to prove the contrary.”
It had been said that the English, Italian, and the other governments were interested in the colonial reforms, and especially in wiping out the stain of slavery. Because all the governments of the world think thus, and because slavery is to be abolished in one of the provinces, did Mr. Inclán think those governments forced it on Spain! Wherever there were enlightened statesmen and elevated ideas, there was a unanimous outcry against slavery. What did this show? That Spain, in abolishing slavery in Porto Rico, was influenced by Spanish data and those of the civilized world. But in Cuba nothing could be done except answer the voice of muskets by the roar of cannon.
“Where is the wrong, gentlemen, if in view of all this we should also consider the good opinion that we would win in Spain and elsewhere when it is said, ‘The Spanish nation, which has affirmed the rights of man, has crowned her work by breaking the chains of the slaves, making them citizens and free, even in the midst of all the difficulties which surrounded it?’ What a glory for the Spanish nation!”
Municipal law was not autonomy. Ayuntamientos had only ceased since certain ideas arose in Spain whose full development would have lost not only Cuba but Porto Rico.
The constitution had not been violated by establishing the municipal law by decree. The constitution said that reforms should be given to the colonies as soon as their condition permitted. In fulfillment of this article each law contained a clause that it should be extended, with necessary modifications, to Porto Rico, and this clause was in the municipal law. The government had not fulfilled that law. Preceding cabinets had operated in Porto Rico by decrees. Mr. Moret did so. In Mr. Mosquera’s time the law of ayuntamientos was suspended by decree, and was now re-established in the same way. It was true that what was done in Porto Rico would exert an influence in Cuba, but not in the sense Mr. Inclán supposed. “We have always maintained that our colonial policy was based on this distinction: in Cuba, where there is a war, soldiers and money; in Porto Rico, where there is peace, laws and reforms. In Cuba there will be no reforms until moral and material tranquillity are restored; in Porto Rico, yes; and abolition, which is easy, simple, and not costly there, will be effected immediately, thus avoiding all perturbations and outbreaks. In Cuba, abolition would be more difficult and must be gradual.”
All the world except Mr. Inclán knew that what was done in Porto Rico was no precedent for Cuba. It would undoubtedly influence the situation in Cuba to the advantage of the government. These reforms would tend to end the war. The enemies of Spain in Cuba would have a right to doubt the sincerity of reforms promised on the termination of the war if they saw peaceful Porto Rico remaining under the same government as themselves. But seeing reforms in Porto Rico, they could do no less than say, “If we wish to enjoy a better state of things we need not seek it by force, for force has not succeeded; let us lay down our arms and submit to the easy conditions imposed by the victorious Spanish government.” For four years blood and treasure had been squandered in Cuba, and yet the war continues. Was it not worth while to try if the example of reforms in Porto Rico and the hope of enjoying them in Cuba would succeed where force had failed? “If this be accomplished, as I trust it will, what a satisfaction and recompense the government will have for all the bitterness [Page 858] it now endures and the opposition it encounters from all this conspiration of interests united to harm it in the name of the integrity of the nation, that talks to us of disputing it hand to hand, when it seems that what is really defended is the lengthening of the lash that tears the negro’s flesh! [Good! good!]
“In conclusion, we throw out no hints and harbor no suspicions; the honest policy of the radical party is honestly explained without recourse to arguments of another sort. What we do we do in fulfillment of solemnly contracted promises; for, even as you believe the colonies are lost if we grant them reforms, so do we believe they will be lost if reforms be not granted. Your system has brought about an insurrection which has lasted for four years. Let us now see what ours will do.
“One of two policies must be followed in the transmarine provinces: the traditional policy of military despotism and arbitrariness, incompatible with the new elements which have joined in the new life of the Spanish nation—a policy which I believe would have irrevocably lost the Antilles; or the redeeming, reformatory, humane, and liberal policy which has been accepted by us, the true preservers of the revolution.
“The statu quo does not fit with and is a fundamentally disturbing element in our policy; it is immoral and impossible after the pledges of the revolution; and when a nation contracts a pledge before the world it must fulfill it. That there is peace in Porto Rico is due to the efforts of the reformers and to the confidence they have that a day will come when the promises and the obligations contracted by the Constituent Cortes with its inhabitants, in the name of the nation, shall be fulfilled.”
Mr. Suarez Inclán said that Mr. Martos’s speech reminded him of the siren songs chanted by the American deputies in the Cortes of Cadiz in 1812. Arguelles in 1837 said they had deceived the Cortes, and history has shown that their seductive language had caused the loss of Spain’s vast American possessions; and as they had been lost then, so also now—
The president begged Mr. Inclán to confine himself to his “rectification.”
Mr. Suarez Inclán . Ah! Mr. President, this argument hurts. [Cries from the majority; moments of confusion.] This argument hurts, and I must dwell upon it.
The president again called Mr. Inclán to order.
Mr. Suarez Inclán continued, regretting the loss of those vast possessions, and unhesitatingly affirmed that the ample liberties then asked and obtained by the colonial deputies had caused their loss.
(Being again called to order a fresh commotion arose, which Mr. Inclán terminated by announcing ah interpellation for some time before the holiday recess.)
The president of the council of ministers said that although the cabinet was awaited in the chamber of deputies to explain the crisis, Mr. Incián’s affirmations were so grave that he had requested the chamber to adjourn till the evening, and would now meet Mr. Inclán on his own ground and reply to any accusation of which he might be the echo.
Mr. Suarez Inclán . I defend the interests of my country.
The President of the Council. Let us argue this point about “country” and find out what your country means.
Mr. Suarez Inclán . Country, for us, is the integrity of the territory.
Many Senators. That is not true. We are as Spanish as you.
The President begged Mr. Inclán to explain his interpellation, and not defend the interests of the country, which all were ready to defend.
Mr. Suarez Inclán, although fatigued, was at Mr. Zorrilla’s order.
The president of the council, in the name of the government and of liberal and revolutionary Spain, was ready to reply at once to the representative of the moderado party. [Applause.]
Mr. Suarez Inclán . I am what I am, and the nation shall judge between you and me.
The President of the Council. The nation must judge us all.
Mr. Suarez Inclán continued, saying that Mr. Marto’s language was identical with that used in the Cortes of Cadiz. Argüelles had said that the American deputies had victimized those Cortes, and Arguelles himself drew up the article in the constitution of 1837 by which the colonies were made subject to special laws. Municipal law had been decreed for Porto Rico in March, 1870. What was the result? General Baldrich suspended it on his own responsibility. He begged that all the papers in relation to that proceeding should be laid before the senate. When two captains-general of different politics, Baldrich and Gomez Pulido, had refused to execute that law, what was the duty of the government? To study the question to the bottom, impartially and severely. But far from this, they had nastily published the late decree in violation of the constitution, endangering thereby high and sacred interests. This government had paid no attention to those two worthy officers, but published the municipal law, dangerous to the interests of Cuba and Porto Rico.
The finance minister a few days before censured the municipal law of the peninsula, which did not give the government power to compel the town-councils to pay the [Page 859] schoolmasters. If the government was powerless here, how would it be in Porto Rico, with a provincial assembly of absolute authority? They would appoint all their own officials, judges, and schoolmasters, who would all be separatists. A secessionist judiciary would be a permanent element of sedition, against which there was no defense. “Give me a base big enough,” said Archimedes, “and I will move the world.” “Give us,” say the filibusters, “the primary and higher schools, and the victory is ours!”
The minister of state had said that no reforms would be given to Cuba while an armed rebel remained. He (Mr. Inclán) thought they would lay down their arms as soon as they knew that Porto Rico was enjoying rights almost equal to those in Spain, in a word, liberties, reforms, and rights which, if God did not prevent it, would lose Cuba to Spain. Give Cuba individual rights, with all the consequences seen in the peninsula, and separation becomes a fact forever, for the Antilles once lost can never be regained.
Here, in Madrid, is where the filibusters have their headquarters, their machinations, and their powerful defenders. Ask them if, in giving Cuba the political liberties of Spain, the insurgents of the swamps will lay down their arms, and you will see how they will answer in the affirmative.
The minister said “that I spoke of the influence of foreign governments. True. And on this point I wish to put him a concrete question, begging him to answer me categorically. Is it true that in the green book of the United States there is a note from the representative of that Government in Madrid in which is reported a conference with the minister of state, and in which note it is stated that Mr. Martos replied to that representative that, the reforms proposed for the Antilles being once established, the objects and purposes for which the representative of the United States had shown such a lively interest in our affairs, would be realized. I beg that a categorical answer be given me on this point, although I regret to see that the minister of state is not present.
The Vice-President. The colonial minister is here, Mr. Senator. (Mr. Martos enters the chamber at this moment.) Since the minister of state is now here you may repeat the question.
Mr. Juarez Inclán . I beg the minister of state to give me a full and satisfactory answer to the question I have just put, and I beg the senate to pardon me for the long time I have troubled it. I conclude by raising fervent prayers to Heaven that this unfortunate nation may be delivered from the perils that menace the integrity of her territory. I have done.
The Minister of State. Messieurs Senators, as the colonial minister was in his seat I thought I would not be wanted, and asked him to make a note of anything Mr. Suarez Inclán might say about foreign governments.
As for the inquiry Mr. Inclán has made, I reply that, although I had no details, I have already affirmed that no foreign government has made any representations whatever to the Spanish government tending to influence its action on the question under discussion. As for that denunciatory (conminatoria) note, I beg him to explain. (Several senators: No! No! not denunciatory!) I beg the honorable gentleman to repeat his question.
Mr. Juarez Inclán . I said that there was a note from the United States minister, from which it appears that Mr. Martos had stated to him that the Spanish government proposed those reforms; and by that road they would go as far as the Government of the United States wished.
The Minister of State. The note to which the honorable gentleman refers does not exist.
While I was minister of the regent, I attended a dinner where Mr. Sickles also was, and we conversed about political matters and the Cuban war, which, as was natural, interested the United States on account of the loss it occasioned to their own and Spanish commerce.
A great misapprehension exists. The United States do not covet the island of Cuba, for it is hot their interest to acquire it, and in this relation I must not omit to say that I have always received from General Sickles the fullest assurances that the United States aspire to no such thing. It is true that both the colonial minister and myself, and ten or twelve high officials who were at the dinner, talked about politics, administration, the Cuban war, and our intentions respecting reforms. The papers afterwards, commenting on the United States minister’s note to his Government, reporting our good intentions, calumniously stated that I had said that such measures would bring things to pass as the Cubans and the United States representative desired, that is, the emancipation of Cuba.
When I say that neither the United States Government, nor their minister, Mr. Sickles, desire the emancipation of Cuba, I say enough to satisfy public opinion and refute an infamous calumny; and if I had said so of the Cubans it would have been a piece of idiocy, for my loyalty and patriotism spurn the idea. General Sickles’s comment meant nothing more than that by such a path we would attain to the desired [Page 860] reforms, and when he saw what the papers said, he sent me a letter authorizing me to deny it.
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As for the remark that the loss of our American dominions was owing to having given heed to the words of their deputies, I must answer him that, in my opinion, it was because of bad government under the absolute régime. For this reason we require liberties and reforms, so that all may say with pride that they are Spaniards. To-day kingdoms win nothing by force; what is won by kindness is preserved by love. I have done.
The colonial minister (Mr. Mosquera) said he rose to address the senate for the first time. Mr. Incián’s doubts had been removed by the minister of state, so he had little to say on that point. He would, however, speak at some length of the proposed reforms for Porto Rico.
It was said that reforms would lose the Antilles. If true, the charge was unanswerable. But the premises of the proposition had not been demonstrated. Was the creation of town-councils by restricted suffrage autonomy? Could the loss of the Antilles result therefrom? In no wise.
It was said this decree was illegal and infringed the constitution, that for this reason General Baldrich suspended it, and after him General Gomez Pulido did the same, on the ground that the law was harmful. They were ill-informed who said this. The decree was published in 1870, in General Sauz’s time. General Baldrich suspended its execution in consequence of a riot. He was asked to give his reasons for doing so, and replied that there was difficulty in finding skilled men to hold office under it, and requested the government to approve his course. I referred the matter to the cabinet council, General Baldrich’s reasons seeming to me worthless, and recommended the execution of the law. It was referred to the council of state. I soon afterward ceased to be minister. General Gomez Pelido had nothing to do with the matter, since the decree remained suspended during his term of office.
There would be no reform in Cuba until the war was over. In Porto Rico there would be a separation of the civil and the military authority; but this was still under consideration, and the bill was not yet prepared. As for the principal question, that of slavery, the institution was defended by none; its abolition was a question of form and time; the time had come to abolish it in Porto Rico, and the slaves would be emancipated there without loss to their masters. There was much anonymous opposition; but when the question was debated in the Cortes they would see what it amounted to. No other reforms than these were proposed for Cuba, Porto Rico, or the Philippines. Mr. Inchin had seemed worried because the towns were to name their dependents and schoolmasters. But the town-conncils in Porto Rico were not as free as in Spain, since their president was appointed by the government, and the influence of the government would thus be felt.
Mr. Inclán had said that a majority of the Porto Ricans were secessionists; let him prove it. Not one in ten was a secessionist. The Porto Ricans know they are not suited for a republic, they have no affinity with Cuba, and they do not desire annexation to the United States. Because two hundred men once got up a riot, were all Porto Ricans secessionists? The province was loyal and firmly united to the mother country.
It was said the Cuban rebels would lay down their arms if reforms were given to Porto Rico. He would be glad if the decree could exert such a decisive influence. The rebels had nothing on their side but physical force; Spain had her army and justice. They would not seek independence, but rise to the level of the colonies of other nations.
* * * * * * *
Mr. Saurez Incián said the colonial minister’s remarks impressed him painfully. He had thought Mr. Mosquera would carry out Mr. Ayala’s colonial policy, as he had pledged himself to do when he entered the cabinet for the first time.
Mr. Mosquera had said that the loss of the American possessions was not owing to reforms. History contradicted him. The American deputies to the Cadiz Cortes were the first to head the insurrection, as also those who begged reforms in 1865 had headed the Cuban revolution. After such terrible experience and disillusionment was it conceivable, that in the year of grace 1872, they should again allow themselves to be hallucinated and taken unawares?
The colonial minister replied to Mr. Inclán’s assertion that he was pledged to continue Mr. Ayala’s colonial policy, and narrated his interviews with that gentleman. He then reverted to the first municipal law of 1870. Mr. Ayala and General Baldrich were executing it, but it was suspended, on account of a riot, during his (Mosquera’s) term. He concluded by saying that the government would not be influenced by the filibusters in Madrid any more than by the slave-drivers.
The Marquis de Barzanallana obtained the floor, and spoke in reply to Mr. Zorrilla’s allusion to the moderado party having been influenced by foreign powers, saying that the moderado cabinet had obeyed no foreign influence in arranging the so [Page 861] called Spanish marriages. He was profoundly pained by Mr. Zorrilla’s declaration that it was necessary to follow a different policy from the moderados to avoid becoming a second edition of Morocco and Turkey. The moderados had always acted with intelligence and prudence. They did not defend slavery in principle. They wanted to treat the question as its immense importance demanded. They did not wish to imitate Turkey or Morocco, but rather Brazil, or England in her treatment of the Irish question. No policy in America had been more paternal than theirs, and this should be proclaimed to those governments whose policy was to exterminate the native races on their soil; whereas the moderados had lovingly preserved them. He thought the discussion of emancipation premature at that time, and would wait till the bill therefor was presented, and then they would see how to settle the important question of sudden liberty to the slaves at a cost of six hundred million of reals, ($30,000,000.) He concluded by notifying the government to be ready to produce, when called for, all the documents and notes from all the foreign governments relating to the government of the colonies.
The president of the council of ministers replied to the Marquis Barzanallana. The government had not originated this debate. Mr. Inclán, with unwonted vehemence, had appeared as an echo of those papers that for twenty days past had been calling the ministers filibusters. Mr. Inclán had spoken of national integrity, of the loss of the Antilles, of diplomatic documents, and had cited nothing. He had said “If we could only see all the documents, if the country could only have overheard all those conversations between the minister of state and the envoys of foreign powers!” What could the government do but protest?
The colonial secretary had given explanations respecting the present colonial policy which would quiet the apprehensions of all but the members of the national league. All were agreed on the following points:
- First. Neither the preceding ministers nor the present sought to do anything in Cuba, either administrative, political, or social, while a single rebel remained in arms.
- Secondly. The island of Cuba must be both materially and morally pacified before reforms can be thought of, and if this government is not fortunate enough to hold office when that occurs, it will give its successors the same advice.
- Thirdly. So far as Porto Rico is concerned reforms will go no further than the government has said, namely, the law of ayuntamientos, as already explained by the minister of state, the separation of civil and military authority, which has no more importance than that given to it by those whose sole motive is to cast one more stone at the object of their resentment; and the slavery question, which is the chief, not from its difficulties, for we have shown that it presents none, but from the precedentit establishes, and the government has already declared that it will be no precedent for what may hereafter be done in Cuba. We face the issue resolutely and frankly, for we believe that all that we may accomplish for the country, for liberty, and for the dynasty, would be as naught when compared to the memory that would live after us if we fall before a league, national or liberal, or whatever may be its name, formed to withhold liberty from thirty thousand men whose only crime is that their faces are of another color than ours.
Mr. Carvera. Senators, the members of the republican party have waited with great impatience to learn the intentions of the government, and after the rude shock it has just received from one of the minorities in the senate, we cannot remain silent, but must say that we approve the purpose of the government, although we scarcely venture to applaud it, for we are not content with so little, but seek to go further.
Since the revolution no event has impressed me so much as to hear proclaimed from the ministerial bench the immediate abolition of slavery. This is a great conquest. My country begins to be just, and the nations who are strong enough to be just have the right to enjoy all the liberties that prepare the way for their happiness in the future.
The President. A motion which has been presented will now be read.
It was then read and is as follows:
We pray the senate to declare that it has heard with great pleasure the explanations of the president of the council of ministers respecting the causes and the solution of the recent crisis.
“Palace of the senate, December 20, 1872.
“Ignacio Rojo Arias, Enlogio Eraso, Saturnino de Vargas Machuca, Tomás Acha, Vicente de Fuenmayor, Cosme Marin y Vallejo, Rafael Primo de Rivera.”
Mr. Rojo Arias supported the motion. He said it explained itself. Mr. Juarez Inclán had taken upon himself to advocate, in the name of the Spanish nation, opposition ad perpetuum to reforms in the colonies. This proposition was intended to show the chamber and the country that this question to which a false character had been attributed was simply a political issue, and the expression of the pleasure of the senate on seeing that the crises of a radical ministry were purely parliamentary. In other times only those in the secret knew what a crisis was about. As his object now was to obtain the views of the senate, and, through it, of a majority of the country, [Page 862] he would not set forth his own views, hut simply urge the senate to take the motion into consideration.
The motion was then taken into consideration.
The debate being opened thereon,
Mr. Calderon Collantes approved it. He regretted that it should be brought up now after a stormy and undignified session. So grave a question ought not to be virtually settled by an incidental proposition like this. Was it prudent for the senate to hastily contract an obligation it might have to retract? He begged that the proposition might be withdrawn, and that the government would lay before the senate all the antecedents that had led to their decision, with all necessary documents, so that the question might be studied in detail and not settled off-hand and as a party measure.
All parties felt that the future of the country and the honor of the nation were involved. Personally, he represented no party, and was ready to treat the question, at the proper time, from the elevated sphere of national interests and of right. If obliged to vote against abolition he would not do so because he was a direct or indirect partisan of human servitude, but because the liberty of the blacks might compromise the security of the whites.
Mr. Rojo Arias thought Mr. Calderon Collantes could not have heard the motion read; it did not involve a decision on any matter of colonial policy; all were agreed that the discussion of these questions should be deferred. What he asked was that the senate should approve the settlement of the crisis.
Mr. Calderon Collantes said he opposed it on this ground too; the crisis had been badly adjusted; three ministers should have left instead of two, and he thought of making an interpellation to learn why General Cordova stayed in the cabinet, when he shared the opinions of those who had resigned.
Mr. Rojo Arias insisted on his motion, and thought the course of the minister of war deserved a vote of confidence.
Mr. Cervera . In the name of my friends, I have to state that, as the reforms in Porto Rico were the sole cause of the crisis, and a vote of confidence is now asked for the government, we, who regard the motion now before the senate as a condemnation of slavery in principle, can, under the circumstances, do no less than add our votes to those of the majority.
The motion was again read and put to the vote, being carried by 51 votes to 5.
* * * * * * *
Summary of the proceedings in the chamber of deputies, December 20, 1872.
* * * * * * *
The president of the council of ministers regretted he had not been able to come before the chamber that afternoon to explain the crisis, but the prolonged debate in the senate had prevented.
Mr. Zorrilla proceeded to explain the causes of the crisis in substantially the same words as in his senate speech. (See Appendix C.) Three questions had for some time occupied the cabinet; they all referred to Porto Rico; on the municipal law the cabinet was a unit; on the separation of commands they were also agreed, although nothing had yet been done about it; on the emancipation question they were agreed in principle but divided in form—three being for gradual and five for the immediate abolition of slavery. The latter question was deferred for weighty reasons. But Mr. Bugallal’s interpellation, and the subsequent vote of the chamber, determined the crisis. Two ministers resigned. The King urged their continuance in the cabinet, but as the dissidence could not be overcome their resignations were accepted and successors named in accordance with the opinions of their colleagues and the vote of the chamber. The minister of war shared the views of the two who had resigned, but would remain in the cabinet until important measures pending in his office were disposed of. The new ministers had been identified with the most advanced wing of the radical party since the revolution, and had held office in previous cabinets.
The deputies knew what the new cabinet signified, immediate emancipation in Porto Rico; [applause;] and this not by decree, as had been asserted, but by a parliamentary law, for they would not infringe any prerogative of the parliament. [Applause.] What more could the enemies of the measure demand than the liberty of discussing it fully and combatting it openly, instead of merely advocating, without justice or reason, the postponement of a reform demanded by all whose souls swelled with the sentiments of humanity, and who sought that Spain should not become a mark for the jibes and sneers of the nation. [Applause.] The measure must come [Page 863] before the parliament and be treated by men of enlightenment; men who could distinguish between defending an idea and upholding a fact; between advocating justice and following expediency; between defending the revolutionized Spain of 1868 and the traditional Spain of half a century ago. [Good.] It must be brought before congress to demonstrate that nothing was impossible for governments who would take the initiative, for chambers ready to second them, and for men who, loyal and consistent with the records of their whole lives, who had energy and manhood enough to stimulate their weaker associates, and defy their enemies, to say to reactionary Spain, “we will not go back a single step!” and to liberal Spain, “within the monarchy and the constitution all manner of triumphs and progress may be realized!’’ [Applause.]
The question of Cuba was completely separated from that of Porto Rico; Cuban reforms were not yet even under consideration. He had before declared, and now he repeated, that this government would attempt nothing, propose nothing for Cuba until, not merely material, but moral peace, was restored. It was unjust to say that reforms in Porto Rico meant reforms in Cuba; and was not only unjust but false to assert that the reforms in Porto Rico would go beyond the declared programme of the government. He said this for the fourth or fifth time, and he hoped for the last time.
This cabinet did not ignore the serious difficulties that confronted it, and the hostile attitude of parties not heretofore hostile to the revolution. But these would be overcome as graver difficulties had been. They found the Carlist insurrection in full vigor, and this had since been complicated by the rising of the extremists. It seemed as if chaos and anarchy threatened them. But the government had kept on its steady course. With the Carlists in arms it had presented and passed the Church bill without any increased alarm resulting. Order had been disturbed in many parts of Spain, but the constitutional guarantees had not been suspended. The government was tranquil in the face of these dangers, because it had faith in the strength of its principles, and sought to serve the country; if the country abandoned them they would quit their posts, but not their principles, and fall with honor. The recent conscripts were now in the ranks, although this had seemed an impossibility; the budget was passed, the Church bill voted, and many other reforms, the Carlists dominated, and all public and secret foes confronted with success. How great a triumph for the government and the radical party if to all this it added the emancipation of 30,000 slaves!
Mr. Zorrilla then adverted at some length to the question of public order, stating his purpose to reorganize the police and penitentiary systems, to inaugurate reforms in the criminal law, and to adopt other constitutional means to restore and preserve order.
He concluded by saying that, with the strength and good will of congress and the country on the side of the government, that everything was possible in the way of the tranquil development of law and reform; and that one thing alone was completely impossible—that reaction and traditionalism can ever take the place of liberal and democratic principles. [Great applause.]
The debate on Mr. Becerra’s proposition of 17th (see Appendix A) was continued.
Mr. Estebon Collantes opposed it. He wanted the colonial issue fully debated before the holiday recess. The government had initiated the gravest crisis of the century. All desired the integrity of the national domain, did they not? [Cries of yes!] Then cursed be he who failed to hold his word. The government had raised an issue at once political, administrative, social, and commercial. Was all this to be discussed in one night? No; let it be debated for three days, or three months, if need be. This was not a party question. It was about as proper to call the majority filibusters as to speak of Bourbonists and Alfonsists in this issue.
Mr. Zorrilla’s exposition was simply a sequel to what he had said the other day. He then said three things: that the government took up reforms because it was pledged to do so; that it possessed more data on the subject than the oppositions and the nation; and that the country was deeply agitated, and each day brought forth a calumny or a falsehood. The government was pledged to reform. Was this the only reform promised? How about the abolition of conscription, the reduction of taxes, and economies in the Budget? If these were not realized, why not take time to consider the colonial question coolly? The government possessed more data than the country! This was a very grave self-accusation. Why not begin by laying before the house, as other nations did, all the documents relating to this matter? Why not publish all that had taken place between the United States Government and that of Spain? This would have avoided the circulation of unauthorized documents and rumors.
The country was perturbed, and new calumnies arose daily. Was not this liberty one of the conquests of the revolution? His party believed there could be no peace where a government or a monarch could be thus assailed. The radicals called this freedom a boon; let them suffer the penalty. The so-called conquests of the revolution were a calamity, and it was a double calamity to carry them to the colonies. “We (the Alfonsists) do not oppose reforms, for we are reformers, nor progress, for we are lovers of progress; we combat reforms which will cause the loss of Cuba and Porto Rico, and afterward of Catalonia, and after that of Castile.”[Page 864]
These reforms were inopportune from a commercial point of view, as he would subsequently show.
The Antilles demanded liberty and reforms. Why not demand of them obligations and duties? They were to be made provinces of Spain? Then away with that costly machine, the colonial office; no minister of Poleneia or Oviedo or the other provinces Was needed. Then why for the colonies? Why not tax them for the home government and give them the conscription? It was said that their climate and soil and surroundings were different. Then if they were not subject to the same duties they were not entitled to the same rights.
These reforms were inopportune because anarchy reigned at home. The peninsula was a perfect Babel, and to give the colonies the “revolutionary conquests” which had produced this result at home was simply madness. The municipal law was also inopportune, because the captain general of Porto Rico had been summoned home for explanations and the law would be executed by a subordinate officer.
Did Cuba really want the reforms they stood pledged to give her? Did the insurgents seek reforms or independence? There were two parties there, the Spanish element and the secessionists. The latter were in arms; the former defended the integrity of their country. It was said: give liberty to Porto Rico, and the Cuban insurgents will recognize our good faith and lay down their arms, and then Ave will give them the same concessions as in Porto Rico. But the armed rebels sought reforms only as a means towards autonomy and independence, and they would probably accept them, as in that way they would attain their ends. It was the same as if the Carlists had been told, “To overcome you we will establish absolutism in Madrid, and thus you will see that when you lay down your arms you will have absolutism in the Basque provinces too.” This was obvious and conclusive. On the other hand, the volunteers of liberty, the real defenders of our territory against the rebels, are daily more and more dissatisfied with the Spanish government, and are not as active as they would otherwise be in terminating the war, for they realize that when the war is over you will give them reforms, and they do not want reforms; these so-called reforms are a punishment for their virtues; the war will never end; the insurgents will not yield and the volunteers will do nothing; and as you will give no reforms till the insurgents submit, civil war in Cuba will be perpetual under your system. And this proves that you yourselves think that reforms are ill-advised, for if reforms meant peace and prosperity and tranquillity and unify of territory, you would at once establish them in Cuba without waiting for the end of the war.” * * * “Were not reforms in Porto Rico and Cuba inaugurated under General Dulce? What was the result? What did Messrs. Becerra and Martos say? They said those reforms were used by the enemies of Spain in farror of secession and that they repented of having established them. This appears in a conversation said to have been held between Messrs. Becerra and Martos and the representative of the United States at this court. In that conversation it is stated that Mr. Martos said that reforms reacted against the interests of the mother country. If this be untrue, why were not the reforms continued in Cuba?”
Mr. Collantes then examined the effects of the municipal law. It permitted foreigners to vote, and it might happen that foreigners might predominate, and then Cuba and Porto Rico would be lost through universal suffrage. It permitted duties on articles of consumption introduced into Porto Rico, and that would ruin the commerce of Castile and Catalonia. Thirty years ago the colonies would not buy Spanish flour; they preferred that from the United States. Castile had spent one hundred millions in improving its flour mills, and now made the best flour in the world. All of this industry would be ruined by the law of ayuntamientos. He concluded by saying, “Loyal Spaniards, as I have shown, do not wish reforms in Cuba; those who demand them are traitors; and you, with the best intentions, are defending a mistaken solution of the problem.”
The Minister of Fomento (Mr. Becerra) replied. It was natural for those who thought the revolution of 1868 an evil should oppose reforms. The data possessed by the government relating to the colonies would be made public in due time. It was asked, if reforms be good, why not give them to Cuba? Because reforms demanded by force ought not to be conceded. They did not repent of having given reforms to Cuba, as Mr. Collantes had said; they had nothing to repent of as long as they withheld those reforms. * * * * * * * *
Mr. Collantes had called emancipation an incendiary measure that would spread from Porto Rico to Cuba. How would it spread? Would the freedmen incite the slaves in the other islands to seek their freedom? No. The slave-drivers had made them less than man, than beasts even, for they had neither property nor family. The tiger might nourish her young, but the infant slave was torn from its mother’s breast and sold. How then could it spread? Through the slave owners and the press? Impossible. The insurgents already offered the slaves freedom if they would take up arms. They did not. But a day might come, if the war lasted, when the slaves would realize that they were men with or without reforms, and then would come the real struggle.
* * * * * * * *[Page 865]
Mr. Estélban Collantes refers to a conversation which I do not recall; but I presume that it was one that took place when the minister of state and several other persons met at the house of the president of this chamber, (Mr. Rivero.)
Mr. Estéban Collantes . I do in fact refer to a conversation held in the house of the president of the chamber, in which the ministers of state and public works and the envoy of the United States took part; and in which, according to the published report, it was said that reforms in Cuba had produced results contrary to those expected. If this be not true I have nothing more to say.
The Minister of Fomento. I thank Mr. Collantes for his response. I cannot say how long ago-this conversation was held; but several of us and General Sickles did, iii fact, dine one day at General Rivero’s house. After dinner we talked about this already old question of reforms in Porto Rico. The conversation took place before twelve or fourteen persons, and there was no objection to its being heard by all Spain. We said then that the government was disposed to grant reforms to the loyal and pacific province of Porto Rico, which had on all occasions given such proofs of its fidelity, and to take the initiative in doing so, for we would never grant reforms at the instance of a foreign power. We spoke also of the Cuban war which has presented the aspects of a national war, a civil war, and a war of personal animosities inflamed by the tropical sun and climate. I do not remember exactly what was said, but I recall that we did not allude to individual rights, and touched but slightly on the evil return made by the insurgents to General Dulce’s generosity. A letter from General Sickles was afterward published contradicting the interpretations given to that conversation. As for myself I have never taken notice of any interpretation that may be given to my acts, and therefore I give no heed to what may be said of the part I took in that conversation.
Mr. Collantes had asked: “Why not give the colonies all the reforms of the mother country?” Had England done so with Gibraltar, Canada, and Sierra Leone. The ground must be gradually prepared beforehand. Nothing would yet be done in the Philippines or Fernando Po. Mr. Collantes had censured the law of ayuntamientos, without recollecting that the Marquis de la Habana (General José Concha) had demanded it for Cuba.
* * * * * * * *
Mr. Estéban Collantes recurred to the Rivero dinner incident. He said: “I stated that a report had been printed of a conversation between the ministers of state and fomento, the president of this chamber and the United States envoy, and I also said that this incident had led the president of the chamber to write a letter to General Sickles touching this arduous affair. I have therefore concealed nothing.” The document to which I refer says:
“Mr. Martos observed here that as soon as the present government came into power they sent General Dulce to Cuba with instructions to make the largest concessions to the Cubans. He granted them liberty of the press, and they used it to denounce the government of the revolution. He recognized their right to hold public meetings, and they employed it to despoil Spain of her territory. It then became plain that what the Cubans wanted was not liberty, for that was offered them, but independence, and that Spain could not yield to force without dishonor.
“I offer these words in proof of my argument, but I have shown the pro and con of the question and concealed nothing.”
* * * * * * * *
The Minister of Fomento. I shall reply but briefly to Mr. Estéban Collantes’s statements. The document he has read confirms what I said. Cuba may need reforms on a greater or less scale, before or after Porto Rico; but the flag of “Death to Spain!” has been raised there, and this cry could not be answered otherwise than by preparing for the combat. What did Mr. Martos say to General Sickles? That some reforms had been essayed, that the enemies of the country sought to make use of them, and that, in consequence, they could not do otherwise than fight. My own private opinion, gentlemen, is that a dictatorship would be the best means of speedily ending the war, for there are occasions in which dictatorships are not merely useful, but necessary.
* * * * * * * *
Mr. Ramos Calderon said he would say but little, as it was nearly 1 o’clock, and the chamber must be tired. This was not a time for argument, but for feeling, when the liberty of 30,000 slaves was proclaimed by the prime minister. No more important event had happened for a century, save the United States liberating their four millions of slaves, and the convention under Danton freed the slaves in the French colonies. He then replied at some length to Mr. Collantes’s remarks, touching the action of the cortes of Cadiz, the influence of colonial reforms on Spanish industry, and the inequality of the status of the colonies and of Spain. Could any situation be sadder, he said, than that of an enlightened citizen of Porto Rico who travels in foreign lands, who comes to Congress, and who is free everywhere save in his native island. Even during the reign of absolutism, the laws and organization of the peninsula extended to the colonies; now that absolutism is over, the reign of liberty should be extended to them. And these reforms would be at once given to Cuba if it were not cowardice [Page 866] to do so now. He concluded by saying that the ten deputies from Porto Rico had not proposed these reforms to the radical party? but had simply urged the fulfillment of existing promises. Even if those deputies were not here, the radical party would have fulfilled its pledges. The principle of reform had been guaranteed in the constitution framed without the concourse of colonial delegates. Their fathers had freed Spain from the yoke of the great captain of the age (Napoleon,) and the sons now added their mite to civilization in freeing the slaves.
General Gándara (formerly captain-general of San Domingo) spoke against reforms. His own experience in the colonies showed him that some of these reforms were unwise. No Spaniard who had been across the Atlantic did not return of the same opinion as those who form the Spanish party in the colonies. The only republican deputy who had been in Cuba, Mr. Villergas, had spoken the other day against reforms; and the only member of the late cabinet who had been in the Antilles had provoked the crisis. All partisans of radical reform were inspired by patriotism, and so were those who might differ from them in some respects. No one could oppose the abolition of slavery, for example. He (General Gándara) had been a reformer since 1848. But he objected to the form of the municipal law now given to Porto Rico. It restricted universal suffrage and gave the town-councils autonomic powers, restricted suffrage, eliminated the most healthful and most Spanish element in Porto Rico. Why not rather leave universal suffrage and restrict the powers of the ayuntamientos? The law attacked the principle of authority and left the governor no means of governing. It might be needful to limit the governor’s powers, but he should have enough left to enable him to execute his mission. Another transcendental reform was the separation of civil and military commands where they had never been separated hitherto. This also grievously wounded the principle of authority.
As for the slavery question, he was an abolitionist. But why liberate 30,000 slaves from impulse, and-maintain 600,000 in bondage from motives of expediency? The same motives of expediency militated against the untimely emancipation of the 30,000. They ought to be free if they could be freed without risk. Moreover, sudden emancipation could not be accomplished by the mere command of the governor when he receives the law. He will have to make “regulations” and take time for its enforcement. It was better to study the measure here maturely than to leave it to be studied afterward in Porto Rico. He concluded by saying:
You tell us that you only treat of Porto Rico and not of Cuba until not merely peace but moral tranquillity be restored. Well, then, I tell you this: if Céspedes, on witnessing reforms in Porto Rico lays down his arms and begs that the same reforms be given to Cuba, will you tell him that it is impossible, because moral order is not restored?
And by what means will you restore it? Will the arguments you have employed and the antecedents you have established lead you, against your will, to give the same reforms to Cuba. Can you maintain there a municipal and provincial autonomy? If reforms be established in Porto Rico submission in Cuba is inevitable, for they are too shrewd not to embrace the opportunity, and they will say: “We are at your orders; give us the same advantages you have given Porto Rico.” Go on, then, and give them the means of organizing their forces and preparing for an immediate and triumphant revolution; and you will be forced to endure the humiliation of defeat without even winning the gratitude of those you have favored. * * *
The discussion was her suspended, and the house adjourned at a quarter before 2 o’clock.
Synopsis of the proceedings in the chamber of deputies, Madrid, December 21, 1872.
The sitting began at 1.15 p.m.
Mr. Padial said the transport of slaves from Porto Rico to Cuba was prohibited by law except when they had relatives in the latter island, and then only at their own desire, and in legal form. This law had been frequently evaded hitherto. He asked the colonial minister if orders had been given to positively prevent this traffic, now that emancipation was about to be proclaimed in Porto Rico.
The Secretary said the question would be communicated to the colonial minister.
Several other questions were asked when
Mr. Labra presented two petitions praying for the abolition of the death penalty and slavery.
The order of the day was then entered upon and Mr. Becerra’s proposition was taken up.[Page 867]
Mr. Ramos Calderon rectified an observation made by General Gandara the previous day. They meant to free thirty thousand slaves in Porto Rico because the island was fit for the measure. General Gandara had said Cuba would soon be pacified. When that happened they would free the remaining six hundred thousand slaves, and thus in God’s name blot out slavery on Spanish soil.
Mr. Nuñez de Valasco replied briefly to Mr. Estélban Collantes’s speech of the previous night. Mr. Collantes had said that the interests of Catalonia and Castile were bound up with those of the Antilles, and that their flour trade was in danger of utter ruin. He wished to reply as a deputy for Castile. He thought Mr. Collantes labored under a grievous error fraught with terrible consequences to Spain and the Antilles, if he and his partisans regarded the colonies as mere sources of profit, and to be worked as such. If Spain’s prosperity lay in her trade with the Antilles, it could only be kept up by making the Antilles entirely Spanish, identical with the mother country in aims, feelings, language, rights, and laws. One province could not be privileged and another enslaved without grave perturbations. Privilege engendered pride, and oppression rebellion. It should be borne in mind that the same waves that rolled Spain’s hymns of freedom to the Antilles brought back to her the groans of slavery, and that, while Porto Rico was peaceful, her slaves should be proclaimed men, and not left to realize that they were men, and not to fight for manhood and freedom.
Mr. Estéban Collantes said that they were not discussing slavery; it was a side issue, brought in to divert attention from the main points, and had nothing whatever to do with Catalonia’s commerce or Castile’s flour.
Mr. Nuñez de Valasco said they were discussing colonial reform. Mr. Collantes looked at these solely from the point of view of expediency and not of justice. The provinces of Castile had sent delegations to confer with the government; all had asked colonial reforms. In all Castile there were not two men who thought as Mr. Collantes did.
The Marquis of Sardoval spoke in favor of the proposition. This was the most important issue since the adoption of the constitution of 1869. It was not strange that the separate groups of the opposition should unite against it; some opposed it with consistent adherence to their traditional principles, while others now denied the creed they accepted when the “conciliation” was framed, showing that they had then accepted it for ends of personal expediency. The question was grave, but none should fear to grapple with it on that ground, had not the constituent cortes met and decided far graver issues I Silence should no longer be allowed to give consent to an assumption that they did not feel confidence in their own freedom, and doubted its efficacy in the Antilles. [Good, good.] It would argue debility not to accept the gauntlet now thrown down, and the victory would assuredly not be with those who sought to stifle the right under the mantle of much patriotism. Mr. Collantes had concluded his address by telling the story of a bad actor, in times of absolutism, who, to avoid being hissed from the stage, closed all his speeches with the cry, “Long live Ferdinand the Seventh!” but up thought a parallel to this actor was to be better found to-day in those who wound he their barren arguments with the cry of “Long live Spain!” [Good.]
The municipal, provincial, or financial organization of the Antilles was not under discussion; the real issue was that of slavery. It was said that no one defended slavery in the abstract. But they were not discussing it in the abstract. These were the tactics of the opposition; they accepted abolition in principle, but rejected it in form; they accepted reform, but denied that the time for reform had come. Those who thought twenty-five years ago that there was no obstacle to emancipation within a period of twenty-five years, now that the period is past, hold that the time for such a measure has not come. It was incredible that those who had so recently voted the constitution of 1869 should now deny its principles. In fact they could not discuss its principles now; conservatives and radicals adopted it in common, and must support it together; the only issue was the manner and time of carrying out its precepts.
The orator then drew a parallel between the electoral coalition of April, 1872, and the present league. The motto of the former, he said, was the purity of the ballot; of the latter, slavery. It was most fortunate that this issue had arisen to draw a well-defined line between rival forces. [Applause.]
He complimented General Gándara on the good sense, earnestness, and prudence of his speech, which might be summed up as an argument to show that colonial reforms were dangerous, and contrary to the opinion of the country. It had been said that reforms, however just and necessary, could not be attempted, because the Spanish party in the Antilles opposed them. Men of all parties, there, only remembered their nationality. All alike cried, “Long live Spain,” and all were resolute in combating reforms. Was the intelligence of the Spanish race like the magnetic needle, that lost its fixedness in certain latitudes? Did the liberal become an absolutist on reaching tropical climates? If this were so, he would never cross the seas for all the gold in the bosom of virgin America. But it was not so. Ideas attained a collective force that commanded obedience, even though opposed to individual convictions. Only thus could it be explained how the slaves submitted to the lash, and how armies obeyed their chiefs’ commands and enforced submission on their mutinous comrades. This was [Page 868] the case in Cuba. Some Spaniards go thither to seek their fortune, others to practice a liberal profession, but most of them to hold government office. What happened to those who did not sport the badge of the volunteers? The lawyer found no clients, the merchant found no custom, and there were influences powerful enough to remove the employé, unless all joined in the general cry. An old anecdote would illustrate the situation in Cuba. An illustrious poet, being asked why he had become a brother of the holy inquisition, replied, “I had rather be the cook than the chicken.”
It matters naught to me that the Spaniards in the colonies do not wish reforms. The constitutional convention did not consult the Carlists or the moderados when it gave Spain the liberties guaranteed by the first chapter of the constitution. Here, and here alone, must we and the government seek our inspiration; and if, perchance, the government should be swayed by other suggestions and other motives, and I believed the partisans of reform were in a minority, I, a radical, would counsel my friends to abandon these seats. [Good, good.] But fortunately this is not the case. Congress is the true representation of the country, and should alone determine the course of the government.
Why are reforms perilous? Must they result in the loss of the colonies? I recall how often it has been said that the patriotism and valor of the volunteers, with the concourse of the Cortes and the nation, are enough to prevent the rebellion from triumphing, and how I have heard it said that the rebellion was crushed, and that the bands remaining in the swamps were bands of outlaws; but, if it be true that the volunteers are ready to sacrifice life and treasure to prevent the plucking of the rich gem of Cuba from the diadem of Castile, do you believe they will be against us when reforms are extended to those regions? It would be the same as saying that the patriotism of the volunteers is mainly interest. And, as I do not believe this, from this place I say to the volunteers that they have officious friends here who do them grievous wrong in supposing that they will renounce their defense of the integrity of the nation if reforms be accomplished. [Applause.]
The orator then cited the past record of Mr. Ayala and General Serrano. After the battle of Alcolea, Mr. Ayala said: “The revolution we have effected is so great, so mighty, that the limits of the peninsula cannot contain it, and its beneficent effects reach beyond the seas. Liberty goes out to the colonies, and their representatives shall come hither, who shall be deemed our brethren and shall have an equal part with us in the government of the nation.”
And in 1867, when the moderados were in power, the Duke de la Torre, (Serrano,) captain-general of Cuba, freely and without pressure, made a report to the colonial minister, Mr. Castro, in which he said:
“I have been led to recognize, and I can do no less than say to-day to Her Majesty’s government, with all the loyalty of my character and impelled by my most intimate convictions, that the complaints of the Cubans are just, that their aspirations are legitimate; that there is no reason why they, Spaniards like ourselves, should have no press nor any voice whatever in the government, nor even one of the constitutional guarantees to which we of the peninsula are entitled; that there is no reason why a military and absolute government, from the highest to the lowest in the scale, should be the sole rule in the Antilles; and that now is the fitting time—and let not the government forget it—to take advantage of the internal and external circumstances that favor the political reform urgently demanded by the Spaniards in the colonies, and which it is just and proper to grant them without delay.
“As for the domestic government of the island of Cuba, the extent of its territory makes it indispensable to divide it into several provinces, in order to avoid an excessive centralization prejudicial to all interests. The island was formerly divided into three departments,* * * but it seems to me that the increase in its population justifies the division of the island into six provinces, which I have heard recommended by many Cubans, and which would be Havana, Pina del Rio, Matanzas, Villaclara, Puerto Principe, and Santiago de Cuba. There is no reason whatever why these provinces should not be organized in conformity to the ‘Laws of the Indias,’ before cited, in the same form and manner as those of the peninsula, with their provincial assemblies and councils, the former being chosen conformably to the electoral law which may be established for deputies to Congress, and the latter nominated by the superior civil governor from a list proposed by the assemblies, seeing that such appointments by the supreme government offer difficulties that will readily be appreciated. Each province should have a government without military command, as in the peninsula; and, in order to secure able men, natives of the island and familiar with its needs, it would be better that they should be named, or at least proposed, by the superior governor.”
With respect to the most important issue, the slavery question, General Serrano said:
“And hence the most salient among all the questions is that of slavery, an unfortunate heritage which, always a moral evil, is to-day the source of most serious perils, both domestic and foreign, which menace our transmarine provinces, and compromise the dignity and the peace of the Spanish nation. Thus it was seen that the Duke de [Page 869] la Torre declared in 1867 that the honor and tranquillity of the nation were compromised by slavery. And why should they not now deem that the present situation of Cuba was due to their disregard of these foreseen counsels?” [Marks of approval.]
* * * * * * *
And afterwards he says:
“It is a question of humanity, and under the pretext of humanity we are ever menaced, and more and more day by day, with a disturbing and humiliating foreign intervention, so long as we maintain slavery in our transmarine possessions.”
That was to say, (the Marquis of Sardoval continued,) that no other reforms could be attempted until slavery was abolished. The Duke de la Torre thought so at that time, and the radical party could not afford to be less prominent than he in conceding reforms. He continues:
“In England, in France, and also in Spain, there are anti-slavery societies, which are steadily gaining in the public opinion, for the motto of their standard appeals to their sympathies, and they will end by exerting an irresistible moral influence. Let us make haste to work to the same end with freedom and prudence, lest the current of abolition come to-morrow and sweep us away with it, overwhelming all interests alike, without the guidance of reason and without any possible compensation for the slaveowners.”
There was an argument that seemed to be the Antilles argument of the question. It had been asserted that white labor was impossible in those regions, but oh this point also the Duke de la Torre dissents from the common opinion. He says:
“On very many plantations in Cuba, and especially in Porto Rico, the erroneous idea has been dispelled that the whites could not stand field-labor in tropical climates, and since their aptitude for such labor has been demonstrated, the first duty incumbent upon those of us who are interested in the prosperity of the Antilles, is to favor white emigration thither by all possible means, white labor being the most profitable system, and the only one that offers no perils in the future, and to prohibit absolutely any other race whatever.”
The Marquis of Sardoval concluded by congratulating the government and the nation on the firm ground it had taken in defense of reforms, of justice, and of right. [Applause.]
General Gándara replied briefly. He had been a consistent advocate of reform before the Marquis of Sardoval was born, and was still. He did not know whether the object of reacting from the record of Mr. Ayala and General Serrano was to show that they contradicted themselves, but he was sure those gentlemen would continue to defend those views, and if they did not, he (Gandara) would defend those views on his own account. But it was easy and popular to defend the slave in the regions of the ideal, just as it was difficult and unpopular to seem to defend slavery even on practical grounds. He was as good an abolitionist as the Marquis of Sardoval; they only differed as to the manner of abolition, gradual or immediate. The black race, for which the United States and the French convention had done so much, was ungrateful. The convention decreed them freedom, but in doing so it decreed the extermination of the whites. What was the present vocation of the Haytian negroes? According to General Ghebrard, their President, 350,000 of the 700,000 inhabitants of Hayti belonged to the secret society of Boduc, an anthropological society, which stole, sacrificed, and devoured children. This was a fact, and had come under General Gándara’s own observation while governor of San Domingo, when twenty-four child-eaters had been executed by President Ghebrard’s orders. Give sudden freedom to such a race and they would relapse into barbarism. This was the result of the exaggerated philanthropy of the convention.
Slavery was abolished in the United States against Lincoln’s own desires, for he had thought to end it with the close of the century, and its speedier abolition was due to a war which ruined the country and imposed the hardest laws of war on the conquered. The South still groans under those laws. He had already shown the distinction between Cuba and Porto Rico with respect to reforms. There were two parties in Porto Rico, and insurrection was latent there; but Cuba was in a state of war, and he deplored that a Spanish Congress and government, inspired by a grand ideal, should so grievously err as to decree reforms which would favor the rebels in Cuba.
General Gándara closed by alluding to the Marquis of Sardoval’s dread of crossing the seas lest he should lose the sentiments of liberty. This was not so. The sense of liberty was not lost, but that of patriotism was strengthened. So certain was he on this point, that he would willingly agree to accept the marquis’s views if the latter would make the voyage and judge for himself.
The Marquis of Sardoval was glad to hear that General Serrano and Mr. Ayala held the same views now as they did then.
Mr. Alvarez Bugallal opposed the motion. He had risen from a sick-bed and come thither in order to “pulverize a miserable calumny.” He had been accused, secretly and openly, of having connived with the president of the council in making his interpellation of a few days before—of being Mr. Zorrilla’s accomplice in a shameful [Page 870] farce! He “fulminated his scorn against such calumnies,” and abandoned them to the contempt of the chamber. His alarmed patriotism impelled him ta make his interpellation, and he would have addressed it to any ministry whatever under similar circumstances. The ministry had taken advantage of his interpellation to precipitate a crisis, which fortunately had shown that the radical party was divided upon an issue in which the government now claimed to represent the whole party, and even now one of the ministers refused to follow the rest in the pathway of perdition. This demonstrated that it was not a party issue, but a national question, affecting the integrity of the country.
What changes had taken place since Mr. Zorrilla made his elaborate declaration that the policy of the government in Cuba and Porto Rico would be the policy of the Cuban volunteers! That declaration, which had re-assured the minds of all, was seconded by Mr. Mosquera, who proclaimed his purpose to follow the policy of his predecessor, Mr. Ayala. He, who was now the chief paladin of reform, in 1869 denied that slavery was what it was alleged to be, and had again and again maintained that not a single reform could be given to Cuba and Porto Rico until material pacification should be followed by moral tranquillity. In this very Congress Mr. Zorrilla had answered Mr. Sanromá and opposed immediate reforms. Mr. Bugallal then added:
“I cannot bring myself to believe, for the honor of my country, that the words of the message of the President of the United States could have had any direct influence upon the course of this government; but I tell the minister of state that, in view of such a declaration, I would have completely refused all reforms, and would never have permitted a foreign government to mark out for me not merely the path of the immediate abolition but also, that of reforms.”
Here Mr. Bugallal read extracts from the President’s message.
“I leave it to the judgment of the house if, immediately upon this publication, it comports with our national dignity to undertake colonial reforms at such a time. When a foreign government dares to designate a specific question as a cause of perturbation in a Spanish province, and to indicate a specific solution and the necessity for adopting such reforms, it is not the time for a proud and dignified nation to undertake them.”
Mr. Bugallal then argued that the status of Cuba and Porto Rico was identical socially, and that no discrimination could be made between them. A powerful secessionist element existed in both islands. Spanish liberties could not be extended to possessions where such ideas obtained, and where open enemies of Spain sought those liberties in order to conspire against her. The commissioners of 1867 had practically demanded Cuban independence by recommending an insular congress with power to vote their own budget. They were now rebels, and all the rights enjoyed by Spaniards were about to be put in their hands.
Mr. Bugallal then examined the municipal decree of Porto Rico. It gave the towns power to elect their alcaldes without governmental intervention; this privilege had worked great evils in Spain, and they would be worse in the Antilles. The schools and the clergy were under the control of the town-boards, whose moral influence was thus unlimited. The town-boards could levy taxes on articles of consumption, and if inimical to Spain—as they would be—they could exclude Spanish products and favor those of the United States. Worst of all they could arm a militia to fight against Spain. The decree was also unconstitutional under the 108th article, which limited the power of the government to proclaiming the municipal law of the constituent Cortes. And none of these grave evils were to be lessened by conceding a provincial assembly, and separating the military authority from the civil. On this point he had nothing to add to what General Gándara had said the day before. He concluded by saying that no one opposed abolition, for all were abolitionists by reason of being Christians and Europeans. The question was, should it be immediate or gradual? The former was dangerous and unconstitutional. The only safe path lay in the direction of slow, gradual, and steady reforms for the colonies. The inexperience of the liberals of 1812 and 1820 had caused great losses for Spain. If the lessons then given were unheeded, the remaining portions of the land of Columbus would be irreparably lost.
Mr. Labra supported the motion in a most eloquent speech. He would say but little, the chamber was fatigued, and all were impatient to hear the eloquence of Castelar. But as a deputy from Porto Rico, he must reply to the attack lately made on the representation from that island. He and his colleagues represented the desire of the island for the termination of the statu quo and the concession of the reforms promised by the revolution. They represented not merely the liberal party of the island, but almost the whole population. They sought reforms constitutionally and through the action of the nation. They were accused of impatience and of disturbing public tranquillity, of avoiding public debate on the subject, and of being actuated by selfish motives. They had remained silent, however, for three years, awaiting the consolidation of the work of the revolution and a Cortes that should represent the liberal voice of the nation, knowing that when such a time arrived, reaction in the colonies would no longer be possible, and as Lincoln said on emancipating four millions [Page 871] of men, “it was impossible that a people should be half free and half slave.” But the sime had come for them to speak in behalf of the needs of the island. The Porto Rican deputation had sacrificed many individual views in order to reach a common and homogeneous accord. Some desired perfect assimilation with Spain; others, himself among them, sought colonial autonomy; but all had agreed to ask no more than what was promised by the constituent Cortes. They did not come to defend theories, but to demand the fulfillment of the laws, first, because these laws met the needs of Porto Rico, and secondly, because there was nothing more disturbing, more immoral in the life of a people than to leave laws unfulfilled, and through neglect or malice to convert a code into a dead letter. They demanded nothing more than obedience to the 108th article of the constitution, which provided that the government of the Antilles should be reformed as soon as deputies were present from Cuba or Porto Rico. And, therefore, they demanded, not colonial autonomy, but the fulfillment of the 3d and 4th articles of the two laws of June, 1870, which directed the government to promulgate them at once in the colonies. They asked the fulfillment of the 21st article of the preparatory abolition law, which promised a definitive law of abolition, with indemnity for those left in slavery by the law of 1870.
Those laws were not now under discussion. The Porto Rican delegation had not framed them. They were framed by many of those who to-day combated them.
He well knew what was the Achillean argument of those who opposed the execution of those laws in the Lesser Antilla. “All of us,” it was said, “are partisans of reform, but with discretion, and at the proper time. All of us agree that reforms will work no harm in Porto Rico. The abolition of slavery is easy there, and political reforms will encounter but few obstacles. But the fact is, that whatever is undertaken or done now in Porto Rico anticipates what is to be done in Cuba, and we must not fall into the snare spread for us and reach Cuba, against our will, by the path of Porto Rico.”
From the time Mr. Labra first took his seat as a Porto Rican deputy until now, he had frankly maintained that the Cuban issue was not one of mere force. It was, however, sought to mystify the issue; to reach Porto Rico by the path of Cuba, and to withhold reforms from the lesser island under the pretext of the situation in the greater one. Under cover of this they were asked to deny and renounce for the colonies all the conquests of the revolution. Such a course meant national dishonor and suicide.
Porto Rico’s record was loyal. She had resisted the secession movement of Latin America in 1822, and fought for Spanish integrity in the war of Santo Domingo. Till 1837 she had had the same laws and municipal government as the peninsula. It was false that a secessionist party existed there. The Lares affair was a mere riot; it was unjust to condemn the whole island therefor.
What was the prime need of the island? The abolition of slavery. When, in 1866, Porto Rico was consulted for the first time as to her wants, she begged for abolition, for she felt herself unworthy to ask for her own liberties until she had given freedom to her slaves. And since that time her deputies had deemed it their first duty to demand the emancipation of the small and lessening number of slaves in that island. In this they had been ably seconded by their constituents, who, dissatisfied with the incomplete law of 1870, had since voluntarily manumitted many of their slaves. The die was cast. The colonial issue was now defined. “Liberty to all!” was their rallying-cry.
Mr. Labra then recounted the history of the peace of Amiens, by which the slave-trade was revived and the slaves already freed were re-enslaved, thus precipitating the tragedy of Santo Domingo, which was in no wise the result of abolition. The dying exile on Saint Helena was haunted by the memory of this act, and the curse of Toussaint l’Ouverture would forever rest on the dynasty of Napoleon.
He concluded by saying:
“Forward, radicals! Forward, men of September! Our work is just, and must redound to the welfare of the country. Henceforward we can close our opened arms to none because they think differently from us. It is impossible that there can be Spaniards and anti-Spaniards in the Antilles instead of conservatives and liberals. No; those islanders may dwell with us, free as in the United States, expansive and quivering with life as in South America, and happy as in the English West Indies. Together with us they may tread the path of the future and of humanity, for there is room for all parties—republican, monarchical, radical, and conservative alike—beneath the standard of Spain; and all shades and tendencies of opinion may dwell in the august bosom of our fatherland. I have done.”
Mr. Castelar then delivered a thrilling oration in favor of the measure. His speech, translated from his own revised manuscript, will be found in Appendix H.
The Minister of State, (Mr. Martos.) The speeches made against this proposition made a reply necessary on the part of the government; but a partial reply has been already made by the minister of fomento last night. You have just heard, deputies, the oration of Mr. Castelar, who is already fully aware that it is not because of my personal affection for him, but because I share the opinion of all those who have had the [Page 872] good fortune to hear him, that I regard him as the first orator in the world. It is an honor for Spain that the most inspired accents heard in the whole world are uttered by a Spanish deputy, and are born in and spread abroad from the Spanish tribune. A great obligation rests upon the government in this debate; but under the present circumstances it cannot discharge it. The same thing occurs, gentlemen, in the moral life as in the physical life: when we journey on, oppressed with weariness and thirst, through desert sands, it is not possible for us to pass far from the cool spring that slakes our thirst, and when we are in the midst of darkness it were vain to hinder our eyes from drinking in the radiance of the light that shines through our gloom; and so, also, it were vain for me now to seek to enchain your attention. But I cannot, deputies, omit to make a few remarks in reply to certain phrases of most serious import uttered by Mr. Bugallal.
“The debate is closed. Mr. Castelar has spoken the last word; the slaves in Porto Rico are already free! [Great applause.]
“The law of abolition to be submitted to you by the government is the form by which we are about to realize this grand hope, but is the form and nothing more, since the inspired utterance of Mr. Castelar, which will be legally corroborated by the vote of the parliament, in reality is the final consecration of the liberty of those men henceforth.
“The senate yesterday was the scene of a great debate. Interests which I respect lifted up their voice then and there against reform; but the vote of that body was the same as the vote of this chamber the other day. The Spanish chambers have spoken. The abolition of slavery in Porto Rico shall soon be an accomplished fact. [Prolonged and repeated applause.”]
But from whence do these reforms spring? I regret to have heard from the lips of a Spanish deputy that the purposes of this government, which, in fine, represents the dignity, the high bearing, and the independence of the Spanish nation, and the votes of the two chambers do not respond to the inspiration of our consciences, to the necessity of discharging solemn obligations we have publicly contracted, but that they are due to the dictation, to the menaces, perchance, of some foreign nation. No! No one can believe this, no one has the right to say this; and these words of Mr. Bugallal’s have prompted me to rise and dispel the shadow which seems to linger in his mind.
Mr. Bugallal did not say, as it has been said, however, elsewhere, that we propose the abolition of slavery because we are forced to do so by England and the United States; but the honorable gentleman has regretted that this project of reform should have coincided with certain utterances in the message of the President of the United States.
Well, then, Mr. Bugallal is doubtless unaware that the ministerial crisis brought about by the measure which has given rise to this debate took place in the bosom of the cabinet toward the end of November last, and that the Congress of Washington was opened the first Monday in December; consequently, when this government had already resolved to extend reforms to the island of Porto Rico, and when its resolve to grant them was so firm that, because it would not recede from this path, it had to undergo the bitterness of losing several of its members, the message of President Grant was not yet read, and, perhaps, not yet written. Let Mr. Bugallal therefore give no heed to this coincidence, let him rejoice at it as a good Spaniard and understand that if there has been any influence at work it is more likely that the knowledge of this purpose of the Spanish government (which I, as minister of state, knowing the applause it would receive from all Europe, took good care to communicate by telegraph to all the world) may have led to the substitution of approbation for censure, and that, perhaps, to the knowledge of this intention it is due that the President of the United States has said what no President of those States has ever before said in speaking of Spain and Spanish governments.
Neither has Mr. Castelar any cause for alarm. He need not fulminate the invincible bolts of his eloquence against the opposition of the military aristocracy. Our worthy generals are not elements of discord nor instruments of reaction, either in America or in Spain. Our army, which is pouring out its blood in defense of the integrity of the country, would welcome with applause a peace that would end this cruel war; and there is a way of ending the war in Cuba otherwise than by the melancholy means of extermination, for extermination will never end it; and the time has come for the army of our soldiers to make room for the passage of the impatient army of our ideas.
It is not true that we have no minister of war now; neither is it true that we would have none if we were to suffer the misfortune of losing from our midst our worthy General Cordova, whose patriotic and honorable course was so justly lauded yesterday by the president of the council. If General Cordova should one day abandon this bench, we would have a minister of war.
But the time for voting is at hand, and “the government demands that the ayes and noes be taken. Would to God all party views might be merged in the sentiment of patriotism and love of Spain! And know this, deputies, this most laborious parliament [Page 873] can give its labors no more glorious coronation than to decide now, in principle, and to-morrow when the law is before it for discussion, the immediate freedom of the slaves in Porto Rico.” [Great applause.]
Mr. Lasala obtained the floor and asked that certain extracts from the debate on the “Labra proposition” of 1871 should appear in the official reports of this day’s proceedings, which was accorded.
The proposition submitted by Mr. Becerra being again read, and the ayes and noes thereon being demanded, it was approved by 214 votes to 12.
The chamber adjourned at a quarter past seven o’clock.
Speech of Emilio Castelar in the chamber of deputies, December 21, 1872, in favor of the immediate abolition of slavery in the island of Porto Pico.
Messieurs Deputies: I trust the chamber will pardon me if I begin my address by reading a few paragraphs from previous speeches of mine, which are necessary to explain and justify my personal position in this debate.
On the 20th of June, 1870, the most essential of the issues before us, the slavery question, was under discussion as it is to-day, and I then uttered the words I now deem needful to read to the chamber: “In the revolution of September there were two motive forces, one analogous to the French movement of 1830, the other analogous to that of 1848. The radical and conservative parties believed they had signed a compact in the constitution of 1869, whereas they had simply signed a truce; they believed they had found a common channel in which to mingle their currents, whereas they had in reality but found a new held of battle whereon to measure their strength.”
And afterward, when I was combating the first imperfect law, the product of a coalition, I proposed that it should be replaced by a radical law, and I spoke these words: “Your law is not a law of charity, it is not a law of humanity; your law aggravates the evils instead of curing them. When the cancering sore is deep, palliatives are of no avail; a cautery is needed. And the cautery is to be found in the amendment I have the honor to propose to you; it is to be found in the immediate abolition of human bondage.”
Three years have passed, deputies, and the immediate abolition of slavery is now proposed in this place, and will be presented to you through the initiative of the government at an early day. And now I ask of you, I ask of all those of honest conscience, can any one be surprised at my personal attitude in this debate? Nevertheless, deputies, I do not speak of my own will and choice; although I might have invoked these precedents in support of my course, I have hitherto refrained from speaking because I do not seek to reap in politics an egotistical satisfaction; the triumph of principles and the good they may bring to the people can alone satisfy me. I do not speak of my own will; I speak because of exigencies—nay, more than exigencies, I speak because of commands; nay, more than commands, I speak because it is the authoritative will of the republican minority that I should do so. Those who hear me well know that, although in other legislatures I have spoken, perhaps, too often, in this Parliament and in this term I have not even broken silence.
Grave misinterpretations have elsewhere been given to this silence, inspired, in my judgment, by an exalted sentiment of patriotism and by the highest convictions of justice; grave misinterpretations whose wave shock has been withstood by the firm serenity of my conscience, and which have been lost in the just oblivion of public opinion. Subsequently, eminent deputies, of all the conservative parties, some of whom now hear my words, and others of whom, unfortunately for themselves and for us, are now absent from this place, spoke to me of my silence, and urged me to break it, employing terms of admiration which I attributed to affection, and which show how eminent orators illuminate all by the reflection of their speech, and how great minds raise all to the level of their own merit. I shall speak, gentlemen, and perhaps I speak discontenting all alike. [I shall speak of the policy of the government, of the fulfillment of its engagements, of the situation of the party that forms the majority of this chamber, of the nature and tendency of certain elevated powers, of the attitude we maintain, of the prudent conduct imposed upon us by the hazards of our country and of the complications of European policy; I shall speak of all this when I can do so without harm to liberty or democracy or federation or the republic; ideas to which I render fervent homage with a rare constancy not much in favor in these latter days, when new comers are accustomed to control at their own pleasure, the fortunes of the older parties. [Great applause.] A constancy I shall never be led to abandon by [Page 874] ingratitude nor slights nor threats nor calumnies, because I do not cherish ideas of federal republicanism to please any one or to serve the whim of the multitude; for those ideas are incarnate in the fibers of my whole being, and will be the inseparable companions of my existence until the very hour of my death.
Having said this much, I now enter on the subject of the debate. The republican minority has voted in favor of taking under consideration the proposition for a vote of thanks to the president of the council for his utterances respecting colonial reforms. The republican minority will vote as one man for the approval of this proposition. In voting thus, the republican minority does not give its vote to a monarchical party; its vote is inspired by its own conscience and by its own principles; it means to adhere to the steadfast pole of its ancient doctrines. And if it chances that the government and the majority are with us in such an issue, even as in those days of sorrow, now passing into oblivion, in which we combated a traditional monarchy, an intolerant church, and a census which drove the people from the ballot-box—even as in those days we did not pause to reckon the number of our foes, so neither do we now count the number of our friends when it is sought to embody here and give to America the principles of liberty and of justice. The republican minority has heard a cry to which it can never be deaf, the cry of reforms already promised—already given, as it were— to long-oppressed peoples, victims of military despotism and bureaucracy, who, more than all others, have need to breathe the air of modern life; peoples who are flesh of our flesh, blood of our blood, bone of our bone, offshoots of our own soul, an integral part of the national domain, the essence of our country, having a right to our own rights, and who—if when emancipated proved ungrateful and turned against the nation that recognizes and proclaims their right, against the parliament that gives them and has also power to take them away—would merit the wrath of our justice, the condemnation of the civilized world, and the eternal curse of history, wherefrom lies no appeal. [Boisterous and prolonged applause.]
Another question, deputies, of the utmost importance, still remains. As I have said, we advocated, in its good time, the immediate abolition of slavery, and we advocated it, not in order that our names might resound through the world, not as an academical theme serving as the frame-work for the display of mock sensibility, or whereon to hang the baubles of our rhetoric; no! We advocated it as an exigency of universal progress, and as a duty toward our country from which we could not shrink. It is hard, indeed, to confess that beneath the skies flooded with the radiance of liberty, and darkened, too, at times by tempests; beneath the shadow of your constitution whose first articles amplify the rights guaranteed by the descendants of the Puritans to the peoples who founded the great American Republic—there still subsist thousands of unhappy creatures, things rather than men, instruments of the work and wealth of others, feeling in their brain the generous warmth of human nature and in their conscience the ignominy of the brute creation; who bear on their foreheads the helot’s brand, on their backs the pariah’s scars, and on their feet the fetters of the slave; a race anterior to the revolution, anterior to Christianity itself; it is a crime which should be done away with, to-day rather than to-morrow; for we should be unworthy to frame within our own minds the conception of right, and to stand forth before history as the defenders of liberty, if we should suppose that the strict fulfillment of duty and the realization of the purest ideas of justice would redound to the injury of our country. [Repeated applause.]
Ah! deputies, the republican minority seeks and desires this, absolutely, happen what will, come what may, for it is justice. And moreover it seeks and desires this because, like all acts of justice, it is also of the highest political expediency. However radical we may be, however rationalistic we may appear, however independent may be our desire to hold our own ideas of every circumstance of time and space, none of us will deny that a deed of the first magnitude in history descends as a legacy to all time and is inherent in all ages to come.
To Italy belongs the aesthetic education of the human race, for Italy is the mother of the renaissance; to Germany belongs the scientific education of the human race, for Germany is the mother of the reformation; to the United States belongs the political education of the human race, for they are the honored sires of republican federation; to France belongs the revolutionary initiative in Occidental Europe, for France is the mother of the revolution; to England belongs the principal of constitutional stability throughout the continent, for England is the illustrious land of parliamentary rights; and we, Spaniards, are, have been, and ever shall be the mediators between the old and the new world, between the old and the new continent; for we, our heroes, our sailors, our navigators, created rather than discovered between the Atlantic and the Pacific the new land of America, to be, from the very commencement of the modern epoch and the new birth of the genius of civilization, a living monument of freedom, and form with its splendid horizons and the beauties of its bounteous soil a worthy sanctuary for the spirit of modern times. [Applause.]
It matters little, very little, deputies, that the greater part of political and material ties that linked us with America have been severed. The Spanish race, from the simple [Page 875] fact of being Spanish, is essentially American, and the Americans, from the mere fact of being Americans, are essentially Spanish. Seward, for whom modern democracy mourns—Seward said on the conclusion of the American war: “Spain will forever be an American power.” And Lincoln’s prime minister had a just title to represent in history the entity of American integrity. It matters little that the ancient bands that united us with America have been broken. For, is the state the country? Is the government the country? This would be indeed a paltry conception of country. Country is the origin from which we descend, the race to which we belong, the cradle wherein we were rocked, the fireside that throws over our lives the golden haze of its poesy, the temple which inspired us with our earliest hopes, and wherein our first prayers arose like clouds of incense; and language, that embodiment of the ideal, that speech of the soul; all this is, and will be, and can never be otherwise than essentially Spanish in America. And if they revile us, they revile their own selves; if they curse us, they curse their own selves; if they are renegade to us, they must deny us in our own tongue, the most beautiful, the most sonorous, and the richest spoken by man in the modern world, [applause,] and which is as the golden ring enamelled by the genius of so many minds, with which the spirit of Spain is wedded to the spirit of America, and the spirit of America to the spirit of Spain, to all eternity, on the pages of past and future history. [Applause.]
I regret, deputies, I deplore that a great part of the illustrious conservative party is absent from this place, for I am an enemy to all acts of violence, as I abundantly showed when the conservative party occupied the government bench and I this seat. And, addressing only the conservatives here present, I say to them, never put your faith in any American question; never put your faith in the doctrines of the conservative school. Did you not observe how a parliamentary orator, of such translucent mental power, such far-sighted intelligence, and such incisive eloquence as Mr. Estéban Collantes—be not offended with me—how inferior to himself he appeared last night? Did you not remark Mr. Bugallal, whose gigantic intellect is imbued with all modern ideas, how he hardly seemed to grasp, and how he scarcely explains the issues in America? It may be, although I doubt even this, that the conservative school may prove adequate to the needs of the aged monarchies of Europe, but the democratic policy and the democratic school are alone capable of fully comprehending the young democracies of America. Do not be offended; in foreign nations men as illustrious as you have fallen into the same error. The English whigs and tories, when the war, accursed of God and man, broke out in the Southern States of the Union, believed that the miracle of modern history was about to be destroyed; they believed that the American confederation was about to pass away, and they declared it even in the House of Commons; an error for which they had to pay with the salutary and sublime humiliation of Geneva. A man as eminent as you, one of our most illustrious jurists, went to Mexico as the embassador of the Spanish nation; he arrived, delivered his credentials to all those who represented the reaction, and on his return entered the senate and said, in the year one thousand eight hundred and sixty two, that within five years a chain of constitutional monarchies would stretch from the Potomac to Patagonia. No; pardon me the seeming presumption, when I say that none but we republicans can grasp American questions. We said that Buchanan was preparing the way for the insurrection of the South, and he prepared it. When Lincoln passed, almost a fugitive, fleeing from the savage Missourians, who sent hired assassins to attack him on his way to the Capitol at Washington, where martyrdom and immortality awaited him, we said that he would find himself compelled to put an end to slavery, and he was compelled to put an end to it. In those terrible days, when, on the banks of the Rappahannock, fourteen thousand republicans like ourselves fell in the battle of Fredericks-burgh, in the holy cause of the emancipation of the blacks, we said: “Forward! Forward! for triumph is yours; and they triumphed. When, in our own country, there appeared insensate reactionary tendencies, we predicted in our journals the perils of such tendencies, which of themselves explain the difficulties and stumbling-blocks of the present situation. When it occurred to the great diplomatic minds of Europe to set up the shadow of an empire on Mexican soil, and when the poor victim of the errors, the ambition, the injustice, and the perjuries of kings, set out on his journey to America, we said in our papers, you will find it written there, “The fate of Iturbide awaits thee; thou thinkest that thou goest to find a throne, but thou goest to find a scaffold!” Why? Why is this, gentlemen? It is because the spirit of the future is ours, and the spirit of the future is the spirit of America. And we, who possess this, spirit of the future, now proclaim to you that the denial of reforms, the maintenance of slavery, the imperial rule of your captains-general and of your bureaucrats, will lose you Cuba and Porto Rico, and that they can be alone preserved through our reforms and our principles. [Applause.]
Gentlemen, the republican minority has charged me to say, and I say it unhesitatingly, that, with the ardor with which the republican minority loves all its principles, and with the faith and loyalty with which the republican minority believes all its doctrines, it desires and believes to-day that the integrity of the nation is needful and [Page 876] indispensable, at whatever cost, in Asia, in Africa, in Europe, and in America. [Applause.]
We do not desire this from an egotistical and narrow sentiment of patriotism; we desire it from a humane and universal principle of justice. Spanish America, independent America well knows to-day, thanks to a recent experience and recent warning examples, that she need fear nothing and has nothing to fear from the European continent.
Nevertheless, in the same manner as suffering spurns individuals to action, so rivalry and necessary competition spur nations onward. Although the dread of European intervention is at an end, there are, assuredly, great rivalries of race in the bosom of America herself. As the globe is condemned to endure the warfare of species, so is history condemned to record the rivalries of races. And there may chance to be some one race, perhaps there is, which, justly filled with the pride of its prosperity and the spirit of its principles, may seek to occupy upon the American continent a wider field than that assigned to it by Providence and by nature.
The Spanish race knows that to oppose this war is unnecessary; that, fortunately, wars are on the decline wherever democracies rule. The Spanish race knows that two problems remain to be solved; the problem of their domestic and the problem of their foreign policy. The problem of their domestic policy is to be solved by ceasing to assume that democracy is a simple and unique principle. The same thing happens with the social elements in political economy as with the Aristotelian elements in science; they were believed to be simple; they have turned out to be compound.
In the social system, as in nature, we need complex elements. We are asphixiated alike in pure oxygen and pure carbonic acid. Democracy is liberty, but it is also authority; it is a movement, but it is also stability; it is action, but it is also a curb on its own action; it means the rights of men, but it also means discipline and social authority. [Applause.]
The American democracy comprehend this, and thus they employ their strength in allying right with authority, and the mobility, the initiative of the masses with the tranquillity, the solidity of the peoples, and with the firm establishment of popular government. And when those internal problems shall have been resolved, and almost everywhere they have been resolved, the Spanish democracies of America will then consider that they cannot live in isolation; that each one of those States must come to an understanding with the rest. And thus will come forth again the grand idea of Bolivar. In the Isthmus of Panama, having Europe on one side and Asia on the other, and at either hand the two hemispheres of the New World, the Spanish race will unite to form on that ground the grand league of the Spanish American democracy, to found their free confederation. And our children of America will call to mind that, though the fact that some are called Mexicans, others Argentines, and others still Colombians, sets up a dividing line between them, yet the fact that all are Spaniards fuses them together as one. And over the congress of the Isthmus of Panama will hover invisible forms the genius of our country, with a mightier authority than that which our ancient captains wielded, the authority of reason and of right; and with a brighter glory than that of fragile conquests, the glory of democracy and of progress. [Stormy and prolonged applause.]
But to this end, deputies, we must preserve at any cost, what? the continent? No. The American continent lives, and will live, in perpetual independence. We must preserve the islands now in our possession. We do not wish, let it be understood the world over, we do not wish to annex an inch more of land unless it be the inch of Gibraltar; we wish no more. I repeat, then, what belongs to us, the inch of Gibraltar; we do not want an inch more of land; but on the other hand we will not have an inch less, not one! we will not even abandon so much as the Rock of la Gomera. [Good! Good!]
And I will tell you why I desire the maintenance of all these territories. The spirit is not only individual, it is also national. Nor is it national only, it is likewise a spirit of race; and not only is it a spirit of race, it is the spirit of a continent, of a world. And not only is it a world spirit, it is a human and an absolute spirit. And I avow that geography itself yields to this spirit. This land, so solid, yields to ideas as the soft wax to the seal. And in the geography of humanity, in the relation between races, peoples, and continents, it is fitting that there should be spots of ground to stand out as middle terms between peoples, races, and continents. This condition of things has always existed in history. Rosillon, Sardinia, Languedoc, Provence, were in the middle age mediating territories between France, Italy, and Spain; and from that mixture of races, that blending together of spirits, arose modern culture, which in many respects is better, on the shores of the Mediterranean at least, than ancient Greek culture.
Until within a short time Alsatia fulfilled her destiny between the Latin and the German races. What a drawback for the world if we should have to renounce the hope that Alsatia will yet form a part of the French nation once more! The Alsatians were born Germans and French at one and at the same time; Germans by their race, [Page 877] Frenchmen by their nationality; they knew the two languages as languages only can be learned from the cradle; they translated works of the Latin genius into German and communicated them to the North, and they translated the works of German genius into French and communicated them to the West. How great a loss in chemistry of ideas if Alsatia should have to be perpetually Germanic! That very thing has come to pass in Savoy. The Savoyards are neither French nor Italians, they are both. For that reason Cavour was enabled to transport to Italy the genius of France, because he felt the soul of Italy and the soul of the French nation unite in himself.
Gentlemen, that which happens to peoples and races must of necessity happen with continents. This very morning I looked with pride, so to speak, on our beautiful possessions in the Antilles, and involuntarily came to my mind that loveliest of Grecian archipelagos where the genius of Asia was espoused with the soul of Greece, and thus became a middle term between the most illustrious portions of the ancient continent. Looking at the Antilles, I said to myself: How these islands are moving away from the American continent and are drawing nearer to the European. Why so? Because these islands are indispensable mediators between the genius of Europe and the genius of America. This idea is mine, although its basis belongs to one of our greatest statesmen. I have noted that just as we Andalusians represent the artistic genius of the country, the Aragonese represent its political genius. On that account they have preserved their liberty so long; on that account when you go to Aragon and behold the defenders of Sarragossa you discover that those marvels have been wrought because two centuries of despotism could not extinguish the personal dignity that gave them their great parliaments. Hence the most illustrious men of our nation are: Pedro the Third, the greatest of his time, the greatest politician of the thirteenth century; Peter the Cruel, the greatest politician of the fourteenth century; Ferdinand the Fifth, the greatest political genius of the Renaissance, according to Machiavelli, and confirmed subsequently by all history. Well, the count of Aranda and Aragonese likewise desired to bring Spain into the circuit of modern ideas, and for a time succeeded in his desire. He was like his age, encyclopedist, and he said to Charles the Third, “It is not possible to preserve the American continent; let your majesty convert those great empires into so many states, and reserve to yourself the islands exclusively.”
Here, gentlemen, is the foresight of genius, inspired in the ideas of its time and confirmed by a succession of facts. The continent cannot, ought not, to belong to us; we must renounce absolutely all idea of European reconquest on the American continent, and we must keep the islands, because they are the hidden reefs on which are reared the light-giving beacons of our ideas; because they are the golden chain which unites continents; because they are destined, when federations between peoples and races shall be no more, to serve as landmarks to map out the federation of continents, the political aim of the human race. All the nations that have chiefly contributed to the transformation of America have islands in the sea of the Antilles, witnesses of past struggles, bases of future elaborations in the work of civilization. Some belong to those nations of the north who claim to have been the first to divine the existence of the new continent, and to have landed tempest-driven upon its unknown strands; others to those who, passing the sea in order to extend themselves farther, and attaining their liberty in order to enlighten themselves, contributed to establish the amplest mercantile relations in the modern world; and some belong also to that vast empire whose sons founded the colonies that were the first to become republics. Some belong to that nation which discovered large portions of the territories of the north and engraved on the map the bay and river of Saint Lawrence. Italy has none, in chastisement, perchance, of her blindness to the genius-flame on the brow of her most illustrious son. And we have the most beautiful, the richest, and best located portion, the key of the Gulf of Mexico, the grand station for the traveler from the Northern to Central America. We have labored so much in the New World that, as a great orator has said, if the Pacific and Atlantic should join their tides and swallow up America, leaving only the highest crest of the Andes above the waters, there, on the crest would still abide in giant petrifaction the genius of our country! [Great applause.]
The President. Pardon me, Mr. Castlelar, the hour of adjournment having arrived, the house must be consulted as to whether the session shall be prolonged.
The Secretary, (Mr. Lopez.) Does the house agree to a continuance of the sitting? [Yes, yes,]
The President. The sitting is continued. Go on, Mr. Castelar.
Mr. Castelar . No; our relations with America can never come to an end. Spain needs to amplify them and stretch them still further, in order that she may not only be the extreme of the old continent, but the beginning of the new. Thus her spirit will broaden in the earth, and her genius will have incentives worthy of its vigor. But, gentlemen, to this end one thing is necessary; to this end Spain must be action and not reaction, liberty and not arbitrariness, justice and not privilege, abolition of slavery and not the eternal rule of the slave-driver in the most beautiful part of the planet. That we may speak the truth, let us possess that frankness, that energy, that [Page 878] manliness possessed by the wise, the good, the immortal Lincoln by the blood-reddened Potomac, when men fell at his feet like harvest-swaths, when the northern cavalry pursued Lee while the artillery drew near to Richmond, that Babylon of slavery, and he, a second time the elected of the people, ascended the Capitol, and, gazing on all those ruins, seeing the smoke of those burnings, and hearing the wail of the mothers, mingled with the groans of the victims, said, “Yet, if God wills that the war continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said, ‘The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’” [Applause.] And if Spain, gentlemen, if this nation we all love so well, and for which we would all lay down our lives, if Spain is to be made up of arbitrary generals, greedy bureaucrats, selfish tax-gatherers, censors who stifle human thought, unbridled hosts massacreing children, the slave-trafficker’s bark, the Babylon of the plantation, and, to crown all this, the bazar and the slave-market, ah! then, arise with me and cry, Accursed be the genius of our country!
But, deputies, does Spain signify these things? Are they Spain, forsooth? Then, what do all our labors represent? And you, the radical majority in this place, I speak to you without flattery, because a day will come wherein I may also have to tell you bitter truths, what are you but the most liberal expression of the law-giving power that our country has known since the beginning of the century? Why, is not Spain to-day the sovereignty of the people, universal suffrage, individual rights, democracy, the whole of the spirit of the age, in fine? And will you deny modern ideas to that America where modern ideas have assumed their most fitting form and most natural organism? Of what avail, think you, are the slave-traders’ doubloons and the flour-barrels of those millers of whom the ever utilitarian moderado party told us yesterday? Of what avail are such things as these before the boundless ocean of modern ideas?
Would you be more arbitrary than the men of past ages? Our fathers are caluminated by those who say that they carried to America a narrow and selfish spirit. No, it is not true; such might have been said by those illustrious leaders who fought for their independence; they might have said so in the intolerant spirit common to all those who defend a new principle against antequated ideas, in the intolerant spirit shown by St. Augustine and the fathers of the church towards paganism, and by Voltaire towards Catholicism. But history says another thing; history says that our viceroys were wise men; that our council of the Indies was a model council; that our colonial laws were the most humane and the most far-seeing of all the colonial systems of that age; that the Catholic priest himself, with that democratic spirit whose essence forms the ground-work of the church and constitutes its glory, protected the Indian, sheltered him from the wiley assaults of the white man, built up in him a conception of human personality, and an idea of the immortality of the soul, forbade him to lend his treasure to his conquerors, and even permitted him to govern himself by means of his caciques, and to mingle with his half-learned orthodoxy the heresies inspired by nature. The sixteenth century carried thither what we ourselves possessed, carried thither our great captains, our heroes, and our explorers; the seventeenth century carried there our own theocratical, hierarchical, and monarchical organization; the eighteenth century carried modern ideas thither; the constituent assembly of Cadiz gave them the spirit of democracy; the latter half of the nineteenth century, with incomprehensible injustice, has not extended our own modern and democratic spirit to our possessions; but the present is a solemn hour; to-day is the last day of old Spain, crushing in her fall the fetters of the slave, and the birth-day of that other Spain that by the means of her ideas unites herself indissolubly with the America of freedom, of democracy, and of right.
Ah, deputies, what is there to oppose to all this? nothing, save the interests of a few slave-holders; and how can the modern world permit these slave-holders to oppose us with more strength and greater right than all our civilization?
Much has been said about foreign influences. How is this? Does it happen in this present century that the constraint of foreign powers is needed before justice can be done? Why if, when the telegraph, steam, and the press, were unknown, the nations all obeyed one common idea, do you now wish that one common impulse should not control the present generation?
There are, gentlemen, two nations which form the two extremes, the two poles of human society, the one is Russia with her former serfs, the other is Saxon-America with her once-Called slaves. Russia believes her mission is to civilize the Orient, to civilize the primitive world; Saxon-America holds that she is the civilizing agent in the Occident, the regenerator of the New World. Russia, against the protests of her nobility, abolished serfdom in 1861, and America, at the same time, abolished slavery against the armed protests of her ruffian slave-drivers. On the 4th of March, 1861, Lincoln went up to the Capitol, and on the 5th of March, 1861, Alexander read the decree proclaiming the emancipation of the serfs. When Russia renounced her predominance in Europe, when she renounced all the complications of the Eastern question, [Page 879] when she renounced all her influence in the West, all the while she was realizing the abolition of servitude, and when the genius of democratic America put two millions of men under arms and raised half a million cavalry, laid waste her own fields, destroyed many of her own cities and sacrificed her own sons without number, do you, perchance, imagine, deputies, that all these deeds were not to have an influence upon our social system and our country like that of the moon upon the earth and of the earth upon the moon? Here there is not, there cannot be, and there shall never be, any question about foreign dictation. What this means, and it could not be otherwise, is the influence of the universal spirit of mankind.
And now I say to you, deputies, I say to you that you must at all cost and with all speed fulfill your promise, for the words “immediate abolition” can in no wise be uttered without at the same time accepting immediate abolition as a fixed fact. What! could you, could this chamber, can this government repent of its plighted word? It is impossible! Military threats, far from intimidating you, are an incentive to spur you on to its more speedy fulfillment. [Applause.] The military aristocracy may say what they like, especially when there is no minister of war to answer them from his seat. But do these illustrious soldiers think that they can countervail democracy as much as they have aided it? Do they think they can oppose the right as successfully as they supported it? Are they about to say again to the revolution of September, “Back! for beyond my sword’s edge thou canst not go?” I would answer them, No! your swords were our humble servitors; your swords were the providential instrument wherewith to work out our ideas. [Applause.] We respect your military position, for it is glorious, but on condition that you respect our political power, for it is legitimate. [Applause.] We do not legislate in the barracks, we legislate in the halls of Congress. [Applause.] What we decree, shall be law for the Spanish and American provinces alike; for in proportion as authority is more legitimate, force is the more unnecessary.
Gentlemen, society is governed by ideas. And the most living idea of the modern world is the fundamental idea of our doctrines. Even as the distinguished feature that separates man from other animals, many of which are superior to him in strength, in longevity, and in agility, is the sovereignty of intelligence, so the feature that distinguishes the progressive and virile nations from the nations that slumber in the fatal sleep of materialism, that which distinguishes Switzerland front Turkey and America from China, is liberty, which insulates each man with the undying security of his right, and which unites all men by the authority of the law under the stern discipline of duty and of social rule. O liberty! beloved liberty! in these days when thou art unknown or reviled of so many men; in these days when so many of thy sons abandon thee; in these days when so many of them, who were thy heroes and almost martyrs in thy cause, profane thee because, patient and immortal as nature, thou lendest not thyself for the realization of their dreams or the fruition of their ambitions, I behold thee, serene above all our tumults, immaculate above all our faults and errors, tranquil above all our storms, like the symbolic woman of the great painter of Saville, thy brows lost in uncreated light and thy feet Upon the serpent of evil; thou most pure virgin conceiving the ideas that are yet to be our consolation and our glory; thou fecund mother, big with the generations destined to continue the marvelous series of human progress upon the face of the earth. [Stormy and prolonged applause.]
Ah! gentlemen, an illustrious orator of the conservative minority, unfortunately for us, as I repeat, absent to-night, once reminded me that I had said that to seek the genius that had created modern democracy was like seeking the sculptor who shaped the mountains or the architect who hollowed out the valleys. It is true; when a man, however great he may appear, boasts of having created modern democracy, he seems to me like those homunculi of Voltaire’s Micromegas, who arrogantly boasted before the giant denizens of other worlds that they had created the universe. Yes, modern democracy is the offspring of many forces, the evangelical spirit, the inpouring of the Germanic tribes, who set upon our hearts the indelible stamp of individual self-respect, the irruption of other and still more terrible tribes who arrested the Carlovingian reaction, the mysterious hand that uproused the multitudes and led them forth to the Crusades, and the hand likewise mysterious that providentially stayed their course; the cloud of corporations and guilds and communities and town-councils which first began to close the epoch of war and usher in the epoch of labor; the schisms that shattered the power of the theocracy; the councils of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries that revived the republican spirit of the gospel; the Reformation, that emancipated the human conscience; the Renaissance, that reconciled us with nature; the discovery of printing, which gave us the talisman of immortality; powder, which placed in our hands the Promethean fire; the mariner’s compass, that overcame the ocean; the telescope, that pierced the secrets of the heavens; modern philosophy, bringing the law of nature with it, like as the philosophy of ancient Greece gave birth to Roman law; the revolution, sweeping away all the barriers that hindered the march of our hosts toward their ideal; even as all the geologic cataclysms converge to bring forth the human organism, so do all the evolutions of history converge to create democracy, compendium of society and of its imperishable spirit. [Great applause.][Page 880]
Democracy is created by none, neither can it he destroyed by any. In attempting reforms in the colonies or in Spain, cast your eyes on every side and behold how to reaction there remains not a refuge in the whole world. Where is its refuge? Where is that traditional court on which our moderados built their hopes? Where is that holy alliance on which our absolutists reposed their trust? Ah! gentlemen, none of these things now remain! Look at Rome. Yesterday beneath the sway of modern theocracy—to-day the capital of Italy. Upon the Aventine Hill, where humbled penitents but lately crept, to-day the tribunes awaken to renewed life. Look at Austria, the keystone of the holy alliance, the lever of Metternich. Where does she stand now? Ah! Austria has broken her theocratic concordat; Austria has brought her peoples forth from the dungeon of the past and made them autonomic nations. Of old, she cited kings to conclaves for the purpose of dividing the map of Europe among themselves; to-day she summons the nations to a universal exhibition, that they may behold the marvels of industry and of labor. [Applause.] And what is ancient Prussia now, gentlemen? Who is there blind enough to fancy that Prussia is about to be a favorable element for the reactionists of the world? Her Emperor-King is the battle-mace wielded by a higher Power to smite down the kings of divine right and to destroy the empires of old. The Florentine genius of the chancellor of Germany is to-day shaking to its base a structure more formidable than all our aristocracies—the house of peers; is to-day plucking away ancient hereditary influences in administrative circles; is to-day calling the German peoples to universal suffrage; and is to-day accomplishing the idea of German unity, which is a revolutionary idea, because Germany, which stands forth to-day as an imperial federation, shall in the future now very close at hand become a democratic federation. And France? France, yesterday oppressed by that inconstant and willful Bonaparte, who sought to revive the empire and slavery in America; France, democratic as well as conservative; France is to-day wholly and definitely a great republic. Permit me to offer my salutations to our neighboring nation, and I salute her because, in spite of the great calamities she has suffered, she has never lost confidence in herself, and because she puts her trust to-day in the holy virtue of democracy and in the efficacy of republicanism.
And is America perchance following another path? Ah! Grant has been re-elected by the mature political judgment of the American people; he has been re-elected because he took Richmond, that Babylon of slavery, and because he to-day assists the blacks to rise to the highest offices in the state amidst a race that, while descending from the Puritans of New Plymouth, also springs from the Cavaliers of Old England.
And our Spanish-American democracies are day by day growing in culture and in wealth; are day by day developing the measure of their temperament and exhibiting the elevation of their mental power, sure signs of the calmness of their judgment and the constant ripening of their civilization in the bosom of republican institutions.
In Mexico—what has become of the empire? A magistrate goes from the supreme court to the presidency of the republic. Her people, desiring peace have chosen him, and the soldiers, the men of warfare, cast down their arms at the feet of the magistrate, the representative of law and right. The sundered shores of the Plata are today growing in liberty and culture. New Granada is realizing all the miracles of modern individualism. Steadfast and enlightened Chili possesses conservative institutions, to demonstrate that within the forms of republicanism there is room alike for the elements of progress and the elements of stability. In Peru a revolution has recently taken place. In what interest? In favor of a military oligarchy? No! Against a military oligarchy, and in favor of the President elected by the will of her people.
What does all this prove, deputies? It proves that there are no obstacles to the realization of colonial reforms and the immediate abolition of slavery, other than our apprehensions and our fears. As for the rest, it is purely imaginary. Deputies of this majority, you who have been called unknown, obscure, and rural; let not this influence you; return to your firesides and say: “We, who were but yesterday obscure, are today immortal; we belong to the race of Christ, of Washington, of Spartacus, of Lincoln, for we have, without fear, uttered the word Liberty! and have set our names at the base of the greatest work of man—at the foot of the perfected-redemption of all in bondage.” [Great and prolonged applause.]
Synopsis of the proceedings in the Spanish senate December 23, 1872.
The sitting was begun at a quarter past two o’clock.
* * * * * * *
Mr. Benot asked if it was the intention of the government to bring a bill for abolition in Porto Rico at once before the Cortes.[Page 881]
Mr. Martos said the government was resolved to bring the bill before the Cortes without delay. The government had intended to lay the bill first before the senate and afterward before the chamber. Although slavery was a wrong, certain vested rights had grown up with it. They had to act in two ways: morally, by putting an end to slavery; and legally, by indemnifying existing interests, since these, though not of the nature of property, were sufficiently important to demand the careful attention of the government in framing a law of abolition. It was needful to indemnify the slave-owners, and in order to do so—
Here Mr. Martos was interrupted by Mr. Lasala, and a short discussion concerning the right of property in slaves followed.
Mr. Martos said all this was open to debate when the bill was presented, but now he had simply come to explain the purpose of the government to present a law of abolition. Resuming the question of indemnity, he said that in order to indemnify the owners, ways and means must be devised and funds raised, and as this would affect public credit, the consideration of the measure belonged constitutionally to the lower chamber in the first place, as that body could alone originate any scheme involving taxation. The government was resolved to proceed in this most important matter in strict conformity to the constitution.
Mr. Castro read extracts from a letter from Porto Rico, stating that slaves were being transported from that island to Cuba, in infraction of existing statutes, and in evasion of the intended measure of abolition. He asked if the government had received any information on the subject, and begged that telegraphic orders should be sent to put a stop to the abuse.
Mr. Martos said that the government now heard of this traffic for the first time, and that proper action should betaken in the case related by Mr. Castro. He had, however, the satisfaction of informing the senate that these abuses had been foreseen, and that the new colonial secretary’s first step on taking office had been to send telegraphic orders to the authorities of Porto Rico to prevent the realization of these nefarious projects.
Mr. Castro thanked the minister of state.
* * * * * * *
Mr. Diez asked if the government held that it must indemnify the owners before it could give freedom to the slaves in Porto Rico.
Mr. Martos replied that an answer to this question would involve an explanation and discussion of the whole scope and form of the proposed bill.
Mr. Diez respected the reserve of the government on this point, but he had another question to put. Was the ownership of slaves in Porto Rico legitimate or illegitimate in the eyes of the government? Had the owners been permitted to acquire them by recognized means, as they had done, or had they acquired their slaves in violation of the laws? [Rumors.]
Mr. Martos said the government could not now enter on the discussion of the right of property in slaves. He acknowledged Mr. Diez’s right to ask the question, but he requested him not to press it now.
Mr. Diez said he would reserve his inquiry for another occasion.
Mr. Rebullida said that Mr. Martos, in announcing the project of abolition, had employed terms indicative of a disbelief of the government in the right to hold slaves under the existing law. But the new and iniquitous slave-trade between Porto Rico and Cuba, of which Mr. Castro had spoken, showed that it was tacitly understood that slavery would continue to be lawful in Cuba, whatever might be done in the other island. It should be understood in the Antilles that there were senators and deputies who believed that abolition should become a fact and not a principle in all the dominions of Spain, and thus put an end to the traffic Mr. Castro had denounced.
Mr. Martos said there were other means of stopping this traffic than by immediate abolition in Cuba, and it would be stopped by the orders that had already been sent to Porto Rico by telegraph. The policy of the government, in regard to abolition, had been often stated. It was founded on the difference in the actual situation of Cuba and Porto Rico. In the latter, its perfect tranquillity admitted of immediate abolition. The war in Cuba allowed of nothing more than the execution of the preparatory law of 1870, and when peace was restored gradual abolition could be undertaken.
Mr. Rebullida said that the slave-trade between the islands of Cuba and Porto Rico was an international matter, and not domestic. It could be best stopped by immediate and general emancipation. He gave notice that an amendment in this sense would be proposed to any law the government might present on the subject.
Mr. Martos said that the slave-trade between Cuba and Porto Rico was impossible. Existing precautions made the African slave-trade with Cuba most difficult, and for a long time no slaves had been landed there. But in Africa the slaves were not registered, and in Porto Rico they were, and this alone would make the traffic impossible without the connivance of all the authorities.
Mr. Rebulida “rectified.” His ideas were not personal, hut represented the republican and democratic convictions of the world.[Page 882]
Mr. Martos “rectified.” When the time should come for abolition in Cuba, it would be found impossible to realize it immediately, and for that reason a scheme of gradual emancipation there would be preferable.
Mr. Suarez Inclán asked the government to lay before the senate the expediente, which had doubtless been prepared before the promulgation of the municipal decree for Porto Rico, including the reports of General Boldrick and Gomez Pulido against the advisability of executing the previous municipal decree of 1870.
Mr. Martos replied that such an expediente was for the exclusive use of the cabinet, and would not be made public.
* * * * * * *
The senate went into secret session at 30 minutes past 3 o’clock.
Synopsis of the proceedings in the chamber of deputies, December 24, 1872.
The sitting was opened at half past two.
Mr. Jove y Hévia called for the reading of the 108th article of the constitution. It was accordingly read.
Mr. Jove y Hévia said that this article showed that colonial reforms could be treated by the Constituent Cortes alone.
The President (Rivero) called him to order.
* * * * * * *
The president of the council of ministers said the government, and he was sure the house also, desired the fullest liberty for the expression of individual views on colonial matters at this moment. Mr. Jove y Hévia had called for the reading of an article of the constitution. The regulations did not permit him to explain why he had read it. If Mr. Jove y Hévia had anything to say, the parliamentary rules gave him means to say it before the reading of the bill abolishing slavery in Porto Rico wholly and forever. He might put a question or make an interpellation, and he, the president of the council, would rise before the chamber and the nation, and show that in treating of the questions of reforms for Porto Rico, the government was always ready to answer the friends of the league and the enemies of emancipation.
Mr. Jove y Hévia, after a brief passage of arms with the president of the chamber, said the language of the constitution was decisive, for it provided that reforms in the Antilles should be decreed by the Constituent Cortes. The president of the council had called him an enemy to emancipation. He was not a foe to abolition in principle: in the first place because of his natural instincts; in the second place because of his sense of justice; and in the third place because he was faithful to the precepts of the Catholic Church, and he believed that no good Catholic could, before the tribunal of his conscience, hold a slave, even for a single moment. (Great applause.)
“You applaud the church—not me,” he said. “Give no applause to me; you will repent of it; for I hold, although an abolitionist in principle, that governmental and legislative acts should bear the stamp of scrupulous care, of deep attention, and, above all, of opportuneness, in order that from these acts, although in themselves good, evil consequences may not flow.” He had not yet heard the proposed bill, but from reports of its tenor, he thought its haste and inopportuneness were most evident.
The colonial minister (Mosquera) said the reading of the bill would soon convince Mr. Jove y Hévia of his misconception of the measure. He had attacked it a priori, and without being acquainted with it. By his declaration that he was in principle an abolitionist, and that no Catholic could hold a slave for a single moment, he had given more strength and efficacy to the project of the government.
In 1870 the Constituent Cortes had decreed that a future Congress might legislate in the matter of colonial reforms. The law of abolition was an ordinary law, and did not treat of a fundamental institution, but simply of the relations between slaves and their masters. Mr. Jove y Hévia’s construction of the 108th article would take from all future Congresses all power over colonial legislation, on the ground that all colonial legislation was confined to the Constituent Cortes. This, without offense to Mr. Jove y Hévia, was purely and simply absurd. This measure had been fully considered and maturely discussed by this government in view of all the reports and projects and antecedents since 1865, and a mass of documentary precedents had been consulted. It would be brought before the Congress to sustain the amplest examination and debate before it received the final and solemn sanction of the Parliament and of the King. Not only this, but its presentation had been prefaced by a most solemn discussion in both senate and chamber, an unusual occurrence. Was this treating the question ex abrupto and ab irato?[Page 883]
He concluded by congratulating Mr. Joye y Hévia on his frank declaration, that no good Catholic could hold a slave, even for a single moment.
Mr. Jove y Hévia said he had simply uttered the convictions of his own inner conscience, with respect to the duties of a Catholic.
Mr. Lasala asked that the voluminous antecedents, of which the colonial minister had spoken, should be laid before the committee to which the bill would be referred, in order that it might report thereon with a full understanding of its merits.
The colonial minister said he would have great satisfaction in doing so. He had already given orders for their preparation, in proper form, to be presented to the chamber. They were numerous, and it would take time to arrange them, but meanwhile they were at the disposal of any deputy who might desire to see them. He wished all possible light thrown on the subject.
The president of the chambers said he presumed these documents would be submitted before the termination of the holiday recess, and he hoped they would be furnished as soon as possible.
The colonial minister said he had ordered their preparation with all possible dispatch.
The president of the chamber said he would inform the deputies as soon as the documents were received, in order that they might study them, for the question needed much study. Several deputies then added their names to the previous vote, in favor of Mr. Becerra’s motion.
Mr. Olavarríeta said his name appeared among those voting in favor of the motion, when in reality he had voted against it. He begged that the error be corrected in the official reports.
The Secretary (Moreno Rodriguez) stated that the desired correction would be made.
The colonial minister then occupied the tribune, and read the following royal decree, and the preamble and bill to which it referred:
“In accord with the advice of the council of ministers, I hereby authorize the minister of the colonies to submit to the deliberation of the Cortes the following bill for the immediate abolition of slavery in the island of Porto Rico.
“Given in the palace the twenty-third of December, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-two.
“The Minister of the Colonies,
“Tomás Maria Mosquera.”
(For the full translation of the preamble and bill, see Appendix N.)
* * * * * * * *
The chamber thereupon adjourned until after the holiday recess.
Bill for the immediate abolition of slavery in the island of Porto Rico, presented by the colonial minister, Chamber of Deputies, December 24, 1872.
[From El Diario de las Sesiones de Cortes.]
To the Cortes: In the name of God and in obedience to right, morality, and justice, to the welfare of the people and the dignity of the nation, this government, fulfilling the most sacred of its promises and the most humanitarian of its duties, submits for the approval of the Cortes a bill for the immediate abolition of slavery in the province of Porto Rico. Its most ardent desires would be realized and its most delicate scruples satisfied if the insensate obstinacy of a few rebels did not hinder it from granting the same inestimable boon to Cuba, with the modifications that would necessarily be demanded in view of the different organization of the system of labor in the two islands, the different density of their population, the enormous inequality in the number of their slaves, and other fundamental differences in their social status.
The government would fear to offend the good judgment of the Cortes if it sought to justify its generous resolve before them. Unhappy are they the muteness of whose conscience renders needful the cold language of reason.
It is an evident and consolatory moral law that utility is ever the inseparable companion of justice; but the government owes it to itself to declare in this solemn moment that, after examining this reform under every aspect, it has only found new and powerful reasons that at once assure its opportuneness and prove its justice.
Gradual abolition, which will, perhaps, one day be the necessary form of emancipation in Cuba, offers no advantages to recommend it in Porto Rico. The population of African origin in the latter island is relatively less numerous than that of European [Page 884] extraction; nearly all the blacks have been born in the island; of the 31,000 held in slavery, less than 10,000, perhaps less than 8,000, are devoted to field-labor; the remainder live in a sort of domestic servitude, as barren of profit to the masters as it is favorable to the education of the slaves or those employed in mechanical operations. No danger, therefore, arises from the number or condition of those who in a single day may cease to be chattels and acquire the noble station of free men.
Let the happy day dawn when Spain may pay the debt of honor she has contracted toward modern civilization. By a chance, which seems providential, the presentation of this project falls on the day consecrated by Christianity to the commemoration of the birth of Him who was to change the face of the world, breaking the bonds of all servitude and proclaiming the equality of all men before their God.
Let us, then, aid his work and realize a fresh achievement in the interest of humanity and for the good of the country. Slavery is a monstrous wrong, no less baleful to them who impose than to them who bear it. All great humane and patriotic interests cry aloud for its disappearance, which will at one and the same time redound to the well-being of the redeemed and the honor of the liberators. It is demanded by religion, for among the sons of our common Father there should be neither oppressed nor oppressors. It is demanded by morality, for there can be no merit in acts performed without free will, and the soul of the slave is nearly always a place apart, shut out from all idea of duty and all sentiments of virtue. It is demanded by right, for there is no wrong comparable with the mutilation of human entity in its most noble and essential attributes. It is demanded by utility, for slave-labor is the least intelligent, the least productive, and the least active of all. It is demanded by patriotism, since apathy and weakness and corruption are the common chastisements of those peoples who sleep in luxury and leave to the hands of bondmen the thousand-fold applications of that labor which is the eternal law of our nature and the eternal companion of our own self-worth. It is demandable by policy, because domestic habits are so intimately linked with public customs that where the groan of the slave is heard it is hard to rear citizens apt for the ruder exercise of liberty. It is demanded by prudence, for the unwise continuance of any abuse makes its remedy more difficult and its correction more violent; and lastly, it is demanded by the necessities of the government under our system of representative institutions, for in free nations no resistance can prevail against the force of opinion, and in Spain, fortunately, opinion is frankly and resolutely pronounced against this barbarous monstrosity whose supposed benefits consist in reducing to gold the sweat, the tears, the blood, and the souls of an unhappy race, condemned until now to suffer the lash and the chain.
Basing this action on the foregoing high considerations, the undersigned minister, in accord with his colleagues and with the previous authorization of His Majesty, has the honor (which he esteems as the greatest of his life) to submit to the consideration of the Cortes the following
- Article 1. Slavery is hereby totally and forever abolished in the province of Porto Rico. The slaves shall be de facto free at the expiration of four months from the date of the publication of this law in the Official Gazette of that province.
- Art. 2. The owners of the slaves thus emancipated shall be indemnified for their value within the term fixed in the foregoing article, conformably to the provisions of this law.
- Art. 3. The amount of the indemnification to which the preceding article refers shall be fixed by the government, on the recommendation of a commission composed of the superior civil governor of Porto Rico, who shall be chairman; the financial intendente of the province, the attorney-general of the audiencia, three persons named by the provincial assembly, and three others chosen by the five largest slave-owners in the island.
- The resolutions of this commission shall be adopted by a majority of its members.
- Art. 4. Of the amount fixed by way of indemnification, 80 per centum shall be delivered to the owners of the slaves emancipated, half at the charge of the state and the other half at the charge of the province of Porto Rico, the remaining 20 per centum being at the charge of the owners themselves.
- Art. 5. The government is hereby authorized to raise the necessary funds and to adopt such measures, as it may deem conducive to the exact fulfillment of this law within the period fixed in Articles 1 and 2. The minister of the colonies,
Address of the Senate and House delegations to the King, and replies of His Majesty, January1, 1873.
the presidency of the council of ministers.
Yesterday at noon His Majesty the King was pleased to receive the committee of the Senate appointed to congratulate him on the opening of the new year.
The president of the senate addressed His Majesty in the following words:
“ Sire: With the opening of the new year, the third year of Your Majesty’s reign begins under happy auspices, while the year just closed sees with joy that the work of the constitutional convention, recognized at once by all civilized nations, consolidates itself in a shorter time and fortifies itself with greater strength than institutions and dynasties of traditional origin.
“The senate confidently hopes that this third year of Your Majesty’s reign will remain fixed among the glories of Spain by the imperishable achievement in humanitarian reform which will soon put an end to slavery in the beautiful province of Porto Rico, notwithstanding the opposition to it of certain egotistical interests and certain political ambitions, against which suffice that firmness of character which distinguishes Your Majesty and the vigor which the sense of right and the possession of liberty stamp upon the decisions of Congress.”
His Majesty the King was pleased to reply:
“Mr. President: I receive with the highest appreciation and with most profound satisfaction the congratulations which the Senate offers to me to-day, when grateful recollections engage my attention and grave reflections occupy my thoughts; for to-day marks two years since I began to rule in Spain—the commencement of duties in behalf of my new and beloved country, as arduous in their fulfillment as the honor is a high one I have received at the hands of the Spanish people, by whose will this throne was erected, upon whose love its foundations were laid, and by whose confidence it is to be strengthened and sustained. It is by such means that, while the country enjoys the fruits of the revolution, and while the work of the constituent Cortes is perpetuated, at the same time the energy of popular right manifests itself, in virtue of which new dynasties and modern institutions begin early to take root and acquire for themselves a robust maturity.
“I accept as a happy omen for the year just now begun the announcement which the Senate makes to me, and the hope they express that those men who now live as slaves in the loyal Spanish province of Porto Rico shall soon enjoy their liberty. A measure so humanitarian and so Christian will be a glory for Spain, an honor for the Cortes, a luster upon my reign, and a blazon for my dynasty. Civilized nations will find in this a new cause to congratulate themselves upon having recognized from the first moment the work of 1868. Spain will feel a natural pride at seeing herself esteemed and applauded by all the world, while they who have shown themselves distrustful will see that it is not reasonable to fear that an act of justice and humanity may be a source of danger to our prosperity and tranquillity.”
At a quarter past twelve the committee of the chamber of deputies presented their “Congratulations to the King, with the same motive.
The president of the chamber of deputies addressed His Majesty as follows:
“Sire: This day, which ushers in a new year in the evolutions of time, recalls to our minds the eve of a solemn moment in the life of Your Majesty, and a memorable epoch in the history of Spanish liberty. The chamber of deputies the immediate representative of the people, lay with joy before the elect of the nation the homage of their love, of their respect, and of their unshaken loyalty.
“Fortunate it is for Spain, and a glory for Your Majesty, that here, in this place, where flattery has so often raised its voice, are to be heard to-day congratulations prompted by the purest affection, and commendations dictated by the most heartfelt sincerity. The Spanish people is now beholding the fulfillment of the hopes with which, two years ago, they greeted Your Majesty for the first time, in your august person every citizen sees and loves the faithful guardian of popular rights and the swift defender of popular liberties common alike to all Spaniards without distinction of party or of class.
“Thus in vain are the plots, the conspiracies, and assaults directed against the popular throne by those who act Only in obedience to the baleful influences of party interest; now profaning the sacred name of liberty; now invoking aid from the empty shadows of antiquated institutions, long condemned by history, and now murmuring names which are made more hateful as we are vividly reminded of the intolerable abuses which they symbolize. Reaction, mobocracy, treason itself, if there be in this loyal land any one capable of treason, shallbe crushed under the weight of public condemnation, [Page 886] for Your Majesty, who so well understands and so wisely practices the sacred duties of your high office, will ever continue with unwavering firmness to assist all measures tending toward progress, and to lend an attentive ear to public opinion, the only counselor of popular kings and the only support of thrones founded upon the freewill of a nation.
“Listening again to that voice which you have never disregarded, Your Majesty has now immortalized your reign by authorizing the presentation of a bill which, as soon as it shall have been approved by the Cortes and shall become a law of the realm, will restore the rights of manhood to the thirty-one thousand unhappy beings weighed down to-day by the cruelties of slavery.
“And if, at the outset, the voice of disappointed interests or of hostile opinions should cry out against such a sublime act of humanity, its glorious results shall in the end allay all ill-will, shall calm every passion, and shall dispel every apprehension, and (let Your Majesty doubt it not) our most remote descendants shall bless the hour in which, following the inspirations of right, of justice, and of public good, you determined to wipe out forever the only blot upon our glorious escutcheon in the eyes of the civilized world.
“With hopes so well founded and under such happy auspices the chamber of deputies, in the name of the people whom it represents, implores the blessing of Heaven for Your Majesty, for the noble lady whose virtues adorn your throne, and for the royal children who, trained by so pious a mother in the sacred love of liberty, are to-day the hope of the nation, and shall one day be the honor of their family and the just pride of their country.”
The King was pleased to reply:
“Mr President: Upon the solemnity of this day, the chamber of deputies reminds me that the beginning of my reign corresponds with an epoch memorable for the liberties of Spain. This recollection is to me as proud a one, and as Worthy of my regard and appreciation, as is the homage paid to me by your love, your loyalty, and your respect.
“In guarding and defending public liberties and popular rights, I have only been true to the dictates of my conscience and to the oath which, of my own free will and in the sight of all the world, I took in the midst of the Constituent Cortes. Receiving the assurance, in the name of the chamber of deputies, that the Spanish people witness the fulfillment of the hopes with which they greeted me for the first time two years ago, I feel the greatest pride that a man may cherish and the most hearty satisfaction that a monarch may entertain.
“Full of the deepest love for this my adopted country, which, by raising me to the highest dignity, has placed upon me the gravest responsibility, I pray to God that He ‘will grant to it, in the year which now begins, the peace and prosperity which it deserves. I am confident, as is also the chamber of deputies, that the conspiracies directed against liberty and progress will be fruitless in the time to come, as happily they have been up to the present moment. And I sincerely and ardently long for the day when, with all angry passions laid aside, every one may be persuaded that there is no opinion and no interest which may not thrive in the shadow of a throne founded upon the national will, and daily more and more identified with the people and more firm in its determination to seek counsel in public opinion and to give up in the interest of freedom every temptation to injustice and every pretext for violence.
“The words of approval with which the chamber of deputies, the immediate representative of the people, receives the proposition to abolish slavery in Porto Rico are-to me a happy presage that very soon we are to give freedom and happiness to many thousands of men, joy to our Christain hearts, satisfaction to our country, and a just cause of praise to all civilized nations.
“Profoundly do I thank the chamber of deputies for the sentiments expressed toward my wife and my children, whom we shall train up in the love of liberty to the end that they may become worthy of their country.”