No. 8.
Mr. Jay to Mr. Fish.

No. 683.]

Sir: I have to acknowledge your circular of the 3d December, marked “confidential,” transmitting the President’s message and the accompanying protocol touching the Virginius.

As I have before remarked, the attention which the text of the message would otherwise claim at Vienna, is in great part forestalled by the summary by cable given in the London Times, and reproduced by the continental press.

The New Free Press had a leading article this morning on the new phase of the Virginius question presented by the announcement that the United States had recognized the soundness of the view presented by Spain that she was not entitled to carry the American flag.

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The article, while attributing the decision of the Government on this point not to the Attorney-General, but to the House of Representatives, and exhibiting, perhaps, in one or two other particulars, the carelessness and inexactness of statement to which you adverted in your No. 282, as marking a letter I had sent you from the columns of the same journal, exhibits a spirit of appreciation of the moderation and justice shown by us toward a sister republic in this matter, which I think deserving of notice, despite a few inaccuracies of form and an apparent ignorance of the terms of the protocol.

I append a translation of some brief extracts, which will show the spirit of the article on this point, as well as the appeal to Mr. Castelar, at the close, to extend to the Spanish prisoners in Cuba the rights of belligerents.

I have, &c.,


leading editorial on “virginius question.”

[Translated from the “New Free Press.”]

* * * The matter was no more examined in the newspaper columns, or in stormy assemblies convoked for the occasion, but in the Hall of Representatives, not by wildly excited masses, but by considerate politicians. Public opinion had first called for war, afterward for unconditional satisfaction. Now, satisfaction had been given, the passions had subsided, and the Congress weighed the matter slowly and considerately, and lo! what, was most unexpected occurred. The Congress acknowledged that the Virginius had wrongfully carried the American flag, and it possessed the courage and honesty, not only openly to confess it, but officially to communicate to the Spanish government the supprising result of their consultations. This conduct deserves unreserved approval. As we were obliged to find, in the former phases of the “Virginius question,” the procedure of the United States harsh and unjust, we must now pay our tribute to the self-knowledge, the sincere explanation of the Congress. Nothing is more difficult than the confession of being in the wrong. Even an individual with difficulty makes up his mind so far to overcome vanity and self-love; nations and states, as a rule, prefer sacrificing their goods and lives to saying to an injured neighbor, we were in the wrong. Such a step as that of the American Congress could not at all be imagined in a monarchical state. Here the foreign policy does not rest with the legislative body; this is subject neither to their direction nor supervision. * *

This is seemingly an abandonment of a success attained, but, in truth, a victory worth as much as any gamed in the open field, and not less honorable.

* * * * * * *

Would it not be more humane, and, perhaps, more wise, to grant to the Cuban insurgents the same rights as have been granted long ago to the Carlists in the mother country? Cowards, who are afraid of bullets, are far from combating in the ranks of the Cuban insurgents; executions do not cause any fear, but only unquenchable thirst for revenge, which is very often reeked in a dreadful manner on the Spanish soldiers. If Castelar resolved to utter the great words, “captured Cubans are to be spared like captured Carlists,” his name would perhaps shine more purely and brilliantly than hitherto in the history of his native country, and the Virginius question would find a conclusion conciliatory and worthy of his country.