No. 557.
Mr. Adee to Mr. Fish.

No. 189.]

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith for your perusal an interesting letter from the Porto Rican correspondent of “LaEpoca,” published [Page 877] in that journal last evening. It is valuable as representing the views held by the reactionists in the lesser Antilla, and the satisfaction the partisans of the old régime find in the prompt removal of General Primo de Rivera from command by Marshal Serrano’s government and the investment of General Sanz with the powers he held two years ago. The wise and patriotic administration of General Primo de Rivera is denounced as an epoch of sheer communism, to be condemned by all order-loving Spaniards. The reforms inaugurated in the last months of Amadeo’s reign are deplored as unmixed calamities; joy is expressed that the baleful influence of the “filibusters” is brought to an end, and confidence is felt in the happy results of the energetic measures adopted by the newly-replaced captain-general. That they were most energetic hardly admits of doubt. The liberal press was promptly suspended as a preliminary. Within a week General Sanz, by virtue of the extraordinary powers conferred upon him by the government of the 3d of January, suspended all the constitutional guarantees; dissolved the provincial legislature and appointed another in its place, under the presidency of the Marquis de la Esperanza, the old leader of the pro-slavery party in the island; replaced all the existing town-councils by others appointed by himself, and removed the three protectors of the freedmen appointed under the late emancipation act, filling their places by honorary appointments in the interest of the partisans of reaction. The powers given to General Sanz are understood to be discretionary to the full, as his introductory decrees show, and it is expected that they will shortly be followed by others equally energetic, tending to restore the old status of Porto Rico. Since the measures adverted to, and those established by General Jovellar in Cuba in the exercise of the absolute authority recently restored to the commander of that island, are clamorously applauded by all the adherents of the actual government of the mother country, they may safely be accepted as the expression of the colonial policy of Marshal Serrano’s administration. I need do no more than allude to the now-famous batch of decrees issued by the captain-general of Cuba early last month, and of which the text was doubtless in your possession before their publication here. These measures were for the most part resolved upon in cabinet council here in January, and responded to the anxiety caused to the new ministry by the increasingly-critical condition of affairs in Cuba, by the alarming activity and boldness of the insurgents, by the near close of the fifth campaign of the rebellion, as yet profitless of any decisive results in favor of Spanish domination, by the impossibility of dispatching reinforcements to make good the numerous annual losses, and by the desperate state of the insular finances. The best results are anticipated from General Jovellar’s action, and much stress is laid on the circumstance that he is no longer subject to fanatical legislative interference in insular matters or the unwise and hampering control of the executive. In short, they have awakened conservative confidence to such an extent that the journals already announce the insurrection as in its last agonies, an announcement which at least lacks the merit of novelty if not of trustworthiness.

I am, &c,

[Page 878]

Letter from Porto Pico, published in “La Epoca,” Madrid, March 8, 1874.

President Serrano’s cabinet have made a most excellent selection in appointing General Sanz as governor-general of this island. Had it not been for this appointment and for the taking of Cartagena, many misfortunes would have happened in Porto Rico. At a first glance it seems as if Cartagena had nothing to do with this province. We shall see, however, that we have been on the point of having partisans of Contreras here.

The nine months that we had of rebel propagandism greatly excited the minds of the people of this island, who are as impressionable as they are innocent in political matters. On seeing the military officers banished who had most distinguished themselves by their attitude at Lares, or by the identity of their views with those of the Spanish party; on seeing deported to the little island of Vieques the only member of the expelled party who returned; on seeing that the reform press were permitted loudly to demand the disarming of the volunteers and of the civil guard; on seeing the disorganization of compulsory labor and the annulment of the contracts for three years to which the freedmen were subjected by the law of emancipation; on seeing provincial and municipal interests intrusted to unskillful, utilitarian, and insolvent hands; on seeing the plague of office-seeking developed with a celerity the like of Which had never before been known; on seeing the scandals caused by political manifestations, which were not prevented by the authorities, and which hauled down the Spanish flag with impunity at San German and other places; on hearing the filibuster cry of “Hurrah for free Porto Rico!” raised before the very eyes of the captain-general, who was haranguing a crowd composed mainly of negroes; on seeing a military officer of high rank acting as vice-president of a federal reform committee presided over by one of the amnestied actors at Lares; on seeing the Jesuits’ college basely attacked, not because they were Jesuits, but because they were Spaniards; on seeing the secret societies (which here are always promoters of filibusterism, whether called masonic Or otherwise) making threatening demonstrations in the public prints and at public meetings; on seeing the civil guard stripped of its powers and wholly under the control of alcaldes belonging to the reform party; on seeing the captain-general taking turns with the negroes at his balls and his greased-pole games; on seeing, in a word, these and similar abuses permitted, encouraged, and even applauded by the authorities, the audacity of federals, secessionists, and demagogues rose to such a height that the least spark would have been sufficient to cause a conflagration had it fallen upon this pile of combustible material.

On the 13th of February news reached this island, via Havana, of the downfall of the federal Cortes, which were dissolved without effusion of blood, and almost fell to pieces of themselves at the mere sight of the bayonets of the intrepid General Pavia. The news was joyfully received here by the unconditional Spaniards, and with terror by those who are Spaniards only on certain conditions. The blow was a fatal one for the reform federal party of Porto Rico. This was undoubtedly the reason why the wire-pullers, at once began to console their friends by means of a thousand fables, each one more alarming than its predecessor. Some said that the constituent Cortes had transferred their sessions to Saragossa, where they held the reins of government and were the only legitimate authority in Spain. Others asserted that the entire southern half of the peninsula had risen in a cantonal insurrection. Some said that the illustrious Duke de la Torre and his companions had been dragged through the streets. Others that the besieging army at Cartagena had been routed by the intransigentes.

To all this the reform press, or, in other words, that which was considered here as the ministerial press, said in every tone that the government “created by the fourteen thousand bayonets of Pavia was an illegitimate government.” “To which of the governments of Spain do we owe obedience?” asked the so-called federal reform papers; “to that of Contreras, that of Don Carlos, that of Serrano, or that of the legitimate constituent Cortes?” And the panic spread among the good, and the audacity of the bad increased. Next came the news that, in a certain village, the alcaldes of the vicinity were holding meetings, at late hours of the night, in the interest of filibusterism, and that these meetings were attended by men whose hostility to Spain and to all orderly government was well known; and it was said that, in certain localities, companies of rebelliously-disposed persons had been formed, and that, after having chosen captains, officers, sergeants, corporals, and even commanders, they were being drilled in musket-firing. Places were pointed out where guns had been introduced, and stories were-told of strange men who had ridden through the various jurisdictions at full speed, circulating documents supposed to have been issued by General Primo de Rivera.

Meantime, other circumstances rendered the attitude of the authorities more suspicious. One spoke of mysterious interviews; another of emissaries sent to the rural [Page 879] districts; another of proclamations in which it was stated that there was no government in Spain, and that the conduct of Pavia and Serrano was iniquitous. Finally, counsel and support were asked of the town-hoards.

Be the facts as they may, what seems most true is that news unfavorable to the government was received on the 24th via the United States, and this news was sent by telegraph to the town-boards, and on the 25th the following notice was posted up in all the towns, in the most conspicuous places:

“His excellency, the superior governor, addresses to me the following telegram, bearing date of to day: ‘Reports have been circulated at the capital both in favor of and against the present situation. I know nothing officially. Foreign papers say that Barcelona has risen against the government of Serrano; that the fortress of Monjuich has opened fire on Barcelona; that Cartagena has repulsed an attack that Portugalete is in the hands of the Carlists, and Bilbao bombarded. Nothing can be believed; but the situation of Spain is worsen than ever; let this serve us as an example to maintain order, and to obey the laws and the legitimate authorities.


We will not closely examine the spirit of this communication. It is unnecessary.

At last came the 26th, a sad day for the ultra reform party. Submarine communication between Ponce and Jamaica had just been opened by means of a new cable instead of the old one, which had been broken. The first news received by the new cable was that Cartagena had surrendered, and that General Sanz had been appointed captain-general of Porto Rico. A thunderbolt falling among a herd would not have produced so magical an effect as did this important news. The piratical flag, around which the disintegrating elements of our society intended to rally, had fallen in shreds before the guns of General Lopez Dominguez; the name most beloved by the good and most feared by the bad, that has ever been known in this province, had crossed the Atlantic.

The scene was at once changed. Those who expected to disturb the public order and to unite their forces under the shadow of a political standard and under the protection of a superior authority, blinded by party spirit, trembled. There was no longer time for anything. The telegram said that General Sanz had sailed, and, consequently, in from four to six days, he would be here at the head of an army, and of a force of volunteers who adored him. What was to be done? The captain-general sounded the retreat by publishing in the Gaceta of the 27th the fact that Cartagena had surrendered. He concealed nothing but the coming of General Sanz.

But, if this checked the revolutionary elements in their way to ruin, it was not sufficient to destroy the impulse which they had received. Suspicious meetings multiplied. Mr. Primo de Rivera understood his own situation and that of the country which he had disturbed, and, on the 31st of January, he published in the Gaceta a circular, which made noble amends for his previous errors.

“The report is circulated,” said he, addressing the alcaldes, “that there is a project on foot to disturb public order.

You will immediately adopt all necessary prudential and repressive measures to dissipate these rumors, and if the smallest fact gives ground for them, you will avail yourself of the aid of the civil guard, of the volunteers, and of the army, adopting all such measures of vigilance and of repression as the case may require. Public order is not to be disturbed for a single moment. The alcaldes will be personally responsible to me for this.”

This document, it must be confessed, was received with disdain by some and with concentrated anger and indignation by others. To the former it was too late; to the latter it appeared to be a desertion, as if there was a Spaniard capable of betraying his country.

Hereupon the 2d day of February arrived. The steamer Isla de Cuba entered in the morning, having on board the wished-for general.

The inhabitants were animated; the shops were closed in order that the volunteers might go to receive the general to whom the country owes so much. An immense number of people repaired to the wharves to welcome his excellency.

But here occurred an incident already foreseen. Mr. Primo de Rivera refused to give up the command, under the pretext either that he had not received or that he was not willing to receive orders to that effect from Madrid. The upright of the authorities assembled. General Sanz, having been made acquainted with these scruples, sent his credentials to Primo de Rivera. All this delayed the hour of landing. The second in command gave orders for the troops to form, and, under the pressure of circumstances, Mr. Rivera concluded to give up the command, not to General Sanz, but to Brigadier Enrile, who immediately went to receive the new captain-general.

Never has the city of Porto Rico received a governor with so much joy, with so many demonstrations of pleasure, and with such a large and intelligent gathering of spectators as those with which it received General Sanz. Scarcely had the ceremony terminated of delivering the keys at the gate of San Justo, which is at a pistol-shot arf, when thousands of voices hurrahed with indescribable enthusiasm [Page 880] for the new superior authority. Even the negroes shouted, “Long live the liberator of Porto Rico!” “Long live our captain-general!” “Long live General Sanz!” When this officer had arrived at the cathedral, passing between two long files of soldiers and volunteers, who with the greatest affection paid him the honors due to his high rank, the temple was crowded with the people of the town to such an extent that many individuals had to remain outside. Many balconies were spontaneously decorated with tapestries of the Spanish flag. At night a popular band of music struck up a serenade, which was afterward continued by the military and volunteer bands.

But the popularity of the new governor was instantly increased on the publication of his magnificent and magnanimous proclamations to the inhabitants, soldiers, and volunteers of Porto Rico. Order, union, morality, adherence to the nationality, forgetfulness of the past, these were the synthesis of those documents. Although I know that your enlightened journal must needs receive and publish those remarkable documents, I cannot forbear to copy the following beautiful passage, which has turned not a few hearts in favor of Mr. Sanz:

“I come not to cause tears to be shed on account of violent repressions, but to dry them up with voluntary solicitude; I come not to impose slavery again, as you have been told, but to render effective your liberty, to which I have contributed by my vote as a deputy of Porto Rico; I come not to augment differences of opinion, but to exert myself to have them disappear forever; I come not to awaken ancient dissensions, but to extinguish, by means of forgetfulness, any error which has a tendency to destroy our common nationality, any design which may have been entertained in disregard of your interests or to the injury of Spain.

“Integrity of our country, union of all Spaniards, toleration of all opinions, austere morality in administration, these are my programme.”

As soon as he assumed command the new governor went to work with that nervous activity which characterizes him to restore this agitated community to its normal condition. It is true that he has an intelligent and experienced auxiliary in Mr. Diz Romero, appointed secretary of this government. On the same day that he arrived the general ordered the directors of the press of the capital to be called before him, and told them that every newspaper which should speak against the national integrity or against the constituted government, or should fling to the winds of publicity seditious writings, having a tendency to disturb order, would be suppressed, and of its director would be exacted the proper responsibility. Under this plain admonition the incendiary press kept silence. The Progreso, which on the day before had announced its disappearance for want of subscribers, ceased to be published. The Canta-Claro and the Diablillo Rojo, of Ponce, uncompromising organs of insular federalism, of their own accord also failed to see the light of day.

On the 3d the “Gaceta” published a brief decree, suspending in this province articles 2d, 5th, and 6th, and paragraphs 1st, 2d, and 3d of the 17th, of Title I of the constitution. The federalists had not recovered from this confusing blow when, in the following number of the “Gaceta,” that of the 5th, was published adecree, laconic and expressive, like all those of General Sanz, in virtue of which the provincial deputation has been dissolved and another has been appointed, composed of the most distinguished persons in the country, at the head of which has been placed the Marquis de la Esperanza, that illustrious son of Porto Rico who has made so many sacrifices to bear aloft in this land the Spanish flag. Two days afterward, on the 7th instant, there appeared in the official newspaper another decree dissolving the insolvent municipal councils which existed, and appointing others chosen from the principal landholders of each-locality, always endeavoring to put in these corporations a majority of natives of the country, without caring, provided they were orderly persons of property, whether they belonged to the reformist party or not.

All these measures, effected one after another with prudence and rapidity, have disconcerted the neo-federalist party, and communicated consistency and vigor to the Spanish party. The country, oppressed and annoyed by the insupportable taxes imposed upon it by its regenerators, has consented with thanks and contentment to other necessary counter-reform taxes. I think that if General Sanz continues here as long as he ought, tranquillity, wealth, and happiness must be restored to this unfortunate country.

Already the superior authority referred to has ordered to be undertaken with energy the construction of a road from, here to Ponce, an indispensable highway, which will communicate life and abundance to many fertile valleys that now lie isolated in the interior. Already, too, he has begun to effect savings as to the number of officials by abolishing the three protectors of freedmen, whose compensation was $7,500, and appointing representative persons to fulfill the duties honorarily.

Well does the reputable, honest General Sanz begin his second administration. I know not whether filibusterism will venture to make its appearance soon. It is possible. Some time since there was talk of large sums held by the separatists abroad for the purpose of bringing four simultaneous expeditions to light up the flames of [Page 881] civil war at the four most strategic points of the sea-coast. But I know that the general is following with avidity the trail of those intrigues, and that if a Virginius “should make its appearance here, there will also be Costillas and Burriels. In short, I can assure you that the great majority of the country is with Spain, and with her worthy representative, General Sanz. All from our inmost hearts thank the government presided over by the–

Duke de la Torre for the excellent choice it has made in sending to us for governor of this island him whom its capital had three consecutive times elected to represent the Spanish party in the Cortes of the nation.

As respects the military, the captain-general has not yet adopted any important measures, as he is awaiting his chief of staff, Colonel Don Manuel Cortes, sent for a third time to Havana on account of intrigues of filibusterism. But his excellency has already caused to be brought from Ponce and Mayaguez the two thousand muskets which Mr. Primo de Rivera had withdrawn from this post, leaving it without any reserve. With the muskets have come 140,000 cartridges, which had been taken with them.

I finish this letter by saying that the departing general began to make his expiation on embarking. Nobody, not even his aides or his friends, accompanied him. He went alone, sad and abandoned, on board of the Pizarro, at the same time that Mr. Sanz was the subject of the enthusiastic ovation which has been referred to.