Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 7, 1874
Mr. Hall to Mr. Fish.
Havana , December 13, 1873. (Received December 21.)
Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of the Depart merit’s instructions Nos. 4 and 5, of 3d instant.
From information received from Santiago de Cuba, it appears that on the 3d instant our vessels of war, the Juniata, Wyoming, and Kansas, had a boat-exercise in that harbor, which somewhat alarmed the commanding general of the place, leading him to believe that an attack upon the prison and the release of the Virginius prisoners was contemplated by the commanders of those vessels.
Acting upon this unfounded apprehension, the commanding general, without any authority from Havana, had the prisoners transferred early in the morning of the 4th instant to the Spanish vessel of war Bazan, and sent in the direction of Havana.
The first intimation the captain-general received respecting this movement was communicated to him by telegraph upon the arrival of the [Page 1091] Bazan at Cienfuegos on the 7th instant. He immediately replied, giving instructions to the commander of the Bazan to return to Santiago de Cuba, and retain the prisoners on board until he should receive orders to surrender them to a vessel of war of the United States.
The Bazan, on her return to Santiago de Cuba, got aground near the port of Zaza, where she remained some twenty-four hours; during this interval the captain-general gave instructions to have the prisoners transferred to the coasting-steamer Cienfuegos, in further execution of his previous orders for their return to Santiago de Cuba. This occurred on the 9th, since when no further information has been received in regard to the prisoners.
The captain-general also informed, me that he had communicated these facts to the Spanish minister in Washington, for the purpose of having them made known to yourself; and, further, that he had, on the 9th instant, transmitted his orders to Santiago de Cuba to have the prisoners delivered to any vessel of war of the United States now at Santiago de Cuba, whose commander might be authorized to receive them. It appears from the information obtained by Commander Braine, at Santiago de Cuba, that the total number of persons on board the Virginius, at the time of her capture, was one hundred and fifty-five, (155,) and not one hundred and sixty live, (165,) as at first reported. That of these, fifty-three (53) have been executed, one (1) has been released, and one hundred and one (101) were still held as prisoners.
At 2 a.m. of yesterday morning the Virginius was convoyed out of this port by the Spanish vessel of war Isabel la Catolica, and sent to Bahia Honda, where I suppose it has been arranged to deliver her to a vessel of war of the United States, although I have no information that any of our vessels have left Key West for that purpose.
During the day, as it became known that the Virginius had left the port, a general feeling of relief was experienced in business circles, and gold declined full 10 per cent, from the day previous. In the evening, however, a crowd of some four to five hundred persons of the lower classes of the peninsular population collected in front of the palace of the captain-general, without any other apparent purpose than to make some demonstration of disapproval of what to them appeared to be the surreptitious manner in which the Virginius had been sent out of the port; but the government was well prepared for any hostile demonstrations of the crowd, and it soon dispersed, without any serious event having transpired.
The demonstration of last night may be attributed, in part at least, to an extra of the “Diario de la Marina”of yesterday, containing a protest against the message of the President and a letter from its New York correspondent, neither of which are intended to allay the irascibility of this excited population. I transmit copies herewith, and regret that I have not time to furnish translations also.
I further transmit a copy of a letter from the consul at Santiago de Cuba, accompanying a list of the names, ages, places of nativity, &c, of those of the crew of the Virginius who were executed on the 7th ultimo, and the names, ages, &c, of the survivors.
I also inclose the address of Captain-General Jovellar, calling upon the inhabitants to obey the laws and to oppose no resistance to the orders of the government of Spain respecting the surrender of the Virginius and the surviving prisoners.
I have, &c.
Santiago de Cuba , December 7, 1873.
Sir: I now give you all news of importance since Mr. Schmitt’s last, per steamer of the 3d instant.
On the morning of the 4th instant, at about 2½ a.m., the Virginius prisoners, ninety-two in number, were put on board the Spanish gunboat Bazan, and sent with all possible dispatch to Cienfuegos, thence to Havana by rail.
* * * * * * *
Commander Braine had the governor’s word that he should be informed of any change of the prisonors; but the governor did not inform either the commander or myself, until I called to ask him about their removal to the Moro. He then informed me that the prisoners had been sent to the Moro on account of the crowded state of the jail, and that they might have better quarters, and that he had ordered them to be sent to the Moro; but that he had received orders from the captain-general the same evening of their removal to send them at once to Havana, (which Commander Braine and myself did not believe.)
The governor pretended to tell us that when he had ordered the prisoners to be sent to the Moro he had not the remotest idea that they would be ordered to Havana; and Commander Braine, in his protest against their removal, gently hinted to his excellency that he hardly believed all the governor told him.
The commander of the French war-vessel called on the governor the day that these men were sent to the Moro to protest against the removal of a Frenchman, (one of the passengers.) The governor informed him that he would have his man sent back to-the city and placed in hospital, in order that the commander might see him.
The next morning, when the French commander learned that the person in question had been sent with the others to Havana, he became greatly displeased.
The French vessel sailed this morning for Havana. The English ram Niobe same destination, 4th instant. The Juniata is cruising off this port since the 5th instant. She communicated with the Kansas (still in port) yesterday, the Kansas sending out a boat.
The Wyoming left on the 4th, at 9 a.m., for Key West. The excitement is gradually subsiding. Captain Reid, of the Kansas, Mr. Schmitt, and myself, called on the governor, requesting to call his attention to the scurrilous articles that have appeared in the “Bandera Espanola,” directed against Mr. Schmitt since the Virginius was brought in here. He informed us that he had not seen any of the articles in question until it was brought to his notice by one of the interpreters yesterday just before our arrival. He seemed very indignant, and said he would have it stopped at once. Nothing appears in the issue of to-day.
I am, sir, &c,
United States Consul.
Henry C. Hall, Esq.,
United States Consul-General, Havana.
[See list of crew captured in dispatch No. 107, dated December 4, 1873, Santiago de Cuba.]
The remainder of those on board were sent to jail on the 4th, and thence by the Bazan, on the same night, to Cienfuegos, and thence by rail to Havana—ninety-two of all nations; ten left at the hospital sick, who will also go to Havana as soon as recovered, making, all told, one hundred and two men.
List of one hundred and two passengers captured on board the steamer Virginius by the Spanish war-steamer Tornado
shot on 4th november, 1873.
|Name.||Where from||Married or single.||Age.||Occupation.|
|1.||Bernabé Varona||Puerto Principe.||Single||27||Proprietor.|
|3.||Jesus del Sol||Cienfuegos||Single||38||Farmer.|
|4.||W. A. C. Ryan||Canada||do||28||Lawyer.|
shot on 8th november.
|Name.||Where from||Married or single.||Age.||Occupation.|
|5.||Arthur Mola||Puerto Principe.||Single||19||Agriculturist.|
|6.||Francisco de Porras||Havana||do||19||Cabinet-maker.|
|7.||Louis Sanchez, (recognized to be Herminio Quesada.)||Porto Principe||do||18||Student.|
|9.||Augustin Varona||Puerto Principe.||do||28||None.|
|11.||Henry Castellano||Güines||do||29||App. machinist.|
|13.||Francisco Rivera, (recognized as Augustin Santa Rosa.)||do||do||42||Cigar-maker.|
|14.||Oscar Varona||Puerto Principe.||do||19||Student.|
|15.||Justo Consuegra||Santa Clara||do||21||Cigar-maker.|
|16.||William Valls.||Puerto Principe.||do||25||Commerce.|
|17.||Joseph Diaz||S. P. de los Banos.||Married||29||Farmer.|
|19.||Alfred Lopez||S. de las Yegas||do||34||Do.|
|20.||José Ignacio Lamas||Matanzas||do||23||Engineer.|
|23.||Benjamin Olazala||Puerto Principe.||do||17||Engineer.|
|23.||Leonard Alvarez||Santiago de Cuba||do||16||Silversmith.|
|29.||Julio Arango||Puerto Principe||do||16||None.|
|31.||Nicolas Ramirez||Puerto Principe||do||23||Farmer.|
|32.||Ignacio Quintin Beltran||Andalgo||do||35||Clerk.|
|45.||Leon Bernal||Puerto Principe.||Single||25||Agriculturist.|
|50.||Ignacio or Francisco Tapia||Havana||do||24||Commerce.|
|52.||Santiago Rivera.||St. Thomas.||do||17||Trimmings.|
|60.||Alexd. Cruz Estrada||Canaries.||do||20||Blacksmith.|
|64.||José Antonio Ramos.||do||do||18||Do.|
|75.||Antonio Padillo.||Puerto Principe||Single.||27||Machinist.|
|76.||Henry Canals||Penar del Rio||do||22||Commerce.|
|81.||Miguel Sayers.||Santiago de Cuba.||Single.||18||Farmer.|
|88.||Antonio Rivera||Porto Rico.||do||20||Machinist.|
|90.||Ramon R. de Armas||Puerto Principe||do||25||Commerce.|
|100.||George Brooke||do||do||13||App. painter.|
|103.||One man, name unknown, said to have||escaped by jumping||overboard in||port.|
|Total number of persons on board the Virginius at the time of her capture.||155|
|Total of crew||52|
|Total of passangers||103|
|Number of passengers executed on November 4, 1873||4|
|Number of passengers executed on November 8||12|
|Number of passengers executed on November 13||37|
|Total Number executed||53|
|Total of survivors of the crew||15|
|Total survivors of passengers||87|
Inhabitants of the Island of Cuba:
I have again to direct you my voice and in troublous times. Hear it, for it is the expression of the purest patriotism guarded by reflection.
You already know that an agreement has been celebrated between the government I of Spain and that of the United States, in regard to a question of international law. Whilst it was in process of negotiation, it is needless to tell you that I did everything possible for me to do to favor the result most satisfactory for the honor and general interests of the island. You would assuredly suppose so, for I could not be wanting to the requirements of my charge nor to the favor of your confidence. But from the moment that the solution of the difference between the two governments was settled, the duty of authority, my unavoidable duty, which like all others I desire to; fulfill, however painful it may be to me, is to execute faithfully what has been decreed. For this I have received decided orders. Want of compliance therewith would bring on war, war with a great power and war without the aid of Spain, to-day more than ever torn by fratricidal and intestine strife, therefore indicate to you the fatal consequences [Page 1095] of such an event? To again illustrate, in an unequal contest, the history of the Spanish people, would not save from imminent peril the integrity of the country, nor the immediate bombardment of the towns of our coast.
The situation we are now in is not new for us, nor would it be for any of the greatest empires, for all nations have had their day of adverse as well as prosperous fortune. True patriotism consists not in increasing public misfortunes, although impelled thereto by generous motives.
During the course of these lamentable events you have offered a high example of prudence. Not for a single instant has the tranquillity of the island been disturbed at any point. Continue thus to the end, however painful it may be for you to repress the ardor of your sentiments.
Let us trust that ulterior negotiations, followed in view of the original documents, which up to this it has not been able to present, and of communications more explicit than telegraphic, the only ones from which comes the agreement, will offer an occasion to balance justice and proceed to the rectification that the case demands.
Meantime, in obeying the law of necessity and the orders of the government of the Spanish republic, let us return, with her surviving crew, the steamer Virginius, which had already conducted, and was about again to conduct, munitions of war and officers and men to the camps of our enemies.
Let the people understand the extent of their duty; let not agitation diminish their dignity nor lessen the greatness of the sacrifice. Let us leave the entire facts to the impartial judgment of history.
Knowing you, I have beforehand guaranteed for the profound respect professed to the principal of the authority in this Spanish province. I depend upon the nobility of your actions to comply with my word
Your governor and captain-general,