Mr. Gushing to Mr. Fish.
Madrid, November 4, 1874. (Received November 27.)
Sir: I have not, thus far, written to you anything on the subject of emancipation in Cuba. There is, indeed, little to say, and that little chiefly of a negative character.[Page 1078]
The triumvirate, who dethroned Queen Isabel, and in the act acceded to the possession of supreme power in Spain, and their principal adherents, had been pronounced advocates of radical reforms in the political and social condition of Cuba.
In the “Collection of reports, memoirs, plans, and antecedents touching the government of the island of Cuba,” published in 1873–’74 by order of the Spanish government, a copy of which was transmitted to the Department by Mr. Adee soon after its publication, (see my No. 82,) you will find the recommendations of General Serrano on the subject, suggesting reforms which, if seasonably adopted, might have prevented the calamities which have since fallen upon Cuba. He repeated these views in the senate.
General Prim, we know, went further still, even to the point of thinking seriously of conceding independence to Cuba. Indeed, his assassination, which still remains unpunished, was due, there is too much reason to believe, to the enmities excited by the liberality of his views concerning Cuba.
The government of King Amadeo, it is certain, decidedly favored emancipation in Cuba; and the belief is very general here that the same malefic interests which produced the premature death of Prim also brought about the conflict between King Amadeo and his ministers, and his consequent abdication.
The republicans, who succeeded to power and held it for ten months, had made zealous profession, while in opposition, of emancipation opinions and purposes, and the most conspicuous among them had been members of the Emancipation Society of Madrid; but they wanted courage or firmness to attempt anything in that direction when the power was in their hands.
The contradiction between their previous professions and their actual performance in this respect is set forth in detail, and with great positiveness, in the excellent work of D. Rafael de la Labra, to which allusion is made in my No. 83,* and which I shall have occasion to speak of more particularly at an early day, in a contemplated dispatch on the subject of Puerto Rico.
Remains the question of the attitude of the present government, with the same General Serrano of its head, which may be described as an attitude of good intentions, with absolute impossibility of practical action.
In order to understand this point, it has been my aim to confer fully with the most undoubted and characterized persons of emancipation opinions to be found in Madrid. This I have done.
These persons assure me that at the present moment they think all attempts at action, or even agitation, would not only be vain but prejudicial even. The government, they say, is powerless in this respect, in view of what may be considered the double rebellion in Cuba, that of the Creoles in the eastern department and that of the Peninsulars in the western and they say, further, that it would require a larger army from Spain to enforce the submission of the latter than of the former.
In this view it is that the Emancipation Society itself is at the present time quiescent and silent, awaiting the arrival of some change in political circumstances which may enable it to resume its public labors and manifestations.
In these circumstances it is difficult to see how anything in this relation can be usefully done by the minister of the United States.[Page 1079]
If, indeed, the only serious question now pending between the two governments were satisfactorily disposed of, either by arbitration or otherwise, we might do much in Spain, not only to forward our own interests, but in the general cause of humanity and public freedom. The conflicting jealousies of European Powers at Madrid would leave a noble part for us to play if our hands were unincumbered.
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I have, &c.,