No. 585.

Mr. Valera to Mr. Bayard.


The undersigned, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of His Majesty the King of Spain, has the honor to address the honorable Secretary of State of the United States for the purpose of informing him that, as he must be aware from his own experience and from the documents that must be on file in the Department of State, be errs more from remissness than from zeal and insistence in presenting his complaints, and that, in making the present complaint, he has been impelled to do so by the chief magistrate of the island of Cuba and by his own Government, both of which are painfully surprised at the boldness and insolence with which conspiracies are carried on in various parts of this Republic, especially in New York, New Orleans, and Key West, against the public peace of Spain and against the integrity of its territory, by endeavoring to collect funds for piratical enterprises, by forming associations for this purpose, and by holding public meetings at which Spain is outraged by all sorts of insults and calumnies, and at which those present are incited to rebellion and civil war.

The Spanish Government is aware of the great and almost unbounded freedom that is granted by the laws of this Republic to the manifestation of human will and the expression of human thought. Notwithstanding this, it is unable to understand how certain acts in contravention of international law and to the prejudice of a friendly nation can be permitted or tolerated. Thus, for instance, when the news was received at Key West of the landing in Cuba of the expedition of Limbano Sanchez, that event was publicly and noisily celebrated with the knowledge and permission, if not with the open approval, of the local authorities, and not a few houses in the city were decorated with insurgent flags.

In order to collect funds for the purpose of again lighting the torch of civil war in Cuba, or at least for that of sending to Cuba parties of heartless plunderers, who burn, pillage, and kidnap, recourse is had to methods which are unlawful in many States of this Republic, without any reference to the object thereof, such as, for instance, the sale of lottery tickets.

The meetings which are held with a view to the fitting out of piratical expeditions are announced and convoked without the slightest concealment in the newspapers; the organizers of these meetings, that no doubt may be entertained with regard to the object which they have in view, style themselves generals. Even in the insurgent newspapers the talk is of arms, munitions, and other means of destruction that are to be sent to Cuba.

And against all these attempts to commit crime, which are crimes in themselves, no efficient repressive, or, at least, no preventive, measures are adopted. The insurgent refugees consequently boast of being rather protected than held in check, and this encourages them to greater boldness and incites them to, continue their criminal undertakings.

The Hon. Mr. Bayard, Secretary of State, has said on previous occasions, in reply to various complaints presented by the undersigned, that the courts of the country are open to us; but, not to speak of the [Page 775] fact that this method of obtaining satisfaction is almost always very costly and inefficient, it implies the uselessness of a diplomatic representative and presupposes that the friendly relations between the two countries are as if they did not exist, since in order to bring a case before the courts a mere private citizen or an attorney or mandatory of the Government concerned is sufficient.

Another serious argument against appealing to the courts is furnished by the system of trial by jury. The plaintiff would be a Government, that is to say, a moral entity. If there is no antipathy to this entity, it is not likely that any sympathy with it exists, while in Key West, for example, the Cuban refugees, who would be the defendants, live on the most familiar terms with the native citizens of that locality.

It is therefore evident, or almost certain, in view of the natural condition of things in this world, that the defendants would be acquitted, as has already been the case on several occasions. Take the case of the extradition of Ag├╝ero, who was not only acquitted, but after his acquittal was drawn in triumph through the streets of Key West, several local officers joining in the procession, and who was encouraged and assisted to go to Cuba, where, after pillaging, burning, and committing a thousand other crimes, like an outlaw, as he was, he received the reward that he deserved, viz, that of being shot.

The Hon. Mr. Bayard, Secretary of State, is doubtless acquainted with the character of the undersigned and knows that he is not given to flattery, and that he understands and sincerely respects all that is good and great in this Republic; for this very reason, however, he deplores and regards as almost incomprehensible this laxity in defending a friendly nation from the attacks of any conspirator, and this singular idea of calling neutrality this lack of discrimination between a legitimate and civilized Government, which is regarded as friendly, and an outlaw who seeks to make war upon that Government by means of robbery, plunder, and incendiarism. One would think that there was no room for neutrality in such a case, and that none was possible between two parties whose characters are so entirely distinct. One can understand how protection and generous hospitality may be accorded in this great Republic to any one seeking refuge in it, and how such a one may at length be honored with the title and status of a citizen, but it seems incomprehensible that this should be done in order that, under the shadow of its glorious flag and believing himself to be protected and defended by it, he may endeavor to gratify with impunity all his evil passions and all his low aims and appetites; for many collect money in order to go to Cuba, and then, by way of furnishing evidence that they have received it, go there.

At the present time, notwithstanding the financial difficulties through which Cuba is passing, the secession party there has not sufficient strength to set on foot a rebellion that could result in the independence of Cuba or in a serious civil war. Consequently all who go, like all who have gone on filibustering expeditions, go, only, although with a political pretext, to live on robbery, like a party of bandits in the wilderness.

Thus it is, that this Government ought (even from feelings of humanity, if feelings of friendship are not sufficient to induce it to do so) to prevent such piratical expeditions with a firmer hand than it has hitherto done, since they are a blot upon civilization, under whatever pretext they are organized, and since (the undersigned is sure of this) they can now result in nothing but the disastrous death of the criminals or dupes who take part in them.

The undersigned, in calling the attention of the honorable Secretary [Page 776] of State to these matters, expresses the sentiments of his Government, and at the same time his own, and feels confident that the United States Government will appreciate at their just value the force of the reasons above stated, and that it will do all in its power to prevent attempts from being made in so conspicuous and scandalous a manner against the peace, the welfare, and the territorial integrity of a friendly nation, &c.

The undersigned, &c.,