Mr. Springer to Mr. Rockhill.

No. 248.]

Sir: With farther reference to the case of Oscar Cespedes, as reported in my dispatch No. 244, of 2d instant, I have now the honor to transmit copy of a letter from the United States consul at Matanzas, with a newspaper containing the publication of part of the decision of the audiencia, or superior court of Matanzas, convened to settle the question of competency (of which I transmitted a translation in said No. 244), and copy of the protest presented by him to the governor of the province.

I am informed that the decision of this court is considered final as regards the question of competency raised, and that the military tribunals must now take charge of the procedure. The decisions of these courts having now the same force as the supreme court at Madrid, the only way to reverse this judgment must come through diplomatic efforts.

I am also advised that there has been a want of form, a technical point in the procedure, which can be availed of toward that end, and which consisted in the fact that the civil jurisdiction of Alfonso XII upon receiving from the Captaincy-General, or military jurisdiction, the inhibition of the case, failed to return the proceedings with its objections, to the military jurisdiction, but instead raised the question of competency, and referred the matter direct to the audiencia, or superior court at Matanzas, with the result stated.

I am, etc.,

Joseph A. Springer.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 248.]

Mr. Brice to Mr. Springer.

Sir: In compliance with your request of 1st instant, I herewith inclose you copy of newspaper in which is published the decision of the audiencia in Cespedes’ case. I also inclose copy of protest, same case. In compliance with a cablegram from the Department of State, I also made (on 28th November) a verbal protest to civil governor of this province, same effect. Mr. Cespedes is seriously ill and is now in the city jail hospital. I visited him Monday, November 30.

I am, etc.,

A. C. Brice.
[Page 669]
[Inclosure 2 in No. 248.]

Mr. Brice to Governor of Matanzas.

Sir: On the 25th November, 1896, the audiencia or supreme court for the province of Matanzas in convened session rendered a decision in the case of Oscar Cespedes, an American citizen, and said to be a prisoner of war. This decision or decree says that Oscar Cespedes shall be tried by military court-martial.

As consul of the United States, I hereby earnestly protest against this decision of audiencia on the following grounds, viz:

This decision is a direct violation of protocol of 1877 between Spain and the United States, terms of protocol well known to Spanish officials.

Mr. Cespedes declares on oath that he came to Cuba as a reporter for the Key West Herald, Florida, that he never bore arms against the Government of Spain, and that when captured by General Molina’s column, September 2, 1896, he had no arms of any description in hand or on his person.

In accordance with above declaration of Mr. Cespedes, and the terms of protocol of 1877, this American citizen should be tried by ordinary jurisdiction or civil trial. Close investigation, and without prejudice, in the case of Oscar Cespedes, shows that he is guilty of no intentional crime against the Spanish Government. Facts fully proven show that Mr. Cespedes came to Cuba simply as a reporter for one of the many newspapers of the United States.

With the highest consideration, etc.,

A. C. Brice.
[Subinclosure in No. 248.—Translation.]


An examination was held on Tuesday at 12 o’clock m. for the purpose of deciding the question of competency raised by the military authority and the court of Alfonso XII in re the prosecution of Don Oscar Cespedes y Figueredo, an American citizen, for the crime of rebellion.

The following is the conclusion reached:

Whereas, although citizens of the United States, in virtue of the protocol of January 12, 1877, are entitled to the privilege of being tried for any crime committed by them in Spanish territory by none but the ordinary courts, they are debarred from this privilege if they commit any crime of which it is in the province of any special authority to take cognizance, provided they are taken with arms in their hands; and

Whereas, the evidence transmitted by the military authority furnishes sufficient grounds to consider Don Oscar Cespedes guilty of the crime of rebellion, and debarred as aforesaid an account of his having been taken with arms in his hands; so that it is within the province of the military authorities to try him, and not within that of the ordinary courts, according to the provisions of article 9 (No. 3) of the Code of Military Justice.

Now, therefore, in view of that legal provision in article 1 of the protocol of January 12, 1877, we declare it to be within the province of the military authorities to take cognizance of the case which has given rise to this question concerning competency. Let this decision be brought to the notice of his excellency the Captain-General and the examining judge of the court of Alfonso XII.

Matanzas, November 25, 1896.

(Several signatures follow.)

Note.—Oscar Cespedes landed in the island on the 33d (sic) of June with the expedition commanded by Ricardo Trujillo and joined Lacret’s band. He was taken prisoner in the Jicarita Mountains on the 3d of September by the troops under Colonel Molina, and is now in San Severino castle.