Mr. Olney to Mr. Dupuy de Lôme.

No. 101.]

Sir: Referring to recent correspondence touching the expropriation of the property of American citizens in the Island of Cuba for military purposes, contrary to the provisions of Article VII of the treaty of 1795 between the two countries, I am constrained to call your attention to a still graver disregard of the common rights of American citizens in that island committed by the military forces of Spain.

The consul of the United States at Sagua la Grande reports the case of Mr. John Jova, a citizen of the United States, owner of a sugar estate known as Natalia, in the vicinity of Sagua. It appears by Mr. Jova’s sworn statement that on the 22d of February last a column of Spanish troops numbering about 1,500 men encamped for the night and part of the day following on his estate; that the said troops pillaged all the buildings on the premises, forcing an entrance thereto, appropriating whatever they chose, killing hogs and poultry, and taking a very fine saddle for lady’s use, with its equipments, the property of Mr. Jova’s wife; that in addition they entered cars where his clothing and other family effects were stored preparatory to removing to [Page 673] a place of greater security, forcing open trunks and other luggage, and rifling them of their contents, and that his appeal to the Spanish general, Oliveira, in command, for protection as an American citizen, produced no results.

It is obvious that this complaint, except so far perhaps as relates to the food stock taken for the use of the encamped soldiery, does not touch the question of expropriation for organized military operations for which the treaty of 1795 provides, but that the acts in question constitute wanton depredation and pillage of private property by the soldiery, in violation not only of the common rights of an American citizen but of the ordinary rules of war. I need scarcely remind you that by the code of every civilized nation marauding and robbery of this class entail upon the perpetrators the severest penalties known to military law. The circumstances narrated seem therefore to call for the most searching inquiry and rigorous punishment of the offenders, with reparation to the injured party, as well as stringent orders to prevent the recurrence of such acts of theft and spoliation.

Accept, etc.,

Richard Olney.