Mr. Dupuy de Lôme to Mr. Olney.
Washington, February, 18, 1896.
Mr. Secretary: I have had the honor to receive the note which your excellency was pleased to address me under yesterday’s date, relative to the order of the governor of the province of Matanzas that foreigners residing or transiently found there should prescribe to the prescriptions of the law and register their names in the civil government office, and in which note you state that in a conference held between the aforesaid governor and the consul of the United States, the former had informed the latter that those who did not comply with this request would not be recognized as American citizens.
I have hastened to communicate copy of your excellency’s note to his excellency the Governor-General of the Island of Cuba, who doubtless will decide this question with the high spirit of justice which animates him and in accord with international and conventional law.
Your excellency is aware of the opinion which I have always held, that the interior or municipal laws can not modify the obligations which spring from international law, and I am, therefore, in accord with the opinions advanced by the Department under your worthy charge.
In the present case there can only have been a misunderstanding of the statements of the governor of the province of Matanzas, who must have intended to say that it would be very difficult to accord to the citizens of the United States the privileged position in which they are set by the protocol of 1877 if they do not comply with the laws which facilitate their recognition as such.
The statements made by General Weyler to the consular body in Habana afford me assurance of his intention to concede to foreigners all the rights and all the protection which is accorded to them by the treaties and the laws, and I, within the limited sphere of my functions, will endeavor to contribute to his success therein.[Page 679]
To aid that result, so appropriate to the close relations of friendship which happily reign between the two countries, I beg your excellency to interpose your authority, in order that the consuls may oblige American citizens who reside or travel in the Island of Cuba to comply with the laws, in order that they may be readily recognized and that there may be accorded to them all the rights and privileges which they are entitled to under the laws.
Your excellency is not aware of the difficulties which confront the Spanish authorities, especially under the present circumstances, by reason of the number, unfortunately very large, of persons who have adopted the nationality of the United States with the sole object of more easily violating the laws; and as the legislation in force for many years past clearly prescribes what are the obligations to which foreigners should submit themselves, I believe that a strict compliance with those would save them from all molestation and facilitate for the authorities the strict compliance of the international obligations, which I can assure the Government of the United States the superior authorities of the island are firmly resolved to observe and to cause to be observed.
I improve, etc.,