Mr. Dupuy de Lôme to Mr. Sherman.
Washington, May 31, 1897.
Mr. Secretary: I have had the honor to receive the note you wrote me, under the date of 29th instant, informing me that you had received a telegram from the United States consul at Santiago de Cuba reporting a demonstration of the Royal cruiser Reina Mercedes against the steamer Valencia, of the Ward line.[Page 503]
Acceding to your excellency’s desires, I had already written asking for information as to this occurrence, when I received last night a telegram from the Duke of Tetuan, who is always in the habit of communicating to me whatever news may be of interest to this legation, in which telegram he recites one addressed by the minister of marine to the commandant general of the Havana naval station.
According to that telegram, the incident occurred in the following manner: As she was entering the bay of Guantanamo, the cruiser Reina Mercedes met at the mouth of the harbor a steamer which was coming out without flying her flag, although the war ship had one hoisted. The latter, following the practice of all navies, confirmed her flag by firing a gun, and after the regular interval had passed she fired another shot, shorewards, from the bow of the cruiser.
At the second shot the steamer, which the cruiser had already recognized as being the Valencia, hoisted the American flag and went on her way without being molested. (See for explanation Spanish minister’s note, June 29, 1897.)
As your excellency will see by this simple statement of facts, which .is in concurrence with the reports made to you by the United States consul at Santiago de Cuba, there was no exceptional demonstration. The practice followed by international maritime law has been followed by indicating or advising, in the form usual with all war navies, that a breach of courtesy was being committed.
If the steamer Valencia had hoisted her flag upon meeting in Spanish waters a ship of the royal navy, the latter would have had no need of notifying her by means of a cannon shot, neither would it have been necessary to fire the second if the first had sufficed.
I permit myself to invite your excellency’s attention to that which I had the honor to write to the Department under your worthy charge in my note of February 18 of last year (1896).
After repeated breaches of courtesy by the steamers of the line to which the Valencia belongs, I asked in my note to the Government of the United States, through the medium of the Secretary of State, that it should take notice of these facts and call the attention of the ship-owners thereto, thus aiding the Government of His Majesty the King of Spain in its purpose to avoid every kind of pretext for disagreement; and now, in view of the present incident, I permit myself to renew the request.
As I said in my aforesaid note of February 18, 1896, His Majesty’s cruisers have very strict orders for the fulfillment of their duties, and have received very precise instructions to avoid all disagreeable incidents. It is just, therefore, that all provocation be likewise avoided, and the wish to see fulfilled the duty of courtesy to which I allude could not be deemed capricious when so many filibustering expeditions have set forth and are setting forth from the United States, and when the vigilance confined to the 3 miles of jurisdictional waters is so difficult.
I doubt not that the foregoing explanations will leave your excellency completely satisfied by convincing you that there has not been, in will or in deed, any extraordinary interference with legitimate commerce nor any other wish than to affirm a right which under present circumstances it becomes indispensable to insist upon for the better vigilance of the territorial waters.
I take advantage of this occasion, Mr. Secretary, to repeat, etc.,