Mr. Sherman to Mr. Dupuy de Lóme.
Washington, June 26, 1897.
Sir: Referring to the conversation which the Assistant Secretary, Mr. Day, had the honor to have with you on the 8th instant, it now becomes my duty, obeying the direction of the President, to invite through your representation the urgent attention of the Government of Spain to the manner of conducting operations in the neighboring Island of Cuba.
By successive orders and proclamations of the Captain-General of the Island of Cuba, some of which have been promulgated while others are known only by their effects, a policy of devastation and interference with the most elementary rights of human existence has been established in that territory tending to inflict suffering on innocent noncom-batants, to destroy the value of legitimate investments, and to extinguish the natural resources of the country in the apparent hope of crippling the insurgents and restoring Spanish rule in the island.
No incident has so deeply affected the sensibilities of the American people or so painfully impressed their Government as the proclamations of General Weyler, ordering the burning or unroofing of dwellings, the destruction of growing crops, the suspension of tillage, the devastation of fields, and the removal of the rural population from their homes to suffer privation and disease in the overcrowded and ill-supplied garrison towns. The latter aspect of this campaign of devastation has especially attracted the attention of this Government, inasmuch as several hundreds of American citizens among the thousands of concentrados of the central and eastern provinces of Cuba were ascertained to be destitute of the necessaries of life to a degree demanding immediate relief through the agencies of the United States, to save them from death by sheer starvation and from the ravages of pestilence.
From all parts of the productive zones of the island, where the enterprise and capital of Americans have established mills and farms, worked in large part by citizens of the United States, comes the same story of interference with the operations of tillage and manufacture, due to the systematic enforcement of a policy aptly described in General Weyler’s bando of May 27 last as “the concentration of the inhabitants of the rural country and the destruction of resources in all places where the instructions given are not carried into effect.” Meanwhile the burden of contribution remains, arrears of taxation necessarily keep pace with the deprivation of the means of paying taxes, to say nothing of [Page 508] the destruction of the ordinary means of livelihood, and the relief held out by another bando of the same date is illusory, for the resumption of industrial pursuits in limited areas is made conditional upon the payment of all arrears of taxation and the maintenance of a protecting garrison. Such relief can not obviously reach the numerous class of concentrados, the women and children deported from their ruined homes and desolated farms to the garrison towns. For the larger industrial ventures, capital may find its remedy, sooner or later, at the bar of international justice, but for the labor dependent upon the slow rehabilitation of capital there appears to be intended only the doom of privation and distress.
Against these phases of the conflict, against this deliberate infliction of suffering on innocent noncombatants, against such resort to instrumentalities condemned by the voice of humane civilization, against the cruel employment of fire and famine to accomplish by uncertain indirection what the military arm seems powerless to directly accomplish, the President is constrained to protest, in the name of the American people and in the name of common humanity. The inclusion of a thousand or more of our own-citizens among the victims of this policy, the wanton destruction of the legitimate investments of Americans to the amount of millions of dollars, and the stoppage of avenues of normal trade—all these give the President the right of specific remonstrance; but in the just fulfillment of his duty he can not limit himself to these formal grounds of complaint. He is bound by the higher obligations of his representative office to protest against the uncivilized and inhumane conduct of the campaign in the Island of Cuba. He conceives that he has a right to demand that a war, conducted almost within sight of our shores and grievously affecting American citizens and their interests throughout the length and breadth of the land, shall at least be conducted according to the military codes of civilization.
It is the President’s hope that this earnest representation will be received in the same kindly spirit in which it is intended. The history of the recent thirteen years of warfare in Cuba, divided between two protracted periods of strife, has shown the desire of the United States that the contest be conducted and ended in ways alike honorable to both parties and promising a stable settlement. If the friendly attitude of this Government is to bear fruit it can only be when supplemented by Spain’s own conduct of the war in a manner responsive to the precepts of ordinary humanity and calculated to invite as well the expectant forbearance of this Government as the confidence of the Cuban people in the beneficence of Spanish control.