Mr. Sherman to Mr. Dupuy de Lôme.
Washington, August 11, 1897.
Sir: Referring to previous correspondence between this Department and your legation in regard to 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, and especially to my predecessor’s note No. 101, of March 13, 1896, I have the honor to state that the consul of the United States at Sagua la Grande has again reported to this Department the case of Mr. John F. Jova, a citizen of the United States, and part owner, with two other American citizens, of the sugar estate known as Natalia, in the vicinity of the town of Calabazas.
Mr. Jova, in his sworn statement, says that the estate was completely abandoned by military order about the beginning of the present year; that since that date the property has fallen a prey to Spanish soldiers, principally the local guerrillas of Calabazas; that although he made complaint thereof, the soldiers have in no way been restrained in their acts of spoliation, but have continued to despoil and impress the property on the estate, having about the end of June or beginning of July last carried off everything that was portable which could be used or sold, even removing doors and demolishing the veranda to the residence, a valuable structure of substantial material.
Mr. Jova adds, in a later affidavit, that the battalion known as “Zaragoza” has since been temporarily quartered on the estate, not, he alleges, as a guard, but because the place was a convenient point for encampmant from which reconnoitering movements could be made. This will result, he states, in the complete destruction of the property by the insurgents, when the force shall have been withdrawn, although little now remains except the bare buildings.
It appears therefore from this complaint that it is not a question of expropriation for organized military operations for which the treaty of 1795 provides, but of wanton depredation and pillage of private property by the soldiery, in violation not only of the treaty rights of an American citizen, but of the ordinary rules of war. This seems to call for a searching inquiry on the part of your Government, punishment of the offenders if discovered, stringent orders to prevent the recurrence of such acts of spoliation, and full compensation to the injured party.