Mr. Woodford to Mr. Sherman.

No. 25.]

Sir: On Friday, September 17, I received telegram in cipher from Assistant Secretary Day, which I translated as follows:

President directs that you act at discretion in interview to-morrow.


[Page 566]

On Saturday, September 18, I had my first official interview with the Duke de Tetuan. It was held at his private office at 5 o’clock in the afternoon and lasted nearly three hours. Señor Alfonso Merry del Val, secretary to the minister of foreign affairs, acted as interpreter. After the exchange of usual courtesies the Duke remarked that he presumed I had some communication to the Spanish Government, and that he was ready to listen to whatever I might say.

I replied as follows, and give you my exact words:

I wish to say to your excellency that the relations between your Government and mine are such that true friendship requires us to speak to each other with entire frankness. The President most earnestly desires peace and friendship between Spain and the United States. I can not impress this fact upon your thought too strongly. If in anything I shall say I shall seem earnest and positive, it is because I wish no possible misunderstanding between you and me and because I believe that we shall most certainly maintain the ancient peace and friendship between our two Governments if there can be no possible misunderstanding by Spain of what the United States desires and seeks. Therefore, and at the beginning of our negotiations, I wish to impress upon your excellency this primary and essential fact. We wish peace and friendship.

The Duke answered that Spain desired the same; that he should speak with equal frankness and sincerity, and that he thanked the united States Government for the direct and friendly way in which our negotiations were to be opened.

I then read to the Duke the essential parts of the written instructions received by me from your Department before I started for my post, being Department dispatch No. 4, dated July 16, 1897. I omitted the first paragraph and began with the words “during thirteen years of the past twenty-nine years,” etc., and read down to and including the words “the United States stands ready to assist her and tender good offices to that end,” being on the last line but one of page 6 of the dispatch.

I omitted the paragraph beginning on the last line of that page, “It should by no means be forgotten that besides and beyond,” etc.

I began reading again on page 7, at the words “The extraordinary, because direct and not merely theoretical,” etc., which are about at the middle of page 7, and continued reading down to the top of page 11, where I omitted the words “but with due allowance for favorable conditions,” and then read to the end of the document.

After a short silence the Duke replied that the matter was of such grave importance that he could give no answer until he could have full consultation with the entire council of state; that it had been officially announced that the Queen would return with her court to Madrid on Monday, September 27; that the council of state could not be convened until after the return of the court to Madrid, and that then the subject would have the full consideration which its importance required.

He then asked me if I would furnish him with a copy of so much of the dispatch as I had read, or should I not feel at liberty to do this, if I would address him in writing, stating the substance of what I had read and communicating to the Spanish Government our desires and wishes.

I told him that I would address him in writing on Thursday, September 23, instant, and the Duke promised in reply to submit such letter to the council of state next week at Madrid.

I pressed upon him with all possible courtesy, and yet with entire frankness, the necessity of early peace in Cuba, and tendered to the [Page 567] Spanish Government through him the good offices of the United States to secure this result.

Long and full conversation then followed, in which the Duke sought earnestly to persuade me that the Spanish Government is doing everything to secure peace, and believes that it can crush the rebellion thoroughly before next spring. To this I replied that I feared that he underrated the strength of the rebellion and that the present condition of Cuba gave no apparent hope of early peace, and that if peace came as the result of the campaign now being conducted in Cuba it would be the peace of a graveyard, and not of a prosperous and happy country.

He insisted very courteously but very firmly on the proposition that the rebellion had no hope of success, except in the sympathy and aid that it received from the people of the United States, and intimated, although in very guarded terms, that he feared that our Government is not doing all that we can to prevent assistance being given to the rebellion from the United States.

I replied that the United States had for years, both during the previous rebellion and the present one, fulfilled faithfully and loyally all its treaty obligations; had striven earnestly to prevent all expeditions from the United States in aid of the rebellion; and that we could not admit or concede that our Government had in any respect failed in the fullest discharge of all our duties to Spain, and I most courteously suggested that, if possible, his excellency would not further insist upon such intimation.

To this he replied that he recognized the difficulties of the situation and supposed that the President had done all within his power.

I did not even suggest any claims or reclamations for the great losses and injuries to person and property which our people have suffered and are suffering in Cuba. I have left such discussion for other and more opportune occasion.

I said nothing about the manner in which the war is being conducted beyond what I have already reported herein and what my instructions as read to the Duke state so forcefully and yet so temperately. I was careful to say nothing that should wound his susceptibilities and so possibly embarrass our negotiations at the outset.

I explained to him at the close, as I had at the beginning, that peace in Cuba is an absolute necessity for our people and our country, and that our sincere desire is for peace and the prosperity that can only come with peace. I therefore suggested, in bringing our interview to an end, but without pointing out any formula, that the Spanish Government should give to me, before the first of November next, such assurance as would satisfy the United States that early and certain peace can be promptly secured, and that otherwise the United States must consider itself free to take such steps as its Government should deem necessary to procure this result, with due regard to our own interests and the general tranquillity.

Yesterday I telegraphed you, in cipher, as follows:

Cipher dispatch signed “Day” received September 17. Interview with Duke de Tetuan lasted nearly three hours; friendly in manner, positive in meaning. Read to him all essential parts of instructions dated July 16, State Department No. 4. Pressed necessity of early peace. Tendered good offices. Duke asked copy of instructions or letter from me stating our wishes. Promised letter on Thursday, September 23. Duke will submit this letter to council of state next week at Madrid after court returns. Queen goes to Madrid Monday, September 27. Told Duke we hope final [Page 568] decision during October and can not delay decision by the United States longer than October 31. Full details by mail.—Woodford.

I have, etc.,

Stewart L. Woodford