Mr. Woodford to Mr. Sherman.

Sir: On Sunday afternoon, October 3, Herr von Radowitz, the German ambassador, called and we had a cordial and full interview, lasting about one hour. He asked me if I was willing to tell him for transmission to his Government what is the general purpose of the United States in regard to Spain and the Cuban question. I replied that I should be glad to have full, open, and direct conversation with him; that we sought only to preserve the general peace, and that he was at entire liberty to report to his Government all that I should say.

I began by impressing upon him clearly and strongly that the United States does not seek to annex Cuba or to establish a protectorate over Cuba, but only and sincerely desires that Spain shall promptly end the war in Cuba in some way that shall be honorable and just to Spain and yet secure to Cuba permanent peace with the prosperity that should come with peace.

I then spoke of the question of the public health.

I explained that yellow fever is not endemic in the United States; that it almost always originates in Central America or in the West Indian islands; that nearly every epidemic of yellow fever in the [Page 577] United States has originated at some point in Cuba, from which the disease has spread to our coast. I told him of the bad sanitary conditions of Cuba and explained the peculiar formation of the harbor of Habana, which is never thoroughly cleaned out by the tides, thus threatening great danger even in peace, and that in war, with the present neglect of sanitary precautions at Habana and throughout Cuba, the danger is increased many times.

I next spoke about sugar.

I explained to him that the people of the United States have been largely dependent upon Cuba for our necessary supplies of cane sugar; that our native cane-sugar crop, raised mostly in Louisiana and Texas, does not furnish more than one-tenth of the sugar we consume; that we are dependent upon other countries for nearly nine-tenths of the sugar we use, and that until the Cuban rebellion we obtained very much of our cane sugar from Cuba—in a word, that the sugar plantations of Cuba are as necessary to the food supply of the United States as are the cotton fields of India and the cotton and wheat fields of Egypt and the grain fields of Russia to England and to other countries.

I then spoke of the financial losses suffered by American citizens because of the continuance of the war in Cuba.

I mentioned that under our treaty rights with Spain American citizens had invested large amounts of money in the sugar and tobacco plantations and in the iron mines and railways of Cuba, and in waterworks, gas works, and electric plants in Cuba; that large loans had been made by our bankers and citizens on such securities; that for three years these plantations, mines, railways, and other properties have been useless; that they are being destroyed alike by the insurgents and by the Spanish authorities; that all such investments and the security for such loans are thus greatly impaired and even rendered valueless, and that they are not only unproductive but in great danger of being completely destroyed.

Then I called his attention to the injuries inflicted upon our commerce.

As we no longer receive from Cuba the sugar and tobacco which we received in time of peace, we are no longer able to find markets in Cuba for our wheat, corn, meat, and the various manufactured articles with which we have hitherto supplied a large proportion of the wants of Cuba. I pressed on his thought not only that our great commerce with Cuba has thus been practically destroyed, but that Cuba is being so devastated that, although she is one of the richest and most fertile parts of the world, she is of no value to the commerce of the world.

I next spoke of certain political conditions.

I told him that many of the young men and young women of Cuba are educated each year in the schools and colleges of the United States; that for fifty years the young people of Cuba have been so educated, and are naturally imbued with the influences of American social and political life; that Cuba is less than 100 miles from the United States, while it is nearly 3,000 miles distant from Spain; that thus the native Cubans are naturally and inevitably influenced by our system of education, by our political example, and by this physical and unchangeable fact of geographical proximity.

I next pointed out that during the previous ten years of war, from 1868 to 1878, and during the present three years of war, the United States Government has sought faithfully to observe all the obligations [Page 578] of neutrality; has been at great care and expense to police a coast line of nearly 3,000 miles, and that this effort has naturally involved constant danger of irritation and possible violence. I suggested to him that, while constant attention has been drawn to alleged filibustering expeditions from the United States, it is quite possible, and even probable, that, under the cover of continually charging that such expeditions are being prepared in the United States, the insurgents are in fact receiving their supplies from other and equally convenient points on the Gulf of Mexico and in other West Indian islands about which nothing is publicly said.

I also suggested that we had not yet acknowledged a condition of belligerency, although Spain had done this very early in our own civil war, and although during the entire continuance of our civil war Habana had been a great supply station where blockade runners had gathered and from which enormous supplies of munitious of war and food and clothing had been openly shipped to ports in our own insurgent States. I called his attention to the patient forbearance shown and practiced by the United States during all that time.

I then returned to the question of pecuniary losses inflicted upon our people by the war. I told him that our citizens resident in Cuba had suffered not only in property but in person, and that the Spanish Government appeared to be utterly unable to give to American citizens in Cuba that protection to person and property to which we are entitled alike under treaties with Spain and under the law of nations. I told him that these injuries and losses amounted to very large sums, but that as yet, since my arrival in Spain, I have not sought to press reclamations for such injuries and losses, but that I am trying to post pone such matters as long as I can justly do so in the hope of being able to secure the larger results of permanent peace.

Next I told him, although not with great detail, of the unusual manner in which the present struggle in Cuba is being conducted. I told him of the “reconcentrado” camps, with their inevitable conditions of disease, immorality, and death.

Then I spoke of the evident inability of Spain to end this struggle within any reasonable time. I told him that the entire population of Cuba is only from 1,500,000 inhabitants to 1,800,000; that Spain claims to have sent more than 200,000 soldiers to Cuba within the last three years; that this was 1 soldier to each 9 persons of the entire Cuban population; that in addition thereto Spain claims that she has large bodies of Cuban volunteers and recruits in her military service amounting to between 50,000 and 70,000 men, and that after three years of such efforts the insurrection is still powerful and progressive. I spoke of the number of the Spanish army who had been killed or disabled by wounds and sickness; of the numbers who had died in hospitals and in the field; and I found him as well informed on these points as myself, possibly even better.

I spoke of the great expense to Spain in money and in men of conducting such a war at so great a distance from Spain. I told him that the numbers of men sent and the amounts of money lavished by Spain in her effort to crush the rebellion impressed me greatly with the executive ability shown by the Spanish war office in transporting so many troops so safely and so far and with the patriotic purpose of the Spanish people to do all in their power to retain control of Cuba. I [Page 579] added that if such expenditure of men and money had thus far produced no visible results it seemed to me demonstration that Spain could not crush the rebellion; that possibly under the system pursued by Spain the island might be ultimately devastated, but that it could not be subdued; that even if the rebellion were ended now Cuba must for a long time be of no value to anybody; that if the rebellion continues the island must become a practical desert, but that to make a desert is not to secure peace.

I summed the situation up by saying to the ambassador that the purpose of my Government is to help Spain secure peace, and that to this end I have tendered the good offices of our Government.

The ambassador naturally asked me if I was willing to tell him what steps I had taken, and I promptly replied that on September 18 I had full, frank, and friendly conversation with the Spanish minister of state; that in accordance with an understanding then reached between the Spanish minister and myself, I addressed, on Thursday, September 23, an official note to the Spanish minister of state, setting forth the purposes and wishes of my Government, with courteous expression of the most friendly desire that it might suit the convenience of the Spanish Government during the current month of October to formulate some proposal under which the tender of good offices by the United States might become effective or give some satisfactory assurance that peace in Cuba can, by the efforts of Spain, be secured at an early day.

The ambassador asked me if I felt at liberty to give him a copy of such note. I at once replied that when it was sent to the Duke de Tetuan, I had furnished the Duke with a second copy and with written permission to him to make the note public whenever his excellency might see fit to do so, and that, while my Government reserved the right to make the text of the note public whenever it should consider such course necessary for the safeguarding of its interests and for the preservation of the general tranquillity, I must, at least for the present, refer him to the Spanish foreign office for such information as it may be disposed to give.

I have shown the draft of this report to the German ambassador, so that he may know just what I report to you and to aid him in his report to his own Government.

I am, etc.,

Stewart L. Woodford.