Mr. Woodford to Mr. Sherman.

No. 53.]

Sir: On October 28 instant I received from you a telegraphic dispatch in cipher, which I translate as follows:

Woodford, Minister, Madrid:

Send by mail full text of Sagasta manifesto June 24 last referred to in Spanish answer.


To-day I obtained from Señor Sagasta, president of the council of ministers, the inclosed copies of the manifesto of the Liberals addressed to the nation and signed by Praxedes M. Sagasta, dated Madrid, 24th June, 1897, and published in El Correo, an evening paper of Madrid, on Thursday, June 24, 1897. In the private note from Señor Sagasta accompanying these newspaper copies he states that it was not an official document, only the manifesto of a party that was out of power, and [Page 592] that there was not a special edition made, and that it was made public through its publication in the newspapers.

I have, etc.,

Stewart L. Woodford.
[Inclosure—Translation.—From El Correo, Madrid, Thursday, June 24, 1897.]

manifesto of the liberal party to the nation.

The doors of the Parliament being closed to the Liberal party while the anomalous situation created by the want of self-control and the discourtesy of the Government continues, so perilous a complication arises in the national policy and so unmaintainable a lack of equilibrium is caused in public affairs that those whom it behooves to speak in the name of their parties may not shrink from the publication of their opinions and the announcement of their resolves.

The censurable proceedings of the present Government would have imposed upon us the duty of breaking the truce of tolerance into which we spontaneously entered for the honor and benefit of the country upon the breaking out of the Cuban insurrection, and of explaining our past toleration and affirming our present views in radical opposition to those held by the Government, had it been possible to appeal to the Parliament and lay before it a statement of the public grievances.

In face of the gravity of events and the magnitude of misfortunes, the Liberal party can do no less than appeal to determinations as firmly adopted as maturely considered, aiming to bring about the only possible remedy. Prudence at the present time consists in emphasizing with all the energy of will the intensity of the peril, and we had decided to proclaim before the Parliament the solutions we advocate, feeling assured that the nation, esteeming them transcendental, would not have qualified them as excessive.

But an unprecedented act, known to all, has occurred to perturb the parliamentary course, especially as the head of the cabinet (Canovas), offending a party and stultifying himself, has not hesitated to deny to the conflict the sole solution universally recognized as the guarantee of calm and free parliamentry discussion.

Within the Cortes themselves it would seem that the absence of their adversaries would have inspired the Conservative party with sufficient respect to abstain from voting, without debate, laws involving the future, and the wealth of the nation. Far from this, the parliamentary opportunities afforded by the absence of the opposition have only served to compromise in a few hours the remnants of our public credit and the most sacred revenues of our treasury, without those resources, gathered at such cost, having been applied in conformity with the national sentiment, or even now making them sufficient to meet with punctuality the sacred debt owing to those Spaniards who are shedding their blood beyond the seas for their country.

(Several paragraphs follow emphasizing the alleged shortcomings of the Conservative government—its ignoring of the sentiments of the country, its misapplication of public funds, and its general incompetency to deal with the problems confronting it—in face of all which the Liberal party had kept silent until silence has become impossible.)

It has been insistently said that the Liberal party lacks, and has ever lacked, any ideas in regard to the Cuban problem. The-facts, on the contrary, demonstrate that no political party has formulated so clear and definite a programme nor advocated it so consistently as the Liberal party has done, for it initiated and developed a policy before—and long before—the insurrection broke out, and it did so expressly to avoid and prevent it.

To this policy responded and by this purpose were inspired the reforms of Senor Maura, which, had they not met with such parliamentary obstacles and they been enacted, could have been reasonably applied, and, we rightfully believe, would have averted the disasters and prevented the horrors of the present insurrection.

The Liberal party was able to overcome those parliamentary obstacles by consenting to certain formal amendments which did not impair the value of the original bill and which brought all the insular and peninsula parties into accord. But when this promise was enacted as a law the insurrection had already been begun; nevertheless, far from beholding therein a motive for withholding the initiation of those reforms, we believed on the contrary that those reforms should be hastened in the firm and constant aim of aiding by political action the unquestionable victories of our army over the rebels.

In the judgment, therefore, of the Liberal party, political action should have constantly accompanied military action; this was due to the strict obedience which law ever exacts; this was moreover demanded of us by our solemn pledges; for if the [Page 593] Liberal party sought to bring about at all costs material pacification by means of war, it was no less ambitious to assure through political means a moral peace in that section of Spanish territory. Our army has ever conquered, and in all quarters, because best of all representing the energies of the nation; but all the efforts in the world are insufficient to maintain peace in Cuba by the bayonet alone.

The Government, however, adopted the exclusive system of arms (as though by this means alone it were possible to end wars of this nature) and sent to the fields of Cuba 200,000 men and the treasures of the Peninsula.

The Liberal party, although daily grown more steadfast to its programme, nevertheless believed itself bound by high duty to interpose no obstacles under these circumstances, and still less to embarrass the plans of our military commanders. Rather by lauding and glorifying the tried valor and the high virtues of our armed forces it endeavored to spread in every quarter the confidence it intimately cherished—that in the extreme resort those forces would be capable of overcoming even greater difficulties.

Time and events have affirmed our conviction. The Government, yielding at last to evidence, has sought to change its system and join to military action that of policy and diplomacy, without taking into account that such evolutions are only fruitful of result when accompanied by a serious change of heart; since, otherwise, political action, far from fortifying military action, contradicts and weakens it by creating two opposing currents which mutually disturb and destroy each other, and whose collision causes the inefficacy and discredit of both.

For these reasons the Liberal party might have been able to contemplate with resignation the lowering of its reform banner, but it could not acquiesce in its discrediting. If the new policy is not to be carried out by authorities inspiring confidence in all minds (and such confidence can not be inspired by those who ever oppose that policy), and if its execution be not controlled by a large spirit of rectitude, without partiality toward any of the political factions existing in Cuba, it were better not to undertake it, for failure at this juncture would bring about irremediable consequences.

As regards the reforms which have been decreed by the Government, the Liberal party deliberately omits any expression of its judgment, since opposition would now be barren and criticism fruitless. We do not desire to diminish a single jot by amendments useless for good the influence which such reforms may exert toward procuring peace. But that those reforms are not the solution of the Cuban problem is a point on which it is not permissible to remain silent.

In framing those reforms the Government appears to have proposed the indefinite postponement of the interesting economical and commercial questions which the law of March 15 inaugurated and the solution of which it imperiously demanded. Within the scope of that law could be readily embraced the most progressive measures; but the Government, perpetually irresolute between the concessions to the colony and the privileges of the mother country, lacked an impelling motive in any sense and, while awaiting such a tariff as the Cubans might frame, promised, first in the Cortes and afterwards in the Gazette, the publication of another internal tariff which Cuba and the Peninsula are still vainly awaiting.

Instead of fulfilling the law it has chosen to cast it in disrepute and, without the cognizance of the Parliament, certain reforms have been planned, the inauguration of which is dependent upon the authorities who only a few days before had deemed the mere suggestion of such a change a criminal act. The revenue question, constantly announced by that same Government to be the unavoidable necessity of the hour as well as the keystone of the commerce and budget of Cuba, is still unsettled, while the mercantile life and economic fate of the land remain equally in suspense.

From all that has been said may be readily deduced what would have been the course of the Liberal party had it been in power under the described circumstances. It would have carried out the programme so positively maintained without hesitancy or fear, introducing greater moderation in the conduct of the war, greater energy in diplomatic action, and greater sincerity in policy.

To these ends it would have set at head of the army a general who, without impairment of his logical consistency and authority, could exchange the present system of war for one in harmony with the new policy, thereby modifying the social condition, to-day as anomalous as it is unbalanced, which drives many sons of Cuba to the horrible alternative of taking to the field (de irse á la manigua) or succumbing to misery.

It would have divided the enormous task of combatting the insurrection and inaugurated the necessary political régime, intrusting this latter labor to a person experienced in the complex functions of government, whose qualifications would not only enervate, but rather bring into greater relief the prestige of the chief of our army in those regions.

[Page 594]

In this manner would be aided the difficult adjustment of the reforms to the needs and circumstances of the times, an essential condition in every political undertaking, and in the present case the more delicate, in so far as in leading to the autonomy of the colony it involves the integral guarantee of the Spanish sovereignty, while settling at the same time the grave financial problems of that sovereignty, the partition of the debt, and the establishment of the Cuban revenue tariff in such terms that in bringing forth the new personality from the bosom of the mother country the future of our economical relations and of the public credit would be cemented upon the foundation of an unalterable compact (compromiso) and of a mutual interest completely alien to all outside motives of expediency.

The Liberal party does not believe that the generosity and love of the Spanish nation would be met with criminal indifference by the pacific and honorable inhabitants of the island of Cuba, but that they would assist such efforts in so far as they may contribute toward the dissolution of the insurgents; neither does it understand that its influence upon the definite economical and political settlement will cause it to relax in the speediest pacification (of Cuba), to which latter end every energy must be devoted, the rigor of arms against the unsubmitting rebels being simultaneously accompanied by measures attractive for those sons of Cuba who desire to live, masters of their own destinies, under the ancient banner of Spain.

(Several paragraphs follow, criticising the conduct of the Philippine campaign and counseling conciliation as a means toward a contented peace.)

That is what the Liberal party would have done if holding power; this is what it would have advocated in the chambers, exercising its right of criticism and offering to the country and to the Crown the manner of replacing the uncertain conduct of the Government that has proved so unfruitful of good. It is confident that its political procedure would have diminished Spanish sacrifices and spared the shedding of Spanish blood. Let him be responsible to whom it is due that this has not been done. Not even may his culpability be extenuated by any need of facing internal difficulties at home, since the support of the nation has never been more sincere and more unconditional.

The Liberal party still believes that the speedy and energetic application of its principles and governmental measures would stay the course of the evils that afflict the country and bring it near to the pacification of its colonies; but it already feels well-grounded fears that the continuance, even for a brief time longer, of the existing military and political system will cause the procedure herein set forth, and in which it has unshaken faith, to lose its virtue and become deprived of its redemptive power.

In these circumstances, silence would be disloyalty to the country and to the monarchy, and delay in the denunciation of errors of such magnitude would be complicity with those who commit them.

Praxedes M. Sagasta.