Mr. Woodford to Mr. Sherman.

No. 80.]

Sir: Yesterday afternoon, November 25, the Queen Regent signed the three decrees extending the provisions of the Spanish constitution over Cuba, fixing the electoral laws of Cuba, and establishing the new system of autonomy therein. With great courtesy the Spanish ministry handed me a synopsis of the third decree establishing autonomy. What added to this courtesy was that a member of the cabinet brought it to me.

I have to-day telegraphed you in cipher as follows:

Queen signed three decrees November 25. First two decrees confer on Spaniards resident in Antilles all rights enjoyed by peninsular Spaniards and extend electoral law of Spain to Cuba and Porto Rico. These two decrees are permitted by Spanish constitution and do not require to be ratified by Cortes. Third decree, granting autonomy, will be published November 27. This must be ratified by Cortes. Full synopsis of this decree was furnished me Thursday. Same will be cabled to Spanish minister at Washington with permission to show you Synopsis of powers of Cuban parliament is as follows:

The executive power, together with the chambers, can consider and vote on all subjects which may affect the domestic order of the island and its local interests without any limitation whatever. Matters of state (foreign relations), war, and marine only are excepted from their jurisdiction, in which the Governor-General acts by his own authority and as the delegate of the central Government. In addition to the legislative power of the insular chambers they will first receive the oath of the governor to preserve faithfully the liberties and privileges of the colony. Second, they will exact responsibility from the colonial secretaries. Third, they will have the right to apply to the central Government, through the governor, in order to propose to it the modification of the laws in force of a national character, in order to invite it to present new projects of law or to take measures of an executive character which may be in the interest of the colony.

Besides its legislative powers over all local matters, the insular parliament has the power, first, to prescribe regulations upon the preparation of the electoral lists, upon the method of procedure for the election, upon the qualifications of the electors and the manner of exercising the suffrage, provided that its regulations do not affect the right of citizens to vote freely; second, to dictate regulations relative to the compositions of the courts of justice, facilitating their organization with natives of the country [Page 617] or with lawyers who may have practiced in the courts of the colony; third, to make up the insular budget, as well for expenses as for revenue, without limitation of any kind, and to determine the revenues from which Cuba shall cover its proportionate part of the national budget. This national budget, or expenses of sovereignty, will be voted by the national parliament, with the assistance of the Cuban senators and deputies; fourth, to initiate or take part in the negotiations of the National Government for making treaties of commerce which may affect Cuban interests; fifth, to accept or reject treaties of commerce which the National Government may have made when the Cuban government has not taken part in these negotiations; sixth, to form the colonial tariff, acting in the determination of the articles of mutual commerce between the Peninsula and the colonies in accord with the government of the metropolis. These articles will be determined in a list formed by and between both governments.

In all these subjects, which may be of common interest to Cuba and to the Peninsula, the Government before presenting a project of law, or the chambers before voting it, will hear the opinion of the central Government, to whom the proposed law will be communicated for this purpose, the correspondence which may for this purpose have taken place being published afterwards.

The conflicts of jurisdiction which may occur between the different municipal, provincial, and insular assemblies, or between the latter and the executive power, and which by reason of their character may not have been referred to the central Government, shall be submitted to the courts of justice.

Will send by next mail duplicate printed copies of all three decrees.

The synopsis of the powers of the Cuban parliament, telegraphed you as above, is a careful translation from the official synopsis furnished me by the Spanish Government.

To-morrow I hope to mail to you duplicate copies of all three decrees as printed in the Official Gazette of the Government.

I have the honor, etc.,

Stewart L. Woodford.