Mr. Woodford to the President.

Nos. 36, 37.]

Dear Mr. President: Yesterday morning I received [a] note from Minister Moret, asking interview at my residence that afternoon. He came at 2 o’clock and remained about one hour and a half. At the beginning of our talk he handed me memorandum in his own hand, and then discussed the same, paragraph by paragraph. He came * * * with the knowledge of Señor Sagasta, president of the council, and I think I am justified in assuming that he came with the knowledge of the Queen.

The first matter discussed was that of the alleged landing from the Brooklyn at San Domingo of Captain Brownsfield, of the American Navy. There is no such officer on our Navy list, and I fancy that he meant Captain Crowninshield, but I did not indicate this to Señor [Page 674] Moret. He said that the information had come to him as minister of the colonies; that it had been communicated to President Sagasta; but that if it were true that young Garcia was with the American naval officer and on an American war ship it might be a serious matter, and for the present he was leaving the foreign office to learn about it through the usual official channels. * * *

As to the matter of dismissing or sending away newspaper correspondents from Habana and by the action of General Blanco or of the insular government, Minister Moret [endeavored] to get some expression of opinion as to whether my Government would take such action pleasantly and without remonstrance. I told him that this is a matter to be decided by Spain without suggestion or interference by us, and that I had no advice to give and absolutely no suggestion to make. * * *

Then came the most serious part of our conversation. He asked me to tell him what I knew and thought of General Lee. I replied that I only knew the General slightly, having simply met him on two or three public occasions at New York; that Lee was a graduate of West Point; that he was cousin to Robert E. Lee, who commanded the Confederate forces during our civil war; that he had attained very great distinction as a cavalry officer during the rebellion; that at the close of the war, being ineligible for reappointment to the national army, he had entered political life and been elected governor of Virginia; that he had been a close personal friend of President Cleveland. * * * I added that I believed General Lee had your confidence and that this seemed to me clear from the fact that you had retained him as consul-general, although Lee is a Democrat and you a Republican.

Mr. Moret then said that he thought General Lee disliked Weyler, and I at once rejoined that no American could be satisfied with General Weyler’s methods in Cuba, and that if Weyler had not been recalled I should have advised the prompt breaking off [of] diplomatic relations between Spain and the United States, and that, sincere friend as I am of peace, I should have preferred war to the continuance of Weyler’s command and methods. Mr. Moret admitted that possibly General Lee might be so influenced by the old condition of affairs under the Weyler régime as to have lost faith in the possibility of any effective reform. But he insisted that autonomy is making real and effective progress; that it is winning the business classes, the planters, and all the great middle class to its support, and that it will surely succeed if it can have the sympathy of the American consul-general at Habana and the friendship of the United States. Moret believes that General Lee’s home and legation are the centers of sympathy for the insurrection, and that through General Lee’s conversation, reports, and general personal and official influence the insurrection is helped and autonomy retarded. I gave no assent to these propositions, but did say to him that I believed that General Lee so far possessed the respect and confidence of the American public that I should think that his recall or the appointment of a new man in his place would practically injure Spain and the cause of peace far more than his retention could do hurt, even if all that Mr. Moret said were true. * * *

At the close of this part of the conversation I asked Minister Moret directly:

“What do you wish me to do?”

He replied substantially that he wanted me to do whatever would [Page 675] get my Government to help him effectively in getting rid of the possible dangers and complications that may arise out of the several things mentioned in his personal and unofficial memorandum. * * *

During our conversation one fact came out which surprised me and, if it be essentially true and not mere colorable statement, is interesting. Moret said that the present ministry wanted to dissolve the present Cortes in January so as to convene the new Cortes one month sooner, and in March, but that the delay had been due to the request of the insular government, which required the additional month to get the new régime into working order. He assured me that the insular elections would be held so that the Cuban parliament would meet at Habana on April 25, the same day that the new Cortes will meet here.

But whatever caused the delay, it was evident that Spain will insist upon having more time within which to work out her policy. The new Cortes meets on April 25. The rainy season begins about May 1. Effective military operations will be practically impossible between May 1 and October 1.

This question comes to me each day with increasing force: Can Spain so far crush the rebellion by the 1st of May as that the common sense of our people will see that the war will then be practically ended?

If the rebellion is not evidently in such condition on the 1st of April as to give reasonable certainty that the 1st of May will see its practical suppression, what can the United States do during the thirty days of April to prevent the famine, the sickness, the danger of yellow-fever epidemic, and all the suffering that must be in Cuba during the five to six months of the rainy season?

If the United States must, for the protection of the health of our coast next summer and for the protection of our great financial interests, practically intervene about the 1st of April, is the warning given in your message and repeated in the American note of December 20 sufficiently clear and definite as to justify effective action on or about April 1, which will be approved by the sober judgment of our people and the final judgment of history?

These things press so constantly upon my thought that it has seemed the duty of faithful and loyal friendship to tell you of my anxiety.

Last evening I telegraphed you in cipher and translate such dispatch as follows:

Madrid, March 1, 1898.

President McKinley, Washington:

My Number 36. Confidential. I have just received the following in an informal and unofficial interview, and I communicate it for your personal information as indicating possible line of conduct the Spanish Government may be forced to take.

I quote verbatim:

“A filibuster expedition commanded by Lacret with Morales as second, intended to land at Puerto Rico, was sighted off San Domingo about the 18th of February when several American men-of-war were visiting the island. From one of these ships, the Brooklyn, landed at San Domingo Captain Brownsfield, of the American Navy, with a mission for the Dominican Government. With him landed also son of Calixto Garcia, who stayed there and communicated with several filibusters. The Brooklyn started away, but Captain Brownsfield remained and embarked afterwards in the Montgomery, and with him, in all probability, the son of Garcia too.

“Foreign correspondents at Habana, who are a very disreputable set, are doing all they can to raise a war scare between America and Spain, spreading no end of lies and succeeding in exciting a bad feeling.

“In order to attain peace the best would be to send away some of those correspondents.

“The last, but not the least, cause of danger is the behavior of Consul Lee.

[Page 676]

“Spain can not consider him a reliable man, and is entitled to say that his reports are misleading and untrustworthy.

“Consul Lee freely admits that he is corresponding with the insurgents and openly avows that he is deadly against autonomy.

“The insular government distrusts him as well, and is much inclined to solicit his recall.”

Memorandum stops here. Spanish minister of foreign affairs ignorant of interview, which was asked by minister for the colonies with knowledge of the president of the council.

Full report by next mail.


Faithfully yours,

Stewart L. Woodford.