Mr. Woodford to the President.

No. 43.]

Dear Mr. President: In my No. 41, of March 9, I told you of Señor ________ call that afternoon and of Mr. ________ call that evening. On Saturday, March 12, Señor ________ came again; said that he had seen Minister Moret again on the 11th; that it was clear that autonomy would surely succeed if the United States would openly advise the insurgents to lay down their arms; that if we would not do this the rebellion must continue; that Spain would never sell the island; that her honor is involved, and that autonomy having been granted, Spain would never surrender her sovereignty, except by force. All this was evidently inspired by Moret. I heard him with kindness, replied with courtesy, and kept my own counsel.

On March 15 I received Department instruction No. 147, dated March 1, and marked “confidential.”

On March 16 I got Judge Day’s letter of March 3, marked “Personal and confidential.” These papers acquaint me with the situation in Cuba and at Washington on the dates when written.

The feeling here is despondent. Bread grows dearer; business more stagnant; public securities fall, and exchange on Paris and London rises.

As time has passed, my own impressions as to our possible duty and consequent action have changed. Permit me to tell you why and how.

In my first letter of August 10, from London, I wrote that “annexation by force might provoke protest, but should it come as the natural and logical result of successive conditions, I think it should be accepted as inevitable.” * * *

In my second of August 19 that “the current of events is setting toward the independence of Cuba or toward such autonomy as shall he practical independence,” etc.

In my No. 11 of October 17 that restored peace may possibly bring a practical protectorate as a reasonable and desirable result. That I hoped not, for I feared that until the Cubans are taught by the hard lessons of experience they will prove very unsatisfactory wards in chancery and that to guarantee their acts will involve a serious and dangerous responsibility. * * *

In my No. 19 of December 11 you will note that Minister Moret told me on that day that he had very strong hopes that the practical pacification of the greater part of Cuba would be secured before the 1st of March, and that “I pressed upon him and Minister Gullon, whenever I met them, the necessity of very speedy and successful action.”

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The 1st of March has come and gone and peace is not yet secured. Department dispatch No. 147 bears that very date.

In my No. 31 of February 7 I wrote that it was then stated in Madrid “that the Spanish Government are disappointed in their efforts to break up the rebellion by autonomy or by influencing rebel chiefs, and doubt their ability to get the rebellion practically suppressed before the rainy season begins.”

What I then could only give as statement current in Madrid is now evident fact. With the exception of Minister Moret and those whom his splendid courage and personal magnetism inspire and control, I do not think that any thoughtful man in Madrid now believes that autonomy, and what is euphemistically called “influencing rebel chiefs,” and military operations combined can practically suppress the rebellion before the rainy season begins.

Señor Sagasta, an experienced statesman, a loyal Spaniard, and a faithful friend of the Queen, * * * waits hoping against hope. I think that he would do anything for peace that Spain would approve and accept. Señor Gullon evidently doubts whether peace can be maintained with the United States. * * * I think that the Queen is disappointed and anxious. Well she may be, for she has struggled with admirable courage and wonderful faith for her son and her dynasty.

In that letter of February 7 I also reported that the present ministry had decided that they have made all the concessions to the United States that they can make, without endangering their own power and the continuance of the present dynasty; that they will do no more, and will fight, if what they have done does not secure our continued neutrality.

In my No. 33 of February 19 I confirmed my belief in the disposition and decision of the Spanish Government to make no further concessions.

My report No. 35 of February 26 gives résumé of situation after my personal interview with Ministers Gullon and Moret on February 25. * * * You will remember that I had seen the Queen on the 22d. * * *

In my No. 37 of March 2, I give Minister Moret’s reasons for his faith in the success of autonomy as stated by himself. But even he practically admits that its success depends on the sympathy of our consul-general at Habana, and the friendship of the United States. His admission that the delay of one month in dissolving the old Cortes and convening the new one was due to the request of the insular government throws much light on the Cuban situation.

In that report of March 2 I called your attention to the evident fact that Spain will ask for more time within which to work out her policy. Autonomy is not yet successful. The new Cortes meets on April 25. The rainy season begins about May 1. Thereafter the Spanish army in Cuba can not fight in the open country, and can liters-ally do nothing but sicken and die until the middle of September, or the first of October, while the acclimated insurgents can ravage the island at their will. * * *

On the morning of March 9 the Madrid papers published the passage by our House of Representatives of the bill appropriating $50,000,000. As I wrote you that day, the Spanish Government and the Spanish people were simply stunned. When you advised and secured that action, you made settlement possible, although I hardly [Page 687] dare even yet to think it probable. While I have worked steadily and persistently for peace, I have never been optimistic. I have always realized the difficulties of the situation. I have sometimes feared that you might think me discouraged, but I am sure that you will not think that I have ever relaxed my efforts. To-day I have more faith in possible peace than I have had since I sailed from New York. The unanimous passage of the Cannon bill at Washington, and the reception of the news here in Madrid, give me this hope. * * * The thought of sale is to-day in the air of Madrid. * * * I think that the largest holders of the Spanish debt will soon advise the sale. But Senor Moret has now made a speech which I inclose, and in which he has taken very positive ground that autonomy will succeed. His speech is clever and strong. But * * * even he may change. * * * It is possible that you can buy Cuba and that such contingency may soon arise as may make it advisable for me to be authorized to at least discuss the matter with the Queen, or with Moret, if she or he should broach the subject. I believe that Spain, tired out and exhausted, threatened with practical famine, and confronted with the immediate necessity of tremendous outlay, would thank the Queen for her wisdom and courage should she dare to part with Cuba without war, and would sustain her even if she were compelled to change her ministry to secure this result.

I have advised, respectfully but earnestly, against annexation and against any protectorate, and have worked only for peace. This was the keynote of my interview with the British and other foreign ambassadors last September and October.

I have hoped that autonomy might be successful and might bring peace. * * *.

It now seems almost certain that autonomy can not succeed before the rainy season begins. This means that the present hell of famine and anarchy may continue in Cuba during all the coming summer. Should autonomy be supported by the great body of the educated and property-holding whites of Cuba, it will probably be strong enough next autumn to prevent effective good government by the insurgents. The insurgents, supported by the great majority of the blacks, and led by even a minority of enterprising and resolute whites, will probably be strong enough to prevent effective good government by the insular autonomic administration. This would mean and involve continuous disorder and practical anarchy.

The establishment of any form of protectorate still seems to me fraught with great and permanent danger. There is no general popular education in Cuba. The blacks and whites are quite even in numbers. The native Cubans and the Spanish residents are divided into hostile factions. Corruption in official rule has been for centuries the curse of Cuba. I do not believe that the population is to-day fit for self-government, and acceptance of a practical protectorate over Cuba seems to me very like the assumption of the responsible care of a madhouse. There are possible conditions under which a practical protectorate may be a reasonable and desirable result. But time and reflection have strengthened my first impression into deliberate judgment, and I pray that no conditions may arise under which we shall be responsible for the practical peace and good government of the island unless we have full power of ownership which shall enable us to compel good government.

Peace is still a necessity. Peace can hardly be assured by the insurgents [Page 688] through and under an independent government. Autonomy has not yet secured peace. I have at last come to believe that the only certainty of peace is under our flag and that with courage and faith we can minimize the dangers of American occupation and assure the blessings of American constitutional liberty.

I am thus, reluctantly, slowly, but entirely a convert to the American ownership and occupation of the island. If we recognize independence, we may turn the island over to a part of its inhabitants against the judgment of many of its most educated and wealthy residents. If we advise the insurgents to accept autonomy we may do injustice to men who have fought hard and well for liberty, and they may not get justice from the insular government should it once obtain control of the island. We may in either event only foster conditions that will lead to continuous disorder. If we have war we must finally occupy and ultimately own the island. If to-day we could purchase at reasonable price we should avoid the horrors and the expense of war, and you, as a soldier, know what war is, even when waged for holiest cause.

I therefore ask your permission to treat * * * should the opportunity ever be presented. Whatever I might do in such contigency would be done tentatively and subject in all things to your constant knowledge and direction. * * *

Should your judgment not approve my present request such knowledge will still be helpful, whatever may be the contingencies of the future.

Faithfully yours,

Stewart L. Woodford.

(Inclosure: Speech of Minister Moret, March 9, 1898, published in El Dia of March 11.)