Mr. Storer to Mr. Hay.
Madrid, August 4, 1899.
Sir: I have the honor to report the substance of a conversation had this morning with the minister of state at the ministry, where he had requested me to come.[Page 687]
He stated that the Spanish Government appreciated most deeply the magnanimity of onr Government in permitting the passage of cipher telegrams to Aguinaldo through his agent, Agoncillo, at Paris. Permission thus to correspond on the subject of the Spanish prisoners and to treat for the terms of their release, he said, was asked by the Duke of Arcos of the United States only on the most pressing grounds, both of humanity and of political necessity, and it was a happy surprise when this permission was granted. I, in reply, called his attention to the often clearly expressed desire on the part of the President and yourself to do anything to be done which might further the release of these prisoners, and that the absolute sincerity of these wishes must now appear. The minister reiterated his expressions of the grateful feelings of the Government of Spain on this subject, and added that under the circumstances he was desirous in the most complete way, as in honor bound, to acquaint me with all the communications, so far as known to his Government. He said the first result was a demand on the part of Aguinaldo for the sum of 7,000,000 Spanish dollars as a ransom, which was afterwards changed to 6,000,000.
The ministry had thought it wise, before absolute refusal, to go so far as quietly to assure itself that the Spanish Congress would, at need, sanction a sum of $2,000,000, which might have been increased, possibly, to $3,000,000. But the Government had not deemed it wise or proper to admit the possibility of any payment at all, except enough to cover the shelter and food of these prisoners until they could be returned, without naming any fixed sum as the measure of these charges. To use his own language, “What would and what must have been our answer had Aguinaldo demanded as ransom so many field guns, so many thousand rifles, and so many million cartridges? And money in sums like this means the same thing.” He then told me that on the positive refusal of his Government to entertain any such idea all negotiations had ceased, and he assured me he would keep me informed of resumption on either side.
He also told me he had been informed through the Spanish consul at Manila that, should Spain accede to a large money ransom, as demanded by Aguinaldo, the so-called provisional government of the Tagalos would refuse to permit the release of the Spanish prisoners until Spain had, in addition, given formal recognition of this provisional government as a belligerent power. He gave it, finally, as his own personal judgment that it would be useless to try to accomplish anything toward the release of these prisoners save by the loyal and generous cooperation of the United States, and that, so far as could be seen now, nothing remained but to await the crushing of the insurrection by force.
The adjournment of the Cortes the 30th of July has removed or at least postponed, some of the embarrassments of the Government on this subject. During the last three weeks of the session hardly a day went by without fierce attacks by the opposition on * * * the ministry. Bands of women, calling themselves—perhaps being so—the wives and relatives of prisoners, haunted the precincts of the Cortes, particularly the Senate, openly incited to disorder by recognized republican, socialistic, and even Carlist agents. The halls of the Congress had to be cleared of them, as the ordinary official doorkeepers were overcome by this feminine torrent. The scenes of disorder and the flagrant attempted use for political intrigue of what was in itself a deep and legitimate current of sorrow and sympathy for suffering, seems to have brought about rather a reaction in public opinion. This, coupled with the adjournment, may enable [Page 688] the Government more patiently to await events. The action of the President in allowing the-interchange of such negotiations in cipher has had a very happy effect. The bitter feelings which might have remained always against us had our Government done what, from a political and military point of view alone it might have done most legitimately, in refusing such permission, will now be turned directly toward the Tagalos.
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I have, etc.,