Chargé Sleeper to the Secretary of State.

No. 1438.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of department instructions No. 569, of December 21, 1905,a relative to the sanitation of [Page 504] the cities of the island of Cuba, and beg to advise you that the matter was at once brought to the attention of the secretary of state and justice, as per legation note No. 800, of January 1, 1906, copy herewith inclosed, which closely follows the above-mentioned instructions. I presented this note in person to Mr. O’Farrill, and in our subsequent conversation endeavored to impress upon him that it was the earnest wish of President Roosevelt and yourself that there be no further delay on the part of Cuba in fulfilling her obligations. Señor O’Farrill replied that the Cuban Government, and particularly Mr. Palma, is most anxious that there shall be no further delay, but added that the President, in the instance of Habana, is strongly opposed to a municipal loan and desires time in which to devise other ways and means that will be acceptable to all parties concerned, saying in conclusion that he, the President, entertains strong hopes that Congress will take the matter up shortly, and thereby materially aid in the solution of the problem.

Despite my reiterated request that he state a given time in the near future for carrying out the existing engagements in the premises, the Secretary refused to commit himself, answering vaguely that he hoped the matter would be settled within the next four months or so.

I consider Mr. O’Farrill’s reply to my note, dated January 10, 1906, copy and translation of which are inclosed herewith, most unsatisfactory in that no promise or assurance of prompt action is given, the Secretary confining himself to the mere repetition of his verbal statement to me, viz, that the President confidently hopes that the matter will be shortly taken up and efficaciously acted upon by Congress.

I am, etc.,

Jacob Sleeper,
Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.
[Inclosure 1.]

Chargé Sleeper to Secretary of State and Justice.

Your Excellency: In continuation of Mr. Squier’s note of March 31, 1905, and acting under particular instructions, I have the honor to communicate to you further views of my Government with reference to the carrying out of the engagement contained in the appendix to the Cuban constitution and affirmed in the fifth article of the treaty of May 22, 1903, between the United States and the Republic of Cuba, for the maintenance and, so far as necessary, the extension of the plans then already devised or other plans’ mutually to be agreed upon for the sanitation of the cities of the Island of Cuba.

The secretary of state especially refers to your excellency’s reply (April 18, 1905) to Mr. Squier’s note and to the message communicated to the Cuban Congress by the President on April 28 last. The last paper in particular shows the extreme importance attached by the Cuban executive to the faithful execution of the existing engagements in the premises.

Legislation has since been proposed in the Cuban Congress looking to the adoption of extensive measures of sanitation throughout the island, the matters especially brought to the attention of that body by President Palma’s message of April 28 do not appear to have been acted upon. That this inaction is not due to any misconception of the importance or urgency of the matter is evident from the first “considerando” of the bill introduced in the House of Representatives on September 29 last, which reads:

[Page 505]

“Considering that the Cuban State could not in any case elude the responsibility that would fall upon it if, for lack of attention or vigilance in sanitary matters, the American Government should demand the fulfillment of the agreement between us on the subject of hygiene, and that, in view of the fact that international duties directly affect the central authority, it is not possible to delegate them to any other organization, either provincial or municipal.” as well as from the concluding paragraph of Article I of the said bill, which reads:

“The city of Habana shall continue with its present organization in this respect, using the amounts set down in the general budget for services already established, and the legislative credits appropriated for special works under way.”

While the needful measures for improving the sanitary conditions of other cities of the island, devised and set on foot by the military authorities of the United States, were to some extent incomplete owing to the magnitude of the task and the briefness of the term of American occupation, those adopted with regard to the capital city were matured with care and applied with success, so that the health of Habana was bettered to a notable degree. Conditions were established and improvements set under way which have continued up to a recent date to maintain the salubrity of Habana, and which have demonstrated by their results the practical wisdom of their choice. What shortcomings may now be apparent are obviously attributable, not to the defects in the devised scheme, but to its ineffective completion in all its parts.

The present conditions in the island naturally attract attention in my country. The great and growing intercourse between the United States and the Republic is mainly carried on through the capital and in large part through the populous provincial cities, in all of which effective sanitation is an imperative need and the consummaton of adequate measures to that end a public duty.

It appears to the President to be a timely, and at the same time a truly friendly, act to call the attention of the Cuban Government anew to the question of public sanitation and, in view of the very prosperous condition of the finances of the Republic, of the, importance of allowing no hindrance to check the increasing commerce of Cuba, and of the occasion which now seems to call for earnest effort to maintain and perfect the good work of the past few years, to urge that there be no further delay in the execution of the unfinished part of the comprehensive plan heretofore set under way, particularly in regard to the paving and draining of the city of Habana.

I take this opportunity to reiterate, etc.,

Jacob Sleeper,
Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.

The Secretary of State and Justice of the Republic of Cuba to Chargé Sleeper.

Mr. Chargé d’affaires: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your honor’s polite note, No. 800, of the 1st instant, in which you are good enough to state the views of the Government of the United States with reference to the carrying out of the engagement contained in the fifth article of the treaty of May 22, 1903, for the maintenance and, in so far as necessary, the extension of plans already devised or other plans which may be mutually agreed upon relative to the sanitation of the cities of this island, and particularly calling attention to the project for paving and draining the city of Habana.

With reference to this matter, I must confirm this department’s note No. 236, dated April 18 last year, referred to in the note of your honor to which I have the pleasure of replying, and which expressed the interest which this Government has taken in carrying out throughout the territory of the Republic the sanitary plans put into practice during the American intervention, which have been perfected since the 20th of May, 1902, as is shown by the decrease of mortality to be observed since that date and the decided purpose of the President to contribute to the realization of the sewering and paving of this capital, a matter to which he is now giving particular attention.

[Page 506]

Your honor states that, subsequent to the legation’s note of March 21, the President addressed a message to Congress in terms expressing the importance which we give to the fulfillment of the engagement made, and that afterwards there have been presented several bills relating to the premises, among those that of September 29 last, in the preamble of which, transcribed in your note above referred to, allusion is even made to the responsibility which would be incurred by the Government of Cuba for its lack of attention and vigilance in sanitary services—a charge, however, not imputable to this Government—for the sole purpose of obtaining the approval of the bill in the shortest possible time; and the references so made by your honor relieve me of the necessity of citing them in my effort to make manifest the real light in which we place the importance of our engagement and as a positive excuse for the inaction in the premises attributed to this Government by yours.

Now, then, if it is true that Congress, because of well-known circumstances, has failed to respond to the most urgent recommendations of the President, the latter is justly confident—and it gives me pleasure to so inform your honor—that within a short time the solution of this matter will’ be favorably and efficaciously taken up by Congress.

And, finally, as in your polite note your honor alludes to the sanitary condition of the island, stating that the occasion seems to have arrived to make an extreme effort to maintain and perfect the work of the last two years, it remains for me but to say that just at this time we have the flattering example of the extermination of the epidemic of yellow fever imported into the Republic, thanks only to the extended practice of established methods and to the employment of elements at the disposal of the sanitary officers, which speaks highly of their zeal and competence and is a fact that disproves any supposition contrary to the excellent state of health which we enjoy.

I reiterate, etc.,

Juan F. O’Farrill, Secretary.