The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Cuba (Welles)

No. 167

Sir: In accordance with the recommendations made in your telegram No. 191 of September 5,53 the President authorized the despatch of certain naval vessels to Santiago and Habana purely as a precautionary measure in case American citizens should find themselves in immediate physical danger. When the revolutionary movement extended [Page 434] throughout the Island/with resulting disturbances, additional ships were ordered to various other ports. The Secretary of the Navy also ordered other ships to proceed to Key West and stand by for orders.

In view of the publicity not only in this country but throughout Latin America which attended the despatch of these vessels, the President, after consultation with the Secretary of State, considered that it might be helpful if the governments of all of the Latin American countries were fully informed of our action and reasons therefor. Accordingly, during the afternoon of September 5 and the morning of September 6 Assistant Secretary Caffery and the Chief of the Latin American Division saw all of the Latin American diplomatic representatives, those of Salvador and Cuba being excepted for obvious reasons. Mention was made to them of the conditions which arose in Cuba a few weeks ago, because of which the President had then felt constrained to send vessels to Cuba. At that time the President had made it perfectly clear that the despatch of the ships to Cuba did not mean intervention or interference of any kind with Cuban political affairs, but that their presence was for the sole purpose of protecting American lives should they be physically in danger. When the situation had cleared up the ships were withdrawn. They were informed that unfortunately disturbances had again broken out in Cuba which appeared very serious and the President had again reluctantly found it necessary to send naval vessels for the purpose of protecting Americans should the occasion arise. The various diplomatic representatives were informed that this Government attached great importance to the opinion of the Governments and people of the Americas and, for this reason, desired to explain the situation and to reiterate that the United States was not contemplating intervention or interference in Cuban affairs, but sincerely hoped that the Cubans themselves would work out a Cuban solution of their difficulties.

On the afternoon of September 6 the President personally informed the Ambassador of Argentina and the Chargés d’Affaires of Brazil, Chile and Mexico in the sense above indicated. The President stated that intermeddling in the internal political affairs of Cuba was the last thing that he desired and that the United States would land troops only to afford protection to American lives in immediate physical danger. He reiterated his reluctance in having felt obliged to send ships to Cuba, and that having done so, he desired to explain the situation and to make it clear that he was not contemplating intervention; in fact, that it was his most sincere hope that the Cuban people would set up a stable government capable of maintaining law and order.

The following day the Mexican Government, on its own initiative, telegraphed to the Foreign Offices of Argentina, Brazil and Chile [Page 435] suggesting that, in an effort to render unnecessary intervention in Cuba by the United States under the Piatt Amendment, they join with Mexico in an appeal to the Cuban Government and people for a prompt restoration of law and order. The Chilean Government, in communicating its approval of the proposed action, added the suggestion that all the Latin American countries be invited to subscribe to the joint appeal.

On Wednesday afternoon, September 13, the Mexican Chargé d’Affaires informed Assistant Secretary Caffery that he had received a telegram from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico City instructing him to inform the Department that as it seemed that a stable government capable of maintaining order had been formed in Cuba, it did not seem necessary to go any further with efforts to induce other Latin American countries to make suggestions at Habana that a stable government capable of maintaining order be formed. He also indicated that his Government, and most of all his colleagues in Washington, believe that the United States should withdraw its naval vessels from Cuban waters; they feel that the opposition political leaders in Cuba will not cease their efforts to overthrow the de facto government as long as American naval vessels remain there. Furthermore, he told Mr. Caffery that the real difficulty which the Mexican Government encountered in its efforts to secure general Latin American action at Habana arose from the fact of the Argentine Government’s failure to cooperate. As the Argentine Government did nothing, his Government had found it impossible to proceed. (See attached memorandum of conversation between the Mexican Chargé d’Affaires and Assistant Secretary Caffery.)54

There are enclosed herewith copies of various memoranda and telegrams55 bearing on this matter.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
Jefferson Caffery
  1. Ante, p. 379.
  2. Memorandum dated September 13, p. 428.
  3. Not printed.