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UNITED STATES (continued).
Insurrection in Cuba and attitude of the United States-Speech of Mr. Senator
Sumner at a Meeting of the Republican Convention of Massachusetts— Meeting of
Congress—Message of the President. The revolution that broke out in Spain last year was followed by an insurrection in Cuba, the largest and most important of the Spanish colonies, and called in America “ The Pearl of the Antilles." General Dulce was at the head of the forces there ; but in the middle of the present year he was forced, by a tumultuous manifestation on the part of the troops, to resign the command, and General Caballero de Rodas was despatched from Spain as his successor. The insurgents were very anxious to have the independence of Cuba recognized by the United States, and there was a strong feeling in that country in favour of the measure. But the Government felt that it would be too gross an inconsistency to take such a step at the very time when it was making a grave complaint against Great Britain for merely proclaiming neutrality, and allowing the status of belligerency to the Confederate States at the outbreak of the civil war. It therefore determined not to interfere further than by tendering its good offices to the Spanish Government to arrange the terms on which Spain should voluntarily give up the island of Cuba.
The offer, however, was declined, and the United States Government steadily maintained an attitude of neutrality. The insurrection still continued to the close of the year, but with every prospect of being finally suppressed.
At a meeting of the Republican Convention of the State of Massachusetts, on the 22nd of September, Mr. Senator Sumner made a long speech on the foreign and domestic policy of the United States, which is worth reading, as an exposition of the views of an able American statesman, who is also one of the most unfriendly critics of the policy of Great Britain. He said that he wished to speak cautiously of foreign affairs; and in speaking at all he broke a vow with himself not to open his lips on these questions excepting in the Senate. He yielded to friendly pressure, and yet knew of no reason why he should not speak, and in speaking he should be frank. In their foreign relations there were with him two cardinal principles which he had no hesitation to avow at all times : first, peace with all the world, and, secondly, sympathy with all struggling for human rights. In neither of these would he fail, for each is essential. Peace was for them a universal conqueror; through peace the whole world would be theirs. Filled with the might of peace the sympathy extended would be next to an alliance. Following these plain principles, they should be open, and allow foreign nations to know their sentiments, so that even when there was a difference there
should be no just cause for offence. In this spirit he would now approach Spain. Patron of the renowned navigator through whom she became the discoverer of this hemisphere, her original sway within it surpassed that of any other power. At last her extended possessions on the mainland loosed themselves from her grasp. Cuba and Porto Rico remained; and now Cuban insurgents demand independence as a nation. For months they have engaged in deadly conflict with the Spanish power. The beautiful island is fast becoming a desert, while the nation to which Columbus gave the New World is contending for its last possession there. On this statement two questions occur—as to the duty of Spain, and as to the duty of the United States. Unwelcome as it may be to Castilian pride, Spain must not refuse to see the case in its true light, nor can she close her eyes to the lesson of history. She must recall how the thirteen American colonies achieved independence against all the power of England - How all her own colonies on the American main achieved independence against her own most strenuous efforts—How at this moment England is preparing to release her Northern colonies from their condition of dependence; and recalling these examples it would be proper for her to consider if they do not illustrate a tendency in all colonies which was remarked by an illustrious Frenchman even before the independence of the United States. Turgot, in 1750, said, “ Colonies are like fruits, which hold to the tree only until maturity-when sufficient for themselves doing what Carthage did, what some day will America do.” Senator Sumner asked, Has not Cuba reached this condition of maturity? Is it not sufficient for itself? Is victory over a colony contending for independence worth the blood and treasure it will cost ? These are serious questions which can be answered properly only by putting aside all passion and prejudice of empire, and calmly considering the actual condition of things. Nor must the case of Cuba be confounded for a moment with our wicked rebellion, having for its object the dismemberment of a Republic to found a new power, with slavery as its declared corner-stone. He could not doubt that, in the interest of both parties, Cuba and Spain, and in the interest of humanity also, the contest should be closed. Nor could the enlightened mind fail to see that Spanish power on this island was an anachronism. The day of European colonies had passed-at least in this hemisphere, where the rights of man were first proclaimed, and self-government was first organized. As the true course for Spain was clear, so to his mind was the true course for the United States equally clear. It was to avoid involving themselves in any way. Enough of war have they had without heedlessly assuming another; enough had their commerce been driven from the ocean without heedlessly arousing a new enemy. Two policies were open to them at the beginning of the insurrection. One was to unite their fortunes openly with the insurgents, assuming the responsibilities of such an alliance with the hazard of open war. The other policy was to make Spain feel that they wished her nothing but good, and that especially since the expulsion of her royal dynasty they cherished for her a cordial sympathy. It is said that Republics are ungrateful, but he would not forget that at the beginning of their revolution their fathers were aided by her money, as afterwards by her arms, and that one of her great statesmen, Florinda Blanca, bent his energies to the organization of that armed neutrality in the North of Europe which turned the scale against England. He said nothing of the motives with which Spain was then governed. It was something that in their day of need she lent a helping hand.
Adopting the first policy, it was evident they would be powerless, except as an enemy. The second policy might enable them to exercise an important influence. The more he reflected upon the actual condition of Spain the more he was satisfied that the true rule for the United States was non-intervention, except in the way of good offices. Spain is engaged in comedy and tragedy. The Spanish comedy is hunting a king; the tragedy sending armies against Cuba. He did not wish to take part in the comedy or the tragedy. If Spain were wise she would give up both. Meanwhile they had a duty which is prescribed by international law. To that venerable authority he repaired, and what it prescribed he followed. Nations were not left by it to any mere caprice; there was a rule they must follow, subject to just accountability when they departed from it. On ordinary occasions there was no question, for it was with nations as with individuals. It was only at a critical moment when the rule was obscure or precedents uncertain that doubt arose, as now, on the question of recognizing the belligerence of the Cuban insurgents. Here he wished to be explicit. Belligerence was a “fact” attested by evidence. If the "fact" did not exist there was nothing to recognize. The fact could not be invented or imagined, it must be proved. No matter what their sympathy or the extent of their desires, they must look to the fact. There might be insurrection without reaching this condition, which was at least the half-way house to independence. The Hungarians when they rose against Austria did not reach it, although they had large armies in the field. The Poles in repeated insurrections against Russia never reached it, although they made Europe vibrate. The sepoys and rajahs of India failed also, although for a time they held in check the whole English power. Nor in his opinion did the American rebels ever reach it so far as to justify their recognition on the ocean. If the Cuban insurgents had yet reached this point he had never seen the evidence. He knew they were in arms; but where were their cities, towns, provinces, Government, ports, tribunals for justice, and prize courts? To put these questions was to answer them. How, then, was the “fact” of belligerence? There was another question in their case, and with him it was final. Even if they came within the prerequisites of international law, he was unwilling to make any recognition of them, so long as they continued to hold human beings as slaves. A decree in May last, purporting to be signed by Cespedes, abolished slavery; but he was not sure of this decree, especially in view of another in July, purporting to come from the same authority, maintaining slavery. Until this was settled they must wait. While on the abstract question of the recognition of belligerence there was much latitude of opinion, he did not hesitate to adopt that interpretation of international law which placed war and all that make for war under the strongest restrictions, believing that in this way he should best promote civilization and obtain new security for international peace.
From the case of Spain he would pass to that of England, contenting himself with a brief explanation. On this subject he had never broken silence except with pain, and he hoped not to say any thing now which would augment difficulties, although when he considered how British anger was aroused by an effort in another place, judged by all who heard it most pacific in character, he did not know that even these few words might not be mistaken. There could be no doubt that they received from England incalculable wronggreater, he had often said, than was ever before received by one civilized Power from another, short of unjust war. He did not say this in bitterness, but in sadness. There could be no doubt that, through English complicity, their carrying trade was transferred to English bottoms; their foreign commerce sacrificed, while England gained what they lost; their blockade rendered more expensive; and, generally, that their war, with all its fearful cost of blood and treasure, was prolonged indefinitely. This terrible complicity began with a wrongful recognition of rebel belligerence, under the shelter of which pirate-ships were built and supplies were sent forth. All this was at the very moment of their mortal agony, in the midst of a struggle for national life, and it was done in support of rebels, whose single declared object of separate existence as a nation was slavery, being in this respect clearly distinguishable from a Power where slavery was tolerated without being made the corner-stone. Such is the case. Who should fix the measure of this great accountability ? for the present it was enough to expose it. He made no demand —not a dollar of money-not a word of apology. He showed simply what England had done to them. It would be for her to determine what reparation to offer. It would be for the American people to determine what reparation to require. On this head he contented himself with the aspiration that out of it might come some enduring safeguard for the future, some landmark of humanity. He had little hope of any adequate settlement until their case, in its full extent, had been heard. In all controversies the first stage of justice was to understand the case, and, sooner or later, England must understand theirs.
The English argument, so far as argument could be found in the recent heats, had not in any respect impaired the justice of our complaint. Loudly it was said that there could be no sentimental damages, or damages for wounded feeling; and then their case was dismissed as having nothing but this foundation. Without undertaking to say there was no remedy in the case supposed, he wished it understood that their complaint was for damages traced directly to England. If the amount was unprecedented, so also was the wrong. The scale of damages was naturally in proportion to the scale of operations. Who among them doubted that these damages were received ? The records showed how their commerce suffered, and witnesses without number testified how the war was prolonged. In view of this great wrong, it was a disparagement of international law to say there was no remedy. An eminent English judge once pronounced from the bench that “the law is astute to find a remedy ;” but no astuteness was required in this case--nothing but simple justice. Then it was said, Why not consider their good friends in England, and especially those noble working-men who stood by them so bravely? They did consider them always, and give them gratitude for their generous alliance. But they are not England. They trace no damages to them, nor to any class, high or low, but to Engiand—corporate England—through whose Government they suffered. Again, it was asked, Why not exhibit an account against France ? For the good reason that while France erred with England in recognition of rebel belligerence, no pirate-ships or blockaderunners were built under shelter of that recognition to prey upon their commerce. The two cases were wide asunder, and they were distinguished by two different phases of the common law. The recognition of rebel belligerence in France was damnum absque injuriá, or wrong without injury; but that same recognition in England was damnum cum injuria, or wrong with injury; and it was of this unquestionable injury that they complained.
It could not be doubted that the pendency of this great question would always be a cloud upon the relations of the two Powers when there should be sunshine. Good men on both sides should desire its settlement in such a way as to most promote goodwill and make the best precedent for civilization. There could be no goodwill without justice, nor could any “snap-judgment” make friends, or establish any rule for the future. Sometimes there were whispers of territorial compensation, and Canada was named as the consideration. But he knew little of England or of English liberty, or of that great liberty which was theirs, who supposed such a transfer could be made or received. On each side there was impossibility. Territory might be conveyed, but not a people. He alluded to this suggestion only because it had been made in the public press, and had been answered from England. But the United States could never be indifferent to Canada, nor to the other British provinces, near neighbours and kindred. It was well known, historically, that even before the Declaration of Independence their fathers hoped that Canada would take part with them. The Continental Congress by solemn resolution invited Canada, and appointed a commission with Franklin at its head “to form a union between the colonies and the people of Canada.” Long ago the Continental Congress passed away, but the invitation survived, not only in the archives of their history, but in all American hearts, constant and continuing as