Maturin Ballou.

History of Cuba: or, Notes of a Traveller in the Tropics



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"So far from being really injured by the loss of the island," says Hon. Edward Everett, in his able and well known letter to the British minister rejecting the proposition for the tripartite convention, "there is no doubt that, were it peacefully transferred to the United States, a prosperous commerce between Cuba and Spain, resulting from ancient associations and common language and tastes, would be far more productive than the best contrived system of colonial taxation. Such, notoriously, has been the result to Great Britain of the establishment of the independence of the United States."

If it be true that the American minister at Madrid has been authorized to offer a price nothing short of a royal ransom for the island, we cannot conceive that the greedy queen, and even the Cortes of Spain, would reject it, unless secretly influenced by the powers which had the effrontery to propose for our acceptance the tripartite treaty, by which we were expected to renounce forever all pretension to the possession of Cuba. It is difficult to believe that France and England could for a moment seriously suppose that such a ridiculous proposition would be for one moment entertained by this government, and yet they must so have deceived themselves, or otherwise they would not have made the proposition as they did.

Of the importance, not to say necessity, of the possession of Cuba by the United States, statesmen of all parties are agreed; and they are by no means in advance of the popular sentiment; indeed, the class who urge its immediate acquisition, at any cost, by any means, not as a source of wealth, but as a political necessity, is by no means inconsiderable. It would be foreign to our purpose to quote the opinions of any ultraists, nor do we design, in these closing remarks, to enter the field of politics, or political discussion. We have endeavored to state facts only, and to state them plainly, deducing the most incontrovertible conclusions.

We find the following remarks in a recent conservative speech of Mr. Latham, a member of Congress, from California. They present, with emphasis, some of the points we have lightly touched upon:

"I admit that our relations with Spain, growing out of that island (Cuba), are of an extremely delicate nature; that the fate of that island, its misgovernment, its proximity to our shores, and the particular institutions established upon it, are of vast importance to the peace and security of this country; and that the utmost vigilance in regard to it is not only demanded by prudence, but an act of imperative duty on the part of our government. The island of Cuba commands, in a measure, the Gulf of Mexico. In case of a maritime war, in which the United States may be engaged, its possession by the enemy might become a source of infinite annoyance to us, crippling our shipping, threatening the great emporium of our southern commerce, and exposing our whole southern coast, from the capes of Florida to the mouth of the Rio Grande, to the enemy's cruisers.

The geographical position of Cuba is such that we cannot, without a total disregard to our own safety, permit it to pass into the hands of any first-class power; nay, that it would be extremely imprudent to allow it to pass even into the hands of a power of the second rank, possessed of energy and capacity for expansion."

If Cuba come into our possession peaceably, as the fruits of a fair bargain, or as a free-will offering of her sons, after a successful revolution, we can predict for her a future as bright as her past has been desolate and gloomy; for the union of a territory with a foreign population to our confederacy is no new and doubtful experiment. Louisiana, with her French and Spanish Creoles, is one of the most reliable states of the Union; and, not long after her admission, she signed, with her best blood, the pledge of fealty to the common country.

More recently, we all remember how, when Taylor, in the presence of the foe upon the Rio Grande, called for volunteers, the gallant Creoles rushed to arms, and crowded to his banner. The Creoles of Cuba are of the same blood and lineage, – Spaniards in chivalry of soul, without the ferocity and fanaticism of the descendants of the Cid. We are sure, from what they have shown in the past, that liberal institutions will develop latent qualities which need only free air for their expansion. They will not want companions, friends and helpers. A tide of emigration from the States will pour into the island, the waste lands will be reclaimed, and their hidden wealth disclosed; a new system of agricultural economy will be introduced; the woods of the island will furnish material for splendid ships; towns and villages will rise with magical celerity, and the whole surface of the "garden of the world" will blossom like the rose.

"Rich in soil, salubrious in climate, varied in productions, the home of commerce," says the Hon. O.R. Singleton, of Mississippi, "Cuba seems to have been formed to become 'the very button on Fortune's cap.' Washed by the Gulf-stream on half her borders, with the Mississippi pouring out its rich treasures on one side, and the Amazon, destined to become a 'cornucopia,' on the other, – with the ports of Havana and Matanzas on the north, and the Isle of Pines and St. Jago de Cuba on the south, Nature has written upon her, in legible characters, a destiny far above that of a subjugated province of a rotten European dynasty. Her home is in the bosom of the North American confederacy. Like a lost Pleiad, she may wander on for a few months or years in lawless, chaotic confusion; but, ultimately, the laws of nature and of nations will vindicate themselves, and she will assume her true social and political condition, despite the diplomacy of statesmen, the trickery of knaves, or the frowns of tyrants. Cuba will be free. The spirit is abroad among her people; and, although they dare not give utterance to their thoughts, lest some treacherous breeze should bear them to a tyrant's ears, still they think and feel, and will act when the proper time shall arrive. The few who have dared 'to do or die' have fallen, and their blood still marks the spot where they fell. Such has been the case in all great revolutionary struggles. Those who lead the van must expect a sharp encounter before they break through the serried hosts of tyranny, and many a good man falls upon the threshold of the temple.

 
"'But freedom's battle once begun,
Bequeathed from bleeding sire to son,
Though baffled oft, is always won.'"
 

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