Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

THE OSTEND MEETING AND CIRCULAR.

273

James Buchanan, John Y. Mason, and Pierre Soulé, our Embassadors at London, Paris, and Madrid respectively, to convene in some Euro

island.' The President is convinced that the conclusion of such a treaty, instead of putting a stop to these lawless proceedings, would give a new and powerful impetus to them. It would strike a death-blow to the conservative policy hitherto pursued in this country toward Cuba. No administra-pean city, there to confer with regard tion of this Government, however strong in the public confidence in other respects, could stand a day under the odium of having stip

ulated with the Great Powers of Europe, that, in no future time, under no change of

circumstances, by no amicable arrangement

with Spain, by no act of lawful war (should that calamity unfortunately occur), by no consent of the inhabitants, should they, like the possessions of Spain on the American continent, succeed in rendering themselves independent; in fine, by no overruling_necessity of self-preservation, should the United States ever make the acquisition of Cuba."

to the best means of getting possession of Cuba. They met accordingly at Ostend," and sat three days; adjourning thence to Aix-la-Chapelle, where they held sweet council together for several days more, and the result of their deliberations was transmitted to our Government in a dispatch known as the 'Ostend Manifesto.' In that dispatch, they say:

"We firmly believe that, in the course of human events, the time has arrived when the vital interests of Spain are as seriously involved in the sale, as those of the United States in the purchase, of the island, and that the transaction will prove equally honorable to both nations.

After all this, and much more of the same purport, a smile must have irradiated the countenance of even the most impassive European diplomatist on reading the concluding paragraph of Mr. Everett's dispatch, the malign influence of foreign powers, who

viz.:

"For these reasons, which the President has thought advisable, considering the importance of the subject, to direct me to unfold at some length, he feels constrained to decline respectfully the invitation of France and England to become parties to the proposed convention. He is persuaded that these friendly powers will not attribute this refusal to any insensibility on his part to the advantages of the utmost harmony between the great maritime States on a subject of such importance. As little will Spain draw any unfavorable inference from this refusal; the rather, as the emphatic disclaimer of any designs against Cuba on the part of this Government, contained in the present note, affords all the assurance which the President can constitutionally, or to any useful purpose, give, of a practical concurrence with France and England in the wish not to disturb the possession of that island by Spain."

Soon after the passage of the Nebraska bill, President Pierce, through a dispatch from Gov. Marcy as Secretary of State," directed Messrs.

17 Dated Washington, August 16, 1854.

"Under these circumstances, we cannot anticipate a failure, unless, possibly, through

possess no right whatever to interfere in the matter.

"We proceed to state some of the reasons which have brought us to this conclusion; and, for the sake of clearness, we shall specify them under two distinct heads:

"1. The United States ought, if practicable, to purchase Cuba with as little delay as possible.

"2. The probability is great that the Government and Cortes of Spain will prove willing to sell it; because this would essentially promote the highest and best interests of the Spanish people.

"Then, 1. It must be clear to every reflecting mind that, from the peculiarity of its geographical position, and the considerations attendant on it, Cuba is as necessary to the North American republic as any of its present members, and that it belongs naturally to that great family of States of which the Union is the providential nursery.

"From its locality, it commands the mouth of the Mississippi, and the immense and annually increasing trade which must seek this avenue to the ocean.

"On the numerous navigable streams, measuring an aggregate course of some thirty thousand miles, which disembogue themselves through this magnificent river

18 October 9, 1854.

into the Gulf of Mexico, the increase of the population within the last ten years amounts to more than that of the entire Union at the time Louisiana was annexed to it.

"The natural and main outlet to the products of this entire population, the highway of their direct water-course with the Atlantic and the Pacific States, can never be secure, but must ever be endangered, whilst Cuba is a dependency of a distant power, in whose possession it has proved to be a source of constant annoyance and embarrassment to their interests.

"Indeed, the Union can never enjoy repose, nor possess reliable security, as long as Cuba is not embraced within its boundaries."

These arguments for the necessity of acquiring Cuba on our part, though not so strong intrinsically as might be adduced to justify the acquisition of Great Britain by France, are still further amplified; intermingled with demonstrations that Spain would be, pecuniarily, the gainer by the sale, and insults which would seem offered on purpose to render her compliance impossible. Witness these specimens:

"Such is her present wretched financial condition, that her best bonds are sold upon her own Bourse at about one-third of their par value; whilst another class, on which she pays no interest, have but a nominal value, and are quoted at about one-sixth the amount for which they were issued. Besides, these latter are held principally by British creditors, who may, from day to day, obtain the effective interposition of their own Government for the purpose of coercing payment. Intimations to that effect have been already thrown out from high quarters; and, unless some new source of revenue shall enable Spain to provide for such exigencies, it is not improbable that they may be realized.

"Extreme oppression, it is now universally admitted, justifies any people in endeavoring to relieve themselves from the yoke of their oppressors. The sufferings which the corrupt, arbitrary, and unrelenting local administration necessarily entails upon the inhabitants of Cuba, cannot fail to stimulate and keep alive that spirit of resistance and revolution against Spain, which has of late years been so often manifested. In this condition of affairs, it is vain to expect that the sympathies of the people of the United

States will not be warmly enlisted in favor of their oppressed neighbors.

"We know that the President is justly inflexible in his determination to execute the neutrality laws; but, should the Cubans themselves rise in revolt against the oppression which they suffer, no human power could prevent citizens of the United States, and liberal-minded men of other countries, from rushing to their assistance. Besides, the present is an age of adventure, in which restless and daring spirits abound in every portion of the world.

"It is not improbable, therefore, that Cuba may be wrested from Spain by a successful revolution: and, in that event, she will lose both the island and the price which beyond what was ever paid by one people to we are now willing to pay for it-a price far another for any province."

Finally, Spain is frankly told by our model diplomatists that we will have Cuba at any rate; that resistance on her part will only serve to deprive her of the liberal bonus we are prepared to pay for its peaceful cession. Here is the language:

"But if Spain, dead to the voice of her own interest, and actuated by stubborn pride and a false sense of honor, should refuse to sell Cuba to the United States, then the question will arise, What ought to be the course of the American Governinent under such circumstances?

"Self-preservation is the first law of nature, with States as well as with individuals. All nations have, at different periods, acted upon this maxim. Although it has been made the pretext for committing flagrant injustice, as in the partition of Poland and other similar cases which history records, yet the principle itself, though often abused, has always been recognized. After we shall have offered Spain a price for Cuba far beyond its present value, and this shall have been refused, then it will be time to consider the question, Does Cuba, in the possession of Spain, seriously endanger our internal peace and the existence of our cherished Union?

* * *

"Should this question be answered in the affirmative, then, by every law, human and divine, we shall be justified in wresting it from Spain, if we possess the power: and this upon the very same principle that would justify an individual in tearing down the burning house of his neighbor if there was no other means of preventing the flames from destroying his own home.

"Under such circumstances, we ought

THE OSTEND CIRCULAR IN EUROPE.

275

neither to count the cost nor regard the odds | But, though the exactions of morality which Spain might enlist against us. We forbear to enter into the question whether are often disregarded by monarchs the present condition of the island would and cabinets in our day, the requirejustify such a measure. We should, how-ments of decorum are very rarely deever, be recreant to our duty, be unworthy of our gallant forefathers, and commit base treason against our posterity, should we permit Cuba to be Africanized and become a second St. Domingo, with all its attendant horrors to the white race, and suffer the flames to extend to our own neighboring shores, seriously to endanger, or actually to consume, the fair fabric of our Union.

"We fear that the course and current of events are rapidly tending toward such a catastrophe. We, however, hope for the best, though we ought certainly to be prepared for the worst."

When this dispatch was made public in Europe through the newspapers, the first sensation created by it was one of stubborn incredulity. The journal which contained it having a far higher reputation for enterprise than for accuracy, our minister at one of the minor courts did not hesitate at once to assure the diplomatic circle that it was a transparent and unquestionable hoax; and such it was quite commonly adjudged until later advices had left no room for doubt.

The civilized world, unhappily, was not now for the first time to make the acquaintance of the rule of the strongest. The partition of Poland, Napoleon's perfidious clutch of Spain and her royal Bourbons, with a portion of the doings of the triumphant despots who resettled Europe by dividing it among themselves at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, and several less conspicuous examples, had already guarded the intelligent classes against the delusion that, in Christendom any more than out of it, temptations to gigantic robbery will be uniformly resisted even by nations and their rulers-that rapacity ever needs any other excuse than the proximity and defenselessness of its prey.

fied and derided by any power north of the Mediterranean; and the blackest political crimes of the present age have usually been perpetrated in the abused names of Order, of Legitimacy, and of Religion. That the United States should covet Cuba, and seek by any means to acquire it, did not severely shock Europe's sense of decency; that we should openly, boldly, set forth such justifications of our lust, clearly did. The coarseness, the effrontery, and the shamelessness of the Ostend Manifesto seemed to carry the world back to the days of Attila or Genghis Khan, and to threaten the centers of civilization and refinement, the trophies of art and the accumulations of wealth, with a new irruption of barbarians from the remote, forbidding West. No other document that ever emanated from our Government was so well calculated to deepen and diffuse the distrust and apprehension wherewith the growth and power of our country had already come to be regarded by the more polite, intelligent, and influential classes of the Old World.

The doctrines of this Manifesto were in no respect disavowed, modified, or explained, by our Government. None of our citizens who had openly, notoriously contributed to fit out and man the Lopez expedition were brought to justice, or exposed to any punishment whatever. While strenuous efforts were made to procure the pardon and release of such Americans as had been captured while participating in that ill-fated adventure, evidence was

soon afforded that the spirit which impelled to that crime would find aliment, but not satiety, in the conquest of Cuba. Very soon after the appearance of the Ostend Circular, one William Walker, a Tennessean, recently resident in California, left that State, at the head of a band as reckless and desperate as himself, for Nicaragua, which he entered in the character of ally to one of the factions habitually disputing the mastery of that, as well as of most other Spanish American countries. Though he never evinced much military or other capacity, Walker, so long as he acted under color of authority from the chiefs of the faction he patronized, was generally successful against the pitiful rabble styled soldiers by whom his progress was resisted, capturing" at last by surprise the important city of Granada, which was deemed the stronghold of the adverse faction, and assuming thereon the rank of General. But his very successes proved the ruin of the faction to which he had attached himself, by exciting the natural jealousy and alarm of the natives who mainly composed it; and his assumption, soon afterward, of the title of President of Nicaragua, speedily followed by a decree reëstablishing Slavery in that country, exposed his purpose and insured his downfall. As if madly bent on ruin, he proceeded to confiscate the steamboats and other property of the Nicaragua Transit Company, thereby arresting all American travel to and from California through that country, and cutting himself off from all hope of further recruiting his forces from the

throngs of sanguine or of baffled gold-seekers, who might otherwise have been attracted to his standard. Yet he maintained the unequal contest for about two years, succumbing at last to a coalition of the Central American States, and surrendering his remnant of some two hundred men at Rivas." By the interposition of Commander C. H. Davis, of our sloop of war St. Mary's, on the Pacific coast, he and sixteen of his party were brought away unharmed, and landed at Panama, whence he returned to this country, and immediately commenced at New Orleans the fitting out of a new Nicaraguan military expedition. Here he was arrested, and compelled to give bonds in the sum of two thousand dollars to desist from unlawful enterprises; notwithstanding which, he very soon left that city on a steamboat freighted with armed men and military stores, ostensibly for Mobile, but which, once at sea, headed for Nicaragua, landing him and his followers at Punta Arenas, Nov. 25th. Here Commodore Paulding of our Navy compelled him to surrender," with one hundred and thirty-two of his followers, bringing him to New-York as a prisoner. President Buchanan, by Special Message to Congress," condemned the Commodore for thus violating the sovereignty of a foreign country! and declined to hold Walker as a prisoner. Being thus set at liberty, the 'gray-eyed Man of Destiny' traversed the South, exciting the more fanatical Slavery propagandists to aid him in fitting out a third expedition, with which he got off from Mobile;" but was arrested near the

19 October 13, 1855. 20 May 1, 1857. 21 December 8th. 22 January 7, 1858. 23 October 7th.

WM. WALKER REGENERATING CENTRAL AMERICA.

277

mouths of the Mississippi for having | country, which are inferior to no domestie

26

24

left port without a clearance. Being taken to New Orleans, he and his associates were tried before the Federal Court and all acquitted; when he immediately recommenced his operations, so that in June, 1860, he was again afloat, with an expedition bound to Central America. He, this time, landed on the island of Ruatan," and finally at Truxillo," which he took with little loss, thence issuing a proclamation to the people, assuring them, in the usual fashion, that he did not come to make war on them, but on their Government. Very soon, the President of Honduras appeared, at the head of seven hundred men, while the commander of an English man-of-war in the harbor ordered Walker to decamp. He obeyed, marching with eighty men southward along the coast, and was soon captured," brought back to Truxillo, tried by court-martial, condemned, and shot. He was small in size, cold in demeanor, of light complexion, slow of speech, and unimpressive in manner, and was often accused by his followers of utter recklessness as to their sufferings or perils. His death put a decided damper on the spirit whereof his later life was so striking a manifestation.

In the heyday of Walker's career, and while it was exciting much admiration among the more reckless youth of our great cities, especially at the South, the Democratic National Convention, which nominated Mr. Buchanan at Cincinnati, unanimously adopted the following:

28

[blocks in formation]

the people of the United States to declare

question whatever. The time has come for

themselves in favor of free seas, and progressive free-trade throughout the world, their moral influence at the side of their and, by solemn manifestations, to place successful example.

"2. Resolved, That our geographical and political position with reference to the other States of this continent, no less than the interest of our commerce, and the development of our growing power, requires that we should hold sacred the principles of the Monroe doctrine.

"3. Resolved, That the great highway which nature, as well as the States most im

mediately interested in its maintenance, has marked out for free communication between tutes one of the most important achievethe Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, constiments realized by the spirit of modern times, and that result would be secured by a timely in the unconquerable energy of our people; and efficient exertion of the control which we have the right to claim over it; and no power on earth should be suffered to impede or clog its progress by any interference with relations that it may suit our policy to establish between our Government and the Government of the States within whose dominions it lies; we can under no circumstances surrender our preponderance in the adjustment of all questions arising out of it. "4. Resolved, That, in view of so commanding an interest, the people of the United States cannot but sympathize with the efforts which are being made by the people of Central America to regenerate" that portion of the continent which covers the passage across the inter-oceanic isthmus.

5. Resolved, That the Democratic party will expect of the next Administration that every proper effort be made to insure our ascendency in the Gulf of Mexico, and to maintain permanent protection to the great outlets through which are emptied into its waters the products raised out of the soil and the commodities created by the industry of the people of our western valleys and of the Union at large."

Hon. Albert G. Brown, Senator from Mississippi, visited Mr. Buchanan at Lancaster soon after his nomination for President in 1856, as one of the Committee appointed by the Convention to apprise him officially 28 May 22, 1856. 99 Alluding to Walker, then militant in Central America.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »