Gateway to the Classics: Spain: A History for Young Readers by Frederick A. Ober
Spain: A History for Young Readers by  Frederick A. Ober

The Treaty of Peace

No better summary of the progress and achievements of the war has been given than in the words of the President, addressed to a vast assemblage at the Trans-Mississippi Exposition, in October, 1898:

"Our army had years ago been reduced to a peace footing. We had only nineteen thousand available troops when the war was declared, but the account which officers and men gave of themselves on the battlefields has never been surpassed.

"The manhood was there and everywhere. American patriotism was there, and its resources were limitless. The courageous and invincible spirit of the people proved glorious, and those who a little more than a third of a century ago were divided and at war with each other, were again united under the holy standard of liberty. Patriotism banished party feeling; fifty millions of dollars for the national defence was appropriated without debate or division, as a matter of course, and as only a mere indication of our mighty reserve power.

"But if this is true of the beginning of the war, what shall we say of it now, with hostilities suspended and peace near at hand, as we fervently hope? Matchless in its results! Unequalled in its completeness and the quick succession with which victory followed victory! Attained earlier than it was believed to be possible; so comprehensive in its sweep that every thoughtful man feels the Weight of responsibility which has been so suddenly thrust upon us. And, above all and beyond all, the valour of the American army, the bravery of the American navy, and the majesty of the American name, stand forth in unsullied glory, while the humanity of our purposes and the magnanimity of our conduct have given to war, always horrible, touches of noble generosity, Christian sympathy and charity, and examples of human grandeur, which can never be lost to mankind. Passion and bitterness formed no part of our impelling motive, and it is gratifying to feel that humanity triumphed at every step of the war's progress.

"The heroes of Manila and Santiago and Puerto Rico made immortal history. They are worthy successors and descendants of Washington and Greene, of Paul Jones, Decatur, and Hull, and of Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, and Logan, of Farragut, Porter, and Cushing, and of Lee, Jackson, and Longstreet.

"New names stand out on the honour roll of the nation's great men, and with them unnamed stand the heroes of the trenches and the forecastle, invincible in battle and uncomplaining in death. The intelligent, loyal, indomitable soldier and sailor and marine, regular and volunteer, are entitled to equal praise as having done their whole duty, whether at home or under the baptism of foreign fire. Who will dim the splendour of their achievements? Who will withhold from them their well-earned distinction?

"The faith of a Christian nation recognises the hand of Almighty God in the ordeal through which we have passed. Divine favour seemed manifest everywhere. In fighting for humanity's sake we have been signally blessed. We did not seek war. To avoid it, if this could be done in justice and honour to the rights of our neighbours and ourselves, was our constant prayer. The war was no more invited by us than were the questions which are laid at our door by its results. Now, as then, we will do our duty. The problems will not be solved in a day. Patience will be required—patience combined with sincerity of purpose and unshaken resolution to do right, seeking only the highest good of the nation, and recognising no other obligation, pursuing no other path but that of duty."

With the signing of the protocol hostilities ceased, and by the middle of August, 1898, the war had virtually ended. Each Government appointed commissioners to arrange for the evacuation of Cuba and Puerto Rico, and by the 18th of October the latter island was in exclusive possession of the United States. Owing to the presence in Cuba of so large a number of Spanish troops—more than one hundred thousand—and the great extent of that island, the evacuation proceedings were more slowly carried out, and it was not until the 1st of January, 1899, that Havana, the capital, was delivered into the sole care of the Americans.

Meanwhile, peace commissioners had been appointed by each country, five by Spain and five by the United States, who met in Paris the first week in October. After long and deliberate sessions, and not without some friction from their divergent views, a treaty of peace was concluded, which was signed by all the commissioners on the 10th of December, and presented to the Executive of the United States the day before Christmas.

Although the United States occupied the position of conqueror, and was in a situation where it could exact its own terms, still it did not presume upon its advantages, and was exceedingly generous in its treatment of the fallen foe. By the capture of Manila, the capital of the Philippines, the Americans had practically acquired possession of that vast group in Asiatic waters. Nevertheless, the United States agreed to pay the Spaniards the sum of twenty million dollars, and to repatriate all Spanish troops then on service there.

By the terms of the protocol, confirmed by the treaty, Puerto Rico and its adjacent islands in the Atlantic were ceded to the victors without reservation, and became American property. In the East the island of Guam, in the Ladrones, was ceded as a coaling station, and the vast archipelagos of the Philippines and Sulus. The island of Cuba, while freed from Spanish tyranny, did not directly become a possession of the United States, as that Government had distinctly disclaimed any intention of assuming sovereignty over it except for its pacification only. "Spanish rule," declared President McKinley, in his message to Congress of December 8, 1898," must be replaced by a just, benevolent, and humane government, created by the people of Cuba, capable of performing all international obligations, and which shall encourage thrift, industry, and prosperity, and promote peace and goodwill among all the inhabitants, whatever may have been their relations in the past. Neither revenge nor passion should have a place in the new government. Until there is complete tranquility in the island, and a stable government inaugurated, military occupation will be continued."

The complete transfer of authority was not unaccompanied by disturbance, either in the Philippine or in Cuba. In the former islands the native insurgents, mistrusting the humane intentions of their new masters, manifested a spirit of turbulence which indicated that they would have to be pacified before intrusted with the full measure of freedom. In truth, it would appear that the actual war was a minor matter compared with the gigantic task the United States had undertaken of preparing the diverse peoples to walk in the paths of progress and higher civilization.

In Cuba, filling the places made vacant by the withdrawal of the Spanish soldiery, the American army gradually possessed itself of every strategic point, and by the 1st of January, 1899, the island was practically held by the Americans. At noon of that day the Spanish flag was hauled down and the Stars and Stripes hoisted in its place, above the historic Morro Castle, where the banner of Spain had floated (except for a brief intermission) for nearly three hundred years. Captain-General Castellanos, who had succeeded General Blanco in November, and was then in command of the Spanish forces, met the American commissioners at the palace in Havana, and resigned his authority over the island in the following words:

"According to the protocol of peace, signed August 12th, I, obeying the orders of the government of her Catholic Majesty, the Queen-Regent of Spain, and in the name of her son, his Majesty the King, deliver the island of Cuba to the Government of the United States, represented by your commission."

General Wade, chief of the American commissioners, made an equally brief reply, and then gave this important trust into the keeping of General Brooke, the military governor.

As General Castellanos left the palace for the steamer on which he was to take his departure, the American soldiers drawn up in the plaza presented arms, the officers saluted with their swords, and the American military band played the royal Spanish march.

This unfortunate Spanish official, to whom had been intrusted the disagreeable duty of relinquishing into foreign hands the supreme authority over Cuba, was profoundly moved, and, as he heard the salutes being fired in honour of the American flag, which had now supplanted the emblem of Spain, he said, brokenly: "This is the most bitter moment of my life. I pray that none of you will ever suffer what I am suffering now."

Thus he departed, carrying with him the sympathy and esteem of those who but recently had been his foes. The spirit of goodwill and fraternal feeling was never more manifest than between the Spaniards and Americans in Cuba; for with the cessation of strife disappeared all animosities of whatever nature. Only the Cubans, who had been prevented for important reasons from participating in the final demonstrations attendant upon the occupation of Havana, and who allowed themselves to distrust the motives of the conquerors, held aloof at first and seemed to cherish revengeful feelings.

But when General Castellanos advanced to General Menocal, a Cuban high in authority, and said, "I am sorry, sir, that we have been enemies, having the same blood in our veins," the latter answered generously: "Sir, we fought for Cuba. Now that she is free, we are no longer enemies!"

All animosities seemed then to be forgotten, and it would appear that the United States had already succeeded in its pacific mission of intervention, as the air was rent with the cries of "Viva Espana!" "Viva America!" "Viva Cuba Libre!" 

If a spirit of revenge had been cherished by the Americans, it must needs have been appeased that afternoon, at the sight of American soldiers marching through the capital city of Havana, with the former Consul-General Fitzhugh Lee at their head, and in the harbour the Stars and Stripes floating from a spar above the sunken war ship Maine.

There seems every reason to believe that the noble aspiration of the great American Executive will be realized:

"As soon as we are in possession of Cuba, and have pacified the island, it will be necessary to give aid and direction to its people to form a government for themselves. This should be undertaken at the earliest moment consistent with safety and assured success. It is important that our relations with this people shall be of the most friendly character, and our commercial relations close and reciprocal. It should be our duty to assist in every proper way to build up the waste places of the island, encourage the industry of the people, and assist them to form a government which shall be free and independent; thus realizing the best aspirations of the Cuban people."

The city of Santiago is already a notable object-lesson of the benefits of American rule, where soldiers from the Cuban army and impoverished pacificos  have been generously paid by the military governor to assist at the work of reform.

America has shown that her declaration of sympathy with suffering humanity in the Spanish islands: in the Philippines as well as in Cuba, were not idle words spoken for effect upon the outside world, but the voicing of a principle which has been consistently adhered to, not only through the din of battle but in the hush of peace. And not the least of her victories is that over herself—second only to that which has brought to her side (compelled by admiration of her deeds and inherent love for valorous performances) the "motherland" of America: England, home of the sea-kings, Drake and his colleagues who assisted at the destruction of the armada; Nelson, who buried Spanish prestige in the watery grave of Trafalgar. International comity advances to a higher plane, international obligations acquire a new significance, when nations are inspired by mutual respect and regard.

At the opening of the nineteenth century Spain's sway extended over nearly one half the total area of the three Americas, her possessions in, the western hemisphere being estimated at 6,750,000 square miles. At its close she held no territory here, and her flag had disappeared from the isles and continents discovered by Columbus and conquered by her soldiers.

At the beginning of this century the United States controlled less than a million square miles of territory; at its ending, more than 3,600,000! While it was once claimed by Spain that on her vast empire the sun never set; of the American possessions, since the acquisition of the Philippines, it is literally true.

This reversal of relative conditions at the close of the century must be apparent even to the Spanish nation, now contracted within the ancient confines of the Iberian Peninsula, shorn of prestige, glory, and colonies.

Paradoxical as it may seem, yet Spain's losses by war may eventually become her gain; for her colonies had long been clogs upon her progress, and had devoured her substance greedily. No longer compelled to maintain a large standing army, or to send abroad the flower of her young manhood, Spain can devote to agriculture and manufactures, to art and literature, the forces that were worse than wasted in camp and on the battlefield.

She has no worse enemies than those of her own household; but still on her borders rises the fateful apparition of Don Carlos the pretender. In time, perhaps, if the lessons of the war are heeded, the Spaniard may be able to perceive the absurdity of that boastful Spanish proverb, "Whoever says Spain, says everything!"

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