WE must base our dealings with the Cubans on the understanding that they are as yet but children. The word describes them almost exactly. Ignorance, delight in seeing or owning pretty trifles, curiosity, the tendency to tell an untruth whenever telling the truth may have unpleasant results, cruelty, wanton destruction of inanimate things which have been obstacles in their path, fondness for personal adornment, intense desire for praise, and a weakness for showing off, — these are the attributes of children. Savages display them, too ; and many observers have put the Cubans down as barbarians. But, on the whole, they wear these qualities as children wear them. Docility, except under abuse, is their most marked trait. They yield without opposition or question to the strong hand ; and our government has made its chief mistake in dealing with them weakly, and allowing its policy to seem shifting, vacillating, and uncertain. Most Americans in Cuba maintain that if, after the Spaniards had been driven out, we had taken the stand that we were going to assume permanent control of the island, put it in good order, and govern and develop it ourselves, the great majority of the Cuban people would have accepted the arrangement and been satisfied with it. This was impossible ; but the uncertain manner in which the campaign of regeneration in Cuba has been conducted from Washington, and the fact that the administration did not show any definite policy, have been serious drawbacks. Everything done seems to be decided on with an eye to the two possible futures, — independence and American sovereignty. Our government seems to be trying to ride two horses, to prepare for two contingencies, and to do nothing which shall militate against either.
The Cuban country people are natural, — in all senses of the word, — kind, simple-hearted, and generous, except on occasion. They have many fine qualities, including that kind of disinterested hospitality which springs from the heart, and beautiful manners which amaze foreigners. Finally, they are malleable to a surprising degree. Like children and unlike savages, almost anything can be made of them. We have before us the task and the responsibility of training them up in the way they should go. Under suitable government, education, treatment, and guidance, they can be developed and uplifted to an extent amounting to transformation. Their extreme teachableness, and their quickness to adopt new habits of mind and action which promise to benefit them, render it not impossible that the children of another generation may be fit for citizenship.
The Cubans are not a religious people, either outwardly or inwardly. They have the sort of religion natural to children. It is undeveloped. So is their moral sense. The approach to paganism is astonishingly general. This is a far-reaching fact which throws much light on the Cuban character. The Spanish priests represented the Spanish government; in other words, oppression. They bought and sold benefices, and tried to make the maximum of money out of their parishioners. These things drove the Cubans out of the Church. The priests charged high fees for baptizing, marrying, and burying. Few Cuban babies, it would seem, are baptized nowadays, except in the centres of population. Marriages are usually performed by the alcalde, and a Cuban burial is too barbarous and revolting for description. From all accounts, the priests whom the Spanish government sent to Cuba, and paid well because they aided to keep up the Spanish power, were men of unsavory lives and ambitions. The Cubans naturally forsook a church whose representatives violated its most sacred precepts. Some of them found in Freemasonry a refuge, a ground of union, and a medium for transmitting political secrets. In a recent walking trip from Santiago to Havana, I saw, outside of eight large towns, only one building that had been designed for a church, until I reached Matanzas province. That one had evidently not been so used for many years. In Manzanillo, perhaps the prettiest, the brightest, and the most attractive town on the island, a very persistent bell called fifty women, out of fourteen thousand inhabitants, to Sunday morning service.
The Cubans are exceptionally quickwitted, even for a race of Latin descent, and if American sovereignty were brought to pass they would take as readily to our ideas of government as they are doing to our ideas of business. But the change to be made is very great. The quartermaster of one of our regiments tried lately to buy some supplies from a Cuban firm. The provisions were all right, but several amicable conversations with the members of the house failed entirely to bring about anything like an arrangement concerning the price. He grew impatient at what seemed to him their stupidity and tardiness. At last one of them came to him and made a clean breast of it: “ You see, captain, we can’t specify any price until we know how much we shall have to pay you.” Another firm deposited in the post office a large number of letters, unstamped. They were returned, and the head of the house called to make an indignant protest. A small steamer employed by his house had carried the mail for the Spanish government to a certain near port, and in return all letters bearing the firm’s label had been delivered, unstamped. He was told that he must stamp all his letters, and that if we wanted to send mail to that port by his steamer we would make a contract with him. He thought a moment, and exclaimed in amazement, “ Why, that’s getting things down to a cash basis ! ” He was told that that was the intention : whereupon he took to the new idea with delight, and made a contract to carry the mail. The Cubans are not far-sighted, and they have little desire or regard for knowledge for its own sake ; but, like all people whose entire resources in the way of information are in their own heads, they are shrewd, and quick to perceive all the bearings and operations of any innovation which affects or promises to affect themselves. Mentally, they are a remarkable combination of keenness, intelligence, and readiness to learn new things, with ignorance so dense as to discourage any attempt to fathom it.
They know how to construct a rancho of small trees, branches, and palm leaves, which will keep out the floods of rain that fall in the rainy season ; how to make the best coffee in the world ; how to dig boniatos and yuccas, clear scrub, cut cane, capture bees, and do other little things in the way of agriculture ; in short, they know how to exist in their environment. Also, they know the local gossip and a few echoes of doings in the world beyond half a day’s ride. But further than this most Cubans living outside of the towns know absolutely nothing. The United States is to them a vague tract of land in the north, more or less the size of Spain, from which come minnows in yellow cans, and roast beef, which may be bought at the cantinas, where even bread can sometimes be obtained ; likewise big men in blue shirts and felt hats, who ride colossal horses and drive the biggest mules in the world, but cannot speak Spanish and do not bother about courtesies. These Americans take kindly to the remark, “Americano mucho bueno, Espagnol mucho malo; ” not less kindly than the Cubans take to American silver, which they find preferable to Spanish money. But the average Cuban never goes from home further than he can ride his little singlefooter in three or four hours. He exists, in the cheerful contentment which is one of his worst traits, on what he can pick up around his hut. Even if he be a man of unusual energy, and take split palm leaves or boniatos or tobacco to the village to sell, he comes in contact only with the few people who have always lived within two or three leagues. I was repeatedly amazed and dumfounded at the number of men and women who did not know the path to the nearest village, or even whither the trail led which went past their own doors. Getting out of the towns was a long, tedious, and exceedingly annoying matter. You might ask man after man, and not one would know how to find the only road that led to the next village. Unfortunately, a Cuban hates to admit that he does not know ; and he will give you, with perfect confidence and abundant courtesy of manner, a direction that has no discoverable relation to the right path. Cubans never travel in their own island for pleasure, and very rarely for business : to ninety-nine out of a hundred of them any province but their own is unknown except by hearsay, — unless in the case of men who accompanied Garcia’s raid through the island. Townbred Cubans differ from their rural fellows chiefly in being cleaner, in meeting more kinds of people, and in the fact that they sometimes see a tiny Havana newspaper with its short, unreliable cablegrams.
It is often hard to tell whether a Cuban lies to you from ignorance or from malice. On ordinary occasions, and about matters that do not promise to affect himself, he is fairly truthful; but he seems to know no reason why he should not tell a lie if he wants to. To the average Cuban who has always lived on his own island, a lie is a thing to tell whenever it will serve any useful purpose. Here the absence of a moral sense becomes apparent. With the Cuban, lying is a matter, not of right, but of policy, his shortsightedness preventing him from perceiving that to-day’s advantage may be to-morrow’s loss. Though the Cubans usually tell the truth, nearly all of them dissimulate or equivocate whenever they see occasion. Hence it is not always easy to tell what a Cuban thinks or how he feels about the future of the island. He sometimes tells you what he thinks you want to hear. Every man of property wants Cuba to be under American control, but he will not admit it before a crowd, or even to another Cuban, unless convinced that he too is heartily in favor of it.
It is needless to say that the glowing descriptions given by the Cubans of the performances and the glorious victories of their somewhat mythical army are not intentional, deliberate, cold-blooded lies. Carried away by imaginations as fertile as the soil of their island, they believe their own monstrous inventions. For, after all, the Cuban loves better than all other things on earth to strike an attitude, to pose, to strut and brag and make himself out a great man and his fellow islanders a great nation. Thousands of Cubans firmly believe that there was once a band of men worthy to be called a Cuban army, and that they fought battles. Others say that there were merely little companies of starving stragglers, who sometimes fired their two cartridges apiece from ambush at Spanish scouting parties, and then scattered. But they all think they did great execution. Get some American or Englishman who was with them to give you his view of it. It will be discouragingly different. Cuba is infested with “ after the war ” soldiers, braggadocio mock heroes who took no part in the fighting.
If one can keep his face straight, it is worth while to start one of these “ brigadier generals,” and say “ Whew ! ” at critical moments. He will romance by the hour about the battles he has fought, the victories he has won, and the Spaniards he has killed. It is one of the pleasant features of the unconventional life of Cuba, at present, that you can chat with anybody. When you tire of these fairy tales, and your eyes begin to wander, perhaps you will notice in a corner of the café a little wizened negro, who does not look too clean for work, and whose machete scabbard is short, plain, old, and dirty. Go over and talk with him, if you want to know how the Cubans saved themselves from total annihilation and made the conflict drag along. But do not believe all he says; he is touching it up for your benefit, too. It is not best to dispute assertions. It may be there was once a Cuban army, properly constituted, which occasionally stood up to its opponents ; and possibly the “ Conquering Army,” the “ Army of Liberation,” numbers forty - five thousand men, all of whom fought three years against the Spaniards. Do not admit that you have been credibly informed that a Cuban regiment consisted of twenty-five men, of whom seventeen were officers, or that a Cuban warrior of rank below sergeant is an object of extreme interest for his rarity. It is too hot to dispute ; besides, it is not worth while.
As a matter of fact, there is a formidable army in Cuba to-day. It does not quite correspond to the aggregation of men who are looking for shares of our three-million-dollar gift, though most of the latter also belong to it. This is the “ Army of Expectation,” as it has been well called, — the men who are making all the money possible out of the United States, as interpreters and in other ways, and doing all they can to browbeat Cubans who favor permanent American control and to hasten our removal from the island, to the end that they may get office under the Cuban republic. They are formidable because they all pull together, because they have nothing to lose, and because they are animated by a common desire for gain. They are masters of grandiloquent phrases and specious arguments and false yet persuasive assertions, and they have just brains enough to delude the well-meaning, generous, ignorant peasants and workingmen. Native shrewdness and the habit of taking for granted that every one has an axe to grind may lead the peasants to discount some shams, but they also prepare them to regard shams as things to be expected.
Pretense, unhappily, plays a large part in the Cuban character; and there is, one is sadly disposed to admit, some warrant for the statement that the Cubans are to some degree like a race of slaves. Their villainous faces, their habit of suspicion, and a sullen, resentful manner, developed under habitual subjection, all go to give one the impression which an ill-concealed and deep-seated subserviency strengthens. A Cuban’s face, at first sight, looks sinister and defiant, as if he were ready to commit murder solely by reason of the absence of cause to the contrary. Yet instinct tells you that he will not attack you in fair fight; so you bid him good-day without the slightest trace of deference, and your greeting straightway transforms your murderous-looking pirate into a courteous gentleman, who will chat with you, offer you a cigarette, interest himself in your affairs, and give you any help in his power, and at parting commend you to God, — all with the most beautiful and appropriate manners and the most graceful gestures in the world. Most Cubans, by the way, “ talk from their hips up ; ” their hands move as fast as their tongues. As soon as you get below the surface you find this kind of man, and he will remain just about the same as long as you know him. But you will shortly perceive that there is a third stratum, the nature of which you can only guess at. You wonder what the man really thinks ; how he really feels toward you ; whether he means what he says about the future of Cuba and the other topics you discuss. If you stay in his company for some time, however, and if he has no military leanings, you will gradually come to perceive that he is a sincere fellow at heart. Converse with him alone, and he will tell you his real sentiments, which will correspond closely to what he told you offhand when you first met him.
All things seem to have conspired to bring to the surface the potential bad traits in the Cuban character. The Spaniards treated the Cubans as slaves, thereby implanting in them the characteristics of slaves, including falsehood, meanness, and vengefulness. The American common soldiers, who, during the past winter, have not been the best behaved people in Cuba, found them devoid of the fundamental qualities that we demand of men, and treated them correspondingly ; with the result, in many cases, of confirming the worst side of their disposition. You will not make a better man of any one by calling him a rascal, or by treating him with continued and overbearing contempt and insult. He will probably respond to your opinion by acting according to it. It is perfectly true that many Cubans have behaved very badly since we took possession of the island, and some of them were amenable to no other treatment than physical compulsion ; but the race as a whole is peaceable and well disposed, and it is not fair to estimate it from a few refractory or dishonest examples. It is unintelligent, moreover, to blame the Cuban people for the bad qualities forced upon their character during Spanish rule, when deception became almost necessary.
Ungratefulness is the charge that has been most often brought against the Cubans since Santiago. After it had been borne in upon them that they were not to be allowed to demolish, for pure spite, all the Spanish fortifications and official buildings, they still had to learn that they would not be permitted to maltreat civilian Spaniards as they chose. Even after they had learned this much of our character, and had indisputable proof, in the work of cleaning up cities and improving streets, of our disinterestedness, their only thought seemed to be to get all the money they could out of our people. Prices were doubled, tripled, and quadrupled for Americans, as they always are in foreign countries for American tourists ; but they speedily came down, thanks to the poverty and the shrewdness of the American common soldier.
Though the Cubans are doing what they can, in these ways, to make money, less can be said for their industry in more laudable directions. Three years of enforced idleness and guerrilla warfare have unfitted most of them to settle down and cultivate the land. Lack of tools accounts for part of this disposition to let the land lie undeveloped ; temperament and their recent habit of life for most of it. The owners of sugar mills complain bitterly of the impossibility of getting laborers enough to run their mills at full capacity, and say that the gangs are constantly changing. Meantime, on the streets of Santiago two thousand unemployed men clamor for work. None of these went to the mines at Guantanamo, when work was offered ; instead, the men in charge brought sixteen hundred unemployed men from Cienfuegos, many, if not all, of whom were badly needed on the neighboring sugar plantations. Perhaps work in the cities for the government has spoiled these men for the less exciting life of the country.
By far the greater part of the island presents the spectacle of extremely fertile cleared land with which absolutely nothing is being done. You may travel through miles and miles of just such country, particularly in Puerto Principe and Santa Clara. It is so in Santiago, also, except that the scenery is more varied and the land more wooded, so that you do not notice so constantly the prevalence of flat, uncultivated country, and do not so quickly tire of seeing nothing else. Offhand, you would say that the eastern two thirds of the island had never been brought under cultivation. In Matanzas and Havana provinces the case is only a little less pronounced. Except in spots Cuba seems virgin soil, just as its people offer an unbroken field to the missionary. Where agriculture used to be carried on there is now nothing but desolation, and the overgrown ruins of houses and huts and Cuban camps and hospitals. Pinar del Rio, the famous tobacco country, is said by those who have traveled through it to present the same aspect of desolation. Left to themselves, the Cubans would never develop their country, — not in centuries. They are not shiftless ; every man of them can shift for himself so long as he stays in the country. The trouble is that it is so easy to get along and have plenty to eat without doing much work. The women and children dig boniatos and yuccas, which are said to grow year after year where they have once been planted; the men shoot deer or agouti or guinea hens ; one who happens to be passing a field of sugar cane takes along a few stalks, the juice of which goes to sweeten the coffee. Perhaps the husband and father finds a swarm of bees in the woods. He brings it home on his shoulder, and installs it in a hollow trunk behind his hut. Part of the honey will enable him to buy green Brazilian coffee, dried fish, a lump of pork, possibly even a couple of rolls as a special treat. The wax, manipulated by deft fingers, becomes candles, and solves the entire lighting problem. Why work when one can live so well without?
During the war almost the entire rural population had to live on boniatos, which are an exceedingly watery and innutritious kind of yam, not unlike our sweet potato. One result of the struggle was seen in the excessively distended stomachs and the spindling arms and legs, from which, as from a widespread epidemic, the people are recovering. There was another and more striking result. The Cubans multiply rapidly, as do all tropical peoples. Now, the mortality of the war among the adults was horrible enough, but among the children it resembled extermination. During nearly two months spent in traveling in Cuba I saw but one child between the ages of one year and five. That frail little creature of two years might have weighed twelve pounds. I have reason to believe that in the cities the mortality among the babies was less sweeping.
The lack of facilities for transportation — one might almost say the absence of such facilities — of course discourages agriculture; still, it is used rather too much as an excuse. The few railroads charge high rates ; as for the highroads, all but a few of the caminos reales are mere trails, only wide enough for men on horseback to travel single file. The camino real seems to be so called on account of its resemblance to the palma real. It is about the width of the trunk of the palm tree, and sooner or later it disappears among the foliage. Lack of confidence, however, is the chief obstacle to progress, because it lessens ambition, and prevents residents and foreigners with capital to invest from taking up more land or undertaking new enterprises. An astonishing number of Cubans now working in the cities are land poor. You often meet men in humble circumstances who own thousands of acres of land, highly valuable for its timber, or its fertility, or its adaptability to cane, tobacco, or coffee, which is entirely unsalable because no one has sufficient confidence to develop it. Hence every man of property in Cuba, as well as every merchant or shopkeeper, is an earnest advocate of permanent American control. He knows that it is for the good of his country, and that it will enhance enormously the value of his land and the volume of his business. Ask any intelligent man in Cuba, of whatever nation, “ What is the chief need of Cuba?” He will instantly reply, “Annexation.” (This word, by the way, is used throughout Cuba to signify permanent American sovereignty and occupation, and does not carry with it the idea of statehood.) Ask him to tell you the other needs of Cuba, and he will answer that this is the whole story. Security, confidence, capital, immigration from America, intelligent development, railroads, and highways that can properly be called roads, which comprise all the other requisites, will follow quickly enough. Nobody ventures to buy land now, though miles and miles of it are offered at various prices from fifteen cents to twelve dollars an acre, because everything is uncertain. Conditions are even worse than they were five years ago. We made a pledge that we would give the Cubans a chance to govern themselves ; but the events of every day make it increasingly doubtful whether they will ever be able to establish, still less to maintain, a strong government. Cuba under a republic would be a very unsatisfactory place to Americans. The Cubans cannot be judged by one who brings them to the touchstone of the virtues which Anglo-Saxons regard as essential. If we leave out the best of them, which means those who have come into contact with American life, the Cubans are sometimes good servants, but they are utterly unfit to be masters of themselves or of anybody else. They are by inheritance unfit for responsibility ; and in this respect they will change but slowly, if ever. Americans in Cuba have seen this so clearly that, although there are magnificent opportunities for profitable business, they are not making investments; for, cheap as most of the land is now, it would be worthless if Cuba should be handed over to its inhabitants.
There are certain other significant phases of the economic condition of Cuba to-day. Some of these are the scars of the long war; others are the results of the imperfections of American control. In some places sugar mills have been burned, so that it is impossible to grind the cane; in others all the oxen have been killed, so that it is impossible to convey it to the mills. Weyler carried off nearly all the cattle (two hundred and forty thousand, according to general estimates) from Puerto Principe and Santa Clara provinces, and shipped them to Spain, to be sold for his own benefit. During the war Garcia swept through this part of the island, destroying or carrying off the remaining cattle and all other eatable things, with the ostensible aim of starving out the Spaniards. Aside from sugar-growing, cattleraising has always been the chief occupation in these two provinces ; and to-day hundreds of square miles of the finest grazing land in the world are lying idle because there are no cattle to feed on them. These are the fairest and most orderly parts of Cuba, though they are under very slight cultivation. The local rural guards have been chosen out of the best of the Cubans who took part in the insurrection, and they make active and efficient police. The people seem to be of a better sort than those in Santiago province. They have much pleasanter faces, and the negroes are few in number and well disposed. Moreover, Puerto Principe offers special attractions to Americans, because a large number of the men in business in its chief city have been educated or trained, or both, in the United States. In these provinces the people like us very much, and are thoroughly satisfied and pleased with American rule. They want us to stay. Hundreds of people in Puerto Principe have said that they would go out with our troops. Business is better there, the work of cleaning up the cities has been more appreciated, and our soldiers have been more orderly, than almost anywhere else on the island. The country people I found friendly and disinterested, in most cases; and some of the roads are passable for wagons, which must sooner or later replace the heavy, cumbersome bullock carts that are now the only vehicles of transportation.
In other portions of the island American control has been less effectually established. In Matanzas province, where there are as yet no rural guards, I heard dolorous tales of brigands. One man said that he knew of fifty in his neighborhood, who kept the country in a state of terror, and robbed and raided at will. He added that he did not dare to complain to the authorities in the city, because they would do nothing about it, and the brigands would kill him. The next day we were surrounded by a band of sixteen men, who conversed with us awhile, learned that we were Americans, and rode away. In Santiago, the wildest, the most impassable, and the most mountainous of the six provinces, the brigands have been committing depredations of late.
One of the eternally funny things about Cuba is the strong rivalry between the provinces. The people in each section think that theirs is the best and the richest province, that its people are the finest in the island, and that its men did all the fighting in the late war. Now, everybody else will tell you that the people of Santiago are the worst in Cuba, — the scum, the refuse, of the island ; but the Santiagoans insist that they are the most intelligent, since the insurrections have all started in their province. It would seem that they are predisposed to rebel against the established order. General Wood has done a great work in the city and the province under his control ; but he had a far harder task, in proportion to the resources at his disposal, than any one else, and he has been hampered in various ways not necessary to detail here. The rural police are not sufficiently formidable to their former companions-in-arms. The mountainous regions of the province seem to have attracted thieves and other unruly members of society from various parts of Cuba, and it is too big and too wild a province to be easily overrun by our soldiers. The people are more disposed to be surly in Santiago than elsewhere in Cuba; and the city was in so horrible a condition last August that far more of intelligent effort than has been expended elsewhere has not brought it up to the level of other Cuban cities.
Permanent American control seems to be the most probable future for Cuba. We are responsible for good government in the island, and it is doubtful if this can be established in any other way. This becomes clearer every day, even to people at a distance; down there, anything else is seldom thought of or suggested, save by the unruly elements and by those persons who have nothing to lose and everything to gain by a state of affairs in which the shrewdest and most unscrupulous man wins, and who still cling to the old fetish of “ Cuba Libre.” It is so doubtful whether the Cubans can ever govern themselves that few Americans who have been to Cuba and know the conditions expect them to do it. Under American direction, Cubans have performed some of the work incidental to government in a more or less satisfactory manner. Some of the post-office clerks are less inefficient than the majority. The city police and the rural guards are vigilant, energetic, and determined, and they have kept order to the best of their ability ; but they are sometimes cowardly, and often disposed to bully and browbeat. They are inclined to be arbitrary and domineering, simply because they have always seen authority exercised in that manner. Doubtless they will gradually outgrow this disposition ; but it is a good illustration of the fact, of almost universal application, that the vices forced upon these people by the Spaniards have become part of their natures, and will have to be slowly and painfully outgrown. It will be a slow process, because, among other reasons, the Americans who are to set the Cubans an example are not all paragons of honesty, truthfulness, and probity.
The negroes, who number at least one third, and possibly one half, of the population, are said to belong to the party which clamors for independence. Those in Havana are probably antagonistic to the Americans and to the upper classes of Cubans, because they have not been given places on the police force; the riots of a few weeks ago would lead to this opinion. Those in Cienfuegos also have a standing grudge against the whites, because they are not allowed on the Plaza in the evening. The negroes in Santiago province are of a very different stamp from ours or those in the western end of the island. By comparison, they are gentler, better-mannered, and more intelligent and docile. According to the best authorities, they are sprung from a different African race, and they have always been kindly treated, except by a few British and American slaveowners.
As for the lowest class of white Cubans, the city laborers, most of these have probably been talked over to the Army of Expectation. The opinion seems to be generally held that the poor, hospitable, courteous, much-abused, cheerful, kind-hearted peasant is on that side, too ; but this I believe to be largely an error. A number of them, all the way along the road, asked me, “Is the United States going to take us ? ” in a way which intimated a desire in that direction. The sentiment is certainly growing among them that it would be a very good thing for Cuba to be under our protection. Several times I heard the same argument advanced, — that if Cuba should become a republic, she would be at the mercy of any foreign power with a gunboat and a citizen who thought himself injured. For the rest, there are a good many Cubans who will go with the crowd; if the matter comes to a vote, they will side with whichever party they think likely to win.
Two ways in which our control may be made permanent are much discussed by Americans in Cuba. We can say to the world : “ The Cubans are unable to govern themselves, and incapable of learning self-government within any reasonable time; we will therefore keep the island under our control, and govern it as we have governed our territories.” Or we can take the ground that, since we have pledged ourselves to give Cuba independence, we are bound to put the island into reasonably good working order, and then to remove our troops and officials. The result, as every one except a few Cubans will admit, will be disorder, fierce contention between the leaders, and then civil war of the old familiar guerrilla kind, degenerating into butchery; and we shall have to come back and take up again the regeneration of Cuba from the beginning. It is hard to decide which is right of these two plans, and whether the one that is right is also expedient; and an honest man may be excused for hesitating between the two courses.
Most people favor the former plan, which represents the progressive spirit. We are already on the ground, they say ; the work of regeneration has been well begun, and is going on satisfactorily ; and all the best people want us to stay, — the people of property and intelligence, the men whose opinions and desires deserve attention and respect. What is the sense or the necessity of throwing overboard all that has been gained for Cuba, and leaving the island to its own ill devices, when we know perfectly well that we shall have to come back and do our work all over again? It would be an unintelligent and a foolish proceeding. There was once a popular idea to the effect that the long-suffering Cubans were models of all the virtues, and that if the yoke of Spain were removed they would form at once a stable government which would make Cuba an ideal place for residence; but that was exploded long ago. Why should we feel obliged to sail away from the island, pretending that we had established a government, and allow the Cubans to massacre one another ? Is it either right or expedient to expose to the fury of the negroes, and the other inflammable elements of the populace which the demagogues will stir up, the resident Spaniards, the other foreigners (including our own people), and the Cubans who have proved friendly to us ? The first thought of the Cubans, after the protection of the Spanish troops was withdrawn, was to murder the Spanish civilians, particularly in the small towns where the Spaniards, being men of honesty, industry, and stamina, kept the stores and owned most of the property. Are we to learn nothing by experience ? Have we a right to wash our hands of a responsibility which we assumed not only voluntarily, but aggressively, and march away from that powder magazine, when we know beyond a reasonable doubt that there are those who only wait for our departure to fire it ? Europe has already taken it for granted (unofficially) that we are in Cuba to stay. Putting aside the enormous expense and the disturbance connected with moving our troops away from Cuba and then sending them back, are we called upon to put Cuba at the mercy of a half-barbarous rabble, with the inevitable result of having to go back there in force, reconquer the island, and do all over again the splendid work of the past year ?
To be sure, it may be said with much plausibility that if a vote were taken tomorrow, the people of Cuba would by a large majority request us to leave the island, and that we ought not to go into the business of government without the consent of the governed. It is probably true that the Cubans who want us to go outnumber those who want us to stay. The point is that if all, or nearly all, the people whose convictions deserve respect are on one side, mere numbers should not be allowed to decide the matter.
If we set theories aside, and look at the situation squarely, it becomes evident that the event will not be determined by any logical or a priori considerations. Our possession of the island is growing more firmly rooted every week, and Americans are forming interests and connections in it which will slowly change the face of things. With every life and every dollar we send to Cuba our hold on the island is being strengthened. We shall stay to take care of our own, and thus, by imperceptible stages, the present situation will glide into permanent control.
Herbert Pelham Williams.