8. Revolt in Cuba
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179 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 8 REVOLT IN CUBA As the $ODEDPD question evolved during the summer and fall of 1869, the United States’ acknowledgment that a nation could determine for itself when to recognize a state of belligerency was intertwined with the adPLQLVWUDWLRQ ·VHͿRUWWRGHÀQHLWVSRVLWLRQUHJDUGLQJWKHLQVXUUHFWLRQLQ &XED*UDQWZDV´YHU\À[HGLQKLVDGKHUHQFHµWRWKHYLHZWKDWDQDWLRQ had every right to accord such recognition if circumstances warranted. %XWDFNQRZOHGJLQJWKHULJKWRIUHFRJQLWLRQGLͿHUHGIURPHPEUDFLQJLWV advisability. In the Cuban case, many Americans favored recognizing the insurgency against Spain not only on humanitarian grounds but also as a way to help terminate a war that damaged American commerce and other economic interests. The rebel Cuban junta based in New York nourished these sympathetic feelings, while Spanish authorities alleged that a lax enforcement of US neutrality laws allowed Americans to provide material aid to the rebels. Grant felt deep sympathy for the Cubans’ ÀJKWDJDLQVWWKHDQRPDORXVYHVWLJHRI6SDLQ·VIDGHGEXWDUURJDQWHPpire . But he also came to see a need to strike a balance between fervent interventionist calls for US recognition of belligerence and a watchful reserve dictated by international law and a prudent calculation of the nation’s true interests.1 Within the cabinet, Rawlins emerged as the Cuban insurgents’ staunchest supporter. Like Grant—and many Americans—the secretary of war saw the Monroe Doctrine as a linchpin of the nation’s foreign Secretary of War John A. Rawlins. (Library of Congress) REVOLT IN CUBA 181 SROLF\ +H HDJHUO\ DQWLFLSDWHG WKH ÀQDO ZLWKGUDZDO RI DOO (XURSHDQ powers from the Americas, which would rid the hemisphere of “the in- ÁXHQFHDQGGDQJHUVRIPRQDUFKLVPµ2 Yet Rawlins apparently had less lofty motives as well. To garner support, the junta freely gave journalLVWV DQGJRYHUQPHQWR΀FLDOVODUJHTXDQWLWLHVRIERQGVWKDWZRXOGJDLQ in value in the event of a Cuban victory. From time to time, Spanish minister Don Mauricio Lopez Roberts showed Fish lists of purported UHFLSLHQWVRIVXFKERQGVDQG5DZOLQV·VQDPHDSSHDUHGQH[WWRDÀJXUH of $20,000 or $25,000. Fish apparently did not inform the president, but shortly after Rawlins’s death in early September 1869, Grant, serving as executor of the estate, learned that the securities were among his papers. He ordered them destroyed. Six years later, however, as the Cuban war continued, Grant discovered that the bonds still lay in the safe Rawlins had used. When he consulted Fish and Secretary of the Navy George Robeson about what to do, Fish revealed that he had seen Rawlins’s name on Roberts’s list. Robeson suggested that the bonds be sold, but both Fish and Grant squelched that sketchy idea. Instead, the president burned them.3 Whatever Rawlins’s motives, his voice was potent with Grant and echoed a sentiment widespread in the country. “Let us talk no more of the Monroe Doctrine, of sympathy with any brave people struggling for their independence,” declared the 1HZRIEHOOLJHUHQF\@ZLWKWKHKD]DUGRIZDU LQÀQLWHH[SHQVHµ Hopeful for a speedy resolution, Grant gave Fish the go-ahead. Before putting the proposal to the Spanish, Fish sounded out the leaders of the Cuban junta, who responded enthusiastically.6 Although Fish spoke frequently with Roberts, the Spanish minister, KHWKRXJKWLWEHVWWRSUHVHQWWKHRͿHULQ0DGULGGHVSLWHKDYLQJOHVV WKDQIXOOFRQÀGHQFHLQWKHQHZO\DSSRLQWHG$PHULFDQPLQLVWHUWKHUH Daniel Sickles. Sickles had an unsavory past, including the murder of his wife’s lover and acquittal on a plea of temporary insanity. But he had redeemed himself during the war and lost a leg at Gettysburg, and his vigorous campaigning for Grant in 1868 helped him win the diplomatic post. Fifteen years earlier, as secretary of the American legation in London , Sickles had assisted in preparing the infamous Ostend Manifesto, asserting that the United States should wrest Cuba from Spain if Spain refused to sell it. This act from the new minister’s past added even more weight to the baggage he carried to Madrid.7 :LWKWKHDGPLQLVWUDWLRQ·VRͿHURIPHGLDWLRQWDNLQJVKDSH)RUEHV suggested that he return to Madrid and help present the plan to the Spanish government. Eager to get negotiations under way, Fish appointed REVOLT IN CUBA 183 )RUEHVDVSHFLDOFRQÀGHQWLDODJHQWWREHSDLGIURPWKHSUHVLGHQW·VVHcret contingency fund. In early July, before Grant...


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