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worth urging only when favorable to the views and purposes of a certain portion of our own citizens. The controversy, as far it went on, was confined to a purely local and domestic question, and became only a branch of the general controversy which has been for some time raging between the Northern and Southern sections of the Union. It is this fact, again, which has deceived so many otherwise well-disposed citizens. If the independence and annexation of Texas had been discussed on its merits, not in its relation to negro slavery, a matter of great indifference to many of us, there was still moral soundness enough in the American people, we doubt not, to have saved us from the great national and international crime we committed; and if the independence and annexation of Cuba could have been presented to the American people in its true light, free from all connection with the same subject, we owe it to our countrymen to say, that we have no doubt that a majority of them would have repudiated the proposition with indignation. But the fact that it was not so presented and discussed was their own fault, and they must be held responsible for its consequences.
Thus far we have considered the Cuban expedition in its relation to the political principles and popular sentiments of the American people, as distinguished from the American government; but it is necessary to go farther, and consider the dispositions and acts of the government in regard to it. The conduct of the American people outside of the government, or rather of the active minority, by which they are usually represented, if not as bad as appearances indicate, is still gravely reprehensible, and extremely mortifying to all who are alive to the honor of their country. But notwithstanding this, the government itself may have had honorable intentions, and been really in earnest to discharge its obligations towards Spain, with whom it has treaties of peace and friendship. Is such the fact ? Has it all along acted in good faith? Has it failed to perform its duty through incapacity, or has it aimed to do no more than necessary to save appearances, and to avoid an open rupture with Spain ?
We wish to speak of the government with the loyal respect the citizen always owes to the supreme political authority of his country, and we do not allow ourselves rashly to judge its intentions. It was bound to peace relations with Spain by express treaty, made in 1795, and subsequently confirmed, the first article of which stipulates that there shall be firm and in
violable peace and sincere friendship between the two governments and their respective citizens and subjects, without exception of persons or places.” Under this and other clauses of the same treaty, the United States were bound to use all necessary force to repress and punish all acts hostile to Spain, or any of her provinces or colonies, committed within their jurisdiction. The treaty, we need not say, is the supreme law of the land, and as binding on the citizen as on the government itself. The citizens of a state cannot be legally at war with a power with which their government is at peace, and their hostile acts are its acts if it neglect to use all its power, if needed, to prevent or chastise them ; for the government under the laws of nations, even in the absence of treaty stipulations, is responsible to foreign powers for the acts of all persons within its jurisdiction. Undoubtedly it is excused from all hostile intention, if it does all in its power to prevent hostile acts on the part of its subjects, or persons within its jurisdiction, or if, failing wholly to prevent, it is prompt to put forth its whole power to repress them, and bring the offenders to justice ; for no government can at all times and under all circumstances control the entire conduct of every person within its jurisdiction. But with this reserve, under the law of nations, the government is responsible for the conduct of all persons within its jurisdiction, and especially when the law of nations is defined, and, so to speak, intensified, by express treaty obligations. Our government was then bound to exert all its vigilance and power, if needed, to prevent the beginning or setting on foot within its jurisdiction, and much more the embarking, of the military expedition against Cuba. This was clearly its duty, and any thing short of this was short of what Spain had the undoubted right to expect and to require at its hands. It owed it, also, to Spain and to its own majesty to execute the full rigor of its own municipal law against the persons implicated in that expedition.
But our government, owing to the fact of its having connived at the rebellion of Texas, of its having, against the protest of Mexico, incorporated that province into the Union, and of its having gone to war with Mexico, and still further dismembered her, because she would not peaceably submit to be robbed of her territory, had given Spain ample reason to distrust its professions except so far as backed by deeds, and to regard it as capable of repeating its previous dishonorable and criminal connivance at rebellion, murder, and robbery. All the world knew that Texas had been wrested from Mexico by American citizens, or persons within our jurisdiction, without opposition from our government, and it was by no means improbable, a priori, that what it had consented to see done in the case of Texas, it might be willing to have done in the case of Cuba. Spain had seen in our relations with Mexico the manner in which we were capable of interpreting our treaties of peace and amity with foreign powers, and might reasonably suspect us of being no further opposed to the Cuban expedition than was necessary to save appearances. This undoubtedly was the view taken by the movers and friends of the expedition ; otherwise we can hardly suppose they would have dared, knowing, as they must have known, the stringent nature of our laws, to commit the acts they did within the Federal jurisdiction. Our government, if it acted really in good faith, was therefore bound, at least for its own sake, to more than ordinary vigilance and activity in preventing or suppressing the enterprise, and bringing its participators, aiders, and abettors to justice.
We doubt not the honest intentions of the government, but we must say that, so far from exerting this extraordinary vigilance or activity, it has undeniably failed in the full and prompt discharge of its duty both to Spain and to its own character. We are forced to this conclusion by a series of facts and considerations which seem to us to leave no room for doubt. The government can be said to have done its duty only on the supposition that it could not detect the proceedings of the conspirators, or that it lacked power to arrest them, or was unable to procure the evidence necessary to establish juridically their guilt. No one of these suppositions is admissible, least of all the second ; for the government itself would not thank the friends who should undertake to defend it on the ground of its inability to fulfil its treaty obligations, and to execute its own laws. Such a line of defence the government would be prompt to repudiate, as it would place it in the most bumiliating light before the nations of the world, and authorize them to refuse to enter into any treaty stipulations with it.
The proposition to acquire Cuba by means of revolutionizing it was before the country, and discussed in the public journals. Every body knew, or might have known, that, as far back at least as 1848, there was a movement concerted with American citizens, to be efficiently supported by us, going on in Cuba and some of our cities, to get up a republican revolution in Cuba, and that this revolution was intended to result in its independence and ultimate annexation to the Union. Of all this the government could not have been uninformed. It was equally well known that the movement in certain sections of the Union met with great favor, that it accorded with the wishes of the country, and even of the government so far as the simple acquisition of Cuba was concerned, and throughout with the popular democratic creed of the great body of our politicians and of our newspaper press generally. Here was enough to place a loyal and competent government on its guard, and induce it to take active and efficient measures to preserve the peace relations between us and Spain, and to prevent its treaty obligations with that government from being violated by persons within its jurisdiction. Unhappily, it did nothing of the sort.
Public men, men high in social, and even official station, were advocating the acquisition of Cuba, the press, especially at the Southwest, was busy manufacturing public opinion for the country, and urging the violation of the rights of property, the law of nations, and the faith of treaties, and the government was silent and inactive; its organs were dumb, and it did and said nothing to give its deluded subjects any reason to believe that it would be more disposed to execute its laws against a Cuban, than it had been against a Texan, military expedition. Had the government been really loyal, really disposed to respect the rights of Spain, and to fulfil its duties towards her, it may be asked why it did not exert itself in the beginning to correct the false opinion that the citizens of this country have a right to engage in a project for revolutionizing a province or colony of a friendly power, and of wresting it from its lawful sovereign, as well as the grave error that they could do all this without implicating the government in their guilt. At any rate, would it not, since its past delinquency had made it necessary, have assured its misguided subjects in the outset, that it would not suffer them to make the attempt with impunity? Yet it took no notice of what was going on, and suffered the false opinion to spread, till it became a power all but impossible to be controlled.
It is true that the military expedition fitted out in 1849 was prevented from embarking by the intervention of the government. But its destination was no secret ; and the adventurers were set at liberty, without even the form of a trial, permitted to retain their arms and ammunition, and suffered to disperse themselves over the Union without receiving the punishment, or any portion of the punishment, which our laws annex to the high misdemeanour of which they were unquestionably guilty: Why was not the full rigor of the law executed against them? NEW SERIES,
- VOL. IV. NO. IV.
Had it been, others would have been deterred from engaging in similar expeditions. The very fact that they were let off without being punished was well calculated to produce the conviction, unfounded we are willing to believe, that the government itself was at heart not ill disposed to their enterprise, and would do no more to prevent its execution than was strictly necessary to avoid an open rupture with Spain. It is idle to pretend that no sufficient proof could be obtained to convict them. Proof enough could have been obtained if the government had really wanted it, and earnestly sought for it ; for the real character and objects of the expedition were well known, were matters of public notoriety, and it is not likely that they were incapable of being juridically established.
As was to be expected, the impunity extended to the military expedition of 1849 served only to encourage another. That had failed in consequence of appointing its rendezvous within the jurisdiction of the United States. The new expedition had only to avoid that error, by assembling at some point without that jurisdiction; from such point or points it could embark for its piratical attack on Cuba, free from the apprehension of being interrupted by the officers of the Union. It accordingly adopted that precaution, and, as is well known, with complete success. If it failed in its ulterior objects, it was owing, not to the vigilance or the activity of our government, but to the precautions taken by the Spanish authorities, and the unexpected loyalty of the Cuban population. The Cuban democrats appear to have been from home, and the Red Republican demonstration proved a complete failure, to the no small honor of our Creole neighbours.
The government could not have been ignorant of the attempt to set on foot this new expedition within its jurisdiction. No sooner had it dismissed the adventurers from Round Island, than military preparations were recommenced in New York, Boston, and especially New Orleans ; men were enlisted, drilled in the use of arms, and despatched to Chagres, or other points out of the Union, and all in the most public manner.
The adventurers hardly attempted to conceal their destination, and ostentatiously displayed the cockade and colors of the proposed Cuban republic. The publishers of the New York Sun hoisted on their office the new flag of Cuba, and openly engaged in acts hostile to Spain. The advertisements and proclamations of the revolutionary junta were inserted in the public journals, and bonds made payable on the revenues of the