Read CHAPTER VI of Cuba Its Past‚ Present‚ and Future, free online book, by Arthur D. Hall, on ReadCentral.com.

Again Spain’s perfidy.

Before proceeding further, it is necessary to call attention to one very important matter which was the direct result of the Ten Years’ War. If the insurgents accomplished nothing else, they may well be proud of this achievement.

Their own freedom they failed to obtain, but they were the cause of freedom being bestowed upon others.

We refer to the manumission of the slaves.

The Spanish slave code, promulgated in 1789, is admitted everywhere to have been very humane in its character. So much so that when Trinidad came into the possession of the English, the anti-slavery party resisted successfully the attempt of the planters of that island to have the Spanish law replaced by the British.

Once again, however, were the words of Spain falsified by her deeds. Spanish diplomacy up to the present day has only been another name for lies. For, notwithstanding the mildness of the code, its provisions were constantly and glaringly violated.

In 1840, a writer, who had personal knowledge of the affairs of Cuba, declared that slavery in Cuba was more destructive to human life, more pernicious to society, degrading to the slave and debasing to the master, more fatal to health and happiness than in any other slave-holding country on the face of the habitable globe.

It was in Cuba that the slaves were subjected to the coarsest fare and the most exhausting and unremitting toil. A portion of their number was even absolutely destroyed every year by the slow torture of overwork and insufficient sleep and rest.

In 1792 the slave population of the island was estimated at eighty-four thousand; in 1817, one hundred and seventy-nine thousand; in 1827, two hundred and eighty-six thousand; in 1843, four hundred and thirty-six thousand; in 1867, three hundred and seventy-nine thousand, five hundred and twenty-three, and in 1873, five hundred thousand, or about one-third of the entire population.

In 1870, two years after the beginning of the war, in which the colored people, both free and slaves, took a prominent part, the Spanish legislature passed an act, providing that every slave who had then passed, or should thereafter pass, the age of sixty should be at once free, and that all yet unborn children of slaves should also be free. The latter, however, were to be maintained at the expense of the proprietors up to their eighteenth year, and during that time to be kept as apprentices at such work as was suitable to their age. Slavery was absolutely abolished in Cuba in 1886. Spain was therefore the last civilized country to cling to this vestige of barbarism, and she probably would not have abandoned it then had she not been impelled to by force and her self-interest.

After the treaty of El Zanjón, it was supposed by the Cubans, and rightly too, had they been dealing with an honorable opponent and not a trickster, that the condition of Cuba would be greatly improved.

The treaty, in the first place, guaranteed Cuba representation in the Cortes in Madrid. This was kept to the letter, but the spirit was abominably lacking.

The Peninsulars, that is, the Spaniards in Cuba, obtained complete control of the polls, and, by unparalleled frauds, always managed to elect a majority of the deputies. The deputies, purporting to come from Cuba, might just as well have been appointed by the Spanish crown.

In other and plainer words, Cuba had no representation whatever in the Cortes.

The cities of Cuba were hopelessly in debt and they were not able to provide money for any municipal services.

There were no funds to keep up the schools, and in consequence they were closed.

As for hospitals and asylums, they scarcely existed. There was only one asylum for the insane in all the island, and that was wretchedly managed. This asylum was in Havana. Elsewhere, the insane were confined in the cells of jails.

The public debt of Spain was something enormous, and Cuba was forced to pay a part of the interest on this which was out of all proportion.

Perez Castaneda spoke of this in the Spanish Cortes in the following terms:

“The debt of Cuba was created in 1864 by a simple issue of three million dollars, and it now amounts to the fabulous sum of one hundred and seventy-five million dollars. What originated the Cuban debt? The wars of Santo Domingo, of Peru and of Mexico. But are not these matters for the Peninsula? Certainly they are matters for the whole of Spain. Why must Cuba pay that debt?”

Again, Senor Robledo, in a debate at Madrid, after speaking of the fearful abuses existent in the government of Havana, said:

“I do not intend to read the whole of the report; but I must put the House in possession of one fact. To what do these défalcations amount? They amount to twenty-two million, eight hundred and eleven thousand, five hundred and sixteen dollars. Did not the government know this? What has been done?”

In 1895 it was alleged that the custom house frauds in Cuba, since the end of the Ten Years War, amounted to over one hundred millions of dollars. It is enough to make one hold one’s breath in horror. And, remember well, there was absolutely no redress for the suffering Cubans by peaceful means.

One more quotation. Rafael de Eslara of Havana, when speaking of the misery of the island, thus summed up the situation:

“Granted the correctness of the points which I have just presented, it seems to be self-evident that a curse is pressing upon Cuba, condemning her to witness her own disintegration, and converting her into a prey for the operation of those swarms of vampires that are so cruelly devouring us, deaf to the voice of conscience, if they have any; it will not be rash to venture the assertion that Cuba is undone; there is no salvation possible.”

Taxation on all sides was enormous, the two chief products of the island, sugar and tobacco, suffering the most. While other countries gave encouragement to their colonies, Spain did everything she could to discourage her well-beloved “Ever Faithful Isle.”

The Cuban planter had to struggle along with a heavy tax on his crop, an enormous duty on his machinery, and an additional duty at the port of destination.

America once rose in wrath against unjust taxation, but her grievances were as nothing in comparison with those of we had almost written her sister republic. May the inadvertency prove a prophecy!

To show how the products of Cuba, under this ghastly extortion have declined, we make the following statement, based on the most reliable statistics.

In 1880 Cuba furnished twenty-five per cent. of all the sugar of the world. In 1895 this had declined to ten and a half per cent. In 1889, the export of cigars rated at forty dollars per one thousand amounted to ten millions, nineteen thousand and forty dollars. In 1894 it was five millions, three hundred and sixty-eight thousand, four hundred dollars, a loss of nearly one-half in five years.

Then besides all this, Cuba had to pay the high salaries of the horde of Spanish officials, nothing of which accrued to her advantage.

There can be no doubt but that the treaty of El Zanjón was a cheat, and its administration a gigantic scandal.

Can any fair-minded person think then that the Cubans were wrong, when driven to the wall, oppressed beyond measure, goaded to madness by an inhuman master, they broke out once again into open revolt, determined this time to fight to the death or to obtain their freedom?