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

What will the future be?

It is unnecessary to refer except in a brief manner to the Spanish-American war, as the struggle is at the present time of writing only in its inception, and no one can tell how long it will last or what reverses each side may experience before peace is declared.

One thing is certain, however. The result is not problematical. It is assured. The United States will be victorious in the end, be that end near or distant, and Cuba must and shall be free.

If ever there was a war that was entered into purely from motives of humanity and with no thought whatever of conquest, it is this one. The entire people of the United States were agreed that their purpose was a holy one, and instantly the call of the President was responded to from all parts of the country. Sectional differences, such as they were, vanished like mist before the sun. There was no Easterner, no Westerner, no Northerner, no Southerner, but “Americans all.”

We are proud of our army and navy, and justly so. Dewey destroyed a large fleet, without the loss of a man, a feat unprecedented in the annals of warfare, ancient or modern. Sampson bottled up Cervera’s fleet in the harbor of Santiago, after the wily admiral had attempted a diplomacy which was nothing more nor less than absurd, and when Cervera, on the eve of the surrender of the city, attempted to escape from his self-constituted trap, his four armored cruisers and two torpedo boat destroyers were literally riddled and sunk outside the harbor by the skilful gunners of the American fleet. Hobson, in sinking the Merrimac, displayed a heroism that has never been surpassed. And on land, General Shafter’s achievements have been brilliant in the extreme.

It is interesting here to examine for a moment the attitude of other countries toward us since the declaration of war with Spain.

Of course they all declared neutrality.

At first France apparently was very bitter against us, declaring that it was a war of aggression and one that was unjustified. We think we have already shown in these pages how unwarrantable such an accusation was. There was a reason for France’s feeling, outside of the fact that her people, like Spain’s, belong to the Latin race, and that reason was that a large proportion of Spanish bonds was held in France. Even the best of us do not bear with equanimity anything which depletes our pockets. But it was not long before a great change took place both in press and public and a wave of French sympathy turned toward us. This is as it should be and was inevitable. There could be no lasting rancor between us and our sister republic, the country who gave us Lafayette and presented us with the Statue of Liberty.

The press of Germany has unquestionably said some very harsh things. But we are confident that the feeling is confined to the press and does not represent the mass of the people. We do know that it is in no way representative of the German government, which from the very beginning has showed itself most friendly to us. The ties between Germany and the United States are too strong ever to be severed, with the thousands and thousands of Germans in this country who rank among our very best citizens.

Russia, who from time immemorial has been our friend and given us her moral support in all our troubles, has treated us with the utmost cordiality.

But the pleasantest thing of all has been the attitude of Great Britain, our once mother country. She has stood by us through thick and thin, hurling defiance in the face of the world in her championship of us, and rejoicing in our victories almost as if they were her own. This has done more to bring the two great English-speaking nations together than anything else could possibly have done, and will probably have far reaching consequences in the future.

The Marquis of Lansdowne, the British Secretary of State of War, in a recent speech, thus expressed himself:

“There could be no more inspiring ideal than an understanding between two nations sprung from the same race and having so many common interests, nations which, together, are predominant in the world’s commerce and industry.

“Is there anything preposterous in the hope that these two nations should be found I will not say in a hard and fast alliance of offense and defense, but closely connected in their diplomacy, absolutely frank and unreserved in their international councils, and ready wherever the affairs of the world are threatened with disturbance to throw their influence into the same scale?

“Depend upon it, these are no mere idle dreams or hazy aspirations. The change which has come over the sentiment of each country toward the other during the last year or two is almost immeasurable. One can scarcely believe they are the same United States with whom, only two years ago, we were on the verge of a serious quarrel.

“The change is not an ephemeral understanding between diplomatists, but a genuine desire of the two peoples to be friends, and therefore it cannot be laughed out of existence by the sort of comments we have lately heard.”

There is a poem which we cannot forbear to quote here, it is so fine in itself and so expressive of the existing situation. The author is Richard Mansfield, the eminent actor:

The eagle’s song.

By Richard Mansfield.

The Lioness whelped, and the sturdy cub
Was seized by an eagle and carried up
And homed for a while in an eagle’s nest,
And slept for a while on an eagle’s breast,
And the eagle taught it the eagle’s song:
“To be staunch and valiant and free and strong!”

The Lion whelp sprang from the eerie nest,
From the lofty crag where the queen birds rest;
He fought the King on the spreading plain,
And drove him back o’er the foaming main.

He held the land as a thrifty chief,
And reared his cattle and reaped his sheaf,
Nor sought the help of a foreign hand,
Yet welcomed all to his own free land!

Two were the sons that the country bore
To the Northern lakes and the Southern shore,
And Chivalry dwelt with the Southern son,
And Industry lived with the Northern one.

Tears for the time when they broke and fought!
Tears was the price of the union wrought!
And the land was red in a sea of blood,
Where brother for brother had swelled the flood!

And now that the two are one again,
Behold on their shield the word “Refrain!”
And the lion cubs twain sing the eagle’s song,
“To be staunch and valiant and free and strong!”
For the eagle’s beak and the lion’s paw,
And the lion’s fangs and the eagle’s claw,
And the eagle’s swoop and the lion’s might,
And the lion’s leap and the eagle’s sight,
Shall guard the flag with the word “Refrain!”
Now that the two are one again!
Here’s to a cheer for the Yankee ships!
And “Well done, Sam,” from the mother’s lips!

War is unquestionably a terrible thing. As General Sherman put it, “war is hell.” But there are other terrible and yet necessary things, also, such as the operations of surgery and the infliction of the death penalty.

War is justifiable, when waged, as the present one unquestionably is, from purely unselfish motives, simply from a determination to rescue a people whose sufferings had become unbearable to them and to the lookers-on. The United States, by its action, has set a lesson for the rest of the world, which the latter will not be slow to learn and for which future generations will bless the name of America.

Nobly are we following out the precepts of our forefathers, who declared in one of the most magnificent documents ever framed:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

We fought for these principles, in our own interests, a century and a quarter ago; in the interests of others, we are fighting for them to-day.

A question which has been universally asked is this: Can the Cubans, if they obtain freedom, govern themselves, or will not a free Cuba become a second Hayti with all the horrors of that island?

To this our reply is: Most emphatically Cuba will be able to govern herself; not in the beginning, perhaps, where mistakes must of necessity be made, but most certainly in the end.

The Cuban leaders are men of high intelligence and lofty purposes, and they know what reforms must be instituted. Some one has said that “love of liberty is the surest guarantee of representative government.”

Surely these men have shown their love of liberty in the fullest degree and have proved themselves in every way fitted for self-government.

The Cubans, strange as the statement may seem to those who have studied the matter only in a cursory way, are not a people who love trouble. Though revolution after revolution has occurred in the island, the Cubans have never taken up arms until every peaceful means of redress had been resorted to.

It has been feared that the negro element would be a disturbing influence, but we can see little or no reason for this dread. The same thing was said of the emancipation of the slaves in our own South, but certainly, taken altogether, the behavior of the colored race in the United States, since the Civil War, has been most praiseworthy.

A Frenchman, Baron Antomarchi, who is naturally unprejudiced, says:

“When the time for the settlement of the Cuban question shall have come it will be an affair of give and take between the whites and the negroes, and if the negro does not succeed in convincing the white man that he is entitled to a full measure of civil authority, a measure which by reason of his numerical strength he will have a right, under a republican government, to exact, then we may have to stand by while Cuba engages in an internal struggle important enough to cripple or, to say the least, seriously hinder, her development. Should the war come to an end and should Cuba be free to develop the riches of the land for which she is now battling, an American protectorate would prevent all dangers of race conflict. The United States would be under a moral obligation to avert disorder. Aside from all considerations of a commercial character there would be the obligation resulting from an adherence to consistency of conduct. The stand taken by the American legislators, or some of them, to say nothing of the stand taken by the American people, would make this latter obligation even still more binding.

Not until her machetes shall have been returned to their original use can Cuba develop the riches bestowed upon her by Nature. After the dawn of peace, when her sons are free to settle down to the tranquil life of the untrammeled husbandman, there will be no hunted exiles in the long grass of her savannas. When Cuba has attained the quiet calm that her younger generation has never known, she will show the world that it was not for idle brigands that Maceo died. In the shadow of the feathered cocoa palms in the deep shade of the drooping heavy leaves where Gilard dreamed of liberty, great cities shall one day loom in the misty, tropic twilight, and peace shall brood over the land that now, seamed with the graves of Cuba’s heroes, awaits the murdered bodies of Cuban victims. Not until that day has come will it be known how strong to endure torment and sorrow, how brave in time of danger, were the men who won the day for Cuban independence.”

It is absolutely certain that all the natural and political ties that have bound “the Ever Faithful Isle” to the mother country have been so completely severed that it is utterly impossible they should ever be united again.

The unique banner of Cuba, with its blue and white stripes and a single star upon a red triangle, has cost more blood and treasure than any revolutionary flag known to history.

When this war is over, and Spain has learned her lesson, severe but well-deserved, and we hope salutary, then shall that flag take its place among the honored ones of other nations; then will the Cubans show their ability to prize and cherish the liberty for which the blood of their heroes has been spilled; then, under the protectorate of the United States, but as an independent republic, will Cuba, in the words of our own General Lee, emerge from the dark shadows of the past, and stand side by side with those countries who have their place in the sunlight of peace, progress and prosperity.

Oh! Cuba Libre! as Longfellow said of our own Union, so do all Americans, who are now fighting with you shoulder to shoulder, say to you:

“Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee;
Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,
Our faith triumphant o’er our fears,
Are all with thee are all with thee!”