Read CHAPTER XVII - PEACE of The Boys of 98, free online book, by James Otis, on ReadCentral.com.

On the twenty-sixth day of July, shortly after three o’clock in the afternoon, the French ambassador, M. Cambon, accompanied by his first secretary, called at the White House, the interview having been previously arranged and an intimation of its purpose having been given.  With the President at the time was Secretary of State Day.

M. Cambon stated to the President that, representing the diplomatic interests of the kingdom of Spain, “with whom at the present time the United States is unhappily engaged in hostilities,” he had been directed by the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs to ask on what terms the United States would agree to a suspension of hostilities.

The French ambassador, continuing, said that Spain, realising the hopelessness of a conflict, knowing that she was unable to cope with the great power of her adversary, and appreciating fully that a prolongation of the struggle would only entail a further sacrifice of life and result in great misery to her people, on the ground of humanity appealed to the President to consider a proposition for peace.

Spain, said the ambassador, had been compelled to fight to vindicate her honour, and having vindicated it, having fought bravely and been conquered by a more powerful nation, trusted to the magnanimity of the victor to bring the war to an end.

The President’s reply showed that he was responsive to the appeal.  He was evidently moved by the almost pathetic position which the once proud nation of Spain had been forced to take, but he had his feelings well under control and behaved with great dignity.

The President frankly admitted that he was desirous of peace, that he would welcome a cessation of hostilities, but he delicately intimated that if Spain were really desirous of peace she must be prepared to offer such terms as could be accepted by the United States.  The President asked the French ambassador if he had been instructed to formally propose terms, or make any offer.

M. Cambon replied that he had not been so instructed, that his instructions were to ask on what terms it would be possible to make peace.

Mr. McKinley said the matter would be considered by the Cabinet, and a formal answer returned at the earliest possible moment.  The French ambassador thanked the President for his courtesy, and, with expressions of good-will on both sides, the historical interview was brought to a close.

On the thirtieth day of July the ultimatum of the United States was delivered to the ambassador of France, and, in plain words, it was substantially as follows: 

The President does not now put forward any claim for pecuniary indemnity, but requires the relinquishment of all claim of sovereignty over or title to the island of Cuba, as well as the immediate evacuation by Spain of the island, the cession to the United States and immediate evacuation of Porto Rico and other islands under Spanish sovereignty in the West Indies, and the like cession of an island in the Ladrones.

The United States will occupy and hold the city, bay, and harbour of Manila, pending the conclusion of a treaty of peace, which shall determine the control, disposition, and government of the Philippines.

If these terms are accepted by Spain in their entirety, it is stated that the commissioners will be named by the United States to meet commissioners on the part of Spain for the purpose of concluding a treaty of peace on the basis above indicated.

August 12, 1898, peace negotiations were formally begun between the United States and Spain.

A few minutes before four o’clock, in the midst of a drenching rain, M. Cambon, the French ambassador, attended by his secretary, entered the White House.  They were immediately ushered to the library, where the President, Secretary of State Day, and Assistant Secretaries of State Moore, Adee, and Cridler were awaiting them.

The President cordially greeted the ambassador, who returned the salutation with equal warmth, and then shook hands with Secretary Day and the Assistant Secretaries.  While the President, Judge Day, and the French ambassador were discussing the weather, - and Washington has seldom known such a rain-storm as that which engulfed the city while peace was being signed, - M.  Thiebaut and Assistant Secretary Moore were comparing the two copies of the protocol to see that they corresponded, and were identical in form.

The protocol is on parchment, in parallel columns in French and English.  In the copy retained by the American government the English text is in the first column; in the other copy, which was transmitted to Madrid, the French text leads the paper.

The two Secretaries having pronounced the protocol correct, Judge Day and the French ambassador moved over to the table to affix their signatures.  Mr. Cridler lit a candle to melt the sealing wax to make the impression on the protocols.

The striking of the match caused the French ambassador to stop, feel in his pocket, and then remember that he had come away from his embassy without his seal.  Here was a contretemps.  It would never do to seal such an important document with anything else but the ambassador’s personal seal.

A note was hastily written, and one of the White House messengers dashed out into the rain, and went to the French embassy.  Until his return the distinguished party in the White House library continued to discuss the weather, and wonder when the typical Cuban rain would cease falling.  In a few minutes the messenger returned.  The ambassador drew from a small box his seal, and the two plenipotentiaries turned to the table.  The American copy of the protocol was placed before Judge Day, who signed it, and then handed the pen to the ambassador, who quickly affixed his signature and seal.

The second copy was then laid before the ambassador, who signed, and in turn handed back the pen to Judge Day.

Thus Judge Day signed the two documents, first and last, and with the last stroke of his pen hostilities ceased.

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

A PROCLAMATION.

Whereas, by a protocol concluded and signed August 12, 1898, by Wm. R. Day, Secretary of State of the United States, and His Excellency Jules Cambon, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of France, at Washington, respectively representing for this purpose the government of the United States and the government of Spain, the governments of the United States and Spain have formally agreed upon the terms on which negotiations for the establishment of peace between the two countries shall be undertaken; and,

Whereas, it is in said protocol agreed that upon its conclusion and signature hostilities between the two countries shall be suspended, and that notice to that effect shall be given as soon as possible by each government to the commanders of its military and naval forces;

Now, therefore, I, William McKinley, President of the United States, do, in accordance with the stipulations of the protocol, declare and proclaim on the part of the United States a suspension of hostilities, and do hereby command that orders be immediately given through the proper channels to the commanders of the military and naval forces of the United States to abstain from all acts inconsistent with this proclamation.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington this twelfth day of August, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and ninety-eight, and of the Independence of the United States the one hundred and twenty-third.

WILLIAM MCKINLEY. 
By the President,
WILLIAM R. DAY,
SECRETARY OF STATE.