The Washington Daily Union
May 7, 1854, page 3


To the Editor of the Union:

Sir: I beg the favor of some space in your national aper to meet two assertions in regard to Cuba and the Cubans-, the one made by the Washington correspondent of the Journal of Commerce, the other by the Milledgeville "Union"-both, of course, republished in the Intelligencer of this day. The assertion of the correspondent of the Journal is that Mr. Calhoun was opposed to the acquisition of Cuba. It was made by the same writer in 1851, and it was answered by me in a letter to the New York Herald, in which I stated that Mr. Calhoun was warmly in favor of such acquisition, and adduced the facts that he was foremost among those who called on Gen. Lopez on his first visit to Washington; that he repeated his call before it was returned; that he expressed himself in the strongest terms in favor of that measure in all his interviews with him, Mr. Yanaga, of Cuba, and myself, being interpreters; and that, at one with which he afterward honored me in the recess-room of the Senate, he expressed himself, in the presence of several senators, to that effect; to which I will add that I have had, since, the assurance of persons, related to him by the closest ties of blood and friendship, that such were the sentiments he was known to entertain. Mr. Calhoun was not Janns-faced, and as, on the other hand, I do not mean to impugn the claims to credence of the correspondent of the Journal, I will explain, what in my judgement, may have given rise to some misapprehension of Mr. Calhoun's opinions.

At that time the Cuban question was first agitated by General Lopez and his associates, in 1848, the territorial one in regard to California was still in embryo. when it assumed greater proportions, Mr. Calhoun became, most likely, unwilling to divert the attention of the South from that pressing subject to one which admitted of delay; and hence his temporary opposition to measure, not upon principle, but upon grounds of mere expediency. He may also have deemed that the demand for another State would have weakened the prospects of the South for aquiring California. Having failed, however, in his purpose, no one who knew his statesmanship could reasonably suppose that were he now living, he would for a moment differ from his colleague upon the vital question to the country whether Cuba shall be African or American-for it has simply come to this. I have taken pains twice to correct the statement, of the Journal's correspondent, because it is not well that the great name of the South Carolina statesman should be used to cover the nudity of argument of the opponents of Cuban annexation. It may be that the sequel will bring to light the written views of Mr. Calhoun upon this matter. And now to the statement of the Milledgeville Union, copied of course by the Intelligencer, (the friend of Mexico in the last war,) that the Cubans are lily-livered because they did not join. General Lopez and his companions, and for this reason not deserving of freedom. I would commence by saying that it is not my intention to discuss the chances of success of an expedition to Cuba. My feeble voice would not incline one atom the scales of fate. It is my wish only to defend the character of a people desirous of becoming a member of this confederacy, and claiming not be behind that of any of the States or Territories which have been annexed to the Union.

A manifesto published by me in September of 1852 contains the following paragraphs, to which I beg to draw the attention of your readers:

"None, I hope, will deny that our people have done much of what was possible for them to do, under the adverse circumstances in which they are placed, to attain the blessings of liberty. Men may talk of the revolutionary heroes of America, and ask why we have not commanded the sucess which they obtained. They should first compare their situation with ours. They, from the beginning, were free, enlightened, and linked by the spirit of association. We have ever been enslaved, bred in ignorance, and kept apart by the Machiavelian policy of disunion. They held a vast continent, and were surrounded by the wilderness. We inhabit an island, without the possibility of retreat for ourselves, or of access for our friends, without manifold dangers and excessive cost. They had a militia, were used to arms, and held them in their hands. We have no military force deserving of the same, are unacquainted with the use of fire-arms, and can neither carry nor posses them. They, with three millions of inhabitants, had scarcely any English troops among them. We, with but half a million, have quartered in our midst twenty-four thousand bayonets. They met, discussed, and resolved, printed and spoke, and went about freely and unshackled. We cannot fo one of these things. Our movements are watched, our thoughts are scanned, our very servants are hired by the oppressor to denounce us. They had on their side the fleets and armies of France, the chivalry of Europe, the financial aid of Spain, and the moral countenance of all nations. We have against us not only Spain, but that very France and England, and the means of the blacks, the squadrons of the United States, and the denunciation of the republican government as pirates and freebooters, to draw from our feet our only plank of support, with the world against us-the moral aid of this free country. We have had, it is true, and this is for the future our rainbow of promise, the encouragement, the aid, and the gallant devotion of very many of the generous citizens of this republic; but of what avail they could be against the leaning of their own government towards European policy, events have clearly shown.

"That General Lopez was unsuccessful should be no reapproach either to himself or to the people of Cuba-it was merely the result of circumstances. Bolivar made several trials before he established liberty in Columbia, Bruce made nine attempts for the independence of Scotland. The great Napoleon himself, who from Elba landed three hundred men in France, and promptly of government, was, with the same intellect, and when at the head of half a million of the best troops the world has ever seen, defeated in Russia by the premature fall of the thermometer and the torch of an incendiary."

His attack upon Cardenas was a coup de main which failed on the account of the grounding of his boat. His movement upon Bahia Honda was most unfortunate, and can only be accounted for by keeping in view that he was foully decoyed by General Concha's spies and emissaries. In Cardenas it was not desirable that the people should have joined him after it was found impossible to surprise Matanzas, the real object of the expedition; and at Bahia Honda, the Cubans, after the reverse of Crittenden, could hardly hae been expected to do more than they did. It is asserted that one hundred and sixty men were shot on the roads in their blind effort to join him wherever he might be met.

It is a matter of history that the Cubans attempted to free themselves as early as 1823, with the countenance and promised assistance of Bolivar, and that the plan failed through the intervention, of England, France, and (mirabile dietu) the United States. The conspiracy bore the name of the "Soles de Bolivar," in honor of the "Liberator." In 1826, some Cuban refugees made a similar attempt from Caracas, which ended in the capture and execution at Puerto Principe of Don Francisco Aguero y Velazco and Don Bernabe Sanchez. Another conspiracy, known as the "Aguila Negra," and as vast as that of the "Soles," was formed in 1828, with the countenance of Mexico. It also failed through the sleepless espionage of the Spanish authorities. Since then, Cuba has presented but a series of imprisionments, deportations, and executions. Let the dungeons of the Moro Castle and of the penal colonies of Africa-let the public executioner testify the truth of this assertion; let the hundreds of exiles now in the United States bear witness to the efforts of the Cubans-not ignoble because unsuccessful. Let the risings of Aguero at Puerto Principe, and of Armenteros in Trinidad, in 1851, composed of the elite of their respective populations, speak for the determinationof men, who, in case of reverse, expected to meet what they received-death at the hand of the executioner. I may be permitted to remark that the first man that ever trod the soil of Cuba in a hostile array was a Cuban, the writer of these lines, whose blood also flowed that very night. The next was General Lopez,* also a Cuban, and then his staff composed of Cubans and Americans. In his last expedition, the captain of one of the best American companies was a Cuban, Felipe Gotay, who died gallantly at the head of it. The captain of the Cuban company which went in that expedition was also a Cuban, Ildefonso Oberto, who likewise died at his post, as did many of its members. Planos, a Cuban, an aid to General Lopez, was also killed; and, finally, the only charge with the bayonet which was made during that expedition, remarkable for the extraordinary courage and fortitude, displayed under circumstances seldom, if ever, equaled, was made by the Cuban company, composed of young men, but few of whom had ever seen the fire, against the choicest among the Spanish veterans whom they repulsed and broke. That the Cuban character, as a whole, is not now exhibited in its proper light, is but what should be expected by all impartial men. Three centuries of unheard of tyranny, corruption, and exactions, do not weigh in vain upon a miserable people. If they were as you of the Milledgeville Union, pray where would you find the necessity for a change? Your very objection builds up my argument. Remove, then, the weight, and the body will rise up to the majesty of its nature.

I am, sir, with great respect, your obedient servant,


WASHINGTON D. C., May 6, 1854.


*General Lopez, as a precaution, was induced to wait until the strength of the plank was tried which connected the steamer with the shore.