Skip to content

Saturday, November 26th, 1898

Frye, Day, and Moore appeared about the usual hour. As the latter two came in, Frye and I were engaged in a little talk about the previous day’s debate. I was expressing my regret that we had not within twenty-four hours sent a categorical rejection of all the propositions the Spaniards had made in order that they might realize that when we told them we had given them an ultimatum, we were not merely playing a Spanish game. Day said: “I don’t regret it, because we have now the advantage of saying that we have submitted their proposals to the government, and are instructed by it to reject them.” I at once called for the dispatch, which Moore read. It proved quite clear and satisfactory. Moore then read a draft of a reply to Montero Rios, with which I immediately expressed complete satisfaction. [I] urged that it be copied out and sent at once, or at least as soon as we could get the other members. We sent out for them, and in a moment Senator Davis appeared. He was entirely satisfied. . .. I now urged that the reply be copied at once pending Senator Gray’s arrival. But just as the secretary was about to start off to do this, Senator Gray appeared—as usual, over three-quarters of an hour late. Everything had to be gone over again for his benefit, so that it was well towards noon before the secretary got off to copy the reply. It will still, however, give the Spaniards a chance to consult with their government fully between now and Monday afternoon.

With Senator Gray’s appearance the discussion of yesterday revived a little. Senator Frye and Judge Day both repeated their desire to get rid of Mindanao and the Sulus in exchange for Kusaie. I replied laughingly that this outraged my yankee ideas of comparative acreage. Judge Day retorted that he didn’t want so many acres of Mohammedans. My remark that England had seemed to be able to get on fairly well with Mohammedans produced no impression. I finally contented myself with laughing at their proposal to trade off a continent for a sand bank. Or as I put it at another time, to give up what the Spaniards valued at $50,000,000 for a little island, which in our wildest moments we never thought worth more than a million. Judge Day and Secretary Moore were full of the idea all the morning that it was a great pity that the third Spanish proposal (that for an arbitration) had not been submitted at the beginning of the negotiations. That, they said, would have enabled us to mark diplomacy with a white stone, etc., etc.

I protested against this view. I said: ‘““What you want to do is to arbitrate the question whether an enslaved people, who have at last gained their independence shall immediately be taxed with every penny of the costs entailed in the long years of war for their enslavement. That seems to me distinctly a question of morals not to be submitted to arbitration, any more than the question whether you shall steal or shall commit murder is to be determined by the decision of three outsiders.” Rather to my surprise Senator Gray seemed a little impressed by this aspect of the case. Senator Davis burst out with a declaration that he believed they were all wrong; at any rate, in the idea that under international law a partition of territory necessarily involved a partition of debts. He cited Belgium and was apparently proceeding to fortify his position with other arguments when Senator Frye interrupted him by saying: “You make such a speech as that in the Senate, as you say you are thinking of doing, and you will defeat your treaty without a question. Prove to the Senate that there is nothing in international law to lead to the payment of these debts, and the Senators would rather arbitrate than pay the $20,000,000.” Davis rejected this idea, and the talk became again rather fervid though entirely good-natured.

Frye and Day next turned up with an idea that if the Spaniards should accept our ultimatum, we might still take advantage of their second proposal and say: “Since you seem in this to value Mindanao and the Sulus at $50,000,000, we will give them to you and only take Kusaie in return, besides retaining the $20,000,000 we should otherwise pay you.” Frye insisted that the cash payment was the only difficulty the treaty would encounter. [He said] the American people didn’t care a straw about Mindanao, and that we would be well rid of it, if we escaped the cash payment, especially, if besides, we got Kusaie. I insisted that on this point we should certainly not commit ourselves or cross any bridges till we reached them. We must first have an acceptance of our ultimatum, and that we would then have no authority to make such propositions as he suggested without the approval of our government.

Altogether we have had in the last two days the most erratic suggestions of changes in the policy that have marked any part of the two months’ negotiations. But as we got an adjournment by half past eleven in the morning, there is probably not much danger now until the Spaniards have either accepted or rejected our ultimatum. I still incline to the belief that with all manner of protestations and outcries they will in the end accept.

Late in the afternoon Judge Day came down with a memorandum of a few remarks dropped by Count Münster to Gen. Porter in the talk after dinner the other evening at the German Embassy, in the same line with his talk to me earlier in the evening. The only additional significance of what he said seemed to lie in his use of the word “indemnity” in relation to Spain’s inability or failure with reference to Germany’s claims in the Carolines. The use of such a word on so shaky a foundation, even though unaccompanied by any details or explanations seemed to give further confirmation to the idea that Germany was hunting for a pretext either to interfere with the negotiations, or to seize territory from Spain as she recently did from China. Judge Day said he felt at any rate that my conversation with the Ambassador [Castillo] ought to be reported to the [State] Department, and that it would probably be wise to add [Ambassador] Porter’s memorandum to it. He wished I would prepare a dispatch giving the essential facts, setting forth the policy of the Commission to go ahead on the line we had taken and acquire the island of Kusaie if we could. It was agreed that it would be better to have a meeting of the full Commission at nine o’clock to hear the dispatch. “Our colored Talleyrand,” as Senator Davis has named the State Department messenger “Eddie,” was sent around to give the notice. …