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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Slavery in Cuba. A Report of the Proceedings of the Meeting, Held at the Cooper Institute. New York City, December 13, 1872.
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SECRETARY OF STATE, HAMILTON FISH, TO MINISTER D. E. SICKLES.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE, WASHINGTON, October 20, 1872.
SIR: The present Ministry in Spain has given assurance to the public through their organs of the press and have confirmed the assurance to you personally (as you have reported in recent dispatches) of their intention to put in operation a series of extensive reforms, embracing among them some of those which this Government has been earnest in urging upon their consideration in relation to the colonies which are our near neighbors.
Sustained as is the present Ministry by the large popular vote which has recently returned to the Cortes an overwhelming majority in its support, there can be no more room to doubt their ability to carry into operation the reforms of which they have given promise than there can be justification to question the sincerity with which the assurance was given. It seems, therefore, to be a fitting occasion to look back upon the relations between the United States and Spain, and to mark the progress which may have been made in accomplishing those objects in which we have been promised their co-operation. It must be acknowledged with regret that little or no advance has been made. The tardiness in this respect, however, cannot be said to be in any way imputable to a want of diligence, zeal, or ability in the Legation of the United States at Madrid. The Department is persuaded that no persons, however gifted with those qualities and faculties, could have better succeeded against the apparent apathy or indifference of the Spanish authorities, if, indeed, their past omission to do what we have expected should not be ascribed to other causes.
The Spanish Government, partly at our instance, passed a law providing for the gradual emancipation of slaves in the West India colonies. This law, so far as this Department is aware, remains unexecuted, and it is feared that the recently issued regulations professedly for its execution are wholly inadequate to any practical result in favor of emancipation, if they be not really in the interest of the slaveholder and of the continuance of the institution of slavery. While we fully acknowledge our obligation to the general rule which requires a nation to abstain from interference in the domestic concerns of others, circumstances warrant partial exceptions to this rule. The United States have emancipated all the slaves in their own territory, as the result of a civil war of four years, attended by a vast effusion of blood and expenditure of treasure. The slaves in the Spanish possessions near us are of the same race as those who were bondmen here. It is natural and inevitable for the latter to sympathize in the oppression of their brethren, and especially in the waste of life occasioned by inhuman punishments and excessive toil. Nor is this sympathy confined to those who were recently in bondage among us. It is as universal as it is natural and just. It rests upon the instincts of humanity, and is the recognition of those rights of man which are now universally admitted. Governments cannot resist a conviction so general and so righteous as that which condemns as a crime the tolerance of human slavery, nor can governments be in fault in raising their voice against the further tolerance of so grievous a blot upon humanity. You will consequently, in decisive but respectful terms, remon-
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