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For the present, at least, the attempt to rescue the Island of Cuba from the stern despotism of Spain, appears to have totally failed. Lopez has suffered an ignominious death, in a daring enterprise, which, had it succeeded, would have placed him among the heroes and benefactors of mankind; his followers have been dispersed, hunted by bloodhounds, captured, and executed without trial, or transported to Spain to suffer under the relentless maxims of Spanish justice, and so far from being objects of sympathy to their own countrymen, have been classed with Morgan, Lolonois, Roche, Braziliano, Bat, the Portuguese, and others of the bloody buccaniers of Tone, whose sole object was plunder, and whose only means of success, treachery and murder. The drama being closed, and the curtain fallen, we propose briefly to review the plot, the author, the actors, and the incidents; first, however, offering a few preliminary observations,
Our readers all know that Cuba is one of the largest and richest islands of the world, containing about half as many inhabitants as the thirteen British American colonies, when they threw off the yoke of the mother country, and achieved their independence. Owing to influences which it is not our purpose to specify, it took no part with the Spanish colonies on the Continent in their struggle for independence, but remained, and still remains, a dependency of Spain, whose colonial system is a compendium of all the abuses of the worst species of government.
While the Queen of Spain is struggling to maintain a waning and precarious authority at home, she exercises a despotic sway in Cuba, administered by petty officers, who govern without control, and almost invariably exhibit the characteristic of every slave when he becomes a master. Abjectly subservient to those above them, they make amends for their bondage by treading on those beneath, and signalize their loyalty to the sovereign by oppressing the people. The inhabitants of Cuba have no constitutional rights; no voice or influence in making their own laws, or choosing their own officers; and in addition to these deprivations, by far the larger portion of them, the Creoles, natives of the island, are excluded from all the high offices, and considered as an inferior race by what are called “ The old Spaniards.”. These are among the grievances they suffer. Connected with and arising from that source, is a train of petty social abuses and mortifications, too tedious to enumerate, and, perhaps, not worth enumerating.
* For the Life of Lopez, see Review for January, 1850.
Now, what did our ancestors do here in these United States, when suffering under the evils of a colonial system, by no means so mortifying and oppressive? They declared themselves independent, and justified their conduct by asserting the great truth, that the people had not only a right to change their government, but also a right to decide when such change became necessary to their prosperity and happiness. On this ground they fought, and on this they triumphed. They wrested the sceptre from kings, and shook the colonial system to its centre. They did more :they laid the foundation of a great radical change, not only in our ideas of the limits of authority and obedience, but in the very structure of society itself, which is gradually extending to the old world.
Having proclaimed themselves independent, and made good that independence by great sacrifices of blood and treasure, it seems not a little strange and inconsistent, that a people thus circumstanced should withhold all sympathy from those in a similar situation with that they once felt so grievously, and who were at least presumed to be ready to discard a despotism ten times more galling than that which called forth their own resistance. Does it not seem equally strange, that long before it was ascertained whether or not the great majority of Cubans were in favor of independence, and ready to assert it by arms, there should be a hue and cry raised from one end of the Union to the other, against all whose sympathies or services were enlisted in a cause hallowed in the heart of every true lover of freedom? Does it not seem still more strange, that as little sympathy should have been shown for the fate of some hundreds of as gallant men as ever lived; men, many of whom had shed their blood and would have gloried in dying for their country, captured when incapable of resistance, shot down without trial, like dogs without owners, and buried like dogs, not in the heat and excitement of battle, and resistance, but in the cold indignity of cowardly revenge, without being allowed time for repentance, had they been conscious of wrong? And does it not seem strangest of all, that the administrators of a government founded on the right of resistance to wrong or oppression, and that of choosing their own rulers and making their own laws, should have made a treaty which may be, or at least has been, so construed, as to operate in effect as a guarantee to Spain of the right to oppress her colonies, and to place the United States under an obligation to uphold, if not actually assist her in riveting their chains ? Further : does it not seem more than strange, a very phenomenon, that this same government, being the champion and exponent of liberty—at least in Africa-should not only concede to a foreign state the right to shoot down any of its citizens found on Spanish territory under suspicious circumstances, but actually declare war against them in a proclamation, converting them into ferce nature, to be hunted by two-legged and four-legged bloodhounds, and employ its naval force in arresting every attempt to assist a people who it was presumed were about to struggle in a cause hallowed by our own example ?
Yet such is actually the case. Following in the wake of England, in this, as in everything else, with abject servility, the present whig administration has not only slily and insidiously, but openly and directly discouraged the progress of liberty everywhere, except among the negroes, and now stands before the world, not as the champion of human rights, but of human wrongs. While shutting its eyes to the gross violation of law in Boston, New York, Pennsylvania, and all over the north, perpetrated in
the name of African liberty, it displays all its energies in discouraging and repressing the struggles of white men for the attainment of the same boon. Its subsidized organs and official dependants, in all parts of the country, instead of expressing sympathy for the fate of their countrymen, whose published letters, written at the very muzzles of the guns pointed at their hearts, show that they were of the stuff of which heroes are made, take pleasure in stigmatizing them as common freebooters, cut-throats and pirates, animated only by the love of plunder, and destitute of every sentiment as well as motive, that might offer the slightest excuse for their conduct. Even the organs of Spanish falsehood and deception have not dared to accuse these men of committing any depredations on private property, or offering the least insult or violence to the inhabitants, although suffering the extreme of hunger as well as provocation. All clap their hands and shout for joy; all raise the language of British scribes and Spanish officials, in triumphantly announcing, that again, for the second time, has Cuba been crushed under Spanish despotism, and her wrongs perpetuated.
The organs of British freedom, which is exemplified in the present deplorable moral; physical, and intellectual condition of the laboring classes of that country, and the representatives of American freedom at Washington, have forbidden the people of the United States even to sympathize with their butchered brethren, or in the cause for which they suffered. It appears from their dying declarations, that they were deceived by the representations of others, aided probably by their own self-deception. They undoubtedly believed that they would be joined by a much greater number of their countrymen than accompanied them; and what is far more important to their justification, they believed that a majority of the people of Cuba were impatient of despotism, and stood on tip-toe ready to join them the moment they appeared in arms on the island. Had this been really the case, they would not only have been acquitted of madness and folly, but there can be little doubt, that success would have converted them from pirates and robbers into heroes and patriots. For ourselves, we do not always judge of undertakings by their success; and our feelings are more apt to be enlisted in behalf of those who perish in a noble cause than of those who triumph in a bad one.
But the loyal and orthodox British scribes, who give the tone to our whig administration, and expound for us the principles of international law, and teach us the sublime doctrines of universal philanthropy-if not by their example, at least by their precepts-have consigned the memory of these gallant victims to infamy, and we, the people of the United States, must not shed a tear over the spot where they lay buried, like dogs, in ditches, lest we, too, should be denounced as pirates, robbers, and cutthroats. What though La Fayette came in aid of the people of the United States when struggling for freedom, and when his government was bound by its obligations of neutrality to England, as firmly as the United States are at this moment bound to Spain? What though Montgomery, Lee, Kosciusko, Pulaski, Steuben and De Kalb, were either natives of England, or of countries at peace with England, when they gave their services, some of them their lives, to a country engaged in an attempt to throw off the fetters of colonial dependence ? What though General Devereux, a subject of England, raised a regiment under the very nose of the government, in open day, and embarked in open day, intentionally to aid the people of Mexico in their attempt to cast off the Spanish yoke ? What though the Swiss Cantons have for ages past, hired out their soldiers to any power that chose to buy them to fight against nations with whom they were at peace? What though England purchased the troops of Hesse Cassel, at so much a head, to assist in subjugating the people of the New World? And what though we read of innumerable instances of distinguished men of all countries entering into the service of foreign nations at war with each other, while their own government was neutral, either with a view to the acquisition of military experience, the gratification of a sentiment, or the love of glory? None of these cases were held to be a violation of neutrality, nor were those, thus employed, stigmatized as pirates and outlaws, and when taken prisoners, quartered, or shot in cold blood, without trial, without preparation for death, or Christian burial. Yet, the very governments which encouraged or permitted, or were parties to these violations of neutrality, are now the loudest in their denunciations of the people of the United States, because a few of our citizens became volunteers in an attempt to aid a people they believed were engaged, or about to engage, in a great struggle for freedom. Had they enlisted in the cause of despotism-had they embarked in a crusade against liberty, they would have been canonized in the same quarter, as heroes and martyrs.
We do not cite these examples as cases directly in point, but to show that the obligations of neutrality have heretofore been considered as strictly national, and involve no duty beyond that of abstaining from all interference, as a government, in behalf of belligerents. No government can justly be held responsible for the violation of neutrality by private individuals, acting without its authority, or at least encouragement. It is impossible to prevent frequent instances of this kind, except by imposing such restraints on the actions of private individuals as interfere with their personal freedom, their lawful business, and their blameless inclinations. And it is equally impossible to carry these into effect, without instituting a system of official espionage, accompanied by all those peevish precautions which the fears and jealousies of European despotism have adopted against a discontented people, impatient of long-continued abuses. This is most especially the case in the United States, where the law is so chary of the personal rights of citizens, and the government has no great standing army at its disposal, to enforce the observance or the violation of laws; where every citizen can go where he pleases, without a pass to be supervised by any petty official, which, when acting in opposition to the popular feeling, is the weakest, and when in conformity with it, the strongest in the world.
Let it not be supposed that we deem lightly of the obligations of neutrality; on the contrary, we consider them indispensable to the prevention of general and universal wars between civilized nations. At the same time, we maintain that these obligations have their limits, and that no government has a right to enact laws for their preservation in direct violation of the general principles on which it is founded. It is a dangerous policy to create new crimes by making new laws, or to infringe the personal rights of the citizens generally, for the attainment of a particular object, though that object may be highly important and praiseworthy. Such we consider the late law of Congress, passed solely in reference to a particular case, but equally applicable to all similar cases. It confounds a mere intention with an actual violation of neutrality, and punishes the act before it is committed. What is still more objectionable, it places every citizen at the mercy of official suspicion, and may be so abused as to become an instrument for persecuting any obnoxious individual, as in the case of Governor Quitman. It is sufficient to say that he contemplates a violation of neutrality, and he may be arrested, his property seized, be held to bail, or imprisoned in default, and subjected to all the expense, disgrace, and vexation of a trial in which the whole weight of government influence is brought to bear against him. His personal or political enemies have only to get up a charge of intention, and he is, for the time being, placed out of the way effectually. This is exemplified in the late New-Orleans trials, in not one of which was there any sufficient evidence, even of intention, to establish their guilt. Governor Quitman was arrested while in the actual exercise of his official functions as chief magistrate of a sovereign state, and many other persons, brought before a court of justice, whose members are subjects of executive patronage, charged with a violation of this law. They were all, without exception, either acquitted or discharged under a nolle prosequi, moved by the attorney of the prosecutor, the government of the United States, against which they have no redress for slanderous imputations and false imprisonments. It may be, and has been asserted, that these men were undoubtedly guilty of the intentions charged against them; but that such was the state of public feeling in New-Orleans, that no jury could be found to convict them, even though the proof had been direct and positive. In cases like these, we are very apt to draw the conclusion, that such a general feeling among an entire community is much more likely to arise from a universal sense of right, than a resolution to maintain that which they know to be wrong. But we have seen no evidence of the truth of this sweeping charge against the New-Orleans juries, and have, therefore, a right to believe that the acquittal or release of the persons on trial before them, was owing to the want of evidence to establish their guilt, rather than a pre-determination to acquit them whether guilty or not.
Those who are conversant with the history of the decline and downfall of liberty in all ages and nations, will recollect, that the first and most successful inroads on personal freedom, were made under pretence of maintaining law and order among the people. For this purpose it was said to be indispensable to extend the powers and strengthen the arm of government; and all lovers of law and order were called upon to acqui. esce in these encroachments on the general liberty, in order to guard against a particular evil, often imaginary, and as often created by ambitious rulers, solely to justify the remedy. When they wished to restrain the people in the just exercise of their rights, they were first goaded into resistance, then charged with being licentious and ungovernable, and denounced as madmen, to justify their being chained. The apprehensions of the rich for their property, and the fears of the timid for their lives, were appealed to, and thus a large portion of the people became accomplices in robbing the other, to secure themselves. The great majority were placed in strait waistcoats for fear they should run mad; and mankind became gradually divested, not only of the right to judge what was best for them in this world, but relieved from the care of their souls in that to come, by being compelled to adopt the creed of the sovereign. Thus, by a gradual process, they lost all the feelings and habits of freemen, in the total absence of all occasions for their exercise; and at length it became no longer necessary to employ any other instrument in keeping them in subjection, but brute force. This is the usual progress in