General Enoch H. Crowder to the Acting Secretary of State
[Received April 28.]
I may dismiss the subject of the special elections to be held in Santa Clara Province on Saturday the 26th inst. in pursuance of the decision of the Supreme Court, with the statement that the conference which President Menocal suggested with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Fiscal, referred to in my letter of April 3rd, was not called by the President.
I have avoided making any official inquiry respecting these special elections, but have certain unofficial information which leads me to believe that the frauds, excepting only those pointed out in the opinion of the Supreme Court, will probably be repeated. The election boards are being constituted in the same way, and of course the fraudulent registration will be used again in these special elections. It remains to be seen whether they will have the courage to stuff the ballot boxes with tickets of fictitious registrants cast by members of the college boards. Certain newspapers here persisted in announcing American supervision of these special elections, by Colonel Trent of my staff.—This step was very earnestly desired by the Unionista Liberals of Santa Clara Province who represent the political following in that Province of General Jose Miguel Gomez. Of course nothing of the kind was contemplated and the fact finally came to be recognized by the newspapers in question.
I have practically completed my study of the electoral conditions in Cuba. On Saturday April 19th I conferred at length with President Menocal at his summer residence “El Chico”. We were in substantial agreement as to all the basic reforms which I thought ought to be introduced. He suggested that the next step should be the appointment of a joint committee of the Senate and House before [Page 18] whom I could appear and present the reforms which I stand for. He anticipates, as I do, that we will reach an agreement and that thereafter we could proceed rather expeditiously with the framing of the necessary amendatory bill which he thinks would be reported favorably by the committee backed by both Houses and rather speedily enacted into a law. He promised to see the political leaders on the following Monday and secure the appointment of such a joint committee promptly.
There was failure to secure a quorum at the attempted meeting of Congress on Monday April 21st.
At our meeting on Saturday April 19th the President urged me to support him in the recommendation of taking a new population census of Cuba, as the best method for obtaining an electoral census, but desirable for other reasons. He explained that Cuba had not had such a census since 1907 and that the annual revisions of the 1907 census, consummated by the aid of the civil registries, have been corruptly made in order to increase the membership of the Lower House of Congress. The population census of 1907 gave the Lower House a membership of 83—one to every 25,000 or major fraction thereof—but this membership has been increased by special act of Congress based upon said annual revisions in population, until it now reaches 118,—probably 20 in excess of the number which an accurate census would justify. President Menocal estimates that a new census would cost about $1,000,000 and argues that the expense would be saved in the salaries of Congressmen and clerks alone, in the ten year period to elapse until the next census would properly be taken;—in other words, that the census would pay for itself in the savings it would make in disbursements in the legislative branch for these additional Members and their clerks. The fact that a census ordered now would synchronize with the taking of the census in the United States was adverted to as an advantage which ought not to be ignored in view of the growing industrial and political relations between the two countries.
I am inclined to give President Menocal the aid he requests, but of course the taking of a population census is not, strictly speaking, an electoral necessity.
At a prior conference between us President Menocal had referred to the advisability of including municipal judges of Cuba in the judicial category, that is, making them judges of career, in order to remove them from the field of practical politics and in this way make them more eligible for the performance of their ex officio duties as presidents of municipal electoral boards. At this earlier interview the President furnished me an estimate of the cost connected with making municipal judges judges of career, which showed [Page 19] that the resulting additional expense to the Cuban Treasury would be approximately $750,000 a year.
Subsequently the House Committee on Special Elections submitted its report, recommending this same change in the Organic Law of the Judiciary, representing it not only as an electoral necessity but most advisable in the judicial administration of the Island. They coupled their recommendation with another that all municipal courts outside of municipal capitals, be abolished.
At our interview at “El Chico” on Saturday last I brought this matter up for a further conference and asked the President what reduction on the estimate of $750,000 could be made if the recommendation of the House Committee on Special Elections that municipal courts outside of municipal capitals be abolished, should be accepted. He was not prepared at that time to answer; but I am to have an interview with him on the subject of the appointment of the joint committee of Congress, today or tomorrow, and will renew my inquiry.
When I have had my further interview with the President and met the joint committee, I shall communicate with you further as to the probable length of my stay here.
Very respectfully yours,