The Minister in Cuba (Long) to the Secretary of State
[Received September 14.]
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As reported in previous despatches of the Legation, the President categorically promised to put into effect the decree which was agreed upon on August 17th. General Agramonte was not in favor of this, and threatened to resign if it were effected. The President, nevertheless, stated his determination to publish the decree as agreed upon even if it should result in General Agramonte’s resignation.
Doctor Montoro wished to save General Agramonte, and proposed that the matter should be settled by means of an inter-departmental order which would not be published in the official gazette, and in a quieter way would bring about the same result as the decree, but would spare General Agramonte from any implication of having received a bribe offered to him as reported in the Legation’s despatch No. 362 of August 27th.81
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The order was published yesterday and was not in the form of an inter-departmental order to spare General Agramonte’s feelings as originally stated, but as a proclamation, and the sense of it has been very materially changed. A copy of it taken from El Mundo of the 8th instant, and the English translation of it published in the Havana Post of the same date, are enclosed herewith.
It will be noticed that the wording of this proclamation differs considerably from the original text transmitted to the Department in the Legation’s despatch No. 312 of August 3rd.81 Articles 2, 3, 5 and 6, are materially different as they throw the entire burden of clearing the docks on the American Rice Exporters.
The American rice exporters cannot assume the responsibility of clearing this rice off the docks, as they would thereby admit the validity of the Cuban consignees refused [refusal] to accept it. And by Article 6, if the rice is not removed from the docks within the time specified, the decree will be cancelled.
In view of these divergencies there would appear to be no alternative except to insist with the President that he publish the original decree, even though it might cause the resignation of General Agramonte. [Page 76] The present substitute appears to have been drawn up by the Secretary of the Treasury, Doctor Cancio, with a view to render nugatory the original decree the stipulations of which are circumvented.
The first article also stipulates that the decree will be in effect only until January 1st. This is not sufficient time to induce the Cuban consignees to accept the merchandise sent to them, and they have thus far shown no more readiness to meet their obligations than they showed three months ago. Doctor Montoro stated on September 4th, that the time limit of the decree could not be made longer because the authorization under which it is issued is based on certain war powers given to the President, and that these expire six months after the exchange of ratifications of the Peace Treaty. He explained that this time limit did not extend beyond January 1st.
Mr. White pointed out to him that the exchange of ratifications was effected with Germany on March 8th, and, therefore, if it were based only on that the time would expire in four days; but that the President had informed him that he was calculating from the exchange of ratifications of the Austrian treaty, and that although this treaty has been signed and ratified by Cuba and the copies sent to Paris, the exchange of ratifications, nevertheless, has not yet taken place, and that there is still a six months period in which the decree can run. Doctor Montoro then promised to change this date when the order should be issued. When the proclamation was issued the old date was left in. Doctor Montoro then stated that this was done on account of the adverse comments which would be made by the sugar interests, as rice is the staple article of food of the laborers and the zafra is about to begin.
Doctor Montoro promised that the decree would be prolonged for the requisite time. Mr. White pointed out to him that it would be much better to have it done once for all rather than to make two decrees of it. Mr. White added that the proclamation was very unsatisfactory and the Legation would be obliged to protest against it as soon as the full report on it should be received from the attorney of the American rice exporters.
This matter will be taken up with the President, and a demand be made that some practical solution be given immediately.
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