THE desire of the Cubans to become a free people among the American nations which had broken away from European rule provoked a series of bloody revolutions in the course of the nineteenth century. The last of these, captained by our three great generals, Maximo Gomez, Antonio Maceo and Calixto Garcia, broke out with the cry of "Independence or Death," and caused a cruel war in which the Cuban population was decimated and Cuban territories were devastated. Save for the individual efforts of a few heroic volunteers, the Cubans received no help from other countries, down to the day when the Congress of the United States voted its famous Joint Resolution of April 18, 1898, to which the President affixed his signature on April 20. The text of this document was as follows:

Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled:

First. That the people of the Island of Cuba are, and of right ought to be, free and independent.

Second. That it is the duty of the United States to demand, and the Government of the United States does hereby demand, that the Government of Spain at once relinquish its authority and government in the Island of Cuba, and withdraw its land and naval forces from Cuba and Cuban waters.

Third. That the President of the United States be, and he hereby is, directed and empowered to use the entire land and naval forces of the United States, and to call into the actual service of the United States the militia of the several States, to such extent as may be necessary to carry these resolutions into effect.

Fourth. That the United States hereby disclaims any disposition or intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control over said island, except for the pacification thereof, and asserts its determination, when that is accomplished, to leave the government and control of the island to its people.

The Spanish Government straightway broke off relations with Washington; whereupon, on April 25, President McKinley invited action by Congress. On that very day the following measure was passed:

First. That war be, and the same is, hereby declared to exist, and that war has existed since the 21st day of April, A.D. 1898, including said day, between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Spain.

Second. That the President of the United States be, and he hereby is, directed and empowered to use the entire land and naval forces of the United States and to call into the actual service of the United States the militia of the several States to such extent as may be necessary to carry this act into effect.

In succeeding weeks the Spanish fleet, which was blockading Cuba, and the squadron which hurried on from Spain under the gallant Admiral Cervera, were either destroyed or captured by the fleets of Admirals Sampson and Schley -- names immortal in Cuban history! American troops under General Shafter, assisted by our forces under Lieutenant-General Calixto Garcia, laid siege to Santiago de Cuba, which surrendered on July 16. Spain was obliged to sue for peace. Article I of the Protocol which was signed in Washington on August 12 read: "Spain will relinquish all claim of sovereignty over and title to Cuba."

Plenipotentiaries of the two powers signed the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898. The first paragraph of Article I stated simply that "Spain relinquishes all claim of sovereignty over and title to Cuba." The second paragraph provided that, "And as the island is, upon its evacuation by Spain, to be occupied by the United States, the United States will, so long as such occupation shall last, assume and discharge the obligations that may under international law result from the fact of its occupation, for the protection of life and property." Article XVI declared: "It shall be understood that all obligations accepted under this Treaty by the United States as regards Cuba shall be limited to the period of occupation of said island; but on the termination of such occupation the United States will advise the Government that shall be set up in the island to accept the same obligations."

In accord with the stipulations of the Treaty, Spanish sovereignty in Cuba came to an end on February 1, 1899, though the respective ratifications were not exchanged till April 11. On the former date, government in Cuba passed into the hands of the President of the United States, acting through his representative, Major-General John R. Brooke. The latter was shortly replaced by Major-General Leonard Wood, who took part in the Santiago campaign and was afterwards governor of that city.

On May 20, 1902, General Wood transferred the government to President Tomas Estrada Palma, who had been elected by vote of the Cuban people in accord with a Constitution worked out by a Constituent Assembly. The American Army and Navy withdrew from Cuba on that day, the order of evacuation emanating from our great friend, President Theodore Roosevelt. It was as though Providence had willed that the man who had risked his life for Cuban independence should have the privilege of restoring Cuba to her people!


But let us go back a little.

In the "General Orders for the Division of Cuba," dated June 5, 1900, Order No. 301 provided for the convocation of a Constituent Assembly to carry out the principles of the Joint Resolution of April 20, 1898, and representatives of the Cuban people proceeded to meet in such an assembly in Havana for the purpose of drawing up and adopting the fundamental law of their organization as an independent sovereign state. The Constitution was adopted "with prayers for Divine Favor" on February 1, 1901. In one hundred and seventeen Articles and seven Temporary Provisions, the Constitution provided for the establishment of a government capable of fulfilling its international obligations, maintaining the public peace, guaranteeing liberty and justice, and taking measures for the common weal, besides enabling Cuba to assume her place among the nations of the earth in proportion as those nations accorded her recognition.

But the Constituent Assembly had also the duty of studying ways and means for reaching an agreement with the Government of the United States as to the relations which should exist between the two countries. While that discussion was in progress, the Congress of the United States, on March 2, 1901, voted an Amendment to its Army Appropriation Bill that seriously affected Cuba.

The Amendment was proposed by the Senator from Connecticut, Mr. Orville H. Platt, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. In view of the international celebrity of the Amendment, his name will always figure in Cuban history. Thirty years after the writing of the Amendment, people both in the United States and in Cuba still insist on interpreting it in senses contrary to the intentions of its author and of the statesman who was then Secretary of War, Mr. Elihu Root. The Amendment has even been attributed to Mr. Root. It is evident that Mr. Platt consulted Mr. Root regarding it. In a letter which he wrote on June 1, 1904, Mr. Platt says: "The original conception was my own, though various modifications were introduced, in the wording, not in the spirit, in consultation with Republicans on the Committee, with President McKinley and Secretary Root. The document took its final form after a revision made by Senator Spooner and myself."

The Amendment, dated March 2, 1901, was officially communicated to the Constituent Assembly on March 7 by Military Governor Leonard Wood. It read as follows:

That in fulfillment of the declaration contained in the joint resolution approved April twentieth, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, entitled "For the recognition of the independence of the people of Cuba, demanding that the Government of Spain relinquish its authority and government in the island of Cuba, and withdraw its land and naval forces from Cuba and Cuban waters, and directing the President of the United States to use the land and naval forces of the United States to carry these resolutions into effect," the President is hereby authorized to "leave the government and control of the Island of Cuba to its people" so soon as a government shall have been established in said island under a constitution which, either as a part thereof or in an ordinance appended thereto, shall define the future relations of the United States with Cuba, substantially as follows:

I. That the government of Cuba shall never enter into any treaty or other compact with any foreign power or powers which will impair or tend to impair the independence of Cuba, nor in any manner authorize or permit any foreign power or powers to obtain by colonization or for military or naval purposes or otherwise, lodgment in or control over any portion of said island.

II. That said government shall not assume or contract any public debt, to pay the interest upon which, and to make reasonable sinking fund provision for the ultimate discharge of which the ordinary revenues of the island, after defraying the current expenses of government, shall be inadequate.

III. That the government of Cuba consents that the United States may exercise the right to intervene for the preservation of Cuban independence, the maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty, and for discharging the obligations with respect to Cuba imposed by the Treaty of Paris on the United States, now to be assumed and undertaken by the government of Cuba.

IV. That all acts of the United States in Cuba during its military occupancy thereof are ratified and validated, and all lawful rights acquired thereunder shall be maintained and protected.

V. That the government of Cuba will execute, and, as far as necessary, extend, the plans already devised or other plans to be mutually agreed upon, for the sanitation of the cities of the island, to the end that a recurrence of epidemic and infectious diseases may be prevented, thereby assuring protection to the people and commerce of Cuba, as well as to the commerce of the southern ports of the United States and the people residing therein.

VI. That the Isle of Pines shall be omitted from the proposed constitutional boundaries of Cuba, the title thereto being left to future readjustment by treaty.

VII. That to enable the United States to maintain the independence of Cuba, and to protect the people thereof, as well as for its own defense, the government of Cuba will sell or lease to the United States lands necessary for coaling or naval stations at certain specified points, to be agreed upon with the President of the United States.

VIII. That by way of further assurance the government of Cuba will embody the foregoing provisions in a permanent treaty with the United States.


The majority of the delegates to the Constituent Assembly found it utterly impossible to accept the principles enunciated in the Amendment of the Senator from Connecticut, and especially Articles II, III, VI, and VII. It was to reassure these patriots that Governor Wood, on April 3, addressed a new communication to Doctor Domingo Mendez Capote, Chairman of the Assembly. "Since some doubt had arisen among Delegates to the Assembly as to the scope of the intervention specified in the third paragraph of the Platt Amendment," and in order that the Delegates might know the views of the President of the United States, the Governor begged leave to transmit a cablegram which he had received from Secretary of War Root. This telegram read:

You are authorized to state officially that in the view of the President the intervention described in the third clause of the Platt Amendment is not synonymous with intermeddling or interference with the affairs of the Cuban Government, but the formal action of the Government of the United States, based upon just and substantial grounds, for the preservation of Cuban independence, and the maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty, and adequate for discharging the obligations with respect to Cuba imposed by the Treaty of Paris on the United States.

The Assembly was not satisfied with this explanation, and manifested grave alarm at the situation which had arisen. On April 13 it voted to send a committee of its own members to Washington, to learn in detail the views and intentions of the Government of the United States regarding the political and economic relationships that were finally to be established between the United States and Cuba, and to come to an agreement such as could be submitted to the Assembly for final ratification. The committee conferred at Washington with the President, with Secretary Root, with different members of the Cabinet and of Congress, and, among the latter, with Senator Platt. It reported its results to the Assembly at Havana on May 6. The report included, by permission of Mr. Root, notes on the committee's interviews with him as the President's spokesman.

This report has ever since been the subject of study and criticism; and it must, in fact, be regarded as a document of the first importance, since it faithfully reproduces the views which induced the Assembly to incorporate the Amendment in an Appendix to the fundamental charter of Cuba. Why, in fact, did the Assembly on June 12, 1901, by a vote of 17 to 11, decide to add to the Constitution which it had already voted, the eight clauses previously adopted by the Congress of the United States and approved by President McKinley? The Assembly had before it the report of its committee. It also had before it a letter of Secretary Root, written on May 31 and transmitted to Doctor Capote by Governor Wood on June 8. On May 28 it had approved, by a vote of 15 to 14, the report (made on May 24) of a Special Committee appointed to study the Amendment, which virtually accepted the famous clauses. To read all these documents carefully is to see that the vote of the majority was determined by the complex of information which had been brought back from Washington.

Even today, at a distance of almost thirty years, a Cuban may well stand aghast at the immense responsibility which those great sons of Cuba had to face, called upon as they were to choose between immediate establishment of the Cuban Republic and indefinite postponement of the Constitution. One remembers the magnificent gesture of Salvador Cisneros Betancourt, President of the Republic in Arms during the Revolution of Yara, who at the meeting of the Assembly on June 11 moved that the document containing the Amendment be returned to the Military Governor without comment -- a motion which won only the vote of its author. And one remembers the eloquent oration which the great patriot Juan Gualberto Gomez delivered against acceptance.

In the judgment of the author of this article -- a soldier in the army of liberation -- the report of May 6 exonerates those who gave their votes for the approval of the Amendment, since it added to the text of the latter clear and precise interpretations sufficient to allay all fears as to any future distortion of the Amendment's letter and spirit.

To the remarks of the chairman of the committee regarding Clauses I and II, Mr. Root replied: "It is a question of purely internal constitutional limitations, which the American Congress asks of the Cubans in accord with provisions of the Constitution of the United States limiting the power of Congress, and depriving Congress of certain powers that might endanger national independence. The limitations requested are of the same constitutional character as those established by the American Constitution. They concern Cuba alone, and will be executed by Cuba and by Cubans exclusively."

As to Clause III, the Secretary of War observed: "I must point out that this clause is of no benefit to the United States, and so the Cuban people must understand it. The United States has no desire nor intention of intervening in the government of Cuba. There is neither glory nor profit to be won in such a thing, and the United States is in fact withdrawing its troops. The Cubans may rest assured that the clause is intended wholly and exclusively for their benefit. The clause is an extension of the Monroe Doctrine, which has no international force recognized by all nations. The Cubans accept the Monroe Doctrine, and the Third Clause is the Monroe Doctrine, but now given international force. By virtue of this clause the European nations will not question the intervention of the United States in defense of Cuban independence. The first and third bases preserve the United States from seeming to be the aggressor when it faces other nations to defend the independence of Cuba." And later on he added: "Intervention in Cuban affairs will be resorted to only in case of great disturbances, similar to those which occurred in 1898, and with the sole and exclusive object of maintaining Cuban independence unimpaired. Intervention will only take place to protect the independence of the Cuban Republic from foreign attack, or when a veritable state of anarchy exists within the republic." In another conference, Mr. Root remarked: "The United States declared in the Treaty of Paris, and has declared ever since, that its intervention in the affairs of Cuba relates solely and wholly to the preservation of Cuban independence. Any other interpretation would limit the fundamental concept to the prejudice of Cuban sovereignty." And again: "Intervention always and in all cases would be in favor of independence, even should it arise from some serious failure on the part of the Cubans to form their government." "The Third Clause is equally binding upon the United States to respect and preserve the independence of Cuba." "The United States could not threaten the sovereignty and independence of Cuba without violating a law they themselves have made and repudiating contracts they themselves have signed." "Intervention would take place only as a result of a formal procedure, never at the caprice of an Administration. Before arriving at intervention an American Executive would have to have exhausted all diplomatic resources, or be acting in obedience to a mandate from Congress."

To a query addressed to Senator Platt himself, that gentleman answered "that the Amendment was carefully worded so as to avoid any possible thought that acceptance of it by the Constituent Assembly would tend to establish a protectorate or a suzerainty, or any form of meddling with the independence or sovereignty of Cuba."


The international personality of the Republic of Cuba as an independent sovereign state dates from May 20, 1902. A year later the Permanent Treaty between the American and Cuban Governments was signed (May 22, 1903, ratified July 1, 1904), to remain in force till modified, rescinded or replaced by the mutual consent of the two countries. This Treaty carried out the eighth clause of the Amendment and of the Cuban Constitutional Appendix. The Permanent Treaty therefore alone regulates the relations of the two nations and it alone has obligatory force upon them both.

But even before the signing of the Treaty, on February 16 and 23 of that year, Presidents Roosevelt and Estrada had come to an agreement as to coaling and naval stations, and another agreement, supplementing the first, was made on July 2. On December 10 the United States took possession of the lands and waters assigned to the Naval Station of Guantánamo, which they still hold. These agreements carried out the seventh clause of the Amendment. Later the two Governments agreed not to make another Naval Station at Bahia Honda, as had been arranged in the agreement of 1903, and the lands of Guantánamo were somewhat extended.

Another agreement, signed on February 23, 1903, assigned the Isle of Pines to Cuba. Despite the efforts of Minister Quesada, this agreement was not ratified by the American Senate within the specified dates. Another treaty, repeating the first, was accordingly signed on March 2, 1904, by Messrs. Quesada and Hay; but no dates for ratification were specified, to prevent the lapsing of the agreement a second time. The Cuban Senate ratified it on June 1, 1904, but the American Senate withheld its approval, overlooking the favorable report of its Committee on Foreign Relations. The treaty was not to be ratified, in fact, for many, many years. The Cuban Republic was twenty-three years old when, as the first Cuban Ambassador to go to Washington, the writer of this article had the honor of securing the approval of the American Senate on March 13, 1925. The exchange of the documents ten days later marked, at last, the fulfillment of the sixth article of the Permanent Treaty (Clause VI of Amendment), and was all the more creditable to the United States since, during the many years the controversy over the Isle of Pines lasted, nearly everybody had predicted that the transfer of the island to Cuba would never take place.

The obligations created by the Fifth Article of the Permanent Treaty (and Amendment) have, we may say, always been met, and the passing years have demonstrated the uselessness of that clause. The discovery of the origin of yellow fever brought that disease under control, and Cuba has long since ceased to be a menace in that connection. The measures taken by the Cuban Government on its own initiative against contagious or infectious diseases have been so effective as to make the Cuban death rate lower than that of most states in the American Union, and one of the lowest in the world. On occasion, Cuba has had to take measures of protection against epidemics originating in the United States.

The stipulations of Article IV of the Treaty have, of course, at all times been religiously observed by Cuba.

In view of the passionate devotion of the Cubans to their independence, for which they had made such sacrifices, Article I might seem to be useless; yet it is an article which the Cubans would have included, and would again include, of their own free will in any Treaty with the United States. It is only a consequence of the Monroe Doctrine, and in furtherance of Cuba's own legitimate interests which are bound up with the safety of the United States.

The second clause happens to conform to Article 59, sec. 3, of the Cuban Constitution, and the Cuban Government has never contracted public debts not covered by the normal national income. During the world-wide panic following the Great War there was a delay of some months in payment of a few items of amortization and interest; but these were eventually met, without any loss of confidence on the part of Cuban bondholders in the disposition of the republic to deal scrupulously with its creditors.

Nevertheless the terrible panic of the last quarter of 1920, arising from the unexpected drop in sugar prices after an equally unexpected rise (which shook all the banks in the country), not to mention the paralysis in our foreign trade, showed the danger to Cuban sovereignty and independence that may lurk in Article II, if that clause be interpreted as offering a pretext for Washington to meddle in the private affairs of Cuba. When the question of a loan to meet the situation arose, certain officials of the United States evinced an inclination to associate clause II with clause III, in order to claim a right on the part of the United States (acting through its special representative to our Presidency) to have access to such sources of information as it might choose to utilize, and to make investigations in the departmental books of the Cuban Government. In the end, the Cuban Congress decided to make a loan of only fifty million pesos; and the Cuban Executive, the two Houses, our business organizations and the great newspapers so vigorously resisted any sort of fiscal supervision over Cuba by the American Government (an American official has recommended that very thing) that the absurd proposal, really tantamount to intervention, was withdrawn. President Harding, at the time, was himself opposed to the notion. The advantageous terms obtained by Cuba in floating the loan demonstrated the soundness of Cuban credit not only in the United States but throughout the world; and it was seen that a violation of the Treaty by the United States, and any dishonorable acceptance of such a violation by Cuba, far from strengthening our credit, would have weakened it. The incident served to demonstrate that the Treaty can be used only in accord with its letter and spirit, and in accord with the official interpretation which the United States Government gave to it, at the proper moment, through its spokesman, Secretary Root.

But the cornerstone of the Treaty, both for the parties concerned and for others, is Article III. The Platt Amendment would never have been passed without that clause; nor would the American Government ever have forced its inclusion in the Cuban Constitution had it not given the United States "the right to intervene for . . . the maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty."

Faithfully complying with all the other clauses, Cuba has tactfully and prudently complied also with Article III, since, whether willingly or under pressure, so long as the Treaty exists, there is nothing to do except comply with it if we are some day to arrive at its abrogation, modification or replacement. That point must be reached if serious conflicts are to be avoided.

The instances when Article III came into operation have been two.

In August, 1906, President Estrada Palma and all his cabinet resigned. The Republic was left without an executive power, and the legislative power -- making a mistake which can never be too much regretted -- failed to provide for a successor to the Presidency. The Cuban people, thereupon, in strict fulfillment of its international obligation, allowed the United States (which had vainly striven to effect an understanding between the warring Cuban parties) to take charge of the government by military occupation and to nominate a civilian Governor General pending the popular election of a new Executive.

In February, 1917, a portion of the Cuban people, believing its constitutional rights were being infringed, rose in arms against the constituted government. But they returned to their homes when the Washington government lent its aid to President Menocal by a public declaration to the effect that a case for intervention under Article III had arisen.

It is only fair to recognize that both of these interventions were provoked by the Cubans themselves through their own errors.

Certainly the persons responsible, with Senator Platt, for the famous Amendment, would never have supposed that this third clause -- which is the backbone, the spinal cord, the real essence, of the system they tried to establish in the interests of Cuba -- would be the one to fail of its effect, and especially to be a source of so much uneasiness throughout all Latin America.

The right of the United States to intervene in Cuba to maintain "a government adequate for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty" has not prevented revolutions; nor has it served to prevent violations of the most sacred individual rights, when individuals disposed to offend against those rights have chanced to be in power in Cuba. On the contrary, the possibility of American intervention has been exploited by unscrupulous politicians for selfish purposes. In my judgment, the history of Cuba since 1906 shows that Article III, so far as it regards the protection of life, property and liberty, serves, at the best -- whether we think of its spirit or of the forms in which it is applied -- occasionally to destroy a good government, and now and then to strengthen governments which in one way or another violate the Constitution and the laws in order to keep in power.

In principle, an individual who has attained his majority and the full enjoyment of civil and political rights cannot be given a guardian to watch his steps and correct his mistakes -- the individual in question grows accustomed to such guardianship and ends by being unable to do anything by himself. But, in practice, the right of intervention tends to embitter political struggle and furnish occasion for disturbances of the public peace. Certain people will always be found disposed to appeal to the foreign power, alleging that their lives are in danger, their property insecure, their liberties disregarded. If such appeals come from citizens of the intervening power some attention may be paid to their complaints, and threats or protests may follow on grounds which are either well or badly taken. But if they come from nationals of the weaker country, no attention will ever be paid to them. At the most their petition will be published in the press, and their situation made more difficult than it was before.

These evils will only be aggravated in the future if Washington continues to pursue the mistaken policy of not recognizing such governments in Latin America as proceed from revolutionary movements, regardless of the merits of the revolutions. It is the habit of all self-perpetuating governments on our continent to cloak their abuses of the rights of citizens under irreproachably legal forms and under language of the profoundest respect for democratic principles, morality and justice. The continuance of this policy will result in the establishment of despotisms in several of our republics, since few people will venture to struggle against the power of the despots who rule over them combined with the refusal of Washington to recognize revolutionary governments.


In foreign countries one notes a frequent tendency to interpret the Treaty in the sense that it is a prohibition or impediment laid upon Cuba in the free development of her international relations. When the desire of these foreign commentators is to affront Cubans in their deeper pride, it is suggested that the Platt Amendment reduces Cuba to the position of a protectorate or a semi-sovereign power. When the desire is to insult Americans as intriguers and treaty-breakers, the Amendment is represented as a cloak which disguises the effective operation of American sovereignty in Cuba.

In answer to this it should be pointed out that Article I simply prohibits any treaties with foreign powers which would in any way limit Cuban independence or tend to give those powers a foothold on Cuban territory. The prohibition in question is one which the Cuban people will always accept as a logical consequence of the help they received from the United States in winning their independence. But it is also a logical consequence of the Monroe Doctrine, which cannot be ignored since it is one of the most tangible of realities. Article I, indeed, is naught else than the Monroe Doctrine itself, designed to prevent European governments from again establishing themselves in their former American colonies.

But that Cuba has actually -- and we hope wisely -- exercised her sovereignty, may be shown by a long series of facts: Cuba has concluded all kinds of treaties with foreign powers, without anyone's seriously suggesting that in doing so she was violating her Constitution or her international obligations. Cuba entered the Great War without any semblance of a pact, but from a simple desire to contribute her modest help to the United States and to the cause for which the Allies were fighting. Cuba ratified the Treaties of Peace, while the United States refused ratification. Cuba entered the League, while the United States kept out. Cuba subscribed to the Statute of the Permanent Tribunal of International Justice, and actually furnished a judge to that Court, while the United States was still holding off. Cuba maintained a viewpoint contrary to the policy of the United States at the Sixth International American Conference held at Havana in 1928. Cuba successfully asserted her own rights against three of the greatest powers of Europe, which were pressing ruinous claims for damages arising during the wars for independence. Cuba successfully held her ground against tendencies in Washington to use the revolution of 1912 as a pretext for establishing a naval station in the bay of Havana itself. Cuba similarly held her ground against temptations to meddle in her fiscal affairs during the great panics of 1920-21. Cuba successfully asserted her right to the Isle of Pines -- to the whole of the territory of the Old Colony, in other words -- in the face of a long and acrimonious campaign by land speculators and newspapers of imperialistic tendencies.

This hasty review of the proofs Cuba has given of her sovereignty should serve to convince all lovers of the principles of juridical equality and international justice that the day will come when Cuban aspirations must be realized and our political relationship with the United States expressed in some other form. The flame of this hope has burned in the hearts of all of us who fought the wars against Spain and who have been administering and guiding the policies of our country; and it is no less bright in the younger men who have replaced or will soon replace us older veterans. That day will have arrived when there shall indisputably exist in Cuba a self-respecting government which is able to give proofs of its worthiness to shoulder the great burden -- proofs consisting of its absolute respect for the Constitution and laws of the Republic, of having given no one rightful cause for complaint that individual or political rights have been disregarded, of enabling no one, whether Cuban or foreigner, rightfully to appeal to the Treaty and to the Amendment which gave it birth, thus awakening from a slumber in which it should be allowed to sleep forever a clause so distressing to every good Cuban and -- why not speak plainly? -- so heavy upon the conscience of every good American.

On that day we may properly recall a prayer which the late Mr. Bryan once raised in behalf of Cuba: "God made us neighbors -- may Justice keep us friends." Only through the American sense of justice can a little nation like Cuba hope that a mighty nation like the United States may be brought to put an end to the injustice implied in the Platt Amendment.

The injustice consists in this: that the United States at the beginning stood toward Cuba in the relationship of guardian to ward; no valid contract, therefore, could be made between them till the ward had been declared of age and put in possession of what belonged to him of right. Senator Pepper made this point in discussing the question of the Isle of Pines. The American Government, he said, stood toward Cuba as a trustee toward a trust -- it could not, therefore, make any part of the trust its own, but could only pass it over to its rightful owner. If the United States could not rightfully take over the Isle of Pines, they could not rightfully acquire any other right not accorded them voluntarily and freely by the Cuban people; and such concession remains impossible so long as the Republic is not established on a Constitution freely adopted by representatives of the Cuban people; nor could the concession, in deference to the Joint Resolution which presided over the birth of Cuban nationality, ever concede any right minimizing Cuban sovereignty.

Just what terms such a new treaty ought to contain are difficult to suggest in advance; but I may make free to indicate one or two considerations.

Article I of the present Treaty should be maintained virtually intact.

Article II should be suppressed, since the Cuban Constitution itself offers a better and more explicit guarantee.

As for Article III, the portion bestowing upon the United States a right of intervention in defense of Cuban independence should be replaced with a pact whereby the United States would offer her support for the defense of Cuba against foreign attack; in exchange for which, and in defense of the United States as well (for, since the construction of the Panama Canal, Cuba forms part of the natural defenses of the United States), Cuba would grant the privileges of the Naval Station at Guantánamo guaranteed in the present Article VII. The rest of Article III should be suppressed.

Article IV should disappear in favor of some clause whereby Cuba takes over each and all of the obligations devolving upon the United States under the Treaty of Paris. Articles V and VI would also be useless, the one since no reason for it exists, the other since it has already been fulfilled.

The first problem to be discussed at such a time by the two governments would be whether a new Permanent Treaty should be negotiated, or the present one modified; or whether the new Treaty should be one of guarantees, of general relations, of friendship, or of some other kind.

Happy for the peoples of Cuba and the United States the day when such negotiations are instituted! Then I would repeat the words with which I once closed a speech in Cleveland: "Nothing would more greatly enhance the glory of the United States in the eyes of all civilized humanity than for her to continue giving, as she has given in the past, evidences of her high sense of international justice; and no better opportunity for doing so could exist than that of affording the Cubans the occasion for permanently welding a friendship which our close proximity requires should be eternal."

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now
  • COSME DE LA TORRIENTE, former Secretary of State of Cuba, former Cuban Ambassador at Washington, President of the Assembly of the League of Nations in 1923, and Judge of the Permanent Court of International Justice
  • More By Cosme de la Torriente