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Author: William Rufus Day  | Date: 1899

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Ultimatum in the Negotiation of Peace (1898)

BY ENVOY WILLIAM RUFUS DAY

Paris. November 22, 1898.

. . . HAVING received and read your letter of today, touching the final proposition presented by the American Commissioners at yesterday’s conference, I hasten to answer your enquiries seriatim, first stating your question, and then giving my reply.

"First. Is the proposition you make based on the Spanish colonies being transferred free of all burdens, all, absolutely all outstanding obligations and debts, of whatsoever kind and whatever may have been their origin and purpose, remaining thereby chargeable exclusively to Spain?"

In reply to this question, it is proper to call attention to the fact that the American Commissioners, in their paper of yesterday, expressed the hope that they might receive within a certain time "a definite and final acceptance" of their proposal as to the Philippines, and also "of the demands as to Cuba, Porto Rico and other Spanish Islands in the West Indies, and Guam, in the form in which those demands have been provisionally agreed to."

The form in which they have thus been agreed to is found in the proposal presented by the American Commissioners on the 17th of October and annexed to the protocol of the 6th conference, and is as follows:

"ARTICLE 1. Spain hereby relinquishes all claim of sovereignty over and title to Cuba.

"ARTICLE 2. Spain hereby cedes to the United States the Island of Porto Rico and other islands now under Spanish sovereignty in the West Indies, and also the Island of Guam in the Ladrones."

These articles contain no provision for the assumption of debt by the United States.

In this relation, I desire to recall the statements in which the American Commissioners have in our conferences repeatedly declared that they would not accept any articles that required the United States to assume the so-called colonial debts of Spain.

To these statements I have nothing to add.

But, in respect of the Philippines, the American Commissioners, while including the cession of the archipelago in the article in which Spain "cedes to the United States the Island of Porto Rico and other islands now under Spanish sovereignty in the West Indies, and also the Island of Guam in the Ladrones," or in an article expressed in similar words, will agree that their Government shall pay to Spain the sum of twenty million dollars ($20,000,000).

"Second. Is the offer made by the United States to Spain to establish for a certain number of years similar conditions in the ports of the archipelago for vessels and merchandise of both nations, an offer which is preceded by the assertion that the policy of the United States is to maintain an open door to the world’s commerce, to be taken in the sense that the vessels and goods of other nations are to enjoy or can enjoy the same privilege (situación) which for a certain time is granted those of Spain, while the United States do not change such policy?"

The declaration that the policy of the United States in the Philippines will be that of an open door to the world’s commerce necessarily implies that the offer to place Spanish vessels and merchandise on the same footing as American is not intended to be exclusive. But, the offer to give Spain that privilege for a term of years, is intended to secure it to her for a certain period by special treaty stipulation, whatever might be at any time the general policy of the United States.

"Third. The Secretary of State having stated in his note of July 30 last that the cession by Spain of the Island of Porto Rico and the other islands now under Spanish sovereignty in the West Indies, as well as one of the Ladrones, was to be as compensation for the losses and expenses of the United States during the war, and of the damages suffered by their citizens during the last insurrection in Cuba, what claims does the proposition refer to on requiring that there shall be inserted in the treaty a provision for the mutual relinquishment of all claims, individual and national, that have arisen from the beginning of the last insurrection in Cuba to the conclusion of the treaty of peace?"

While the idea doubtless was conveyed in the note of the Secretary of State of the United States of the 30th of July last that the cession of "Porto Rico and other islands now under the sovereignty of Spain in the West Indies, and also the cession of an island in the Ladrones, to be selected by the United States," was required on grounds of indemnity, and that "on similar grounds the United States is entitled to occupy and will hold the city, bay, and harbor of Manila, pending the conclusion of a treaty of peace which shall determine the control, disposition and government of the Philippines," no definition has as yet been given of the extent or precise effect of the cessions in that regard. The American Commissioners therefore propose, in connection with the cessions of territory, "the mutual relinquishment of all claims for indemnity, national and individual, of every kind, of the United States against Spain and of Spain against the United States, that may have arisen since the beginning of the late insurrection in Cuba and prior to the conclusion of a treaty of peace."

, 55 Cong., 3 sess. (Washington, 1899), VIII, No. 62, pt. 2, pp. 217–219.

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Chicago: William Rufus Day, "Ultimatum in the Negotiation of Peace (1898)," Senate Documents in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1903), Original Sources, accessed May 27, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=VXV1S7XLVHVS8DY.

MLA: Day, William Rufus. "Ultimatum in the Negotiation of Peace (1898)." Senate Documents, Vol. VIII, in American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, Vol. 4, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1903, Original Sources. 27 May. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=VXV1S7XLVHVS8DY.

Harvard: Day, WR, 'Ultimatum in the Negotiation of Peace (1898)' in Senate Documents. cited in 1903, American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. , The Macmillan Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 27 May 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=VXV1S7XLVHVS8DY.