IV PAGES FROM
THE HOSTOS DIARY
Madrid, January 23, 1869
To the gentlemen who signed the
petition sent to the Provisional Government
Gentlemen: Assuming a patriotic
duty that dictates my constant defense of fiU country, on the 19th
of this month I visited the President of the Provisional
Government to deliver the statement addressed to him.
Since I could not go with Mr.
Julio Vizcarrondo, whose work deprived him of the pleasure of
rendering this service to his country, I invited Don Manuel Alonso
of Guayama and Don Santiago de Oppenheimer. The intellectual and
professional work of Mr. Alonso as well as his patriotic service
make him worthy of representing his country; no less worthy is Mr.
Oppenheimer, who comes from Ponce and is therefore a native
representative of his Town.
Since I believe that an account of
the meetings held with the President is of political importance;
and since I believe that at the present moment words and even
insinuations' have transcendental value, I will report accurately
and objectively on the meetings we have held with the Executive
Chief in reference to our statement.
country should reflect on these meetings.
The first conference, held on
the 19th of this month, was brief. Upon presenting the statement,
I told General Serrano that its unconditional character was a
symptom of the state the country was in. Having no liberties
whatsoever, it demands them all; unable to choose any single
liberty because they are all equally precious, as [illegible] they
ask for everything because they are in need of everything.
In an effort to prove to us that
the government plans to extend freedom to the Antilles, the
Government Chief spoke to us about the upcoming Electoral Law and
described its function. I said that the electoral tax they planned
to impose ($25) was too high, and that the number of deputies was
insufficient. In reference to the electoral fee, I demonstrated
it was excessive by making them see that it would deprive a
multitude of individuals from the right to vote, and would also
deprive men of intelligence of the right to being elected. When
the President objected, I answered that the intelligent but poor
people who know the in
telligent men of the country would
not be able to give these men representation, since they would be
deprived of the right to vote. The President acknowledged the
seriousness of our objection, and promised to discuss it in the
Council of Ministers. When the President expressed another
objection about the number of deputies, Mr. Alonso answered by
showing [illegible] the total population of Puerto Rico is
smaller, in a [illegible] than that of Cuba, the free population
is the same.
We were eager to intercede for the
unfortunate people suffering in prisons, and asked for amnesty.
Mr. Alonso echoed this noble wish, and I expounded on it by asking
that there be an immediate suspension of the sentence imposed on
the five noble Puerto Ricans who were deported after being
pardoned. The president acknowledged the need to do justice to our
petition, and promised to do so. The meeting ended.
Three days later, on Mr.
Oppenheimer's suggestion, we met again with the Chief of the
He spoke about the concessions
they had made, assigning us the [illegible] of nine to eleven
deputies which appeared in Article One of the Electoral Law
published two days before, and about the amnesty granted on our
request to [illegible] involved in the Lares insurrection. I
pointed out to the President that the concession made in
[illegible] Electoral Law was not very liberal; that a reduction
of the fee would have been [illegible], since that way we would
have obtained not more deputies, but more liberal ones.
The President blamed the personal limitations of one of the
Ministers for this and other displays of indifference and inertia
common in the colonial policy of the revolution. Later,
emphasizing his good wishes, the President spoke about amnesty,
"from which," he said with supreme benevolence, "we have only
excluded foreigners". Mr. Hostos did not hide the painful offense
he took at this exclusion, and said he did not find the measure to
be either political or equitable, adding that there was not even
an apparent reason for it since the only person excluded, Mr.
Rojas, is not a foreigner. Disclosing personal facts about Mr.
Rojas, Mr. Alonso supported the defense made by Mr. Hostos, which
demonstrated that for many years now, the noble adoptive son of
Puerto Rico could be considered a native son of the Island, since
he had lived there from childhood. Mr. Hostos generalized on the
idea involved in the above reasoning, and said that the Island
could not be grateful for an amnesty which sacrificed one of her
defenders, and that Puerto Rico was equally obligated to intercede
for Mr. Rojas as for the most beloved of her sons.
And in an effort to make the idea
of high political standards prevail, he used the current struggle
in Cuba as an example, where a unanimous voice would come out
against a pardon which did not extend equal clemency to both
foreign and Cuban insurgents. The President, who had
taken note of the information provided by Mr. Alonso about Mr.
Rojas, a Venezuelan, and had stated that he agreed with the idea of
general amnesty, thought it fit to state that there was no
similarity between the personal case of Mr. Rojas-who in fact should
be considered Puerto Rican-and the foreigners involved in the Cuban
insurrection, "the likes of whom," he said, " I believe should be
The meeting went on, marred by the painful impression left by those
words born of a policy of narrow patriotism (a very powerful one
however, if it can attract such altruistic personalities as the
current President). Mr. Alonso, taking an article published in El
Imparcial which denounced the acts of cruel indifference that
have made victims [illegible] the sixty dead prisoners, vigorously
criticized the governmental system in Puerto Rico, and described the
abuses, immoralities, and arbitrary acts which make it up
[illegible] of Mr. Rojas, the system, whose warranted lack of
popularity he described passionately, getting the President to take
note, we don't know whether to depose it or to avoid its intrigues
from getting the deputation they seek. Mr. Alonso also spoke of the
despotic intentions underlying the difference between criollos
and Spaniards; the latter's plans of usurping public businesses;
he spoke about the letters Rojas wrote to the mayors which caused
him to be put under surveillance, and about the voluntary exile this
annoying vigilance forced him to accept; about the services rendered
by his father, a Spanish soldier, his impoverishment and his love
for Spain. Mr. Hostos interrupted him, saying that the aim of the
meeting was a high political one, insisting on the fundamental
basis for the conference-the state the country was in due to the
narrow vision of colonial policy; to the excitement of the President
he denounced the flaws in the Electoral Law, declared that' he would
present a statement of protest against it, indicated that the
preamble, Article 24, the supplement, and the order accompanying the
Law constituted an offense against the dignity of the Antilles, and
stated the deep__ discontent he felt about the spirit of Spanish
policy, saying it "is not satisfied with wounding our rights, our
liberties, our moral and intellectual activity, it also pierces our
dignity." The President showed a desire for conciliation, saying he
thought that despite the spirit of the Law, liberal deputies would
appear. "But," he added, "the precedents set by the delegations from
America are so harsh, the Antilleans's vehemence causes so much
fear, and there is so much doubt as to whether this vehemence is at
the level, and not beyond, of the ideas of government. .." Mr.
Hostos, wanting to dismiss the historic error of attributing to the
American delegations what should really be blamed on the political
parsimony of the colonial system, and also wanting to explain that
in the critical state of Spanish-Antillean relations, only federa
tion, under either a monarchy or a republic, (since the form of
government adopted by the Spaniards should not matter to the
Antilleans, nor should it influence the autonomous regime a
federation would satisfy), said that the American delegation of 1810
had been a model of civilization and conciliation; that the true,
immediate and necessary cause for the explosion of sentiments and
ideas it produced was colonial history itself. "A regime of
silence," he said, "in which all the moral horrors of tyranny take
protection, when the light of [illegible] falls upon it, it is
destroyed-the explosion is natural. As to my exaltation, I, who
have none when [illegible] the interef3ts of the people, cannot have
any, because I know that with my radical scientific theories, you
either go where they take you or the matter turns into a problem of
whether to be or not to be..."
The President thought this was a declaration of republicanism. He is
a man of abundant feelings, but of ideas that are limited to the
narrow circle of party politics; like most of his colleagues in
government, he is evidently inferior to the revolutionary task
imposed on him; he is incapable of realizing that in revolutionary
states, being a revolutionary is equal to being conservative;
excited by the political passions of the time, wounded by the
self-reproach experienced by all honest souls whose; personal means
do not match the purpose he has adopted, the President imprudently
abandoned himself to an excitement which was uncalled for; he
accused Mr. Hostos of directly and personally attacking the
Provisional Government and, trying to justify his lack of
self-control and composure, (already sufficiently explained by the unconfessed state of excitability that he, along with the rest of
the government, has been put in by active Republican propaganda), he
heatedly referred to Mr. Hostos's words criticizing the attacks on
the dignity of the Antilles by colonial policy; he spoke of his
personal dignity and harshly denied that anyone had the right to
protest on behalf of the dignity of the Antilles. The
President was visibly subject to an error of interpretation, and
because of his passionate interpretation of Mr. Hostos's words, had
abandoned himself to an abnormal expression of his annoyance at the
active opposition of the Republicans, so Mr. Alonso tried to calm
him by saying he was not a Republican. Mr. Hostos simply tried to
make it clear that he had been misunderstood; he listened calmly to
the President, and when he finally became convinced that the
official distance separating him from the Government Chief prevented
him from making the latter understand the moral distance which stood
between them at that moment, he stood up.
A full hour of lessons for the Antilles had passed.
Mr. Hostos, thinking of the Antilles instead of himself, has had the
self-control he needed to gather
those lessons, and has summarized them in the following points:
That the excellent wishes of the President
of the Provisional Government in favor of the Antilles are
opposed by the inertia of the Overseas Minister, by the ignorance
or indifference of the other members of the government, and by his
categorical statement was made about the incompetence of the
Overseas Minister, as well as an
implicit one about the evident futility of the efforts for
conciliation in the Antilles; since the government, lacking the
audacity to rid itself of an incompetent member, continues to deal
the complications brought by his inconsistencies in the Antilles,
it naturally follows that
the Islands cannot and should not have any faith in the justice of
this government, until the time comes when the Antilles themselves
are sovereign and are able to accept by agreement the union now
imposed on them by force.
That the President is of the same opinion, since he
declared himself as much
of a filibustero' as the natives themselves (if by
filibustero we understand, as he said, those who want liberty for
the Antilles), and recognized the Antilles' right to separate
if they were denied such liberty.
4. That since
Antillean interests are placed after all others, to the point that
the laws passed for them are the sole work of a single Minister
and are unknown to the others until they are published (as is the
case with the Electora,! Law, which according to the President
neither he nor any other minister knew abbut until after it was
published, and he criticized it while the others applauded), the
Antilles cannot and should not permit legislation of their laws in
this manner, under penalty of dishonor and perpetual slavery.
since Antillean administration depends on the discrete election
of officials, there cannot be a good administration when an
election is made that is "the worst yet"-as the President said-in
favor of contemptible persons such as those who remain ilI}. Puerto
Rico and those who are sent to Cuba.
6. That a
mature colony cannot trust a colonial regime which-even under the
transforming influence of a revolutionary government-persists on
the spirit of reserve and silence seen in the electoral decree
signed in December and published at the end of January.
7. That Puerto
Rico cannot expect anything from a metropolis that
treats it, 'with disdain and makes
it liable for the good and the bad occur
Patriot working for the
emancipation of Spain's overseas possessions., (Translators'
ring in Cuba, a metropolis which uses Cuba's present state as a
pretext for denying the rights and freedoms it could have
established in Puerto Rico, not only as a duty to justice, but also
as a proof that, breaking with [illegible] of despotism, the
revolution [illegible] freedom in the Antilles (which it can
8. That all the
supposed benevolence of the revolutionary government towards Puerto
Rico stemmed from the cherished idea that Puerto Rico was less
liberal and easier to please than Cuba.
9. That the
benevolence disappears the moment a native of Puerto Rico declares
that the only guarantee his country wants is federation, that is to
say, the system in which unity is born of a pact between equal and
sovereign states and is maintained by mutual agreement until it is
dissolved by mutual agreement.
10. That when a
chief of government becomes excited when a colonial rejects the
attacks directed at his country's dignity, this country becomes
responsible for his indignity in the present and the future if it
does not vindicate in time its rights to dignity, which are the
rights most sacred and most worthy of vigorous defense.
Since Ponce has been the first to demand liberties, it should
learn to demand its inviolable right to dignity.
This is the ultimate admonition sent to you by your
commissioners and deduced from an accurate account of the meetings.