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The early settlers
engaged almost wholly in pastoral pursuits. Tobacco was indigenous to
the soil, and in 1580 the Cuban planters began its culture. Later,
sugar-cane was imported from the Canaries, and found to be a fruitful
and profitable crop. The beginning of the culture of sugar demanded more
laborers, and the importation of additional slaves was the result. In
1717, Spain attempted to make a monopoly of the tobacco culture, and the
first Cuban revolt occurred. In 1723 a second uprising took place,
because of an oppressive government; but these early revolts against
tyranny were insignificant as compared with those of the last
half-century.

In 1762, the city of Havana was captured by the English, with an
expedition commanded by Lord Albemarle, but his fighting troops were
principally Americans under the immediate command of Generals Phineas
Lyman and Israel Putnam of Revolutionary fame. The story of Putnam's
command in this war is thrilling and sad. After first suffering
shipwreck and many hardships in reaching the island, they lay before
Havana, where Spanish bullets and fever almost annihilated the whole
command. Scarcely more than one in fifty lived to return to America. By
the Treaty of Paris, 1763, Cuba was unfortunately restored to Spain, and
it was afterward that her troubles with the "Mother Country," as Spain
affectionately called herself to all her provinces, began. The hand of
oppression for one and a quarter centuries relaxed not its grasp, and
year by year grew heavier and more galling.


DISCONTENT AND INSURRECTIONS.

Some of the most prolific seeds of modern revolutions may be said to
have been sown when the African slave trade assumed important
proportions, in 1791. About the same time began a large importation of
Chinese coolies, for which Cuba paid a bounty of $400 apiece to the
importer. These coolies bound themselves to the Spaniards for eight
years, for which they were paid $4.00 per month as wages. The new influx
of labor and the coming of Las Casas as Captain-General to Cuba, in
1790, mark the beginning of Cuba's great period of prosperity. This
enterprising ruler introduced numerous public improvements, established
botanical gardens and schools of agriculture, with a view to developing
and increasing Cuba's resources and commercial importance. Owing to his
wise administration, Cuba prospered and remained undisturbed for a long
while. An insurrection occurred among the slaves in 1812, which was
promptly put down with characteristic cruelty, and the blacks remained
"good niggers" for a third of a century. By the year 1844, the slave
trade with Cuba had grown to enormous proportions. In that year alone,
statistics tell us, 10,000 slaves were landed from Africa upon the
island. Another wild and fanatical insurrection occurred the same year
among them, which, as before, ended in failure. Seventy-eight of the
rebels were shot, and many otherwise punished. By 1850, the slaves had
so multiplied and the importation had been so large that the census
showed there were nearly 500,000 on the island.

Meantime, in 1823 and 1827, insurrections were attempted on the part of
the Creoles (descendants of Spanish and French settlers) and other free
Cubans. They failed, and the blood of the martyrs was seed in the
ground. Revolutionist and enslaved insurrectionist gradually drifted
together. They had a common cause--to struggle for freedom against
oppression. The bondsman was little or no worse off than the Creoles,
Chinese coolies, and free negroes--all native-born Cubans were shut out
from the enjoyment of true citizenship. They must do the work and pay
the tribute, but Spaniards, born in Spain, were alone allowed to hold
office of profit or trust under the government; and they looked with
inexpressible contempt upon the rest of the population, and, with the
backing of the army, preserved their domination in spite of their
inferior numbers. The governor-general was appointed from Spain and held
office from three to five years, and was expected to steal or extort
himself rich in that time. It is said not one governor-general ever
failed to do so.

[Illustration: DARING ATTACK BY THE PATRIOTS OF CUBA UPON A FORT NEAR
VUELTAS.]


THE TEN YEARS' WAR.

The first long and determined struggle of the oppressed people of Cuba
for liberty began in 1868. In that year a revolution broke out in Spain,
and the patriots seized the opportunity, while the mother country was
occupied at home, for an heroic effort to liberate themselves. They rose
first at Yara, in the district of Bayamo, and on October 10th of that
year made a declaration of independence. Eight days later the city of
Bayamo was taken by the patriots, and early in November they defeated a
force sent against them from Santiago. The majority of the South
American republics hastened to recognize the Cubans as belligerents;
but--though they held their own in guerrilla warfare against the Spanish
forces for ten years, fighting in the forests and bravely resisting all
the efforts of Spain to subdue them--there was not one great power in
the world willing to extend to the patriots the recognition of
belligerent rights. The cruelty of the Spaniards toward the soldiers
they captured, and to all inhabitants who sympathized with the patriots'
cause, was equaled only by the courage, fortitude, and exalted
patriotism which animated their victims. The following instances,
selected from scores that might be cited, are given in the Spaniards'
own words, translated, _verbatim_, into English:


SPANISH TESTIMONY OF HORRORS PRACTICED.

Jacob Rivocoba, under date of September 4, 1896, writes:

"We captured seventeen, thirteen of whom were shot outright; on dying
they shouted, 'Hurrah for free Cuba! hurrah for independence!' A
mulatto said, 'Hurrah for Cespedes!' On the following day we killed a
Cuban officer and another man. Among the thirteen that we shot the
first day were found three sons and their father; the father
witnessed the execution of his sons without even changing color, and
when his turn came he said he died for the independence of his
country. On coming back we brought along with us three carts filled
with women and children, the families of those we had shot; and they
asked us to shoot them, because they would rather die than live among
Spaniards."

Pedro Fardon, another officer, who entered entirely into the spirit of
the service he honored, writes on September 22, 1869:

"Not a single Cuban will remain in this island, because we shoot all
those we find in the fields, on the farms, and in every hovel."

And, again, on the same day, the same officer sends the following good
news to his old father:

"We do not leave a creature alive where we pass, be it man or animal.
If we find cows, we kill them; if horses, ditto; if hogs, ditto; men,
women, or children, ditto; as to the houses, we burn them: so every
one receives his due--the men in balls, the animals in
bayonet-thrusts. The island will remain a desert."

These atrocities were perpetrated not alone by the common soldier. In
fact, the above reports come from men who were officers in the Spanish
army, and they show that such actions were approved by the highest
authority. A well-authenticated account assures us that General Count
Balmaceda himself went on one occasion to the home of a patriot family,
Mora by name, to arrest or kill the patriots he had heard were stopping
there; but, finding the men all absent, he wreaked his vengeance and
thirst for blood by butchering the two Mora sisters and burning the
house over their bodies.


PEACE AND FAIR PROMISES.

At last, Spain, seeing that she could neither induce the Cubans to
surrender nor draw them into a decisive battle; and finding,
furthermore, that her army of 200,000 men was likely to be annihilated
by death, disease, and patriot bullets, made overtures, which, by
promising many privileges to the people that they had not before
enjoyed, effected a peace. As a result of this war, slavery was
abolished in the island; but Spain's promises for fair and equitable
government were repudiated, and the civil powers became more
extortionate and severe than ever. This war laid a heavy debt upon
Spain, and Cuba was taxed inordinately. The people soon saw that they
had been duped. The world looked upon Cuba and Spain as at peace. To the
outsider the surface was placid, but underneath "the waters were
troubled." Such heroic spirits as Generals Calixto Garcia, Jose Marti,
Antonio Maceo, and Maximo Gomez, leaders in the ten years' struggle,
still lived, though scattered far apart, and in their hearts bore a load
of righteous wrath against their treacherous foe. While such men lived
and such conditions existed another conflict was inevitable.


THE LAST GREAT STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM.

It was on February 24, 1895, that the last revolution of the Cuban
patriots began. Spain had heard the mutterings of the coming storm, and
hoped to stay it by visiting with severe punishment every Cuban
suspected of patriotic affiliations. Antonio Maceo, a mulatto, but a man
of fortune and education, a veteran of the ten years' war, and a Cuban
by birth, was banished to San Domingo. There were other exiles in Key
West, New York, and elsewhere. Jose Marti was the leading spirit in
forming the Cuban Junta in New York and organizing revolutionary clubs
among Cubans everywhere. Antonio Maceo was the first of the old leaders
in the field. He went secretly to Cuba and began organizing the
insurrectionists, and when war was declared the flag of the new
republic, bearing a lone white star in a red field, was flung to the
breeze. Captain-General Calleja declared martial law in the insurgents'
vicinity, and troops were hastily summoned and sent from Spain. The
revolutionists from the start fought by guerrilla methods of warfare,
dashing upon the unsuspecting Spanish towns and forces, and escaping to
the mountains before the organized Spaniards could retaliate.

Jose Marti and Jose Maceo--brother of the general--were prompt to join
the active forces, and on April 13, 1895, General Maximo Gomez, a native
of San Domingo, came over and was made commander of the insurgent
forces.



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