IX. CUBA'S REVOLUTIONS

Only by magnifying protests into revolts, and riots into revolutions, is it possible to show Cuba as the "land of revolutions" that many have declared it to be. The truth is that from the settlement of the island in 1512 until the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1898, there were only two experiences that can, by any proper use of the term, be called revolutions. This statement, of course, disputes a widely accepted notion, but many notions become widely accepted because of assertions that are not contradicted. That a strong undercurrent of discontent runs through all Cuba's history from 1820 to 1895, is true. That there were numerous manifestations of that discontent, and occasional attempts at revolution, is also true. But none of these experiences, prior to 1868, reached a stage that would properly warrant its description as a revolution. The term is very loosely applied to a wide range of experiences. It is customary to class as revolution all disorders from riots to rebellions. This is particularly the case where the disorder occurs in some country other than our own. The Standard Dictionary defines the essential idea of revolution as "a change in the form of government, or the constitution, or rulers, otherwise than as provided by the laws of succession, election, etc." The Century Dictionary defines such proceedings as "a radical change in social or governmental conditions; the overthrow of an established political system." Many exceedingly interesting parallels may be drawn between the experience of the American colonies prior to their revolution, in 1775, and the experience of Cuba during the 19th Century. In fact, it may perhaps be said that there is no experience in Cuba's history that cannot be fairly paralleled in our own. In his History of the United States, Mr. Edward Channing says: "The governing classes of the old country wished to exploit the American colonists for their own use and behoof." Change the word "American" to "Spanish," and the Cuban situation is exactly defined. The situation in America in the 18th Century was almost identical with the situation in Cuba in the 19th Century. Both, in those respective periods, suffered from oppressive and restrictive trade laws and from burdensome taxation, from subordination of their interests to the interests of the people of a mother-country three thousand miles away. Unfortunately for the Cubans, Spain was better able to enforce its exactions than England was. Cuba's area was limited, its available harbors few in number, its population small.

Not until the years immediately preceding the revolutions by which the United States and Cuba secured their independence, was there any general demand for definite separation from the mother-country. The desire in both was a fuller measure of economic and commercial opportunity. One striking parallel may be noted. The Tories, or "loyalists," in this country have their counterpart in the Cuban Autonomistas. Referring to conditions in 1763, Mr. Channing states that "never had the colonists felt a greater pride in their connection with the British empire." Among the great figures of the pre-revolutionary period in this country, none stands out more clearly than James Otis, of Boston, and Patrick Henry, of Virginia. In an impassioned address, in 1763, Otis declared that "every British subject in America is of common right, by acts of Parliament, and by the laws of God and nature, entitled to all the essential privileges of Britons. What God in his Providence has united let no man dare attempt to pull asunder." Thirteen years later, the sundering blow was struck. Patrick Henry's resolutions submitted to the Virginia House of Burgesses, in 1765, set that colony afire, but at that time neither he nor his associates desired separation and independence if their natural rights were recognized. It was not until the revolution of 1895 that the independence of Cuba became a national demand, a movement based on realization of the hopelessness of further dependence upon Spain for the desired economic and fiscal relief. As in the American colonies there appeared, from time to time, individuals or isolated groups who demanded drastic action on the part of the colonists, so were there Cubans who, from time to time, appeared with similar demands. Nathaniel Bacon headed a formidable revolution in Virginia in 1676. Massachusetts rebelled against Andros and Dudley in 1689. From the passage of the Navigation Acts, in the middle of the 17th Century, until the culmination in 1775, there was an undercurrent of friction and a succession of protests. The Cuban condition was quite the same excepting the fact of burdens more grievous and more frequent open outbreaks.