Cuba's final movement for independence began on February 24, 1895. Under the treaty of Zanjon, executed in 1878, Spain agreed to grant to the Cubans such reforms as would remove their grounds of complaint, long continued. The Cubans denied that the terms of the agreement had been kept. Those terms are indicated in a statement submitted by Tomas Estrada y Palma to Richard Olney, then Secretary of State of the United States. It bore the date of December 7, 1895. The communication sets forth, from the Cuban point of view, of course, the causes of the revolution of 1895. It says:
"These causes are substantially the same as those of the former revolution, lasting from 1868 to 1878, and terminating only on the representation of the Spanish Government that Cuba would be granted such reforms as would remove the grounds of complaint on the part of the Cuban people. Unfortunately the hopes thus held out have never been realized. The representation which was to be given the Cubans has proved to be absolutely without character; taxes have been levied anew on everything conceivable; the offices in the island have increased, but the officers are all Spaniards; the native Cubans have been left with no public duties whatsoever to perform, except the payment of taxes to the Government and blackmail to the officials, without privilege even to move from place to place in the island except on the permission of government authority.
"Spain has framed laws so that the natives have substantially been deprived of the right of suffrage. The taxes levied have been almost entirely devoted to support the army and navy in Cuba, to pay interest on the debt that Spain has saddled on the island, and to pay the salaries of the vast number of Spanish office holders, devoting only $746,000 for internal improvements out of the $26,000,000 collected by tax. No public schools are in reach of the masses for their education. All the principal industries of the island are hampered by excessive imposts. Her commerce with every country but Spain has been crippled in every possible manner, as can readily be seen by the frequent protests of shipowners and merchants.
"The Cubans have no security of person or property. The judiciary are instruments of the military authorities. Trial by military tribunals can be ordered at any time at the will of the Captain-General. There is, besides, no freedom of speech, press, or religion. In point of fact, the causes of the Revolution of 1775 in this country were not nearly as grave as those that have driven the Cuban people to the various insurrections which culminated in the present revolution."
Spain, of course, denied these charges, and asserted that the agreement had been kept in good faith. The Spanish Government may have been technically correct in its claim that all laws necessary to the fulfillment of its promises had been enacted. But it seems entirely certain that they had not been made effective. The conditions of the Cubans were in no way improved and, some time before the outbreak, they began preparations for armed resistance. In Cuba and the Intervention (published in 1905) I have already written an outline review of the experience of the revolution, and I shall here make use of extracts from that volume. The notable leader and instigator of the movement was Jose Marti, a patriot, a poet, and a dreamer, but a man of action. He visited General Maximo Gomez at his home in Santo Domingo, where that doughty old warrior had betaken himself after the conclusion of the Ten Years' War. Gomez accepted the command of the proposed army of Cuban liberation. Antonio Maceo also accepted a command. He was a mulatto, an able and daring fighter, whose motives were perhaps a compound of patriotism, hatred of Spain, and a love for the excitement of warfare. Others whose names are written large in Cuba's history soon joined the movement. A junta, or committee, was organized with headquarters in New York. After the death of Marti, this was placed in charge of Tomas Estrada y Palma, who afterward became the first President of the new Republic. Its work was to raise funds, obtain and forward supplies and ammunition, and to advance the cause in all possible ways. There were legal battles to be fought by and through this organization, and Mr. Horatio S. Rubens, a New York lawyer, was placed in charge of that department. The twenty-fourth of February was set for the beginning of activities, but arms were lacking, and while the movement was actually begun on that day, the operations of the first six weeks or so were limited to numerous local uprisings of little moment. But the local authorities became alarmed, and martial law was proclaimed in Santa Clara and Matanzas provinces on the 27th. Spain became alarmed also, and immediately despatched General Martinez Campos as Governor-General of the island, to succeed General Calleja. He assumed command on April 16. Maceo and his associates, among them his brother Jose, also a fighter of note, landed from Costa Rica on April 1. Marti, Gomez, and others, reached the island on the 11th. Meanwhile, Bartolome Maso, an influential planter in Oriente, had been in command of the forces in his vicinity. Many joined, and others stood ready to join as soon as they could be equipped. Engagements with the Spanish troops soon became a matter of daily occurrence, and Martinez Campos realized that a formidable movement was on. Spain hurried thousands of soldiers to the island.