"Prepared to Move" (Full Text)

Head Note: Lee was appointed the U.S. Consul-General in Havana, Cuba in 1896 by President Grover Cleveland. He wrote this letter to the Assistant Secretary of State in the U.S almost three months before the Maine explosion.

Havana, December 3, 1897.

Sir: Referring to my cipher telegram of the 1st instant, which I beg to confirm, reading as follows:


Inform the Department that he has learned from the United States consul at Matanzas of an extensive and dangerous conspiracy, under the ex-governor of the province, directed against Americans, action against them to be contingent upon movement of the United States Government in favor of independence to Cuba.

I have the honor to state that rumors have been more or less frequent regarding the riotous intentions of some of the dissatisfied elements toward citizens of the United States dwelling here and in other parts of the island. Any riotous demonstrations here must come from the Spanish noncombatants or from the volunteer forces. I do not think there is any danger from the former, many of whom seem to be in favor of annexation, rather than for real autonomy or for an independent Cuban Republic. As I am inclined to think if General Blanco can manage the volunteers as yesterday he said he could, the trouble from that source is diminishing. The origin of the mobs in this city in the past has always been located in the ranks of the volunteers, who alone have organization and arms.

The Governor and Captain-General is now investigateing the Matanzas rumors and will, I am sure, deal promptly with any conspirators found there.

The Weyler police have all been changed and the officers of the volunteers, too, when the Government here has reason to doubt their loyalty.

In consequence of all this, and the assurances of the overnmental authorities that American life and property will, if necessary, be protected by them at a moment's notice, I have declined to make an applicatiotn for the presence of one or more war ships in this harbor, and have advised those of our people who have wives and children here not to send them away, at least for the present, because such proceedings would not, in my opinion, be justifiable at this time, from the standpoint of personal security.

I still think that two war ships at least should be at Key West, prepared to move here at short notice, and that ore of them should be sent to Dry Tortugas, and a coal station be established there. Such proceedings whould seem to be in line with that prudence and foresight necessary to afford safety to the Americans residing on the island, and to their properties, both of which, I have every reason to know, are objects of the greatest concern to our Government.

I am, etc.,


Source: Excerpt from telegram sent by Fitzhugh Lee, U.S. Consul-General in Cuba, December 3, 1897. Havana, Cuba.