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Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, in the name of Liberty

A look at the trajectory of the Father of the Cuban nation
Salim Lamrani
This article is a translation of:
Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, au nom de la Liberté [fr]
Other translation(s):
Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, en nombre de la Libertad [es]

Abstracts

The first Cuban to take up arms in the name of the equality of all human beings and the right of all peoples to dignity, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes launched the Cry for emancipation in Yara on October 10, 1868 against Spanish colonialism. Under conditions of extreme adversity, he devoted all his efforts to uniting Cuban forces for human progress, confronting both the cruelty of war and the vices and weaknesses of the human condition. Abandoned to his fate by the ingratitude of his people, he bequeathed to the Cuban people, through the greatest of sacrifices, the ideal of freedom and the essential need to unite all the people of goodwill in order to gain definitive independence.

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Introduction

1The first Cuban War of Independence, launched on October 10, 1868 by the Cry of Yara, marked the beginning of the long revolutionary epic of the people of Cuba in their quest for freedom. It would last nearly thirty years, would face innumerable obstacles and would lead to the military intervention of the United States which would thwart for more than half a century the aspiration of the inhabitants of the island to definitive emancipation.

2In the face of colonial oppression, following the wave of independence in the rest of Latin America, Cubans rose up to claim their right to self-determination. At the origin of the first Cuban independence movement, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes cemented the aspiration of his people for emancipation in a principle inalienable to human dignity: freedom for all the children of the island regardless of their condition. The liberation of slaves, decreed by the “Father of the Homeland”, was Cuba’s first political act as a nation, following the example set by Toussaint Louverture in Haiti a few decades earlier.

3What was the personal and above all political career of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and why did he renounce his class interests in the name of a greater ideal?

4Carlos Manuel de Céspedes was involved from an early age in the cause of human emancipation and Cuban independence. He was at the origin of the uprising of October 10, 1868 and established the Republic of Cuba in arms, fighting valiantly against an enemy superior in numbers and in armaments, trying to maintain the unity within the revolutionary forces. In the face of the brutality of the Spanish colonial army and the opposition of the United States to the independence of Cuba, the Father of the Homeland fought with conviction and pugnacity. Nevertheless, after having been betrayed and abandoned by the ambition and the vainglory of certain figures of the independence movement who would prefer to subordinate the interest of the Homeland to their personal considerations, he fell with arms in hand, refusing to be taken prisoner by the Spaniards. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes would go down in Cuban history as the Man of October 10, 1868, that is to say as the first to speak out against colonial oppression and to claim Cuba’s right to freedom.

1. Youth of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes

  • 1 Salvador Bueno Menéndez, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, México, Frente de Afirmación Hispanista, A. C., (...)

5Born April 18, 1819 in Bayamo from the union of Jesús María Céspedes y Luque and Francisca de Borja López de Castillo y Ramírez de Aguilar, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes grew up in a wealthy family of five children. His parents, whose ancestors were from Andalusia, were important landowners and provided him with a life of ease and material comfort. Little Carlos spent the first years of his life in the countryside. He was raised by a slave woman who took great care of him, took charge of his early education and to whom he devoted great affection.1

  • 2 Delfín Xiqués Cutiño, “Carlos Manuel de Céspedes: el padre de todos los cubanos”, Granma, 17 April (...)

6Around 1825 his family returned to Bayamo and enrolled him in a small school where he received primary education. In 1829, he joined the convent of Nuestro Seráfico Padre in the city to study philosophy and Latin. In 1831 he entered the convent of Santo Domingo to receive lessons in Latin grammar and proved to be an excellent student. In 1833, his family then decided to send him to the Royal Seminarist and Conciliar College of San Carlos in Havana, thus following a tradition reserved for the upper classes. There he received lessons from Félix Varela and Juan Antonio Saco, two important personalities in Cuban history. He later attended the University of Havana where he graduated in civil law in 1838.2

  • 3 Rafael Acosta de Arriba, Apuntes sobre el pensamiento de Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Havana, Editori (...)

7A year later, in 1839, he married his first cousin María del Carmen Céspedes. From this union were born María del Carmen, Carlos Manuel and Oscar. In 1840 he left Cuba for Spain and continued his studies at the University of Cervera in Barcelona. During his stay, he became imbued with the independence sentiment of the Catalans and their rejection of the authorities in Madrid, and took an interest in the political situation on the peninsula. In 1843 came the uprising of General Juan Prim against the central power of Spain. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes participated in the insurrection and became captain of the civilian militias. Following the failure of the rebellion, he was forced into exile in France. Visiting several European countries, including France, Italy, Germany, and England, Céspedes became a polyglot and above all discovered a reality different from that of oppressed colonial Cuba. He then realized that his destiny was to fight for the freedom of his homeland.3

2. Political commitment to independence

  • 4 Fernando Portuondo del Prado & Hortensia Pichardo Viñals, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes: Escritos, Volu (...)

8In 1844, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes decided to return to Cuba, imbued with progressive ideas acquired during his stay in Europe and settled in his hometown where he opened a law firm. His social background, his erudition and his European experience allowed him to conquer a solid clientele.4

  • 5 Ibid., p. 28.

9Revolted by Spanish colonial policy, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes regularly expressed his indignation. When a banquet was organized by Toribio Gómez Rojo, governor of Bayamo, to celebrate the execution in September 1851 of the Venezuelan revolutionary Narciso López, author of several expeditions to liberate Cuba, Céspedes publicly denounced the act. He was therefore arrested by the authorities and spent his first forty days in prison.5

  • 6 Leonardo Grimán Peralta, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes: análisis caracterológico, Universidad de Orient (...)

10After coming out of Spanish jails, Céspedes decided to move to Manzanillo in 1852. His political positions earned him another stay behind bars and even forced exile in Baracoa. In 1855 he was again arrested by colonial authorities for his commitment to the emancipation of Cuba. After his release he went about his own business, affected by his repeated stays in prison, and secretly sketched out his first plans for a free Cuba.6

  • 7 Fernando Portuondo del Prado & Hortensia Pichardo Viñals, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes: Escritos, Volu (...)

11In 1867, he bought La Demajagua sugar plantation in Manzanillo. He hatched an insurrectionary plan in the company of several compatriots including Pedro Figueredo, author of La Bayamesa, the Cuban national anthem. This hymn was directly inspired by the first love song of the same name composed in 1848 by Céspedes and Francisco Castillo Moreno, with lyrics written by José Fornaris. Figueredo decided to keep the music and write a revolutionary song largely inspired by La Marseillaise.7

3. The uprising of October 10, 1868

  • 8 Hortensia Pichardo & Fernando Portuondo, Dos fechas históricas, Havana, Editorial de Ciencias Socia (...)

12In 1868, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes organized meetings with several patriotic committees in the region integrated by important figures of the impending War of Independence such as Belisario Alvarez, Salvador Cisneros Betancourt or Isaías Masó. On August 4, 1868, Céspedes participated in a revolutionary junta in the San Miguel estate in the city of Las Tunas. There he called for an uprising: “Gentlemen, the hour is solemn and decisive. The power of Spain is spent and worm-eaten. If it still seems solid and tall to us, it is because we have been contemplating it on our knees for more than three centuries. Let’s get up!”.8

  • 9 Ramiro Guerra, A History of the Cuban Nation: The Ten Years War and other Revolutionary Activities, (...)

13While Céspedes wanted to launch the insurrectionary movement as soon as possible, he encountered opposition from Camagüey’s representatives, Salvador Cisneros Betancourt and Carlos Mola, who preferred to delay the date due to lack of weapons. Céspedes decided to fix the date of the uprising on October 14, 1868. But the revolutionary project was ventilated by the Spanish captain general Francisco Lersundi who, in a telegram of October 7, ordered the capture of the Cuban leader. Warned in time by the telegraph operator Nicolás de la Rosa, Céspedes summoned the separatist forces on October 9 to his La Demajagua property and brought forward the date of the insurrection.9

  • 10 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Decretos, Barcelona, Red Ediciones, 2019, p. 9.

14On October 10, 1868, in La Demajagua, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes launched the Appeal of Yara with the cry of “¡Viva Cuba libre!”. He proclaimed the independence of Cuba and decreed an insurrection at the head of nearly 150 revolutionaries. In the manifesto, he explained the reasons for the revolt: “By rising up in arms against the oppression of the tyrannical Spanish government, we are demonstrating to the world the causes which forced us to take this step […]. Spain imposes on us an armed force on our territory which has no other goal than to submit us to the implacable yoke which degrades us”.10

15Céspedes at the same time ordered the release of all slaves, starting with his own, thus making the emancipation of all the inhabitants of the island the first political act of the Cuban nation. He invited the new free men to join the ranks of the insurgency:

  • 11 Ibid., p. 11.

We believe that all men are equal. We admire universal suffrage which ensures the sovereignty of the people. We want gradual and after compensation emancipation from slavery […]. We demand religious respect for the inalienable rights of the human being, constituting ourselves as an independent nation, because in this way we realize the greatness of our future destinies and because we are convinced that under the yoke of Spain, we will never enjoy the free exercise of our rights.11

  • 12 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Paris, Paul Dupont, 1895, p. 12.

16On October 11, 1868, Céspedes fought his first battle in the village of Yara at the head of the young Liberation Army. As they went to federate the inhabitants in the emancipatory project, the revolutionaries were surprised by a Spanish military column which welcomed the insurgents under a hail of bullets. Forced to withdraw in haste, the Patriots suffered their first defeat. The troop was reduced to twelve insurgents. Angel Maestre, future Brigadier General of the Liberation Army, recounted the situation: “We stayed there with Céspedes, twelve men and the flag I had in my possession. Someone exclaimed, ‘All is lost!’. Céspedes replied immediately: ‘We are still twelve. This is enough to gain Cuban independence’”.12

  • 13 Fernando Portuondo del Prado & Hortensia Pichardo Viñals, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes: Escritos, Volu (...)

17As early as October 18, Céspedes laid siege to the city of Bayamo and Pedro Figueredo’s national anthem of Cuba, La Bayamesa, sounded for the first time in history. On October 20, the city fell into the hands of the insurgents. Céspedes momentarily assumed the rank of Captain General of the Liberation Army to be at the same protocol rank as the representative of the Spanish crown on the island. In a vibrant speech, he called for the release of all slaves. According to him, the Cuban insurgents could not present themselves to the world as defenders of human emancipation if they ignored the plight of the class exploited and humiliated for centuries.13

  • 14 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Decretos, op. cit., p. 13.

18On December 27, 1868, Céspedes signed the decree abolishing slavery in Cuba. By proclaiming the independence of the homeland, the revolution also claimed “all freedoms”. These could not be limited “to a single part of the population of the country”. “Free Cuba is incompatible with slave-owning Cuba”, the law stressed. “The abolition of Spanish institutions must include and includes by necessity and in the name of the highest justice that of slavery as the most iniquitous of all”. The elimination of the exploitation of man by force “must be the first act that the country performs in use of its acquired rights”.14

  • 15 José Martí (Andrés Sorel, ed.), Contra España, Tafalla, Editorial Txalaparta, 1999, p. 68-69.

19Spain launched an offensive against Bayamo to regain control of the city. Céspedes organized the defense of the territory but also faced opposition from the revolutionary committee of Camagüey, led by Salvador Cisneros Betancourt. The latter, unhappy with the appointment of the patriot of Manzanillo as leader of the insurgency, refused to assist in the struggle and weakened the independence movement. After fierce fighting, faced with the superiority of the Spanish colonial army, on January 11, 1869, the inhabitants of Bayamo refused to surrender the area to the enemy. They rejected any idea of surrender and decided to burn the city down, leaving only ruins for the soldiers of the peninsula.15

20Aware of the gravity of the situation and of the determination of the separatists, on January 19, 1869, the Spanish authorities sent a proposal for mediation to Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. In his response, the Cuban patriot expressed his resolve to fight for the freedom of Cuba:

  • 16 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 20.

I believe that all the proposals will be unsuccessful if they do not include independence for Cuba, because there is not a single Liberation Army soldier who is not willing to die rather than lay down their arms and again undergo the yoke of the Spaniards. The burning of Bayamo and the village of Dátil, by the Bayamese themselves, the war we are waging against the troops of Valmaseda, who treat us as the conquistadors of Spain treated the primitive children of this country, the death of distinguished personalities, all the sacrifices we have made to show the world that we are not as resigned and cowards as [our enemies] have often said, are sufficient evidence for Spain to be convinced that there is no power that can stifle our aspirations nor contain the momentum of a people who only wish to be free.16

21The Captain General of Cuba decided to contact Carlos Manuel de Céspedes directly and invited him to end the “fratricidal struggle”. In his response of January 28, 1869, the revolutionary leader expressed the point of view of the Cubans and denounced the violence of the monarchy:

  • 17 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 22.

We have been declared a war of extermination for the mere fact of waving the flag of freedom in our homeland. I have used all means to ensure that there is no retaliation, but the Spanish leaders who operate in this region and in the central area are showing vain and unspeakable vainglory. They did not respond to any of my communications and persisted in setting fire to everything in their path, destroying property, killing pets and seizing our wives and children. [To these crimes], we responded by setting fire to our homes with our own hands to make it clear to those who do not have in any way the most recognized practices of war between civilized men, that there is no sacrifice we are not prepared to carry out the campaign we have undertaken.17

  • 18 Ibid.

22While writing his letter, Céspedes learned that a patriot sent to the military authorities to parley had been assassinated, in violation of the elementary laws governing conflicts, which stipulated that the life of the messengers was inviolable. He expressed his indignation to the Spanish Captain General: “I have been informed from Guáimaro that the courageous and distinguished General Augusto Arango of Camagüey has been assassinated by mobilized volunteers. This scandalous fact has produced great anger among us and as a result no patriot is now willing to deal with the government you represent”. Far from abandoning the path of armed struggle, the separatists proclaimed the advent of the Republic.18

4. The Republic of Cuba in Arms

23On April 10, 1869, despite the divisions within the separatist forces, the first Constitution of Cuba, drafted by Ignacio Agramonte and Antonio Zambrana, was born in Guaímaro and established a parliamentary republic. It decreed, among other things, that “all the inhabitants of the Republic are completely free” (Article 24), thus ratifying the abolition of slavery. This article would be supplemented by a law of March 10, 1870 annulling the contracts imposed on Chinese emigration, enslaved and exploited. The Constitution also stipulated that all citizens of the Republic will be considered soldiers of the Liberation Army” (Article 25). The text also affirmed equality between all citizens: “The Republic does not recognize any dignities, special honors or privileges” (Article 26).19

  • 20 Francisco J. Ponte Domínguez, Historia de la Guerra de los Diez Años, Havana, Academia de Historia (...)

24On that day the Republic of Cuba in Arms was born. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes was elected President on April 12, 1869 by the Legislative Assembly. Salvador Cisneros Betancourt, opponent of Céspedes, presided over the House of Representatives and Manuel de Quesada y Loynaz was appointed Chief of the armed forces. The Constitution granted Parliament a very broad power, including the power to remove the President and the Military Chief. The Bayamo patriot, however, was in favor of a strong and vertical executive power in order to achieve victory on the battlefield more quickly. According to him, the Republic was only possible after the emergence of an independent nation. To obtain the final triumph, the war required the composition of a supreme power invested with the authority to adopt with speed the necessary military measures, without being delayed by the legislative power.20

25In his official address to the people of Cuba, Céspedes appealed for the unity of all patriotic forces:

  • 21 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 28.

I am aware of the grave responsibility I assume in accepting the Presidency of our nascent Republic. I know that my modest strengths would not be enough if they were left on their own. But it won’t, and that belief fills me with faith in the future. In waging the struggle against the oppressor, Cuba has made a solemn pledge to gain independence or perish.21

  • 22 Francisco J. Ponte Domínguez, Historia de la Guerra de los Diez Años, op. cit., p. 252.

26The armed President of the Republic of Cuba decided to extend the war to the whole island in order to give it a national character and divided the country into four military states: the East, Camagüey, Las Villas and the West. He appointed a Lieutenant-General for the military aspect and a civilian governor for each sector. Each state was divided into districts, each controlled by a Major General and a Lieutenant Governor. In turn, the district was divided into prefectures and sub-prefectures with a prefect and sub-prefect.22

  • 23 Philip S. Foner, Historia de Cuba y sus relaciones con Estados Unidos, Volume 2, Havana, Editorial (...)

27Céspedes was in favor of destroying Spanish economic interests so that the armed enterprise would permanently affect the finances of the monarchy. On October 18, 1869, he signed a decree ordering the destruction of all the sugar cane fields. From a strategic point of view, he opted for an irregular war, a method adapted to the balance of power between the two parties. The Spanish army was superior in arms and men, while the revolutionaries depended on material taken from the enemy and the rare expeditions from abroad. There was also a battle for international recognition of the Cuban insurgency.23

5. Diplomatic recognition of the state of belligerence

  • 24 Víctor Guerrero Apráez, El reconocimiento de la beligerancia, Bogotá, Editorial Pontificia Universi (...)

28At the diplomatic level, Céspedes deployed great energy to obtain recognition of his revolutionary movement and of its belligerent status by the nations of the continent. On April 5, 1869, the Mexico of Benito Juárez officially recognized the island’s revolutionaries, thus inaugurating a long tradition of supporting Cubans’ historic struggles for dignity. The same month, April 30, Chile also admitted the state of belligerence, followed by Venezuela (May 1869), Peru and Bolivia (June 1869), Brazil (July 1869) and Colombia. The rest of Latin America would bring official recognition to the revolution later.24

29Two countries contributed greatly to the cause of Cuban independence: Colombia and Venezuela. Céspedes expressed his satisfaction in a letter to Camagüey MP Francisco Sánchez Betancourt:

  • 25 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 83.

With Colombia and Venezuela, we have two powerful auxiliaries on which we can count without reservation. A bill is currently being debated in Parliament to intimate to Spain the cession of the island to the Cubans, and to invite the other South American republics to an alliance in order to guarantee Spain the value of the compensation. which will be decided with the Republic of Cuba for the said cession. In Venezuela, General Quesada has entry to all the ports of this immense coast, and enjoys the sympathy and determined support of the Government and the people for his work in favor of Cuba.25

  • 26 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 162.

30In the rest of the continent, support remained very limited, much to Céspedes’s regret. He mentioned the subject in a letter of March 10, 1872 to the House of Representatives: “From the South American Republics, with the exception of many expressions of sympathy and assistance for some expeditions offered to us by Colombia and Venezuela, we do not receive anything of importance”.26

31Céspedes expressed his gratitude to these two nations. In a letter of August 10, 1871 to José R. Monagas, President of Venezuela, in response to a letter received on February 8, 1870 when the latter was still in power, he expressed his admiration for his country:

  • 27 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 113.

Venezuela, which paved the way for Spanish America to Independence and which walked it gloriously to its end in Ayacucho, is our illustrious master of freedom, the example of dignity, heroism and perseverance that we Cubans constantly have in view. Bolivar is still the resplendent star reflecting its supernatural lights on the horizon of American freedom, illuminating for us the winding path of regeneration.27

32To counter the Cubans’ aspiration for independence, Madrid decided to increase the material and human resources to destroy the revolutionary movement.

6. Decree of total war and division of the separatist forces

  • 28 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 24.

33To fight against the separatists, Spain used all means and declared a war to the death to crush the insurgency. Earl Valmaseda, Spanish military leader of the island, issued in April 1869 the following proclamation: “Any man, fifteen years of age or over, found far from his place of residence without valid reason will be shot. Any unoccupied home will be burned down and any house that does not display a white flag will be reduced to ashes”.28

  • 29 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 36.

34Céspedes had to face the total war imposed by Spain, which demanded a flawless unity of all the patriotic forces. However, in December 1869, due to a disastrous rivalry, the House of Representatives decided to remove Manuel de Quesada, an experienced and efficient fighter, from his post as military leader, much to the chagrin of the President of the Republic. For Quesada, the war was an exceptionally violent situation that could not be regulated by legislation and institutions adapted to peacetime. On the Congress side, the armed Republic of Cuba had to be structured around the Constitution. Following his dismissal, General Quesada urged Céspedes to establish a dictatorship in the name of Cuban independence. The latter imposed a categorical refusal, ruling out violating the Constitution. Quesada then issued a prophetic warning to him: “Be aware, Citizen President, that from today the maneuvers to obtain your dismissal begin”.29

  • 30 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 38.

35On April 15, 1870, due to a dispute with the President, Major General Ignacio Agramonte decided to resign and openly opposed Céspedes. Within the Congress maneuvers began to obtain the dismissal of the revolutionary leader. In a letter of May 21, 1870, Agramonte demanded of the President: “How far will the contemplations and the lack of energy of the House of Representatives lead us? How long will they be impassive in the face of so much abuse? Will they wait for Carlos Manuel and his acolytes to ruin the country, to act energetically?”. However, Agramonte’s divergence did not last. He would even adopt an attitude “worthy of his intelligence and his patriotism”.30

36In his notes, Carlos Pérez, personal secretary of Céspedes, regretted the schemes against the President. In his diary of July 12 and 13, 1870, he wrote the following:

  • 31 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 229.

Camagüey representatives continue their anti-Céspedes policy. All the President’s actions are censored and ridiculed to the point of resorting to slander. How outrageous the conduct of certain Camagüey characters is! How sad it is to see that in the midst of the tribulations that surround us, so close to danger and with the enemy behind us, the passions are agitated in a way so detrimental to the cause of the Homeland! Why must ambition always be the root of all misfortune? Can man not ignore it for a moment for the benefit of humanity? Will the people who suffer and work to improve their condition always have to be the victim?31

  • 32 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 40.

37In 1870, Oscar, the son of Céspedes who had also taken up arms for independence, was captured by Spanish troops. The Spanish general Caballero de Rodas then offered a deal to the President of the Republic of Cuba in Arms: surrender against the life and release of his son. In a famous response, the Manzanillo patriot rejected the offer: “Tell General Caballero de Rodas that Oscar is not my only son. I am the father of all Cubans who fell for the Revolution”. On June 3, 1870, Oscar was shot by the colonial army. This tragic outcome and this historical response then aroused the admiration and respect of the Cubans who decided to nickname Céspedes “The Father of the Homeland”.32

  • 33 Ibid.

38The family drama that struck Céspedes did not prevent his enemies from continuing their conspiracy to eject him from power. The latter was aware of all the schemes intended to overthrow him and was philosophical and serene: “Those who have no detractors have done nothing good in this world”.33 In a letter of December 23, 1870, he informed Ana de Quesada, his second wife:

  • 34 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 89.

The House is said to be trying to meet in Jarico and, as usual, there is a rumor that this is in order to impeach me. The enemies of our tranquility act in this direction. If such violence is committed, there will be no disturbance on my part and, however illegal the act, I will submit to it. Responsibility will fall on the culprit and the people will do what they see fit for their interests.34

  • 35 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 43.

39Internal divisions did not prevent continental solidarity from expressing itself with regard to Cuba’s struggle for emancipation. In January 1870, sixty Colombians landed in Cuba to join the struggle for the independence of the island.35 In a February 1871 letter to Francisco Javier Cisneros, member of the Revolutionary Junta based in the United States and responsible for organizing the expeditions, Céspedes mentioned this episode and expressed his gratitude:

  • 36 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 55.

The Colombians who recently disembarked on the Hornet have been received by us, as will all those who will come, like brothers. No difference will be made between them and the Cubans, and if there was any difference, it was in tribute to those who came to share with us the toil and the sufferings of the war.36

40The same month, February 20, 1871, Céspedes sent a letter of thanks to Carlos Holguín, then Colombian senator and future President of the Republic, for his support for the Cuban cause:

  • 37 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 56.

The important resolutions that you have presented in the Chambers of Colombia concerning our Revolution are engraved in the hearts of all Cubans who today fight for the independence of their country. So valiantly defending the freedoms and rights of the oppressed allows you to win the applause of civilized peoples and the blessings of those whose voices are raised demanding justice.37

41Céspedes always had as a goal the unity of the pro-independence forces. He stepped up efforts in this direction to find a favorable solution to the internal struggles and preserve the territorial integrity of the island in the face of autonomist inclinations. In a letter of February 19, 1871 to New York-based patriot Miguel Embé, he implored him to try to restore harmony among the revolutionary groups:

  • 38 Ibid.

I beg you to use your influence to put an end once and for all to the dissension that exists among our brothers abroad, which has had the inevitable consequence of preventing the smooth running of our affairs. This is doing us great harm and I would like you to use all means to remove all signs of discord and that there be only one thought: to obtain our Independence38

  • 39 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 77.
  • 40 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 131.

42In another letter to General Manuel Calvar dated July 16, 1871, Céspedes once again insisted on the need to preserve unity: “Make sure, I repeat, to maintain harmony, unity between the leaders and the soldiers at all costs, that they obey their superiors and that all work together for the same objective, without leaving room for divisions and partialities to open the way to indiscipline and disorder directly detrimental to the Revolution”.39 He reiterated this recommendation in a message of October 22, 1871 to Francisco Vicente Aguilera, Vice-President of the Republic of Cuba in arms: “[I know that] you will contribute effectively to the union and the harmony of all Cubans, union which will assure us the triumph over our cruel and ferocious enemies”. 40

  • 41 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 74.

43On June 18, 1871, affected by the intrigues of his opponents in Parliament, Céspedes assembled a Cabinet Council and proposed to resign because of the laws adopted by the House of Representatives which seriously hampered his government’s action. The members of the government implored him to keep his post in the name of the interest of the Homeland. He received many expressions of support from his compatriots in Cuba and abroad, including the Society of Cuban Craftsmen of New York.41

  • 42 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 74.

44A few weeks later, on July 15, he sent a new message to the people of Cuba in which he recounted the progress of the independence process and denounced the crimes committed by Count Valmaseda against the population. He ended his declaration with a call for resistance: “I know that all the tricks of our treacherous and desperate enemy will be crushed against your perseverance and your faith in the indeclinable triumph of freedom over tyranny”.42

  • 43 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 205.
  • 44 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 213.

45The President knew he could count on courageous and seasoned leaders, many of whom would go down in Cuban history, such as Máximo Gómez and Antonio Maceo. Céspedes expressed his conviction: “The Spaniards cannot compete with us in terms of courage, strength or resistance”.43 In contrast, there were two areas where Spain was superior: weaponry and brutality. In a letter to his wife Ana de Quesada dated August 7, 1872, he related this sad reality: “It has been a year since the landing of Agüero. That is to say, it has been a year since we last received a grain of powder, a gun, or even a man! On the other hand, the enemies received an abundance of everything! And yet, they did not defeat us! But they made rivers of innocent blood flow”. In its quest to quell the rebellion, Madrid set no limits.44

7. The brutality of the colonial army and the plight of the population

46Spain unleashed its forces against the insurgent people and distinguished itself by its ferocity. In a letter to his wife of August 5, 1871, Céspedes recounted the crimes of the monarchy:

  • 45 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 86-87.

The Spaniards take their cruelty to this extreme: they enter ranches shooting, kill those they pass, fire on unarmed people who flee. If the wounds are slight, they kill them; if they are serious, they abandon them, telling them that they shot them because they were fleeing. The abuse of force can reach this extremity and one cannot conceive of the nineteenth century, and moreover, at the gates of the United States, which proclaim itself the protectors of humanity, freedom and civilization.45

47He spoke of the destruction caused by the colonial army but was not resigned to sinking into pessimism:

  • 46 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 88.

The first property was burnt down by Valmaseda and is now deserted; the second simply no longer has a roof and is abandoned. Before, they were prosperous and frequently visited, but before we were slaves. Today we have a Homeland. We are free! We are men! Cuba, which then trembled in the sole name of Spain, now fights with all its might, despises and defeats it.46

  • 47 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 87.

48Céspedes, without losing his faith, nevertheless confessed that he was marked by the rigors of war and the weight of responsibility. Sometimes forced to eat a “mare” in order to survive, he was in a sorry physical state: “I am very thin: my beard is almost white and my hair is not left out. I suffer from frequent headaches, although they are bearable. However, I do not have any sores or a bout of fever”.47

  • 48 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 210.

49Céspedes demanded exemplary conduct from the Liberation Army. Insurgents guilty of crimes were sentenced to death. In a letter to General Calixto García of August 1872, he urged him to maintain irreproachable discipline among the troops and to be implacable: “It is high time that the abuses and excesses disappeared, as well as the men who commit them. There are acts perpetrated and agreed to which dishonor the arms of the Republic and harm our cause”. These evils “must be cut at the root even if it means knocking off the heads of the culprits”. Those who committed crimes dressed in revolutionary uniforms were to be fought “with more vigor, as far as possible, than the Spaniards themselves”.48

50The priority of the armed President of the Republic of Cuba was to place vulnerable populations at the center of concerns. Céspedes insisted on the protection of civilians in a letter to General Modesto Díaz of November 22, 1872:

  • 49 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 236.

Families should be brought to the safest places and should be given the help they need, taking good care of themselves and showing them and everyone else the difference in living in a Republic in freedom and order, rather than being subjected to the degrading empire of a cruel and despotic government. 49

  • 50 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 81-82.

51The President of the Republic was determined to permanently sever the ties of colonial subordination that bound his homeland to Spain. The only objective, non-negotiable, of all revolutionaries was to be the full and total sovereignty of the island. In a letter of July 17, 1871 to General Manuel de Quesada, he mentioned this theme: “Our unchanging goal, whatever the circumstances, is to accept no other capitulation of Spain than the absolute independence of Cuba, as well as any other nation which plays the role of mediator or is interested in Cuba: all die or be independent”. By evoking a possible foreign mediation, Céspedes was obviously referring to the United States.50

8. The role of the United States

  • 51 Hamilton Fish, « Mr. Fish to General Sickles », 29 October 1872, Foreign Relations of the United St (...)

52The United States, opposed to Cuban independence, refused any help to the revolutionaries and relentlessly pursued the Cuban exiles living in Florida who tried to provide material and military support to the insurgents. At the same time, Washington multiplied arms contracts with Madrid in order to enable it to crush the rebellion. US records show that throughout the First War of Independence, the United States supported Spain. In a confidential letter of October 29, 1872 to the United States Ambassador in Madrid, Hamilton Fish, then Secretary of State, expressed “the want of success on the part of Spain in suppressing the revolt”.51

53However, Céspedes had addressed himself directly to Ulysses S. Grant, President of the United States, in a letter of January 12, 1872:

  • 52 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 144.

The ideas the Cubans defend and the form of government they have established, enshrined in the Constitution, at least compel the United States, more than any other nation, to bow in their favor. If by demand of humanity and civilization, all nations are obliged to take an interest in Cuba and to demand the regularization of the war it is waging against Spain, the United States has a duty to do so, imposed by the political principles which they profess, proclaim and disseminate.52

  • 53 Francisco López Civeira, « Céspedes, la independencia y los Estados Unidos », Trabajadores, 30 Sept (...)

54But this appeal went unheeded. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes was aware of Washington’s opposition to the Cuban emancipatory process. However, at first, the Father of the Homeland, cornered by the annexationist tendency present within the House of Representatives of Guáimaro, had ratified in April 1869 a petition paving the way for the integration of Cuba into the United States Federation.53

55In a manifesto addressed to the people of Cuba of February 7, 1870, Céspedes recalled that the fate of the Homeland depended solely on the efforts and sacrifices of revolutionaries:

  • 54 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Decretos, op.cit., p. 20.

In entering the arena of struggle, in tearing with a valiant hand the tunic of the monarchy which imprisoned its members, Cuba only thought of God, of the freemen of all peoples and of its own strength. She never thought that a foreign country would send her soldiers or warships to gain her nationality.54

56In a letter to José Manuel Mestre, diplomatic representative of Cuba in the United States, dated June 1870, the patriot was clear about Washington’s intentions towards his country:

  • 55 Eusebio Leal & Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, El diario perdido, Havana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales (...)

As for the United States, if I am not mistaken, their government aspires to take over Cuba without complications that are dangerous to their nation. Meanwhile, their goal is to ensure that the island does not free itself from Spanish rule, not even to constitute itself as an independent power. Therein lies the secret of their policy and I fear that their purpose is only to ensure that we do not turn to other more efficient and selfless friends.55

  • 56 Henry Adams, History of the United States During the Second Administration of Thomas Jefferson 1, V (...)

57Céspedes was right. Since the beginning of the 19th century, Washington had aspired to seize the island. As early as 1805, Thomas Jefferson, then President of the United States, declared that “the possession of [Cuba] was necessary for the defence of Louisiana and Florida, as being the key to the Gulf of Mexico possession of the island is necessary to ensure the defense of Louisiana and Florida because it is the key to the Gulf of Mexico”. He added that for the United States, it would be “an easy conquest”.56

58In 1823, John Quincy Adams, then Secretary of State, discussed the possible annexation of Cuba and developed the “ripe fruit” theory. According to him, the “laws of political as well as physical gravitation” would allow the United States to take possession of the island. He explained his reasoning:

  • 57 John C. Rives, Appendix to the Congressional Globe. Second Session, Thirty-Second Congress: Speeche (...)

An apple severed by the tempest from its native tree cannot choose but fall to the ground, Cuba, forcibly disjoined from its own unnatural connection with Spain, and incapable of self-support, can gravitate only towards the North American Union which by the same law of nature, cannot cast her off its bosom.57

59In the midst of the war, Secretary of State Hamilton Fish wrote a memorandum confirming Céspedes’s fears:

  • 58 Hamilton Fish, « Mr. Fish to Mr. Cushing », 6 February 1874, Foreign Relations of the United States(...)

Cuba is the largest insular possession still retained by any European power in America. It is almost contiguous to the United States. It is pre-eminently fertile in the production of objects of commerce which are of constant demand in this country, and, with just regulations for reciprocal interchange of commodities, it would afford a large and lucrative market for the productions of this country. Commercially, as well as geographically, it is by nature more closely connected with the United States than with Spain […]. The ultimate issue of events in Cuba will be its independence [despite the fact that] the [U.S.] Government is compelled to exert constantly the utmost vigilance to prevent infringement of our law on the part of Cubans purchasing munitions or materials of war, or laboring to fit out military expeditions in our ports.58

60In a letter of August 10, 1871 to Charles Sumner, an American abolitionist lawyer, Céspedes denounced Washington’s support for Madrid:

  • 59 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 112.

It will be for impartial history to judge whether the Government of this great Republic has lived up to its people and the mission it represents in America, now no longer as a simple spectator indifferent to the barbarities and cruelties carried out before their eyes by a monarchical European power against its colony, which in use of its right, following the very example of the United States, rejects its domination in order to enter independent life; but by providing indirect support, moral and material, to the oppressor against the oppressed, to the strong against the weak, to the Monarchy against the Republic, to the European Metropolis against the American Colony, to the recalcitrant slaver against the liberator of hundreds of thousands of slaves.59

61Faced with the disdain displayed by the United States, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes decided to end his diplomatic representation in Washington. In a letter of November 30, 1872, he communicated his decision to his special envoy, Ramón Céspedes Barreiro, then stationed in the U.. capital. He explained the reasons:

  • 60 Fernando Portuondo & Hortensia Pichardo, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. Escritos, Havana, Editorial de (...)

It was no longer possible to bear any more the contempt with which the United States government treated us, a contempt that grew as we suffered more. We have played enough the role of beggar who is repeatedly refused alms and who is insolently slammed in the face. […] Our patience has reached its limits: just because we are weak and unfortunate, it does not mean that we should lose our dignity.60

62Despised by Washington in his aspiration for recognition, faced with the growing difficulties of the war against Spain, constantly threatened by the conspiracies of his political opponents in Congress, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes dedicated his ultimate efforts to trying to maintain the precarious balance of the Republic in Arms.

9. The fall of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes

63In a letter of January 23, 1872 to Amédée I of Savoy, King of Spain, Céspedes explained the reasons for the war and recalled the Cubans’ aspiration for dignity:

  • 61 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 145.

The Cuban war against Spain […] is not an act of denying our origins and our ancestors, the sacrifices and glories of the one who was our Motherland. It is simply the emancipation of a people who, by their particular physical conditions, by the great material advancement they have achieved, by the illustration of their children and by the example of other nations, aspires to his own life, and, considering having reached his majority, tried to undo the links which, natural in his youth, no longer had any reason to exist, which were humiliating for the dignity of man. [The war is not a show of hatred towards Spain but a necessity] to win rights and to abrogate institutions as harmful as that of slavery.61

64In addition to Washington’s hostility, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes had to confront internal divisions within the revolutionary movement, including the enmity of, among others, Salvador Cisneros Betancourt. On April 20, 1872, the latter passed a measure according to which the Speaker of the House of Representatives would occupy the supreme executive position in the event of an interim, thus paving the way for a future impeachment. Céspedes saw the exercise of his office as President become extremely difficult because of obstacles of all kinds imposed by the local chiefs elected in the Congress. He recounted his difficulties in a letter of 1872 to Ana de Quesada:

  • 62 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 181.

It is now a year, a month and three days since the last meeting of the House of Representatives was held in Las Maravillas. During all this time, I have governed without his help, and although the intrigues of the evil Cubans have never been so numerous, even if the operations of the enemy have never been so active, even if our resources have never been so weak, the Republic has not succumbed, its freedoms have been preserved, the dictatorship has not been enthroned, the laws have exercised their empire, impartiality has been my compass and I have not sunk into arbitrariness.62

  • 63 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 207.
  • 64 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., cita de introducción.

65In another letter of June 23, 1872, he mentioned the many problems that hindered his action: “My situation is exceptional: you must not make historical comparisons because you are exposed to errors. There is nothing like the Cuban war. No public figure has been in my situation […]. I have a lot of enemies”.63 On many occasions, Céspedes called for union: “The plea that I make to you with good faith and the most intimate sincerity is that the spirit of harmony reigns among all, that any feeling from which may emerge divisions and factions, and that you have in your heart only a common desire and a united interest to serve and bring relief to the Homeland”. These call were made in vain.64

66On March 6, 1873, Céspedes gave an interview to James J. O’Kelly, then a reporter for the New York Herald, who would later become a member of the House of Commons in the United Kingdom. This was one of his rare interviews with the foreign press. There he expressed with great lucidity his thoughts on Spain and the future of Cuba. Asked about the change of regime in the Iberian Peninsula, he expressed his reservations:

  • 65 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 245.

Spain is not a republican country, and the military aristocracy will never consent to the establishment of a republican form of government. The current government may last a while, but in a few months, there will be a struggle between the monarchs and the Republicans.65

67As to the future relationship with Cuba, he was cautious: “It is impossible to say how the Republic will view the cause of Cuba. We do not care because our armed men will not accept any condition from Spain that is not based on recognition of Independence”. He then explained the reasons:

  • 66 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 246.

A sea of water separates us from Spain and we have different interests. In addition, there is also an ocean of blood between us and the memory of the unnecessary cruelty employed by the Spanish government in its efforts to crush us. The blood of our fathers and our brothers, that of helpless and defenseless families murdered in cold blood, forbids us to accept the slightest condition from the Spaniards. They will have to go and leave us in peace, or continue the war until we are all dead or they are exterminated.66

68Salvador Cisneros Betancourt, who aspired to the supreme office, conspired to obtain the dismissal of the Father of the Fatherland. In a letter of July 2, 1873 to his wife, Céspedes once again expressed his fears to her:

  • 67 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 253.

[These] men do not realize the evil caused by divisions. Carried away by their ambitions, their quarrels and other miserable personalities, they see a homeland and freedom only in the satisfaction of these vile passions, bringing us closer at all times with their recklessness on the brink of civil war, while the war of independence is not even complete.67

  • 68 Ibid.

69Céspedes was fully aware of the plots hatched by his enemies: “They are plotting something bad that I have not yet succeeded in finding”.68 He also expressed a certain fatality in the face of these divisions which were only undermined by the process of independence. His only consolation was his unwavering commitment to freedom and the worship of happy moments spent with his family:

  • 69 Ibid.

Your description of my beloved children has done me the greatest good. I was as happy as if I had them in front of me. It will be my only pleasure, my only consolation, because I will never see them again. I will die without being able to take them in my arms, without even knowing them if it is only through silent portraits. But, however, I am resigned to everything.69

  • 70 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 259.

70Alerted by the intrigues hatched by his adversaries, Céspedes refused to use force to retain his post. On September 25, 1873, he wrote again to Ana de Quesada to inform her of his probable impeachment by the House of Representatives: “I am resolved not to deviate from the law and to respect the will of the people”. He added the following statement: “Our love for Cuba must not suffer, nor the desire to free it from its oppressors”.70

  • 71 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 260.
  • 72 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 298.

71The dismissal occurred on October 27, 1873. The deputy Tomás Estrada Palma took charge, among other things, of the indictment against the Man of October 10, 1868. Estrada Palma would later prove to be a convinced annexationist who would pave the way for the U.S. domination of Cuba at the beginning of the 20th century. Brigadier José de Jesús Pérez, one of Céspedes’s loyalists since the days of La Demajagua uprising, once again proposed that he resist the conspiracy by force. The latter refused and accepted the decision with resignation. He wanted to avoid any fratricidal struggle in the name of the unity of the revolutionary movement.71 In a letter to his wife of November 21, 1873, he recalled his commitment to the service of the freedom of his country: “I did what I had to do. I sacrificed myself on the altar of my Homeland, in the temple of the law. Blood will not flow in Cuba because of me. I have a clear conscience and I await the verdict of history”.72

  • 73 Philip S. Foner, Antonio Maceo: The ‘Bronze Titan’ of Cuba’s Struggle for Independence, New York, M (...)

72Cisneros realized his ambition and then became the new President. This dismissal had disastrous consequences. It shattered revolutionary unity and paved the way for the failure of the armed enterprise. Undermined by divisions, regionalisms and personal conflicts, the emancipatory movement initiated by Céspedes faltered, endangering the patriotic project. This would materialize in the Pact of Zanjón in 1878, sealing a peace without freedom or independence.73

73Despite this, the Father of the Homeland had no doubts about the ultimate victory of the cause of human emancipation and of the Cubans’ resolve to obtain their freedom. He was convinced that the chains of bondage would be broken for good:

  • 74 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 112.

The Cuban Revolution, now vigorous, is immortal. The Republic will defeat the Monarchy. The people of Cuba, full of faith in their destiny of freedom and animated by unwavering perseverance on the path of heroism and sacrifice, will be worthy of being, masters of their fate, among the free peoples of America. Our unchanging slogan is and always will be: Independence or death. Cuba must not simply be free, it cannot become a slave again.74

  • 75 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 297.

74The new power restricted Céspedes’s movements and in particular refused him a passport and the possibility of going to the United States to find his family and to continue his fight for Cuban independence from abroad. The House of Representatives and the executive power multiplied the baseness towards him, even ordering him to give him his private mail and forcing him to follow the movements of the government. Céspedes protested vigorously: “This is not my will. I suffer in my dignity and I am deprived of my rights as a citizen”.75

  • 76 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 302-303.

75In a fit of conscience, the new President Cisneros conjured in a letter of November 28, 1873 the House of Representatives to treat the Father of the Homeland with the consideration he deserved, to provide for his needs and to offer him the necessary protection: “Carlos Manuel de Céspedes is not only the man who ceased to be President, but the one who engendered the Revolution by speaking openly in Yara on this memorable October 10, 1868. Indeed, the personality of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes is so linked to the Cuban Revolution that it would be ingratitude to abandon it to his fate”. Cisneros underlined Céspedes’s total and selfless commitment to the cause of Cuban freedom: “He was the first to proclaim Cuba’s independence and the one who administered power for five years. During this period, he received no remuneration for administering the Republic, apart from a few gifts from individuals, nor the salaries owed to him for his services”. Cisneros insisted: it was not necessary “not to abandon in these extraordinary moments the man who opens the political and independent history of the country with his name”, recalling that he had risen up in arms with his own resources, defying a nation which had ample means to annihilate it”.76

  • 77 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 329.

76 On December 27, 1873, after much humiliation, the House of Representatives decided to release Céspedes, promising him a passport that would never arrive. Then, on January 23, 1874, abandoned by all, in the company of his son Carlos Manuel, Céspedes took refuge in San Lorenzo in the Sierra Maestra, hoping in vain to receive his passport, and spent the last moments of his life teaching reading and writing to the children of the area, showing an unfailing stoicism. In his final letter to his wife of February 17, 1874, Céspedes vowed “to forgive these men who in vain wanted to humiliate us, and to continue to cooperate in the safeguard of our beloved Homeland”. He concludes as follows: “May not resentment and vengeance penetrate our hearts!”. 77

77On February 27, 1874, informed of the presence of Céspedes in the area, the Spaniards carried out an operation to capture him. Weapon in hand, Céspedes engaged in combat with the soldiers of the colonial army. Seriously wounded, he refused to fall into the hands of the enemy and threw himself over a precipice. Manuel Sanguily, Colonel of the Liberation Army, recounted the last moments of life:

  • 78 Fernando Portuondo, Historia de Cuba 1492-1898, Havana, Editorial Pueblo y Educación, 1975, p. 453.

Céspedes could not allow the Spaniards to display him like a trophy, hand and foot bound like a delinquent, him, the sovereign embodiment of the sublime revolt. He accepted alone, for a brief moment, the great struggle of his people: he faced with his revolver the enemies in front of him and, shot to death, he fell into a ravine, like a burning sun that sinks into the abyss.78

78Commander Enrique Collazo Tejada regretted the conspiracies hatched against Céspedes which sounded the death knell for Cuba’s First War of Independence. According to him, Congress committed a political and moral fault by dismissing the Man of October 10, which proved fatal:

  • 79 Francisco Ibarra Martínez, Cronología de la Guerra de los Diez Años, Santiago de Cuba, Editorial Or (...)

The dismissal of Céspedes is the culmination of the Cuban Revolution and the beginning of our misfortunes. […] Ambition, discontent and personal resentment have been concealed under the mask of the law […]. The dismissal of Céspedes was fatal for the Revolution and it could have had even more dramatic consequences, which could have been avoided thanks to the character, wisdom and patriotism of the deposed President. […] Whatever his successes as a governor, there are two facts which make his apology and which will always make him the first of the Cubans: the uprising of La Demajagua and his conduct during his dismissal. So that no one fails in his legitimate glory, the criminal abandonment to which he has been subjected by the ingratitude of his fellow citizens, dying alone, almost blind, in the midst of the abrupt sierra, elevates him further; the first of the Cubans who succeeded in giving his country and his compatriots homeland and honor.79

  • 80 José Martí, “Céspedes y Agramonte”, El Avisador Cubano, 10 October 1888, Centro de Estudios Martian (...)

79José Martí, Cuban National Hero, would pay a vibrant tribute to Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. According to him, the latter never ceased “to be the majestic man who feels and imposes the dignity of the homeland. He leaves the presidency when ordered and dies firing his last bullets against the enemy”.80

80For his part, Fidel Castro would underline the historical importance of the first Cuban emancipatory movement:

  • 81 Fidel Castro, « Discurso en el resumen de la velada conmemorativa de los cien años de lucha”, 10 Oc (...)

Céspedes symbolized the spirit of the Cubans of the time. It symbolized the dignity and the rebellion of a people – still heterogeneous – which was beginning to be born in history […] The decision to abolish slavery was the most revolutionary measure, the most radically revolutionary measure than one could take in a society which was a truly supporter of slavery. For this, what illustrates Céspedes is not only the adopted, firm and resolute decision to take up arms, but also the act which accompanied this decision – which was the first act after the proclamation of independence – which was to free his slaves.81

Conclusion

81Venerated as the “Father of the Homeland”, the lawyer Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, renouncing his class interests and his personal goods, substituting for the happiness of a family life the torments of war, for the sake of the superior interest of the nation and the well-being of all Cubans, symbolizes the aspiration for emancipation. He remains in the history of the island as the one who linked the freedom of Cuba to the final abolition of slavery. True to the ultimate consequences of his motto “Independence or Death”, he took up arms against the Spanish oppressor, without any military experience, under conditions of extreme adversity and led the fight against an infinitely greater power.

82Despite the ingratitude of his fellow citizens in power, the Man of October 10, 1868 never expressed resentment over the unworthy fate reserved for him by destiny in the last moments of his existence. He died true to the course he had set for his people, that is, with arms in hand.

83The first war of independence would end on February 10, 1878 with the Pact of Zanjón, a compromise that contained neither sovereignty nor freedom. Antonio Maceo, symbol of Cuban resistance, would reject this agreement and respond with the Baraguá Protest on March 15, 1878 in which he would express his determination to fight to the end to realize his people’s aspiration for emancipation. The failure of the Small War of 1879-1880 would not break the will of the separatists who would launch the epic of final liberation in 1895 under the aegis of the national hero José Martí. After defeating Spain in 1898, Cuba would fall into the hands of U.S. imperialism and suffer its pernicious influence until the triumph of the Cuban Revolution under Fidel Castro in 1959.

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Bibliography

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ADAMS, Henry, History of the United States During the Second Administration of Thomas Jefferson 1, Volume 3, (1891) Cambridge University Press, 2011.

BUENO MENÉNDEZ, Salvador, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, México, Frente de Afirmación Hispanista, A. C., 2004.

CASTRO, Fidel, « Discurso en el resumen de la velada conmemorativa de los cien años de lucha”, 10 October 1968. http://www.fidelcastro.cu/es/discursos/velada-conmemorativa-de-los-cien-anos-de-lucha-efectuada-en-la-demajagua (Accessed 21 April 2019).

CÉSPEDES, Carlos Manuel de, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Paris, Paul Dupont, 1895.

CÉSPEDES, Carlos Manuel de, Decretos, Barcelona, Red Ediciones, 2019.

CONSTITUCIÓN DE GUAÍMARO, 10 de abril de 1869, UNAM. https://archivos.juridicas.unam.mx/www/bjv/libros/6/2525/7.pdf (Accessed 25 April 2019).

FISH, Hamilton, « Mr. Fish to General Sickles », 29 October 1872, Foreign Relations of the United States, Washington, United States Government Printing Office, 2 December 1872.

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FONER Philip S., Historia de Cuba y sus relaciones con Estados Unidos, Volume 2, Havana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1973.

FONER, Philip S., Antonio Maceo: The ‘Bronze Titan’ of Cuba’s Struggle for Independence, New York, Monthly Review, 1977.

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GUERRA, Ramiro, A History of the Cuban Nation: The Ten Years War and other Revolutionary Activities, Volume 5, Editorial Historia de la Nación Cubana S. A., 1958.

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IBARRA, MARTÍNEZ Francisco, Cronología de la Guerra de los Diez Años, Santiago de Cuba, Editorial Oriente, 1976.

LEAL, Eusebio & Carlos Manuel de CÉSPEDES, El diario perdido, Havana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1992.

LÓPEZ CIVEIRA, Francisco, «Céspedes, la independencia y los Estados Unidos», Trabajadores, 30 September 2018. http://www.trabajadores.cu/20180930/cespedes-la-independencia-y-los-estados-unidos/ (Accessed 2 October 2018).

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MARTÍ, José, “Céspedes y Agramonte”, El Avisador Cubano, 10 October 1888, Centro de Estudios Martianos. http://www.josemarti.cu/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Cespedes_y_Agramonte.pdf (Accessed 25 April 2019).

PICHARDO VIÑALS, Hortensia & Fernando PORTUONDO DEL PRADO, Dos fechas históricas, La Habana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1989.

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PORTUONDO DEL PRADO, Fernando & Hortensia PICHARDO VIÑALS, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes: Escritos, Volume I, Havana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1974.

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Notes

1 Salvador Bueno Menéndez, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, México, Frente de Afirmación Hispanista, A. C., 2004, p. 3.

2 Delfín Xiqués Cutiño, “Carlos Manuel de Céspedes: el padre de todos los cubanos”, Granma, 17 April 2019. http://www.granma.cu/hoy-en-la-historia/2019-04-17/carlos-manuel-de-cespedes-el-padre-de-todos-los-cubanos-17-04-2019-11-04-45 (Accessed 28 June 2019).

3 Rafael Acosta de Arriba, Apuntes sobre el pensamiento de Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Havana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1996, p. 7.

4 Fernando Portuondo del Prado & Hortensia Pichardo Viñals, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes: Escritos, Volume I, La Havane, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1974, p. 21.

5 Ibid., p. 28.

6 Leonardo Grimán Peralta, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes: análisis caracterológico, Universidad de Oriente, Departamento de Extensión y Relaciones Culturales, 1954, p. 31.

7 Fernando Portuondo del Prado & Hortensia Pichardo Viñals, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes: Escritos, Volume I, op. cit., p. 28.

8 Hortensia Pichardo & Fernando Portuondo, Dos fechas históricas, Havana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1989, p. 20.

9 Ramiro Guerra, A History of the Cuban Nation: The Ten Years War and other Revolutionary Activities, Volume 5, Editorial Historia de la Nación Cubana S. A., 1958, p. 13-15.

10 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Decretos, Barcelona, Red Ediciones, 2019, p. 9.

11 Ibid., p. 11.

12 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Paris, Paul Dupont, 1895, p. 12.

13 Fernando Portuondo del Prado & Hortensia Pichardo Viñals, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes: Escritos, Volume I, op. cit., p. 69.

14 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Decretos, op. cit., p. 13.

15 José Martí (Andrés Sorel, ed.), Contra España, Tafalla, Editorial Txalaparta, 1999, p. 68-69.

16 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 20.

17 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 22.

18 Ibid.

19 Constitución de Guaímaro, 10 April 1869, UNAM. https://archivos.juridicas.unam.mx/www/bjv/libros/6/2525/7.pdf (Accessed 25 April 2019).

20 Francisco J. Ponte Domínguez, Historia de la Guerra de los Diez Años, Havana, Academia de Historia de Cuba, 1944, p. 205-210.

21 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 28.

22 Francisco J. Ponte Domínguez, Historia de la Guerra de los Diez Años, op. cit., p. 252.

23 Philip S. Foner, Historia de Cuba y sus relaciones con Estados Unidos, Volume 2, Havana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1973, p. 95.

24 Víctor Guerrero Apráez, El reconocimiento de la beligerancia, Bogotá, Editorial Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, 2017.

25 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 83.

26 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 162.

27 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 113.

28 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 24.

29 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 36.

30 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 38.

31 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 229.

32 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 40.

33 Ibid.

34 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 89.

35 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 43.

36 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 55.

37 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 56.

38 Ibid.

39 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 77.

40 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 131.

41 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 74.

42 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 74.

43 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 205.

44 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 213.

45 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 86-87.

46 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 88.

47 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 87.

48 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 210.

49 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 236.

50 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 81-82.

51 Hamilton Fish, « Mr. Fish to General Sickles », 29 October 1872, Foreign Relations of the United States, Washington, United States Government Printing Office, 2 December 1872, p. 582.

52 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 144.

53 Francisco López Civeira, « Céspedes, la independencia y los Estados Unidos », Trabajadores, 30 September 2018. http://www.trabajadores.cu/20180930/cespedes-la-independencia-y-los-estados-unidos/ (Accessed 2 October 2018).

54 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Decretos, op.cit., p. 20.

55 Eusebio Leal & Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, El diario perdido, Havana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1992, p. 23.

56 Henry Adams, History of the United States During the Second Administration of Thomas Jefferson 1, Volume 3, (1891) Cambridge University Press, 2011, p. 102.

57 John C. Rives, Appendix to the Congressional Globe. Second Session, Thirty-Second Congress: Speeches, Important State Papers, Laws, Etc., New Series, Volume XXVII, Washington, 1853, p. 1725.

58 Hamilton Fish, « Mr. Fish to Mr. Cushing », 6 February 1874, Foreign Relations of the United States, Washington, United States Government Printing Office, 7 December 1874, p. 859-862.

59 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 112.

60 Fernando Portuondo & Hortensia Pichardo, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. Escritos, Havana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1974, Volume I, p. 84.

61 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 145.

62 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 181.

63 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 207.

64 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., cita de introducción.

65 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 245.

66 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 246.

67 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 253.

68 Ibid.

69 Ibid.

70 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 259.

71 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 260.

72 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 298.

73 Philip S. Foner, Antonio Maceo: The ‘Bronze Titan’ of Cuba’s Struggle for Independence, New York, Monthly Review, 1977.

74 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 112.

75 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 297.

76 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 302-303.

77 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, op. cit., p. 329.

78 Fernando Portuondo, Historia de Cuba 1492-1898, Havana, Editorial Pueblo y Educación, 1975, p. 453.

79 Francisco Ibarra Martínez, Cronología de la Guerra de los Diez Años, Santiago de Cuba, Editorial Oriente, 1976, p. 113.

80 José Martí, “Céspedes y Agramonte”, El Avisador Cubano, 10 October 1888, Centro de Estudios Martianos. http://www.josemarti.cu/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Cespedes_y_Agramonte.pdf (Accessed 25 April 2019).

81 Fidel Castro, « Discurso en el resumen de la velada conmemorativa de los cien años de lucha”, 10 October 1968. http://www.fidelcastro.cu/es/discursos/velada-conmemorativa-de-los-cien-anos-de-lucha-efectuada-en-la-demajagua (Accessed 21 April 2019).

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Salim Lamrani, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, in the name of LibertyÉtudes caribéennes [Online], 7 | Juillet 2021, Online since 30 July 2021, connection on 24 April 2024. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/etudescaribeennes/24193; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/etudescaribeennes.24193

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Université de La Réunion

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