Role of US Coastguard 1895-1898 and today, guardian of freedom or protector of liberty?

by Larry Daley (Garcia-Iñiguez Enamorado)

With respect to the situation in Cuba, the role of US Coastguard in the time frame of 1895-1898 (before US entry into war) was similar to that of the US Coastguard today. That is the US Coastguard was the major, abiet unintentional, force stopping insurrectional landings in Cuba. Given that both in past and at present this de facto role of the US Coast Guard served the purposes of very repressive Cuban governments and thus hurt the reputation of the Commanders in Chief (by suggesting that he acted then or acts now to favor a tyranny), an unbiased observer might think it wise to change this policy. This is especially pertinent when the US Coast Guard actions are outside (ie, on the "high seas") the territorial limits of the US.

For historic interest the following citation from French Ensor Chadwick (1909, The relations of the Unites States and Spain. Diplomacy. Charles Scriber's Sons, New York, p. 418) is presented here. Since French Ensor Chadwick was a Rear-Admiral in the U.S. Navy, and held opinions which would be considered antiracist today, it gave more credence to Spanish reports that would also be justified today (see other parts of above volume), the data presented and the point made in this citation seems very likely to be accurate.

Citation (p. 418 paragraphs 2,3,4. Unless noted, data in brackets is mine):

"...Expeditions landed with scarcely an attempt on the part of Spanish cruisers or garrisons. With proper energy, with 67 (Spanish) vessels of all classes in Cuba, and with more than 200,000 men (Spanish military personnel) available on land, the coast should have been securely guarded and every landing-place made impossible to an invador. Instead the Cuban (Spanish military) authorities leaned almost wholly upon the American government for prevention, there being but one seizure afloat by the Spanish, that of the (ship) Competitor, during the three years of the insurrection.

"Of the 71 expeditions of which there is report, but 5 were stopped on the coast of Cuba by the Spanish. THE UNITED STATES AUTHORITIES STOPPED 33, THE ENGLISH 2; 4 WERE PREVENTED BY STORMS; 27 WERE SUCCESSFUL (my caps). Nearly all the vessels were but small tugs of less than 100 tons. Only 4 were larger ships: the American (ship) Laurada of 899 net tons; the English (ship) Bermuda of 823; the Norwegian (ship) Leon of 490, and the Danish (ship) Horsa of 459. The responsability for the last three rested largely with the consuls of the nations to which they belonged, as they could not have left American ports with their (the consuls'). The Bermuda made 5 trips, the Horsa 2, the Three Friends, a tug of 89 tons, made 8, the Dauntless, of 77 tons made 12.

Said the secretary of the treasury (footnoted in citation to 'Letter of the secretary of the treasury, November 30, 1897. House Doc. 326, 55 Cong., 2 Sess., 10 and 18), speaking of an expedition by the Laurada, in February, 1987: "If the Spanish patrol of 2,200 miles of Cuban coast had frustrated one-half the number of expeditions that were frustrated by the United State authorities along a coast-line of 5, 470 miles, not one man nor one cartridge would have been illicitly landed in Cuban from the United Sates in the past two years and a half. In this particular instance the vessel landed men and arms unmolested for two days in a prominent sea port (Banes author citation), though all Cuban seaports have been reported under Spanish control, though the Spanish authorities had been informed of her landing and even minutely of the situation of torpedoes (now known as mines) which had been laid for her (the Laurada) protection." (superscript 2 to secretary of treasury citation).


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