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Prior to 1898 the Isle of Pines was a Spanish possession apparently governed as a municipal district of the Province of Habana, Cuba. With respect to Cuba the Joint Resolution passed by the Congress of the United States April 20, 1898, provides (4) "That the United States hereby disclaims any disposition or intention to exercise sovereign jurisdiction or control over said island, except for the pacification thereof; and asserts the determination when that is accomplished to leave the government and control of the island to its people." (38 Stat. 378 [30 Stat. 738]).
The Treaty of Peace between the United States and Spain proclaimed April 11, 1899, makes no specific mention of the Isle of Pines, but by Article I of the Treaty, Spain relinquished all claim of sovereignty over and title to Cuba, and by Article II Spain ceded to the United States the Island of Porto Rico and other islands then under Spanish sovereignty in the West Indies, as well as the Island of Guam in the Marianas or Ladrones.
During the military occupation of Cuba by the United States the Isle of Pines was apparently administered as a municipal district of the Province of Habana. (Report of Census of Cuba published by
War Department in 1900.)
When the Government of Cuba was turned over to the Cubans May 20, 1902, there was an exchange of communications between the Military Governor and the President of Cuba to the effect that the Isle of Pines was to continue de facto under the jurisdiction of the Government of Cuba, subject to treaty arrangements as to the future disposition of the island.
The Platt Amendment (Article VI) and Article VI of the Treaty of Cuba proclaimed July 2, 1904,2 provide that the Isle of Pines shall be omitted from the proposed constitutional boundaries of Cuba "the title thereof being left to future adjustment by treaty." On March 2, 1904, a treaty was signed by which the United States relinquished all claim of title to the Isle of Pines under the said Treaty of Peace with Spain. The Senate of the United States has not yet consented to the ratification of this treaty.
It, therefore, appears that the United States has never taken possession of the Isle of Pines as having been ceded by the Treaty of Peace with Spain, and that the island has been uniformly governed by the Republic of Cuba since that Republic came into existence, the United States recognizing Cuba as rightfully exercising de facto sovereignty until otherwise provided for.
In the case of Pearcy versus Stranahan, before mentioned, the court considered that it was justified in assuming that the Isle of Pines had always been treated by the representatives in Cuba of the President ac Foreign Relations, 1904, p. 243.
of the United States as an integral part of Cuba. The court added that this was "no doubt to be expected in view of the fact that it was such at the time of the execution of the treaty and its ratification, and that the treaty did not provide otherwise in terms", to say nothing of the general principles of international law before mentioned.
The executive branch of the Government has apparently, as indicated by the treaty it concluded with Cuba March 2, 1904, and its other dealings with this subject above referred to, taken the ground that under the Treaty of Peace with Spain the Isle of Pines was not one of the "other islands now under Spanish sovereignty in the West Indies" and ceded to the United States by the treaty, but was an integral part of Cuba over which Spain relinquished claim to sovereignty by the treaty. In any event, the United States has undoubtedly indicated that it did not desire to assert any title to the Island under the Treaty of Peace with Spain, but wished to quit-claim in favor of Cuba any shadow of title it might have under that treaty.
It cannot be doubted that in adopting this attitude the Government of the United States was influenced by the proximity of the Island to Cuba and the consequently applicable principles of international law, and by the fact that the Isle of Pines had uniformly been administered as an integral part of Cuba.
The Secretary of State considers it desirable in the interest of relations between the United States and Cuba that the treaty before the Senate should be approved. The ratification of the treaty would leave the situation with respect to Cuban exercise of authority over the island as it is at the present time. Possible causes of friction between the two Governments would be obviated and the uncertainty in the minds of the inhabitants of the island as to its status would be removed.
It is true that a certain amount of opposition to the ratification of this treaty exists in the minds of persons who fear that their interests in the island will be imperiled in the event that this Government definitely renounced all claim of title to the Isle of Pines. The opponents of the treaty contend that American citizens were encouraged to purchase land in the island and to settle there by statements of the United States Government officials, either verbal or in writing, to the effect that the Isle of Pines was United States territory. The opponents of the treaty, furthermore, assert that as a consequence of such assurances large numbers of American citizens acquired property in the island and have made their homes there, believing that they would reside under the jurisdiction of the United States, and they therefore contend that the act of the Government in permitting Cuba to exercise control over the island, and its intention, as expressed in the treaty, to renounce any claim which it may have of
title thereto, constitute a breach of good faith and a betrayal of the interests of those American citizens who reside or possess property in the island. There is no foundation for this contention.
The written statements attributed to Government officials affirming the sovereignty of the United States over the Island consist, so far as I am aware, entirely of letters written in 1899 and 1900, in answer to inquiries on the subject, by the then Assistant Secretary of War, Mr. G. D. Meiklejohn, or by his direction. It should be observed in this connection that Mr. Meiklejohn had no authority to speak for the Government of the United States in the matter or to bind the Government of the United States by anything he saw fit to say on the subject. (Page 16, Senate Document No. 205, 59th Congress, 1st Session, entitled "Adjustment of Title to the Isle of Pines"). The oral statements said to have been made by United States government officials are not of record and cannot therefore be considered as evidence.
On the other hand, attention is called to the fact that the Isle of Pines was particularly and definitely regarded and treated as a municipality of the Province of Habana by the United States when it took the census of Cuba under order of President McKinley, dated August 17, 1899. The report of that census states in part: "The Government of Cuba has jurisdiction not only over the island of that name, but also over the Isle of Pines lying directly south of it . . .”, and further, "The total population of Cuba, including the Isle of Pines and neighboring keys was, on October 16, 1899, 1,572,797.” As stated by Senator Foraker on page 6 of his report contained in Senate Document No. 205, supra:
"Attention is particularly called to the fact that this census, taken subsequent to August, 1899, shows that at the time when it was taken there were in the Isle of Pines only 14 persons who were natives of any other country than Cuba or Spain. Practically all of the protestants must, therefore, have gone to the Isle of Pines subsequent to the taking of that census, and therefore with full knowledge that the Isle of Pines was being regarded and treated, for governmental purposes, as belonging to Cuba and as a part thereof. If the 14 persons citizens of other countries than Spain and Cuba were citizens of the United States, they should have taken notice of the fact that they were enumerated as foreigners, which of itself indicated that the Isle of Pines was not domestic territory of the United States."
With regard to the statement of opponents of the treaty that the business and property of American citizens residing in the Isle of Pines will be denied proper protection, in the event that Cuba acquires by treaty complete jurisdiction over the island, it should be observed that Article III of the treaty provides that:
"Citizens of the United States of America, who, at the time of the exchange of ratifications of this treaty, shall be residing or holding
property in the Island of Pines, shall suffer no diminution of the rights and privileges which they have acquired prior to the date of exchange of ratifications of this treaty; they may remain there or may remove therefrom, retaining in either event all their rights of property, including the right to sell or dispose of such property or of its proceeds; and they shall also have the right to carry on their industry, commerce, and professions being subject in respect thereto to such laws as are applicable to other foreigners."
In this relation, it may be observed that for years past Cuba has exercised complete jurisdiction over the Isle of Pines.
The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Cuba (Crowder)
WASHINGTON, March 13, 1925-6 p. m.
38. The Senate today gave its advice and consent to the ratification of the Isle of Pines treaty on a substitute resolution of Senator Borah providing that an exchange of notes at the time of the exchange of ratifications shall stipulate that the treaty proclaimed July 2, 1904, between the United States and Cuba shall apply to the Isle of Pines and that "other foreigners" in Article III of the treaty shall be understood to mean those foreigners who receive the most-favored-treatment from Cuba. Text of the resolution will be cabled to you tomorrow.
Treaty Series No. 709
Treaty Between the United States of America and Cuba, Signed at Washington, March 2, 19043
The United States of America and the Republic of Cuba, being desirous to give full effect to the sixth Article of the Provision in regard to the relations to exist between the United States and Cuba, contained in the Act of the Congress of the United States of America, approved March second, nineteen hundred and one, which sixth Article aforesaid is included in the Appendix to the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba, promulgated on the 20th day of May, nineteen hundred and two and provides that "The island of Pines shall be omitted from the boundaries of Cuba specified in the Constitution, the title of ownership thereof being left to future adjustment
In English and Spanish; Spanish text not printed. Ratification advised by the Senate, with reservation, Mar. 13, 1925; ratified by the President Mar. 23, 1925; ratified by Cuba Mar. 18, 1925; ratifications exchanged at Washington, Mar. 23, 1925; proclaimed by the President Mar. 24, 1925.
by treaty;" have for that purpose appointed as their Plenipotentiaries to conclude a treaty to that end:
The President of the United States of America, John Hay, Secretary of State of the United States of America; and
The President of the Republic of Cuba, Gonzalo de Quesada, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of Cuba to the United States of America;
Who, after communicating to each other their full powers, found in good and due form, have agreed upon the following Articles:
The United States of America relinquishes in favor of the Republic of Cuba all claim of title to the Island of Pines situate in the Caribbean Sea near the southwestern part of the Island of Cuba, which has been or may be made in virtue of Articles I and II of the Treaty of Peace between the United States and Spain, signed at Paris on the tenth day of December eighteen hundred and ninetyeight.
This relinquishment, on the part of the United States of America, of claim of title to the said Island of Pines, is in consideration of the grants of coaling and naval stations in the Island of Cuba heretofore made to the United States of America by the Republic of Cuba.
Citizens of the United States of America who, at the time of the exchange of ratifications of this treaty, shall be residing or holding property in the Island of Pines shall suffer no diminution of the rights and privileges which they have acquired prior to the date of exchange of ratifications of this treaty; they may remain there or may remove therefrom, retaining in either event all their rights of property, including the right to sell or dispose of such property or of its proceeds; and they shall also have the right to carry on their industry, commerce and professions being subject in respect thereof to such laws as are applicable to other foreigners.
The present treaty shall be ratified by each party in conformity with the respective Constitutions of the two countries, and the ratifications shall be exchanged in the City of Washington as soon as possible.