Current History


The Maine disaster is to the public almost as much of a mystery as ever. Little of absolutely reliable information has been made known, and until something is officially stated by the court of inquiry, judgment must be suspended.

The court of inquiry began the investigation almost immediately after its arrival at Havana. The sittings were held on the lighthouse tender Mangrove, and lasted for a number of days; the court then adjourned to Key West.

The investigation has been a secret one throughout, and though the numerous correspondents have done their best to obtain information, very few facts have been ascertained; and fact and fiction have been so mixed in the newspaper accounts that it is not safe to accept as final any of the statements.

In some foreign papers it has been hinted that the disaster resulted from an accident due to lack of discipline on board the vessel. The utter falseness of this statement is shown by the facts. Just think of a crew, or what was left of it, mustering without confusion on the deck of a sinking, burning vessel, and this vessel likely to be blown to pieces at any moment! Could any better evidence of perfect discipline and heroism be given? Every man took his place without comment; each order was given quietly and coolly, and obeyed with precision. Is it possible that an accident could have happened on that ship through lack of discipline?

Of course, many of the newspaper accounts have more or less foundation in fact, for no effort is spared by their correspondents to be the first to ascertain and report the truth. The general impression now seems to be that no explosion in the ship originated the disaster.

One New York paper stated that the most important evidence was given by an officer of the Fern, who is said to have discovered that the keel and armor-plates of the Maine had been driven upward, this proving in his opinion that the explosion must have occurred under the vessel.

The correspondent of this paper also said that the ten-inch and six-inch magazines were upset and hurled from their places in opposite directions, and added that the forward boilers were overturned and wrecked. There were no fires under these boilers at the time of the explosion. Fires were under the after boilers only.

He added, that from the discoveries of the divers there was every indication that the explosion came from a point beneath the keel, just forward of the conning-tower, and that this explosion drove keel, plates, and ribs almost to the surface, the main force of the explosion having been exerted on the port side of the vessel.

According to this report, the ascertained facts, collectively, indicate that the contents of the reserve six-inch magazine were exploded by the first explosion, and that there was no explosion in either of the other two magazines. In the reserve magazine was stowed twenty-five hundred pounds of powder, in copper tanks, each of which contained two hundred pounds.

Several of these tanks have been found by the divers, all in crushed and shapeless masses. It is important to note that in the six-inch and ten-inch tanks recovered the excelsior used for packing the charges shows no injury from flame or gases.

The powder stowed in the six-inch reserve magazine was used for saluting purposes only. The magazine itself appears to have been utterly destroyed, only a few traces being left to show the spot where it was once located.

The under part of the ten-inch magazine is wholly inaccessible to divers. In the upper part is lightly wedged a mass of powder cylinders, too heavy for divers to extricate, but apparently containing unexploded charges of powder.

The Dow torpedo-tube of the Maine has been located in the wreck. It lies in the dÉbris forward, submerged several feet under water. The writer adds that these are the facts as he has obtained them from sources that he believes to be entirely trustworthy and authentic.

The careful way in which the statement is worded shows how uncertain has been the information relative to the testimony before the board of inquiry. As a matter of fact, on the day when this article is being written we are very much in the dark as to what information the inquiry is really developing. The secrecy maintained by the board is, of course, very necessary, for at this time it is most important that, until the facts in the case are absolutely established, our Government should do its best to keep back any news tending to inflame public opinion. An unconsidered and hasty step by our authorities in this matter might plunge us into war. It will be time enough for us to think of war when we know beyond a reasonable doubt that we have been injured by Spain and that Spain refuses to make amends for the loss. Even if the Maine was blown up by a mine, that does not by any means prove that the Spanish Government was guilty of the dastardly act. If Spain does what is right toward redeeming the loss, we will have no just cause for a declaration of war, and our Government will without doubt use every honorable means to avoid a conflict.

In connection with the Maine disaster there was no greater example of heroism than that of the chaplain, the Rev. John P. Chidwick,—"Father John," as the sailors call him.

From the first he has devoted himself night and day to his work—spending part of his time with the poor fellows maimed and dying in the hospital, making their hours of suffering brighter, and from this work turning to that still more difficult task, the identification of the dead. He was one of the last to leave the vicinity of the wreck that terrible night. It was only after the last sailor had been picked up that he went ashore, and only then because he could be of assistance to the poor fellows who were suffering. Greater heroism is required to face such scenes of suffering and death as he had to face, than is necessary to storm a fortress in time of battle. His name will never be forgotten.

Captain Sigsbee, too, has shown a wonderful amount of self-command in this time of great trial. Cool and deliberate at the moment of the disaster, he gave his orders with absolute self-possession, doing the very best that could be done to save his ship and men. The magazines were flooded to prevent further damage, and every available step was taken with as much judgment as if he had had the same terrible experience many times before. His first reports were worded with the greatest care, for had he let slip one ill-advised remark it might have plunged this country at once into the horrors of war. You will remember his despatch, and how he advised the country to await facts before forming a judgment. This despatch did more than anything else toward making the proper investigation possible, and the final action will in consequence be based upon facts carefully ascertained and deliberately considered.

The latest news with regard to the movements of the board of inquiry is that it went to Key West for a few days only, and with the intention of returning to Havana for further sittings.


On February 23d, Secretary of War Long completed arrangements with the Merritt and Chapman Wrecking Company, of New York city, and with the Boston Towboat Company, to undertake to raise the Maine. It was agreed that they were to be paid $1,371 a day for their work, $871 a day for the use of their regular appliances, and $500 a day in addition for the use of the great floating derrick Monarch. On the delivery in New York of the hull of the wrecked vessel, $100,000 will be paid. It is, however, provided in the contract that the total cost of the work shall not exceed $200,000.

The question as to the amount of the indemnity to be paid for the destruction of the Maine, in case Spain is held liable for the disaster, has occasioned considerable comment in the press. It has been asserted that the Government should demand at least $10,000,000, and even so large an amount as $30,000,000 has by some been suggested as the proper sum to be asked. The ship itself cost about $3,000,000, and the fittings several millions more. The indemnity should, of course, cover not only the material loss of the vessel, but the loss of life and the injury done to our Government.


The divers at work on the wreck of the Maine have been steadily hampered by the difficult situation of the vessel. In the first place, the hull is sinking into the mud at the rate of a foot a day, and a week after the disaster the divers had to wade through mud up to their waists. Then, too, the water is so dirty that they can hardly see below the surface.

Nevertheless, they have succeeded in bringing up many valuables, among others the paymaster's safe containing $2,700.


The opinion seems to be growing that we may never be able to discover the cause of the disaster. The fact that the forward half of the ship has been completely destroyed adds probability to this view. The after half, however, is reported to be practically intact.

As for the submarine mines, it may be that their existence will also remain problematical. A prominent naval officer has explained that such mines consist merely of big metal cases filled with gun-cotton, and that their explosion would blow them into atoms.


In spite of our sensational newspapers, which had done their best to spread the "war scare," our country has acted in a thoroughly sensible and praiseworthy manner in relation to the disaster of the Maine. The best of our newspapers, moreover, had also shown a willingness to avoid sensational news for the sake of encouraging peace. This shows that we are a much less aggressive nation than we have hitherto been thought to be.

In this connection it is worth while calling the attention of the readers of The Great Round World to the immense influence that our newspapers may exert at a time like this. If all of the papers had behaved as disgracefully as some have done, we might now be really on the verge of war.

In other words, it is of the highest importance to us as a nation, with an absolutely free press, to have for journalists men and women who possess not only ability, but character and discretion as well. So much that was false was published in some of the papers that their reputation for reliability has been entirely lost, and now no one pays very much attention to what they say. They have certainly now a well-established reputation as monumental liars, and this reputation will stick to them for a long time to come.


In the minds of the public the question as to whether the Maine was blown up by accident or design seems to have reduced itself to the question whether the harbor of Havana is fortified with subterranean mines.

On this point some curious evidence has been presented by an American citizen who has just returned from Cuba, where he has been for two years in the employ of a large importing house. His name is J. P. Sherman, and he is a native of Chicago. In an interview recently published in a New York paper, he stated that it is a fact well known to residents of Havana that its harbor was fortified with both torpedo and submarine mines by order of General Weyler. Early last spring Captain-General Weyler engaged the services of Charles A. Crandal, an American torpedo expert, formerly a member of the crew of the United States ship San Francisco, to lay out the mine and torpedo service of the harbor of Havana. Crandal worked at night, and during the time that he was in the service of the Spanish Government he placed ten mines and seven torpedoes in the harbor.

Crandal went to Havana in the latter part of 1895, and was employed by his firm as a packer. He stated that he had served as a marine and diver on the United States cruiser San Francisco, while Capt. W. T. Sampson, now president of the Maine board of inquiry, was in command of that vessel.

Crandal left their employ in May of last year, and soon after said that he had entered General Weyler's employ and was working on mines and torpedoes.

When General Weyler left Havana the map showing the location of these mines and torpedoes was transferred to the custody of a spy, known throughout Havana as Captain del Pedrio, who was seen on more than one occasion on board the battle-ship Maine in his capacity as captain of the harbor police.

The mines and torpedoes were connected with an electric firing plant in the magazine diagonally across the channel from Morro Castle, and it would have been one of the easiest things in the world for one of the spies to have placed the switch and blown the Maine out of the water.

Weyler received in July or August a consignment of ten large casks, which Sherman himself saw in the Custom-House shed. Crandal told him that these contained mines, which he claimed were to be placed on the west side of the island to prevent filibustering. When Crandal had completed his work of placing the mines and torpedoes in the harbor he was retained in the Spanish service, but when General Weyler was recalled he took Crandal to Madrid with him.

In contradiction of Sherman's statement, one of the Madrid newspapers which is known to express the views of General Weyler declares that it has the authority of one of the chiefs of the army, supposed to be Weyler himself, for saying that there are no submarine mines beneath the harbor of Havana.



After staying for only a few days in the harbor of New York, the Vizcaya quietly sailed away to Havana.

Her departure was a great relief to our Government, not because she was a menace to the safety of New York, but because it was feared that harm might come to her while she was in American waters.

The presence of the vessel, however, in the greatest of our ports at so critical a time made the War Department realize the importance of protecting New York more carefully. So the United States monitor Terror was sent to New York harbor and will remain there for the present. Work is being pushed on other war-vessels that are in the shipyards for repair or in process of construction, as it is quite possible that we may need our whole strength at any time.


Last week we referred to the report that a strong feeling was growing in Washington in favor of putting an end to the Cuban war by having the United States purchase Cuba.

The report has reached Spain and has brought out the following despatch from a correspondent in Madrid:

"I have it on the highest authority that Spain will never, no matter what government is in power, consider any such suggestion or any compromise in Cuba beyond the broad measure of autonomy drafted by the liberal government.

"This is an absolute, irrevocable decision. People who suggest anything else are only wasting time and arousing unfounded hopes in the minds of the rebels."

Spain's feeling whenever mention is made of possible interference in Cuba by another power was lately shown by the indignation expressed in Madrid at the report that Bismarck wanted the war to be settled by arbitration. The Spanish Premier, SeÑor Sagasta, refused to believe the rumor, and declared that "No one would dare to propose such an absurdity," and that "No Spanish government would listen to or dream of such a proposal."

In view of this news, the present attitude of Congress toward Cuba is by no means reassuring. Many of the Republican Congressmen are strongly in favor of passing the Senate resolution recognizing the belligerent rights of the Cuban insurgents. This resolution was "shelved" some time ago by being referred to the House Committee of Foreign Affairs. So warm is the sentiment in favor of Cuba throughout the country, that many members of the House of Representatives are said to believe that they must pass a definite measure in support of the insurgents before Congress adjourns.


It is reported that Consul-General Lee has been quietly advising the American families in Havana to leave Cuba. On the other hand, we have good authority for the statement that the captains of the American ships in the harbor of Havana have been informed by our Government that they are in no danger, and may, with assurance of safety, remain in the harbor.

This is an example of the contradictory news that is constantly coming to us from Cuba.

The fact remains, however, that there is in Havana a strong anti-American feeling. The Spaniards seem to believe that we are not sincere in our declarations that we do not want to interfere in the war or to secure possession of the island.

The friends of General Weyler seem to be particularly hostile to us. It is said that, in case the destruction of the Maine is found to have been caused by a plot, they will join forces with the other enemies of the United States in Cuba and attack the Americans in Havana.


On February 26th, while King George of Greece was riding through the streets of Athens with his daughter, the Princess Maria, two men fired several shots at him. The driver of his carriage whipped up the horses and the King escaped injury. One of the footmen was wounded in the arm.

King George displayed great bravery. As soon as the first shot was fired he rose from his seat and stood between the Princess and the would-be assassins.

It is supposed that the attack was due to the unpopularity which the King acquired among many of his subjects during the late war between Greece and Turkey. The King's escape, however, was made the cause of great rejoicing and thanksgiving in Athens. From all parts of the civilized world, too, telegrams of congratulation were sent to him.

King George is the second son of the King of Denmark, and brother of the Princess of Wales. He was born in Denmark in 1845, and was elected in 1863 by the National Assembly at Athens to fill the vacancy in the Greek throne. Four years later he married the Grand Duchess Olga, niece of the late Emperor Alexander II. of Russia.

Until the GrÆco-Turkish war broke out, King George was one of the most popular monarchs in Europe. He believed in a liberal form of government and he lived in a very simple and democratic style. His wife, too, was highly esteemed for her fine character and abilities. She soon became known for her great love of the sea, and she is said to be the only woman in any navy in the world who holds a commission as admiral.

When, about a year ago, King George defied Turkey and the great powers of Europe in his brave defence of Crete, and actually went to war with a power vastly stronger than his own little kingdom, he was applauded for his courage in nearly every country of the civilized world. It was even thought that Greece was on the verge of winning back her old glory.

But the result proved to be a bitter disappointment. The Greeks were utterly routed, and King George and Crown Prince Constantine, his son, were accused of having shamefully mismanaged the war. At one time it looked as if the royal family would be driven from Greece. It was reported also that King George intended to abdicate.

Since the close of the war, however, the King has appeared in some measure to have strengthened his position in Athens. The attempt on his life, however, suggests that the feeling against him among his people must still be strong. It is reported that during the last few months his life has been repeatedly threatened.

Two days after the attack was made on the King, one of his assailants, while being searched for, gave himself up.

He proved to be an ignorant man named Karditza. It is thought that his mind had been inflamed against King George by the severe criticisms made on the King by some of the more violent newspapers in Athens. He has made a confession showing that a conspiracy was formed by a political society against the King's life.

A dynamite-bomb was discovered by the police near the spot where the shooting took place.


England has maintained her firm position with regard to her claims in Western Africa. She has informed France most emphatically that she does not propose to be interfered with there as she was by the French colonists in Madagascar.

She has practically persuaded France to agree that she shall have absolute control of the Niger River. This means that the river will be kept open to the commerce of the whole world.

It is said that at first Monsieur Hanotaux, the French foreign minister, did not believe that Lord Salisbury would maintain his position in the matter, and that this belief encouraged him to send the French troops into Western Africa. But, with the assistance of Mr. Chamberlain, who is a shrewd diplomatist as well as a man of nerve, Lord Salisbury held firmly to his point.

It is now known that the difficulties have been practically settled, and that France, though she has secured some concessions, has practically backed down in favor of England.

Nothing pleases the English more than to have their own way against the French. The English and the French have been natural enemies for generations. The feeling of the French toward the English is even more bitter than their hostility to the Germans.


The Chinese loan, about which we have heard so many different reports, has at last been definitely granted by a combination of English and German capital. The loan has been described as "semi-private," but this does not prevent it from being considered a distinct success for Lord Salisbury's negotiations, though regret is naturally felt in England that Germany should have a share in it. As a result of the loan, England has secured new concessions from China, which greatly strengthen her influence in Chinese territory and place her in a stronger position from which to insist upon her policy of open ports.

The news comes by cable that China has agreed to allow the control of the imperial maritime customs to be placed in the hands of a British subject "so long as the British trade with China exceeds that of any other powers." As the British trade is now reported to be nearly ten times as great as that of any other power, there is no immediate prospect of a change.


The sentence of Zola to a year's imprisonment and to the payment of a fine of $600 has been only the beginning of extraordinary proceedings in France, resulting from his trial.

Colonel Picquart, who has been a strong champion of ex-Captain Dreyfus, has been expelled from the French army without a pension, and he is also for three years to be constantly watched by the police.

Furthermore, the papers and the public men who have been conspicuous in their defence of Zola and of Dreyfus have been warned to cease their agitation. Even some of the foreign correspondents have received hints from the governmental authorities that if they are not more careful in their statements with regard to the Dreyfus case, they will be obliged to leave the country.


It is hard to believe that such a state of affairs can exist in a civilized country. The position of the French Government has been so clearly defined, however, by the French Premier, Monsieur MÉline, that it is plain the French republic has for a time become almost a despotism, ruled by a tyrant known as the French army, which is, of course, the cause of all the trouble. In the Chamber of Deputies the other day Monsieur MÉline remarked:

"After military justice civil justice has declared itself. It has proclaimed that the members of the court-martial were honest men, who obeyed their consciences. The Zola trial has ended the confusion made by those who presumed to put themselves above the laws of the country. Those who appeared in court were not there as subordinates of the Minister of War, but as individual witnesses under nobody's orders.

"Certain generals may have been led on too far, but they were led on by the defence. One general no doubt spoke a word too much, but remember the accusations that were flung in his face. They ascribed to officers hidden intentions to undermine our institutions, but the French army cannot be an army of one man. There is not a single officer capable of an attempt against the country, for our officers have other dreams."

From this speech it is plain that the French Government is exerting its power to crush the present movement in favor of Dreyfus. But those who have followed the Zola trial carefully and impartially are convinced that the Government will fail. What the result will be, no one can tell. But there are many who believe that one result will be a revolution ending in the overthrow of the republic.

This, however, is an extreme view.

No one really believes that Zola will be kept in prison for a year, even if he does go there. He himself has borne his sentence like a hero, and is willing to accept it without an appeal. His lawyer, however, and his friends will do their utmost to save him from suffering so gross an injustice.

Even if Zola were guilty of libelling the army, his intentions were so honorable and unselfish that any fair court of justice could not have failed to have acquitted him, or at most to have given him merely a nominal punishment.


It is plain that behind the Zola case there lurks a very deep feeling against the Jews. It is thought by students of French life at the present time, that this is the real cause of the terrible bitterness of the French people against ex-Captain Dreyfus and his defenders. They believe that the Dreyfus party represents the Jews of France, for whom they have an intense hatred.

It should be explained here that the Jews have acquired an immense power in France, as they have, indeed, all over Europe. They are the great financiers of the world, and their power is so extensive that it has created the alarm and jealousy and malice now finding expression in Paris.


The Government of France is now in so dangerous a situation that there is a good deal of discussion as to what will happen in case the republic is overthrown.

The President of the republic, FÉlix Faure, is popular throughout France, but he has hardly strength enough with the people to become a great leader. A few months ago he won enthusiastic approval by the skill with which he arranged his visit to the Emperor of Russia, and by the dignity and simplicity which he displayed during that visit.

President Faure is essentially a man of the people. For many years he has been prominent in the commercial and the political life of France, and he has always been a champion of the people's rights. But he is not the kind of leader that would appeal strongly to the army, and, as we have seen, the army practically controls France at the present moment.

Consequently, if a revolution were to take place in Paris as a result of the Dreyfus affair, it would probably bring forward a popular military man as a candidate for leadership. Such a man is to be found in General Boisdeffre, who figured in the Zola trial and made a bombastic speech glorifying the army.

A revolution would also, of course, bring up the rival claims in France of the Royalist and the Napoleonic parties.

The Royalist party is at present headed by the young Duke of Orleans, who thus far has done very little to distinguish himself. In the event of a crisis, however, France might recall the fact that a few years ago the Duke, though exiled from his country, as all the pretenders to the French throne have been in recent years, forced his way into Paris and demanded that he be given the right to join the army. This was a very youthful and theatrical attempt to excite the enthusiasm of the French people. It failed, however, for the republican Government succeeded in placing the Duke in a rather ridiculous position. He was kept in prison for a few months, and then quietly released.

The Bonapartist party has for leader Prince Napoleon Victor Jerome Bonaparte, grandson of Prince Jerome, youngest brother of Napoleon the First.

Prince Victor has had almost no chance of making himself known to the world, and at the present time his chances of succeeding to the throne of France seem very slight.

Our Government has been quietly making provision for strengthening our navy and coast defences in case of war.

This fact does not mean that the governmental authorities believe that war is sure to break out. It means simply that they are taking precautions to be prepared for any circumstances which may arise.

The Department of the Navy has been hampered by being obliged to wait for the approval of Congress before it can carry out certain important work. It has, however, lately put two more vessels in commission without the approval of Congress and on its own responsibility. They are the monitor Miantonomoh and the harbor-defence ram Katahdin.

Since the disaster to the Maine, the Government has received a great number of applications for the regular army and for the naval service.


During the past few months some very rich "finds" have been made in the Klondike, and a great deal of excitement has been created there. The facilities for carrying on the work are now greater than they have previously been, and to this fact is attributed the new discoveries.

If the latest reports are to be credited, the gold region is proving to be as valuable as it was thought to be during the first excitement. Nevertheless, it is only the few who win great profits, while the majority suffer.

The Canadian Government is taking an active interest in the Klondike, and it will probably undertake before long to have surveys made to discover the best route from the interior of Canada to the Yukon, and will also have the Mackenzie-River route improved. Sir Wilfrid Laurier has lately expressed the belief that there are gold regions in the Rocky Mountains yet to be discovered.

Our Government has several questions to settle with Canada, arising out of the conflict of opinion regarding the boundaries between the American and the Canadian Klondike. These are likely to be settled, however, in a perfectly friendly way.

We continue to hear reports of suffering among the miners, and the Government is doing its best to provide relief. The best relief it can provide, however, is to keep out of the gold regions those who are not sufficiently provided with supplies to keep them alive for a long period.

An American correspondent from Dawson City has lately given a gloomy picture of the way affairs are managed in the gold regions. The Canadian Government, he claims, is doing more for the miners than our own authorities. The Canadian mail service, for example, is much better than our own. Throughout the Klondike, governmental discipline seems to be very poor. Most of the money used is United States money, but the store-keepers and the owners of saloons do their best to keep it out of circulation; they naturally find gold more profitable. According to the correspondent, the miners are the men who are making the smallest profits in the gold regions for this very reason, as the store-keepers have their own methods of measuring the gold and estimating its value. No doubt by next summer banks will be established where miners may exchange their gold, at full value, for money.


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