Journal of Secretary of the Navy John D. Long
Washington, D.C., Tuesday, March 8th, 1898.
. . . In the afternoon come exciting rumors which le
ad the President1 to call Judge Day2 and myself to the White House, in view of the fact that the intimation of the Spanish Government for the recall of General Lee,3 our Consul General in Cuba, had been put in the newspapers. The result was that the President announced, in our own public prints, that he should not recall General Lee, who has been serving with great fidelity and ability. This led to most alarming war talk and yesterday, Monday, forenoon, I was at the President’s again with a number of leading members of the Senate and House, with reference to a decisive measure appropriating $50,000,000 as a defense fund.4 It is marvelous what a quieting effect this has had. Today, Tuesday, it passed the House by an absolutely unanimous vote, with no division of parties; nothing but an universal acclaim on behalf of the maintenance of the National honor, although, really, the measure may be called a peace measure. Anticipating its passage, I have, for the last two or three days, been overwhelmingly busy in making every arrangement for the most effectual efficiency of our naval force. Have ordered work to run night and day in the completion of our guns and gun carriages, and have given unlimited authority for the purchase and supply of powder and projectiles and other ammunition. Have arranged for the most abundant supply of coal, and have arranged for Commander Brownson5 to go at once to Europe, with a view to preliminary negotiations for ships and naval supplies. Half a dozen people who scent the opportunity to sell these things, in behalf of foreign owners, have been in to see me and taken my time and that of my bureau chiefs. The dealers are shrewd enough to circulate the rumor that Spain is buying ships and supplies, although, on investigation, this turns out to be r eather unlikely, as her credit is poor and her bonds are worth only about fifty cents on the dollar, and she neither has nor seems able to obtain money. But everything, of course, has the stir of war. And, yet, during the day, advices from Madrid have been much more peaceful. I cannot help thinking that this rather sublime exhibition of a Nation rising in its might, not for the purpose of aggression, but in preparation for the National defense, and the appreciation of what it would be to come in conflict with such a power as ours, will have a mollifying influence on Spanish public sentiment. If that can be mollified, everything else is all right. The Queen,6 a good woman, mother and ruler, is anxious for peace; a liberal Spanish Ministry is evidently desirous for peace and has made every concession that we have asked and, if we can only allay the excitement of the Spanish public, a quiet result is to be hoped for.
This afternoon, we go to the concert given in behalf of Maine sufferers. The President and Mrs. McKinley sit in a box with Helen, Agnes and myself.7 Quiet evening at home.
Source Note: Transcript, MHi, Papers of John D. Long, vol 78.
Footnote 1: President William McKinley.
Footnote 2: Asst. Secretary Of State William R. Day.
Footnote 3: Consul General Fitzhugh Lee.
Footnote 4: For more information on the fifty million dollar defense fund, see: Woodford to McKinley, 9 March 1898.
Footnote 5: Cmdr. Willard H. Brownson.
Footnote 6: Queen Regent of Spain, Maria Christina.
Footnote 7: The Secretary of the Navy’s daughter Helen Long and wife Agnes Long. President McKinley’s wife was Ida Saxton McKinley.