United States Consul at Manila Oscar F. Williams to Commodore George Dewey, Commander, Asiatic Station
Manila Philippine Islands, Mar. 11-1898.
You cabled in cipher asking if I had read a certain letter. I cabled you in care of U.S. Consul-General that no such letter had been read by me. The cipher cables excited the gravest suspicions here and filled the air with war rumors: And cables from Spain to the Gov. Genl.1 here are reported that because of expected attack on Manila by seven U.S. battle ships, that two more ships of war had been sent from Spain to aid her four now in Manila Bay. Reports also of my having visited the Admiral2 Etc. Etc. Well I have not so visited the Admiral, and if seven or any other number of U.S. ships plan an attack on Manila I have never read a word of information of such plan and hence I refuse to credit the reports above referred to.
You wrote asking my opinion of having one U.S. warship make a friendly call here, exchange salutes, visit, Etc. Etc. and I replied I worry such a visit and under the peculiar conditions existing because of claimed pacification and departure of the popular Gov. Genl. this month for Spain. I suggested that I visit him and obtain his opinion.
Thus much for what has passed. If a visit for peace be made we will cooperate to make it successful. But if war comes of which I know nothing and which we both will deplore, you may command me for any service in my power as I am as patriotic an American as I am capable of being.
It may be best for me to visit Hong Kong on account of intense suspicion existing here because of cipher cables Etc. and if you wish me to visit you. so cable and I will start with first steamer.
My relations with officials here are very cordial and as my Madrid Exequatur3 came yesterday. I would now promptly make my official calls were it not for the war rumors afloat.
As Consul here and a stranger you know I desire quiet and friendly relations with all, but my duty remains to keep you as fully informed as your greater knowledge of conditions between our own nation and Spain may require.
Two Spanish battle ships anchored in the Bay have lately lowered their mast and I am told are fully manned, as if expecting action. You know all conditions - I have not read by cable or letter any instructions from U.S. Govt. and hence discredit nearly all I hear as to trouble between U.S. and Spain,
The cable is now cut in three places in three places as I am informed and if war reports be true our correspondence either by cable or letter may be stopped.
I shall be vigilant, brave and quick to answer, so if you fail to receive prompt answers to any cable or letter you may conclude that the authorities here interfere, for I am every hour at my post and shall neither neglect nor delay reply to any cable or letter.
Since writing the above information comes to me of another insurgent uprising on the Coast of Luzon so formidable that two regiments of soldiers have been sent overland and the warship “Don Juan de Austria” dispatched to the scene to co-operate with the land forces.
This long communication will fully explain my position.
Your obedient servant.
Source Note: ALS, DLC-MSS, PGD. Addressed before open: “ Commodore/George Dewey/U.S. Flag ship Olympia/Hong Kong.”
Footnote 1: Governor General Basilio Agustin y Dávila.
Footnote 2: Williams is probably referring to the former Commander on the Asiatic Station, RAdm. Frederick V. McNair.
Footnote 3: A document from the Spanish government accepting William’s status as Consul.